July 24, 2019

    Inflammation in the brain was associated with postpartum depression
    Immune system linked to postpartum depression - latest science news in short

    A new study showed that signs of inflammation are found in brain areas responsible for mood regulation in an animal model of postpartum depression. This suggests a link between the immune system, the brain, and depression.

    About 15% of mothers experience depression after birth. The study found that immune system changes triggered inflammation in the medial prefrontal cortex. In the animals used for the study, this was induced by a stressful pregnancy.

    “Postpartum depression is understudied and, as a result, remains poorly understood,” said the lead author. It is hoped that future research in this direction could improve the lives of women affected by the disorder.

    Read the full story: The Ohio State University
    Scientific publication: Society for Neuroscience Meeting 2018


    Dividing cells are kept in place by a newly discovered cellular structure
    New cell structure discovered - life short science news

    Cell biologists have discovered a new cell structure that plays a role in cell division. It is a protein complex that interacts with surrounding proteins to keep the cells in place when they divide. Other such complexes had already been found, but the newly discovered structure is unique in that it stays intact during cell division, whereas the others dissolve. The complex also makes sure that the daughter cells end up at their proper location after cell division. The discovery has been made using human cells, and future research has to show how the complex functions in living animals and humans.

    Read the full story: Karolinska Institutet
    Scientific publication: Nature Cell Biology


    In an urban experiment, people that received more money gave less for efforts against climate change. Credit: Universitat Rovira I Virgili
    Richer people do less to fight climate change - daily science news - environment

    A citizen science experiment that quantified how much people do to act against climate changes gave an interesting result: it appears that wealthier people are willing to do less than others.

    Participants were grouped and given a certain amount of money from which they had to contribute to efforts for climate preservation. They were allowed to keep any money that was left over. The poorer participants (that received less money at the beginning) spent more compared to richer participants (who started the experiment with higher amounts).

    The study demonstrated that cooperation within a group of participants was better than competition between individuals. Moreover, it suggests that discussing generic global climate consequences does not lead to equitable efforts to fight against it.

    Read the full story: University Rovira I Virgili
    Scientific publication: PLoS ONE


    Infections are the leading cause of crop loss, accounting for 10% worldwide
    New gene discovered that might help crops withstand infections - life short science news

    Scientists have found that the hitherto unknown gene SRG1 strengthens the immune response of plants against infections. The expression of this gene stimulated by the production of the gas nitric oxide that plants produce in tiny amounts when they are under bacterial or viral attack. This finding gives more insight in the defense of plants against infections and could help to reduce crop losses.

    Read the full story: University of Edinburgh
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Robust corals synthesize histidine themselves, and do not depend on symbiotic algae for this essential amino acid
    Some corals likely to resist bleaching - life short science news

    Corals known as « robust corals » are more likely to survive bleaching than other corals, owing to their ability to synthesize an essential amino acid (histidine) themselves, a new study found. Robust corals are the only animals known to synthesize histidine, needed for the production of proteins, and not to depend for this on the algae they live with. In other corals, algae are the only source of histidine, and therefore depend on them for their survival. Therefore, unlike robust corals, the other corals (called complex corals), are more susceptible to coral bleaching (when algae disappear from the corals) and global warming.

    Read the full story: Arc Centre of Excellence - Coral Reef Studie
    Scientific publication: Genome Biology


    Hypothesized direct and indirect effects of picaridin on aquatic predators of mosquito larvae indicating a human-environment positive feedback loop. Image: Leslie Tumblety
    Widely used mosquito repellent is lethal to their predators - life short science news

    Insect repellents containing picaridin can be lethal to salamander larvae, the natural predators of mosquito larvae. A toxicity study in the laboratory with realistic concentrations of repellent in the water showed that about half of the larval salamanders in the study died within 25 days of exposure, while the mosquito larvae were unaffected. This suggests that using the picaridin-containing repellent, which enters aquatic ecosystems through sewage effluent, might in fact increase the survival of mosquito larvae, and consequently also the numbers of adult mosquitos that people want to combat with the repellent. This might constitute a feedback loop that leads to fewer salamanders and more mosquitos over time.

    Read the full story: Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
    Scientific publication: Biology Letters


    Showerheads harbor large numbers of bacteria, including some that could trigger lung diseases
    Showerheads contain bacteria that could trigger lung infections - daily science news in short

    Showerheads are not a very clean place, they contain several types of bacteria. A group of scientists found that the regions where pathogenic bacteria are most prevalent in showerheads are the same regions where nontuberculous mycobacteria lung infections are common.

