Established lung fibrosis can be reversed using diabetes drug treatment

first_img Source:http://www.uab.edu/news/research/item/9567-metformin-reverses-established-lung-fibrosis Jul 2 2018Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have shown -; for the first time -; that established lung fibrosis can be reversed using a drug treatment that targets cell metabolism.This novel finding, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, is important because, despite significant advances to reveal the pathological mechanisms of persistent fibrosis, effective treatment interventions are lacking.Pulmonary fibrosis can develop after lung injuries like infections, radiation or chemotherapy, or it can have an unknown cause, as in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF. IPF is a progressive, and ultimately fatal, lung disorder that strikes more than 150,000 patients a year in the United States and more than 5 million worldwide.In experiments using lung tissues from patients with IPF, mouselung fibroblasts and a murine model of lung fibrosis, a team led by Jaroslaw Zmijewski, Ph.D., and Victor Thannickal, M.D., showed the reversal of lung fibrosis and the underlying cellular mechanisms affected by the drug treatment.Zmijewski and Thannickal are, respectively, associate professor and professor in the UAB Department of Medicine. Zmijewski serves as research director for the Translational Program in ARDS. Thannickal holds the Ben Vaughan Branscomb Chair of Medicine in Respiratory Disease and is director of the UAB Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine.Interestingly, the drug that accelerated the resolution of lung fibrosis is metformin, which is a safe and widely used agent for non-insulin-dependent diabetes.The research focused on AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that senses energy state in the cell and regulates metabolism. Zmijewski, Thannickal and colleagues found that AMPK activity was lower in myofibroblast cells within fibrotic regions of human lung tissue from IPF patients. Myofibroblasts deposit extracellular collagen fiber as part of the fibrosis process. These myofibroblasts were metabolically active and were resistant to the programmed cell death called apoptosis, a natural process that removes more than 50 billion damaged or aged cells in adults each day.Related StoriesAMSBIO offers new, best-in-class CAR-T cell range for research and immunotherapyAn active brain and body associated with reduced risk of dementiaScientists discover how resistance to the chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil arisesActivation of AMPK in myofibroblasts from lungs of humans with IPF, using the drug metformin or another activator called AICAR, led to lower fibrotic activity. AMPK activation also enhanced the production of new mitochondria, the organelles in cells that produce energy, in the myofibroblasts, and it normalized the cells’ sensitivity to apoptosis.Using a mouse model for lung fibrosis elicited by the anti-cancer drug bleomycin, the research team found metformin treatment, starting three weeks after lung injury and continuing for five weeks, accelerated the resolution of well-established fibrosis. Such resolution was not apparent in AMPK-knockout mice, showing that the effect of metformin was AMPK-dependent.”Together, our studies support the concept that AMPK may function as a critical metabolic switch in promoting resolution of established fibrosis by shifting the balance from anabolic to catabolic metabolism,” the researchers wrote. “Additionally, we provide proof-of-concept that activation of AMPK by metformin or other pharmacologic agents that activate these pro-resolution pathways may be a useful therapeutic strategy for progressive fibrotic disorders.”Anabolic metabolism builds up molecules in the cell from smaller units, while catabolic metabolism tears larger molecules into smaller pieces.last_img read more

Astronomers detect starlight reflected off an extrasolar planet

first_imgFor the first time, astronomers have detected visible starlight reflecting off a planet orbiting a distant star. The telescope used in the discovery was too small to tell scientists much new about the previously discovered planet. But astronomers say the new technique used promises to reveal much more when combined with better spectrographs and bigger telescopes now in the works. “The ultimate goal is to characterize a planet like Earth,” says team leader Jorge Martins of the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences in Porto, Portugal.It is now almost impossible to see exoplanets directly, as they get lost in the glare of their parent stars. Astronomers have gleaned some information about exoplanet atmospheres by observing how the atmosphere absorbs starlight when an exoplanet’s orbit carries it between the star and Earth.The Porto team used a different method to study a familiar exoplanet, 51 Pegasi b, which 20 years ago was the first exoplanet found orbiting a normal star. Researchers employed an instrument called the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) attached to a 3.6-meter telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at La Silla in Chile. HARPS is one of astronomy’s most successful planet hunters; it works by scrutinizing stars for wobbles caused by the tug of an orbiting exoplanet’s gravity. That is how 51 Pegasi b—known as a “hot Jupiter” because of its size and closeness to its star—and hundreds of other exoplanets have been found. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Emailcenter_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe To spot the wobble, researchers using instruments like HARPS build up a reference spectrum for the star—how brightly it shines at each wavelength—as if it is at rest. Using that reference, they then look to see if the observed spectrum shifts over time. If the observed spectrum shifts a bit toward the red end, it means the star is moving away—stretching out its light to longer wavelengths. A shift to the blue end means the star is moving closer—bunching up its light to shorter wavelengths. Repeated observations reveal the size and period of the wobble, and from that astronomers can infer some characteristics of the planet that is causing it—without actually “seeing” the planet itself.The Porto team took their reference spectrum for the star 51 Pegasi and compared it with new, very sensitive observations. In addition to the first set of shifts caused by the star’s wobble, they found a second set of shifts, much fainter and with higher redshifts and blueshifts. These are from starlight that, instead of traveling straight from the star to Earth, first reflects off the planet 51 Pegasi b. It has larger shifts because the exoplanet in its orbit is traveling much faster than its parent star is wobbling.The team’s observations—published online today in Astronomy & Astrophysics—pin down 51 Pegasi b’s mass (half that of Jupiter’s) and the inclination of its orbit (9° with respect to Earth) more accurately than ever before. They also enabled the researchers to estimate the planet’s reflectivity, or albedo. A more detailed knowledge of the albedo would provide information about possible cloud cover on the planet, or the nature of its surface.Such discoveries will have to wait until the team gets time on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT)—a battery of four 8.2-meter telescopes, also in Chile. Further improvements will follow when a new spectrograph called ESPRESSO is installed on the VLT in 2016 and when ESO’s 39-meter European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) is completed in 2024. “With E-ELT we hope to be able to characterize an Earth-like exoplanet,” Martins says.“I am very happy they’ve managed to provide independent evidence of this planet and nail down its mass,” says Didier Queloz of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, co-leader of the team that originally discovered the planet. 51 Pegasi is, he says, “an emblematic star.”Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge agrees: “Fantastic to hear a version of the literally original technique for exoplanet atmosphere spectroscopic detection has finally succeeded, but with a [relatively weak] detection, more work is warranted.”last_img read more

Scientists have found a way to turn trash bags into fuel

first_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe When the two catalysts are added to a batch of short alkanes, the first catalyst strips hydrogen atoms off adjacent carbon atoms in single alkane molecules. The newly free chemical handles bond to each other, forming a double bond between the neighboring carbon atoms. The double bonds create a weak link in the short alkane chains—a vulnerability that the second catalyst exploits to split the alkane chain. Split alkanes then react with each other, forming a soup of very short alkanes and medium-length alkanes. The latter typically contain 10 to 12 carbons—the perfect ingredients for diesel fuel.Guan and Huang wondered whether the same process could work in reverse to break apart the very long polyethylenes, which can contain up to millions of carbons. To find out, they mixed polyethylene waste such as garbage bags with short liquid alkanes and then added in the two catalysts. Again, the first one stripped off hydrogens from adjacent carbon atoms in both the long polyethylene chains and short alkanes to form double bonds; the second split the molecules and randomly stitched split molecules back together. The result, which the researchers report today in Science Advances, is that they continue to break down the long chains until they reach the size of chains found in fuels and other valuable hydrocarbons.“This is very innovative and a clever application of these catalysts,” Brookhart says. But he cautions that the process still needs work to be commercially viable. For starters, the catalysts break down polyethylene slowly, over the course of a day or more. They are also expensive and decompose after breaking apart just a few thousand polymer chains, far less than the millions carried out by most commercial catalysts. Guan and his colleagues are working to overcome those problems, in the hopes that they can one day extract new value from the millions of tons of plastic waste that we discard every year. Milk cartons, toys, grocery bags, bubble wrap, machine parts, and even artificial hips. Every year, humanity makes more products from polyethylene than any other plastic, about 100 million metric tons in all. We also throw a lot of it away. Polyethylenes make up about 60% of the plastics in landfills worldwide, where they degrade slowly if at all. Now, researchers report that they’ve repurposed a pair of existing catalysts to break down a wide array of polyethylenes, converting them into liquid fuels and other valuable chemicals. Faster and more durable versions of the catalysts are in the works, and they could spur recycling efforts that prevent millions of tons of the plastics from clogging our landfills and swirling around the world’s oceans.As the name suggests, polyethylenes are made of many copies of ethylene, a simple hydrocarbon building block with two carbon atoms surrounded by four hydrogens. Catalysts connect millions of these ethylenes into long chains, which can be linear or branching, affecting the rigidity, toughness, and density of the finished products. In most cases, the final polyethylenes are inert and stubbornly resistant to breakdown.That durability stems from a simple fact: All the links between atoms are single bonds, which are highly stable and difficult to break, explains Zhibin Guan, a chemist at the University of California, Irvine, who helped lead the new effort. To change that, Guan and his colleagues teamed up with researchers led by chemist Zheng Huang at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai to repurpose two existing catalysts. These catalysts, developed by University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, chemist Maurice Brookhart and colleagues, are normally used to link short hydrocarbons, called alkanes, together into longer—and more valuable—hydrocarbon chains, such as those found in diesel fuel. Emailcenter_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Countrylast_img read more

Bacteria give bird its sexy smells

first_imgBirds are perhaps best known for their bright colors, aerial prowess, and melodic songs. But research presented in Austin last week at the Evolution Conference shows that bacteria have granted some birds another important attribute: stink. Having long taken a back seat to sight and sound, scent is becoming more and more recognized as an important sense for songbirds, and dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis, pictured) are no stranger to it. When these common birds clean their feathers—or preen—they spread pungent oil from their “preen glands” all over their bodies. The act is important for enticing mates: Three of the gland’s smelly chemicals are found in very different quantities in the two sexes, and males with a more masculine musk end up with more offspring. Females with a more feminine scent profile are more successful, too. But juncos likely aren’t making their perfume alone: Lots of those preen gland chemicals are naturally made by bacteria. And new work is making the bird-bacteria link even more firm. When researchers inject antibiotics into the juncos’ preen glands, the concentrations of three smelly molecules tend to decrease—the same three molecules that juncos find sexy in the right proportions, Danielle Whittaker of Michigan State University in East Lansing told attendees. So it seems like juncos may actually be picking mates based on their bacterial—rather than self-produced—body odor, a first for birds.last_img read more

Newborn babies know their numbers

first_img Email Imagine laying out the numbered cards in a deck into a straight line, ordered from smallest to largest. Unless your main language reads right-to-left (like Hebrew or Arabic), chances are you’ll arrange them with the smallest number to the left and ascending in value to the right. This bias in mapping numbers to space is well-known, even among some animals. But scientists have long debated whether it’s hardwired into our brains from birth. A new study suggests that newborns associate the concept of “few” with “left” and “many” with “right,” supporting the idea that such bias might be innate.To recruit 80 newborns, who were an average of 45 hours old, psychologist Maria Dolores de Hevia at Paris Descartes University asked dozens of new parents at a Parisian hospital whether they could donate a few minutes of their babies’ time to science.But figuring out what’s going on in the mind of an infant isn’t easy. So researchers came up with a series of audio-visual tests. They played sound clips of repeated syllables like “ba” or “ta,” six for some infants and 18 for others. Researchers associated the number of syllables with the ideas of “few” and “many.” They then showed the babies different size rectangles on a tablet screen. Those infants who heard six syllables saw a short rectangle, whereas those who heard 18 saw a longer one. By Michael PriceDec. 7, 2017 , 12:00 PM Hours-old infants associate smaller numbers with “left” and larger ones with “right,” possibly laying the groundwork for later math ability. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwecenter_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com Newborn babies know their numbers About a minute later, those who initially heard six syllables heard 18 syllables, and were given a choice: They saw two long rectangles on the left and right side of a split screen. Researchers—and a group of independent observers—waited to see which they would focus on. They reasoned that if the infants looked longer at the right-hand rectangle, they were associating “more” (based on the newly heard 18 syllables) with “right.” Newborns who first heard 18 syllables and afterward six syllables had the reverse setup, and were expected to associate “fewer” with “left.”And that’s exactly what happened. On average, newborns who heard six syllables followed by 18 syllables looked at the right-hand rectangle twice as long as the left, and vice versa. De Hevia repeated the experiment multiple times with different babies. Each time, she tested different variables, like stretching out the six syllables so they played for the same amount of time as the 18. The results held up. But when the newborns simply heard long and short tones instead of distinct syllables, they made no distinction between the left and right rectangles. That suggests they were paying attention to the number of syllables and mapping them accordingly: “fewer” to the left and “more” to the right, the researchers report today in Current Biology.Although De Hevia expected this result, the parents were often surprised. “It is a magic moment in which parents are aware for the first time of how receptive and attentive their newborn can be,” she says. Humans may have evolved this early association between numbers and space to provide the mental building blocks for learning basic mathematical concepts, she hypothesizes. She also suspects the left-to-right bias is universal at birth and eventually reinforced—or reversed—by culture.But whether those associations are inborn, something known as the nativist position, or learned is still up for grabs, says Clarissa Thompson, a cognitive developmental psychologist at Kent State University in Ohio who wasn’t involved in the study. Although newborns haven’t experienced much of the world, Thompson suggests that even a few hours might be enough for them to tell that things tend to be ordered in certain ways. She’d like to see the experiments repeated in babies from right-to-left reading cultures before she’s convinced these results are universal. Even so, it’s an exciting finding, she says. “Regardless of whether [the authors’] evidence really supports a nativist claim or not, their data are another important piece of the puzzle to show that even young infants associate space and number.”last_img read more

