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Enzyme in blood of young mice slows aging in older ones

2 hours 39 min ago

Scientists have discovered a potential way to stave off the detrimental effects of aging, according to their research in mice.

The study suggests that a protein that is abundant in the blood of young mice plays a vital role in keeping them healthy. With age, levels of this protein decline in mice and people, while health problems such as insulin resistance, weight gain, cognitive decline, and vision loss increase.

Supplementing older mice with the protein obtained from younger mice appears to slow this decline in health and extend the life spans of older mice by about 16 percent.

“We have found a totally new pathway toward healthy aging.”

As reported in Cell Metabolism, the circulating protein, an enzyme called eNAMPT, is known to orchestrate a key step in the process cells use to make energy. With age, the body’s cells become less and less efficient at producing this fuel—called NAD—necessary to keep the body healthy.

Researchers showed that supplementing eNAMPT in older mice with that of younger mice appears to be one route to boosting NAD fuel production and keeping aging at bay.

More activity, better sleep

“We have found a totally new pathway toward healthy aging,” says senior author Shin-ichiro Imai, a professor of developmental biology at Washington University in St. Louis. “That we can take eNAMPT from the blood of young mice and give it to older mice and see that the older mice show marked improvements in health—including increased physical activity and better sleep—is remarkable.”

Imai has long studied aging, using mice as stand-ins for people. Unlike other studies focused on transfusing whole blood from young mice to old mice, Imai’s group increased levels of a single blood component, eNAMPT, and showed its far-reaching effects, including improved insulin production, sleep quality, function of photoreceptors in the eye, and cognitive function in performance on memory tests, as well as increased running on a wheel.

The researchers also showed other ways to boost NAD levels in tissues throughout the body. Most notably, the researchers have studied the effects of giving oral doses of a molecule called NMN, the chemical eNAMPT produces. Researchers are testing NMN in human clinical trials.

“We think the body has so many redundant systems to maintain proper NAD levels because it is so important,” Imai says. “Our work and others’ suggest it governs how long we live and how healthy we remain as we age. Since we know that NAD inevitably declines with age, whether in worms, fruit flies, mice, or people, many researchers are interested in finding anti-aging interventions that might maintain NAD levels as we get older.”

eNAMPT in action

Imai’s research shows that the hypothalamus is a major control center for aging throughout the body, directed in large part by eNAMPT, which releases into the blood from fat tissue. The hypothalamus governs vital processes such as body temperature, thirst, sleep, circadian rhythms, and hormone levels.

The researchers showed that the hypothalamus manufactures NAD using eNAMPT that makes its way to the brain through the bloodstream after its released from fat tissue. They also showed that small particles called extracellular vesicles carry eNAMPT. As levels of eNAMPT in the blood decline, the hypothalamus loses its ability to function properly, decreasing life span.

In an intriguing finding, Imai and first author Mitsukuni Yoshida, a doctoral student in Imai’s lab, showed that levels of eNAMPT in the blood highly correlate with the number of days the mice lived. More eNAMPT meant a longer life span, and less meant a shorter one.

The researchers also showed increased life span with delivering eNAMPT to normal old mice. All mice that received saline solution as a control had died before day 881, about 2.4 years. Of the mice that received eNAMPT, one is still alive as of this writing, surpassing 1,029 days, or about 2.8 years.

“We could predict, with surprising accuracy, how long mice would live based on their levels of circulating eNAMPT,” Imai says. “We don’t know yet if this association is present in people, but it does suggest that eNAMPT levels should be studied further to see if it could be used as a potential biomarker of aging.”

The study also found sex differences in levels of eNAMPT, with female mice consistently showing higher levels of the enzyme.

“We were surprised by the dramatic differences between the old mice that received the eNAMPT of young mice and old mice that received saline as a control,” Imai says. “These are old mice with no special genetic modifications, and when supplemented with eNAMPT, their wheel-running behaviors, sleep patterns and physical appearance—thicker, shinier fur, for example—resemble that of young mice.”

Imai and his colleagues note that extracellular vesicles in humans carry NAMPT and say future studies should investigate whether low levels associate with disease in aging people and whether supplementing eNAMPT in extracellular vesicles could serve as an anti-aging intervention in older people.

The National Institute on Aging, the American Federation for Aging Research, and the Tanaka Fund primarily supported the work.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis

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How tropical thunderstorms threaten West Antarctica

2 hours 54 min ago

Warming waters in the western tropical Pacific Ocean have significantly increased thunderstorms and rainfall, which could de-stabilize the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, a new study reports.

West Antarctica—a massive ice sheet that sits on land—has been melting and contributing to global sea-level rise since the mid-1990s. That melting has accelerated this century.

Wind and weather patterns play a crucial role in governing the melting: Winds push warm ocean water toward the ice sheet and melt it from below, at the same time as winds bring warm air over the ice sheet surface and melt it from above.

The South Pacific Convergence Zone, a region of the western tropical Pacific, is a major driver of weather variability across West Antarctica, according to the study in Geophysical Research Letters.

“With so much at stake—in coastal communities around the globe, including in New Jersey—it is very important to understand the drivers of weather variability in West Antarctica,” says Kyle Clem, a former postdoctoral student who led the research at Rutgers–New Brunswick and is now at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

“Knowing how all regions of the tropics influence West Antarctica, both independently and collectively, will help us understand past climate variability there and perhaps help us predict the future state of the ice sheet and its potential contribution to global sea-level rise.”

Researchers studied how warming ocean temperatures in the western tropical Pacific influence weather patterns around West Antarctica. This century, the Antarctic Peninsula and interior West Antarctica have cooled while the Ross Ice Shelf has warmed—a reversal of what happened in the second half of the 20th century.

From the 1950s to the 1990s, the Antarctic Peninsula and interior West Antarctica were the most rapidly warming regions on the planet, and the Ross Ice Shelf was cooling.

The temperature trends flipped at the start of this century. Coinciding with the flip in West Antarctic temperature trends, ocean temperatures in the western tropical Pacific began warming rapidly.

Using a climate model, the researchers found that warming ocean temperatures in the western tropical Pacific resulted in a significant increase in thunderstorm activity, rainfall, and convection in the South Pacific Convergence Zone. Convection in the atmosphere is when heat and moisture move up or down.

A rainfall increase in the zone results in cold southerly winds over the Antarctic Peninsula and warm northerly winds over the Ross Ice Shelf, consistent with the recent cooling and warming in those respective regions.

So the tropics profoundly influence the West Antarctic climate, even though it’s isolated from much of the planet. Scientists say the findings may help interpret the past West Antarctic climate as recorded in ice cores.

Additional researchers from Rutgers are coauthors of the paper.

Source: Rutgers University

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Discovery could lead to better maternal vaccines

Fri, 2019-06-14 10:52

A newly identified cellular process could lead to safer and more effective vaccines that protect pregnant women and newborns from dangerous infections, researchers say.

A new study in Cell describes a previously unidentified route for antibodies to transfer from the mother to the fetus, illuminating a potential way to capitalize on the process to control when and how certain antibodies are shared.

“It’s always been assumed that the types of maternal antibodies that cross over the placenta to the fetus, all antibodies had the same chance of transferring to fetus,” says senior author Sallie Permar, a professor of pediatrics and member of the Duke University Human Vaccine Institute.

