Researchers discover genetic signal common to cerebral palsy and autism

first_img Source:https://www.adelaide.edu.au/news/news99822.html May 10 2018University of Adelaide researchers have uncovered a genetic signal common to both cerebral palsy and autism.The finding comes from the first large-scale study of gene expression in children with cerebral palsy.The researchers, from the University’s Australian Collaborative Cerebral Palsy Research Group in the Robinson Research Institute, also showed common underlying molecular pathways in clinically diverse cerebral palsy. They say both findings add significantly to the weight of evidence for underlying genetic causes of cerebral palsy.”Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability of childhood with a frequency of around two in every 1000 live births,” says lead researcher Dr Clare van Eyk, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide. “We know that, like autism, it’s a disorder of brain development primarily during pregnancy. But the underlying causes of cerebral palsy are still poorly understood.”Related StoriesRevolutionary gene replacement surgery restores vision in patients with retinal degenerationAEBP1 gene may play key role in the development and severity of liver diseaseStudy uncovers gene that hides tumor cells from immunotherapyIn this study, the researchers use new RNA sequencing technology to measure the gene messengers (RNA) in cells from children with cerebral palsy.Cell lines from 182 individuals with cerebral palsy were studied and many showed disruption of cell signalling and inflammatory pathways, as seen in some children with autism.”The results showed that the neurological or signaling pathways being disrupted in children with cerebral palsy overlap with those disruptions seen in autism,” says Dr van Eyk. “This supports a common biological change in both cerebral palsy and autism. Autism and cerebral palsy do sometimes co-exist, which further underlines common causation in some individuals.”This is the latest in a series of studies from the University of Adelaide which have found increasing numbers of genetic mutations that are the likely cause of cerebral palsy. Using this data together with existing DNA sequencing results increases the proportion of individuals with a likely genetic cause to around 25%.The University’s Cerebral Palsy Research Group is led by Emeritus Professor Alastair MacLennan and Professor Jozef Gecz, Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation Chair for the Prevention of Childhood Disability. They are leading the world in discovering an increasing genetic basis to cerebral palsy.”This research continues to refute the historical assumption that cerebral palsy is often due to difficulties at birth,” says Professor MacLennan.last_img read more

Tea Researchers Defend NSF Grant That Lawmakers Want to Kill

Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Plant scientist Selena Ahmed has spent nearly a decade studying tea production in southwestern China. Representative Matt Salmon (R–AZ) speaks fluent Mandarin and has championed the cause of Chinese political dissidents.But despite their shared interest in the world’s most populous nation, the Arizona legislator is no fan of Ahmed’s work. In fact, Salmon doesn’t think that the National Science Foundation (NSF) should be funding her research on tea as a model system for understanding how a warming climate is putting stress on specialty crops and the impact of those changes on farmers.Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives agreed. By voice vote the legislators passed an amendment to a NSF funding bill for 2015 that says the agency can’t spend any money next year on her project, part of a collaboration with former colleagues at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, where Ahmed did a postdoc. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Email Fortunately for Ahmed, now an assistant professor in sustainable food systems at Montana State University, Bozeman, the amendment won’t keep her from doing her fieldwork. That’s because NSF has funded all the research up front, in what’s called a standard grant. The 3-year, $931,000 grant was one of 21 projects awarded last fall as part of an ongoing NSF program on the dynamics of coupled natural and human systems.Salmon says he doesn’t get why NSF is spending money to study, in effect, the price of tea in China. “I find it deeply troubling that while our country is facing fiscal challenges of gigantic proportions … that programs such as this are being funded on the back of the American taxpayer,” he said in offering his amendment on 29 May. “While I certainly understand the value of predicting agricultural trends for tea, I believe that that is a task that ought to be left to the private sector, the ones that benefit from this kind of information.”Researchers say he’s missing the point of the work, which is part of an ongoing NSF initiative on science, engineering, and education for sustainability. The initiative is trying to better understand how environmental changes affect people’s lives and their response to those changes, according to NSF officials. Ahmed is looking specifically at how changes in the composition of the tea being grown could affect its marketability and, thus, the farmers’ livelihoods.“People buy and drink tea for certain qualities. If those qualities are not there, then they may not buy the tea,” co-principal investigator Colin Orians of Tufts explained earlier this year. “What we see happening to tea could be a harbinger of what could happen to agriculture in general.”Salmon’s office declined repeated requests from ScienceInsider to explain why he singled out the China project and what he hopes to accomplish, given that the research does not require additional funding. The Senate’s version of the same spending bill was approved by the Appropriations Committee last week without any such language, although amendments are expected when the bill goes to the floor next month. The two bills must then be reconciled, most likely not until after the November elections, before a final version can be sent to the president.In the meantime, the scientists are mounting a vocal defense of their work. “I am disappointed when politicians try to do NSF’s business,” Orians says. “I am proud of our project.” Kimberly Thurler, director of public relations at Tufts, says “we urge Congress to reject the Salmon amendment in conference and respect the NSF peer-review process.”Ahmed has written to her home-state legislator, Senator Jon Tester (D–MT), explaining the research and asking him to oppose any attacks from colleagues. And the extensive Chinese contacts she has made over the years are paying off in this latest round of research, she says, which is “proceeding smoothly and on schedule. … I believe this work is the responsibility of scientists in America’s colleges and universities which the NSF supports.” read more

Podcast Smoking mothers recordbreaking sea turtles and how starlings move like liquid

Do pregnant women alter their infants’ DNA by smoking? What can humans do to protect a sea turtle that migrates 4000 kilometers from home? And how is a flock of birds like liquid helium?Science’s News Intern Xochitl Rojas-Rocha chats about these stories and more with Science’s Sarah Crespi.

NEON contractor hanging by a thread NSF tells Congress

first_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country But NEON isn’t out of the woods, NSF’s James Olds explained to a joint hearing of two subpanels of the U.S. House of Representatives’s science committee, which oversees NSF. “If it is determined that NEON Inc. is not capable of completing construction, NSF will take the necessary actions to pursue alternative management options,” Olds said in his opening statement. Asked later by one legislator if that could mean finding a new contractor, Olds said, “Yes, that is an option.”The House science committee is already unhappy with NSF’s management of NEON, for which construction began in 2011 after a long debate within the ecological community over how it should be structured. The latest cost overruns, which in a year grew from zero to more than $80 million, seem to support previous warnings from NSF’s independent inspector general about poor oversight practices, problems that the committee explored in previous hearings.“This hearing should help answer why the NSF and NEON Inc. failed to heed the warning signs that the project was seriously off track,” Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), chair of the science committee, said in his opening statement. He warned that the descoping will mean “less science for the same price tag.” And referring to the recent removal of NEON Inc. CEO Russell Lea, Smith said, “I am frankly not sure that change is enough to regain the confidence of this committee or the American people.”Arizona State University, Tempe, biologist James Collins, chair of NEON Inc.’s board of directors, tried his best to convince legislators that the corporation remains “on a path to achieving the project’s scientific goals.” He gave three reasons for the looming budget overruns: The rising cost of materials for construction and technical challenges in developing the environmental sensors, the difficulty of obtaining all the permits need to build and operate the equipment at each site, and disagreements with NSF on when NEON could begin spending operating funds at a completed site.“The gap is the result of costs that were underestimated, and NEON Inc. bears its share of the blame,” Collins admitted. But he also suggested that such missteps are par for the course when NSF builds a new major scientific facility. “I should point out that at least five other NSF facilities have undergone scope revisions or management adjustments or instrument reconfigurations,” Collins said. “So in this respect, NEON is not unique.”But legislators seemed skeptical that NSF and NEON Inc. had finally laid all their cards on the table. “How confident are you that we are finally at the right [budget] figure? … What was ignored in the previous analysis, and why?” asked subcommittee chair Representative Barbara Comstock (R–VA). She and other members were especially critical of the fact that NEON had received what Collins called a “clean bill of health” in August 2014 before a succession of audits over the next 9 months uncovered problems that added up to the present $80 million projected cost overrun.Olds conceded that NSF “could have done a better job.” And he said the foundation “has to strive for all projects to audit cost estimates multiple times so that we are really sure of the numbers.”Democrats on the panel tried to make the best of a bad situation. “I want to thank you for all the steps you’re taken to put the project back on track,” Representative Donald Beyer (D–VA) told Collins. “And when it comes to accountability … I can also [say] that the head of NEON was fired because of these cost overruns.”But that management shakeup was too little, too late for some lawmakers. “As CEO, this guy should have known from A to Z how this project was going,” complained Representative Ralph Abraham (R–LA). “The board should have done a better job of vetting this guy.”Next time will be different, Olds promised. “We are going to be sitting on NEON Inc. over the next 3 months and putting them through some pretty difficult hoops,” he told the legislators. “And we will know pretty quickly if this organization will be successful under new leadership in changing its course. And if they aren’t, we’ll act.” Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Scrambling to rescue a unique but troubled environmental facility under construction, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has warned a nonprofit organization that it has until 1 December to get its act together or face being replaced as contractor on the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).This past Friday the head of NSF’s biology directorate told a congressional panel that NSF has set that deadline for NEON Inc., the Boulder, Colorado–based group overseeing the multisite project aimed at monitoring long-term environmental change across the United States. NEON is trying to stave off a projected $80 million deficit and logistical problems that have already pushed back its originally scheduled completion next fall by more than a year. Last month NSF shrunk the $434 million project, eliminating 15 sites, several planned sensors, and a novel aquatic experiment. And 2 weeks ago NEON Inc. fired its CEO in an attempt to show that it was serious about turning things around.center_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Emaillast_img read more

