New research into polar ice has shown that bacteria can survive deeper into ice sheets, raising the possibility of life in our solar systems' distant, icy planets.
For the first time, scientists have discovered living bacteria in polar ice and snow – an environment once considered sterile – altering perceptions about which planets in the universe could sustain alien life. The research also shows that humans may be having an even greater impact on levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere than accepted evidence from climate history studies of ice cores suggests.
Gases captured and sealed in snow as it compresses into ice can provide researchers with snapshots of Earth’s atmosphere going back hundreds of thousands of years. Climate scientists use ice core samples to look at prehistoric levels of CO2 in the atmosphere so they can be compared with current levels in an industrial age. This analysis of ice cores relies on the assumption that there is limited biological activity altering the environment in the snow during its transition into ice.
The research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, revealed that the composition of small samples of gas trapped in the ice may have been affected by bacteria that remain active in snow while it is being compressed into ice – a process that can last decades. “As microbial activity and its influence on its local environment has never been taken into account when looking at ice-core gas samples it could provide a moderate source of error in climate history interpretations,” said Kelly Redeker from the University of York in the UK.
“Respiration by bacteria may have slightly increased levels of CO2 in pockets of air trapped within polar ice caps meaning that before human activity CO2 levels may have been even lower than previously thought,” said Redeker. “In addition, the fact that we have observed metabolically active bacteria in the most pristine ice and snow is a sign of life proliferating in environments where you wouldn’t expect it to exist,” he said.
“This suggests we may be able to broaden our horizons when it comes to thinking about which planets are capable of sustaining life,” he added. Research conducted in laboratories has previously shown that bacteria can stay alive at extremely cold temperatures, but this study is the first time that bacteria have been observed altering the polar snow environment in situ.
The researchers looked at snow in is natural state, and in other areas they sterilised it using UV sterilising lamps. When they compared the results the team found unexpected levels of methyl iodide – a gas known to be produced by marine bacteria – in the untouched snow. Researchers also detected the presence of gases at part-per-trillion levels, one million times less concentrated than atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
The results of the study also suggest that life can be sustained even in remote, cold, nutrient poor environments, offering a new perspective on whether the frozen planets of the universe could support microorganisms.
Courtesy - Indian Express
Adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health. In people who ate the most of green, leafy vegetables brain ageing slowed by 11 years.
Eating one to two servings of salad with spinach, lettuce and kale daily may keep your brain 11 years younger as well as prevent dementia, according to a study.
The study found that people who ate at least one serving of green, leafy vegetables a day had a slower rate of decline on tests of memory and thinking skills than people who never or rarely ate these vegetables.
In people who ate the most of green, leafy vegetables brain ageing slowed by 11 years.
“Adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health,” said Martha Clare Morris, from the Rush University in Chicago.
“Projections show sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia as the oldest age groups continue to grow in number, so effective strategies to prevent dementia are critical,” Morris added.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, involved 960 people with an average age of 81 who did not have dementia and were followed for an average of 4.7 years.
Over 10 years of follow-up, the rate of decline for those who ate the most leafy greens was slower by 0.05 standardised units per year than the rate for those who ate the least leafy greens. This difference was equivalent to being 11 years younger in age.
The results remained valid after accounting for other factors that could affect brain health such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, education level and amount of physical and cognitive activities, the researchers said.
Courtesy - Indian Express
A study suggests that there might be something about helping strangers that impacts one's moral identity or perceptions of self in a more significant way than helping friends or family members, although these are beneficial behaviours as well
Lending a helping hand to strangers can help teenagers improve self esteem and boost confidence, suggests new research. While adolescents who exhibited pro-social behaviour — such as helping, sharing and comforting — towards strangers had higher self-esteem a year later, the same was not true for those in the study who exhibited pro-social behaviour solely to friends and family, found the research published in the Journal of Adolescence.
“This study helps us to understand that young people who help those with whom they do not have a relationship report feeling better about themselves over time,” said study co-author Laura Padilla-Walker, Professor at Brigham Young University in the US.
“Given the importance of self-esteem during the teen years, this is an important finding. It suggests there might be something about helping strangers that impacts one’s moral identity or perceptions of self in a more significant way than helping friends or family members, although these are beneficial behaviours as well,” Padilla-Walker said.
In the study, researchers looked at 681 adolescents, 11-14 years old, in two US cities. The participants responded to 10 statements such as “I feel useless at times” or “I am satisfied with myself” to assess self-esteem. “Not all helping is created equal, and we’re finding that pro-social behaviour toward strangers is protective in a variety of ways that is unique from other types of helping,” Padilla-Walker said.