“This meant there was no way we could direct certain antibodies across the placenta and to the baby,” Permar says. “Our study found that there seems to be a code on the antibody that determines which antibodies will more effectively transfer across the placenta.”

Permar and colleagues studied two populations of pregnant women in the United States and Malawi infected with HIV, known to inhibit the transfer of antibodies to the fetus—and not just HIV antibodies. The researchers say this feature provided a unique circumstance to explore a little-understood process with implications for numerous common pathogens, including tetanus, pertussis, influenza, and others.

The researchers identified a sugar molecule that interacts with placental receptors, an interaction that had previously not been known to be involved in the antibody transfer process. The finding was corroborated in healthy women by another research team publishing in the same issue of Cell.

“We have shown that the efficiency of antibody transfer across the placenta is differentially regulated,” Permar says. “This insight could improve the design of vaccines for a variety of infectious diseases to improve the transplacental antibody transfer to the fetus.”

“Our findings provide a roadmap of how antibodies cross the placenta to the baby,” says lead author David Martinez, a PhD student. “We hope our results will be useful for developing antibody therapeutics that protect infants against infectious diseases in early life.”

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases partially funded the work.

Source: Duke University

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How Siberian hamsters lose half their weight each year

Fri, 2019-06-14 10:38

Siberian hamsters lose half their weight every winter. Scientists have now sequenced their DNA to figure out how.

The Siberian hamster is a model organism for studying seasonal biological rhythms, researchers say. They breed during the spring and early summer, but as fall approaches, their bodies change dramatically.

They mostly lose the weight through fat and limit food intake by 30 percent to 40 percent. Their fur thickens and changes color to stark white, and they become infertile until they begin reversing course to prepare for the next breeding season.

A report in PNAS on how these small, seasonal breeders adapt their bodies to survive the winter reveals a cascade of signals, triggered by decreasing day length. The new study shows that shifting day length alone was enough to trigger these changes, regardless of temperature or how much food is available.

“We hope this will be a tool for discovery and more research on a really interesting biological puzzle, which is how organisms navigate the energetic landscape of nature over the course of a year,” says coauthor Brian Prendergast, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.

Summer brain, winter brain

The research is a collaborative project with senior author Tyler Stevenson, a former postdoctoral fellow in Prendergast’s lab now on the faculty at the University of Glasgow. Stevenson worked with Riyue Bao from the University of Chicago Center for Research Informatics bioinformatics, to assemble and analyze the hamster genome and transcriptome (the RNA molecules expressed by its genes) to understand the activity of these genes in the brain under both summer and winter conditions.

The researchers focused on activity in the hypothalamus, part of the brain that initiates a number of important metabolic processes like releasing hormones, providing signals to the thyroid, and controlling body temperature, hunger, and sleep. Modern science has a pretty good understanding of how these processes maintain weight in the short-term through appetite, food intake, and energy expenditure.

For the new study, the researchers wanted to see how animals like the Siberian hamster maintain weight long-term in an annual cycle.

Stevenson and Bao worked together to interpret the data about how genes expressed, looking for differences between samples taken from hamsters during the summer and winter periods. Once Bao spotted those differences and identified which biological processes they affected, she turned to Stevenson for validation.

“Our collaboration is quite dynamic, like a two-way street,” Bao says. “I would pass the data to him and ask if a certain pathway made sense. Then he might recognize a certain RNA molecule or candidate gene and ask for more information.”

Fertility and weight gain

They narrowed in on a gene called pomc. For years, scientists have speculated that it is involved in long-term regulation of weight and energy balance in many animals, but, “It was the steps that control pomc expression that had been the mystery,” Stevenson says. “The studies we designed served to fill the gaps and it was simply a matter of connecting the dots.”

That chain of events begins with thyroid hormone, which is called T4. The T4 hormone is readily available in the bloodstream, and when the amount of daylight begins to increase in the spring, the hamster produces enzymes called deiodinases. These enzymes remove an iodine molecule from T4 and turn it into a more potent hormone called T3 that controls the activity of pomc.

During the summer, increased T3 production allows the hamsters to become fertile, and also ramps up pomc activity, causing them to gain weight. As the days shorten in the fall, T3 production decreases, shutting down reproduction for the upcoming winter. Lowered T3 also or switches off pomc, resulting in dramatic weight loss.

Voles, but not us

Stevenson also compared the genome of the Siberian hamster to other small mammals like mice and voles. He noticed a lot of differences between animals in the sequence patterns, or motifs, in the promoter region of the pomc gene.

This section of DNA at the beginning of the gene sequence plays an important role in how it’s transcribed into RNA, and ultimately how the gene functions. The Siberian hamster shares the same motif with other seasonal breeders, suggesting that it’s key to how pomc is expressed to manage the summer-winter adaptations.

“All animals show a level of seasonal biology, humans included. What our findings show, in hamsters, is that thyroid hormones acting in the brain where pomc is expressed provides the long-term regulation of energy balance,” Stevenson says.

“What is completely fascinating is that this process evolved in some animals, like hamsters and voles, and not in others, like sheep or humans. This tells us that a large degree of genome variability exists across animals and indicates a strong species-specific control of long-term energy balance.”

Clues to obesity

In a separate set of experiments, the researchers also restricted the amount of food for the hamsters. While this caused some changes in brain chemistry, it didn’t have an effect on pomc expression. Only long-term changes to day length had an effect on pomc.

Patterns like this make the Siberian hamster interesting not just in how it manages seasonal adaptations but in managing body weight in general, Prendergast says.

“Researchers who study obesity should pay attention to this model because this is an animal that becomes reversibly obese. Then it can lose almost half its body weight on cue when the day length says it’s time to lose weight,” he says. “They’re a wonderful puzzle for understanding all of these processes.”

Additional authors are from the University of Chicago; the University of Glasgow; the University of Nottingham; the University of Cambridge; and the University of Aberdeen.

Source: University of Chicago

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5 things to know about the science of dad

Fri, 2019-06-14 10:33

For Father’s Day, here are five surprising research findings about dads and their kids.

Researchers recently asked fathers what they find most rewarding—and most challenging—about being a dad.

James Rilling, a professor and chair of the Emory University anthropology department, recently completed in-depth interviews with 120 new fathers. Rilling and his colleague Craig Hadley, also an anthropologist at Emory, are still analyzing data from the interviews for a comprehensive study.

One result, however, is already clear. A positive-and-negative-affect scale administered to the subjects before and after the interviews shows how talking about fatherhood influenced their moods.

“Most of them experienced an increase in how enthusiastic, proud, and inspired they felt after talking about their experience as a father,” Rilling says.

“They seemed to find it therapeutic to talk about their feelings, particularly if they were struggling with some things. The challenges of being a mother are often much greater. So fathers may think that nobody really wants to hear about the things they are dealing with as a new parent.”

Rilling’s lab is exploring the neural basis of human social cognition and behavior, with a particular emphasis on fatherhood. “We’re interested in trying to understand the hormonal and neurobiological changes that men experience when they become fathers, and how those changes may relate to whether men are more or less involved with their children,” he says. “The goal is to find ways to support fathers and to help improve the quality of care-giving that they deliver.”

While mothers will often have more of an effect on child development, fathers are also important and their role warrants more research, Rilling says.

