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So THAT'S Why Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others

Here's what makes you so attractive to the bugs and how you can prevent bites.

If you’ve ever been at an outdoor party or BBQ during the fading hours of daylight and don’t personally notice an increase in the number of mosquitoes, you’ll probably hear someone complaining about it. That’s because mosquitoes are selective insects, and some people are more likely to get bites than others. There are a few factors that could contribute to why this happens: In one controlled study by the Journal of Medical Entomology, the bugs landed on people with blood Type O nearly twice as frequently as those with Type A. The researchers noted this has to do with secretions we produce, which tips mosquitoes off on a person’s blood type. More research needs to be conducted on mosquitoes’ potential preference for certain blood types over others, said Jonathan F. Day, an entomology professor at the University of Florida. But he agreed that mosquitoes do pick up on some cues we give off that make the bugs more likely to land on certain people.“These cues let them know they are going to a blood source,” Day said. “Perhaps CO2 is the most important. The amount of CO2 you produce, like people with high metabolic rates ― genetic, other factors ― increases the amount of carbon dioxide you give off. The more you give off, the more attractive you are to these arthropods.” But what separates us from the nonliving entities that give off carbon dioxide, like cars? Mosquitoes look for primary cues in conjunction with what Day calls “secondary cues.”Lactic acid — the stuff that causes our muscles to cramp during exercise — is one of those secondary cues, for example. Lactic acid is released through the skin, signaling to mosquitoes that we are a target, Day said.Mosquitoes also have other qualities that help them pick up on secondary cues.“Mosquitoes have excellent vision, but they fly close to the ground to stay out of the wind,” Day said. “They are able to contrast you with the horizon, so how you’re dressed matters. If you have on dark clothes, you are going to attract more because you’ll stand out from the horizon, whereas those wearing light colors won’t as much.”A mosquito also takes in “tactile cues” once it has landed on you.“Body heat is a really important tactile cue,” Day said. “That comes into play with genetic differences or physiological differences. Some people tend to run a little warmer — when they land, they’re looking for a place where blood is close to the skin.” That means those whose temperatures are a little higher are more likely to get the bite.Lifestyle or other health factors may also play a role, said Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic.“If body temperature is higher, you’re exercising and moving around a lot, or if you’re drinking alcohol, you are more attractive to mosquitoes,” Piliang said. “Being pregnant or being overweight also increases metabolic rate.” One study showed that people who consumed just one can of beer were more at risk of attracting mosquitoes than those who didn’t. Of course, drinking outside is a popular summer and fall activity.“If you’ve been moving around all day doing yardwork and then you stop around dusk and drink a beer on your patio, you’re definitely at risk of bites,” Piliang said. Photoboyko via Getty ImagesClose-up of young female backpacker tourist applying bug spray on handsHow To Prevent Mosquito BitesJust because you might be more prone to bites doesn’t mean they have to be an inevitability.“One of the very best things to do is to avoid peak activity times [for mosquitoes],” Day said. “There are very, very few species that are active in the middle of the day. They are very selective. Sunrise and sunset are when you’ll see peak activity.” Switching your early morning run to an after-work run could help here.Of course, this tip won’t help you if you’re, say, throwing a BBQ for friends later at night. Try to cover as much skin as you can in these cases, Day said, especially in areas or at times mosquitoes are most likely to be present.“I love the fishing shirts and the long-legged outdoor pants that are breathable, but they prevent mosquitoes,” Day said. “A repellent that has a good protection time ― defined as the time from when you apply to when you get the first bite ― is also great. Roughly 5% DEET sprays gives you 90 minutes of complete coverage.”DEET is a common ingredient in insect repellents, and sprays with DEET are probably the way to go if you know you’re at risk of bites, Piliang said. Despite the controversy over the health effects of DEET, a 2014 review by the Environmental Protection Agency re-concluded that normal use of DEET products does not pose a risk to one’s health, including children, pregnant women and breastfeeding women.“DEET is the most effective,” Piliang said. “If you are going to be in a mosquito-prone place, knowing that they carry disease, it is your best bet. Take a shower later to wash it off, and put on just a little bit.” Always read the directions on a spray before using it, and help children apply products by following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.And while you may have heard that candles containing natural repellents like citronella oil can be useful, there is no research to support it yet. Instead, keep the fan on or hang out in a breezy area.“Mosquitoes can’t get around very much,” especially in wind, Piliang said. “You can run a fan to keep air moving.”If you do end up with a bite, you may or may not be bothered. “This all depends on how allergic you are to the chemicals in the saliva of the mosquito, and that can vary based on the type of the mosquito or how reactive you and your skin are to things in the environment,” Piliang said.If it is itchy, the worst possible thing you can do is scratch it.“If you do, then more histamine is released and it gets itchier,” she said. “If you scratch it, you’re also more likely to break skin. You can get bleeding, scabs and put yourself at risk for infection and scarring.” But there are a few simple things you can do to alleviate the itch, like putting an ice cube on it. “The sensation of cold travels on the same nerve as itch, so you cannot feel both at the same time,” Piliang said. “Even a drink with ice on it will help relieve itch immediately.”If you’ve received several bites after a morning or evening outside, she also recommended over-the-counter anti-itch creams with a mild topical steroid like hydrocortisone. “You can apply that two to three times a day to reduce itch,” she said.“And the last thing you can do if you’re really bit up is take an antihistamine,” she added. “It can counteract the reaction a bit.” While OTC types that make you drowsy — like Benadryl — are more common, you can take non-drowsy antihistamines like Zyrtec or Allegra for daytime relief.Of course, prevention is always better than treatment, so use these tips to stave off bites in the first place as you head out for the season’s remaining BBQs and tailgates.