Immune system negotiations stop moms body from attacking her fetus

first_img One of pregnancy’s most baffling aspects has been why the mother’s immune system doesn’t destroy the developing fetus, given that—much like an invading microbe—it’s chock full of foreign material. Now, researchers have captured the intricate molecular negotiations that help keep both fetus and mom safe until the baby is delivered.“The complexity is stunning,” says Sumati Rajagopalan, an immunologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the work. Understanding this communication could eventually help reduce miscarriages and other complications of pregnancy, she adds.These complications often have roots in the earliest days of pregnancy, when the embryo starts to move into the decidua, the lining of the uterus. “The maternal-fetal interface is not well understood, but is crucial for a successful pregnancy,” says Sarah Teichmann, a computational biologist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge, U.K. Neil Bromhall/Science Source Email By Elizabeth PennisiNov. 14, 2018 , 1:00 PM Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Immune system ‘negotiations’ stop mom’s body from attacking her fetuscenter_img A human fetus Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country So, she and her colleagues decided to examine the gene activity of single cells from the mother and the fetus during this period. They studied 70,000 white blood cells and cells from the placental and decidual tissues of women who terminated their pregnancies between 6 weeks and 14 weeks of gestation. Using single-cell transcriptomics technology, they assessed each cell’s gene activity, getting a readout of which proteins were present and determined what each cell was.They identified 35 types of cells, some new and some already known, including various embryonic cells that invade the mother’s tissue and help trigger the formation of blood vessel connections between mother and fetus. The researchers also detected multiple kinds of immune cells, including several types of so-called natural killer cells, which normally destroy infected cells and tumor cells. Then, they combed existing databases of protein interactions to determine which of these cells were interacting with each other based on these protein links.The invading embryonic cells stimulated mother cells to make some immune cells that rein in immune responses, Teichmann and her team report today in Nature. The group also realized that at least some of the mother’s natural killer cells were peacekeepers, not warriors, preventing other immune cells from attacking the fetus and producing chemicals that promoted fetal growth and blood vessel connections. These natural killer cells are controlled, in part, by certain cells in the decidua called stromal cells. “We can now see in detail how they communicate with each other,” Teichmann says. “Our results also reveal multiple layers of regulation of immunity that were not previously appreciated.”Many more interactions remain to be explored, Rajagopalan says. To that end, Teichmann’s group has established an online database to help other researchers do just that.last_img read more

First opioid settlement to fund ambitious addiction research center

first_imgOklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (left) joins Oklahoma State University medical school President Kayse Shrum (right) to announce the settlement. Jason Beaman, who heads the psychiatry department at the medical school and directs training efforts for the wellness center, acknowledges that OSU has a lot of ground to make up to become a preeminent medical research organization. “The [psychiatry] department has zero history of NIH [National Institutes of Health] grants,” he says. “But we’ve got four in review right now.” In addition, the center’s first two addiction medicine fellows start this summer, and he hopes to have six in the next cohort.Beaman says he left the University of Arkansas in 2015 and returned to his alma mater because the medical school had made addressing the state’s mounting opioid crisis a priority. “Our mission is to train primary care physicians to work in rural and underserved areas,” says OSU’s Kayse Shrum, who became the youngest and first female president of an Oklahoma medical school when she was promoted into the job in 2013. “And that’s where the [addiction] crisis is most acute. So we began hiring psychiatrists with expertise in addiction medicine.”Shrum and Beaman also benefited from serendipity. The medical school at their archrival, the University of Oklahoma (OU) in Norman, is known nationally for its efforts to combat cancer and cardiovascular disease, and last year its faculty members could boast of 105 NIH grants. (OSU has one, a capacity-building grant to study adverse childhood experiences.) But in 2016, OU officials decided addiction medicine was no longer a priority and ended the training program.“We lost our funding, and I retired after 25 years there,” says emeritus professor William Yarborough, who ran the program. “Meanwhile, OSU was ramping up its program. So once [the state and Purdue] reached a deal, there really wasn’t anybody else at the table,” says Yarborough, who is president of the Oklahoma Society of Addiction Medicine.Beaman’s department has swelled from three to 20 faculty members in the past 3 years, and he expects the settlement and the endowment to accelerate that growth. “There are three or four people who I anticipate being able to hire almost immediately,” he says. “And I’ll also go on the road. Maybe I’m being a Pollyanna, but who wouldn’t want to be part of what I hope will be the first sign of the end of the country’s opioid epidemic?”The settlement creates an endowment that is likely to generate less than $10 million a year in new spending. That new pot is dwarfed by the $500 million that NIH will spend this year on its new Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, launched in April 2018. And even that amount, public health advocates say, is minuscule compared with the magnitude of the opioid epidemic and the pressing need for treatment facilities, medical providers, and prevention.Cheryl Healton, dean of public health at New York University in New York City, praises Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter for negotiating a deal that funnels most of the money to those needs. “That’s a far cry from the tobacco settlement,” she says, referring to the $126 billion tobacco companies have paid out to date to 46 states under a 1998 agreement.For many years Healton led a national public antismoking campaign financed by the massive settlement. State officials were given the power to allocate the money as they saw fit, however, and less than 1% of it has gone to tobacco prevention programs, even as tobacco companies continue to spend billions each year on marketing their products.Healton says there’s an urgent need for a similar, sustained national public education campaign to combat the opioid epidemic. The best chance for that, she says, is a well-focused, master settlement of the pending opioid cases, something that a federal judge in Ohio has tried to pull off, so far unsuccessfully. Absent that, Healton worries that any deals struck by individual states and localities could wind up being too little, too late, to save many lives.“Compared with tobacco, the use of opioids is likely to grow,” she warns. “And it’s up to all of us to be a countervailing force.” Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country First opioid settlement to fund ambitious addiction research center A fledgling, small-scale approach to dealing with the state’s opioid crisis paid off big last week for Oklahoma State University (OSU) when it became the surprise beneficiary of a $270 million legal settlement with Purdue Pharma. It’s the first agreement in some 1700 pending cases around the United States against Purdue, which makes the painkiller OxyContin, and other manufacturers of prescription opioids.On 26 March, the state of Oklahoma agreed to drop its suit alleging deceptive marketing practices by Purdue in exchange for a National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at OSU’s medical complex in Tulsa. Purdue and the Sackler family, which owns the Stamford, Connecticut–based company, will provide a $177 million endowment for the national center, along with $20 million over 5 years for naloxone and other drugs to treat opioid addiction. The state is continuing its suit against several other companies, with opening arguments set for 28 May.The windfall for the new entity, which aspires “to become the premier addiction research center in the nation,” rewards OSU’s ambition. In October 2017, it opened a modest Center for Wellness and Recovery within its medical school to train future addiction medicine physicians, study the underlying causes of addiction and pain, provide treatment to those suffering from opioid use disorder, and educate the public about the burgeoning epidemic, which claims 130 lives a day in the United States and in 2017 killed nearly 800 Oklahomans. The center now has a staff of eight and a $2.4 million budget. Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences center_img By Jeffrey MervisApr. 2, 2019 , 1:20 PM Click to view the privacy policy. 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Citizen sleuths exposed pollution from a centuryold Michigan factory with nationwide implications