Another important finding was that the link between pro-social behaviour and self-esteem was over a one-year time period and present across all three age lags in the study.
Courtesy - Indian Express
Though the number of heart patients is on the rise world-wide, the situation in India is even more alarming, cardiology experts said.
Presidents of five major Cardiological Societies of the world who participated in the 68th annual conference of the Cardiological Society of India (CSI) here yesterday said, the Cardiology sector in India is facing several challenges with recent reports pointing out an alarming rise in heart diseases.
According to American Heart Association President Prof Mark Creager, increase in diabetes is a major factor in increasing heart disease.
"Diabetic patients who have high blood pressure and cholesterol have greater risk of heart diseases," Creager was quoted as saying in a release here.
He cautioned that the diabetic patients who do not control their sugar will end up with a diseased heart.
World Heart Foundation former President, Dr Salim Yusuf pointed out that cardiac illness is one of the major reasons for high number of deaths in India.
The number of cardiac patients in Kerala is three times more than that of the national average, he noted.
"The lifestyle of people in Kerala had led to more people becoming heart patients.
People should reduce carbohydrates and include more fruits in their daily diet for a healthy heart," he opined.
He also stressed the importance of regular exercise in preventing heart disease. When the nature of Cardiac diseases is changing, new cardio vascular technologies are also evolving and gives much hope to the patients, said President designate of European Society of Cardiology, James Blankenship.
European Society of Cardiology President Jeroen Bax said newer technologies have been developed for the detection of diseases.
But, the attitude of people towards the new technology and methods have to change, he said. President of the American College of Cardiology, Mary Norine who spoke on the occasion said the majority of cardiac problems end in heart failure when the heart cannot pump blood and this can cause death.
"However, in these circumstances there are technologies to make the heart function artificially and a prolong life," Norine said. She said though these technologies help patients to live an ordinary life, the doubts of the patients regarding the usage of these methods are yet to be cleared.
"If we are able to clear the doubts, then these treatments will be adopted widely and the number of deaths due to cardiac problems could come down," Norine suggested.
Courtesy – Deccan Herald
Drinking three to five cups of coffee a day may provide protection against age-related cognitive decline and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, a new report claims.
The report by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC), a not-for-profit organisation devoted to the study and disclosure of science related to coffee and health, highlights the potential role of coffee consumption in reducing the risk of cognitive decline.
The report concludes that a moderate intake of coffee (three to five cups per day) may provide protection against age-related cognitive decline and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
"Moderate coffee consumption could play a significant role in reducing cognitive decline which would impact health outcomes and health-care spending across Europe," said Rodrigo A Cunha, Professor at the University of Coimbra in Portugal.
Understanding and communicating diet and lifestyle factors that may limit age-related cognitive decline will help to improve the quality of life, the report said.
According to the report, research published this year suggests that moderate coffee consumption can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's by up to 27 per cent.
Research has suggested that it is regular, long-term coffee drinking that is key to helping to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's Disease, the report said.
The association between coffee consumption and cognitive decline is illustrated by a 'U-shaped' pattern in recent meta-analyses, with the greatest protection seen at an intake of about three to five cups of coffee per day.
Although the precise mechanisms of action behind the suggested association between coffee and age-related cognitive decline are unknown, caffeine is likely to be involved.
There are many other compounds in coffee, such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which may also play a role.
Caffeic acid, for example, is a polyphenol (antioxidant) found in coffee, and research suggests that these may be associated with improved cognitive function.
Courtesy – Deccan Herald
Smokers under the age of 50 are over eight times more likely to suffer a major heart attack compared to peers who do not smoke or gave it up, according to a new study.
Researchers including those from the University of Sheffield in the UK drew on data for 1,727 adults undergoing treatment for a classic type of heart attack known as a STEMI between 2009 and 2012.
A STEMI, or ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, refers to the typical pattern seen on an electrocardiogram (ECG), indicating that a large portion of the heart muscle is dying.
Among other things, this collects information on smoking prevalence and other aspects of perceived health.
Almost half of the 1,727 patients (48.5 per cent) were current smokers, with roughly a quarter (just over 27 per cent) former smokers, and a quarter (just over 24 per cent) non-smokers.
Current smokers tended to be 10-11 years younger than ex or non-smokers when they had their STEMI. And along with ex-smokers, were twice as likely as non-smokers to have had previous episodes of coronary artery disease.
