Bubble Boy: New water-treatment method effectively eliminates BPA

By Meg Thode

Researchers from Rice University have developed a new water treatment technology that removes BPA particles from contaminated sources. The team improved upon existing titanium dioxide filters by introducing cyclodextrin molecules which act like “venus flytraps”: the hydrophobic pockets in the sugar molecules attract BPA molecules, trap them in place, and leave them exposed to reactive oxygen species which ‘clean’ them. In the lab, lead by environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez, the new technique scrubbed 90 percent of the BPA in a given water sample in half the time as titanium oxide alone.

The discovery is incredibly helpful as BPA, a molecule present in plastics from water bottles to water mains, has been the target of recent public health concern. In low doses the chemical is not considered dangerous, but prolonged exposure can lead to elevated blood pressure and health complications in small children. There are regulations on its use, but since it is notoriously tricky to degrade, there are concerns about existing levels in water sources. This new technology improves clean water outcomes and, because of the relatively large cyclodextrin molecules, is even reusable. Because of its multifunctionality, Alvarez comments “this new material helps overcome two significant technological barriers for photocatalytic water treatment…” and “is an example of how advanced materials can help convert academic hypes into feasible processes that enhance water security."

Rice University. (2018, October 5). New spheres trick, trap and terminate water contaminant: Reusable water-treatment particles effectively eliminate BPA. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 17, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181005130827.htm

Do your naps make you more insightful? Yes.

By: Vivek Krishnam

 A study done at the University of Bristol suggests that a short period of sleep, or a nap, helps one gain insight into a challenging decision or helps one to consider pros or cons. It is known that sleep in general enhances one’s cognition. However, it was not clear if information attained when one is awake is processed at a deeper level during sleep.

The study was conducted with individuals who varied in ages that carried out two tasks. One was a simple task while another was “masked.” The researchers disguised information in this “masked” task so that it was not consciously perceived, as opposed to the information in the simple task. The hidden information was processed at a subliminal level which allowed the researchers to test sleep’s affect on deep reasoning. This is in contrast to other relatively superficial mental tasks, such as information recall, which research has already been collected. After the individuals participated in the two tasks, they either stayed awake or took a ninety-minute nap. Then, they performed the tasks again while an EEG measured the electrical activity in their brains.

The researchers found that the individuals who took the nap experienced improved processing speed of the “masked” task while those who stayed awake did not experience any improvement. For both sets of individuals, no improvement was seen in the simple or control task. Although the neural mechanisms of this phenomenon are not known, the results demonstrate that there is an enhancement of brain processing for specific, subconscious tasks.

 

University of Bristol. (2018, October 4). Day-time naps help us acquire information not consciously perceived, study finds: 'I'll sleep on it' proves scientifically sound advice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181004095929.htm

Fighting the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals by using sinks… less?

By Mohamad Hamze

An Israeli hospital is taking steps to reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections that originate from a somewhat unexpected source. The antibiotic-resistant bacterium Carbapenemase-producing Entereobacteriaceae (CPE) was responsible for 32 infections in the space of a fourteen-month period at Sheba Medical Center’s intensive care unit, and resulted in three deaths. Comprehensive screening of ICU patients and testing of various surfaces in the unit revealed the “hidden reservoir” of the CPE S. marcescens to be sink traps – the portion of pipe draining the sink basin that is formed into an S shape in order to catch debris. Use of the faucet was found to disperse bacteria from water droplets up to a meter or more away from the sink.

Efforts to stop the spread began with frequent disinfection of sinks, but cleaning regiments using even the harshest chemicals only temporarily prevented CPE growth. To minimize the spread of infection, the ICU adopted a new set of guidelines for sink use that included minimizing the use of sinks in patient rooms or even at all, as well as avoiding storage of hospital materials near the sinks. According to the study published this month by Sheba’s Infection Control Unit, no additional CPE cases were reported for 12 months following the implementation of the new guidelines.

This study adds to existing literature on the unique harbors of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals, which will hopefully assist pathologists and healthcare staff in minimizing the spread of these often-fatal infections.