Following are five insights into fatherhood from research by Rilling and others:

1. Fathers can get postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is well known as a potential complication for new mothers after childbirth, but fathers are also susceptible. “The rate of depression for new fathers is about twice that of the general population of men,” Rilling notes.

“It may have to do with sleep deprivation and hormonal changes following the birth of a baby, but it also may be due to changes in their relationship with their partner. Many new fathers report that a lot of their partner’s affection and attention is displaced from them to the new infant.”

New fathers also often feel a new weight of financial responsibility. And, just like many moms, dads often experience a work-parental conflict, he adds.

2. Dads feel the oxytocin, too

Mothers experience a massive release of the hormone oxytocin, nicknamed the “love hormone,” during childbirth. In addition to facilitating the birth and lactation, oxytocin helps in bonding with the baby. “People have traditionally thought of oxytocin as a female hormone,” Rilling says, “but there’s now a lot of evidence that new fathers also undergo hormonal changes and that oxytocin is involved in father-infant bonding.

An interesting question is, what is it that’s driving up oxytocin levels in new fathers? It might be some cue from the infant, like their scent or their appearance.”

3. Lower testosterone is linked with hands-on care

Men with lower testosterone levels than others are more likely to be involved in hands-on care of their toddlers, according to a study by the Rilling lab. The finding suggests that the biology of human males reflects a trade-off between investments in the mating and parenting effort. A key remaining question is the direction of casualty.

“We’re assuming that testosterone levels drive how involved the fathers are,” Rilling says, “but it could also be that when men become more involved as caregivers, their testosterone decreases. Environmental influences can change biology. We know, for instance, that testosterone levels go down when men become involved fathers.”

The study focused only on direct, hands-on paternal care, and not on indirect forms of care, such as protecting children and earning a living to provide for them.

4. Gender bias shows up in language

A toddler’s gender influences the brain responses, as well as the behavior of fathers, according to past Rilling lab research, led by Jennifer Mascaro, who is now on the faculty of Emory’s School of Medicine. In addition to being more attentive, the study found that fathers of daughters sang more often to their child and were more likely to use words associated with sad emotions and with the body. Fathers of sons, meanwhile, engaged in more rough-and-tumble play with their child and used more language related to power and achievement.

While fathers may want to be aware of how notions of gender can affect treatment of children, Rilling notes that the study results do not imply ill intentions on their part. “These biases may be unconscious, or may actually reflect deliberate and altruistically motivated efforts to shape children’s behavior in line with social expectations of adult gender roles that fathers feel may benefit their children,” he says.

5. Roughhousing with dad matters

The rough-and-tumble play that fathers tend to specialize in is good for children, Rilling says. “It helps them learn to regulate their emotions and also to develop empathy—you need to read the social signals of the person you’re roughhousing with to make sure you don’t go too far,” he says.

One theory about parenting is that mothers tend to provide comfort and security within the home while fathers tend to specialize in preparing children for life outside the family.

“The idea is that fathers are more engaged in unpredictable behavior that destabilizes a child and the child has to learn how to respond to that,” Rilling says. “It may help to develop resilience, an important trait, since not everybody is going to treat you as well as your mother does.”

Source: Emory University

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‘Virtual biopsy’ device detects skin tumors in 15 minutes

Thu, 2019-06-13 20:51

A new “virtual biopsy” device uses sound vibrations and pulses of near-infrared light instead of a scalpel to quickly determine a skin lesion’s depth and potential malignancy, a new study reports.

The ability to analyze a skin tumor non-invasively could make biopsies much less risky and distressing to patients, researchers say.

Currently, physicians who perform surgical biopsies often don’t know the extent of a lesion–or the necessity of referring the patient to a specialist for extensive tissue removal or plastic surgery–until surgery has already begun.

The first-of-its-kind experimental procedure, called vibrational optical coherence tomography (VOCT), creates a 3D map of the lesion’s width and depth under the skin with a tiny laser diode.

It also uses soundwaves to test the lesion’s density and stiffness since cancer cells are stiffer than healthy cells. An inch-long speaker applies audible soundwaves against the skin to measure the skin’s vibrations and determine whether the lesion is malignant.

“This procedure can be completed in 15 minutes with no discomfort to the patient, who feels no sensation from the light or the nearly inaudible sound. It’s a significant improvement over surgical biopsies, which are invasive, expensive, and time-consuming,” says Frederick Silver, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and lead researcher of the paper in Skin Research & Technology.

A prototype VOCT device accurately distinguished between healthy skin and different types of skin lesions and carcinomas, the study shows. The researchers tested the device over six months on four skin excisions and on eight volunteers without skin lesions.

Further studies are needed to fine-tune the device’s ability to identify a lesion’s borders and areas of greatest density and stiffness, which would allow physicians to remove tumors with minimally invasive surgery.

The researchers are currently waiting for FDA approval for large-scale testing. Additional researchers are from Rutgers, the Neigel Center for Cosmetic and Laser Surgery, and the Center for Advanced Eye Care.

Source: Rutgers University

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9 questions and answers about the vasectomy

Thu, 2019-06-13 19:25

A vasectomy, or male sterilization, is a very effective, relatively simple option for permanent birth control.

It requires only a minor surgical procedure and has one of the lowest failure rates across all birth control.

Robert Pope, primary care physician with the Texas A&M Family Medicine Residency Program and clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, performs vasectomies in his primary care practice. Here, he explains what you need to know before you get one:

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New dads who get more sleep face different trouble

Thu, 2019-06-13 19:13

New moms and dads both need sleep and exercise, but getting them affects their relationship and stress levels in different ways, say researchers.

In a study looking at the daily lives of new parents, a team finds that in general, getting more physical activity and more sleep from day to day was linked with more personal well-being, a better couple relationship, and more closeness with their baby.

However, fathers who slept more on average than other fathers reported lower overall well being and less closeness with their partner and child. In contrast, mothers who slept more on average than other mothers reported greater well being.

Additionally, the researchers found that on days when fathers exercised more than usual, there was a lower likelihood of an argument between the couple. But, on days when mothers exercised more than usual, there was a higher chance of an argument.

Mark Feinberg, research professor in the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State, who led the study, says these differences may be due to the common perception of mothers as the primary caretaker.

“Fathers may resist or feel resentful when mothers spend more time than usual on their own needs such as exercise, leaving fathers to pick up more responsibility for child care—leading to arguments,” Feinberg says. “But, it’s also possible that the extra time spent with the child is stressful for fathers, leading fathers to be more irritable on such days and leading to more arguments with the partner.”

It’s a rough stretch

The findings—in the Monographs of the Society for Research In Child Development—are part of a study on how factors like exercise, sleep, and different daily stressors affect the day-to-day lives and family relationships of new parents.

Feinberg says that while early parenthood is stressful for parents both as individuals and as a couple, it is also a vital period of rapid development for the newborn child, making it especially important to understand and support parents’ well-being during this time.

“In general, new parents report higher levels of stress, depression, and couple conflict, as well as less sleep, companionship, and romance with their partner,” Feinberg says. “Ironically, it’s also the period when children are most vulnerable, when their brains and regulatory systems are rapidly developing to set the stage for their functioning for the rest of their lives, and when they are most dependent on parents for consistent affection and support.”