Offshore windfarm zone off Illawarra coast given green light in bid to ‘power Australia’s clean energy future’

Zone will be 20km off the coast and exclude areas significant for little penguin and for southern right whale migrationThe federal government has given the green light to an offshore windfarm zone south of Sydney, making it Australia’s fourth such zone to be declared.Announcing the project in the Illawarra on Saturday, the climate change and energy minister, Chris Bowen, said the move would bring thousands of new jobs and help “power Australia’s clean energy future”. Continue reading...

The federal government has given the green light to an offshore windfarm zone south of Sydney, making it Australia’s fourth such zone to be declared.Announcing the project in the Illawarra on Saturday, the climate change and energy minister, Chris Bowen, said the move would bring thousands of new jobs and help “power Australia’s clean energy future”.The zone will be 20km from the coast and exclude areas significant for the little penguin and for southern right whale migration.It will cover an offshore area of 1,022 sq km – a one-third reduction from the original proposal – and has the potential to generate 2.9GW, or enough power for 1.8m homes.“The Illawarra has been an engine room of the Australian economy for generations, and now it’s ready to power Australia’s clean energy future,” Bowen said.“Declaring this offshore wind zone brings the Illawarra a step closer to becoming a major provider of the building blocks of the net zero transformation – green power, green hydrogen and green steel – along with thousands of new jobs.”Since last year, the proposal for a windfarm zone in the Illawarra and the declaration of a zone in New South Wales’s Hunter region has drawn fierce opposition, with some online groups sharing factually incorrect information about the windfarms.The Coalition has fanned opposition to the project, despite introducing legislation for the development of an offshore wind industry while in government.The federal Labor MP for Whitlam, Stephen Jones, said the declaration showed the government’s commitment to supporting local jobs and delivering cheaper and more reliable energy for Illawarra businesses and households.“We want Australia to be a global renewable energy superpower and regions such as the Illawarra have an important role to play in our nation’s energy transformation,” he said.Why Dutton is restoking the climate wars: politics with Amy Remeikis - videoThe zone does not guarantee an offshore windfarm will go ahead, but is the first of five regulatory stages. The stages will include project-specific feasibility and commercial licences and an environmental assessment under national conservation laws.If an offshore windfarm does go ahead, the turbines could be up to 268 metres high. The government has said the size, arrangement and number of turbines will be determined after the prospective developer undertakes studies.The government views creating an offshore windfarm industry in Australia as key to helping the country replace ageing coal-fired power plants, and reaching its plan for the energy grid to be made up of 82% of renewable energy by the end of the decade.The federal Labor MP for Cunningham, Alison Byrnes, said she was pleased the zone had been amended to start further from the coast and exclude significant environmental areas.“[It’s a] sensible compromise that reflects the majority of community opinion while helping to achieve our shared goals of more renewable energy, more jobs and fewer emissions,” she said.skip past newsletter promotionSign up to Afternoon UpdateOur Australian afternoon update breaks down the key stories of the day, telling you what’s happening and why it mattersPrivacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy. We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.after newsletter promotion“There is now an extensive process of studies and approvals that will be required but this is a positive step for a region that wants to secure its industrial future and power it using clean energy.”Many welcomed the development on Saturday.The Climate Council policy and advocacy head, Jennifer Rayner, said the Illawarra would continue to thrive for generations with affordable and clean energy being produced in the region.“Offshore wind will be an important part of Australia’s clean energy grid because it provides reliable, steady renewable energy right around the clock,” Rayner said.“This is one of the important ways we’ll power Australia as our ageing and unreliable coal-fired generators close.“The federal and state governments need to work together to rapidly break through roadblocks that are holding back the delivery of onshore wind projects already supported by communities and investors.”The University of Wollongong Energy Futures Network director, Ty Christopher, hailed the offshore wind project as a positive step for the region.“By working together as a community, sharing our concerns for the environment to codesign a clean energy future for the region, we have the ability to deliver positive outcomes for our oceans, our communities and our local economy,” he said.– with Australian Associated Press

You Have Every Reason to Avoid Breathing Wildfire Smoke

The hazards are only becoming clearer; what the U.S. will do to protect people is not.