    The study surveyed households across the United States and Europe and found that the bacterial populations differ depending on geographic location, water chemistry, and water source. Households that received water treated with chlorine disinfectants had particularly high abundances of certain mycobacteria.

    The study highlights a possible connection between mycobacteria in showerheads and lung diseases and could lead to new strategies to reduce exposure to such pathogens.

    Read the full story: American Society for Microbiology
    Scientific publication: mBio


    Sacabambaspis, a 460 million year old jawless relative of modern jawed fishes, swims in the shallow coastal waters of modern day Bolivia. Image: Nobumichi Tamura
    All fish species find their evolutionary origin in seashore environments - life science news

    Early fish types have emerged from fragile seashore environments between 480 and 360 million years ago, new data suggest. Due to the scarcity of fossils from this period, scientists adopted a big data approach, surveying more than 2,700 early records, and matched these with mathematical modeling to predict the habitat from where early fish types emerged. They found that some fish species evolved into groups with flexible body shape that were able to leave the seashores and colonize deep waters. Other, more rigid or armored species, would have had limited swimming ability, and remained in shallow waters. Some fish moved into fresh water, and others eventually reached land to give rise to the terrestrial vertebrates we know today. The study highlights the importance of shallow water for evolutionary development of fish species, and gives more reason to protect this habitat from consequences of global warming.

    Read the full story: University of Birmingham
    Scientific publication: Science


    Phidippus audax spider, with its principle eyes and two lateral eyes clearly visible. Image: Beth Jakob
    One set of spider eyes helps the other - life science news

    Biologists have figured out that spiders use their two forward-facing principle eyes can only track stimuli in their environment efficiently if they are helped by the six secondary eyes, the anteriolateral eyes. They came to this conclusion after completing experiments with a specially designed eyetracker, a tool normally used by psychiatrists to see where people are gazing while reading, driving, or watching moving objects on a screen. After gently and reversibly blinding the secondary eyes, it turned out that the principle eyes function like a torch light to see objects with great precision in a rather restricted area, so that the stimulus had to be right in front of the spider to track it. The secondary eyes direct the principle eyes to quickly locate and very accurately track disks moving at different speeds. This configuration of the visual system, in which one set of eyes depends on another set of eyes, is highly unusual and has not been observed in any animal before.

    Read the full story: UMassAmhurst
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    Reintroduction of wolves has made Yellowstone's ecosystem dynamic and complex
    Yellowstone has benefited from the reintroduction of wolves - ecology science news

    The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park in 1995 has made the park’s ecosystem very complex and heterogeneous, a new study shows. While human interventions in the park are kept minimal, the presence of wolves led to the recovery of a variety of plants and trees, and bison have replaced elk as the dominant herbivore in the Northern Range of the park. Yellowstone has thus benefited from the reintroduction of wolves in the park, but this success is not easy to recapitulate in other areas where the influence of human activity (agriculture, hunting, livestock) is dominant.

    Read the full story: University of Alberta
    Scientific publication: Journal of Mammalogy


    3D anatomical modeling of wheat, sunflower and tomato leaves. Image: University of Sydney/ANU
    Imaging the 3D structure of leaves - life science news

    Scientists have succeeded in imaging leaves in their three-dimensional structure by using new technology. The images are created from biological specimens, by integrating two-dimensional measurements to create the 3D pictures. The images reveal the complexity of leaves in much more detail than traditional 2D images used until now, and make it possible to better understand how water and gases flow through leaves, or how photosynthesis precisely works.

    Read the full story: University of Sydney
    Scientific publication: Trends in Plant Science


    A comparison of shells assessed during the research, with the top shell taken from waters with present-day CO22 levels and the bottom one from waters with future predicted levels. Image: Ben Harvey/University of Tsukuba
    Dissolving snails due to acidification of seawater - life science news

    Biologists have found that increased CO2 levels in seawater harms the shell of the snail Charonia lampas, or triton shell. The research was conducted off the coast of Shikinejima in Japan, where CO2 bubbles up from the seabed. This allowed the scientists to assess the effects of future high CO2 levels. The snails living in this CO2-rich area were one third smaller than the snails living in other parts of the ocean nearby, where CO2 levels are still normal. Further, high CO2 levels negatively influenced thickness, density, and structure of the shells. These effects are caused by increased stress imposed by acidification of the water, which reduces the snails’ ability to control the calcification process. The researchers conclude that increased acidification of the oceans will impact on shellfish fisheries and marine ecosystems.