According to Feinberg, the current study is one of the first to explore these stress and resilience factors among new parents on a daily level.

He says that looking at how changes in one stressful or replenishing factor are linked to changes in parents’ well-being and relationships from day to day—instead of annually, for example—can give researchers a better understanding on how to help parents achieve better functioning and well-being on more days.

“In past research, we might find that on average, one father sleeps more, is less depressed, and more affectionate with his child than another father,” Feinberg says. “But that doesn’t tell us if enhancing sleep for that father would affect his level of depression or parenting warmth.”

Track the days on an app?

For the study, the researchers used data from 143 mothers and 140 fathers collected ten months after their child’s birth. The researchers interviewed the mothers and fathers separately by phone every night for eight days to gather data about the previous 24 hours.

They gathered data about time spent sleeping, at work, doing chores and physical activity. They also asked the participants about stress, well being, and their relationships with their spouse and child.

Feinberg says the results may be used to help parents find and reinforce their strengths and have more good days than bad.

“Some parents are happier or sleep better overall than others, but most parents experience some difficult days and some good days,” Feinberg says. “Most parents already have a good place to start from at least on some days, so it’s a matter of figuring out what works on those days and then doing more of that. This would be an easier and maybe more effective approach than thinking that we have to help someone completely change their routines and emotional patterns.”

Additionally, Feinberg says parents may be able to explore their own day-to-day dynamics by using mobile apps on a smartphone.

“Studying daily fluctuation is a very rich way to understand the complex unfolding of individual and family life,” Feinberg says. “There are many apps and devices that are available for recording daily experiences such as sleep and physical activity. With a little bit more added functionality—being able to look at patterns across different experiences, and even across family members—these tools could provide even more benefit.”

Coauthors of the study are from Penn State; Illinois State University; and the University of California, Davis. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development helped support this research.

Source: Penn State

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Survey: Half of fathers report ‘daddy-shaming’

Thu, 2019-06-13 11:45

Half of dads in a new national poll report facing criticism and second-guessing about their parenting choices.

For more than a quarter of fathers polled, criticism made them feel less confident as a parent, and 1 in 5 say it discouraged them from being more involved in parenting. Many fathers (43 percent) also thought the criticism was often unfair.

Many fathers say they respond to criticism in positive ways, such as changing some aspect of their parenting (49 percent) or seeking more information on the topic (40 percent); however, others had the opposite reaction, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan.

The report is based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 713 fathers of children up to 13 years old.

“Fathers who are loving and engaged can have a positive impact on their children’s development and well-being,” says Mott poll co-director Sarah Clark.

“While some fathers say criticism prompts them to seek more information about good parenting practices, too much disparagement may cause dads to feel demoralized about their parental role,” Clark says. “Family members—especially the other parent—should be willing to acknowledge that different parenting styles are not necessarily incorrect or harmful.”

Discipline and other topics

Dads most often felt criticized about how they disciplined a child, with two-thirds saying this was the top category for parenting put-downs, according to the report.

It’s not uncommon for parents to disagree over issues such as the age a child should be expected to follow certain rules or the appropriate consequences for misbehavior, Clark says. But it’s one of the most important areas for parents to find common ground.

“Addressing a child’s misbehavior is one of the greatest challenges of parenting, and parents aren’t always on the same page when it comes to expectations and consequences,” Clark says.

“Inconsistency between parents in responding to a child’s behavior can send mixed messages to the child and result in conflict and criticism between parents.”

The second top “daddy shaming” category was diet and nutrition, with 2 in 5 dads saying they were criticized for what they fed their kids. Nearly a third of fathers also felt judged for not paying enough attention to children, and an equal number said they were told they played too rough.

Other topics of criticism related to a child’s sleep (24 percent), appearance (23 percent), and safety (19 percent).

Who’s doing the daddy-shaming?

The most common source of criticism often came from within the family—usually the other parent (44 percent of the time). Grandparents were the next greatest dad critics (24 percent), followed by fathers’ own friends (9 percent).

“In some instances, this may be a reflection of historical gender roles, where mothers are viewed as more natural caregivers and fathers as having limited parenting capabilities that need supervision or correction,” Clark says. “When this occurs, minor differences in parenting style can cause conflict over the ‘best’ way to parent.”

“Cultural norms, family dynamics, and prior experience with his own father can also shape a dad’s parenting style and influence the expectations of others,” she adds.

The same goes for criticism about being too rough or not paying attention. While fathers may engage in more physical play with their children, mothers, co-parents, and other adults may perceive that the father is not adequately protecting the child from injury.

Don’t sideline dad

Nine in 10 fathers said most dads do a good job taking care of their kids, according to the poll report.

Still, some fathers describe situations in which other adults seem to discount their parental role: 11 percent have felt that a teacher assumed they were not knowledgeable about their child’s needs or behavior, and 12 percent have felt that a doctor or nurse assumed they were not knowledgeable about their child’s health.

Additionally, nearly a quarter of fathers polled (23 percent) have felt excluded from communication about their child’s activities.

It’s important that professionals and family members don’t make dads feel irrelevant when it comes to their children’s lives, Clark says.

“Some fathers say they feel that professionals who interact with their child are dismissive of their parental role,” she says. “Even subtle forms of disparagement can undercut fathers’ confidence or send the message that they are less important to their child’s well-being.

“Professionals who work with children should avoid negative assumptions about fathers’ level of involvement or interest in parenting.”

Clark adds: “Family members should also be mindful of comments or critiques that may make dads feel like they don’t know how to parent the ‘right’ way.'”

Source: University of Michigan

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Morning exercise or evening? Both have perks

Thu, 2019-06-13 10:00

The benefits of exercise may differ depending on the time of day when you work out, a new study in mice suggests.

Too little sleep can have severe health consequences, but researchers are still making discoveries confirming that the body’s circadian clock affects our health.

The new research with mice shows that the effect of exercise performed in the beginning of the mouse’ dark/active phase—corresponding to our morning, differs from the effect of exercise performed in the beginning of the light/resting phase—corresponding to our evening.

“There appears to be rather significant differences between the effect of exercise performed in the morning and evening, and these differences are probably controlled by the body’s circadian clock,” says Jonas Thue Treebak, associate professor at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen.

“Morning exercise initiates gene programs in the muscle cells, making them more effective and better capable of metabolizing sugar and fat. Evening exercise, on the other hand, increases whole body energy expenditure for an extended period of time.”

For the study in Cell Metabolism, researchers measured a number of effects in the muscle cells, including the transcriptional response and effects on the metabolites. The results show that responses are far stronger in both areas following exercise in the morning. A central mechanism involving the protein HIF1-alfa, which directly regulates the body’s circadian clock, likely controls this, the researchers say.

Morning exercise appears to increase the ability of muscle cells to metabolize sugar and fat. This type of effect interests researchers in relation to people with severe overweight and type 2 diabetes.

On the other hand, exercise in the evening increases energy expenditure in the hours after exercise. Therefore, the researchers cannot necessarily conclude that exercise in the morning is better than exercise in the evening, Thue Treebak says.

“On this basis we cannot say for certain which is best, exercise in the morning or exercise in the evening. At this point, we can only conclude that the effects of the two appear to differ, and we certainly have to do more work to determine the potential mechanisms for the beneficial effects of exercise training performed at these two time-points.