Summertime in North America is becoming smoke season. Last summer, when a haze from catastrophic Canadian wildfires hung over the continent—turning Montreal, where I lived at the time, an unearthly gray and my home city of New York a putrid orange—plenty of people seemed untroubled by this reality. Relatively few people wore masks; infamously, an outdoor yoga class continued on a skyscraper terrace in Manhattan. Research has long shown that exposure to the tiny particles that make up wildfire smoke is a major health hazard; it kills thousands of people prematurely each year and is linked to a range of maladies. Yet the message—that smoke is a legitimate health emergency—seems not to be getting through.Now, in mid-June, the smoke is creeping back. Ninety-four fires are currently burning in Canada, of which seven are uncontrolled. Last month, officials in Minnesota and Wisconsin issued air-quality warnings when smoke drifted south. The West is expecting an intense fire season. And smoke travels far beyond burn sites: Research from UC Davis published this month found that 99 percent of North America was covered by smoke at some point from 2019 to 2021, and that almost every lake on the continent spent at least 10 days a year under such haze.New evidence is starting to show more clearly just how devastating a public-health crisis this is. Smoke from California wildfires prematurely killed more than 50,000 people from 2008 to 2018, according to research published last week in the journal Science Advances. The researchers estimated that the health expenses of that exposure totaled $432 billion. And a recent analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that, given the march of climate change, smoke-related deaths in the U.S. will rise considerably: In the worst-case scenario, by mid-century, cumulative excess deaths from wildfire-smoke exposure could top 700,000, a two-thirds increase over current numbers. Measured in economic terms, pegged to the price people put on avoiding real health risks, these deaths amount to monetary damage on par with that of all other previous climate-related damage in the U.S. combined.Among the hazards of wildfire smoke, researchers know the most about tiny particles called PM2.5, which are small enough to slip into the bloodstream and infiltrate the lungs and other organs, causing inflammation and increasing the risk of a cascade of interrelated problems, including cognitive issues, breathing and heart conditions, and premature death. But wildfire smoke contains far more than one form of pollutant; its dangers are likely as complex a cocktail as whatever is burning. Smoke from a burning tree looks different than smoke from a burning town, and in a wildfire there may be both, with perhaps a few industrial sites thrown in. “There’s a lot of chemicals in that. There’s all sorts of things in the pollution that you might not see in other sources of PM2.5,” says Marissa Childs, an environmental-health researcher at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health who was a co-author of the NBER paper. “We’re still unclear on what that means for health.” But no one expects it to be anything good.The health hazards of smoke don’t yet show up in the cost-benefit analyses of climate policy, either, says Minghao Qiu, a researcher at Stanford University who studies air quality and climate change and was the lead author of the NBER paper. The social cost of carbon, for example, a metric meant to help weigh whether a climate policy is cost-effective, tries to estimate the societal damages of one extra ton of emissions by accounting for mortality related to extreme temperature, agriculture outputs, labor productivity, and other such factors, Qui told me. But measures like that do not at present include wildfire-smoke deaths. A large part of the climate-damage pie is simply missing.Until recently, air quality in the U.S. had been improving for decades, thanks to legislation regulating industrial sources of PM2.5. But fires are eating away at those gains. About a quarter of the PM2.5 pollution in the U.S. is now connected to wildfire smoke—“maybe 50 percent of [it] in the West in a bad year,” Qiu said. The bad year he has in mind is 2020, California’s worst season on record. Climate change will turn that from an outlier into a norm. “Every year in the 2050s will look somewhat like 2020,” he said. And even a season that’s not the worst on record poses a danger: One revelation from the work he and his colleagues did, Qiu said, was that “there really is no safe level” of smoke—even a relatively low level can increase a county’s mortality rate dramatically. Perhaps because of this dynamic, from 2011 to 2020 almost half of wildfire-smoke deaths happened in the eastern United States. The East might have fewer, smaller wildfires and lower smoke concentrations overall, but more people live there. And if more people are exposed to even low levels of smoke, mortality rates rise. (Qiu expects this particular dynamic to shift as western fires intensify further.)  Yet despite the risks, most Americans are left to deal with the threat on their own. The CDC recommends staying home, closing windows, and running an air filter, or—if you must go outside—wearing a respirator. But not everyone can stay inside without fear of losing their jobs; the federal government has done little more than urge employers to have a plan for their outdoor workers in a smoke event, and only three states—California, Oregon, and Washington—have rules regulating on-the-job smoke exposure. The CDC also recommends that all Americans follow the directions of local emergency managers, but New York City Mayor Eric Adams was widely criticized for having neither a plan nor any fast instructions for New Yorkers when last summer’s smoke crisis hit. If a government’s main policy approach is to suggest that people figure it out with little tangible support, “that’s going to have unequal impacts,” Childs told me.The Clean Air Act, which was largely crafted in the 1960s and ’70s, considers wildfire an “exceptional event,” leaving it beyond the burden of regulation. But now, with wildfire smoke representing a larger share of the PM2.5 to which Americans are exposed, that logic may no longer hold. As more frequent wildfires bear down on the American West and as temperatures rise across the country, fires will negate some of the air-quality gains from combatting other forms of air pollution, such as emissions from cars and power plants. Regaining that lost ground will be impossible without curbing one of the primary underlying causes of today’s supercharged fires: our use of fossil fuels.This is all new, in a way.“It took us a long time in the research perspective to come to a consensus that wildfire smoke is increasing,” Childs told me. Now it’s clear that it is. The open question is what governments will do about it—how cities, states, and the country will try to protect people from the smoke, or try to change the trajectory of a future in which it grows only more common.