 

Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America. (2018, October 5). Sink traps are surprising source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in ICU: Infections dropped to zero after implementation of sink contamination prevention guidelines. ScienceDaily.

Couples that use “we” and “us” reportedly experience healthier relationships

By Nicole Loranger

A recent study under the direction of psychologist Megan Robbins from UC Riverside investigated the power of using collective words when referring to one’s own relationship. Previous research by Robbins explored the strength behind the use of such words and the relationship between verbal affirmation and interdependence, and most recently, the lab’s latest research built upon this by studying the effect this has on the success of a relationship. Analyzing 30 studies involving more than 5,300 individuals, Robbins and her team assessed relationship health through five measures: relationship outcomes, relationship behaviors, mental health, physical health, and health behaviors. The results overwhelmingly indicated that inclusive phrasing in a relationship correlates with increased scores in each category, and that the benefit is “virtually equal for both men and women.” Of the couples studied, half were married, and variation was seen in the ages of the couples. This variation highlights that “we-talk” is beneficial for couples across the board, not just those belonging to a particular demographic, and is especially useful in times of conflict or even when the partners are not physically present. To address the classic question of correlation versus causation, Robbins notes that it’s very likely that such interdependent phrasing allows happiness in relationships, and that happy relationships are more likely to use this wording. Ultimately, such verbal communication of unity seems to convey support and positivity that allows couples to withstand times of stress and conflict.

University of California - Riverside. "Research affirms the power of 'we': Largest-ever analysis of couples' pronoun use affirms the relationship between." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 October 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181005111455.htm>.

Radar Soldiers Raise Children with Mutations

By Emily Taketa

Radar soldiers are affected with radiation exposure from the pre-1980s inadequate shielding of military radar systems. These soldiers not only suffer from the consequences of their radiation exposure, but a recent study indicates that their offspring are also at risk. A pilot study published in the Scientific Reports journal, from Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Radboud University Nijmegen (Netherlands) and the University Hospital Bonn, investigates the “mutation rates after radiation exposure” for the soldiers and their children.

This preliminary study was conducted with a sample of twelve radar soldiers’ families with the total of eighteen offspring. Most of the radar soldiers were considered affected by a high dose of radiation because of their past medical history of illness and cancer. The radar soldier families’ genomes were analyzed against the genomes of unaffected families to look for mutations and specifically “multisite de novo mutations” or MSDN which were known radiation induced genome mutations. The study revealed that radiation exposure did significantly impact the expression of genotype expression in offspring and some mutations led to major medical consequences. These mutations were inherited and are unlikely to be attributed to chance. With a larger sample size, researchers are planning on further investigating how parental radiation damage leads to offspring genotypic damage.

University of Bonn. (2018, October 5). Typical mutations in children of radar soldiers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 14, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181005111447.htm

The case of the Savannah Sparrows:Confirming an already suspected phenomenon

By Alec Tyminski

In most animal species, the young are responsible for learning from the elderly on how to survive. The elder leads by example, and the young follows. Through the process of reenactment and the potential of positive and negative feedback, the offspring is able to learn. Specifically within the Savannah sparrows of Kent island, it has been noted that young sparrows learn their unique songs from the voices of adult sparrows. A recent case study led by Dan Mennill provided evidence of that progression. By specifically investigating the savannah sparrow at the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island, researchers found that artificial songs could also be learned by infant sparrows. Over 6 years researchers used programmable speakers to broadcast unique songs to various cohorts of savannah sparrows. The sparrows that developed during that time replicated distinct acoustic features that were broadcasted. 30 birds were found to replicate the artificial songs that were played through their environment. These artificial song patterns had never before been detected. Further, these artificial songs were then passed from the original generation, to their offspring. Thus, the findings confirm that savannah sparrows learn by listening to adult savannah sparrows. This specific case study provides multiple possibilities for further behavioral study, and provides evidence for the existence of a critical vocal learning period within the sparrow’s adolescence.