“We are eager to extend these studies to humans to identify if timed exercise can be used as a treatment strategy for people with metabolic diseases,” he says.

Source: University of Copenhagen

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Edit video like it’s text with this algorithm

Thu, 2019-06-13 09:55

A new algorithm allows video editors to modify talking head videos as if they were editing text—copying, pasting, or adding and deleting words.

In television and film, actors often flub small bits of otherwise flawless performances. Other times they leave out a critical word. For editors, the only solution so far is to accept the flaws or fix them with expensive reshoots.

Imagine, however, if that editor could modify video using a text transcript. Much like word processing, the editor could easily add new words, delete unwanted ones, or completely rearrange the pieces by dragging and dropping them as needed to assemble a finished video that looks almost flawless to the untrained eye.

A team of researchers created such an algorithm for editing talking-head videos—videos showing speakers from the shoulders up.

The work could be a boon for video editors and producers but does raise concerns as people increasingly question the validity of images and videos online, the researchers say. However, they propose some guidelines for using these tools that would alert viewers and performers that the video has been manipulated.

“Unfortunately, technologies like this will always attract bad actors,” says Ohad Fried, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University. “But the struggle is worth it given the many creative video editing and content creation applications this enables.”

Easy to edit video

The application uses the new transcript to extract speech motions from various video pieces and, using machine learning, convert those into a final video that appears natural to the viewer—lip-synched and all.

“Visually, it’s seamless. There’s no need to rerecord anything,” says Fried, who is first author of a paper about the research available on the pre-publication website arXiv. It will also be in the journal ACM Transactions on Graphics.

Should an actor or performer flub a word or misspeak, the editor can simply edit the transcript and the application will assemble the right word from various words or portions of words spoken elsewhere in the video. It’s the equivalent of rewriting with video, much like a writer retypes a misspelled or unfit word. The algorithm does require at least 40 minutes of original video as input, however, so it won’t yet work with just any video sequence.

As the transcript is edited, the algorithm selects segments from elsewhere in the recorded video with motion that can be stitched to produce the new material. In their raw form these video segments would have jarring jump cuts and other visual flaws.

To make the video appear more natural, the algorithm applies intelligent smoothing to the motion parameters and renders a 3D animated version of the desired result. However, that rendered face is still far from realistic. As a final step, a machine learning technique called Neural Rendering converts the low-fidelity digital model into a photorealistic video in perfect lip-synch.

To test the capabilities of their system the researchers performed a series of complex edits including adding, removing, and changing words, as well as translations to different languages, and even created full sentences as if from whole cloth.

In a crowd-sourced study with 138 participants, the team’s edits were rated as “real” almost 60 percent of the time. The visual quality is such that it is very close to the original, but Fried said there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“The implications for movie post-production are big,” says Ayush Tewari, a student at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and the paper’s second author. It presents for the first time the possibility of fixing filmed dialogue without reshoots.

Is this ethical?

Nonetheless, in an era of synthesized fake videos such capabilities raise important ethical concerns, Fried adds. There are very valuable and justifiable reasons to want to edit video in this way, namely the expense and effort required to rerecord or repair such flaws in video content, or to customize existing audio-visual video content by audience. Someone might use the algorithm to fine-tune instructional videos to different languages or cultural backgrounds, for instance, or adapt children’s stories to different ages.

“This technology is really about better storytelling,” Fried says.

Fried acknowledges concerns that such a technology might be used for illicit purposes, but says the risk is worth taking. Photo-editing software went through a similar reckoning, but in the end, people want to live in a world where photo-editing software is available.

As a remedy, Fried says there are several options. One is to develop some sort of opt-in watermarking that would identify any content that had been edited and provide a full ledger of the edits. Moreover, researchers could develop better forensics such as digital or non-digital fingerprinting techniques to determine whether a video had been manipulated for ulterior purposes. In fact, this research and others like it also build the essential insights that are needed to develop better manipulation detection.

None of the solutions can fix everything, so viewers must remain skeptical and cautious, Fried says. Besides, he adds, there are already many other ways to manipulate video that are much easier to execute. He says that perhaps the most pressing matter is to raise public awareness and education on video manipulation, so people are better equipped to question and assess the veracity of synthetic content.

Fried works in the lab of Maneesh Agrawala, professor in the School of Engineering and senior author of the paper. The project began when Fried was a graduate student working with computer scientist Adam Finkelstein at Princeton University more than two years ago. Additional coauthors are from Stanford, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Princeton University, and Adobe Research.

Funding came from the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, the Max Planck Center for Visual Computing and Communications, a European Research Council Consolidator Grant, Adobe Research, and the Office of the Dean for Research at Princeton University.

Source: Stanford University

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Clues to side effect may prolong prostate cancer survival

Thu, 2019-06-13 08:50

Scientists believe they’ve figured out why a common drug for late-stage prostate cancer often loses effectiveness and can even make things worse.

The drug, enzalutamide, stops working after four or five months and appears to have a dual function that later turns the cancer into a relentless aggressor.

The new research indicates how to block the harmful side effects of the drug, at least in mice.

“As more patients look to enzalutamide to extend their lives, even for just a few months, our goal is to find ways to make the drug work for longer periods and to block the dangerous pathways that lead to adverse side effects,” says Chawnshang Chang, professor of pathology, urology and radiation oncology at the Wilmot Cancer Institute at the University of Rochester, and corresponding author of the paper in Nature Communications.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. Although doctors can treat some early-stage types with a “watch and wait” approach, other types are higher-grade cancers that require surgery and androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).

The goal of this treatment is to lower the amount of male sex hormones (androgens), which fuel the cancer. An especially aggressive subtype of the disease—castration-resistant prostate cancer—keeps growing despite treatment.

For men who have this aggressive form of metastatic prostate cancer and are no longer responding to chemotherapy, enzalutamide can extend survival by an average of five months. In 2018 the Food and Drug Administration also approved the drug to treat men who have castrate-resistant prostate cancer that hasn’t spread.

But enzalutamide can cause side effects, most notably, neuroendocrine differentiation (NED), an increase of neuroendocrine cells in the prostate tumors. An abundance of these cells makes tumors resistant to treatment.

Researchers identified non-coding RNA-p21 as the main culprit for inducing neuroendocrine differentiation, saying that IncRNAp-21 can switch the function of a key gene, EZH2. They also showed that IncRNAp-21 is highly expressed in NED prostate tumors.

Earlier, scientists believed that only a tiny percentage of advanced prostate cancer tumors underwent neuroendocrine differentiation.

But recent studies estimate that 30 to 40 percent of patients have tumors containing aggressive neuroendocrine prostate cancer cells for which the average survival rate after detection is less than one year—making more patients vulnerable to the worst-case disease progression, Chang says.

The latest discovery has the potential to affect men with challenging cases, says Edward Messing, an authority in urologic cancers who treats patients at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“Dr. Chang’s team has identified an important molecular mechanism that affects many of the thousands of men with advanced prostate cancer who will eventually succumb to their disease. Understanding and reversing the ‘switch’ that causes neuroendocrine differentiation should prolong the lives of these men and significantly reduce their suffering.”

Although no treatments are available yet in clinical trials to block to molecular switch, Chang’s lab identified a small molecule drug that appears to work in mice, but the development needs further study.