Whats causing cliffs to crumble all over the world

first_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Over the course of an average day, the slab bulged outward and then shrank back about 8 millimeters (or approximately half the width of a thumbnail), the researchers report online today in Nature Geoscience. Although changes in humidity seemed to have little, if any, effect on the slab’s deformation, changes in temperature had a major influence. The maximum bulge typically occurred between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., when temperatures were the highest for the day, and minimum bulge occurred between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., when temperatures were generally at their lowest point of the day. The maximum range of deformation (the biggest difference between morning and afternoon positions) occurred when temperature variations were their greatest—usually in spring and fall, not during the summer.The bulging of the granite slab stems from its daily cycle of heating and cooling, the researchers surmise. When the material heats up, it expands, Collins says. But because its ends are still attached to the rock and thus pinned, the slab’s only choice is to buckle and bulge. (For the same reason, railroad rails and bridge components in the summer sun often buckle and pose great danger if they can’t expand freely.) That bulging, in turn, tends to open the cracks at the top and bottom of the fissure behind the slab, generating stresses that pull the rock apart and thus drive crack growth. Each day’s growth is probably minuscule, Collins says, but he and his team haven’t yet calculated how much one day’s crack growth might be. Nevertheless, over time the fissure grows to the point at which the bulging on a hot summer day can fracture a slab free of its cliff, triggering a rockfall.The study “is a very important piece of work that brings a new kind of life to rocky landscapes,” says Jeffrey Moore, a geologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. “A 1-centimeter deflection over the course of a day is not trivial.” Daily swings in temperature can aggravate the same sorts of stresses in layered sandstones, he says, driving cracking—and thus possibly triggering rockfalls—within those types of rocks as well.Until now, researchers have largely ignored thermal stresses in rocks, says Stephen Martel, a geologist at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. But the new research—“a very nice job of both field measurement and theory,” he notes—shows that thermal stresses can be important. When added to stresses already present in the rocks, those caused by changes in temperature “can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Martel says, and triggers a disaster.The statistics are rather clear, Collins and Stock report. About 15% of Yosemite’s rockfalls that either don’t have a clear cause or can be linked to thermal stresses occur during the hottest months of the year (July through September) or at the warmest time of day (from noon through 6 p.m. local time). If the distribution of events were totally random, the number occurring within those time windows would be only 6%, the researchers say.Although the new study doesn’t help researchers predict rockfalls in any meaningful way, it does help geologists understand how such events can be triggered—and possibly makes rock climbers a little more nervous the next time they’re hanging off a cliff on a warm sunny day. Emailcenter_img If there’s anything nearly guaranteed to bring out the rock climbers in California’s Yosemite National Park, it’s a warm sunny day. And even though dry surfaces are more easily gripped than slick ones, there are still dangers at hand: Multiton slabs of rock can pop off the face of a cliff with little or no warning, careening downslope dozens of meters to shatter in a cloud of geological shrapnel. Dozens of such rockfalls occur every year, from Brazil to Japan, yet what causes many of them has remained a mystery. Now, researchers think they’ve cracked it.California’s Yosemite National Park is a hot spot of rockfalls. Hundreds have occurred in the park, yet 15% didn’t have any obvious trigger: no earthquakes, no heavy precipitation, no freeze-thaw cycles that can cause water trapped in a fissure to freeze, expand, and gradually wedge open a crack. In fact, some occurred in the middle of a sunny summer day.To try to discover what might cause such events, Brian Collins, a geological engineer with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California, and Yosemite National Park geologist Greg Stock installed strain gauges, which measure overall changes in length, at three spots on a 19-meter-long, 4-meter-wide slab of rock that’s tenuously attached only along its top and bottom edges to a south-facing cliff in the park. The researchers measured the deformation of the near-vertical slab—a 10-centimeter-thick, 20-metric-ton layer of granite—every 5 minutes from May 2010 through October 2013. They also used devices that look like scissor jacks (used by unfortunate drivers to lift their car and change a flat tire) to monitor the movement of the slab toward and away from the cliff from which it was splitting. Finally, they monitored weather conditions at the site, including the intensity of sunlight, the humidity and temperature of the air in the gap behind the slab (a space as much as 12 centimeters wide), and the humidity and air temperature 2 centimeters from the outer surface of the slab. On three separate occasions during the 42-month period, the scientists used a laser-emitting device to scan the slab from a spot 30 meters away, thus gaining an independent measurement of its motions during an 18-hour period. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*)last_img read more

Chinas moon mission will probe cosmic dark ages

first_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country NASA/GODDARD/ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY To see back into the dark age before the first stars, astronomers look for a signal emitted when electrons in the primordial neutral hydrogen gas spontaneously flipped their orientation. These photons started out with short radio wavelengths, but over their more than 13-billion-year journey to Earth, the universe’s expansion stretched them out to long wavelengths, or low megahertz frequencies. After the gas clumped together to form the first stars, their radiation ionized the neutral gas and eventually snuffed out the faint signal.Telescopes such as the LOFAR aim to detect the ancient signal and use it to map the distribution of primordial matter. But the signal is hard to discern in the maelstrom of radio noise from terrestrial sources and other objects across the universe. Only one detector, the Experiment to Detect the Global Epoch of Reionization Signature, a set of ground-based antennas in Australia, has so far claimed a detection.Queqiao, orbiting a gravitational balance point beyond the moon called L2, will offer a quieter vantage. In order to relay signals from the moon to Earth, the satellite can’t be completely in the moon’s shadow, which means that Earth noise could still be a problem, says Jack Burns, an astronomer at the University of Colorado in Boulder who has long campaigned for a lunar radio observatory. Burns adds that the spacecraft itself will also be a source of interference. But by testing hardware in space, the NCLE “will set the stage for other missions.”Once Queqiao arrives at L2, the NCLE will wait its turn until after the Chang’e 4 lander has achieved its main mission: exploring the South Pole-Aitken Basin, a huge far side depression. Then, around March 2019, the instrument will unspool three 5-meter-long carbon-fiber antennas, each at right angles to the others.Because Earth’s atmosphere blocks all radio signals below 30 megahertz, the data will delight a range of astronomers. Falcke says the team will study solar flares, the aurora of Jupiter, and the galaxy’s radio emissions. “There’s nothing as good as having real data,” he says. The dark age signal is a long shot, he admits. Realistically, the mission is about “gaining expertise to build a follow-up.”The Chinese NCLE team has its own plans. It has placed basic receivers on the Chang’e 4 lander and two microsatellites that Queqiao will release into lunar orbit to study solar radio bursts. Ping says his team will also try to combine signals received by the NCLE with those taken by earthbound detectors—a technique known as interferometry, which can improve resolution. “It is a demonstration,” he says. It could show that, once detectors are sensitive enough, interferometry could help them map the newborn universe.Burns and his colleagues are working on a proposal for a small satellite called the Dark Ages Polarimetry Pathfinder, which he says will be more sensitive to the dark age signal. But eventually, he wants to see an observatory on the lunar far side, deep with the moon’s radio quiet shadow. He predicts a NASA-funded low-frequency telescope in the next 5 years. “There’s great interest in the far side.”*Correction 18 May, 9:55 a.m.: This story has been updated to correct the length of the antennas of the Netherlands-China Low-Frequency Explorer. By Daniel CleryMay. 16, 2018 , 3:00 PM China’s moon mission will probe cosmic dark ages Emailcenter_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe The lunar far side, always in shadow from Earth, can protect radio astronomy instruments from noise. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) On 21 May, China plans to launch a satellite with a vital but unglamorous mission. From a vantage point beyond the moon, Queqiao, as the satellite is called, will relay data from Chang’e 4, a lander and rover that is supposed to touch down on the lunar far side before the end of the year. But a Dutch-made radio receiver aboard Queqiao will attempt something more visionary. In the quiet lunar environment, it will listen to the cosmos at low frequencies that carry clues to the time a few hundred million years after the big bang, when clouds of hydrogen gas were spawning the universe’s first stars.The mission is a proof of principle for other efforts to take radio astronomy above the atmosphere, which blocks key radio frequencies, and far from earthly interference. “Putting the whole show into space is extremely appealing,” says Michael Hecht of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Haystack Observatory in Westford, whose team is also developing small radio satellites that could be used to probe the cosmos. For Europe’s astronomers, it is also a test of cooperation with China, something their U.S. counterparts at NASA are barred from doing.The Netherlands-China Low-Frequency Explorer (NCLE) project stems from a 2015 Dutch trade mission to China, during which the two countries agreed to collaborate on space missions. The Netherlands is strong in radio astronomy: Its Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) stretches across much of northern Europe. NCLE Principal Investigator Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, has long advocated a “LOFAR on the moon.” China has an ambitious program of moon missions, so he jumped at the chance to take a first step. “We put together a proposal in 2 weeks,” he says. Once funded, the team had just 1.5 years to build the instrument. “Half of the experiment is how you work together” Falcke says. Jinsong Ping of the National Astronomical Observatories of China in Beijing, who leads the Chinese team working on the NCLE, agrees: “It is really challenging both sides. … Different culture, habit, language, working manner.”last_img read more

