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How Did Life Begin on Earth? | Quanta Magazine

How Did Life Begin on Earth? |  Quanta Magazine | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
In this 2-minute video, David Kaplan explores the leading theories for the origin of life on our planet.
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How Life and Luck Changed Earth’s Minerals | Quanta Magazine

How Life and Luck Changed Earth’s Minerals |  Quanta Magazine | Exploring Life | Scoop.it

Is geology predictable, or is the mineral composition of Earth due to chance events? The answers could eventually help scientists identify planets likely to harbor life.

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How aging cripples the immune system

How aging cripples the immune system | Exploring Life | Scoop.it

Aging cripples the production of new immune cells, decreasing the immune system’s response to vaccines and putting the elderly at risk of infection, but antioxidants in the diet may slow this damaging process.

That’s a new finding by scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), published in an open-access paper in the journal Cell Reports. The problem is focused on an organ called the thymus, which produces T lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) — critical immune cells that must be continuously replenished so they can respond to new infections. “The thymus begins to atrophy rapidly in very early adulthood, simultaneously losing its function,” said TSRI Professor Howard Petrie. “This new study shows for the first time a mechanism for the long-suspected connection between normal immune function and antioxidants.”


Scientists have been hampered in their efforts to develop specific immune therapies for the elderly by a lack of knowledge of the underlying mechanisms of this process. To explore these mechanisms, Petrie and his team developed a computational approach for analyzing the activity of genes in two major cell types in the thymus — stromal cells and lymphoid cells — in mouse tissues, which are similar to human tissues in terms of function and age-related atrophy. The team found that stromal cells were specifically deficient in an antioxidant enzyme called catalase. That resulted in elevated levels of the reactive oxygen byproducts of metabolism, which cause accelerated metabolic damage.*


Taken together, the findings provide support for the “free-radical theory” of aging, which proposes that reactive oxygen species (such as hydrogen peroxide), produced during normal metabolism (and from other sources) cause cellular damage that contributes to aging and age-related diseases. Free radicals are especially reactive atoms or groups of atoms that have one or more unpaired electrons.  Besides those produced in the body as a by-product of normal metabolism, they can also be introduced from an outside source, such as tobacco smoke or other toxins.


Other studies have suggested that sex hormones, particularly androgens such as testosterone, play a major role in the aging process. But according to the researchers, those studies have failed to answer the key question: why does the thymus atrophy so much more rapidly than other body tissues?


“There’s no question that the thymus is remarkably responsive to androgens,” Petrie noted, “but our study shows that the fundamental mechanism of aging in the thymus, namely accumulated metabolic damage, is the same as in other body tissues. However, the process is accelerated in the thymus by a deficiency in the essential protective effects of catalase, which is found at higher levels in almost all other body tissues.”


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Police more likely to be killed on duty in states with high gun ownership

Police more likely to be killed on duty in states with high gun ownership | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, homicides of police officers are linked to the statewide level of gun ownership, according to a new study. The study found that police officers serving in states with high private gun ownership are more than three times more likely to be killed on the job than those on the job in states with the lowest gun ownership.
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It's just water: how homeopathy debunks itself

It's just water: how homeopathy debunks itself | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Homeopathy is one of the most popular and fastest growing alternative "medicines." People are drawn to its alluring claims of "treating the whole person" and "having no side effects" like moths to ...
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No longer useless: Liberal arts education in a digital age « The Berkeley Blog

UC Berkeley | News
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How emotions influence learning and memory processes in the brain

How emotions influence learning and memory processes in the brain | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
The scientific explanation behind the saying "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" has been uncovered by a groundbreaking new study. The work has found, for the first time, that emotions are not only the product of the processing of information by the brain, but that they also directly influence processes of learning and memory in the brain.
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Free Courses for Decision Making And Reasoning - ClearerThinking.org

Free Courses for Decision Making And Reasoning - ClearerThinking.org | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Don't be fooled by trendy nutritional supplements! Check out this helpful infographic.
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The Interleaving Effect: Mixing It Up Boosts Learning

The Interleaving Effect: Mixing It Up Boosts Learning | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Studying related skills or concepts in parallel is a surprisingly effective way to train your brain
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I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here's How.

I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here's How. | Exploring Life | Scoop.it

“Slim by Chocolate!” the headlines blared. A team of German researchers had found that people on a low-carb diet lost weight 10 percent faster if they ate a chocolate bar every day. It made the front page of Bild, Europe’s largest daily newspaper, just beneath their update about the Germanwings crash. From there, it ricocheted around the internet and beyond, making news in more than 20 countries and half a dozen languages. It was discussed on television news shows. It appeared in glossy print..."