Cell Press. (2018, October 4). Teaching wild birds to sing a new tune. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 11, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181004143948.htm

Considering Minimally Invasive Hip Surgery? Think Again…

 By Eliana Rosenzweig

Hip arthroscopy, a form of minimally invasive and elective hip surgery used to diagnose and treat a large range of hip complications, may be doing more harm than good. A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, carried out by Daniel Rhon and others at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, suggests that while hip arthoscopy can be successful short-term in diagnosis or treatment of pain, many wide-ranging complications are likely to arise over time that clinicians should be prepared to deal with. The study collected and observed data from the Military Health Records of 1,870 patients that underwent arthroscopic hip surgery between the years 2004-2013. The health records for each patient included 12 months prior to surgery all the way through 24 months post-surgery. Researchers found that post-surgery incidences of comorbidities skyrocketed, with mental disorder at 84%, chronic pain diagnoses at 166%, substance abuse was 57% more prevalent, cardiovascular disorders increased incidence by 71%, metabolic syndrome by 86%, arthritis was found to be 132%, and sleep disorders were found to be a comorbidity 111% of the time. Some of these comorbidities can be explained, such as an irregular sleep schedule, which is likely occurring during the lengthy recovering from surgery where the patient cannot exercise and are often in pain before becoming completely better. In addition, the nature of pain from the surgery can often lead to irregular sleep patterns just by waking up from the pain too often. This study serves its purpose to alert both doctors and patients alike to be more aware of the comorbidities that are prevalent with this surgery so that in the future some of these comorbidities can potentially be prevented before they become life altering or impairing.

 

Duke University Medical Center. (2018, September 28). Hidden health problems can appear up to two years after elective hip surgeries: Even when surgeries are successful, patients report more pain, arthritis and other ailments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 8, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180928162300.htm

Researchers Make Significant Progress in the Study of Biofilm Formation

By Sanjana Puri

Biofilms present a formidable threat to the treatment of bacterial infections. These structures, which form when bacterial cells coalesce and bind together via a glue-like substance, are surrounded in a semi-protective layer which makes them extremely difficult to permeate. This is an especially potent issue in American hospitals, where contaminated sutures or catheters can lead to the development of fatal infections in admitted patients. Yale University researcher Andre Levchenko along with his colleagues from the University of California-San Diego sought to examine the most confounding issue in the study of biofilms - by what process bacteria shed their individual identities to operate in a collective structure. They simulated the environment of human cells known to host uropathogenic E. coli (cause of urinary tract infections), using microfluidic devices and gels. They observed that the primary trigger was a kind of “self-generated stress,” where the bacterial colonies would grow until compressed by the chamber walls, fibers or the gel. Once this unimpeded growth was inhibited by the bacteria’s containment, they would form a structure very similar to biofilm, most notably with an increased resistance to antibiotics. The technology used to examine the biofilm formation can be adapted to a wide variety of conditions, allowing for it to be studied in a collection of cellular conditions. Additionally, according to Levchenko, the research can be done rapidly and precisely in an inexpensive and easily reproducible way. The testing of drugs that could fracture the protective biofilm layer would not only be made in more predictable conditions, but also in more accessible ones.

Yale University. (2018, October 5). How fatal biofilms form. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 8, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181005111431.htm

This Height Predictor Could Save Billions. In Cash and in Lives.

By Ella Do

Michigan State University’s new DNA algorithm possesses the ability to create predictors for several physical traits, primarily height, whose accuracy falls within about an inch of later documented results for each individual tested. Remarkably, such conclusive predictions can be determined based on the study of a singular genome. While this new tool serves primarily as a height predictor, other indicators of bone density and even the level of education predicted to be achieved by individuals have been taken into account as well. Though resulting in less accurate readings, application of collected data from the two latter categories provided enough information to identify individuals at higher risk of conditions such as osteopenia or osteoporosis, or even those who would be more likely to struggle in school.