The secret sex life of strawberries

first_img The secret sex life of strawberries traskevych/POND5 Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Woman and man, hen and rooster, cow and bull—separate sexes may seem fundamental to nature, but they’re an oddity for most plants. Now, scientists have figured out how strawberries, which have the youngest known sex chromosomes of any plant or animal, made their recent transition to male and female. The unusual “jumping” genes responsible could mean sex differences can change faster in plants than anyone realized.“For the first time, we now have a view of sex chromosome evolution over space and time,” says Alex Harkess, an evolutionary biologist at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri, who was not involved in the study. “It’s not just about the establishment of sex chromosomes, it’s how the sex-determining regions continue to evolve.”Animals have ancient sex chromosomes with a common origin. But in plants, sex chromosomes have arisen only recently (in the last few million years), and most plants are generally hermaphrodites—which contain both male and female sex organs. Only about 6% have split into different sexes, including garden asparagus, papaya, hops, and marijuana. Strawberries, as one uneducated Ohio farmer discovered in the 1840s, come in three flavors: male, female, and combo. The flowering male Oregon beach strawberry (right) has yellow lollypop anthers that are missing from the female (left). By Carol Cruzan MortonSep. 7, 2018 , 2:15 PM Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Na Wei To find out how those flavors evolved, ecologist Tia-Lynn Ashman at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania has spent nearly 20 years showing that different locations on the strawberry genome can control sex. But figuring out where those genes were located was like finding a treasure in a hall of mirrors: Unlike humans, which have just two copies of each of our 23 chromosomes, strawberries have a whopping eight copies of seven chromosomes, for a grand total of 56.Ashman’s first stroke of luck came when she and her team found the first evidence of male- and female-determining regions in an East Coast variety of a common North American wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) some 10 years ago. But when they found the same sex region in a closely related Oregon beach wild strawberry, F. chiloensis, it was in an entirely different place on an entirely different chromosome. The same was true of a third variety of strawberry. What were these regions doing in different places? Ashman says the obvious answer was that the strawberries had developed different sexes independently. But another, less probable, explanation was that a region of DNA had arisen once and was moving around the genome. When the first strawberry genome project came to fruition in 2011, allowing for more detailed genetic studies, evolutionary biologist Aaron Liston of Oregon State University in Corvallis and evolutionary geneticist Jacob Tennessen, now at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, teamed up with Ashman to take a closer look.In a brute force approach, they sequenced 60 F. virginiana and F. chiloensis plants, evenly divided between males and females, to see whether any DNA was unique to the females. They asked what genetic sequence was present in all females, but absent in all males. Sure enough, all females shared a short sequence that had jumped at least twice as the plants reproduced over many generations, the researchers reported late last month in PLOS Biology.What’s more, with each jump, the number of female-specific genes on the sequence increased. Those traveling “souvenirs” increased the difference between the sex chromosomes, the researchers speculate. In humans and other animals, such sex-specific differences eventually became extreme. In strawberries, the short jumping sequence contained two genes with potential roles in pollen and fruit development.“This study provides the first observations suggesting that a sex determining region in a plant can ‘jump’ from an initial location to a new one,” wrote The University of Edinburgh evolutionary biologist Deborah Charlesworth—a pioneer in the evolution of sex chromosomes—in an email. “The study does a heroic job of trying to sort this out.”The researchers caution that the functions of the two genes and details of how they “jump” still need to be confirmed. And Ashman says the findings set the stage for an even bigger question: Why do these regions bother jumping in the first place? Ashman and Liston will be following up.But don’t look for the special male and female strawberries at your grocery stores or farmers’ markets any time soon. In a final plot twist, the hybrid descendants of the wild strawberries in the study have all had the sex differences bred out of them. Email Strawberry sex may be determined by special “jumping” genes.last_img read more

Space magnet homes in on clue to dark matter

first_img By Adrian ChoFeb. 6, 2019 , 1:40 PM Every explanation for the positron excess has significant problems, cosmic ray experts say, but Ting insists the AMS may still sort it all out. The detector could run for the remaining life span of the ISS, perhaps until 2024. The AMS team will then have twice as many data, enough to tell whether the positron spectrum dives as steeply as dark matter scenarios predict, Ting says. Stephane Coutu, a physicist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, disagrees. Doubling the data will shrink the error bars just 30%, he says, too little to resolve the issue. “They’re basically done,” Coutu says. “The rest is gilding a lily.”In May 2018, a federal advisory panel reached a similar conclusion. In 2017, the White House proposed slashing DOE’s research budget by 17%. In response, officials in DOE’s high energy physics program, which funds the AMS’s $4.5 million operating budget, held a review to rank 13 ongoing projects. The AMS tied for last. The problem lay not with the experiment, but with the theories to interpret its data, says Paul Grannis, a physicist at the State University of New York in Stony Brook who led the review. The theoretical uncertainties are “so big that anything you could do to improve the data will have very little impact,” Grannis says. In the end, Congress boosted the 2018 high energy physics budget by 10%, and DOE officials say they have no plans to cut the AMS.Ting is also holding out for a different jaw-dropping discovery: heavy antimatter nuclei. It would be huge because antinuclei heavier than a deuteron—a proton and a neutron—cannot be made in cosmic ray interactions and would have to originate in some region of the universe dominated by antimatter. Ting claims the AMS has captured a few antihelium nuclei. Coutu says a mountain of evidence already proves no antimatter regions exist, so the unpublished signals must be spurious, perhaps produced by misidentified helium nuclei.The antimatter claim, too, may remain untested. Despite last year’s reprieve, the AMS faces an uncertain future. Pumps that cool key detector components need replacing, and the fix will require a spacewalk, scheduled for October. “It’s no big deal,” Ting says, although he won’t guarantee success.If the AMS stops working, it will leave behind an outstanding legacy, even if it’s not the one Ting envisions. The detector has collected exquisite data on cosmic rays such as nuclei of helium, boron, beryllium, and carbon. The data are helping scientists understand what produces these ordinary cosmic rays, and how they journey through space. “The cosmic ray data that they’re producing is fantastic,” says Tarlé, often a vocal critic of Ting. “It wouldn’t have been done if Sam hadn’t convinced DOE and NASA to do it.” Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) M. AGUILAR ET AL., PHYS. REV. LETT. 122, 041102, (2019), ADAPTED BY C. BICKEL/SCIENCE 1 10 20 30 40 50 Positron flux (times energy cubed) 1 Previous missions Alpha MagneticSpectrometer 100 10 Energy (giga-electron volts) Falloff 1000 The space-based Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer has seen more positron antimatter than expected. Emailcenter_img A costly and controversial space-based cosmic ray detector has found possible signs of dark matter, the invisible stuff thought to supply most of the universe’s mass. Or so says Samuel Ting, a particle physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and leader of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), which is perched on the International Space Station (ISS).However, time is running out for the aging detector, and many researchers are skeptical about the dark matter interpretation, which Ting dances around with typical coyness. “If you listen to the storyline, it does sound like that’s where we’re headed, but we never quite get there,” says Angela Olinto, a cosmic ray physicist at the University of Chicago in Illinois.The co-winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics, Ting, 83, jetted around the world to drum up $1.5 billion for the AMS, and wooed NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) into backing it. After astronauts bolted the 8500-kilogram, doughnut-shaped detector to the ISS in May 2011, it began to measure the mass, charge, and energy of the billions of cosmic rays—charged particles from space—that pass down its maw. Almost all of them are protons, electrons, and light nuclei such as helium, but a precious few consist of antimatter particles such as positrons. They stand out because, in the magnetic field of the AMS, their paths bend in the opposite direction from those of their matter counterparts. In 2014, AMS researchers reported an unexpected flux of positrons that kicked in at energies above 10 giga-electron volts (GeV) and seemed to fade by about 300 GeV. The excess could come from dark matter particles colliding and annihilating one another to produce electron-positron pairs, and the energy of the falloff might point to the mass of the dark matter particles. Now, with three times as many data, AMS researchers have clearly resolved that energy cutoff. The positron excess starts at 25 GeV and falls sharply at 284 GeV, the 227-member AMS team reported last week in Physical Review Letters. “It’s important because you do start to see a turnaround” in the energy spectrum, Olinto says. The cutoff is consistent with heavy dark matter particles with a mass of about 800 GeV, the researchers report.The AMS paper acknowledges that dark matter annihilation is just one possible explanation for the positrons. They could also come from a mundane astrophysical object, such as a pulsar—a spinning neutron star. But Ting emphasizes the steepness of the cutoff. “The cutoff also goes very quickly, very similar to [the signal from] dark matter collisions,” he says.In a third possibility, the positrons could come from the interactions of cosmic rays themselves. Cosmic ray protons emerging from remnants of supernova explosions regularly slam into atomic nuclei in interstellar space to create “secondary” cosmic rays, including positrons. AMS researchers say they’ve ruled out that explanation for the signal, because the proton collisions should produce a long tail in the positron spectrum instead of a sharp falloff. But Greg Tarlé, a cosmic ray physicist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says the AMS data reveal a telltale similarity between the energy spectrum of the positrons and that of the protons, supporting the idea that the protons are the source. “It’s the AMS data itself that give the best evidence for the positrons being secondaries,” Tarlé says. Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe NASA A peculiar excess of positrons A rise and fall in the flux of positrons at higher energies could point to dark matter or conventional astrophysical sources. Space magnet homes in on clue to dark matterlast_img read more