first_img REX LARSEN ROCKFORD HISTORIC SOCIETY States with proposed or existing PFAS limitsContaminated sites A small group of Michigan residents, including (right to left) Lynn McIntosh, A. J. Birkbeck, Janice Tompkins, and Rick Rediske, tracked widespread contamination from a former tannery. Wolverine Worldwide’s Rockford, Michigan, tannery helped produce popular shoes that sometimes included leather waterproofed with problematic nonstick chemicals. Environmental Working Group; Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute/Northeastern University, Adapted by N. DESAI/SCIENCE The Wolverine Worldwide tannery, shown here in 1960, was an economic mainstay in the town of Rockford, Michigan. It closed in 2009. ROCKFORD, MICHIGAN—For more than a century, a sprawling tannery here on the banks of the Rogue River churned out leather used to make some of the country’s most popular shoes. The factory emitted a putrid stink, but it enabled this city of roughly 6000 people to thrive. “That’s the smell of money,” some locals used to say.In 2009, however, shifts in the shoe trade prompted the tannery’s owner, Wolverine Worldwide, which is based here, to close the facility. In a 2010 request for state funds to help redevelop the 6-hectare site, which sits astride a picturesque business district, lawyers representing the company stated: “There is no known contamination on the property.”Lynn McIntosh, a piano teacher and writer who has lived just a block from the tannery for more than 25 years, was skeptical. The statement was “legalese laced with hogwash,” she recalls thinking when she read it. Tanneries use a stew of hazardous chemicals to transform raw hides into leather, she knew, and sometimes left contamination behind. For that and other reasons, McIntosh and others asked city and state officials to require a comprehensive environmental study of the site before it was redeveloped. After that meeting, Tompkins learned through a public records request that the tannery had once stored Scotchgard and other chemicals in tanks without secondary containment. And after hearing that state officials planned to sample for PFASs at other Michigan sites, CCRR asked whether they could also check the Rogue River. The officials agreed and, in 2015, reported finding elevated levels of PFOS in smallmouth bass and white suckers living downstream of the tannery.”The fish study was seminal for us” because it suggested the tannery had contaminated offsite areas, says A. J. Birkbeck, a Grand Rapids, Michigan–based environmental attorney and hydrogeologist who represents CCRR. The study also gave Rediske the data needed to build a case for action. “I decided I’d really get involved when I got those results,” he recalls. (Wolverine says it is now collecting environmental data at the tannery site and is working on a filtration system to treat groundwater at the site before it reaches the Rogue River.)The group suspected the river wasn’t the only off-site area touched by tannery waste. McIntosh, for instance, had interviewed a former waste hauler named Earl Tefft, who told her that in the 1960s he had spent every day for a year hauling large containers of sludge from the tannery to nearby dump sites. One was on a Wolverine-owned property about 8 kilometers from Rockford on House Street, a woodsy lane dotted with homes that drew their drinking water from private wells. In early 2017, CCRR alerted state officials to the historic dump, fearful that the waste could be contaminating nearby wells.Wolverine tested the wells later that year, and the results were explosive. One water sample had a combined concentration of PFOA and PFOS of 27,600 parts per trillion (ppt), nearly 400 times greater than EPA’s suggested level of concern at the time. It was the highest concentration state toxicologists had ever seen in a well, reported journalist Garret Ellison of the Grand Rapids Press team at MLive, who has extensively covered PFAS contamination in Michigan.The House Street contamination garnered national attention. It appeared to explain why federal officials had found PFAS contamination at a nearby military facility, also on House Street, which had no history of using the chemicals. “Had CCRR not essentially supplied all of the connective tissue … it would have been quite some time before [regulators] put the pieces together” and identified the likely source of the distant pollution, Ellison says.Wolverine declined to comment when asked whether it believes the PFAS contamination in the House Street wells stems from its nearby dump. But the company did outline actions it has taken to ensure safe drinking water for residents. It says it has given water filters to more than 700 homeowners, has sampled more than 1500 residential wells, and is monitoring water contaminant levels at more than 500 homes. Garret Ellison, Grand Rapids Press Had CCRR not essentially supplied all of the connective tissue … it would have been quite some time before [regulators] put the pieces together. Pervasive concerns As testing has revealed more sites with detectable levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in drinking water, groundwater, and the environment, many states have moved to propose or adopt binding limits on PFAS contamination, or to establish nonbinding standards designed to trigger further investigation. Email Their plea was rebuffed, so she and a small band of allies launched their own investigation. The group, which ultimately named itself Concerned Citizens for Responsible Remediation (CCRR), collected maps, dug into newspaper archives, and filed requests for public records. Members spoke with scientists knowledgeable about tannery chemicals and hired an environmental attorney with a background in geology to help them strategize. McIntosh even staked out and photographed the demolition of tannery buildings, followed waste trucks to dump sites, and interviewed retired tannery workers. The years of effort yielded stacks of documents that McIntosh—who prefers a simple clamshell cellphone to modern smart screens and paper files to the digital cloud—lugged to meetings in heavy bags.Now, that sleuthing is having far-reaching impacts in Michigan and beyond. The concerned citizens uncovered evidence that the tannery had contaminated large swaths of land and water with chemicals known as a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which researchers have linked to an array of human health problems. More than 4000 such compounds exist, and they are widely used in products such as fire-fighting foams, nonstick coatings, carpeting, food packaging, and even dental floss. The tannery used two PFASs by the ton to waterproof shoe leather. In a statement to Science, Wolverine said that when it submitted its application for state redevelopment funds in 2010, it did not know any of the chemicals had leaked. “There was no testing or other environmental data for the former tannery, and no basis to conclude that there was contamination on the property.”center_img MLIVE/ADVANCE MEDIA Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe An angler tries his luck in the Rogue River near the site of a former tannery in Rockford, Michigan. The river’s fish and foam carry chemicals used at the tannery. Even as sales of PFOA and PFOS boomed, however, 3M and DuPont researchers were amassing evidence that the chemicals accumulated in people and other animals and could have toxic effects. Much of that evidence became public only because of a lawsuit. In 1980, DuPont purchased farmland in West Virginia and began to dump waste laced with PFOA there. Cattle that grazed nearby began to die, and in 1999 a local family sued the company. The proceeding forced DuPont to hand over internal files, which the family’s attorney, Rob Bilott of Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Cincinnati, Ohio, shared with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2001, DuPont paid an undisclosed sum to settle the case, and EPA fined the company in 2005 for violating rules for toxic waste. Under pressure from EPA, U.S. manufacturers agreed in 2006 to phase out production of PFOA by 2015. (They ended PFOS production in 2002.) Often, the two chemicals were replaced by related PFASs that manufacturers have asserted are safer and break down faster.Bilott also helped launch a major study of PFASs’ potential health effects. In 2001, he sued DuPont again on behalf of 80,000 people in Ohio and West Virginia served by water sources contaminated with PFOA. In a settlement, DuPont agreed to pay up to $70 million for the study, dubbed the C8 Health Project because PFOA was once called C8 after the molecule’s chain of eight carbon atoms. Beginning in 2005, a team led by a local physician recruited more than 69,000 participants, who answered interview questions, filled out questionnaires, and gave blood samples. In 2011 and 2012, three independent epidemiologists who analyzed the data issued reports indicating a probable link between PFAS exposure and six conditions: high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.The C8 study was a gold mine, says Richard DeGrandchamp, a toxicologist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, who was not involved in the work. “I’m not aware of any major studies in the history of epidemiology and toxicology where we’ve had such a large … group of people who have been exposed.”Meanwhile, other researchers were finding that almost all people living in the United States carry detectable levels of PFASs in their blood (although levels of PFOA and PFOS have declined since they were phased out). And the more researchers looked for PFAS contamination around industrial sites, airports, and military bases, the more they found. But when the concerned citizens began to investigate the tannery here in 2010, they’d never heard of forever chemicals.Revealing testsRick Rediske was hesitant. The environmental chemist had listened intently as two members of CCRR—McIntosh and Janice Tompkins, formerly of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality—described their investigations into the tannery, just a 30-minute drive from his office at the Allendale campus of Grand Valley State University. “I was impressed with the level of detail they had amassed,” he recalls about the 2012 meeting.The two women offered photographs of hides and leather scraps embedded in the bank of the Rogue River, where their chemical contents could leach into soil and water. The pair also had pictures of potentially contaminated stormwater flowing off the tannery site during demolition and into the river. They shared CCRR’s interviews with former tannery workers about the facility’s use of chemicals and waste disposal practices. McIntosh showed Rediske a map of potential problem areas that she had drawn based on the interviews, including spots where chemicals might have leaked from the tannery through cracked floors and broken pipes. (During her first interview, with a former tannery employee in his 80s, McIntosh learned that Scotchgard had been used to treat the leather.)When the two women asked Rediske whether he could help test for contaminants from the tannery, however, the 66-year-old professor hesitated. He didn’t have funding to conduct such expensive studies. More important, he wasn’t eager to tangle with the law firm representing Wolverine. In the 1990s, after he documented pollution at a Michigan tannery owned by a different company, the same law firm had used public records requests to obtain his emails, technical memos, and laboratory notebooks—and hired consultants to aggressively challenge his findings. His work had withstood the scrutiny and helped state officials win a $3 million cleanup settlement. But the experience was taxing. “Scientists spend their careers building their reputations,” he says. “Providing contrary opinions against powerful business and governmental interests has both monetary and professional costs.” Still, he offered to advise CCRR. REX LARSEN Citizen sleuths exposed pollution from a century-old Michigan factory, with nationwide implications Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country By Sara TalposMay. 16, 2019 , 2:00 PM CCRR’s work led to the detection of some of the highest levels of PFAS contamination in U.S. drinking water, and the effort helped trigger an unprecedented statewide survey of PFAS contamination in Michigan. The work has led to hundreds of lawsuits against Wolverine and other entities linked to the chemicals. And it has made Michigan a high-profile, closely watched battleground in a rapidly expanding scientific, political, and legal dispute over the threat that PFASs pose to millions of people in the United States.The events in Michigan show “that when you look hard … you’re going to start finding [PFASs] showing up everywhere,” says attorney Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C. Around the country, evidence of PFAS contamination has anxious residents demanding to know how exposure could affect their health. Regulators are struggling to balance cost and risk as they set safety limits. And companies, fire departments, water utilities, and the U.S. military are facing cleanup and liability costs that could total tens of billions of dollars or more.McIntosh and her colleagues—including a toxicologist who works at a nearby university—now find themselves in the public spotlight in ways they never imagined nearly a decade ago. “I had no idea,” McIntosh says, “this would be so big.”An unbreakable bondAt the heart of the PFAS controversy is the carbon-fluorine bond, among the strongest of all chemical bonds. Enzymes can’t break it. Sunlight can’t break it. Water can’t break it. That durability explains the commercial appeal of PFASs, but it makes them problematic pollutants. They’ve been dubbed “forever chemicals” because they don’t degrade naturally. And because the molecules have a water-soluble head, water and airborne droplets can carry them for long distances.The U.S. chemists who discovered how to synthesize PFASs in the 1930s, however, were beguiled by their advantages. Use of the chemicals in the United States began to expand rapidly during the 1950s, when the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, a Saint Paul–based firm now called 3M, began to sell two compounds: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). PFOA became the basis for Teflon, the ubiquitous nonstick cookware coating manufactured by DuPont. PFOS became a key ingredient in firefighting foams used at airports and military bases and in the popular Scotchgard protectant, which enabled fabrics and other materials to resist water and oils.At Wolverine, Scotchgard played a notable role in the success of one of the company’s iconic shoe lines: Hush Puppies. Thanks to PFASs, the casual pigskin shoes, introduced in the 1950s, were waterproof. They were a best-seller, helping transform Wolverine into a multibillion-dollar company that today holds a portfolio of shoe brands that includes Merrell, Saucony, Stride Rite, and Keds. In November 2017, Michigan officials responded to the results from House Street and elsewhere by launching the most comprehensive statewide survey of PFAS contamination. It analyzed samples from every public water system, as well as groundwater, surface waters, soils, sediments, foam, fish, and other wildlife. The survey showed nearly 1.4 million residents were drinking water from sources contaminated with PFASs. In Parchment, a city in southwestern Michigan, PFAS concentrations in drinking water were so high—1600 ppt—that the governor declared a state of emergency.As public and official concern escalated, Rediske emerged as a go-to expert for journalists and community groups wanting to learn more about PFASs. He was willing to appear on television, Birkbeck says, “and he had the expertise to say, ‘We’ve got a real issue here.’” U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D–MI) even invited Rediske to testify at a public field summit that a committee Peters serves on held in Michigan. Rediske’s testimony, Peters says, “was important [in] assessing what more needs to be done to support local and state efforts” to address PFASs.Michigan wasn’t the only state grappling with the issue. And in Washington, D.C., Congress and newly elected President Donald Trump’s administration were struggling to answer an increasingly urgent question: What is a safe PFAS level, especially in water people drink every day?A push to set limitsSo far, no one is certain. In 2016, after reviewing studies on the possible health impacts of PFASs, EPA lowered its nonbinding advisory standard for drinking water from 400 ppt for PFOA and 200 ppt for PFOS to 70 ppt for both combined. But some researchers and public health advocates argue that level is too lax. Their views got a boost in June 2018, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a long-awaited assessment of 14 PFASs. It recommended “minimal risk” levels for PFOA and PFOS, which the agency later converted to recommendations for drinking water limits. For children, those levels are 21 ppt for PFOA and 14 ppt for PFOS—notably lower than EPA’s advisory level. (Trump administration officials discussed trying to block release of the CDC report, fearing it would create a political firestorm.)CDC’s assessment was based, in part, on prospective studies in which researchers monitored people with known PFAS blood levels to see whether exposure was statistically linked to health issues. In one such study, published in PLOS Medicine in February 2018, higher PFAS levels were associated with greater weight regain among participants in a 2-year weight loss trial. In a second prospective study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives in March 2018, researchers found that women with higher blood levels of PFOS and PFOA were at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.Researchers don’t fully understand the biological mechanisms that might explain such findings, and that uncertainty has helped fuel debate over safe PFAS limits. At the federal level, for instance, EPA has so far declined to embrace the CDC recommendations. Yet at least one researcher, environmental health specialist Philippe Grandjean of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, says even CDC’s recommendations are too high. He believes protecting children’s immune systems would require a drinking water limit of just 1 ppt or less. Political and economic considerations also are coloring the debate. In general, EPA is not supposed to consider cost in setting pollution limits. But when the agency proposed its 70-ppt advisory level, its own surveys suggested the real-world impact would be minimal because few drinking water supplies were known to have concentrations exceeding that level. Newer surveys suggest many water supplies have some level of PFAS contamination, however, which could create pressure for expensive cleanups if limits are lowered.Industry groups question the need for stricter regulation. In Michigan, for example, Wolverine hired a toxicologist who downplayed the risks associated with PFASs. “Human health effects from exposure … are unknown,” wrote Janet Anderson of Integral Consulting in San Antonio, Texas, in a November 2017 Wolverine blog post. “No human study … has been conducted that proves exposure of an individual to any PFAS … causes any illness.”After the CDC report became public, however, the Trump administration—under growing pressure from Congress and state officials—promised to take action. And in February, EPA released a plan that calls for formally setting regulatory limits for PFOA and PFOS and for launching a nationwide program to monitor PFASs in water systems. The agency said it will beef up research into detection and cleanup methods, consider requiring companies to report PFAS releases, and even consider banning certain compounds.EPA also is planning to intensively examine about 125 of the thousands of newer, less studied PFASs, in collaboration with the National Toxicology Program. One goal is to test the assumption that the newer compounds are safer because they have shorter lives. “We all need to remember that because something doesn’t bioaccumulate doesn’t mean it won’t be a problem if you’re exposed to it, say, in your drinking water every day,” said Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Durham, North Carolina, at a recent press briefing.In the absence of swift federal action, many states are taking charge. New York has proposed setting a maximum level of 10 ppt for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, whereas New Jersey is considering slightly higher limits. Vermont lawmakers passed a bill that would set a 20-ppt limit for a combination of five PFASs. Pennsylvania has launched a statewide contamination survey, having already identified more than 300 public water supplies with “an elevated potential for contamination.” And in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) in March declared that she could “no longer wait for the Trump administration to act” and will propose state drinking water standards for some PFASs.Meeting such new standards could be costly. In New York, officials have estimated that compliance, including equipping water utilities with treatment systems, will cost from $900 million to $1.5 billion. To help defray expenses, some states are suing PFAS polluters. Last year, Minnesota settled a case against 3M for $850 million, which will be used to help provide clean water to affected residents.Official validationHere in Michigan, lawsuits also are underway. More than 200 families living on and near House Street, for instance, are suing Wolverine and 3M. Among the many legal questions is whether the plaintiffs can show they were harmed by exposure to PFAS-contaminated water. If the families win, it could open “the floodgates to more lawsuits and the ability of private citizens and states to sue,” says attorney Paul Albarran of Varnum, the Grand Rapids–based law firm representing the families.In March, state and federal regulators formally validated the sleuthing by McIntosh and CCRR: They officially confirmed that the former tannery site and nearby waste disposal areas are laced with PFASs. The announcement was made at a town hall meeting at Rockford High School. McIntosh and Birkbeck sat in the front row. Rediske, Tompkins, and other CCRR members were also in the crowd. As McIntosh listened, she was struck by how closely the contamination maps that officials presented matched the informal maps she’d drawn based on interviews with former tannery workers.During the meeting, Rediske urged residents to become involved in a new community advisory group that will help oversee the next chapter in the tannery’s history: a long, complex cleanup. Given the role that concerned citizens have already played in resolving past contamination problems in Michigan and beyond, Rediske said he was confident they could also rise to the new challenge: “It can be done.”last_img read more