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Important Link between the Brain and Immune System Found

Important Link between the Brain and Immune System Found | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
The new line of communication prompts rethinking of neurologic disease
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Can Police Use Data Science to Prevent Deadly Encounters?

Can Police Use Data Science to Prevent Deadly Encounters? | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Can Police Use Data Science to Prevent Deadly Encounters?

As part of Obama's Police Data Initiative, researchers and police are studying "predictive analytics" to improve existing officer early warning systems
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Growing a 3-D heart chamber in the lab

Growing a 3-D heart chamber in the lab | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Skins cells have been re-programmed to make cardiac cells for drug testing.
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At Tiny Scales, a Giant Burst on Tree of Life | Quanta Magazine

At Tiny Scales, a Giant Burst on Tree of Life |  Quanta Magazine | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
A new technique for finding and characterizing microbes has boosted the number of known bacteria by almost 50 percent, revealing a hidden world all around us.
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A Surprise Source of Life’s Code | Quanta Magazine

A Surprise Source of Life’s Code |  Quanta Magazine | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Emerging data suggests the seemingly impossible — that mysterious new genes arise from “junk” DNA.
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Tetris can block cravings, new study reveals: Playing 'on the go' reduced cravings by one fifth

Playing Tetris on a smarthphone for as little as three minutes can weaken cravings for drugs, food and activities by as much as one-fifth, new research shows. In the first test of its kind to study people in natural settings outside of a laboratory, participants were monitored for levels of craving and prompted to play the block-shifting puzzle game at random intervals during the day.
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Poop Transplants And Microbiome Makeovers: How We'll Engineer Our Bacteria To Feel Better

Poop Transplants And Microbiome Makeovers: How We'll Engineer Our Bacteria To Feel Better | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Don't get squeamish. You're going to take a poop pill one day soon, and it's going to change your life.
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New Urine Test Could Tell if a Person is Suffering from MDD or Bipolar Disorder

New Urine Test Could Tell if a Person is Suffering from MDD or Bipolar Disorder | Exploring Life | Scoop.it

Patients suffering from bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), which is a mental condition, causing instant mood, activity and energy changes, making the afflicted persons daily tasks much harder to do could soon be more accurately diagnosed. The ones having bipolar disorder are often misdiagnosed with another serious mental condition MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and for a good reason as the condition first becomes more noticeable when the person is in a depressive state which is one of the major symptoms of the MDD.


Around 2.6%of the US population is suffering from bipolar disorder as opposed to almost 7%of the adult population with MDD in the US so making an accurate diagnosis is much more crucial to quickly get the patients the correct treatment.


Current diagnostics relies on interviewing patients and the final diagnosis is determined on these observations, which isn’t the best way as this tests are of subjective nature and can be misleading. The new method developed by the Peng Xie and his team from Chongqing Medical University relies on objective testing to differentiate between the two.


The new method is a combination of nuclear magnetic resonance and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and with this novelty method the team analysed urine metabolites in samples from patients who either had bipolar disorder or MDD and the end results identified a panel of 6 biomarkers with an 89 to 91 percent chance of predicting each disorder.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Marissajt's curator insight, September 15, 2015 1:57 AM

As the article stated, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder are often confused and misdiagnosed. However, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder have difference interventions and treatment routes so it is important to understand the differences and diagnose individuals accurately.

 

I think having something as objective as a urine sample to distinguish between these two diagnoses would be wonderful. As the article said, as of right now the decision of a diagnosis is based off of an interview (can be very subjective) with the client where the interviewer observes the client and asks questions about the clients symptoms. It can be difficult to come up with an accurate diagnosis after a 60 minutes interview which is why I think a urine sample could be helpful in helping a clinician make this diagnosis.

 

However, I still think a personal interview should be done as well to see if the urine test results match the clinicians observations and the clients reports. Although a urine sample should be objective and reliable, tools such as this can also make mistakes.

