Gene Mutation May Be Responsible For Diabetes Development

A gene mutation that affects insulin regulation may be responsible for diabetes development.

A genetic mutation may be responsible for diabetes development, researchers found.

Scientists have identified a new mutation that affects a gene responsible for insulin regulation. The findings were published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the paper, nearly 1-2 percent of cases of diabetes are caused by the impairment of a gene called MAFA, which would disable production of insulin. Besides causing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, a malfunctioning MAFA gene would lead to insulin-producing tumors in the pancreas aka insulinomas.

The tumors usually develop due to low blood sugar levels, as opposed to diabetes which results in high blood sugar levels.

Researchers were able to discover the mutation by sequencing a specific part of the genome belonging to two families. One of the families had high blood sugar levels while the other where on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Lead author of the study and a professor at the Queen Mary University of London, Marta Korbonits, expressed their disbelief when they found two contrasting conditions within the same families.

“Our research shows that, surprisingly, the same gene defect can impact the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas to lead to these two opposing medical conditions,” Korbonits said.

In addition, the research revealed a link between diabetes and gender. While males were more susceptible to diabetes, females had a higher risk of developing insulinomas. Researchers have yet to find the reason behind this.

Researchers claim that this is the first time a mutation in MAFA gene has been tied to a disease.

Diabetes is a chronic and metabolic disease characterized by high blood glucose (blood sugar). People who suffer from the condition can experience damage to the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and nerves.

According to the World Health Organization, diabetes could become one of the leading killers globally by 2030.

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Scientists Discover Another Reason For Rising Sea Levels (Study)

Scientists have found another reason behind the sea levels increase.

A new factor contributing to the rise of sea levels has been discovered.

A new factor contributing to the rise of sea levels has been discovered.Scientists have uncovered an alarming reason for why sea levels are rising. While melting glaciers were believed to be the primary factor for the increase of water levels, researchers did not take into account the way oceans cope with the added mass.

According to a report published in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters, the extra weight coming from melting glaciers is pushing the seafloor at the bottom. Thus, the larger volume of water increases the total height of the oceans. This new discovery adds another layer of the overall ramifications of climate change.

“The Earth itself is not a rigid sphere, it’s a deforming ball,” said Thomas Frederikse, a geoscientist from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

According to Frederikse, climate change does not only change temperature but also causes the ocean bottom to strain the elasticity of the ocean floor. Frederikse and his team call this phenomenon barystatic sea level rise, and they believe it can tamper with previous measurements obtained through satellite imagery. Satellites are only good at reading sea levels from a geocentric point of view, with the help of altimeters that measure the ocean surface from the center of the Earth.

According to the research, all sea-levels measurements would be about 8 percent off, however, Frederikse believes only 4 percent could be attributed to the ocean floor subsiding. This is due to warming temperatures contributing half the increase in sea level rise, which can cause the same amount of water to expand and take up more space.

The researchers explain that seafloor deformation is not uniform as the difference between relative and geocentric sea level change may deviate from the overall global difference.

According to the study, the sea floor sank by about 2.5 mm between 1993 and 2014, which translates to 0.13 mm per year. While the calculation encompasses the change in sea level depth on a global scale, researchers warn that some specific regions are more affected than others. For example, scientists point out that water levels in the Arctic region rise 1 mm per year while the south Pacific registered  0.4 mm per year.

Researchers stress that further sea-level estimates should be calculated using all available means to properly quantify seabed warping.

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China Plans To Send Plants And Insects To The Moon

China plans to test the resilience of teresstrial lifeforms by sending insects and plants to the moon.

China plans to test the resilience of terrestrial lifeforms by sending insects and plants to the moon.

The moon has been receiving a bit of attention as of late. We have a Japanese start-up that wants to place ads on the rock by 2020, Trump gave NASA the go-ahead to return to the moon and now it seems that China is following suit, albeit in a different way.

The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) aka the Chang’e Program has already sent two orbiters and one lander on the moon. However, China’s next Chang’e mission, the Chang’e 4, will involve bringing insects and plants to the moon. The purpose will reportedly be to test the effects of lunar gravity on living beings aside from humans as well as to study the local geology.

A Long March 5 rocket containing a relay orbiter, is slated to launch towards Earth’s natural satellite in June 2018. The relay will begin orbiting around the Earth-moon L2 Lagrange Point. A lander and rover containing various equipment to study the lunar surface will be launched six months later. In addition to the instruments, the lander will also carry an aluminum alloy container filled with seeds and insects.