This spuds for you A breeding revolution could unleash the potential of

first_img By Erik StokstadFeb. 7, 2019 , 2:00 PM Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) JIM RICHARDSON/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC The closest ancestors of cultivated potatoes evolved in the Andes, where people domesticated the plant at least 7000 years ago. After the Spanish brought the tuber to Europe in the 16th century, it remained a botanical curiosity and was mostly fed to livestock. Europeans began to eat potatoes in earnest only in the 1800s, during the famines of the Napoleonic Wars.Once the potato caught on, there was no turning back. The plant can grow in cold climates and poor soil, and in some places yields several crops per season. Once harvested, the energy-rich tubers, packed with vitamin C, can be stored for months and cooked in many ways. A hectare of potatoes can provide up to four times the calories of a grain crop.Like rice and wheat, the potato was a target for improvement during the Green Revolution. Yields increased thanks to fertilizer and improved farming techniques, but they didn’t skyrocket. Potato breeders achieved no genetic gains such as the one that produced wheat with short, sturdy stalks that can bear more grain.Still, global potato production has steadily grown. China has doubled its harvests over the past 20 years. It now grows more than twice as many potatoes as India, the next-biggest producer. Uzbekistan and Bangladesh, among other nations, have come to depend on the potato for food security. In 2005, developing countries for the first time grew more potatoes than the developed world. Many African countries are aiming to boost production.To reap bigger harvests, farmers will have to manage many risks, including disease. The potato’s greatest scourge is the funguslike pathogen Phytophthora infestans, which causes a disease called late blight. The pathogen unleashed the Irish potato famine in the mid–19th century, and plant breeders have struggled ever since to rein it in. “Phytophthora is always evolving and overcoming resistance,” says Jadwiga Śliwka of the Plant Breeding and Acclimatization Institute in Młochów, Poland. Rich countries use fungicides to minimize the devastating losses from late blight. But in developing countries, 15% to 30% of the crop is ruined.Then there is heat and drought, which climate change is exacerbating. In some parts of the world, farmers are planting their crop earlier so that it matures before the nights get too hot, which prevents tubers from forming. But eventually farmers will need hardier plants. “We focus on developing a robust potato that will perform better in a stressful environment,” says Thiago Mendes, a potato breeder with CIP’s regional office in Nairobi. “Our target is food security.”The key to that robust potato may be waiting in the wild species that grow from southwestern North America through Central and South America. Wild potatoes from Mexico, for example, evolved in the presence of P. infestans and can resist many strains. Many other wild species have yet to be thoroughly collected or studied. Diverse potatoes, such as these from Peru, will help breeders create resilient new varieties. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country In Peru and around the world, enhancing the potato has become a high priority. It is the most important food crop after wheat and rice. Potatoes are already a staple for 1.3 billion people, and the nutritious tubers are becoming increasingly popular in the developing world. Keeping up with the demand means adapting the potato to various soils and climates. It must also resist new threats from pests, disease, heat, and drought.Unlike other major crops, however, the potato has not had a breeding breakthrough of the kind that helped dramatically boost yields during the Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s. The reason is that creating a new potato variety is slow and difficult, even by the patient standards of plant breeders. Commercial varieties carry four copies of each chromosome, which forces breeders to create and test hundreds of thousands of seedlings to find just one with the desired combination of traits. Readying a new variety for farm fields can take a decade or more.Many countries continue to plant popular potato varieties that have remained essentially unchanged for decades. But new approaches, including genetic engineering, promise to add more options. Potato breeders are particularly excited about a radical new way of creating better varieties. This system, called hybrid diploid breeding, could cut the time required by more than half, make it easier to combine traits in one variety, and allow farmers to plant seeds instead of bulky chunks of tuber. “It will change the world tremendously,” says Paul Struik, an agronomist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.To breed a better potato, it helps to have plenty of genetic raw material on hand. But the world’s gene banks aren’t fully stocked with the richest source of valuable genes: the 107 potato species that grow in the wild. Habitat loss threatens many populations of those plants. In a bid to preserve that wild diversity before it vanishes, collectors have made their biggest push ever, part of a $50 million program coordinated by the Crop Trust, an intergovernmental organization based in Bonn, Germany.The collectors and breeders are racing against warming, drying, and the proliferation of pests. “Because of climate change,” says Nigel Maxted, a conservation biologist at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, “we require higher levels of diversity than ever before.” Growing appetite Potato production has grown in Asia, particularly in China and India, while falling in Europe. AfricaNorth America 400 Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe 1970 2010 In June 2018, beside a cattle pasture in southern Brazil, botanist Gustavo Heiden strode along an embankment, his eyes fixed on the long grass. Then, he dropped to his knees and jabbed a trowel into the soil. “Aha! Look at this,” said Heiden, who works with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) in Pelotas. He pulled up a short plant with small tubers dangling from its roots. It was Solanum commersonii, one of three wild relatives of the potato known in Brazil.Brazil is far from the potato’s center of origin in the Andes. But the ranges of wild relatives extend into the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where the climate shifts from temperate to tropical. Plants in this transition zone have evolved to survive occasionally harsh winters and hot, dry summers. “The wild potatoes here are probably pretty adapted to the extreme weather that will be happening more frequently with climate change,” Heiden says.Heiden’s collecting trip was just one element of the Crop Trust’s effort to collect, conserve, and breed the wild relatives of 29 crops, which began in 2011. Plant collectors used to travel the world on such expeditions. But they became much less frequent after governments began to adopt the Convention on Biological Diversity in the 1990s. Intended to prevent unfair exploitation of biodiversity, the convention made it harder to get collecting permits and to exchange plant material. An international seed treaty established in 2004 eased swaps for crops and wild relatives, but collecting remained stagnant because of lack of funding and expertise. “We didn’t have any experience on how to collect wild potatoes or how to conserve them,” says Cinthya Zorrilla, subdirector of genetic resources at the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation in Lima.The Crop Trust has provided grants and training to collectors around the world. The effort on wild potatoes, which wraps up this month, has yielded a collection representing 39 species from six nations: Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Chile. Zorrilla’s team alone found 31 species in Peru, including one for which no seeds had ever been collected. They plan to continue to search for four other species still missing from gene banks. “We will not stop,” she says. The plants are being stored in each nation’s gene bank, CIP, and the Millennium Seed Bank at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the United Kingdom. The stored seeds will be available to potato breeders worldwide.The hardest part comes next: getting desirable genes from wild species into cultivated potatoes. In the past, breeders acquired traits such as disease resistance from a dozen wild species. Those victories were hard-won, some taking decades to achieve. That’s largely because wild relatives also carry many unwanted traits, which combine with those of cultivated potatoes and vastly lower a breeder’s chances of finding a good variety.Even without wild species, potato breeding is a crapshoot. Because breeding lines have four copies of their 12 chromosomes, the traits of the two parents show up in the next generation in largely unpredictable combinations. As experts say, the current varieties don’t breed true, which is why farmers plant bits of “seed tuber,” which yield genetically identical plants, rather than seeds. Compounding the headache, breeders select for many traits at once, further lowering the probability of finding a winner. “The numbers get really hard, really fast,” says Laura Shannon, a potato breeder at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.Genetic markers linked to specific genes have sped up the process. To find out whether seedlings have inherited a trait such as disease resistance, breeders can quickly test for the marker rather than wait for the plants to mature and then expose them to the disease. Even with this tool, a potato breeder must screen up to 100,000 offspring per year. It can take 15 years or longer to find one with the right traits, fully test it, and generate enough seed tubers to distribute to farmers.Another frustration is that potato breeders can’t easily improve existing varieties. Once a potato variety is established, introducing new traits while retaining all of its favored characteristics is practically impossible. That’s why classic, widely grown varieties, such as the russet burbank, still dominate the market many decades after their debuts.Patient breeders using traditional methods can nevertheless achieve impressive results. In 2017, for example, CIP released four new varieties in Kenya, the result of crosses from established breeding lines. In field trials, the new potato plants maintained yields with 20% less rainfall and temperatures higher by 3°C.Such success shows there is still genetic diversity to be tapped in existing breeding lines. But researchers fear that gene pool may not be deep enough to adapt the potato to future climates or enable other improvements. Wild potatoes, however, hold valuable, untapped genetic diversity. One trait from those wild plants, Mendes says, “could save our life.” 0 Email Central and South AmericaEuropeAsia In Wageningen, Pim Lindhout has been plotting a revolution that would do away with much of that tedium and complexity. As head of R&D for Solynta, a startup company founded in 2006, he and his colleagues have been developing a new way to breed potatoes: creating hybrid offspring from true-breeding parent lines. “Everyone was convinced it’s impossible,” he says. “Many people thought I was crazy.”Hybrid breeding revolutionized maize production in the 20th century. It enabled breeders to quickly create high-yielding varieties that have what’s known as hybrid vigor. The first step is to make inbred parent lines, which have identical alleles on all chromosome copies; the offspring of those true-breeding parents then inherit a predictable set of traits. Making the inbred lines requires repeated self-pollination over many generations. That process tends to impair the health of the plants, but when breeders cross two inbred lines, the first-generation offspring are healthy and have beneficial traits from both parents.Potato breeders doubted the approach was possible for tubers. “I was trained to believe that potatoes can’t be inbred,” says Shelley Jansky, a potato breeder with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Madison. One big obstacle is that many potato species cannot fertilize themselves. In 1998, researchers discovered a gene that somehow allows one wild species of potato to self-fertilize. When that gene is bred into other species, it lets them self-fertilize as well. But the resulting plants are frail and produce puny tubers.The next step is to inbreed those weaklings by self-fertilizing them, generation after generation. Don’t bother trying it at home: Success with cultivated potatoes would likely take decades because of the small odds of getting the same allele on all four copies of their chromosomes. Breeders reduce the complexity either by using species with only two sets of chromosomes (known as diploids) or by manipulating domesticated potatoes to cut the number of chromosomes in half. With persistence, diploid potatoes can be inbred. In 2011, Lindhout published the first report of inbred diploid lines that are vigorous and productive. More recently, Jansky and colleagues also created inbred diploid lines.Such diploid inbred plants are at the heart of Solynta’s strategy to revolutionize potato breeding. They will make it possible to combine traits in commercial varieties with unprecedented certainty, ease, and speed. And the plants will simplify efforts to add desirable traits directly from wild relatives while eliminating their many drawbacks, such as small tubers or poor flavor. Undesirable traits can be bred out of the descendants of a diploid cross through a standard technique called backcrossing.In 2016, Solynta conducted its first field trials of hybrid seedlings in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in 17 locations across Europe. The plants did well, yielding large tubers over a typical growing season. The company has not yet commercialized a variety. Within a few years, it hopes to create customized potatoes for European and African markets. Other firms, including large seed companies, are also working to develop hybrid potatoes. HZPC in Joure, the Netherlands, has begun field trials in Tanzania and in several countries in Asia.Hybrid breeding “could be a real game changer,” says geneticist Glenn Bryan, head of the Potato Genetics and Breeding group at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee, U.K. “It will definitely make breeding more agile.”Basic research could benefit from the work. “Having diploid potatoes will drastically increase our understanding of the potato genome,” Shannon says. Although firms typically keep their inbred plants secret, Solynta plans to release a line, dubbed Solynthus, so that scientists can study its genetics. Jansky, for one, hopes further research could reveal genes that control yield, which might then be tapped to boost harvests.Hybrids could also change how potatoes are planted, giving farmers the option of sowing fields with true seeds, because these are genetically identical in hybrids. Another benefit is logistical; planting 10 hectares, for instance, takes just 200 grams of easily transported seeds, compared with 25 tons of bulky tubers. In the developing world, where quality seed tubers are rare, seeds could also make obtaining superior plants easier for farmers. And in perhaps the biggest advantage over tubers for poor farmers, seeds transmit no major diseases.Hybrid potato seeds aren’t a panacea. Young plants grow more quickly and vigorously from tubers than from seeds, putting seeds at a disadvantage in some climates. And depending on how complete the inbreeding, hybrid potatoes could have less uniformly shaped tubers than those of traditional plants, a problem for farmers who supply food-processing companies. Such complexities have prompted the Dutch government to commission a study of the potential socioeconomic impacts of hybrid potatoes.With collectors amassing genetic diversity and new techniques promising to overcome the complexities of the potato genome, researchers are optimistic that they can make significant improvements. “That’s what gets me up in the morning,” Jansky says. “There’s no better time to be a breeder—and especially a potato breeder.”Until hybrid breeding and other strategies produce more resilient potatoes, farmers will have to work with the resources at hand. Here in Peru’s Sacred Valley, Ellis and others from CIP have teamed with small-scale farmers who belong to an association known as Potato Park, which is dedicated to preserving hundreds of local potato varieties. The group has been planting those colorful potatoes in test plots.Some succumb to pests or drought, like those that Ellis found dead, whereas others survive. In May 2018, as part of their search for more resilient tubers, Potato Park farmers neatly piled red, yellow, and brown tubers harvested from some of Ellis’s experimental plots on rows of sacks, scoring each variety for yield and health. Local farmers had abandoned many of those landraces generations ago, as villages faded and exchange fewer plants.Bringing some of that ancient diversity back into cultivation could hedge against environmental change. In Potato Park, farmers have already tried to escape the pests and disease that thrive in warmer temperatures by moving their cultivation 200 meters higher over the past 30 years. But René Gomez, CIP’s curator of cultivated potatoes, warns that arable land is scarcer at higher elevations.Pedro Condori Quispe, one of the park’s growers, is optimistic that the communities will find a way to keep growing potatoes here. Potato farmers, he says with a smile, “are used to challenges.” Wild species have traits that could improve cultivated potatoes. Alberto Salas of the International Potato Center in Lima prepares a sample of Solanum contumazaense (above); its hairs defend against insects.center_img (GRAPHIC) N. DESAI/SCIENCE; (DATA) FAOSTAT Millions of tons 1990 THE SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS IN PERU—On a bleak, brown hill here, David Ellis examines a test plot of potato plants and shakes his head. “They’re dead, dead, dead,” he says. Pests and lack of rain have laid waste to all 17 varieties that researchers had planted.It is a worrying sign for Ellis, the now-retired director of the gene bank at the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima. People have grown potatoes in this rugged stretch of the Andes for thousands of years. In recent years, that task has gotten tougher, in part because of climate change. Drought and frost are striking more often. The rains come later, shortening the growing season. And warmer temperatures have allowed moths and weevils to encroach from lower elevations.To find potatoes that can cope with those challenges, researchers and Peruvian farmers are testing dozens of the 4350 locally cultivated varieties, or landraces, kept in CIP’s refrigerated storage. The plants in this plot fell short. “Native landraces evolved over time,” Ellis says. But, he says, climate change is happening “too fast for these varieties to adapt.” Glenn Bryan, James Hutton Institute The search for vital traits is already underway. Last year, at an EMBRAPA research station near Pelotas, technicians in lab coats leaned over the wild species Heiden had collected. They gently daubed their faintly purple flowers with yellow powder from a plastic tube, fertilizing them with pollen from domesticated potatoes.In a nearby greenhouse, tables were lined with the offspring of previous crosses. Researchers have evaluated thousands of those seedlings for health and yield, among other traits. They screened older plants for drought resistance by limiting the water in plastic-lined troughs. In a temperature-controlled walk-in chamber, researchers tested the ability of other plants to withstand heat; the yellowed plants appeared to be sweltering.Such expansive testing is aimed at moving wild genes into traditional breeding programs as quickly as possible. It’s part of EMBRAPA’s larger effort to help Brazil expand production of potato, the country’s most important vegetable crop.In Lima, the Crop Trust has funded CIP to test wild varieties for promising traits even before any breeding begins. In 2013, center researchers started to characterize 12 wild species collected 30 years ago. Records suggested those species might tolerate drought and resist diseases such as bacterial wilt, a serious problem for developing countries. Merideth Bonierbale and colleagues planted seeds and have tested the plants in greenhouses at CIP’s main facility. Mendes is now expanding the work to Kenya.Other researchers are skirting the limitations of traditional breeding by using genetic engineering. CIP’s Marc Ghislain and colleagues, for example, have directly added genes to already successful potato varieties without altering the plants in any other way—an approach not possible with traditional breeding. They took three genes for resistance to late blight from wild relatives and added them to varieties of potato popular in East Africa. The engineered varieties have proved successful in 3 years of field tests in Uganda and are undergoing final studies for regulators. Transgenic potatoes that resist late blight have already been commercialized in the United States and Canada.Biotech approaches have their own limits. They have succeeded with traits controlled by single genes, such as disease resistance and tolerance of bruising. But improving complex physiological traits governed by many genes, such as water-use efficiency, requires traditional breeding, however cumbersome. 100 SARA FAJARDO/CIP 300 2000 Climate change threatens yields in Potato Park, a farming association near Cuzco, Peru. This spud’s for you: A breeding revolution could unleash the potential of potato 200 JIM RICHARDSON/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC 1980 [Hybrid breeding] could be a real game changer. It will definitely make breeding more agile.last_img read more