Sugar-Sensing Proteins: A Potential Breakthrough for Sustainable Biofuel

A new study shows how sugar levels influence plant growth and oil production through the protein KIN10, offering the potential for advancements in biofuel production....

Recent research by the Brookhaven National Laboratory explores how plant proteins respond to sugar levels. The study reveals that the sugar proxy molecule’s binding to the KIN10 protein influences plant growth and oil production. This insight could lead to genetic modifications in plants to enhance oil output for biofuels. Credit: SciTechDailyA new study shows how sugar levels influence plant growth and oil production through the protein KIN10, offering the potential for advancements in biofuel production.Proteins function as molecular machines, equipped with flexible components and moving parts. Gaining insight into these movements is crucial for scientists as it helps them understand the role a protein plays in organisms, and it may also guide them in modifying its effects. A team of biochemists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have provided new insights into the mechanisms of these molecular machines within plants.In their recent study, published in Science Advances, the researchers focus on how the movements of a specific sugar-sensing protein determine whether plants grow and produce energy-intensive products, such as oil, or if they engage in conservatory measures. This image shows a plant protein known as KIN10 (yellow) that acts as a sensor and a switch to turn oil production off or on depending on whether it interacts with another protein (green). Credit: Brookhaven National LaboratoryMolecular Mechanisms UnveiledJantana Blanford, a Brookhaven Lab biochemist and the study’s lead author, explains, “This paper reveals the detailed mechanism by which plant cells are informed of high sugar availability, influencing biochemical pathways that facilitate plant growth and oil production.”The research expands upon earlier work from Brookhaven’s team that uncovered molecular links between sugar levels and oil production in plants. One potential goal of this research is to identify specific proteins and their components that scientists can engineer to make plants produce more energy-intensive products, such as oil.“Identifying exactly how these molecules and proteins interact, as this new study does, brings us closer to identifying how we might engineer these proteins to increase plant oil production,” said John Shanklin, lead author and chair of Brookhaven Lab’s Biology Department.VIDEOThis animation shows how a flexible loop (orange) on a plant protein known as KIN10 (yellow) allows it to interact with another protein (green) — but only when sugar levels are low. The interaction of the two proteins triggers a cascade of reactions that break down other proteins involved in oil synthesis so the plant can conserve its resources. When sugar levels are high, meaning the plant has abundant resources, a sugar-proxy molecule blocks the loop’s swinging motion. That prevents the protein interaction, which keeps the oil-production pathway open. Credit: Brookhaven National LaboratoryNew Research on Protein InteractionsThe team used a combination of laboratory experiments and computational modeling to zero in on how the molecule that serves as a sugar proxy binds to a “sensor kinase” known as KIN10. KIN10 is the protein that contains the moving parts that determine which biochemical pathways are on or off.The scientists already knew that KIN10 acts as both a sugar sensor and a switch: When sugar levels are low, KIN10 interacts with another protein to set off a cascade of reactions that ultimately shut down oil production and break down energy-rich molecules like oil and starch to make energy that powers the cell. But when sugar levels are high, KIN10’s shut-down function is shut off — meaning plants can grow and make lots of oil and other products with abundant energy.This diagram shows the two pathways KIN10 and an adjacent protein, GRIK1, follow in the low- and high-sugar conditions. Low sugar allows the addition of a phosphate (P) to KIN10, which triggers a phosphorylation cascade that leads to the breakdown of enzymes involved in oil synthesis. This includes degradation of WRI1, the master-switch for oil synthesis. When sugar is abundant, however, a sugar-proxy molecule (T6P) binds to the KIN10 loop to block its interaction with GRIK1. That keeps the oil synthesis pathway open. Credit: Brookhaven National LaboratoryTo identify how the sugar proxy binding to KIN10 flips the switch, Blanford started with the adage “opposites attract.” She identified three positively charged parts of KIN10 that might be attracted to abundant negative charges on the sugar proxy molecule. A laboratory-based process of elimination that involved making variations of KIN10 with modifications to these sites identified the one true binding site.Then the Brookhaven team turned to computational colleagues at PNNL. Marcel Baer and Simone Raugei at PNNL examined at the atomic level how the sugar proxy and KIN10 fit together. “By using multiscale modeling we observed that the protein can exist in multiple conformations but only one of them can effectively bind the sugar proxy,” Baer said.The PNNL simulations identified key amino acids within the protein that control the binding of the sugar. These computational insights were then confirmed experimentally.The combined body of experimental and computational information helped the scientists understand how interaction with the sugar proxy directly affects the downstream action of KIN10.Brookhaven Lab members of the research team: Jantana Blanford, Zhiyang Zhai, Hui Li, Qun Liu, and John Shanklin (not shown: Gongrui Guo). Credit: Brookhaven National LaboratoryThe Role of Flexibility in Protein Function“Additional analyses showed that the entire KIN10 molecule is rigid except for one long flexible loop,” Shanklin said. The models also showed that the loop’s flexibility is what allows KIN10 to interact with an activator protein to trigger the cascade of reactions that ultimately shut down oil production and plant growth.Pacific Northwest National Laboratory co-authors Marcel Baer and Simone Raugei. Credit: Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryWhen sugar levels are low, and little sugar proxy molecule is present, the loop remains flexible, and the shutdown mechanism can operate to reduce plant growth and oil production. That makes sense to conserve precious resources, Shanklin said. However, when sugar levels are high, the sugar proxy binds tightly to KIN10.“The calculations show how this small molecule blocks the loop from swinging around and prevents it from triggering the shutdown cascade,” Blanford said.“We could potentially use our new knowledge to design KIN10 with altered binding strength for the sugar proxy to change the set point at which plants make things like oil and break things down,” Shanklin said. This knowledge could lead to more efficient production of biofuels and other oil-based products.Reference: “Molecular mechanism of trehalose 6-phosphate inhibition of the plant metabolic sensor kinase SnRK1” by Jantana Blanford, Zhiyang Zhai, Marcel D. Baer, Gongrui Guo, Hui Liu, Qun Liu, Simone Raugei and John Shanklin, 17 May 2024, Science Advances.DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adn0895This work was supported by the DOE Office of Science (BES). Computer time was provided by the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Molecular Sciences Computing Facility (MSCF) in the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. NERSC and MSCF are DOE Office of Science user facilities.