Zhang Yuanxun, who is the chief designer of the container, described the contents of the lunar package as being a number of potatoes, Arabidopsis seeds, and silkworm eggs.

“The eggs will hatch into silkworms, which can produce carbon dioxide, while the potatoes and seeds emit oxygen through photosynthesis.” States Yuanxun “Together, they can establish a simple ecosystem on the moon.”

What’s more noteworthy is that this will be the first time a lander is sent to an unexplored area on the far side of the moon. The region in question is in the South Pole- Aitken Basin, located in the moon’s southern hemisphere.

Chang’e 4 mission will investigate whether terrestrial organisms can grow and thrive in a lunar environment. If the Chang’e 4 mission produces satisfying results, China will follow up with robotic missions and a potentially manned excursion in about 15 years.

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New Tinnitus Device Silences The Noise

Scientists may have found an effective way to provide long-term relief to people who suffer from tinnitus.

Scientists may have found an effective way to provide long-term relief to people who suffer from tinnitus.

Imagine constant ringing in your years coupled with random phantom noises that happen at random and you may just scratch the surface of how bad having tinnitus really is. The medical condition affects millions of Americans, and in some cases, the symptoms can be so severe that it can cripple one’s life. There are a number of treatments that can alleviate the noises or that manage them, however, none of them offer long-term relief. A recent study published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, may give people afflicted with tinnitus exactly what they were looking for.

In the study, researchers used a new device that generated “precisely timed sounds” in parallel with weak electrical pulses to suppress the ringing sounds associated with the condition. The two effects working in conjunction would reportedly activate touch-sensitive nerves, rendering damaged nerve cells back to normal.

“If we can stop these signals, we can stop tinnitus. That is what our approach attempts to do, and we’re encouraged by these initial parallel results,” said Susan Shore, a professor at the University of Michigan Medical School and lead researcher of the study.

All twenty participants who used the device every day for four weeks reported that their symptoms had decreased to the point where they could resume their lives. The results showed so much potential that the researchers eventually patented the device. Another group was exposed to a placebo in order for the researchers to tell if the primary treatment worked.

According to the scientists, the tech behind the device includes a bimodal auditory-somatosensory stimulation, which alternates between a faint electrical pulse and a sound played in the ears. The device does not cure tinnitus, however, it does alleviate the symptoms to the point where the person is able to ignore the condition. Development of the device for commercialization purposes is still underway.

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Scientists and Chocolate Company, Mars Inc, Are Teaming Up To Prevent Cacao Tree Decline

Global climate change concerns prompted scientists and Mars Inc. to look for ways to maintain chocolate production.

Global climate change concerns prompted scientists and Mars Inc. to look for ways to maintain chocolate production.

Chocolate is in danger of becoming a commodity, according to a report made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to the organization, climate change can limit and eventually kill off cacao trees by 2050. The prospect is grim to say the least, especially considering that our social fabric is so intertwined with chocolate consumption at this point that imagining a future without the sweet is impossible. However, there are people who are trying to prevent this scenario from ever happening. Scientists from the University of California-Berkeley partnered up with chocolate company, Mars Inc. to prevent the cacao trees decline.

Cacao trees are able to grow normally only under certain conditions, the NOAA stated. These conditions include high temperatures, high humidity, constant rainfall and nitrogen-rich soil. Thus, the best spots for cultivating cocoa are 20 degrees of land north and south of the equator. These are the same locations that will be rendered hotter and drier by global warming in the next couple of decades.

“In other words, as higher temperatures squeeze more water out of soil and plants, it’s unlikely that rainfall will increase enough to offset the moisture loss,” the NOAA notes.

Berkeley scientists are currently testing a new gene-editing technology called CRISPR to alter the DNA of the cacao plants and make them resistant to drier and hotter climates.

Cacao trees are highly vulnerable to climate change mainly due to their reliance on a small patch of “rainforested land” that grows smaller each year.

Barry Parkin, Mars’ chief sustainability officer, has said that the company is fully invested in maintaining the cocoa tree’s sustainability. Mars has been a firm opponent against climate change having pledged $1 billion in a programme called “Sustainability in a Generation” which seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of the company and its supply chain by 60 percent by 2050.

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Boys Have More Callous-Unemotional Traits Than Girls (Study)

Boys have more callous-unemotional traits due to their different brain structure.

Researchers have found more callous-unemotional traits in boys rather than in girls.