They were also three times as likely as non-smokers to have peripheral vascular disease, a condition in which a build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels restricts blood supply to the legs.
Based on the ONS-IHS data, the overall prevalence of smoking in South Yorkshire was 22.4 per cent, with the highest prevalence among those under the age of 50 (just over 27 per cent).
However among STEMI patients under the age of 50, smoking prevalence was almost 75 per cent.
Overall, the data analysis showed that smokers were more than three times more likely to have a STEMI than ex- and non-smokers combined.
The highest risk was among the under-50s who were nearly 8.5 times as likely to do so as former and non-smokers of the same age.
This risk fell with increasing age, dropping to a five-fold difference among 50-65 year olds, and a three-fold difference among the over 65s.
The researchers said that the much higher risk of STEMI in younger smokers is not easy to explain as this age group typically do not have many of the other contributory risk factors that might be seen in older smokers, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
Smoking may therefore be the most important risk factor, they suggest, adding that other research shows that the fatty deposits furring up the arteries of smokers differ from those of non-smokers and seem to be more vulnerable to rupture.
"All current smokers must be encouraged into smoking cessation therapy to reduce their risk of acute STEMI, with a focus on the youngest smokers whose increased risk is often unrecognised," said researchers. The study was published in the journal Heart.
Courtesy – Deccan Herald
Activities like tennis, swimming and aerobics have emerged as better sports for a longer and healthier life than football and jogging, according to a new study.
Researchers of Oxford University found that people who played racquet sports such as tennis, squash or badminton slashed their risk of dying from heart disease and stroke by 56 per cent.
Swimming cut the risk by 41 per cent and aerobics by 36 per cent. No such benefits were seen in people who listed football, rugby or running as their main exercise.
"We think racquet sports not only offer the usual physiological benefits but also offer additional mental health and social benefits perhaps unique to these sports, Charlie Foster, associate professor of Physical Activity and Population Health at Oxford University said.
"We had a younger group of team sports players and runners and we may not have enough deaths to see a difference at this point in time, another five years and we will know with more precision," he said.
"One theory might be the team players struggle to graduate to new sports or activities once they stop playing, so they lose the benefits of their active younger days," he added.
The study, published in the 'British Journal of Sports Medicine' this week and conducted by scientists from the UK, Finland and Austria, followed more than 80,000 people for an average of nine years to find out if certain sports protected them against early death.
It found that people who play team sports when younger often do not move onto a new sport once their teams disband for family, or injury reasons. They become spectators rather than participants in their chosen activity.
"There is a certain age limit to how well you can play football or rugby, or go running, to get the needed health benefits. People tend to move on from team sports to other forms of exercise when they get a bit older and their knees wear out. You can't store the benefits of sport done in your youth," Foster said.
The researchers believe that some sports, such as running or football, may also be affected by seasonality or weather which means participants do not keep them up all year round, which limits their long-term benefits.
"These findings demonstrate that participation in specific sports may have significant benefits for public health,” the authors of the study said.
Courtesy – Deccan Herald
Highly skilled women who take time off work to raise children end up paying the highest 'motherhood penalties' - losing an average of 10 per cent in their wage per child, a new study has found.
Mothers who leave work to raise children often sacrifice more than the pay for their time off as when they come back their wages reflect lost raises, researchers said.
Researchers from New York University in the US examined data from a survey that tracked 4,658 women from 1976, when they were 14- to 21-year-olds, to 2010, when they were largely past their childrearing years at ages 45 to 52.
"In the case of highly skilled white women with high wages, what is striking is that they have the highest penalties despite the fact that they have the most continuous work experience of any group of women, which, other things being equal, would reduce their penalties," said Paula England, professor at New York University.
"Their high returns to experience and tenure mean that loss of every year of work caused by motherhood is much more costly for their future wages, even in proportionate terms, than it is for other groups of women," said England.
England studied how motherhood penalised white and black women and how this varied by their skill and wage level.
She found that highly skilled, highly paid white women lose an average of 10 per cent in their wage per child.
However, those with lower skills and/or lower wages lose significantly less, between four and seven per cent of their wage per child.
The penalties were lower for black women than for white women; however, unlike the white women, the penalties for black women did not differ significantly by skill or wage, said England.
"Women with the highest total motherhood penalties are in an advantaged group with high skills and high wages; even after they become mothers and suffer the steepest penalty, they are typically affluent because their own earnings are still relatively high, and many of them are married to high-earning men," said England.
"Given their relative privilege, we might still want to give priority to policies, such as child care subsidies, that help low-income women," she said.