Nature’s Warning: Early Signs in Marine Life Predicting the Next Mass Extinction

A study using foraminifera fossils suggests that shifts in marine community structures can predict future extinctions, highlighting the role of historical data in forecasting climate...

Researchers have utilized a detailed global dataset of foraminifera fossils to study shifts in marine community structures before mass extinctions, offering an early warning system for future biodiversity losses due to climate change. Led by Anshuman Swain and Adam Woodhouse, the study emphasizes the importance of monitoring ecological changes to predict future extinctions, potentially shaping the field of paleoinformatics.A study using foraminifera fossils suggests that shifts in marine community structures can predict future extinctions, highlighting the role of historical data in forecasting climate change impacts on biodiversity.For hundreds of millions of years, single-celled organisms known as foraminifera, which are microscopic and hard-shelled, have thrived in the oceans. These tiny creatures form the foundation of the food chain. The fossils of these ancient organisms provide insights into potential shifts in global biodiversity linked to our warming climate.Using a high-resolution global dataset of planktonic foraminifera fossils that are among the richest biological archives available to science, researchers have found that major environmental stress events leading to mass extinctions are reliably preceded by subtle changes in how a biological community is composed, acting as a pre-extinction early warning signal. Planktonic foraminifera fossils. Credit: Tracy Aze / University of LeedsThe results are in Nature, co-led by Anshuman Swain, a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows, a researcher in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and an affiliate of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. A physicist by training who applies networks to biological and paleontological data, Swain teamed with co-first author Adam Woodhouse at the University of Bristol to probe the global, community structure of ancient marine plankton that could serve as an early warning system for future extinction of ocean life.“Can we leverage the past to understand what might happen in the future, in the context of global change?” said Swain, who previously co-authored a study about the formation of polar ice caps driving changes in marine plankton communities over the last 15 million years. “Our work offers new insight into how biodiversity responds spatially to global changes in climate, especially during intervals of global warmth, which are relevant to future warming projections.”Leveraging Historical Data for Future PredictionsThe researchers used the Triton database, developed by Woodhouse, to ascertain how the composition of foraminifera communities changed over millions of years – orders of magnitude longer time spans than are typically studied at this scale. They focused on the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum, the last major period of sustained high global temperatures since the dinosaurs, analogous to worst-case global warming scenarios.They found that, before an extinction pulse of 34 million years ago, marine communities became highly specialized everywhere but southern high latitudes, implying that these micro-plankton migrated en masse to higher latitudes and away from the tropics. This finding indicates that community-scale changes like the ones seen in these migration patterns are evident in fossil records long before actual extinctions and losses in biodiversity occur.The researchers thus think it’s important to place emphasis on monitoring the structure of biological communities to predict future extinctions.According to Swain, the results from the foraminifera studies open avenues of inquiry into other organismal groups, including other marine life, sharks, and insects. Such studies may spark a revolution in an emerging field called paleoinformatics, or use large spatiotemporally resolved databases of fossil records to glean new insights into the future of Earth.Reference: “Biogeographic response of marine plankton to Cenozoic environmental changes” by Anshuman Swain, Adam Woodhouse, William F. Fagan, Andrew J. Fraass and Christopher M. Lowery, 17 April 2024, Nature.DOI: 10.1038/s41586-024-07337-9The researchers’ study was made possible by a longstanding National Science Foundation field study aboard the JOIDES Resolution research vessel, which over the last 55 years has conducted ocean drilling around the world. The project is set to expire this year.

Invisible Invaders: How Microplastics Sneak Into Your Brain

University of New Mexico researchers have identified that microplastics, once ingested, can migrate from the gut to organs such as the liver, kidneys, and brain,...

