6 Diseases You Can Catch from the Internet.


 

 

undefined

 

undefined

 

undefined

 

undefined

 

undefined


 

When and where to see comet Lovejoy


A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the green Lovejoy comet as it will not return for another 8,000 years.

'Star of wonder' seen in East'Star of wonder' seen in East

The comet, which was discovered in August by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy, is travelling around 15 miles per second and has been billed as one of the brightest comets in years.

It has already reached its closest point to the Earth, a distance of 44 million miles, but it will remain easy to spot for about the next two weeks.

Although this would technically make this a naked-eye object, its diffuse fuzziness means that most viewers, who live under light pollution, will still need binoculars.

It has been visible for the past few weeks will reach its brightest point of magnitude 4 on Wednesday night.

Stargazers will still be able to see C/2014 Q2, albeit at a dimmer level, in total for the first three weeks of January.

Where is best to catch a glimpse of the comet?

You need to be in a dark sky area to get the best view of the comet.

It can be found by looking to the right of Orion, about two hand widths below the “seven sisters” Pleiades star cluster.

Dark Sky Discovery has a map of areas with little light pollution for the best chance of spotting Comet Lovejoy over the coming weeks.

Below are various dark sky areas and reserves around the UK, which are popular with astronomers.

London: The WaterWorks Nature Reserve, between Clapton and Leyton Midland Road rail station. You can also head out of the city to Surrey or Kent, to reduce the likelihood of light pollution.

Manchester: Heaton Park is the largest municipal park in the city, covering 600 acres. It also contains an astronomy club.

Birmingham: Warley Woods is accessible by bus or car from the city. Those driving should take the A456 Hagley Road westbound from the centre.

Newcastle: Northumberland National Park is an internationally designated Dark Sky Park.

Cardiff: Brecon Beacons offers some of the darkest skies in the UK. For more information on the best areas within the National Park

Belfast: Oxford Island National Nature Reserve is around 25 miles from the city, located on the shores of Lough Neagh.

Edinburgh: Newbattle Abbey College, off the B703 Newbattle Road, is part of Dark Sky Scotland.

Why does Comet Lovejoy have a green glow?

The comet gets its eye-catching colour from two gases, cyanogen and diatomic carbon, which both glow green when sunlight passes through them.

Its green hue is produced by molecules of diatomic carbon in the coma that fluoresce under the Sun’s ultraviolet rays.

In contrast, the comet’s delicate gas tail is tinted blue thanks to fluorescing charged molecules of carbon monoxide.

View image on Twitter

NASA Observatories Take an Unprecedented Look into Superstar Eta Carinae


Eta Carinae, the most luminous and massive stellar system within 10,000 light-years of Earth, is known for its surprising behavior, erupting twice in the 19th century for reasons scientists still don’t understand. A long-term study led by astronomers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, used NASA satellites, ground-based telescopes and theoretical modeling to produce the most comprehensive picture of Eta Carinae to date. New findings include Hubble Space Telescope images that show decade-old shells of ionized gas racing away from the largest star at a million miles an hour, and new 3-D models that reveal never-before-seen features of the stars’ interactions.

“We are coming to understand the present state and complex environment of this remarkable object, but we have a long way to go to explain Eta Carinae’s past eruptions or to predict its future behavior,” said Goddard astrophysicist Ted Gull, who coordinates a research group that has monitored the star for more than a decade.

Located about 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina, Eta Carinae comprises two massive stars whose eccentric orbits bring them unusually close every 5.5 years. Both produce powerful gaseous outflows called stellar winds, which enshroud the stars and stymy efforts to directly measure their properties. Astronomers have established that the brighter, cooler primary star has about 90 times the mass of the sun and outshines it by 5 million times. While the properties of its smaller, hotter companion are more contested, Gull and his colleagues think the star has about 30 solar masses and emits a million times the sun’s light.

Speaking at a press conference at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle on Wednesday, the Goddard researchers discussed recent observations of Eta Carinae and how they fit with the group’s current understanding of the system.

At closest approach, or periastron, the stars are 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) apart, or about the average distance between Mars and the sun. Astronomers observe dramatic changes in the system during the months before and after periastron. These include X-ray flares, followed by a sudden decline and eventual recovery of X-ray emission; the disappearance and re-emergence of structures near the stars detected at specific wavelengths of visible light; and even a play of light and shadow as the smaller star swings around the primary.

During the past 11 years, spanning three periastron passages, the Goddard group has developed a model based on routine observations of the stars using ground-based telescopes and multiple NASA satellites. “We used past observations to construct a computer simulation, which helped us predict what we would see during the next cycle, and then we feed new observations back into the model to further refine it,” said Thomas Madura, a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at Goddard and a theorist on the Eta Carinae team.

Hubble images of Eta Carinae captured by Hubble's STIS instrument between 2010 and 2014
Seen in blue light emitted by doubly ionized iron atoms (4,659 angstroms), these images of Eta Carinae were captured by Hubble’s STIS instrument between 2010 and 2014. Gas shells created during the binary’s 2003 close approach race outward at about 1 million mph (1.6 million km/h).
supercomputer simulation of the stars of Eta Carinae
In this supercomputer simulation, the stars of Eta Carinae are shown as black dots. Lighter colors indicate greater densities in the stellar winds produced by each star. At closest approach, the fast wind of the smaller star carves a tunnel in the thicker wind of the larger star.
 Eta Carinae’s great eruption in the 1840s created the billowing Homunculus Nebula, imaged here by Hubble. Now about a light-year long, the expanding cloud contains enough material to make at least 10 copies of our sun. Astronomers cannot yet explain what caused this eruption.
According to this model, the interaction of the two stellar winds accounts for many of the periodic changes observed in the system. The winds from each star have markedly different properties: thick and slow for the primary, lean and fast for the hotter companion. The primary’s wind blows at nearly 1 million mph and is especially dense, carrying away the equivalent mass of our sun every thousand years. By contrast, the companion’s wind carries off about 100 times less material than the primary’s, but it races outward as much as six times faster.