Ever wondered why boys don’t cry as much as girls? According to researchers, this has to do with their unique brain structures.

A team of scientists from the University of Basel and University of Basel Psychiatric Hospital in Switzerland focused on the brain development of 189 adolescents. Not crying or appearing entirely unemotional falls within a category called callous-unemotional traits. These traits also include a lack of empathy, a lack of remorse of guilt, and an overall disregard for other’s feelings.

The results revealed that boys have a larger volume of the anterior insula or gray matter volume, a brain region responsible for recognizing emotions in others and empathy. Researchers believe that the size of this brain component is responsible for higher levels of callous-unemotional traits.

“Our findings demonstrate that callous-unemotional traits are related to differences in brain structure in typically-developing boys without a clinical diagnosis,” said Nora Maria Raschle from the University of Basel in Switzerland and lead author of the study.

Raschle and her team of researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to better monitor the brain development of the participants and find out whether callous-unemotional traits are associated with different brain structures. They concluded that boys and girls have different brain structures, particularly when dealing with emotions.

Once they compared the MRI images of both sexes who showed unemotional behavior, researchers discovered that only boys displayed significant differences in the bilateral anterior peninsula.

19 percent of the callous-unemotional traits displayed in boys was due to a larger bilateral anterior peninsula, according to the scientists.

The team, however, wants to further examine the link between callous-unemotional traits and brain structure in order to understand the different thought processes of developing teens. They are curious to see if the findings will translate to older test subjects or if they are limited to one age group. The study was published in the journal, Neuroimage.

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Men Refuse To Be Eco-Friendly Because It’s Not Manly Enough (Study)

Men believe that being eco-friendly is too feminine for them.

Men avoid being eco-friendly because they believe the activity undermines their manliness, researchers suggest.

A recent report sheds light on men’s reticence to care for the environment.  According to the study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, most men avoid being eco-friendly because they regard the behavior as “feminine”.

Researchers sifted through seven studies that involved over 2 thousand participants and discovered that both men and women associated preserving the environment with “being feminine”, something which confirms male perception towards embracing environmentally-conscious behaviors.

James Wilkie, a consumer psychologist from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and one of the authors of the report, claims that men are as concerned with maintaining their masculine identity as women are with their feminine identity.

“We, therefore, thought that men might be more open to environmental products if we made them feel secure in their masculinity, so they are less threatened by adopting a green product.” States Wilkie.

As part of the study, Wilkie and his team of researchers monitored several men and women’s shopping behaviors when it came to eco-friendly products to determine the limits of the “green-feminine stereotype”.

Previous studies revealed that men use more energy than women which, in turn, prompted them to recycle less and litter more. While the reasons behind this behavior were unclear in the past, recent findings point to men’s fear of having their manliness undermined.

Researchers pointed out to one experiment in which they asked men and women to describe an individual who brought a reusable canvas bag to a grocery store. Both sexes admitted that the individual would appear more feminine than someone who used a plastic bag, regardless if that shopper was a male or female.

Another experiment saw participants describe how they felt after they did something good or bad for the environment. Being eco-friendly was, again, perceived by the participants to be a feminine behavior.

Researchers suggest that future eco-friendly products be re-branded to cater to men’s self-image. They also stress the fact that man are not inherently ignorant towards preserving the environment but rather they fear their eco-friendly behaviors will brand them as feminine.

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Deadly Fungal Disease Threatens To Push Snakes To Extinction

Deadly fungal disease that causes blisters and cracks the skin of snakes has made its way to Europe from the U.S.

A deadly fungal disease has infected more than 23 snake species, according to scientists.

Snakes have become so intertwined with human religion and folklore that it would be impossible to imagine a world without the slithering reptile. But according to a recent study, that day may be fast-approaching.

A new study published in the journal, Science Advances, warns of a deadly fungal disease that has spread from the U.S. to Europe and has affected over 23 snake species. The disease, caused by a bacteria called Ophidiomyces ophidiocodiicola, can infect any type of snake regardless of their physical characteristics, genetic make-up, or habitats. According to the researchers, the Europe outbreak may bring the snake species close to an extinction event. They state that no species, so far, had been immune to the fungal disease. Notable casualties were in the eastern part of the United States, including milk snakes, vipers and garter snakes. In Europe, the disease can be found in at least three species so far.