Researchers have discovered that microplastics, once ingested, travel from the gut to tissues such as the liver, kidneys, and brain, potentially causing significant health issues. The team’s findings emphasize the critical link between gut health and overall well-being, with ongoing studies exploring how diet and gut microbiota interact with microplastic absorption. Credit: SciTechDaily.comUniversity of New Mexico researchers have identified that microplastics, once ingested, can migrate from the gut to organs such as the liver, kidneys, and brain, potentially causing significant health issues.It’s happening every day. From our water, our food, and even the air we breathe, tiny plastic particles are finding their way into many parts of our body.But what happens once those particles are inside? What do they do to our digestive system? Significant Impact on Human HealthIn a recent paper published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, University of New Mexico researchers found that those tiny particles – microplastics – are having a significant impact on our digestive pathways, making their way from the gut and into the tissues of the kidney, liver, and brain.Research continues to show the importance of gut health. If you don’t have a healthy gut, it affects the brain, it affects the liver and so many other tissues. So even imagining that the microplastics are doing something in the in the gut, that chronic exposure could lead to systemic effects.— Eliseo Castillo, PhD, UNM School of MedicinePervasive Presence and Research FocusEliseo Castillo, PhD, an associate professor in the Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology in the UNM School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine and an expert in mucosal immunology, is leading the charge at UNM on microplastic research.“Over the past few decades, microplastics have been found in the ocean, in animals and plants, in tap water and bottled water,” Castillo, says. “They appear to be everywhere.”Ingestion and Internal EffectsScientists estimate that people ingest 5 grams of microplastic particles each week on average – equivalent to the weight of a credit card.While other researchers are helping to identify and quantify ingested microplastics, Castillo and his team focus on what the microplastics are doing inside the body, specifically to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and to the gut immune system.Experimental Studies and FindingsOver a four-week period, Castillo, postdoctoral fellow Marcus Garcia, PharmD, and other UNM researchers exposed mice to microplastics in their drinking water. The amount was equivalent to the quantity of microplastics humans are believed to ingest each week.Microplastics had migrated out of the gut into the tissues of the liver, kidney and even the brain, the team found. The study also showed the microplastics changed metabolic pathways in the affected tissues.Concerns and Future Research“We could detect microplastics in certain tissues after the exposure,” Castillo says. “That tells us it can cross the intestinal barrier and infiltrate into other tissues.”Castillo says he’s also concerned about the accumulation of the plastic particles in the human body. “These mice were exposed for four weeks,” he says. “Now, think about how that equates to humans, if we’re exposed from birth to old age.”Impacts on Immune System and Chronic ConditionsThe healthy laboratory animals used in this study showed changes after brief microplastic exposure, Castillo says. “Now imagine if someone has an underlying condition, and these changes occur, could microplastic exposure exacerbate an underlying condition?”He has previously found that microplastics are also impacting macrophages – the immune cells that work to protect the body from foreign particles.Ongoing Investigations and Potential DiscoveriesIn a paper published in the journal Cell Biology & Toxicology in 2021, Castillo and other UNM researchers found that when macrophages encountered and ingested microplastics, their function was altered and they released inflammatory molecules.“It is changing the metabolism of the cells, which can alter inflammatory responses,” Castillo says. “During intestinal inflammation – states of chronic illness such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are both forms of inflammatory bowel disease – these macrophages become more inflammatory and they’re more abundant in the gut.”Diet’s Role in Microplastic UptakeThe next phase of Castillo’s research, which is being led by postdoctoral fellow Sumira Phatak, PhD, will explore how diet is involved in microplastic uptake.“Everyone’s diet is different,” he says. “So, what we’re going to do is give these laboratory animals a high-cholesterol/high-fat diet, or high-fiber diet, and they will be either exposed or not exposed to microplastics. The goal is to try to understand if diet affects the uptake of microplastics into our body.”Castillo says one of his PhD students, Aaron Romero, is also working to understand why there is a change in the gut microbiota. “Multiple groups have shown microplastics change the microbiota, but how it changes the microbiota hasn’t been addressed.”Castillo hopes that his research will help uncover the potential impacts microplastics are having to human health and that it will help spur changes to how society produces and filtrates plastics.Future Directions and Societal Impact“At the end of the day, the research we are trying to do aims to find out how this is impacting gut health,” he says. “Research continues to show the importance of gut health. If you don’t have a healthy gut, it affects the brain, it affects the liver and so many other tissues. So even imagining that the microplastics are doing something in the in the gut, that chronic exposure could lead to systemic effects.”In Vivo Tissue Distribution of Polystyrene or Mixed Polymer Microspheres and Metabolomic Analysis after Oral Exposure in Mice” by Marcus M. Garcia, Aaron S. Romero, Seth D. Merkley, Jewel L. Meyer-Hagen, Charles Forbes, Eliane El Hayek, David P. Sciezka, Rachel Templeton, Jorge Gonzalez-Estrella, Yan Jin, Haiwei Gu, Angelica Benavidez, Russell P. Hunter, Selita Lucas, Guy Herbert, Kyle Joohyung Kim, Julia Yue Cui, Rama R. Gullapalli, Julie G. In, Matthew J. Campen, and Eliseo F. Castillo, 10 April 2024, Environmental Health Perspectives.DOI: 10.1289/EHP13435

Why Your Migraines Get Worse When It’s Hot Outside

A recent study involving multiple research institutions found that increases in temperature significantly raise the likelihood of migraine attacks. The research highlighted the effectiveness of...