According to lead investigator and vice president for research and undergraduate studies at MSU, Stephen Hsu, further application would allow for the prediction of additional complex illnesses, from heart disease to breast cancer, that stem from now detectable trait indicators. With a new definition for the idea behind preventative care, this model would be able to efficiently foresee potential threat of serious illness. The tool’s greatest benefits come with its ability to not only expand traditional genetic testing to tens of thousands of variations but simultaneously increase ease of sample collection and reduce out-of-pocket cost for patients. Hsu and his team aim constantly to improve the algorithm's diverse analysis of both physical and genetically based disease predictors with high hopes that such early intervention will save patients billions of dollars in treatment and even their lives.

Citation: Michigan State University. (2018, October 4). New DNA tool predicts height, shows promise for serious illness assessment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 7, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181004143856.htm

Brush Your Teeth at Night to Keep Your Memory Fit and Tight!

By Eliana Rosenzweig

A recent study published in PLOS ONE by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that periodontal disease may be associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s, an incurable disease that is signified by eventual memory loss. Researchers studied 10 mice with chronic periodontitis, which is characterized by bone and tissue damage in the oral cavity, and 10 mice in the control group with no periodontitis. The mice with chronic periodontitis were injected with gum bacteria to mimic the disease, and this was a particularly significant approach because it mimicked gum disease of any age, rather than senile gums, which would be more prone to developing Alzheimer’s. The study found that mice with chronic exposure to the periodontitis-causing bacteria had a significantly more amyloid beta protein in their brains, which is a senile plaque of the brain commonly found in Alzheimer’s patients. Through RNA and amyloid beta protein analysis, researchers found that genes linked to inflammation and degeneration in the brain were more prevalent and more expressed in the wild-type group than the control group. In fact, researchers observed the bacteria protein inside the brain tissues of the mice in the study group. These findings are of the utmost importance because it is the first step to establishing another risk factor, or potential cause of Alzheimer’s, a disease that is not only life-threatening but does not have a cure. To be able to identify a potential cause of Alzheimer’s would be significant for the science community as well as the millions of people around the world that suffer from the disease, specifically 95% of Alzheimer’s population with late-onset and no-known cause, because periodontitis, unlike Alzheimer’s, is much more treatable and has a cure. Keeping up with oral hygiene is an easy process and can go a long way, especially with regard to memory function in later stages of life!

 

University of Illinois at Chicago. (2018, October 4). Periodontal disease bacteria may kick-start Alzheimer's: Researchers study effects of oral bacteria on brain health in mice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 7, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181004100009.htm

New Research Describes the Psychological Effects of Family Separation on Children

By Nicole Loranger

In a new study published last month, scientists have summarized the tragically damaging effects of family separation and childhood institutionalization that present themselves during adolescence. The data, collected by the Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) in Romania, assessed outcomes at 8, 12, and 16 years of age through the use of a questionnaire filled out by teachers and caregivers. A Boston Children’s Hospital research team used this data in a randomized clinical trial, looking at 220 different subjects. Of this sample, 119 had been institutionalized as children, and half of that number had been placed in foster care. The questionnaire that assessed the long-term psychological effects of this trauma measured subscales such as depression, overanxious, social anxiety/withdrawal, conduct problems, and overt and relationship aggression. Results from this study ultimately indicated that of the adolescents that were institutionalized as children (post familial separation), those who eventually were placed in foster care demonstrated less psychopathology and fewer externalizing behaviors such as “rule breaking, excessive arguing with authority figures, stealing and assaulting peers”. According to the article, these differences appear around age 12, and become even more stark at age 16.

While the article makes the point that Romanian orphanages are not necessarily compatible with the U.S. immigration detention centers, the real takeaway is this: removing a child from its family not only results in extreme distress in the short-term, but also in unmistakable psychological damage in the long-term. Placing a neglected child with a caring foster home may alleviate some of the damage, but in the words of lead researcher Dr. Mark Wade, “What we really need is policies and social programs [to] prevent separation from primary caregivers in the first place."