“This really is the worst-case scenario,” states Frank Burbrink, lead author of the paper and a curator at the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Herpetology. “first responders shouldn’t just be looking for certain types of snakes that have the disease, but at the whole community.”

According to Burbrink, all snakes are likely to become infected or are already infected. The disease manifests itself in the form of small bumps and cracks on the snake’s skin which slowly become lesions. While some snakes have been able to shed the skin and get rid of the infected areas, the lesions spread too quickly and cover the entire snake within days.

Researchers noted that snakes who attempt to get rid of their infected skin tend to sit longer in the sun. Most of the time, this type of behavior would make the snake susceptible to predator attacks and even forget to eat.

While snakes have become a mainstay in human culture, they are also a key component of a balanced ecosystem. Without snakes, we would see an increase in the number of rats and other rodents that were easy prey for the slippery reptiles.

The study’s authors urge authorities to step in and prevent the disease from spreading by isolating and developing treatments for the infected snakes.

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Italian Family With Gene Mutation May Hold The Key To Pain Relief

A gene mutation made an Italian family impervious to pain.

A genetic mutation found in six members of an Italian family may hold the key to effective pain relief medication.

British researchers have found a gene mutation that suppresses pain in a family from Italy.

Researchers focused on six members of an Italian family who couldn’t feel pain regardless if they burned themselves or suffered bone fractures. While the phenomenon may suggest a lack of nerve development, that isn’t the case, according to Dr. James Cox, lead study author with the University College of London.

“They have normal intraepidermal nerve fiber density, which means their nerves are all there, they’re just no working how they should be,” said the doctor.

The study authors explained that an estimated 10 percent of people experience moderate to severe chronic pain, which causes them to seek relief in opioid medication. The Marsilis might shed some light on potential new drugs that can offer pain relief, according to Cox.

As part of the study, the family members underwent a series of trials which included being poked at sensitive points, having their hands submerged in ice water and touching surfaces that ranged from 14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

The final part of the experiment had researchers sequence the family’s genomes which revealed a new mutation in the ZFHX2 gene. This gene alters how nociceptors, which are the part of the nerve cells that sense pain and convert sensory inputs into stimuli in the brain, interpret DNA code into making proteins.

Previous studies involved breeding mice without the ZFHX2 gene in order for them to be resilient against pain. However, those researchers noticed the mice were more hyperactive and even displayed signs of mouse depression. The study was published in the journal, Brain.

For this experiment, the team of researchers bred mice with the ZFHX2 gene mutation. The mice with the altered DNA appeared to be resistant to heat and cold, which would suggest that the mutation was the reason why the Marsili family lacked the ability to feel pain.

Anna Maria Aloisi, the co-author of the study and professor at the University of Siena in Italy, echoes Dr. Cox, by saying the mutation’s discovery has paved the way for new advancements in pain relief medication.

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Isle Of Skye Was Hit By A Meteorite 60 Million Years Ago, According To Geologists

Isle of Skye hit by meteorite millions of years ago.

The Isle of Skye in Scotland was supposedly hit by a meteorite 60 million years ago.

Geologists from the University of London have discovered fragments of a 60 million-year-old meteorite on the Isle of Skye. While exploring volcanic rocks on the Scottish island, they stumbled upon several rocks that had otherworldly origins.

The fragments discovered contained minerals such as vanadium-rich and niobium-rich osbornite, which Earth is not known to have. These meteoric minerals were found under layers of lava, which dated back to over 60 million years ago, according to the geologists. Previous rocks of this type have been collected by Nasa’s 2006 Stardust mission as space dust in the wake of the Wild 2 comet.

The minerals were from a previously unknown meteorite impact, one which will shed light on the ancient Paleogene volcanic activity which occurred across the North Atlantic all those millions of years ago. When looking closer, the geologists found that the osbornite was unmelted, which points to it being an original piece of the meteorite.

The geologists later discovered a second site, a mere seven kilometers away, that contained the same minerals. More, so the site was a two-meter-thick layer of ejecta, which is material ejected from a crater.

“We have found evidence of the impact at two sites and at another potential two sites on the Isle of Skye, at the moment.” Said Dr. Simon Drake, from Birkbeck, University of London, who made the find along with his colleague, Dr. Andrew Beard.

According to Drake, the volcanological evolution of the Isle of Skye has been previously considered to have occurred due to a volcanic plume that came up under the crust that the island was on. Now, however, they suggest that a meteorite might have been partially responsible for the volcanic event. The team of geologists published their findings in the journal, Geology.

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