Rising temperatures are linked to increased migraine occurrences, as shown in a comprehensive study. Credit: SciTechDaily.comA recent study involving multiple research institutions found that increases in temperature significantly raise the likelihood of migraine attacks.The research highlighted the effectiveness of Fremanezumab, a drug that counters migraines by inhibiting a pain-transmitting protein, showing that it can nullify temperature-related migraine triggers. These findings offer potential for broader migraine relief influenced by weather conditions.Migraine and TemperatureAs temperatures rise, so do chances for migraine attacks, according to a new study from a team of researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Errex Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA. Inc. “Weather change is one of the most common trigger factors for migraine,” says Vincent Martin, MD, director of the Headache and Facial Pain Center at UC’s Gardner Neuroscience Institute and UC Health physician. He is the study’s lead author and president of the National Headache Foundation.Vincent Martin, MD, shown at the University of Cincinnati. Credit: University of CincinnatiKey Findings From the Fremanezumab StudyThese findings from the study, which looked at use of Fremanezumab and whether it could prevent headaches caused by temperature increases, will be presented at the American Headache Society’s 66th Annual Scientific Meeting, June 13-16 in San Diego, California.Produced by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA. Inc., Fremanezumab is sold under the brand name AJOVY®, administered by injection under the skin, and is part of a set of monoclonal antibodies that have hit the market in the past six years to treat migraine in patients. This class of drugs blocks a protein known as CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide) which is responsible for transmission of pain in the brain and nervous system.MigrainesA migraine is not just a bad headache; it’s a severe medical condition that can profoundly impact quality of life. It presents as a recurrent, pulsating pain usually confined to one side of the head, often triggered by various factors including stress, hormonal changes, dietary choices, and environmental changes. People suffering from migraines might experience aura, visual or sensory disturbances that precede the headache, signaling its onset.Impact of Temperature on Migraine FrequencyResearchers cross-referenced 71,030 daily diary records of 660 migraine patients with regional weather data and found that for every temperature increase of 10 degrees Fahrenheit daily, there was a 6% increase in occurrence of any headache. However, during the time periods of Fremanezumab treatment the association completely disappeared.“This study is the first to suggest that migraine specific therapies that block CGRP may treat weather associated headaches,” says Fred Cohen, a study co-author and assistant professor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY.Broader Implications and Historical ContextMartin adds that if the results are confirmed in future studies the drug therapy has the potential to help many people with weather triggered migraine.“What we found was that increases in temperature were a significant factor in migraine occurrence across all regions of the United States,” says Martin, also a professor within UC’s College of Medicine. “It’s pretty amazing because you think of all the varying weather patterns that occur across the entire country that we’re able to find one that is so significant.”Reflection on Historical ViewsAl Peterlin, who retired as chief meteorologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and co-author of the study, added another thought.“Hippocrates, the father of medicine, believed that weather and medicine were intimately linked,” he says. “A couple thousand of years later, we are proving that weather matters in human health.”Other authors include Di Zhang, Mario Ortega and Ying Zhang, PhD.The research study was funded by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA. Inc. Medical writing support was provided by Niamh Scott of Ashfield MedComms, an Inizio company, and editorial support was provided by Laura Colbran of Ashfield MedComms, an Inizio company, and funded by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.Disclosures: Vincent Martin has received consulting fees from Eli Lilly, Tonix and Pfizer, along with speaking fees from Pfizer and AbbVie. Martin has research funding from Eli Lilly, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. and AbbVie.Fred Cohen has received consulting fees from Pfizer, AbbVie and Eli Lilly along with honoraria from Springer Nature and MedLink Neurology.Ying Zhang, Di Zhang and Mario Ortega are employees of Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. and Teva Branded Pharmaceutical Products R&D, Inc. (collectively, “Teva”).

Guatemala Cancels Environmental License for Canadian Mine

The government of Guatemala revoked an environmental license on Friday due to “anomalies” for an open-pit mine with Canadian capital, located near the border with El Salvador and opposed by environmentalists, according to official sources. “The Ministry of Environment has decided that the procedure for obtaining an environmental license must be amended,” said Patricia Orantes, […] The post Guatemala Cancels Environmental License for Canadian Mine appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