Executions rampant in Philippine drug war UN probe needed Amnesty

first_img UN rights council to investigate killings in Philippine drug war Rodrigo Duterte, garbage in Philippines, Philippines garbage, canada, canada news A vote on the resolution by the 47-member council is expected later this week. (File/AP)Impunity and unlawful killings are going on unabated in the Philippines, three years into a war on drugs, with a pattern of executions under the guise of police sting operations and a state unwilling to investigate, a rights group said on Monday. Philippines’ top senator chides Iceland for abortion, UN drugs war probe By Reuters |Manila | Published: July 8, 2019 2:10:11 pm 1 Comment(s) Related News Advertising Best Of Express Cabinet asks finance panel to consider securing funds for defence center_img London-based Amnesty International urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to approve a resolution calling for an investigation into the Philippines, where there was a “perilous normalisation” of illegal executions and police abuses. A vote on the resolution by the 47-member council is expected later this week.The exact number of dead in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is impossible to independently verify, but many thousands have been killed, about 6,600 of those during operations in which police said suspects were armed and fought back.Amnesty, in a report titled “They Just Kill”, said the authorities used “deliberate obfuscation and misinformation” to make it impossible to monitor the full extent of killings, which overwhelmingly targeted poor and marginalized communities lacking the means or support to mount legal challenges against police. Quake in Philippines injures 25, damages homes, churches Advertising After Masood Azhar blacklisting, more isolation for Pakistan Karnataka trust vote today: Speaker’s call on resignations, says SC, but gives rebel MLAs a shield “As we have repeatedly said, these are the result of legitimate police operations.”Panelo last week described the call for a U.N. investigation as interference by foreign governments “misled by false news and untruthful narratives”. Amnesty’s report, compiled in April, focused on Bulacan province, the new epicentre of the crackdown, examining 27 killings there during 20 incidents, 18 of which were official police operations. In three-quarters of incidents, those killed were on “watch lists” of people in communities with suspected use or involvement in drugs, Amnesty found.It viewed those lists as unreliable and illegitimate “seeming to guide decisions about whom the police are targeting for arrest, or in some cases, to kill”.Based on witnesses and other information, it concluded half were extrajudicial killings. It said the other incidents pointed broadly to previous patterns of executions, but it could not obtain sufficient evidence and information to be certain.The police narrative that undercover officers posing as drug buyers had killed only in self defence “doesn’t meet the feeblest standards of credibility”, Amnesty concluded.Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said Amnesty’s basis for calling for an international investigation was wrong, and there were no such illegal killings. “They are saying that there have been murders in this country as if all those who were killed in police operations have been intentionally slaughtered or killed,” he said during a regular new briefing.last_img read more

Arizona Outrage over killing of black teen over rap music complaint

first_img Advertising By AP |Phoenix | Published: July 10, 2019 12:46:49 pm Michael Dunn, who is white, was later convicted of first-degree murder in that earlier killing, a shooting that erupted during an argument about loud music coming from a car carrying Davis and other black teenagers.In the Arizona attack, first responders discovered Al-Amin collapsed outside the Peoria Circle K store’s gas pumps and took him to a hospital, where he died. Several people inside the store had watched as Al-Amin was stabbed in the throat and the back before he ran outside.Officers found Adams nearby with a pocket knife and blood on his body. Adams told them he had felt threatened by the rap music coming from Al-Amin’s vehicle.Adams’ attorney, Jacie Cotterell, told the judge at his initial appearance hearing that her client was mentally ill and released without any medication, “no holdover meds, no way to care for himself.” Amid video & bhog, Haryana village mourns six-year-old girl who died in Arizona desert Post Comment(s) Family members have told local media that Elijah Al-Amin would have turned 18 in two weeks and was looking forward to his last year in high school.Friends and family hugged Monday at the Islamic Community Center in Tempe, where prayers for the teen were held before burial in Maricopa County.A modest makeshift memorial outside the convenience store where Al-Amin was stabbed was still erected on Tuesday, with a pair of white porcelain angels, fresh flowers and burning calendars including one dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Catholic patron saint of Mexico. There is no hate crime statute in Arizona, but a judge’s determination that a hate crime has occurred can toughen sentencing. Related News Explained: Kulbhushan Jadhav case file Adams was charged Tuesday, July 9, 2019, with first-degree murder. (AP)Hundreds of people including a presidential candidate spoke out on Twitter this week after a 17-year-old black youth was killed at a suburban convenience store, allegedly by a white man charged Tuesday with first-degree murder who has said he felt threatened by the boy’s rap music. NRC deadline approaching, families stranded in Assam floods stay home In undecided Congress, first open call for Priyanka: She should be party chief Advertising Best Of Express Two stranded Indian nationals apprehended for trying to enter US illegally The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said it filed a direct complaint Tuesday charging Michael Adams, 27, in the Thursday morning killing. First-degree murder carries a sentence of life behind bars or death.Adams is next scheduled to appear in court on July 15. The Twitter hashtag (hash)JusticeForElijah began trending over the Independence Day weekend after police in the suburban Phoenix city of Peoria arrested Adams. He had been released from state prison two days before.“Another one of our children has been murdered in a heinous and unprovoked way_the DOJ must investigate this hate crime immediately,” Democratic candidate Cory Booker wrote on his Twitter account Monday. “RIP Elijah. (hash)JusticeForElijah.”Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian American civil rights activist from Brooklyn, New York, called the crime “outrageous” and said it recalled the 2012 killing of 17-year-old high school student Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida. “Rest in power Elijah Al-Amin,” she wrote. Advertising Karnataka: SC to rule today, says Speaker’s powers need relook More Explained Indian migrant girl died in Arizona desert as mother sought water Cotterell said during the videotaped court hearing that “this is a failing on the part of the (Arizona) Department of Corrections.”Adam’s bond was maintained at $1 million. He had been freed July 2 after serving a 13-month sentence for aggravated assault. Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said in a statement that “the tragic death is terrible, and Mr. Adams will have to answer for his alleged actions.”The statement said that when Adams was released he “was not designated seriously mentally ill” and that once the department transported him from the state prison complex in Yuma where he had served his sentence to Maricopa County it “had no further legal authority over him.”Many of the people commenting on Twitter said that claims about Adams’ mental illness should not be used to explain away what they believe was a hate crime.last_img read more