The National Institutes of Health and the Taiwan Department of Health Clinical Trial and Research Center of Excellence funded the investigation.

Source: University of Rochester

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Climate’s role in armed conflict will likely increase

Thu, 2019-06-13 08:28

Intensifying climate change will increase the future risk of violent armed conflict within countries, according to a new study.

Synthesizing views across experts, the study in Nature estimates climate has influenced between 3 percent and 20 percent of armed conflict risk over the last century and that the influence will likely increase dramatically.

In a scenario with 4 degrees Celsius of warming (approximately the path we’re on if societies do not substantially reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases), the influence of climate on conflicts would increase more than five times, leaping to a 26 percent chance of a substantial increase in conflict risk, according to the study.

Even in a scenario of 2 degrees Celsius of warming beyond preindustrial levels—the stated goal of the Paris Climate Agreement—the influence of climate on conflicts would more than double, rising to a 13 percent chance.

“Appreciating the role of climate change and its security impacts is important not only for understanding the social costs of our continuing heat-trapping emissions, but for prioritizing responses, which could include aid and cooperation,” says Katharine Mach, director of the Stanford Environment Assessment Facility and the study’s lead author.

Climate change-driven extreme weather and related disasters can damage economies, lower farming and livestock production, and intensify inequality among social groups. These factors, when combined with other drivers of conflict, may increase risks of violence.

“Knowing whether environmental or climatic changes are important for explaining conflict has implications for what we can do to reduce the likelihood of future conflict, as well as for how to make well-informed decisions about how aggressively we should mitigate future climate change,” says Marshall Burke, assistant professor of earth system science and a coauthor of the study.

No precedent

Researchers disagree intensely as to whether climate plays a role in triggering civil wars and other armed conflicts. To better understand the impact of climate, the analysis involved interviews with and debates among experts in political science, environmental science, economics, and other fields who have come to different conclusions on climate’s influence on conflict in the past.

The experts, who also served as coauthors of the study, agree that climate has affected organized armed conflict in recent decades. However, they make clear that other factors, such as low socioeconomic development, the strength of government, inequalities in societies, and a recent history of violent conflict have a much heavier impact on conflict within countries.

The researchers don’t fully understand how climate affects conflict and under what conditions. The consequences of future climate change will likely be different from historical climate disruptions because societies will be forced to grapple with unprecedented conditions that go beyond known experience and what they may be capable of adapting to.

“Historically, levels of armed conflict over time have been heavily influenced by shocks to, and changes in, international relations among states and in their domestic political systems,” says James Fearon, professor of political science and coauthor of the study.

“It is quite likely that over this century, unprecedented climate change is going to have significant impacts on both, but it is extremely hard to anticipate whether the political changes related to climate change will have big effects on armed conflict in turn. So I think putting nontrivial weight on significant climate effects on conflict is reasonable.”

How to prepare?

Reducing conflict risk and preparing for a changing climate can be a win–win approach. The study explains that adaptation strategies, such as crop insurance, post-harvest storage, training services, and other measures, can increase food security and diversify economic opportunities, thereby reducing potential climate–conflict linkages. Peacekeeping, conflict mediation, and post-conflict aid operations could incorporate climate into their risk reduction strategies by looking at ways climatic hazards may exacerbate violent conflict in the future.

However, the researchers make clear there is a need to increase understanding of these strategies’ effectiveness and potential for adverse side effects. For example, food export bans following crop failures can increase instability elsewhere.

“Understanding the multifaceted ways that climate may interact with known drivers of conflict is really critical for putting investments in the right place,” Mach says.

Additional coauthors are from Stanford; the University of Exeter; the Peace Research Institute Oslo; the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; the National Bureau of Economic Research; the University of Denver; the University of Antwerp; Lancaster University; the University of Colorado Boulder; the College of William & Mary; the University of Hamburg; and Uppsala University.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, the European Research Council, the German Science Foundation, and the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research supported the work.

Source: Stanford University

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For food security, SNAP and WIC aren’t redundant

Thu, 2019-06-13 08:17

New research provides evidence that two food assistance programs, SNAP and WIC, are in fact complementary, not redundant.

Forty million Americans, including 6.5 million children, are food insecure, according to the US Department of Agriculture, which means they do not have enough food for an active, healthy life.

Many rely on SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)—the largest food assistance program for low-income families—to help make ends meet. Still, 51.2 percent of households receiving SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps, were food insecure in 2016.

Given the extent of food insecurity, economists developed a economics-based methodology to analyze potential redundancies between SNAP and WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), the third-largest food assistance program in the US.

Their research, published in the Southern Economic Journal, shows that participating in both SNAP and WIC compared to SNAP alone increases food security by at least 2 percentage points and potentially as much as 24 percentage points.

Difficult to measure

“Our findings can help policymakers design more efficient programs to meet food needs,” says Helen Jensen, professor emeritus of economics at Iowa State University. “We know low-income families often participate in more than one food assistance program, and we find the combination of SNAP and WIC helps reduce food insecurity for participating households.”

The programs are similar, but serve different needs. WIC covers specific foods to meet the nutritional needs of pregnant women, new mothers, and infants and young children. Participants also receive nutrition counseling and referrals for health services, such as prenatal programs.

In comparison, eligible households can use SNAP benefits to buy most food items. All households included in the study were potentially eligible for both programs, but chose whether or not to participate.

This “self-selection” makes it difficult to ascertain whether a program causes a change in food insecurity, researcher say. WIC and SNAP benefits are not randomly assigned, so any differences in food security outcomes between participants and nonparticipants could be due to actual causal impacts of the programs or unobserved differences between households that apply for benefits and those that do not.

If households at greatest risk of becoming food insecure are most likely to apply—for example, in the case of a job loss—it might falsely appear the programs are ineffective in alleviating food insecurity, the researchers say. In fact, while participants may be less food secure than eligible nonparticipants, participants may still be more food secure than they would have been in a world without the programs.

Further, households may systematically under-report benefits, often because they don’t want to admit they are receiving government assistance.

“For these reasons, traditional econometric methods lead to misleading estimates,” says Oleksandr Zhylyevskyy, associate professor of economics. “With that in mind, we developed a methodology that allows us to more accurately measure the true effects of WIC and SNAP.”

True benefits

The researchers applied their methodology to data from the USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey or FoodAPS, which provides self-reported household participation in SNAP and WIC and validated data for SNAP participation. The study included 460 households that were income-eligible for both programs. Researchers surveyed them for one week.

On average, households were families of four with two children, one under the age of six. The average monthly income was about $1,600. More than 75 percent rented a home or apartment, 26 percent did not own or lease a vehicle, and 11 percent had used a food pantry within the past 30 days.

FoodAPS matched survey responses about SNAP participation with official administrative records to identify response errors, but no similar verification was available for WIC. The new methodology was specifically designed to handle this type of scenario in which researchers can corroborate answers for some survey questions, but not others, the researchers say.

“Our goal was to strike a balance between making assumptions that are weak enough to be credible, but strong enough to be informative,” says Brent Kreider, professor of economics. “Policymakers may ask whether these programs actually work or merely increase government spending without reducing food insecurity. We find WIC helps even when SNAP is already in place.”