The government of Guatemala revoked an environmental license on Friday due to “anomalies” for an open-pit mine with Canadian capital, located near the border with El Salvador and opposed by environmentalists, according to official sources. “The Ministry of Environment has decided that the procedure for obtaining an environmental license must be amended,” said Patricia Orantes, the head of the department, at a press conference. The mine, which is not yet in operation, is owned by the Canadian company Bluestone Resources. The company wants to extract more than 250 million cubic meters of soil and subsoil from a gold and silver deposit in the municipality of Asunción Mita, east of the Guatemalan capital. The license to operate the mine was issued on January 9, five days before the end of the term of right-wing President Alejandro Giammattei. This license allowed the change from underground mining to open-pit mining. However, Orantes emphasized that this modification implies “an entirely new and different project from the original one.” According to the minister, they also detected forged signatures in the authorization of the new license and the loss of more than 900 pages of the project documentation. Open-pit mining “is highly impactful in potential terms” for water pollution, “loss of fertile soil, flora and fauna, and geomorphological alterations due to the extraction” of millions of materials from the soil and subsoil, Orantes stated. Local leaders and environmental organizations warn that the mine will pollute Lake Güija, shared by Guatemala and El Salvador, and the Lempa River, which originates in Guatemala and is the main water source for the Salvadoran capital. In 2022, the Giammattei administration disregarded a popular consultation by the residents of Asunción Mita who rejected this mine. Due to the detected anomalies, “the license for open-pit mining cannot be granted to this company, they will have to conduct a new environmental impact study,” said the Minister of Energy and Mines, Víctor Hugo Ventura. The post Guatemala Cancels Environmental License for Canadian Mine appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

Makah tribe gets federal approval to hunt up to 25 gray whales

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It has been 25 years since the Makah tribe last harpooned a gray whale, a practice its members consider a sacred tradition but was restricted by federal regulation. But on Thursday, the tribe was granted a long-sought waiver that allows them to hunt up to 25 whales in the next decade.The waiver from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a major victory for the northwest Washington tribe. Whaling is central to Makah culture and treaty rights explicitly protect the tribe’s right to hunt whales, leaders said.“There is now a defined path for us to exercise our reserved treaty right,” Timothy Greene, chairman of the Makah Tribal Council told The Washington Post. “Our community has always been dependent on the ocean. It’s not for sport. The hunt is to provide for our people.”The decades-long wait was painful for the Makah, a community of about 1,500, he added, and it took far too long.Whale hunting is a thousands-years-old practice in Makah culture. It’s depicted in songs, dances and basketry, and intertwined with rituals and ceremonies. The tribe says it uses nearly every part of the whales it hunts, including the meat, blubber, bone and sinew.“It provided us a means to meet our nutritional needs, and provided for the exchange of goods throughout the region,” Greene said. “Our community and societal structure is better off for it.”Animal rights advocates, who have for years opposed the Makah’s pursuit of whaling, said they’re disappointed with Thursday’s decision. However limited, any whaling jeopardizes gray whale populations, and places the endangered Western North Pacific gray whales at risk of being harpooned, according to the Animal Welfare Institute.After a sharp decline in gray whales, the tribe voluntarily halted whaling in the 1920s. The United States later restricted whaling in the 1970s as many species hit the brink of extinction. After the Eastern North Pacific gray whale population recovered, and was no longer considered an endangered species, the Makah notified the federal government of its interest in resuming whaling. The 1999 hunt was the first since the 1920s. By 2000, a federal appeals court said that regulators failed to take a “hard look” at the hunt’s environmental impacts and ordered a halt.Twenty-one years later, an administrative law judge argued the tribe should be granted a waiver under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a 1972 law that prohibits the killing of whales and other sea life.“Today is a monumental day in the efforts to allow the Makah tribe to exercise their treaty right to subsistence and cultural whaling,” Chris Yates, an assistant regional administrator with NOAA Fisheries, told The Post. “It’s been a real long time coming for the Makah tribe.”The waiver allows the Makah to hunt up to 25 Eastern North Pacific gray whales over a 10-year period. As of this spring, there were about 17,000 to 21,000 of the gray whales along the West Coast, Yates said.Western North Pacific gray whales, which remain on the Endangered Species List with an estimated population of 300, will not be included in the waiver, Yates said.“There are multiple safeguards built into this,” he said, adding that the hunts will take into account when the endangered whales migrate.DJ Schubert, senior wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute, told The Post that allowing hunting only adds to factors threatening gray whales. The sea creatures face a host of dangers, Schubert said, including entanglement, ship strikes, pollutants, contaminants and ocean noise. The climate crisis further endangers gray whales.“The population is at risk,” he said.While NOAA’s restrictions state that only Eastern North Pacific gray whales may be hunted by the Makah tribe, it could be difficult to distinguish between the eastern stock of whales and the western while out on the water, Schubert added. “We’re not convinced that the restrictions are sufficiently protective of these other groups of gray whales.”Greene pointed back to the Makah tribe’s decision to stop hunting whales when their population was at risk. Members of the tribe are responsible stewards of the land and its creatures, he said.“As important whaling was and still is to our people, we chose to lay down the harpoon when the resource was at a point where it wasn’t healthy,” Greene said.The first Makah whale hunt in decades could happen as soon as the fall, though it’ll probably occur next year, Greene said.The tribe and federal regulators need to enter an agreement, and the Makah must obtain a hunting permit. There will be restrictions on when and where hunts can occur, which would also be subject to change based on whale population sizes.The Makah must also finalize their own tribal regulations and organize a whaling crew. About 10 people who were on the last whale hunt in 1999 are still alive, according to Greene.Greene, 52, has never participated in a whale hunt. Decades of legal battles caused him and hundreds of other members of the tribe to miss out, he said.News of the waiver energized the community, which Greene said will prepare its canoes, paddles and harpoons for the Makah tribe’s sacred tradition.“It’s going to be life changing,” he said.

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