This Australian farmer is saving fossils of some of the planets weirdest

first_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe This Australian farmer is saving fossils of some of the planet’s weirdest, most ancient creatures Nilpena’s story is unique and you don’t need to be a paleontologist to understand why. It’s all laid out here, the rise of animal life. Ediacara Conservation Park Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Gehling and Droser hypothesize that Dickinsonia grazed like modern-day placozoans—millimeter-size pancakes that represent the simplest multicellular animals. The researchers think Dickinsonia lay atop the bacterial mat, digested it for a while—leaving an imprint—and then moved on to the next grazing spot, where it left another print. Gehling says he got the idea by seeing how his son’s Frisbee imprinted his lawn after a few days.Kimberella, a limpet-shaped creature with a front and back, also left trails, possibly scratch marks made by its radula—a sawlike structure similar to that used by molluscs to chop their food.Droser doesn’t think any of the Nilpena creatures were predators, though. “None have teeth that we can see,” she says.Researchers can also see how these communities changed over time. Repeated burials over perhaps 40 million years created fossil layers—35 so far—that can be carefully prized apart to reveal successive snapshots. Like ungumming the pages of a book, “we literally go in and pull off layers,” Droser says.This ability to follow the interrelationships of Ediacarans and the tracks they left behind on successive snapshots of the sea floor has allowed researchers to resolve 10 genera and a total of 60 species, far more than any other Ediacaran site.One recently exposed slab earned the title “Alice’s Restaurant” for its exquisite display of many rare species, some first discovered here. Its exceptionally fine grain gives the fossils the appearance of having been expertly stamped with a cookie cutter. “Just when I think we’ve captured it, I’m on to a whole new learning curve,” Droser says. In June 2018, the team reported two new genera, which they named after Barack Obama and David Attenborough. Ross Fargher, rancher and landowner of Nilpena cattle station, in his wool shed. JASON IRVING Jason Irving, South Australian Department for Environment and Water Paleontologist Mary Droser (bottom right) speaks to tourists about how her team excavates Nilpena’s fossils, which are likely to draw more visitors now that the site is part of a conservation park. Mary Droser, University of California, Riverside We invented a new way of doing paleoecology here. Nilpena’s platforms show the rippled rocks of a half-billion-year-old sea floor on one side and the imprints of life on the other. Nilpena addition to Ediacara park Clad in blue jeans with a prominent brass belt buckle, boots, and Akubra hat, Fargher comes across as an iconic outback stockman, with an easygoing, forthright manner of speaking. But he quickly veers off script. As he leads a group of tourists across the fossil beds, Fargher holds forth on the life and times of Ediacaran creatures. On one rippled golden rock, he points out a large imprint the size of a dinner plate made up of concentric circles. It’s not a complete animal, he tells us, but the holdfast for a frondlike creature called Arborea that was torn off by a storm that swept across the ancient sea floor and buried this community in sand.Arborea’s fractal body design disappears from the fossil record at the end of the Ediacaran period. But some of its bilaterally segmented neighbors may provide the answer to “Darwin’s dilemma”: Where did today’s animal life come from? Sites from the Cambrian period, 541 million to 490 million years ago, reveal an explosion of novel animal forms. But when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, all known older rocks were barren of life. He called the lack of earlier forms “inexplicable” and wrote that it “may be truly urged as a valid argument” against evolution.Then in the 1940s, Australian geologist Reginald Sprigg, exploring in the Precambrian rocks of the Ediacara Hills 15 kilometers north of here, discovered imprints of a pancakelike shape divided by segments emerging from a central ridge. He named it Dickinsonia after his boss, Ben Dickinson, director of mines in South Australia.Later, amateur naturalists unearthed a plethora of smaller fossils at the same site, among them Spriggina, which resembled a segmented worm up to 3 centimeters long with a horseshoe head. Finally, in 2004, the International Union of Geological Sciences proclaimed a new geological period—the Ediacaran—from 635 million to 541 million years ago. NILPENA CATTLE STATION IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA—Fly over the cattle station here in a Cessna 172 and you’ll see a dry riverbed snaking through brown, mottled earth punctuated by the occasional patch of saltbush. There’s no sign of the 200 cattle currently being run on this property, which is about the size of New York City and sits 450 kilometers north of Adelaide, Australia. But cattle are not the main asset of this remote station.Instead, Nilpena’s prize specimens lie exposed and motionless on the gentle slopes of Mt. Michael like some open-air diorama: the weird forms of Earth’s first multicellular creatures, frozen in rock for 560 million years. About 60 species from the Ediacaran period pattern the hillside, the richest collection of such forms on Earth. Some creatures exhibit bilateral symmetry, others the trifold symmetry of the Mercedes-Benz logo; still others resemble heraldic shields, or are leafy with a repeating, fractal structure.The plethora of species here isn’t the only thing that sets it apart. Almost alone among Ediacaran sites, Nilpena preserves entire communities of organisms, intact because of ancient accidents of preservation and the foresight of its modern landowner, a rancher named Ross Fargher. JASON IRVING center_img JASON IRVING Such coarse resolution makes studying the imprints under a microscope in a museum less important. And because the fossils have been preserved where they lay on the ocean floor, researchers can study them “as if you were going down in a submarine to view them,” Narbonne says.Mistaken Point is the world’s only other site to preserve Ediacaran communities in situ. But those rocks are older by 5 million to 20 million years and the communities are dominated by the leafy fractal fossils. Nilpena offers a glimpse into a more developed Ediacaran world.Researchers got their first panoramic view of that world in the mid-1980s, when a visitor asked Fargher about the rippled rocks paving the floor of his 100-year-old wool shed. More fossils turned up on the hillside nearby. Soon paleontologists from the University of Adelaide were making a beeline here and carting away slabs. That didn’t sit well with Fargher.”Alarm bells started to go off,” he said, recalling that the Sprigg site in the Ediacara Hills was “pretty well stripped bare” by looters and even paleontologists carting specimens back to museums.When Gehling came calling in 2001, Fargher was resolute. Research was fine but the fossils had to stay put. He agreed to make an exception for new species, so a “type specimen” that clearly exhibits diagnostic features of a species can be stored in a museum and analyzed by other scientists. But in most cases, paleontologists had to come here, where the lost world of the Ediacaran was on full display.To explore ancient Nilpena, researchers examine a slab of rippled rock—usually flipping it over to see the fossils underneath—study it on-site, and then replace it on the hillside. New species have come to light, such as Funisia dorothea, described a decade ago by Droser and Gehling. Although bits and pieces of this creature had previously been found, the slabs revealed enough intact specimens for the researchers to realize it represented a colony of tubular, corallike creatures tethered to the sea floor. Each individual was the same size, suggesting they had been spawned at the same moment through reproduction, rather than budding one by one.Some of the creatures that populate the slabs have body plans never seen again in the evolutionary record, such as Tribrachidium—a creature with triradial symmetry that resembles a ninja throwing star—or the fractal rangeomorphs. But in some cases, the slabs record behavior resembling that of later animal life. Dickinsonia, for example, apparently moved around, because it left tracks: a series of faint, identical imprints, ranging from the size of a thumbprint to the length of a forearm. Each set of tracks leads up to the main fossil. At Nilpena, “We can see who was living with whom and what they were doing,” says paleontologist Doug Erwin of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Whereas most paleontologists study early life forms through museum specimens, here they can see the animals—for that is what many of the Ediacaran creatures appear to be—in the context of their ecosystems. “We invented a new way of doing paleoecology here,” says University of California, Riverside, paleontologist Mary Droser, who, together with Jim Gehling of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, has worked on the fossils for the past 17 years. By Elizabeth FinkelMar. 28, 2019 , 11:45 AM 0 Lake Torrens National Park Email Nilpena Station Km Concentric circles, once thought to be jellyfish (left), are now known to represent a holdfast that tethered a frondlike, fractal creature such as Arborea to the ancient sea floor. Ediacaran communities also included the pancakelike, segmented Dickinsonia (right), which reached up to a meter in length and appears to have been an animal. Fargher helps the scientists by using his earth-moving equipment to flip slabs. He also guards the site with fencing and video surveillance during the months the researchers are away. Looting is a constant worry: In 1994, one slab illegally heaved out of Bunyeroo Gorge in a reserve some 60 kilometers southeast of here ended up on sale in Tokyo for $330,000, Gehling recalls.”Ross is heroic,” Droser says. Last year, the U.S. Paleontological Society gave Fargher its Strimple Award for amateur paleontology, the first time it has been awarded to an Australian.Jane Fargher, Ross’s wife, advocates for the fossils from the outback pub she runs in a nearby town. It was she who, in 2016, persuaded state government ministers visiting nearby to meet Droser. Surprised to find that California schoolchildren were learning more about Nilpena than Australian children were, the state government created the Ediacara action plan and provided AU$1.7 million to purchase the land and establish the park, and to support research and education.”Nilpena’s story is unique and you don’t need to be a paleontologist to understand why,” says the author of the plan, Jason Irving, manager of protected areas for the South Australian Department for Environment and Water in Adelaide. “It’s all laid out here, the rise of animal life.”The enthusiasm has spread. “That’s what is so inspiring about this story,” Droser says. “It’s all the nonscientists who’ve made this their mission.” To help fund the conservation park, Adelaide teacher Mary Lou Simpson established the Flinders Ranges Ediacara Foundation as the vehicle for a public-private partnership to help buy the land and support its ongoing maintenance. It raised more than AU$500,000 from local fossil enthusiasts, philanthropists, and foundations. According to the deal, the Farghers will stay on as caretakers, running cattle on their remaining portion of the station.”People have been trying to protect Nilpena for a long time,” Irving says. “There is so much goodwill to make it happen and the stars are definitely aligned to create a new way of protecting the fossils.” Droser and Gehling have published more than 40 papers describing a peaceful, predator-free community where segmented creatures such as the pancake-shaped Dickinsonia—up to a meter long—and mollusklike Kimberella grazed on slimy bacterial mats; tiny helminthoidichnites tunneled just below the surface; and tethered, leafy, fractal creatures absorbed nutrients from the seawater directly through their outer skin.Researchers owe that opportunity to Fargher. For more than 30 years, he has helped guard the fossils from looters who have pilfered nearby Ediacaran sites; he also runs tours and helps scientists with logistics. But in recent years, ranchers in the region have struggled with persistent drought and low beef prices, and researchers have worried about what would happen if the 59-year-old Fargher were to sell his property. “We all thought Fargher’s efforts were remarkable, but we also thought: what now?” Erwin says.As of this week, those worries are over: On 28 March, the state government of South Australia, using AU$2.2 million raised in a public-private partnership, will purchase about half of this station from the Farghers to add to the existing Ediacara Conservation Park, increasing its size more than 10-fold. The new status may also boost a government bid for World Heritage status for Nilpena and nearby sites. “I am thrilled with this news,” says paleontologist Guy Narbonne of Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, who works at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, an Ediacaran site in Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador province. “Now, this outstanding assemblage of fossils from the dawn of animal life is available to view and study for time immemorial.” N. DESAI/SCIENCE Researchers are still puzzling over exactly how the Ediacara relate to the rest of life on Earth. Many look nothing like modern organisms. But, Narbonne says, “A consensus is emerging that Ediacaran communities include the ancestors of the animals we see around us.” That interpretation got a big boost in September 2018, when other researchers examined Dickinsonia fossils from Russia that retained a dark film of organic matter. They detected a cholesterollike molecule that is the biochemical signature of animals.Other Ediacaran sites have been discovered in the United Kingdom, Namibia, Canada, Russia, and China. But Nilpena offers something rare: slabs of ancient sandstone, some bigger than a tennis court, that record entire ancient communities. Periodic storms repeatedly buried the ancient sea floor in sediment, preserving fine imprints of organisms “like a bologna sandwich,” Droser says, with the decaying organism as the bologna.Exactly how these prints were preserved on the underside of the sandy slabs here is a matter of debate. Gehling and Droser think the overlying sands turned to cement, perhaps because of high levels of the mineral pyrite, forming a death mask of the decaying creatures below. Another model, published this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution, posits that finer, more fluid sediments beneath the fossil flowed into the space vacated by the decaying creature, creating a mold that prevented the upper sand layer from collapsing.The size of the sediment grains determines how detailed the fossil impressions are. Some slabs with salt-size grains have revealed the 3-millimeter, shield-shaped Praecambridium sigillum. In other slabs, the grains themselves are up to 3 millimeters in size, making it hard to detect anything smaller than a centimeter. 10 JIM GEHLING last_img read more