The National Bureau of Economic Research funded the work.

Source: Iowa State University

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Why is it so hard to stop food borne illness?

Wed, 2019-06-12 19:23

Contaminated food causes 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths each year in the US, but it’s difficult to find the root causes. A new book explains why.

In his book, Outbreak: Foodborne Illness and the Struggle for Food Safety (University of Chicago Press, 2019), Georgia State University professor Timothy Lytton examines the history and complex workings of the country’s food safety system.

“I’m struck by the fact that in the US, there’s a pitched battle between people who believe that the government should pass aggressive regulations to protect the public and people who think that the government should not interfere much in the way that businesses operate,” he says.

“If you really want to understand how regulation works in the US, it’s a mistake to get caught in this debate about big government versus big businesses. Regulation is more complicated than that.”

Here, he discusses why it’s so hard to identify the root causes of food borne illness, why consolidating food safety regulation into a single federal agency might not be a good idea, and his own thoughts about improving the food safety system.

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Paid parental leave benefits moms and babies

Wed, 2019-06-12 19:19

California’s paid parental leave law appears to have improved the mental health of mothers and the overall welfare of their infant children, according to new research.

The study is the first to assess the impact of paid family leave on maternal well-being.

Using data from the National Survey of Children’s Health and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the study finds a 5.5 percent to 9 percent improvement in self-reported ratings of mental health among California mothers after the 2004 implementation of paid family leave, as compared to women who gave birth in California before the law went into effect and to those who live in other states.

The study also found improvements in overall infant health and reduced rates of asthma among children born after the law’s implementation, according to study author Lindsey Bullinger, an assistant professor in Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Public Policy.

“So much of the focus on paid family leave is on the employment implications. But paid time off to recover from childbirth and bond with a child could also have effects on the health of both parents and children. Some research has explored the health effects for children, but nearly no research has looked at the health of those who take the leave in the US,” Bullinger says.

The study did not find any improvement as a result of the law in how new fathers reported their mental health status, or in measures of respiratory or food allergies in children. But it did find improvements in how parents felt like they were coping with the day-to-day demands of parenting.

The improvements in maternal mental health and overall child well-being may be the result of children spending more time at home after birth instead of in daycare, increased opportunities for parents to care for their children, reductions in parental stress and anxiety, and improved economic outcomes, all of which have been shown to have a positive effect on child health, according to the study.

The results were particularly strong in low-income households, Bullinger says.

“Many families do not have paid leave through their employers and cannot afford to take unpaid leave after the birth of a child,” Bullinger says. “Relative to higher-income families who can, paid family leave could be more impactful for poorer families, since the jump between what leave they could afford to take before the law compared to after the law is larger. And that’s what we see in the study. Paid leave in California had stronger effects for children and parents from lower income families.”

Paid family leave is a perennial issue across the United States, and the results contained in the new paper could prove useful to state and federal lawmakers considering implementation of such policies, Bullinger says.

“Most of the research on paid family leave is from Europe and Canada. But there, leave lengths are much longer, in the range of 25 to 52 weeks, so it is not clear if that research is helpful in the US where leaves are typically much shorter. These findings can help policymakers in both designing programs and evaluating the costs and benefits of those programs in the US.”

The study appears in the Journal of Health Economics.

Source: Georgia Tech

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Hydrothermal vents fuel ‘blooms’ in surprising places

Wed, 2019-06-12 19:03

Hydrothermal vents in the seafloor may affect life near the surface and the global carbon cycle more than previously thought, according to a new study.

The research provides the first observed evidence of iron from the Southern Ocean’s depths turning normally anemic surface waters into hotspots for phytoplankton—the tiny algae that sustain the marine food web, pull heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the air, and produce a huge amount of the oxygen we breathe, says Mathieu Ardyna, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University and lead author of the paper in Nature Communications.

“Our study shows that iron from hydrothermal vents can well up, travel across hundreds of miles of open ocean, and allow phytoplankton to thrive in some very unexpected places.”

The findings are “important because they show how intimately linked the deep ocean and surface ocean can be,” says Kevin Arrigo, a professor of earth system science and senior author of the paper.

How did they get there?

Phytoplankton need iron to thrive, and that limits their abundance in vast swaths of the ocean where concentrations of the nutrient are low. But when conditions are right, phytoplankton can also grow explosively, blooming across thousands of square miles in a matter of days.

That’s what Ardyna noticed recently as he looked at data recorded in 2014 and 2015 by a fleet of floating robots outfitted with optical sensors in the Southern Ocean. More than 1,300 miles off the coast of Antarctica and 1,400 miles from the African continent, two unexpectedly large blooms cropped up in an area known for severe iron shortages and low concentrations of chlorophyll, an indicator of phytoplankton populations.

Massive blooms in this region could only be possible with an influx of iron. The researchers quickly ruled out the ocean’s most common sources, including continental shelves, melting sea ice, and atmospheric dust, which were simply too far away to have much influence.

That led them to suspect that the nutrient must be welling up from below, possibly from a string of hydrothermal vents that dot a mid-ocean ridge 750 miles from where the massive blooms had inexplicably appeared.

To help test their hypothesis, they recruited a team specialized in various aspects of oceanography and modeling.

“It has long been known that hydrothermal vents create unique and profound oases of life,” Ardyna says. Until recently, scientists generally believed those nourishing effects remained fairly local. But a growing amount of evidence from computer simulations of ocean dynamics has hinted that iron and other life-sustaining elements spewed from hydrothermal vents may in fact fuel planktonic blooms over much wider areas.

However, direct measurements have been lacking.

Right place, right time

In the Southern Ocean, that’s partly due to the remote location, extreme cold, and rough seas, which make it difficult to study up close or collect accurate data.

“Your sensors have to be in the right place at the right time to see these blooms,” Ardyna says. “Satellites can underestimate intensity or miss them altogether because of bad coverage or strong mixing of the water column, which pushes phytoplankton down too deep for satellites to see.”

To track the flow of particles from the vents on the mid-ocean ridge, the scientists analyzed data from satellites measuring chlorophyll and from autonomous, sensor-laden buoys known as Argo floats. As they dive and drift along ocean currents, some of these buoys detect chlorophyll and other proxies for phytoplankton biomass.

“The floats give us precious and unique data, covering a large section of the water column down to 1,000 meters deep during an entire annual cycle,” Ardyna says.

The scientists couldn’t directly measure iron in the water, but instead analyzed measurements of helium collected by scientific cruises in the 1990s. The presence of helium signals waters influenced by hydrothermal vents, which funnel large amounts of primordial helium from beneath Earth’s crust.

The chlorophyll, phytoplankton, and helium data suggest that a powerful current circling Antarctica grabs nutrients rising up from vents. Two turbulent, fast-moving branches of the current then shuttle the nutrients eastward for a month or two before serving them like a banquet to undernourished phytoplankton.

Together with the arrival of spring sunshine that phytoplankton need for photosynthesis, the delivery triggers a massive bloom that can likely absorb and store significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, says Arrigo, who is also a professor in earth sciences.

Over time, the blooms drift eastward toward the current racing around Antarctica and fade as sea creatures devour them. “We suspect these hotspots are either consumed or exported to deep waters,” Ardyna says.