    Read the full story: University of Plymouth
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Marine Science


    A new study shows for the first time that the Atlantic salmon uses magnetic fields for navigation. Credit: Oregon State University
    Atlantic salmon uses Earth’s magnetic field for navigation - science news

    Similar to their relatives, the Pacific salmon, the Atlantic salmon uses Earth’s magnetic field as a navigational tool, according to a new study.

    Interestingly, the study showed that the fish do not lose the ability to use the magnetic field as a GPS through several generations, even after they have been transplanted into a land-locked lake.

    The use of the magnetic field explains, in part, how salmon can find the way to their river of origin. This ability does not seem to be lost when not used, as in the case of the fish confined to a small space.

    Read the full story: Oregon State University
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


    Education equips people with better abilities to make high-quality choices
    Education improves economic decision-making - life science news

    Education support and laboratory experiments that mimicked real-life situations improved economic decision-making in a group of nearly 3,000 girls in secondary schools in Malawi. The students received one year of financial support, and the effects on economic choices the students made were assessed four years later. It turned out that students tried to obtain the greatest value possible from an economic decision, which is a criterion for economic rationality. Thus, education is a tool for enhancing and individual’s economic decision-making quality.

    Read the full story: Cornell University
    Scientific publication: Science


    We inherited DNA from Neanderthals that helps us to fight viral infections. Image: Claire Scully
    Our viral defenses are inherited from Neanderthals - life science news

    New research has shown that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred and exchanged viruses. The Neanderthal DNA ended up in our DNA, and helps us to protect ourselves against viruses. This DNA-based adaptation was particularly strong against RNA viruses in Europeans. Thus, before vanishing from the globe, Neanderthals gave us the genetic tools to fight viral infections.

    Read the full story: Stanford University
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Embryos created from stem cells could open new possibilities for developmental biology. Seven-day old gastruloid. Credit: Mehmet Girgin, EPFL
    Pseud-embryos from stem cells created in the lab - science news
    A new research study reports that mouse stem cells have the ability to produce pseudo-embryos, similar in many aspects to real embryos of 6 to 10 days.

    The study showed that the three main embryonic axes were formed using around 300 stem cells, according to a gene expression program similar to that of normal embryos.

    This new approach has great potential for the study of the early stages of development in mammals and could one day replace the use of real embryos in research.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Studies on Lasioglossum baleicum, or sweat bee, revealed the importance of cooperation to increase fitness. Image: Norihiro Yagi
    Genetics do not contribute much to forming a social society - life science news

    Research in sweat bees (Lasioglossum baleicum) revealed that social behavior is relatively independent of genetic similarities between the individuals. Fitness, i.e. an organism’s reproductive success and propagation of its genes, is rather determined by cooperative behavior. This finding contradicts an earlier theory that stated that forming of social groups is determined by genetic relationships between individuals. Sweat bees can live both in groups with many female workers and a single queen, or as individual mothers. Individual females in social nests had a higher fitness than single mothers, and 92% of this difference could be attributed to cooperative behavior while living in a group, and only 8% to genetics. Thus, this study helps to better understand the evolution of living together in social groups, including in humans.

    Read the full story: Hokkaido University
    Scientific publication: Science Advances


    The pattern of spots is transmitted from mother giraffes to their babies
    How do baby giraffes get their spots? From their mothers! - science news headlines - animals

    The spotted pattern of a giraffe is complex and important, ensuring efficient camouflage and protection from predators. But what determines the shape of the spots?

    A new study showed that their shape is, at least in part, inhered. More precisely, most features are transmitted from mothers to calves.

    Moreover, the researchers discovered that giraffes with larger spots have increased chances of survival, thus making a link between the pattern and the efficacy of the camouflage.