First ever highseas conservation treaty would protect life in international waters

first_img First ever high-seas conservation treaty would protect life in international waters Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Email No flag can claim the high seas, but many nations exploit them. As a result, life in the two-thirds of the oceans beyond any country’s territorial waters faces many threats that are largely unregulated, including overfishing and the emerging deep-sea mining industry.Now, nations are negotiating the first-ever high-seas conservation treaty, which the United Nations expects to finalize next year. As delegates met this week at U.N. headquarters in New York City to hash out the details, marine scientists moved to influence the outcome. One research group unveiled the results of a global mapping effort that envisions expansive new marine reserves to protect key high-seas ecosystems. Other teams are working on maps of their own using powerful modeling tools to weigh a reserve’s potential for achieving key conservation goals, such as protecting important feeding grounds or helping sea life adapt to warming seas, against its economic costs.”The policy opportunity this represents is much rarer than once in a lifetime,” says marine ecologist Douglas McCauley of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Nations are asking “how we should protect two-thirds of the world’s oceans, [and] it’s the first time in human history that this has ever been asked.” © GREENPEACE/ROGER GRACE center_img One key issue facing negotiators—who met for the first time late last year and are scheduled to gather twice more over the next year—is how much of the high seas to protect. Existing preserves cover about 5% of the world’s oceans, mostly in territorial waters. Under a different U.N. agreement, nations endorsed a goal of expanding reserves to cover 10% of the entire ocean by 2020. But many conservationists and scientists—as well as the government of the United Kingdom—argue the new pact should go bigger, placing 30% of the high seas off limits to unregulated exploitation.Until recently, researchers lacked the data to choose which parts of the ocean to include. “If I was asked to do this 5 or 10 years ago, I would have said no,” McCauley says. But now, taking advantage of a growing torrent of data from satellites, tagged animals, and survey ships as well as advances in computing power, researchers have launched at least three major efforts to show policymakers what new high-seas reserves could look like.The tools are allowing researchers to offer answers to thorny practical questions. For example, which spawning and feeding grounds should get protection if reserves can’t cover them all? And how can static protected areas address climate change, which could cause fish and other organisms to move into new areas?The team that showed off its handiwork this week presented two possible reserve networks, one covering 30% of international waters, the other 50%. To create the maps, researchers from several universities, funded by the conservation group Greenpeace, combined biological data, such as the distribution of fish, sharks, and whales, with oceanographic information, such as the locations of seamounts, trenches, and hydrothermal vents. They identified ocean currents, potential mining areas, and biologically productive zones where deep, cold waters rise to the surface. And they located places where ocean temperatures hold steady most of the year—potential safe havens from global warming—as well as areas with large temperature fluctuations, which might harbor creatures preadapted to cope with warming.They combined these data layers using Marxan, a program that can draw maps to maximize benefits while minimizing costs. The team also added constraints, such as requiring the program not to place the most productive fishing grounds within a reserve, and to favor networks of larger, connected reserves over smaller, isolated patches. Out of hundreds of possible configurations for the 30% and 50% scenarios, they picked the two they thought offered the best protection for biodiversity with the fewest trade-offs.One lesson “is that protecting 30% of the area of the high seas doesn’t protect 30% of the most valuable conservation features … because of the way habitats and species are distributed,” says Callum Roberts, a marine biologist at the University of York in the United Kingdom and a leader of the team. Up to 40% of international waters would have to be protected, he says, to represent 30% of ecosystem types.A second team, which includes McCauley and is funded by Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is taking a similar approach, but its scenarios envision 10% and 30% coverage. It plans to present its maps at the next round of treaty negotiations in August.A third team, funded by the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., is not limiting its mapping to the high seas and won’t recommend protecting a select percentage of the ocean. Instead, the researchers will divide the entire ocean into blocks 50 kilometers on a side and rank them by conservation value. The team hopes to unveil its work early next year at the final U.N. treaty negotiations.Some nations, especially those with large high-seas fishing fleets, will likely oppose the creation of large reserves. And even if negotiators can agree on large-scale protection, they will still face plenty of difficult issues. For example, should reserves bar all exploitation, or allow some fishing or mining, perhaps only during certain seasons? And how should the rules be enforced? Proposals to create an international body to police the high seas have already proved controversial.Still, researchers hope their maps will encourage nations to be ambitious. “Given how fast species have declined in the last 20 years,” Roberts says, “it will be a catastrophe if we can’t capitalize on this momentum.” Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country By Alex FoxApr. 3, 2019 , 8:01 PM Future reserves could bar deep-sea trawlers from much of the high seas.last_img read more

House panel proposes 2 billion increase for NIH

first_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country House panel proposes $2 billion increase for NIH iStock.com/WLDavies By Jocelyn KaiserApr. 29, 2019 , 6:10 PM A spending panel in the U.S. House of Representatives has proposed giving the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a $2 billion raise, for a total of $41.1 billion, in a draft bill released today. If adopted, that 5% raise for the 2020 fiscal year that begins on 1 October would more than reverse a $5 billion cut recommended by President Donald Trump, whose three budget blueprints have all called for slashing NIH funding.The spending bill is the first put forward this year by the House Appropriations Committee, now in Democratic hands. But it is consistent with previous legislation written by Republican-led panels and, if passed, would provide the fifth consecutive substantial increase for NIH.It includes $2.4 billion for Alzheimer’s research, an increase of $100 million. Funding for the All of Us precision medicine study would go up by $124 million, to $500 million. The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative would receive $411 million, $18 million less than this year. Email Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) A new 10-year Childhood Cancer Data Initiative proposed by Trump in his State of the Union address would receive a first-year allocation of $50 million. But funding for the cancer moonshot, an initiative begun in 2017 by former President Barack Obama’s administration, would drop by half to just $195 million. That reduction is written into its source of funding, the 21st Century Cures Act, which aims to speed the development of new treatments. Like previous bills, the measure rejects a request by the Trump administration to fold the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality into a new institute at NIH.Reflecting Democrats’ priorities, the bill includes $25 million for firearm injury prevention research, which had not been tagged for a specific amount before and is a substantial increase over the 2018 spending of $10 million. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] would also receive $25 million, the first funding since Congress passed a 1996 law banning CDC from advocating for gun control, The Hill reports.) HIV/AIDS funding, which had been flat at $3 billion since at least 2015, would grow to $3.2 billion.“We are very grateful that the House is continuing its robust investment in biomedical research. … This is a great start for the FY [fiscal year] 2020 appropriations process and we look forward to seeing what the Senate will propose,” says Benjamin Krinsky, associate director for legislative affairs for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland.The House subcommittee will vote on the bill on Tuesday afternoon. A more detailed report will be available once the legislation comes before the full appropriations committee.*Update, 30 April, 10:40 a.m.: This story has been updated.last_img read more

Dolphins discovered timesharing the sea for the first time

first_img Dolphins discovered ‘timesharing’ the sea for the first time A 9-year study has uncovered some unusual behavior by common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) living off the coast of Slovenia. Within one population of this species, the animals have divided into two groups that avoid contact by hunting at different times of day—a social strategy not known in marine mammals.Researchers used photographs of the dolphins’ dorsal fins to individually identify them. They made many observations of 38 of the animals, carefully recording the time, date, and location of each sighting. The marine mammals divided into two major groups of 19 and 13 animals each, with six animals loosely making up a third group, the team reports today in Marine Biology. The 19 members of the larger group tended to hang out—and likely hunt—while following fishing trawlers in the Bay of Trieste, which is located at the eastern top of Italy’s “boot.” The second group’s cadre of 13 never associated with boats when in the Bay of Trieste. Although the dolphins hunted in the same area, they rarely saw each other, the researchers discovered, because the larger group was in that area only between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time, whereas the smaller group showed up between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.Other studies have documented groups of dolphins that divide up the waters where they hunt, but this is the first time these marine mammals have been shown to timeshare the sea, the researchers note. Although they don’t know why—or how—the dolphins set these schedules, the fact that the animals are never in the same place likely diminishes unfriendly encounters and reduces direct competition for food. By Elizabeth PennisiDec. 18, 2018 , 6:45 AMcenter_img Tilen Genov, Morigenos last_img read more