Boston Children's Hospital. (2018, September 27). When neglected children become adolescents: Study of children in Romanian orphanages tells cautionary tale about family separation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 7, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180927145549.htm

Cold Season: It’s All in the Nose

By Leili Najmabadi

As the weather starts getting colder, it’s time to think about how to prevent the severity of the common cold. The type of bacteria living in each person’s nose determines how cold symptoms will manifest. The most severe nasal symptoms are connected to the Staphylococcus bacteria, and researchers have now identified six nasal microbiome patterns. Ronald B. Turner at the University of Virginia School of Medicine was able to find a correlation between the composition of these biomes and the amount of cold virus found in the body. However, more research is necessary to understand this exact relationship and whether or not there are any other host characteristics that play a role in cold processes, such as environmental factors. In Turner’s study, 152 participants were studied and given the virus, and their nasal microbiomes were analyzed. Turner also studied the effect of probiotics on cold symptoms and any possible changes to these biomes. Each participant was given a probiotic, which was shown to have no effect at all. More research on a probiotic nasal spray, as well as the use of antibiotics, is anticipated to give further insight.

University of Virginia Health System. (2018, September 26). Cold severity linked to bacteria living in your nose. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 5, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180926111001.htm

Carbon Dioxide: From Greenhouse Gas to Clean Energy

By Ben Dellaripa

Efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are a key part of the fight against global warming.  Unfortunately, CO2 is a fairly ubiquitous byproduct of energy producing reactions, and therefore is produced in large quantities at electrical power plants.  Interestingly, scientists at MIT are in the process of developing a battery that uses carbon dioxide conversion as a method of producing energy.  Dealing with the production of CO2 is currently an expensive process, as power plants often use about 30% of the electricity they produce solely to properly collect and store the CO2 they make.  Any process that could simplify the process of capturing the CO2, or use it to create a marketable product, will have drastic effects on the finances of these power plants.  Carbon dioxide is a fairly inert gas, so previous efforts to convert it to other products have been expensive and inefficient.  The batteries being developed consist of lithium metal, solid carbon, and an electrolyte solution containing carbon dioxide and amides, which help the CO2 conduct electricity more effectively.  While current models are limited in their abilities to be recharged, and likely won’t be available as finished products for years, the design is extremely promising, as it offers a preferable alternative to the current methods of dealing with CO2 byproduct.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "New battery gobbles up carbon dioxide: Lithium-based battery could make use of greenhouse gas before it ever gets into the atmosphere." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180921140146.htm (accessed September 30, 2018).

Recent Study Produces First-Ever Data on Individual Micro-environment, the “Exposome”

By Nicole Loranger

While it is true that people living in a given geographic area share the same air, streets, and exposure to certain plants and animals from season to season, a new study has delved into this topic at an even more personal level. Stanford University Medical School’s Dr. Michael Snyder and his team of researchers decided to examine what they refer to as the “exposome”, or the unique microcosm of particulates that individuals are exposed to on a daily basis. Using a small device that attaches to the arm and filters small volumes of air to collect data, Snyder and his team were the first to confirm that our exposure to foreign materials includes far more than the macroscopic environment we live in- it is also highly impacted by our very own clouds of particulates that constantly surround us. These clouds tend to include bacteria, viruses, plant and animal particulates, chemicals, and fungi, but the ratios and specific identities of the materials allow for variation. This cloud varies greatly not just from individual to individual, but also from day to day, since the combination of different locations and interactions will introduce a novel combination of particles with each new exposure. According to the article, this study was inspired by Snyder’s curiosity regarding the contents of these clouds, which can supposedly “reveal information about geographic- and household-chemical spikes and weather-related patterns, and likewise show the wide range of chemical and biological particulates that can be found between individuals.” The data even indicated a high presence of carcinogens in clouds- although it also provided the disclaimer that this information is only preliminary and should not yet be involved in any medical decision-making processes. Going forward, Snyder hopes to see people be made aware of their immediate exposome and for that data to made more accessible as the research moves ahead.