    Read the full story: University of Zurich
    Scientific publication: Peer J - Life and Environment


    Ground cherries might become easier to grow after gene editing
    Making wild groundcherry suitable for agriculture by DNA editing - life science news

    To make wild groundcherry suitable for agriculture, scientists have edited its genome with the CRISPR technique to incorporate some characteristics of tomatoes. This makes the groundcherry grow in a more “organized” way so that they are easier to culture, and the plants produce more fruit. While still other changes have to be made, especially preventing the dropping of fruit to the ground before ripening, researchers think that groundcherries will soon be the next superfood, full with vitamin B and C, antioxidants, and other healthy molecules, and that groundcherries will be cultured on a larger scale in the US in the future.

    Read the full story: Boyce Thompson Institute
    Scientific publication: Nature Plants


    Cell structure of Picochlorum, isolated from the San Elijo Lagoon in California. Image: Susanne Ruemmele
    Gene stealing algae may survive climate change - life science news

    Some green algae appear to have taken genes from bacteria, which allows them to survive hostile and fluctuating conditions in salt marshes. These algae, known as Picochlorum, are expected to survive climate change as well, thanks to the bacterial genes they acquired. Such natural genetic modifications may provide important information for the engineering of algae that could one day be used as biofuels, researchers think.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Molecular Biology and Evolution


    Coral reef grow over restoration structures in Indonesia. Image: Christine Sur / UC Davis
    Finally some good news for corals: reefs can be rehabilitated - life science news

    Researchers have attached coral fragment to hexagonal structures called “spiders” in the center of Indonesia’s Coral Triangle to test whether it is possible to restore coral reefs. Indeed, live coral cover increased from less than 10% to more than 60%, at a cost of about $25 per square meter. Importantly, while massive coral bleaching occurred between 2014 and 2016, bleaching in the rehabilitation area was less than 5%, despite warm water conditions known to stress corals. Thus, this technique protects and rehabilitates coral reefs, giving the reefs a chance to adapt to worsening ocean conditions.

    Read the full story: University of California – Davis
    Scientific publication: Restoration Ecology


    Killer whale populations are likely to collapse due to persistent PCB contamination. Image: Audun Rikardsen
    Collapse of killer whales from PCBs expected - life science news

    Scientists found that killer whales are amongst the most highly polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contaminated mammals in the world. PCB contamination affects reproduction and immune function, and threatens viability of killer whale populates. PCBs have been banned in most countries already more than 30 years ago, but their presence in the environment is persistent and accumulate in the tissues of top predators. The current study shows that especially the killer whale populations living near industrialized regions , or feeding at high trophic levels independent of location are at high risk of collapse.

    Read the full story: Aarhus University
    Scientific publication: Science


    A protein ensures that plants flower at the correct moment
    How does a plant know when to flower - science news - biology

    Correct timing for flowering is extremely important for pollination and reproduction of plants. But, how does a plant know when it is the best moment to produce flowers? A component of the sunlight, called the UV-B radiation (the one that gives us sunburns), is responsible for inducing flowering. However, UV-B can be present before the correct timing, so to prevent premature flowering, plants rely on a protein called RUP2. The protein inhibits flowers from emerging, but when the day get longer and more light is available, the RUP2 becomes less effective and flowering occurs.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Genes & Development


    Populations of the yellow spotted salamander are on the decline. Image: Brad Glorioso/US Geologic Survey
    Climate change not the main culprit of amphibian decline - life science news

    Years worth of data collected in the US and Canada show that climate change is not the main factor that is causing the worldwide decline of amphibian populations. While it is true that local effects of climate change can have dramatic effects, these can be compensated by other, for amphibians favorable, changes somewhere else. Rather, researchers think that other factors play a role, such as habitat destruction and spread of new pathogens by human activities.

    Read the full story: PennState
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Anopheles gambiae mosquito, the vector of malaria parasites, feeding. Image: CDC/ James Gathany / Public Health Image Library
    Gene drive technique eradicates malaria mosquito population in the laboratory - biotechnology science news

    Scientists are well on their way to specifically change the genome of malaria mosquitos to bring about their extinction. By introducing a mutation by the CRISPR – Cas9 gene drive technique in a part of the gene that determines that is responsible for female development, mosquitos showed both male and female characteristics, failed to bite and did not lay eggs. After eight generations in the laboratory, no more females were produced, and the population collapsed as no reproduction could occur anymore. Thus, although more experiments are needed, it seems that molecular biology could be an efficient tool to eliminate mosquitos that carry malaria, probably in five to ten years from now, researchers think.

    Read the full story: Imperial College London
    Scientific publication: Nature Biotechnology


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