Bedbugs date back to the time of the dinosaurs new family tree

first_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe They used a 100-million-year-old fossil and estimated mutation rates to calculate when bedbugs first appeared and when they diversified. That work revealed that bedbugs “existed long before any records of bats,” says Thomas Lilley, an ecophysiologist at the Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki. The oldest known bat fossil is just 64 million years old, and, according to the new study, bedbugs date back 115 million years, to the time of the dinosaurs, Reinhardt and his colleagues report today in Current Biology. “This is something that people have suspected, but it’s really nice to have it in black and white,” Weirauch says. Also, it now appears that those first bedbugs evolved from an ancestral bug that was already a blood sucker—some researchers thought blood meals came later, after bedbugs had already split from their ancestors.The new family tree also upends ideas about bedbugs and humans. Two species of the insect—Cimex lectularius and the tropical C. hemipterus—typically bite people. Previously, researchers proposed that the two types arose from a common ancestor and diverged about 1.6 million years ago when Homo sapiens split off from an ancient human line, H. erectus. But the new study indicates the two bedbugs went their separate ways 47 million years ago, meaning both must have independently shifted to a human diet.Since then, one or two other bedbug species have switched to human hosts, Reinhardt says. For example, his research on Hopi legends has convinced him that a bedbug known to infect eagles also started to feed on humans. And the human-loving bedbug Leptocimex boueti, which also enjoys bat blood and likely had that mammal as its first host, may have switched to people as global guano mining increased. Together, the evidence suggests “a new species of bedbug conquers humans about every half a million years,” Reinhardt says. Given the ever-growing contact among people, livestock, and wildlife, “It may not even take half a million years,” for another bedbug to start sucking human blood, he adds.Bedbugs’ host-switching success suggests they are incredibly good at adapting to new situations, notes Coby Schal, a behavioral ecologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who was not involved with work. “Bedbug populations rapidly adapted to global travel, other changes in human behavior, and [insecticides].” And, he predicts, they will continue to do so. Email Mark Chappell/University of California, Riverside Bedbugs often parasitize bats, but these flying mammals weren’t the insects’ first love. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Countrycenter_img Bedbugs date back to the time of the dinosaurs, new family tree suggests Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Bedbugs are more than just the sneaky appleseed-size blood suckers that have made travelers paranoid about their hotel beds. About 100 species, some living deep inside caves that humans rarely enter, plague bats and birds. Now, scientists have used DNA from more than 30 species to create the first bedbug family tree, and it is full of surprises: For example, the insects are far more ancient than previously thought, dating back to the time of the dinosaurs. And even though researchers can’t say what creature was the lucky recipient of the first bedbug bite, they now know that at least three different kinds came to love human blood over time.Scientists have recently made progress detailing the evolutionary histories of insects like stink bugs, kissing bugs, and assassin bugs, says Christiane Weirauch, a systematic entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, who was not involved in the new study. But “with bedbugs we have not done too well.” Many species are parasites of bats, and researchers had long assumed that these mammals were their first victims. But bat bedbug species are hard to collect: Many are never found except in the depths of caves where bats roost. “You don’t know how difficult it is to get some of these bedbug species,” Weirauch laments.That inaccessibility didn’t stop Klaus Reinhardt, whose interest in bedbugs has led him to write two treatises about the cultural history of bedbugs. For the bedbug family tree study, this entomologist at Dresden University of Technology in Germany and colleagues got some of their specimens from museums and other researchers. But the rest they chased down in areas plagued by civil war, and in hot, dark caves, where they traipsed through knee-deep guano—only after dealing with all the red tape needed to get permission to work on endangered bats. Once they had collected thousands of bugs, they sequenced and compared DNA from 34 species to build the family tree. By Elizabeth PennisiMay. 16, 2019 , 2:15 PMlast_img read more

DNA Testing Reveals Identity of Worlds Oldest Natural Mummy

first_imgA legal battle that has raged over a 10,600-year-old ancient skeleton called the “Spirit Cave Mummy” ended after advanced DNA sequencing found it was, after all, related to a Native American tribe. Scientists were finally able to prove the Spirit Cave Mummy, the world’s oldest natural mummy, was related to Native Americans living in Nevada today, the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe.Lake Lahontan. Photo by Decumanus ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )Tribe members had asked for the Ice Age-era remains for burial, but their request had been denied repeatedly.The Spirit Cave Mummy study was part of an ambitious international project that genetically analyzed the DNA of a series of disputed ancient remains found in North and South America, which also included Lovelock skeletons, the Lagoa Santa remains, an Inca mummy, and the oldest remains in Chilean Patagonia.Location of Lagoa Santa within Minas Gerais. Photo by Raphael Lorenzeto de Abreu CC BY 2.5The study also looked at the second oldest human remains on the continent, from Trail Creek Cave in Alaska. It was a 9,000-year-old milk tooth from a young girl.A statement from the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe said they “had a lot of experience with members of the scientific community, mostly negative.”It added: “However, there are a handful of scientists that seemed to understand the tribe’s perspective and Eske Willerslev was one of them. His new study confirms what we have always known from our oral tradition and other evidence – that the man taken from his final resting place in Spirit Cave is our Native American ancestor.”Professor Eske Willerslev with Donna and Joey, two members of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe.Photo by Linus Mørk, Magus FilmScientists had sequenced 15 ancient genomes, enabling them to track the movements of the first humans as they spread across the Americas at “astonishing” speed during the Ice Age.“Throughout the last three decades many methodological advancements have been made which have facilitated the retrieval of ancient DNA from human remains,” José Victor Moreno Mayar, first author of the study from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, told Newsweek. “Today we are able to get DNA from remains that have been deposited, for thousands of years, in settings that make DNA preservation unlikely.”Their research confirms that the first Native Americans traveled from Asia into Alaska some 25,000 years ago “and once they moved into mid-latitude America, they followed a north to south route with some populations staying behind at different locations at different times; after that, it seems that established populations did not interact much with one another,” he said.Sumidouro Lake in Lagoa Santa, Brazil. Photo by Natural History Museum of DenmarkHowever, an important connection was confirmed between the Spirit Cave Mummy and Lagoa Santa when scientists identified  genetic heterogeneity between the mummy in Nevada and the 10,400-year-old remains in southwest Brazil, “signifying that it took roughly 200 years for these groups of early humans to travel a distance of over 6,000 miles.”Spirit Cave Mummy was controversial because of questions over who could claim the remains. This had to do with the Paleoamerican theory, that a different set of human species besides Native Americans lived in North or South America.A bison hunt depicted by George CatlinThe DNA study finally dismissed the Paleoamerican idea, which was mostly based on skull dimensions.Professor Eske Willeslev, who holds positions both at St John’s College, University of Cambridge, and the University of Copenhagen, and who led the study, said: “Our study proves that Spirit Cave and Lagoa Santa were actually genetically closer to contemporary Native Americans than to any other ancient or contemporary group sequenced to date.”Spirit Cave Mummy was found in the 1940s and for a while, researchers thought it was 2,000 years old.Twenty years ago, the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe, which is based near to the burial site, claimed cultural affiliation and requested the remains be returned for burial under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.Read another story from us:  Lost Ancient Greek City Founded by Trojan Survivors DiscoveredBut anthropologists argued that the remains were important to understanding the first inhabitants of North America. The request was refused and there was a lawsuit between the tribe and the federal government.last_img read more

