Monday, September 22, 2014

World War One Innovation in Injury Treatment

WW1, American Red Cross and Wounded Soldiers
"World War One was fought on a scale that had never been experienced before.
At the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the main infantry weapon was the muzzle-loading musket, which fired up to four shots a minute. At the Battle of the Somme, just over a century later, machine gunners could fire off 600 rounds a minute. High velocity rounds wreaked havoc in the body, twisting tissue and splintering bone. Fighting on farmland fertilised by manure meant that wounds quickly became infected; gangrene was rife.
Faced with this challenge, new equipment and techniques were invented that, across four years of fighting, would end up saving thousands of lives." - How did WW1 change the way we treat war injuries today? Presented by Dr. Saleyha Ahsan, BBC

Predator-Prey Balance Affected by Climate Change

Ladybug Taking Off BY7123
"Rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns may get the lion’s share of our climate change attention, but predators may want to give some thought to wind, according to a zoologist’s study, which is among the first to demonstrate the way “global stilling” may alter predator-prey relationships." - University of Wisconsin-Madison, Climate change: Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance, Science Daily, September 19, 2014 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Researchers Developing an Artificial Spleen

Healthy spleen, artwork - RC7446
Researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created a device that can filter toxins and pathogens out of the blood, in hopes of preventing the body's fatal immune response to blood infections known as sepsis.  The device, inspired by the spleen's ability to clean the blood, uses magnetic nanobeads coated with a protein found in humans known as MBL.  The MBL protein binds to the surface of different bacteria, viruses, and toxins, while a magnet in the device pulls the protein coated beads and pathogens out of blood filtered through the machine.

When the device was tested on rats infected with E. coli or Staphylococcus aureus, the device improved survival rates and removed more than 90% of the bacteria from the rats' blood.  Researchers hope that by removing the majority of pathogens from a patient's blood, the body's immune system can easily fight off the remaining infection without resorting to the overuse of antibiotics.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Rice Microbiome

Mature white short-grain rice BW2784
"When Harsh Bais grows rice plants in trays of water in his greenhouse at the University of Delaware, he can easily spot the ones that have been exposed to arsenic: They are stunted, with shorter stems and shrunken, yellow-tinged leaves.
Dr. Bais is working to develop rice plants that take up less arsenic, a common contaminant in the fields of his native India and other Asian countries. Chronic exposure to arsenic has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and genetic damage associated with elevated risk for cancer.
But instead of trying to breed new strains of rice or alter its DNA, he and other scientists have set out in a surprising new direction. They are looking at the vast and untapped microbial community that lives near the rice’s roots." - Carina Storrs, Fighting Poisons with Bacteria Going Inside the Rice Microbiome, The New York Times Science Section,  September 15, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Long Lost Canadian Shipwreck Discovered

John Franklin, British Royal Navy OfficerBX0999
"In 1845, two doomed British ships set sail for the Canadian Arctic to end a legendary quest for the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. After the expedition became trapped in ice, both vessels and all 129 men on board were lost. Now, nearly 170 years later, one of the shipwrecks has been found." - Megan Gannon, Lost Ship From Ill-Fated Arctic Quest Discovered, Live Science News, September 10, 2014

Franklin's Arctic Expedition BX8911

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

U.S. Begins Human Trials for Ebola Vaccine

Vaccinating a woman - DB3742
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland will be launching the first of several human trials for an Ebola vaccine in wake of the outbreak spreading in West Africa that has killed more than 2,000 people.  Two US aid workers recovered from the virus after receiving treatment with an experimental drug known as ZMapp, yet it is still unclear how effective the treatment can be since other patients still died after receiving the drug.  A vaccine would instead provide an immunity against the virus by stimulating the production of antibodies that specifically guard against the disease.  Twenty volunteers will receive the trial vaccine, though they will not be infected with the actual virus.  Instead, researchers will be observing how their immune system responds to the vaccine and if there are any adverse reactions.

Ebola virus - BD2590

Ebola hemorrhagic fever has a fatality rate between 50-90% and is characterized by flu-like symptoms which develop into severe fluid loss, such as vomiting and diarrhea, followed by the development of skin rashes, decreased liver and kidney function, as well as internal and external bleeding.  The disease is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids from infected humans, or animals that act as natural reservoirs for the virus, such as bats. 

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Blue Whale BD8807
"New study shows the marine mammal's population in the Golden State is nearly back to pre-whaling levels.
California's endangered blue whale population may not be so endangered after all, according to a study released Friday." - Rishi Iyengar, California Blue Whales Are Making a Comeback, Time, September 8, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Can Starting School Later Improve Teen Health?

Asleep in Class - BK9157
The American Academy of Pediatrics seems to think so, and recently published their policy statement for school districts to adopt later start times for middle and high schools in order for students to get at least 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep per night.  The nation's pediatricians have identified that starting classes before 8:30 a.m. becomes problematic for children when their sleep-wake cycle shifts two hours ahead as they become teenagers.  The resulting shift means that melatonin secretion (the body's sleep hormone) is delayed, as well as the brain's "sleep drive," which causes adolescents to fall asleep more slowly after staying awake for 16-18 hours.  As a result, these physiological changes can prevent the average teen from falling asleep before 11:00 p.m., and make it even harder for them to wake up during the middle of their sleep cycle the next morning.

Of course these findings come with their fair share of controversy, such as how much modern technology affects nocturnal activity, as well as extra curricular activities, after-school jobs, homework, and social lives.  Regardless, researchers found that 87% of high school students get insufficient sleep, putting them at risk of diseases associated with chronic sleep deprivation including:  obesity, hypertension, anxiety, depression, poor impulse control, metabolic dysfunction, and impaired memory.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Life in a Frozen Lake

Icy Antarctic Scene BX8830
"Samples from a lake hidden under 800 metres of ice contain thousands of microbes and hint at vast ecosystems yet to be discovered." - Douglas Fox, Lakes under the ice: Antarctica’s secret garden, Nature International Weekly Journal of Science, August 20, 2014