Chao Jiang, Xin Wang, Xiyan Li, Jingga Inlora, Ting Wang, Qing Liu, Michael Snyder. Dynamic Human Environmental Exposome Revealed by Longitudinal Personal Monitoring. Cell, 2018; 175 (1): 277 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.08.060

Novel approach for measuring drugs in crime labs

 By Alexander Pan

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and at the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division are revamping their method of detecting drug levels at crime scenes. The instruments used to detect drug levels are Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry (DART-MS) and Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS). Both of these instruments are very sensitive to drug levels and can detect down to billionths of a gram per square centimeter. Due to such strong specificity, it is important to prevent cross-contamination of drugs from the forensic lab to the evidence. At the research labs that test for drug levels, researchers swabbed areas in the lab, such as the bench, door handle, and balances, and discovered detectable residues of 13 different drugs, in measurements as small as a few nanograms, on these surfaces. Although these numbers are extremely small, it is important to note that such contamination exist if the threshold for detectable drug levels are increasing in specificity. These researchers from NIST outlined a protocol for other crime labs to follow in order to minimize and account for drug contamination in the lab. Furthermore, these researchers are partnering with the National Institute for Occupational Safety to assess potentially harmful effects of background drug levels on workplace safety. 

 

Edward Sisco, Marcela Najarro, Amber Burns. A Snapshot of Drug Background Levels on Surfaces in a Forensic Laboratory. Forensic Chemistry, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.forc.2018.09.001

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2018, September 26). New protocol for measuring background levels of drugs in crime labs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180926110850.htm

Grinch-like results: Study shows that disagreeable individuals benefit most from spreading compassion 

By Patrycja Sztachelski

Studies from York University have found interesting evidence that suggests that the most disagreeable individuals can benefit significantly from exhibiting compassion towards others. In the following study, more than 640 individuals (of an average age in the mid-30s) with mild depression participated in one of three online compassion intervention exercises that included a control condition. These individuals were asked to report their progress on these exercises every other day over the course of three weeks, and after two months of the study, participants who were asked to pursue acts of kindness in their personal relationships received the greatest benefits, reducing the effects of their depression the most. Another exercise condition known as Loving Kindness Meditation, in which individuals spent up to 10 minutes meditating on comforting phrases such as “May you be happy”, did not provide as substantial benefits as the Acts of Kindness exercise. Myriam Mongrain, lead author of this study and Professor of Psychology in York’s Faculty of Health, believes that these findings are particularly relevant today because the Acts of Kindness intervention is practical—it is not time-consuming, can be administered easily, and ultimately can have profound effects on the mental health of those that suffer from relationship difficulties the most.

 

York University. (2018, September 19). Difficult people have most to gain from practicing compassion: Study shows acts of kindness can reduce depression in disagreeable individuals. Science Daily. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180919111507.htm

By Shruti Sagar

Research conducted by a group of scientists at New York University concludes that using verbs instead of nouns when talking about a child’s actions can impact their resilience when they are faced with setbacks. This research was based off of a previous study, which concluded that asking children aged 4 to 5 to “be helpers” rather than “to help” led to children assisting with more tasks. The NYU findings, however, showed that this method does not hold after children experience hardships while trying to be helpful.

The experimental design consisted of children ages 4 to 5 being placed into two groups: kids that were asked “to help” versus kids who were asked to “be helpful”. Both groups were tasked to assist the experimenter in picking up toys, and the experiment was designed as such that children would experience setbacks while they tried to help in order to test their resilience when they were given more chances to help the experimenter. The box they were asked to pick up was purposely faulty and mimicked an outcome representative of a child’s everyday life. The results concluded that children who were asked “to help” were more resilient in helping after the setback than children that were asked to “be helpers” were.

NYU scientist Emily Fostor-Hanson, an author of this paper, stated that “talking to children about actions they can take -- in this case, that they can do helpful things -- can encourage more persistence following setbacks than talking to children about identities that they can take on” (New York University). In other words, the research concludes that it is beneficial to a child’s perseverance and tenacity to encourage them with verbs to talk about actions rather than nouns to talk about children as one aspect of an identity.