Asian shares inch up as investors await TrumpXi meeting

first_img After Masood Azhar blacklisting, more isolation for Pakistan Karnataka trust vote today: Speaker’s call on resignations, says SC, but gives rebel MLAs a shield More Explained After Masood Azhar blacklisting, more isolation for Pakistan Virat Kohli won’t have a say in choosing new coach g20 summit, g20, g20 meeting, share market, share market asia, donald trump, economy news Rising equity market indicators were accompanied by a minor pull-back in fixed income, with the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rising to 2.0192%, compared with a U.S. close of 2.005% on Thursday. (Representational)Share markets in Asia edged higher early on Friday morning as investors clung on to hopes that a highly anticipated meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping this weekend could lead to an easing of trade tensions. Taking stock of monsoon rain Top News Karnataka trust vote today: Speaker’s call on resignations, says SC, but gives rebel MLAs a shield In early trade, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.02%, following on from modest gains in global equity markets overnight. U.S. stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis, were up 0.2%.But Australian shares lost 0.21%, while Japan’s Nikkei stock index was 0.3% lower.“Central expectations for the G20 meeting between Trump and Xi are that negotiations will resume, additional U.S. tariffs will be delayed, China will buy more U.S. goods and talks over tech-trade will gain renewed focus,” analysts at ANZ said in a morning note.“However, as the difficulty of resolving economic aspirations between the two countries is herculean, markets remain cautious.” On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 0.38% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.73%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average eased 0.04%, dragged down by losses in Boeing Co shares following a Reuters report that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration identified a new safety risk in the planemaker’s grounded 737 MAX aircraft.Rising equity market indicators were accompanied by a minor pull-back in fixed income, with the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rising to 2.0192%, compared with a U.S. close of 2.005% on Thursday.The two-year yield was also up, at 1.7469%, but remained near recent lows, reflecting near certainty that the Federal Reserve will cut benchmark interest rates in July.U.S. yields had fallen on Thursday, driven lower by ebbing optimism over a Sino-U.S. trade deal. By Reuters |Shanghai | Published: June 28, 2019 9:16:29 am The dollar was 0.07% lower against the safe-haven yen at 107.70, and the euro edged up 0.03% to buy $1.1371.The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was virtually flat at 96.180.In commodity markets, U.S. crude lost 0.03% to $59.41 a barrel and global benchmark Brent crude added 0.08% to $66.60 per barrel. Advertising Yet the gains were small and underscored uncertainty over whether the talks will produce definitive progress in ending the year-long trade war between the world’s two largest economies.White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Thursday that Trump has agreed to no preconditions for the meeting, set to take place on Saturday at the G20 summit in Japan, and is maintaining his threat to impose new tariffs on Chinese goods.Kudlow also dismissed a Wall Street Journal report that China was insisting on lifting sanctions on Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd as part of a trade deal and that the Trump administration had tentatively agreed to delay new tariffs on Chinese goods. The uncertainty over global trade saw gold rebound after dipping below $1,400 per ounce on Thursday. Spot gold was last traded at $1,414.72 per ounce, up 0.38%. Virat Kohli won’t have a say in choosing new coach Advertising Best Of Express Advertising Post Comment(s)last_img read more

Mississippi politician blocks female reporter from campaign trip

first_imgAfter the article was published, Foster responded on Twitter that he and his wife had committed to following the Billy Graham rule before he announced his candidacy.“I’m sorry Ms. Campbell doesn’t share these views, but my decision was out of respect of my wife,” he wrote.In a radio interview Wednesday, Foster said he had the same policy of not being alone with women at the agri-tourism business he runs. He said the report was slanted, and he criticized other write-ups of what happened.“That’s part of the process that I knew I was getting into, is that the media has their agenda and it doesn’t align very often with the conservative agenda,” he said. Cabinet asks finance panel to consider securing funds for defence Top News Taking stock of monsoon rain More Explained Cabinet asks finance panel to consider securing funds for defence Post Comment(s) “Our women reporters are exposed to a lot of very sexist behavior by the men that they cover,” Nave said. “But this is the first time in the three years we’ve been in existence, and the first time in my 15-year career in journalism, that we’ve had this experience with a political candidate. And so for that reason, we thought it was news.” Karnataka trust vote today: Speaker’s call on resignations, says SC, but gives rebel MLAs a shield Advertising Advertising “I would much rather be called names by the liberal press than to be put in a situation where it could do damage to my marriage or my family.”In an email hours later, Foster struck a more conciliatory tone.“We don’t mind granting Ms. Campbell an interview,” he wrote. “We just want it to be in an appropriate and professional setting that wouldn’t provide opportunities for us to be alone.”Foster is running to the right of his opponents and is considered a long shot to win the primary election on Aug. 6, Mississippi Today has written.In a phone interview, Campbell said she believed that Foster’s comments on the radio program were disingenuous. She pointed to the many interviews she had conducted with him.“I have covered him very closely, and we wouldn’t have that kind of relationship if I were a biased writer,” she said.She said that Mississippi Today strives to do hard-hitting watchdog journalism and refuted the notion that it was a liberal organization.“They’re trying to take something that is inherently sexist — not giving a female reporter the same access they would give a male reporter — and they’re trying to turn it into this liberal versus conservative thing,” she said.“It’s just sexism, and that’s not a liberal or conservative issue.”She added that after posting her article on social media, she had heard from women around the country who were glad she had called attention to how politics is still seen as a largely male space.Here are answers to other questions you may have:What exactly is the ‘Billy Graham rule’?Graham, who died last year at 99, was the country’s best-known Christian evangelist. He sought to avoid any situation involving a woman other than his wife “that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion,” he wrote in his autobiography.Where does Mike Pence come in?More recently, the practice has been referred to as “the Mike Pence rule.”A 2017 Washington Post profile drew attention to a statement he made in 2002 that he would not eat alone with any woman other than his wife, or attend an event where alcohol was served without her.Where does public opinion stand?While many have criticized the practice as sexist, the attitude behind it is common among Americans: A 2017 poll conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times found that many men and women are wary of a range of one-on-one situations.Around a quarter said that private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate, while nearly two-thirds believed that extra caution should be taken around members of the opposite sex at work, the poll found.And a majority of women — and nearly half of men — said it was unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.What are possible reasons for this?In the #MeToo era, some men have expressed greater reluctance to interact with women at work, wary of being accused of sexual harassment. That could curtail women’s opportunities.“What we’re seeing now is men are backing away from the role that we try to encourage them to play, which is actively mentoring and sponsoring women in the workplace,” Al Harris, who runs workplace equality programs, told The Times in a 2017 interview.What’s next in Mississippi?The Republican primary has drawn high interest from Mississippi readers, and political observers believe Foster could force a runoff vote, said R.L. Nave, the editor of Mississippi Today, a 3-year-old nonprofit site that seeks to provide information on government and politics in the state.Foster’s primary opponents are Bill Waller, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, both of whom agreed to let another reporter for the site, who happens to be male, shadow them.Nave said his organization decided to publish Campbell’s account of her interaction with the campaign in order to be transparent with readers. He still hopes that the Foster campaign will allow greater access. Robert Foster, Robert Foster blocks female journalist, Robert Foster blocks female reporter, Mississippi In blocking the reporter, Foster, 36, invoked the “Billy Graham rule,” which refers to the Christian evangelist’s refusal to spend time alone with any woman who was not his wife. (Representational)Written by Karen Zraick After Masood Azhar blacklisting, more isolation for Pakistan By New York Times | Published: July 11, 2019 8:07:15 am Best Of Express After Masood Azhar blacklisting, more isolation for Pakistan Robert Foster, a Republican state representative in Mississippi who is running for governor, blocked a female reporter from shadowing him on a campaign trip “to avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise” his marriage.The reporter, Larrison Campbell of the news site Mississippi Today, wrote in an article published Tuesday night that Foster’s campaign manager, Colton Robison, had told her that a male colleague would need to accompany her for a “ride-along” on a 15-hour campaign trip around the state.Robison said that the campaign “believed the optics of the candidate with a woman, even a working reporter, could be used in a smear campaign to insinuate an extramarital affair,” Campbell wrote. Advertising Karnataka trust vote today: Speaker’s call on resignations, says SC, but gives rebel MLAs a shield In blocking the reporter, Foster, 36, invoked the “Billy Graham rule,” which refers to the Christian evangelist’s refusal to spend time alone with any woman who was not his wife.The practice has drawn renewed attention in recent years, especially after the resurfacing of a 2002 comment by Vice President Mike Pence that he would not eat alone with any woman other than his wife.That led to a fierce debate among Americans, with some arguing that such limitations on interactions are necessary in the workplace, and others saying that they are unfair to women in professional settings and reduce them to sex objects.Campbell, 40, wrote in her article Tuesday that she and her editor had decided that the request was sexist and “an unnecessary use of resources” given her experience. She has interviewed Foster numerous times and broke the story of his candidacy. Robison would also have been present during the trip. But the campaign would not budge, she wrote.last_img read more