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Some STIs Are Beneficial, and May Have Boosted Evolutionary Promiscuity

Some STIs Are Beneficial, and May Have Boosted Evolutionary Promiscuity | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
A little known sexually transmitted infection can boost the survival of patients infected with HIV—a more dangerous virus, researchers say. GB virus C (GBV-C) is the only known case of a potentially beneficial STI in humans. But it’s an example of a phenomenon that scientists are beginning to see elsewhere: STIs that are good for your health. What’s more, the health benefits of these helpful STIs could have given a boost to the evolution of promiscuity, scientists say. “There is a common perception that STIs are harmful,” says Chad Smith, an evolutionary ecologist at The University of Texas at Austin. But in a survey of the scientific literature, Smith and his colleague Ulrich Mueller found four documented cases of beneficial STIs in humans, aphids, mosquitoes and fungi.
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Paleo diet: Big brains needed carbs: Importance of dietary carbohydrate in human evolution

Paleo diet: Big brains needed carbs: Importance of dietary carbohydrate in human evolution | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Understanding how and why we evolved such large brains is one of the most puzzling issues in the study of human evolution. It is widely accepted that brain size increase is partly linked to changes in diet over the last 3 million years, and increases in meat consumption and the development of cooking have received particular attention from the scientific community. In a new study published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, Dr. Karen Hardy and her team bring together archaeological, anthropological, genetic, physiological and anatomical data to argue that carbohydrate consumption, particularly in the form of starch, was critical for the accelerated expansion of the human brain over the last million years, and coevolved both with copy number variation of the salivary amylase genes and controlled fire use for cooking.

With global increase in obesity and diet-related metabolic diseases, interest has intensified in ancestral or 'Palaeolithic' diets, not least because -- to a first order of approximation -- human physiology should be optimized for the nutritional profiles we have experienced during our evolution. Up until now, there has been a heavy focus on the role of animal protein and cooking in the development of the human brain over the last 2 million years, and the importance of carbohydrate, particular in form of starch-rich plant foods, has been largely overlooked.

Hardy's team highlights the following observations to build a case for dietary carbohydrate being essential for the evolution of modern big-brained humans:

(1) The human brain uses up to 25% of the body's energy budget and up to 60% of blood glucose. While synthesis of glucose from other sources is possible, it is not the most efficient way, and these high glucose demands are unlikely to have been met on a low carbohydrate diet;

(2) Human pregnancy and lactation place additional demands on the body's glucose budget and low maternal blood glucose levels compromise the health of both the mother and her offspring;

(3) Starches would have been readily available to ancestral human populations in the form of tubers, as well as in seeds and some fruits and nuts;

(4) While raw starches are often only poorly digested in humans, when cooked they lose their crystalline structure and become far more easily digested;

(5) Salivary amylase genes are usually present in many copies (average ~6) in humans, but in only 2 copies in other primates. This increases the amount of salivary amylase produced and so increases the ability to digest starch. The exact date when salivary amylase genes multiplied remains uncertain, but genetic evidence suggests it was at some point in the last 1 million years.

Hardy proposes that after cooking became widespread, the co-evolution of cooking and higher copy number of the salivary amylase (and possibly pancreatic amylase) genes increased the availability of pre-formed dietary glucose to the brain and fetus, which in turn, permitted the acceleration in brain size increase which occurred from around 800,000 years ago onwards.

Eating meat may have kick-started the evolution of bigger brains, but cooked starchy foods together with more salivary amylase genes made us smarter still.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

Karen Hardy, Jennie Brand-Miller, Katherine D. Brown, Mark G. Thomas, Les Copeland. The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 2015; 90 (3): 251 DOI: 10.1086/682587
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Drugging the Environment | The Scientist Magazine®

Drugging the Environment | The Scientist Magazine® | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Humans have spiked ecosystems with a flood of active pharmaceuticals. The drugs are feminizing male fish, confusing birds, and worrying scientists.
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What You Don't Understand about Suicide Attacks

What You Don't Understand about Suicide Attacks | Exploring Life | Scoop.it

...As I have argued elsewhere, the key to deterring Islamic suicide attackers—both in the United States and around the world—is to expose their suicidal motives and close the “martyrdom” loophole, once and for all. Until suicide attackers are widely seen for the desperate, traumatized, and mentally ill people they really are—instead of “psychologically normal” altruists—America will continue to suffer Islamic mass shooters who seek glory and heavenly rewards through death.

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The Sum of Our Parts | The Scientist Magazine®

The Sum of Our Parts | The Scientist Magazine® | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Putting the microbiome front and center in health care, in preventive strategies, and in health-risk assessments could stem the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases.
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How carbon reached the Earth from the stars

How carbon reached the Earth from the stars | Exploring Life | Scoop.it
Carbon, the basis of organic life, could have reached the Earth via a buckyball.
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