 

New York University. (2018, September 19). Instilling persistence in children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180919083451.htm

“Gluten Free” now more than a trend? Perhaps

 By: Vivek Krishnam

In a cohort study published by The BMJ, researchers found that a diet with a high amount of gluten during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of type one diabetes in their children. This study was completed in Denmark where researchers analyzed dietary data from about 60,000 pregnant women from January 1996 to October 2002. They also obtained information about diabetes in their children. The researchers found that children whose mothers had the highest gluten intake versus those with the lowest gluten intake had double the risk of developing type 1 diabetes over a follow-up period of about 15 years. In this cohort, the average gluten intake was 13g/day, with a range from 7-20g/day on the low and high end. However, this was an observational study, so causation cannot be concluded from these findings. There is no known information on why a high gluten diet is bad, as gluten is simply a name for several proteins found in wheat. Researchers have proposed that a high gluten diet can lead to inflammation or leakiness of the gut, but more evidence is needed to support that conclusion as these effects can be due to something besides gluten in the grain. However, gluten may soon be a substantiated culprit. In a study where the subjects analyzed were animals, a gluten free diet during their pregnancy almost completely prevented type 1 diabetes in offspring. This may be enough for expecting mothers to add gluten to the list of substances they should be wary of during their pregnancy.

  

BMJ. (2018, September 19). High gluten diet in pregnancy linked to increased risk of diabetes in children: Further studies needed to confirm or rule out findings, and to explore possible underlying mechanism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 26, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180919200335.htm

Discovery of a Novel Universal Vaccine for Influenza

By Janie Ingrassia

Influenza kills 260000-650000 people and causes 3-5 million cases of severe illness each year. Influenza’s strength comes from its ability to mutate in order to escape immunity while only producing a small number of individual strains of the virus each year. The best way to protect against influenza is with a vaccination, but its effectiveness varies year-to-year. That was until the research team in Professor Sunetra Gupta’s group at Oxford stepped in. By mapping the historical variations of the virus with mathematical models, they were able to determine which parts of the virus specifically targeted the immune system and enabled to evolution of the virus. Professor Sunetra Gupta explains that they have discovered a “blueprint for a universal influenza vaccine.” In order to determine the accuracy of their discovery, they injected mice with the specific epitope they discovered. They were not only able to protect the mice from the lethal influenza virus from 1934, they were also able to determine that the epitope they discovered was in fact responsible for the cross-reactional nature of the vaccine. The researchers were then able to develop a novel universal vaccine for influenza. This research method was the first time a mathematical model of the evolutionary dynamics of an infectious disease assisted in the discovery of a universal vaccine. The researchers hope that this method can be applied to many other diseases such as HIV and the common cold. This new approach won The MRC Confidence in Concept Award in 2016, The Royal Translational Award in 2017 and The ERC Proof of Concept Grant in 2018.

 

Source: University of Oxford. (2018, September 21). Pre-clinical success for a universal flu vaccine offers hope for third generation approach. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180921082943.htm

Being bold and being colorful is good news if you’re a zebrafish

By Grace Perry

A study performed at the University of Stirling in Scotland has uncovered some of the ways in which personality and appearance of zebrafish affect their reproductive success. Prior to the study, it was already known that appearance influences mating, as animals with “more defined” color patterns are noted to be chosen as mates more frequently. The relationship between animal personality and fitness has also been explored in previous studies, but this one in particular looked at both personality and appearance and how the combination influences fitness.

The researchers crossed male and female fish based on their membership in four groups: bold fish with clear coloration, shy fish with clear coloration, bold fish with unclear coloration and shy fish with unclear coloration. To determine fitness of each group, the researchers recorded the number and survival of eggs along with the percentage that made it to juvenile stages, among other factors. They found that regardless of coloration, the bold fish had better reproductive outcomes, with the bold and clear coloration group having the most success.

These results display the interaction between personality factors, physical traits and fitness, suggesting that personality, and boldness in particular, may be an even better indicator of reproductive success than appearance in zebrafish. This finding has implications in conservation efforts as well as in the creation of aquacultures, as it can inform the selection of certain phenotypes to improve reproductive outcomes in both areas.

 

University of Stirling. (2018, September 20). Pairing zebrafish by personality improves fitness of the species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180920102115.htm