Amazons Secret 1492 Health Team Sets Sail

first_imgHealthy Market One of the goals of Amazon’s 1492 team appears to be ensuring that Amazon develops a foothold in multiple segments of the lucrative healthcare industry. The latest news builds on an earlier announcement that Amazon has been exploring the possibility of selling pharmaceuticals.The 1492 team reportedly has been working on ways to streamline medical records management, so as to make the information available to consumers and doctors more readily. In addition, it reportedly has been considering a plan that could improve U.S. healthcare for those with limited access to a doctor. It could include the development of a new telemedicine platform that would allow patients to have virtual consultations with doctors.Amazon is not entirely new to the medical world, as it already has developed health applications. The next step could be greater connectivity options between its medical devices and other proprietary products, such as its artificial intelligence assistant, Alexa.”Healthcare is the biggest sector in the economy and ripe for innovation,” said Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.”Nobody spends more on healthcare than the U.S.,while many countries have significantly better outcomes for their citizens than the U.S.,” he told TechNewsWorld. Cloud Computing and Healthcare With advances in the archiving of digital information and deep learning, the time could be right to leverage AI for healthcare. However, regulations and privacy concerns could be major challenges, at least in the short term.”Unfortunately, many healthcare providers are trying to maintain control of all this data,” said McGregor.”In the U.S., in particular, healthcare providers hide behind HIPAA regulations, which state that you need to keep the patient’s personal information private, not that you can’t share the anonymized information,” he added.Healthcare organizations would have to be persuaded to share their data, even though doing so would leverage a third-party service provider like Amazon. Would the healthcare industry even consider such cooperation?”Up to now, the answer has been no — but it could significantly lower their costs and improve the quality of services provided,” added McGregor.In the long term, “it will take an independent third party like Amazon to maximize the benefits of AI in healthcare,” he suggested.That is why the various players are entering this very controlled market — one that has both potential and hurdles — so cautiously.”We are so early in the digitization of healthcare that nobody is really leading,” said Recon Analytics’ Entner.”There is definitely demand, but everyone needs to buy in for it to work for everyone,” he said. “The reason why everyone is flocking to it is market size, but the obvious fact is that it can be done better, and nobody is doing it remotely right.” Full Coveragecenter_img Amazon is not the only company that has been exploring opportunities in the world of healthcare. Apple, Google and Microsoft each have launched their own initiatives.”It makes sense for all these companies to be investing in AI for healthcare, because along with AI in transportation, AI in healthcare will change society,” said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.With access to all the medical scans, diagnoses and feed information that is available from the major healthcare providers, artificial intelligence would do a better job in some respects than a human, he told TechNewsWorld.”With its massive data centers and AI capabilities, Amazon is well positioned to be a leader in this area, but it needs to get access to the data, which has been the biggest challenge,” added McGregor. “Note that it’s only been within the last decade that the majority of medical information has transitioned to electronic form, so it would have been almost impossible to do before.” A secret Amazon team, dubbed “1492,” has been working on a skunkworks project devoted entirely to healthcare, CNBC reported Thursday. The unit has been developing hardware devices and software applications related to electronic medical records, telemedicine and other health-related issues.The “1492” moniker refers to the year that Christopher Columbus made his voyage to the Americas, but perhaps the Amazon team missed the irony that Columbus actually did not realize he had “discovered” a new continent and thought he was somewhere else.Nonetheless, it’s clear that Amazon’s aim is to cover the bases in the healthcare arena, likely a bid to cash in on the sector’s massive profit potential.The greater U.S. healthcare market experienced double digital growth from 2000 to 2011, with an increase in U.S. revenue from US$1.2 trillion to $2.3 trillion, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That figure likely will grow at an increasing rate as healthcare costs in America continue to skyrocket. Peter Suciu has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2012. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile phones, displays, streaming media, pay TV and autonomous vehicles. He has written and edited for numerous publications and websites, including Newsweek, Wired and FoxNews.com.Email Peter.last_img read more

Facebook Builds a VR Space but Will Anyone Come

first_imgFacebook on Tuesday announced the beta launch of Facebook Spaces, a new app that allows users to connect with friends and colleagues in an interactive virtual reality environment. Facebook Spaces is available for Oculus Rift and Touch at the Oculus Store.The app provides a way for social media users to hang out as they might otherwise in person — even bridging great distances — noted Rachel Franklin, head of social VR at Facebook.An avatar represents each user in Facebook Spaces. Its appearance is based on the user’s photo, but can be further modified with choices of eye color, hairstyle and facial features that best fit the person’s identity.After creating a virtual persona, users can use Messenger to connect with friends, interact in 360-degree spaces, and utilize the app’s selfie stick to further manipulate photos in the VR environment.last_img read more

EinsteinVision that improves handeye coordination of surgeons introduced at Harefield Hospital

first_imgOct 15 2018Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Patients in London are benefiting from ‘quicker, more accurate’ surgical procedures following the introduction of a ‘pioneering’ and ‘progressive’ 3D camera system which improves the hand-eye coordination of surgeons. Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust is the largest specialist heart and lung center in the UK and among the largest in Europe.In 2016/17, the Trust cared for more than 200,000 patients in outpatient clinics and nearly 40,000 inpatients.As part of the global B. Braun group, B. Braun in the UK is a leader in key market areas including computer navigated orthopedic surgery, needle safety technology, surgical instrumentation, sterile technology and disinfection and hygiene. Source:https://www.bbraun.com/ As one of the world’s leading healthcare companies, we pride ourselves on developing specialist technology to improve medical procedures. The pioneering EinsteinVision is at the forefront of these advancements.This innovative technology helps to improve a surgeon’s precision and concentration levels, which in turn supports them through demanding, lengthy surgical procedures.EinsteinVision will aid existing and future surgeons in maintaining the highest levels of patient care, and this very much supports our company vision to ‘protect and improve the health of people.”Hans Hux, Group Chairman and Chief Executive at B. Braun UK Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust is one of only a handful of cardiac units in the UK to be using the ‘EinsteinVision’ equipment– a 3D imaging system developed by B. Braun Medical Ltd.The equipment revolutionizes procedures and surgical results through better precision and accuracy, and reduced operation time.The mobile system, funded by Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals charity, will now be used at Harefield Hospital to carry out thoracic, cardiac, endoscopic and minimally invasive surgery., said: This is a highly-advanced, innovative piece of equipment. From a surgical point of view, the 3D imaging provides clarity, definition and depth way beyond anything you can get on a 2D screen.I am passionate about developing minimally-invasive cardiac surgery, and EinsteinVision helps us to deliver procedures more accurately and more quickly, meaning patients spend less time in the operating theatre.The equipment is already being used, and patients are already benefitting.”Mr. Toufan Bahrami,  Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at Harefield Hospital EinsteinVision in uselast_img read more

New disease surveillance tool enables early detection of viral outbreaks

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Feb 5 2019Computational method helps scientists examine microbes at a larger, more comprehensive scale than previously possibleDuring the Zika virus outbreak of 2015-16, public health officials scrambled to contain the epidemic and curb the pathogen’s devastating effects on pregnant women. At the same time, scientists around the globe tried to understand the genetics of this mysterious virus.The problem was, there just aren’t many Zika virus particles in the blood of a sick patient. Looking for it in clinical samples can be like fishing for a minnow in an ocean.A new computational method developed by Broad Institute scientists helps overcome this hurdle. Built in the lab of Broad Institute researcher Pardis Sabeti, the “CATCH” method can be used to design molecular “baits” for any virus known to infect humans and all their known strains, including those that are present in low abundance in clinical samples, such as Zika. The approach can help small sequencing centers around the globe conduct disease surveillance more efficiently and cost-effectively, which can provide crucial information for controlling outbreaks.The new study was led by MIT graduate student Hayden Metsky and postdoctoral researcher Katie Siddle, and it appears online in Nature Biotechnology.”As genomic sequencing becomes a critical part of disease surveillance, tools like CATCH will help us and others detect outbreaks earlier and generate more data on pathogens that can be shared with the wider scientific and medical research communities,” said Christian Matranga, a co-senior author of the new study who has joined a local biotech startup.Scientists have been able to detect some low-abundance viruses by analyzing all the genetic material in a clinical sample, a technique known as “metagenomic” sequencing, but the approach often misses viral material that gets lost in the abundance of other microbes and the patient’s own DNA.Another approach is to “enrich” clinical samples for a particular virus. To do this, researchers use a kind of genetic “bait” to immobilize the target virus’s genetic material, so that other genetic material can be washed away. Scientists in the Sabeti lab had successfully used baits, which are molecular probes made of short strands of RNA or DNA that pair with bits of viral DNA in the sample, to analyze the Ebola and Lassa virus genomes. However, the probes were always directed at a single microbe, meaning they had to know exactly what they were looking for, and they were not designed in a rigorous, efficient way.What they needed was a computational method for designing probes that could provide a comprehensive view of the diverse microbial content in clinical samples, while enriching for low-abundance microbes like Zika.”We wanted to rethink how we were actually designing the probes to do capture,” said Metsky. “We realized that we could capture viruses, including their known diversity, with fewer probes than we’d used before. To make this an effective tool for surveillance, we then decided to try targeting about 20 viruses at a time, and we eventually scaled up to the 356 viral species known to infect humans.”Short for “Compact Aggregation of Targets for Comprehensive Hybridization,” CATCH allows users to design custom sets of probes to capture genetic material of any combination of microbial species, including viruses or even all forms of all viruses known to infect humans.To run CATCH truly comprehensively, users can easily input genomes from all forms of all human viruses that have been uploaded to the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s GenBank sequence database. The program determines the best set of probes based on what the user wants to recover, whether that’s all viruses or only a subset. The list of probe sequences can be sent to one of a few companies that synthesize probes for research. Scientists and clinical researchers looking to detect and study the microbes can then use the probes like fishing hooks to catch desired microbial DNA for sequencing, thereby enriching the samples for the microbe of interest.Related StoriesAntibiotics can wipe out early flu resistance, study findsHIV DNA persists in spinal fluid despite treatment, linked to cognitive impairmentHPV vaccine has led to a dramatic reduction in cervical cancer rates, but Africa is lagging behindTests of probe sets designed with CATCH showed that after enrichment, viral content made up 18 times more of the sequencing data than before enrichment, allowing the team to assemble genomes that could not be generated from un-enriched samples. They validated the method by examining 30 samples with known content spanning eight viruses. The researchers also showed that samples of Lassa virus from the 2018 Lassa outbreak in Nigeria that proved difficult to sequence without enrichment could be “rescued” by using a set of CATCH-designed probes against all human viruses. In addition, the team was able to improve viral detection in samples with unknown content from patients and mosquitos.Using CATCH, Metsky and colleagues generated a subset of viral probes directed at Zika and chikungunya, another mosquito-borne virus found in the same geographic regions. Along with Zika genomes generated with other methods, the data they generated using CATCH-designed probes helped them discover that the Zika virus had been introduced in several regions months before scientists were able to detect it, a finding that can inform efforts to control future outbreaks.To demonstrate other potential applications of CATCH, Siddle used samples from a range of different viruses. Siddle and others have been working with scientists in West Africa, where viral outbreaks and hard-to-diagnose fevers are common, to establish laboratories and workflows for analyzing pathogen genomes on-site. “We’d like our partners in Nigeria to be able to efficiently perform metagenomic sequencing from diverse samples, and CATCH helps them boost the sensitivity for these pathogens,” said Siddle.The method is also a powerful way to investigate undiagnosed fevers with a suspected viral cause. “We’re excited about the potential to use metagenomic sequencing to shed light on those cases and, in particular, the possibility of doing so locally in affected countries,” said Siddle.One advantage of the CATCH method is its adaptability. As new mutations are identified and new sequences are added to GenBank, users can quickly redesign a set of probes with up-to-date information. In addition, while most probe designs are proprietary, Metsky and Siddle have made publicly available all of the ones they designed with CATCH. Users have access to the actual probe sequences in CATCH, allowing researchers to explore and customize the probe designs before they are synthesized.Sabeti and fellow researchers are excited about the potential for CATCH to improve large-scale high-resolution studies of microbial communities. They are also hopeful that the method could one day have utility in diagnostic applications, in which results are returned to patients to make clinical decisions. For now, they’re encouraged by its potential to improve genomic surveillance of viral outbreaks like Zika and Lassa, and other applications requiring a comprehensive view of low-level microbial content.The CATCH software is publicly accessible on GitHub. Its development and validation, supervised by Sabeti and Matranga, is described online in Nature Biotechnology. Source:https://www.broadinstitute.org/news/new-disease-surveillance-tool-helps-detect-any-human-viruslast_img read more