Hackers Targeted DC Police Cams Days Before Inauguration

first_imgClosed circuit cameras can be important for collecting evidence about a crime. Fortunately for the D.C. police, that wasn’t an issue while some of its network was disabled.”If a crime had been committed in an area and its compromised camera held important evidence, then they might have found themselves in trouble,” said Bob Hansmann, director of security analysis and strategy Forcepoint.”In this case, they were lucky and nothing crucial happened,” he told TechNewsWorld.In addition, cameras have a deterrent effect whether they’re working or not.”In this instance, it was beneficial that the general public did not know about the attack when it happened,” noted James Scott, a senior fellow with the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology.”So long as the attack was not common knowledge, the camera itself acted as a deterrent to crime, because potential offenders were not aware that it was infected with ransomware,” he told TechNewsWorld. Ransomware extortionists are feasting on the Internet of Things, maintained Simon Crosby, CTO of Bromium.To prevent these attacks, devices need to be shielded so they’re not exposed on the Internet where hackers can find them, he said.”Right now, attackers are having a field day finding exploitable systems that infrastructure operators either do not recognize are Internet-facing or think their exposure is too obscure for criminals to find, which is a very dangerous assumption,” Crosby told TechNewsWorld.In addition to being discovered easily by hackers, networks of IoT devices have another problem: diversity.”Fleets of PCs can be protected with uniform defenses, but what do you install on rail kiosks, video cameras, cars or televisions?” Crosby asked.”The operating systems in these devices may not be able to support embedded security software,” he pointed out, “so the solution to protecting them requires collaboration among device manufacturers and strategies to block attacks before they reach these IoT endpoints.”Ransomware has become a lucrative pursuit for hackers, which is why it will continue to be a problem. An estimated billion dollars will be paid to digital extortionists in 2016, according to the Herjavec Group.”Hackers have every incentive in the world to continue these attacks and to innovate in order to bypass basic defenses,” said Mark Dufresne, director of threat research and adversary prevention at Endgame.”This is a new reality in which we will live for a long time,” he told TechNewsWorld, “and we will see it take new forms, such as hitting IoT devices.” John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+. A ransomware attack darkened the video surveillance system of the District of Columbia’s police department eight days before the presidential inauguration of Donald J. Trump.Video storage devices for 70 percent of the CCTV system were unable to record anything between Jan. 12 and Jan. 15, as police techies scrambled to combat malicious software found on 123 of 187 networked video recorders, The Washington Post reported Friday.However, the safety of the public was never in jeopardy during the camera blackout, Brian Ebert, a Secret Service official, told the Post.Although the city has characterized the malicious software it found as ransomware, no ransom demand appears to have been made. The city resolved the problem by taking the storage devices offline, removing all their software and then restarting them.The city is investigating who might be behind the hack, which affected only CCTV cameras monitoring public areas and did not reach deeper into the city’s networks, the Post reported. Other municipal infrastructures have been targeted in similar ways in the past. A ransomware attack last fall took down the ticket machines for San Francisco’s light rail system for about a day.”We’re going to see more and more of these kinds of attacks this year,” said Stephen Gates, chief research intelligence analyst with Nsfocus.”This is a perfect example of hackers taking advantage of these municipal systems. They can cause all sorts of havoc,” he told TechNewsWorld.”We’re seeing more and more ransomware attacks against the IoT, which is a disturbing trend,” said Jean-Philippe Taggart, a senior security researcher with Malwarebytes.”CCTVs, hotel locks, libraries, hospitals — the criminals have a wealth of potential targets to choose from,” he told TechNewsWorld.center_img Blind Deterrent Attractive Target Feasting on IoTlast_img read more

Regular dietary peanut consumption after immunotherapy may extend allergy treatment benefits

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Feb 25 2019UNC School of Medicine researcher Edwin Kim, MD, MS, says the results of a multi-year observational study are encouraging for those suffering from peanut allergiesRegular dietary peanut consumption after completing oral immunotherapy (OIT) or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) for peanut allergy may provide continued protection against accidental exposures to the allergen, according to a new study led by Edwin Kim, MD, who presented the findings at the annual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) conference in San Francisco.The observational study followed 55 people who had completed OIT or SLIT peanut immunotherapy trials at UNC-Chapel Hill and were desensitized to between 300 mg and 5,000 mg of peanut – with 300 mg representing one peanut kernel. Desensitization increases the amount of peanut it takes to cause an allergic reaction, decreasing the likelihood of a severe reaction caused by accidental peanut exposure.”People just want to know that they are protected,” said Kim, assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine and director of the UNC Food Allergy Initiative. “They don’t necessarily want to eat large amounts of their allergen, they just want a level of reassurance that if a restaurant cook makes a mistake or a food label is wrong, they won’t have a severe allergic reaction.”Related StoriesResearchers identify new allergen responsible for allergy to durum wheatUnreliable diagnostics for fish allergy testingPeanut allergy tolerance treatment may increase the risk of anaphylaxisAfter completing their immunotherapy trial, participants were encouraged to introduce foods containing peanuts into their diets with a goal of about 300 mg of peanut each day. As part of their long-term follow-up, participants were asked to report how much they ate, how often they ate it and how they felt afterward.The majority of participants continued regularly eating peanuts daily for up to eight years after completing immunotherapy. Among those still eating peanuts, the median amount of daily consumption was 600 mg. No reactions from accidental ingestions were reported for the 55 participants, but ten people reported allergic reactions to the daily peanut foods they introduced into their diet. The majority of reactions were mild and treated with antihistamines, however three reactions required epinephrine and two required EMS. Although these more significant reactions were infrequent, it is a reminder that incorporation of dietary peanut in this capacity should only be done under the guidance of an allergist.”One of the big questions out there now is, ‘what does life after immunotherapy look like?'” said Kim. “That’s what we were trying to answer with this research, and it appears that eating these small amounts of peanut is safe, can improve quality of life, and may help to maintain desensitization.”Kim says more longitudinal studies need to be done, but he and colleagues are hopeful this research can be applied to other types of food allergies.Source: http://www.med.unc.edu/last_img read more

FDA warns two breast implant makers for failure to comply with postapproval

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Mar 20 2019Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to two breast implant manufacturers for failure to comply with their requirements, under their premarket approval orders, to conduct post-approval studies to assess the long-term safety and risks of their silicone gel-filled breast implants.The FDA issued warning letters to Mentor Worldwide LLC of Irvine, California, and Sientra, Inc. of Santa Barbara, California. Every manufacturer of approved silicone gel-filled breast implants is required to conduct post-approval studies to further evaluate safety and effectiveness of the products and to answer additional scientific questions about the long-term safety and potential risks of breast implants that their premarket clinical trials were not designed to answer.”Post-approval requirements are critical to ensuring the safety and effectiveness of the medical products we regulate and we’ll continue to hold manufacturers accountable when they fail to fulfill these obligations,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “We’re issuing these warning letters based on the manufacturers’ low recruitment, poor data, and low follow-up rates in their required post-approval studies. We expect these manufacturers to meet the pre-specified study requirements in order to ensure the collection of long-term data that can be used to inform long-term patient safety. Post-approval studies, along with other surveillance tools such as adverse event reports, registries, and scientific literature, allow the FDA to help ensure the safety of medical devices and protect patients.”The FDA’s warning letter to Mentor Worldwide LLC (Mentor) noted several serious deficiencies in the manufacturer’s post-approval study for its MemoryShape breast implant, first approved in 2013, including that the manufacturer had failed to enroll the required number of patients in the study. The action also notes Mentor had poor follow-up rates with patients in the study. Finally, the FDA notified Mentor that there were significant data inconsistencies in the study, including poor patient accounting and missing race and ethnicity data. While the FDA had concluded after reviewing several interim study reports submitted by Mentor that progress on the post-approval study appeared adequate at that time, the agency advised Mentor of concerns about patient enrollment, follow-up rates and data inconsistencies.Mentor’s failure to address these concerns and comply with its post-approval study requirements is a violation of the firm’s pre-market approval order.The FDA’s warning letter to Sientra, Inc. (Sientra) noted a serious deficiency in the manufacturer’s post-approval study for its Silicone Gel Breast Implants, first approved in 2013. The manufacturer had poor follow-up rates with patients. Currently, the manufacturer reported a follow-up rate of 61 percent, which is below the target follow-up rate. In the response to the manufacturer’s most recent interim study report, the FDA notified the manufacturer that the study progress was inadequate because of low follow-up rates. Sientra’s failure to address these concerns and comply with its post-approval study requirements is a violation of the firm’s pre-market approval order.Related StoriesSmoke-free generation ‘in sight’ as numbers of smokers drop dramaticallyGay men in China eight times more likely to face social discriminationWHO releases guidelines for preventing dementia, and they don’t include supplementsThe FDA requested responses from both manufacturers within 15 working days of the issuance of the warning letters, with details about how the noted violations will be corrected. The FDA may take action for a failure to comply with post-approval orders, including pursuing applicable criminal and civil penalties, where appropriate.The FDA’s actions today are part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to its public health mission of ensuring patient access to safe and effective medical devices. As part of the Medical Device Safety Action Plan, the FDA committed to streamlining and modernizing how the agency implements postmarket actions to address device safety issues to make responses to risks more timely and effective, including taking actions against manufacturers when their postmarket studies are non-compliant with any study requirements. The FDA has issued several warning letters in recent years to manufacturers who did not adequately fulfill certain postmarket study requirements, reflecting the agency’s commitment to take more aggressive actions against manufacturers who fail to comply.In addition to the required post-approval studies, the FDA has taken additional steps to ensure the agency is monitoring the safety and risks of breast implants. For instance, FDA staff have coordinated with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Plastic Surgeons Foundation to develop the Patient Registry and Outcomes for Breast Implants and Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) Etiology and Epidemiology (PROFILE), which collects real world data regarding patients who have a confirmed diagnosis of BIA-ALCL. The data collected from this registry, have contributed to a better understanding of BIA-ALCL and FDA communication updates to the public regarding BIA-ALCL.Additionally, the FDA has worked with multiple stakeholders to facilitate the development of the National Breast Implant Registry (NBIR) to provide a platform for collecting additional real world data on the safety and performance of breast implants. This newly launched registry will greatly add to the information we collect in our own post-approval studies about the long-term safety of breast implants, and potentially enhance our understanding of the long term safety and risks associated with breast implants.The FDA remains committed to thoughtful, scientific, transparent, public dialogue concerning breast implant safety and effectiveness. The FDA welcomes public dialogue about breast implant safety and risk at the upcoming public meeting of the General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel at the FDA’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland on March 25-26, 2019, which will also be available via webcast.Health care professionals and consumers should report any adverse events related to breast implants to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program. The FDA monitors these reports and takes appropriate action necessary to ensure the safety of medical products in the marketplace. Source:https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm633890.htmlast_img read more

FDA approves treatment for adults with nonradiographic axial spondyloarthritis

first_img Source:https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm634671.htm Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Mar 28 2019The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Cimzia (certolizumab pegol) injection for treatment of adults with a certain type of inflammatory arthritis called non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA), with objective signs of inflammation. This is the first time that the FDA has approved a treatment for nr-axSpA.”Today’s approval of Cimzia fulfills an unmet need for patients suffering from non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis as there has been no FDA-approved treatments until now,” said Nikolay Nikolov, M.D., associate director for rheumatology of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Rheumatology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.Nr-axSpA is a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes inflammation in the spine and other symptoms. There is no visible damage seen on x-rays, so it is referred to as non-radiographic.Related StoriesRegular physical activity can be effective in reducing pain from arthritisStill-to-be-approved drug proves to be new option for treating active rheumatoid arthritisResearchers identify new clues on tissue damage in rheumatoid arthritis and lupusThe efficacy of Cimzia for the treatment of nr-axSpA was studied in a randomized clinical trial in 317 adult patients with nr-axSpA with objective signs of inflammation, indicated by elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels and/or sacroiliitis (inflammation of the sacroiliac joints) on MRI. The trial measured the improvement response on the Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Score, a composite scoring system that assesses disease activity including patient-reported outcomes and CRP levels. Responses were greater for patients treated with Cimzia compared to patients treated with placebo. The overall safety profile observed in the Cimzia treatment group was consistent with the known safety profile of Cimzia.The prescribing information for Cimzia includes a Boxed Warning to advise health care professionals and patients about the increased risk of serious infections leading to hospitalization or death including tuberculosis (TB), bacterial sepsis (infection in the blood steam), invasive fungal infections (such as histoplasmosis, an infection that affects the lungs), and other infections. Cimzia should be discontinued if a patient develops a serious infection or sepsis. Health care providers are advised to perform testing for latent TB and, if positive, to start treatment for TB prior to starting Cimzia. All patients should be monitored for active TB during treatment, even if the initial latent TB test is negative. The Boxed Warning also advises that lymphoma (cancer in blood cells) and other malignancies, some fatal, have been reported in children and adolescent patients treated with tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers, of which Cimzia is a member. Cimzia is not indicated for use in pediatric patients. Cimzia must be dispensed with a patient Medication Guide that describes important information about the drug’s uses and risks.Cimzia was originally approved in 2008 and is also indicated for adult patients with Crohn’s disease, moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis, active ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis who are candidates for systemic therapy or phototherapy.The FDA granted the approval of Cimzia to UCB.last_img read more