Each bloom lasts little more than a month, but the mechanisms that trigger them are likely to be more common in the global ocean than scientists previously suspected.

“Hydrothermal vents are scattered all over the ocean floor,” Ardyna says. Knowing about the pathways that bring their nutrients up to surface waters will help researchers make more accurate calculations about the flow of carbon in the world’s oceans.

“Much remains to be done to reveal other potential hotspots and quantify how this mechanism is altering the carbon cycle.”

Coauthors are from Sorbonne Université; CNRS; Laval University; the University of Liverpool; the Alfred Wegener Institute; and the Université de Toulouse. Support for the work came from the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales; the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program; the European Research Council; BNP Paribas; the French Polar Institute (IPEV); Sorbonne Université; and the National Science Foundation.

Source: Stanford University

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Inducing seizures can pinpoint their origin

Wed, 2019-06-12 09:59

For some people with epilepsy, inducing seizures is just as effective for determining their origin in the brain as those that happen spontaneously, a new study reports.

Surgery is the only way to stop seizures in 30 percent of patients with focal drug-resistant epilepsy. People awaiting surgery often stay in hospital for one to two weeks to record medical observations of seizures.

Recording the source of the seizure lets doctors know what part of the brain to operate on. But these long stays can be extremely inconvenient for patients and expensive for health care systems.

In approximately 20 percent of patients, doctors have to insert electrodes directly into the brain. Patients with inserted electrodes often undergo cortical stimulation, a procedure that applies electrical current to the brain to map brain function but also to induce seizures for better understanding of the epileptic network.

No study until now has systematically addressed whether relying on induced seizures for surgery planning works as well as relying on spontaneous seizures.

For the new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at data from 103 epilepsy patients in Montreal, Canada and Grenoble, France. The researchers used statistical methods to reveal correlations between the presence of stimulated seizures and their onset zone and patient outcome.

Patients who had induced seizures had better outcomes than patients who had no induced seizures. The researchers also found a strong similarity between the seizure onset zones which induced and spontaneous seizures identified.

This finding suggests that inducing seizures is as effective for determining the origin of seizures in the brain as spontaneous seizures, the researchers say. Using induced seizures in this way could mean much shorter hospital stays for patients awaiting surgery, and cost savings for hospitals that perform these operations.

“I think it would be a huge advantage if this procedure was done in the first days of a patient’s stay,” says lead researcher Birgit Frauscher of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital.

“It’s not a new procedure, but the approach is new in the sense that now we know it’s very similar to a spontaneous seizure, so we can reduce hospital time. Instead of being in hospital for two weeks, patients can may be there for 48 or 72 hours and we only need to record maybe one additional spontaneous seizures and not several, and that is a huge difference.”

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Savoy Epilepsy Foundation, and Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec supported the work.

Additional coauthors are from McGill and the Grenoble-Alpes University Hospital in France.

Source: McGill University

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1 swap halves the carbon footprint of your diet

Wed, 2019-06-12 09:02

If Americans changed their diets by swapping out just one item each day, they could greatly reduce their carbon footprint from food, according to a new report.

“We found that making one substitution of poultry for beef resulted in an average reduction of dietary greenhouse gases by about a half,” says Diego Rose, professor and director of nutrition at Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine.

“To our knowledge, this is the only nationally representative study of the carbon footprint of individually chosen diets in the US,” Rose says. “We hope this research will raise awareness about the role of the food sector in climate change and the sizable impact of a simple dietary change.”

Food production is an important contributor to climate change, accounting for about a quarter of carbon emissions globally, researchers say. For the study, they examined the real-world diets of thousands of people in the United States.

Researchers used diet information from more than 16,000 participants in the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a portion of which asked participants to recall all the foods they consumed in the previous 24 hours.

The researchers then used this information to determine which foods had the highest greenhouse gas emissions and to calculate a carbon footprint for each individual diet.

They found that the 10 foods with the highest impacts on the environment were all cuts of beef and that about 20 percent of participants reported consuming one of these high-carbon foods.

Using simulation, the researchers calculated a new carbon footprint for each diet by replacing beef with the closest related poultry product. For example, a broiled beef steak was replaced with broiled chicken and ground beef with ground turkey. The researchers performed each substitution only one time for each person that consumed one of the high-carbon foods.

Animal foods contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than plant foods. Ruminant animal foods such as beef and lamb have particularly high carbon footprints because cows and sheep also release methane gas.

“Our simulation showed that you don’t have to give up animal products to improve your carbon footprint,” Rose says. “Just one food substitution brought close to a 50 percent reduction, on average, in a person’s carbon footprint.”

The researchers plan to expand this research, which focused on dietary greenhouse gas emissions, to include other environmental impacts such as water use.

Although not the subject of this study, the researchers point out that food waste and overeating also increase the carbon footprint of our diet. So, in addition to eating low-carbon foods, better meal planning and eating leftovers can also help reduce carbon footprint.

Rose presented the paper at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting in Baltimore.

Source: Tulane University

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Rise of e-scooters is busting up a lot of faces

Wed, 2019-06-12 08:36

Facial and head injuries from riding electric scooters have tripled over the past decade, a new study reports.

Electric scooter use has increased in popularity as a more environmentally friendly and efficient alternative to gas vehicles. However, state helmet laws vary—and many people are injured because they don’t wear appropriate protective equipment.

For the study in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, researchers analyzed records in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance system between 2008 and 2017 to determine the types and frequency of head and facial injuries resulting from motorized scooters.

The system collates data from about 100 participating hospitals, which is then extrapolated to provide national estimates on injuries related to consumer products.

E-scooters and the ER

Over the decade studied, emergency departments recorded 990 head or facial injuries sustained from electric scooter use—or 32,000 estimated injuries nationwide. The incidences tripled annually from an estimated 2,325 nationwide in 2008 to an estimated 6,947 in 2017.

“Children use motorized scooters marketed as toys, but in reality, certain models can reach speeds of almost 30 miles per hour.”

Most of the people injured were men between 19 and 65, but 33 percent were children between 6 and 12, the research shows.

“Children use motorized scooters marketed as toys, but in reality, certain models can reach speeds of almost 30 miles per hour,” says coauthor Amishav Bresler, a resident at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

The most frequent injuries included closed head injuries, such as concussion and bleeding or bruising of the brain, followed by facial cuts or abrasions. The study showed about 5 percent of the injuries were fractures, most frequently in the skull or nose.

In records that included helmet use, 66 percent of those injured were not wearing helmets. Helmet use increased with age, from about 19 percent in toddlers to about 67 percent in senior riders.

Time for helmet laws?

The study found significant variation in state laws regarding motorized scooters, Bresler says. For example, the District of Columbia classified motorized scooters as “personal mobility devices” that are not subject to inspection or helmet laws; while a new law in New Jersey regulates electric scooters in the same way as a traditional bicycles, requiring helmets only for people younger than 17.

“The United States should standardize electric scooter laws and license requirements should be considered to decrease the risky behaviors associated with motorized scooter use,” says Bresler, who notes the success of such legislation in other countries.

“In 2000, Italy implemented a law mandating helmet use for all types of recreational scooter drivers—legislation that reduced head trauma in scooter riders from about 27 out of 10,000 people before the law passed to about 9 out of 10,000 people afterward.”

Source: Rutgers University

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