Minibiographies help clinicians connect with patients

first_img This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente. Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jun 10 2019Bob Hall was recovering from yet another surgery in March 2014 when a volunteer walked into his hospital room. It had been a rocky recovery since his lung transplant three months earlier at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wis.The volunteer wasn’t there to check on his lungs or breathing. Instead, she asked Hall if he wanted to tell his life story.Hall served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. After the war, he had a political career as a Massachusetts legislator, and then led professional associations for 30 years.“I’m anything but a shy guy, and I’m always eager to share details about my life,” Hall said, half-jokingly.Hall, who was 67, spoke to the volunteer for over an hour about everything from his time as a D student in high school (“I tell people I graduated in the top 95% of my class”) to his time in the military (“I thought the Marines were the toughest branch and I wanted to stop the communists”). He finished with the health problems that finally landed him in the hospital, and brought him to the present day.The interview was part of a program called My Life, My Story. Volunteer writers seek out vets at the hospital like Hall, and ask them all about their lives. Then they write up a thousand-word biography, and go over it with the patient, who can add more details or correct any mistakes.“Of course, being a writer I rewrote the whole thing,” Hall confessed with a smile.When the story is finished, it’s attached to the patient’s electronic record, where a doctor or nurse working anywhere in the Veterans Affairs medical system can read it.Today more than 2,000 patients at the Madison VA have shared their life stories.Project organizers say it could change the way providers interact with patients.Personalizing Impersonal Medical RecordsClinicians can access a lot of medical data through a patient’s electronic medical record, but there’s nowhere to learn about a patient’s personality or learn about her career, passions or values, said Thor Ringler, who has managed the My Life, My Story project since 2013.“If you were to try to get a sense of someone’s life from that record, it might take you days,” Ringler said.The idea for My Life, My Story came from Dr. Elliot Lee, a medical resident who was doing a training rotation at the Madison VA in 2012. The typical rotation for medical residents lasts only about a year, so Lee wanted to find a way to bring new, young doctors up to speed on the VA patients. He wanted a way for them to absorb not just their health histories, but more personal pieces of knowledge.“It seemed to make sense that the patient might know a lot about themselves, and could help provide information to the new doctor,” Lee said.Lee and colleagues tried having patients fill out surveys, which were useful but still left the team wanting more. Next, they tried getting patients to write down their life stories themselves, but not many people really wanted to.Finally, an epiphany: hire a writer to interview patients, and put it all down on paper.It wasn’t hard to find a good candidate: There was a poet in Madison, Thor Ringler, who had just finished his training as a family therapist. He was good at talking to people, and also skilled at condensing big thoughts into concise, meaningful sentences.”I applied for it,” Ringler said. “I was like, ‘Well, of course! I was made for that!’”Under Ringler’s guidance, the project has developed a set of training materials to allow other VA hospitals to launch storytelling programs. About 40 VA hospitals around the country are currently interested, according to Ringler.In California, there’s a program at the Fresno VA, and volunteers at the Los Angeles VA are scheduled for training this summer.Ringler estimates hospitals would need to hire just one writer — working half or full time, depending on the hospital’s size — to manage a similar storytelling program. That means the budget could be as low as $23,000 a year.The program aims to address a perennial patient complaint that Ringler summed up this way: “I don’t get to see anybody for very long, and nobody [at the hospital] knows who I am.”In addition to the interest from within the VA system, the idea has spread farther, to hospitals like Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn.Related StoriesIt is okay for women with lupus to get pregnant with proper care, says new studyTen-fold rise in tongue-tie surgery for newborns ‘without any real strong data’Study analyzes high capacity of A. baumannii to persist on various surfacesA ‘Gift’ To Doctors And NursesThere is research that suggests when caregivers know their patients better, those patients have improved health outcomes.One study found that doctors who scored higher on an empathy test have patients with better-controlled blood sugar. Another study found that in patients with a common cold, the cold duration was nearly a full day shorter for those patients who gave their doctor a top rating for empathy.University of Colorado assistant professor Heather Coats studies the health impact of biographical storytelling. She notes that a 2008 study found striking improvement in care when radiologists were simply provided with a photo of the patients whose scans they were reading.“They improved the accuracy of their radiology read,” Coats said, “meaning less misspelled words, a better report that’s more detailed.” Current research is investigating whether storytelling might have a similar effect on clinical outcomes.And, Coats said, the benefits of the kind of storytelling happening at the VA don’t just accrue for the patients’ benefit.“I consider it a gift to the nurses and the doctors who are caring for the patient,” she said.A survey of clinicians conducted by the Madison VA backed that up: It showed 85% of clinicians thought reading the biographies of patients produced by Thor Ringler’s team of writers was “a good use” of clinical time and also helped them improve patient care.“It gives you a much better understanding about the entirety of their life and how to help them make a decision,” said Dr. Jim Maloney, the surgeon who performed Bob Hall’s lung transplant in 2013.Maloney says knowing more about a patient’s life story makes it easier for the doctor to have difficult but necessary conversations with a patient — to learn, for example, how aggressively to respond if a complication occurs.Maloney says the stories generated by My Life, My Story let the entire transplant team connect quickly with patients and family members, and start conversations about sensitive issues or difficult choices about end-of-life care.Dr. Tamara Feingold-Link, a second-year medical resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, first spotted a My Life, My Story biography when she was on rotation at a Boston-area VA.When her attending physician asked Feingold-Link to run a meeting with a patient she barely knew — a man who was so sick he could hardly talk — his story became a powerful tool.“It brought me to tears,” she said. “When I met his family, I could connect with them immediately.”“It made his transfer to hospice much smoother for everyone involved,” she said.Now Feingold-Link has started a similar program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.Beyond Medical CareHall has learned the stories can be meaningful to caregivers even when they’re not working. During one of his stays at the Madison VA, a nursing aide stopped by for a visit.“She came in one night and sat down on my bed just to talk to me for a while because she’d read my story,” Hall said. “I found out later she wasn’t on the clock.”It’s been five years since Hall’s lung transplant, and he’s doing well. He even found a part-time job putting his writing skills to work as part of the My Life, My Story team. In two years, Hall has written 208 capsule biographies of veterans.This story is part of a partnership that includes Wisconsin Public Radio, NPR and Kaiser Health News.last_img read more