A bacterium may limit cardiovascular risks of 1 in 2 people study

first_imgReviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Jul 1 2019In 2007, Patrice Cani (FNRS-WELBIO researcher) and his team at the Louvain Drug Research Institute of University of Louvain, in close collaboration with Willem de Vos, professor at UWageningen, discovered the beneficial effects of an intestinal bacteria, Akkermansia muciniphila, able to moderate the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes, in mice. In 2017, the team discovered (still in the mouse) that the use of a pasteurized form of Akkermansia leads to an even greater protection than the living bacterium regarding various cardiovascular disease risk factors such as insulin resistance, hypercholesterolemia, or the storage of fat in adipose tissue.Following these discoveries, the UCLouvain team, in collaboration with the Cliniques universitaires Saint-Luc, developed a clinical study in order to administer the bacteria to humans. For this, it was necessary to develop the capacity to produce the bacterium in large quantity and to make sure that the tests would be without risk for the participants.The UCLouvain researchers administered Akkermansia to overweight or obese volunteers, all displaying insulin resistance (pre-diabetes type 2) and metabolic syndrome, in other words, having several elevated risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. The volunteers were randomly divided into 3 groups (placebo, live bacteria and pasteurized bacteria) and were asked not to change their dietary habits or their physical activity. Akkermansia was provided as a nutritional supplement.The primary goal of this UCLouvain study was to demonstrate the feasibility of daily ingesting Akkermansia for 3 months, without risk. Clara Depommier and Amandine Everard, UCLouvain researchers, observed excellent compliance (the supplements were easy to ingest) and tolerance (there were no side effects) in the groups taking live or pasteurized bacteria.Related StoriesCurved shape of bacteria can make it easier to find foodGrowth problems in preterm infants associated with altered gut bacteriaStudy shows how gastric stem cells fight colonizing bacteriaThe conclusions are clear: the tests in humans confirm what had already been observed in mice. Ingestion of the (pasteurized) bacterium prevented the deterioration of the health status of the subjects (pre-diabetes, cardiovascular risks). Even better, the researchers observed a decrease in inflammation markers in the liver, a slight decrease in the body weight of the subjects (2.3 kg on average) as well as a lowering of cholesterol levels. In contrast, the metabolic parameters (insulin resistance or hypercholesterolemia) in placebo subjects continued to deteriorate over time.Who does it benefit? According to the WHO, one in three people die every day from cardiovascular disease worldwide. In Western countries, one in two people is overweight and has increased cardiovascular risks. This research of the UCLouvain would limit these risks and therefore potentially have an impact (limit the effects) on half of the population, if properly used.In conclusion, this pilot study demonstrates the feasibility of administrating (pasteurized) Akkermansia bacteria to humans in the form of a food supplement and reports encouraging results on the effectiveness of the Akkermansia-based dietary supplements to reduce cardio-metabolic risk factors. These results pave the way for a large-scale study, to confirm/elaborate these first results, but also endorse the commercialization of the bacteria as food supplements, by 2021. Source:Université catholique de LouvainJournal reference:Cani, P.D. et al. (2019) Supplementation with Akkermansia muciniphila in overweight and obese human volunteers: a proof-of-concept exploratory study. Nature Medicine. doi.org/10.1038/s41591-019-0495-2.last_img read more

Study reveals how protein mutation is involved in Christianson syndrome

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jul 4 2019Rearing its head in infancy, Christianson Syndrome is a rare disorder whose symptoms include intellectual disability, seizures and difficulty standing or walking. Although it is becoming increasingly diagnosed, with little being known about the neural mechanism behind the disease, therapeutic options for patients remain limited.Now, researchers at McGill University focusing on the intellectual disability aspect of the disease, have shown for the first time how a specific mutant form of the SLC9A6 encoding gene for the NHE6 protein affects the ability of neurons to form and strengthen connections. The findings, which the researchers hope could eventually lead to new treatments for patients, are published online in the journal Neurobiology of Disease. Using mouse models to study the hippocampusRelated StoriesNew therapy shows promise in preventing brain damage after traumatic brain injuryPosterior parietal cortex plays crucial role in making decisions, research showsRepurposing a heart drug could increase survival rate of children with ependymomaTo make their discovery, the researchers grew mouse neurons on a dish, expressing a mutant version of SLC9A6 discovered in patients. Using high-resolution microscopy and electrophysiology they examined changes in appearance of these brain cells as well as how they responded to artificial learning and memory-type stimulations in a dish.”We found that by attempting to rescue the ‘GPS’ function of the protein by compensating with other pharmacological agents, we were able to restore at least some of the proper mechanisms to allow other proteins to be trafficked around the cell normally and thus restore their ability to ‘learn’,” notes Andy Gao a PhD student in Dr. McKinney’s lab and the study’s first author.A hope for potential therapiesThe first study to clearly demonstrate that mutations in SLC9A6 can lead to changes in synaptic function that could be related to the cognitive deficits associated with Christianson Syndrome, the researchers hope that these insights will eventually provide more clues as to how to modify the impact of the mutation in order to provide clinical benefit.”Interestingly enough, other groups are starting to show that the implicated protein is actually expressed less as well in other more common neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases,” notes Dr. McKinney, who is also Associate Dean, Academic Affairs at the Faculty of Medicine. “Through our work, we can start to develop potential therapeutic targets to improve the quality of life, not only for those suffering from Christianson Syndrome, but from other disorders as well where NHE6 is perturbed.” Source:McGill UniversityJournal reference:McKinney, A. et al. (2019) A Christianson syndrome-linked deletion mutation (Δ287ES288) in SLC9A6 impairs hippocampal neuronal plasticity. Neurobiology of Disease. doi.org/10.1016/j.nbd.2019.104490. NHE6 functions like a GPS inside of brain cells, helping other proteins navigate to the correct location to allow the neurons to function properly and remodel the connections they form between themselves during learning and memory situations. This protein regulates pH of the vesicles, which contain the cargo that moves inside the brain cell. It prevents it from becoming too acidic or too alkali. We now show that if this protein loses its function because of a mutation, then other proteins can no longer be sent to the right places, and thus these neurons are unable to properly undergo learning-type mechanisms. Using methods to regulate the pH of the vesicles we can rescue the cargo trafficking and learning of the neuron.”Dr. Anne McKinney, Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine and study’s senior authorlast_img read more

At Detroit auto show trucks and SUVs are king

The BMW X2 is introduced during the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, on January 15, 2018 In an effort to add some excitement to a waning sedan market, Volkswagen revealed a new Passat—its higher-end sedan—with more than 20 design changes and a sportier option. BMW premiered a new coupe version of its i8 hybrid electric vehicle, promising enhanced power and range. BMW also expanded its SUV lineup with the new X2—designed to fit in between its X1 and X3 compact utilities and distinguishing itself in a crowded crossover market with the company’s signature zip and a “distinctive exterior design.” The auto show gave a boost to three models by awarding its annual best of the year distinctions.The 2018 Honda Accord was awarded best car of the year, helping the Japanese company’s family sedan best its top rival, the Toyota Camry—also a finalist for the award. Among utility cars, Volvo’s XC60 SUV was the winner, a much-needed boost for the Chinese-owned Swedish car company as it aims to reassert itself into the American market. From European car makers to American icons, there were dozens of new offerings for the North American market. While sedans and electric cars were still in the game, the industry clearly favored the large SUVs and trucks that are the source of high profit margins and prefered by US consumers two to one. To meet Americans’ changing buying habits and preferences, newly offered trucks and SUVs were more luxurious and family-friendly, stuffed with more technology and premium materials, while lower-cost, paired down versions of the same models were also offered. In some cases, manufacturers have also tweaked vehicles to make them slightly taller than those of the prior generation. That’s a response to consumers who enjoy a greater sense of command over the road.”Pickup trucks are not just work trucks at all any more. They are much more seen as family cars,” said industry analyst Rebecca Lindland of Kelley Blue Book. Analysts said 2018 would be the year of trucks and SUVs, which have been making a dramatic comeback the last several years after a precipitous decline during the Great Recession starting in 2008. Volkswagen introduces the new Jetta at the 2018 North American International Auto Show Press Preview in Detroit, Michigan on January 15, 2018 The top five selling vehicles in 2017 were the F-150 pickup, the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, the Ram 1500 pickup, the Toyota RAV4 SUV and Nissan Rogue SUV, in that order. With gas prices still affordable, the economy booming, and unemployment low, analysts said US consumers are preferring higher-priced, amenity-laden, large cars compared to more modest family sedans and small compacts. “Consumers, as soon as the recession was over, were ready to buy vehicles. And we really haven’t seen a deterioration,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Cox Automotive, adding that recently passed US tax cuts are also likely to fuel pickup and SUV sales.The larger models are highly profitable for car makers. Ford’s F-150, the best selling car in the US in 2017, had an average transaction price of $58,000, Lindland said. Larger, ‘muscular’Unveilings commenced at a rapid clip on Monday, even after some major car makers debuted new models over the weekend. Citation: At Detroit auto show, trucks and SUVs are king (2018, January 15) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-01-detroit-auto-trucks-suvs-king.html The Acura RDX prototype is introduced during the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, on January 15, 2018 This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. © 2018 AFP Ford’s massive Lincoln Navigator SUV won, in the truck category, in part because of its towing capability, an awards representative said. Some automakers tried to stand out with flash and glamour. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger emerged from a redesigned Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV on Sunday night. GM brought out a redesigned Silverado on Saturday night against a backdrop of earlier models dating back decades—emphasizing its roots in American history.”Muscularity is very important in a truck,” said GM’s design chief Michael Simcoe, while introducing the Silverado. At the same time, he said consumers are increasingly looking for luxury in trucks. “We have customers who want luxury car levels of refinement and comfort,” he said. “This is the fastest growing segment in the truck business.” Chief performance officer of Nissan Motor Company and chairman of Nissan North America, Jose Munoz introduces the Nissan Xmotion concept car at the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan, on January 15, 2018 Honda, Volvo, Ford scoop awards at Detroit auto show Explore further Fiat Chrysler offered an updated Ram pickup, boasting of new multifunction USB ports, a 12-inch touchscreen display and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, among other features. Car makers appealed to Americans’ deep love of SUVs and trucks on Monday at the Detroit Auto Show, unveiling a host of choices from luxurious to utilitarian, while also beefing up the humble sedan. read more

Bezos unfazed by antitrust concerns on Amazon

first_img Explore further Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said Thursday he was not worried about the potential for anti-trust scrutiny of the company as it becomes an important economic force. © 2018 AFP Citation: Bezos unfazed by antitrust concerns on Amazon (2018, September 14) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-09-bezos-unfazed-antitrust-amazon.html As Amazon slashes prices, Bezos sees jump in wealth Speaking at a Washington business gathering, Bezos said it was normal to draw scrutiny but he did not anticipate any actions that would prevent the internet giant from innovating and growing.”We are so inventive that whatever regulations are promulgated, that will not stop us from serving customers,” Bezos said in a question-and-answer session at a dinner hosted by the Economic Club of Washington.”Customers are still going to want low prices. They’re still going to want fast delivery. They’re still going to want a big selection.”Bezos said it was unsurprising and even normal to face questions when a company like Amazon becomes so big.”All big institutions of any kind are going to be and should be examined, scrutinized and inspected,” he said.”We want to live in a society where people are worried about big institutions. That’s OK.”But Bezos said he did not see Amazon—which briefly hit $1 trillion in market value—as a monopoly, arguing that online sales still represent a small fraction of overall retail.”Eighty-five percent of sales is still in the physical world. So that’s where we face competition,” Bezos said.His comments came as US regulators opened hearings on whether to revamp anti-trust enforcement to consider the dominance of digital giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.Bezos also said no decision had been made on Amazon’s second North American headquarters, known as HQ2, for which 20 cities have been selected as finalists, and that the choice would be made as scheduled before the end of the year.He said “we have made tremendous progress” in the search but offered no clues, despite reports that Amazon board members had visited locations in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Virginia. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more