"However, in an era when there are still few women CEOs and we have yet to elect a woman president, it is important to understand how much motherhood affects the careers of women at the top and to consider how this can be changed," she said.
The study was published in the journal American Sociological Review.
Courtesy – Deccan Herald
Taking low-dose aspirin every day may reduce the risk of a heart attack, prevent some cancers and extend lives over the course of 20 years in adults at high risk of heart disease, a new study has claimed.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, researchers said.
Aspirin can help patients at risk of heart disease because it thins the blood and prevents clotting. "Although the health benefits of aspirin are well established, few people take it," said lead author David B Agus from University of Southern California in the US.
"Our study shows multiple health benefits and a reduction in health care spending from this simple, low-cost measure that should be considered a standard part of care for the appropriate patient," said Agus.
Researchers used representative data from several surveys. To assess the long-term benefits of aspirin, they ran two scenarios which project the health of older Americans and their trajectory in ageing.
The model accounted for individual health characteristics such as chronic disease, the ability to conduct daily activities, body mass index and mortality, researchers said.
The first scenario in study, the "Guideline Adherence", focused on determining the potential health and savings, benefits and drawbacks of following the task force's guidelines from 2009.
The second scenario, "Universal Eligibility", was not realistic and aimed to measure the full potential benefits and drawbacks if all Americans 51 and older, regardless of the guidelines, took aspirin every day.
They found that following the guidelines would prevent 11 cases of heart disease and four cases of cancer for every 1,000 Americans aged 51 to 79.
Life expectancy would improve by 0.3 years (largely disability-free), so out of 1,000 people, eight more would reach age 80 and three more would reach the age of 100.
Also, by 2036, an estimated 900,000 more Americans would be alive as a result of the aspirin regimen, researchers said.
However, the researchers found no significant reduction for stroke incidence. Also, the rate of gastrointestinal bleeding would increase 25 per cent from the current rate.
This means that two out of 63 Americans could expect to suffer a bleeding incident between the ages of 51 to 79.
The optimistic "Universal Eligibility" scenario, which assumes that the clinically-proven benefits of aspirin extend to all older Americans, showed slightly larger health benefits than the "Guideline Adherence" scenario.
Although longer life spans mean an increase in lifetime medical costs, "observing the guidelines would yield positive and significant net value," researchers said. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Courtesy – Deccan Herald
In order to restrict the spread of diseases such as Zika and dengue, researchers have developed a platform that can analyse clinical samples from patients to diagnose infection by 416 viruses found in the world's tropical regions.
In addition to the pathogens, the platform detects others that as yet have been identified only sporadically but could become epidemics.
Examples include Mayaro, an alphavirus related to chikungunya that is transmitted by wild mosquitoes such as Haemagogus janthinomys.
"The number of patients with suspected dengue, Zika or chikungunya infection will increase when summer arrives," said Victor Hugo Aquino, professor at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) in Brazil.
"Conventional methods are frequently unable to confirm diagnosis of these diseases, so we don't know which viruses are circulating," said Aquino.
In his view, if a tool like this had been available when Zika began circulating in Brazil, it might have been possible to restrict its spread to the initial outbreak location.
"We took a long time to realise an epidemic was under way because no one was thinking of Zika at the time," he said.
"There are several other viruses that have not yet caused problems in humans but may do so one day," Aquino said.
"They are evolving all the time, and with the degradation of natural environments infectious agents once confined to natural niches could spread farther afield," added Aquino.
Although the platform is designed above all to detect pathogens transmitted by arthropods such as mosquitoes and ticks, it can also diagnose infectious agents transmitted by small mammals, like hantavirus.
Aquino explained that the selection encompasses all viruses occurring in tropical regions with DNA sequences deposited in GenBank, a public database maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which is part of the US National Library of Medicine (NLM).
The platform consists of a DNA microarray slide with eight identical sub-arrays containing viral probes replicated at least three times to complete the array with 15,000 probes.
Each probe contains the sequences for 60 nucleotides that are complementary to the genomes of the viruses to be detected.
According to Aquino, the sequences were mounted on the basis of information from GenBank using bioinformatics.
"If a blood sample contains one of the 416 viruses included on the microchip, the pathogen's genome will bind with one of the probes to produce a marker that can be detected by a scanner," Aquino said.
The device that reads the results is the same as that used in microarray assays for the analysis of gene expression.
The validation tests do not point to cross-hybridisation, which produces a positive result for more than one infectious agent and hinders correct identification of single viruses.
The study was published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Courtesy – Deccan Herald