Madura’s simulations, which were performed on the Pleiades supercomputer at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, reveal the complexity of the wind interaction. When the companion star rapidly swings around the primary, its faster wind carves out a spiral cavity in the dense outflow of the larger star. To better visualize this interaction, Madura converted the computer simulations to 3-D digital models and made solid versions using a consumer-grade 3-D printer. This process revealed lengthy spine-like protrusions in the gas flow along the edges of the cavity, features that hadn’t been noticed before.

“We think these structures are real and that they form as a result of instabilities in the flow in the months around closest approach,” Madura said. “I wanted to make 3-D prints of the simulations to better visualize them, which turned out to be far more successful than I ever imagined.” A paper detailing this research has been submitted to the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The team detailed a few key observations that expose some of the system’s inner workings. For the past three periastron passages, ground-based telescopes in Brazil, Chile, Australia and New Zealand have monitored a single wavelength of blue light emitted by helium atoms that have lost a single electron. According to the model, the helium emission tracks conditions in the primary star’s wind. The Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) aboard Hubble captures a different wavelength of blue light emitted by iron atoms that have lost two electrons, which uniquely reveals where gas from the primary star is set aglow by the intense ultraviolet light of its companion. Lastly, X-rays from the system carry information directly from the wind collision zone, where the opposing winds create shock waves that heat the gas to hundreds of millions of degrees.

“Changes in the X-rays are a direct probe of the collision zone and reflect changes in how these stars lose mass,” said Michael Corcoran, an astrophysicist with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland. He and his colleagues compared periastron emission measured over the past 20 years by NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, which ceased operation in 2012, and the X-ray Telescope aboard NASA’s Swift satellite. In July 2014, as the stars rushed toward each other, Swift observed a series of flares culminating in the brightest X-ray emission yet seen from Eta Carinae. This implies a change in mass loss by one of the stars, but X-rays alone cannot determine which one.

Goddard’s Mairan Teodoro led the ground-based campaign tracking the helium emission. “The 2014 emission is nearly identical to what we saw at the previous periastron in 2009, which suggests the primary wind has been constant and that the companion’s wind is responsible for the X-ray flares,” he explained.

After NASA astronauts repaired the Hubble Space Telescope’s STIS instrument in 2009, Gull and his collaborators requested to use it to observe Eta Carinae. By separating the stars’ light into a rainbow-like spectrum, STIS reveals the chemical make-up of their environment. But the spectrum also showed wispy structures near the stars that suggested the instrument could be used to map a region close to the binary system in never-before-seen detail.

STIS views its targets through a single narrow slit to limit contamination from other sources. Since December 2010, Gull’s team has regularly mapped a region centered on the binary by capturing spectra at 41 different locations, an effort similar to building up a panoramic picture from a series of snapshots. The view spans about 430 billion miles (670 billion km), or about 4,600 times the average Earth-sun distance.

The resulting images, revealed for the first time on Wednesday, show that the doubly ionized iron emission comes from a complex gaseous structure nearly a tenth of a light-year across, which Gull likens to Maryland blue crab. By stepping through the STIS images, vast shells of gas representing the crab’s “claws” can be seen racing away from the stars with measured speeds of about 1 million mph (1.6 million km/h). With each close approach, a spiral cavity forms in the larger star’s wind and then expands outward along with it, creating the moving shells.

“These gas shells persist over thousands of times the distance between Earth and the sun,” Gull explained. “Backtracking them, we find the shells began moving away from the primary star about 11 years or three periastron passages ago, providing us with an additional way to glimpse what occurred in the recent past.”

When the stars approach, the companion becomes immersed in the thickest part of the primary’s wind, which absorbs its UV light and prevents the radiation from reaching the distant gas shells. Without this energy to excite it, the doubly ionized iron stops emitting light and the crab structure disappears at this wavelength. Once the companion swings around the primary and clears the densest wind, its UV light escapes, re-energizes iron atoms in the shells, and the crab returns.

Both of the massive stars of Eta Carinae may one day end their lives in supernova explosions. For stars, mass is destiny, and what will determine their ultimate fate is how much matter they can lose — through stellar winds or as-yet-inexplicable eruptions — before they run out of fuel and collapse under their own weight.

For now, the researchers say, there is no evidence to suggest an imminent demise of either star. They are exploring the rich dataset from the 2014 periastron passage to make new predictions, which will be tested when the stars again race together in February 2020.

NASA is exploring our solar system and beyond to understand the universe and our place in it. We seek to unravel the secrets of our universe, its origins and evolution, and search for life among the stars.

Watch the video. URL : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rJQi6oaZf0

WHAT ONLINE DATING TELLS US ABOUT HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS


http://myscienceacademy.org/2015/01/07/what-online-dating-tells-us-about-human-relationships/

Paris Attack At Charlie Hebdo Offices And The Psychology Of Terrorism: Are Certain People More Prone To Extremism?


On the morning of Jan. 7, 2015, the world mourned the death of 12 killed at the hands of Islamist extremists in the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo magazine. The brutal attack, described as a scene of “butchery,” left another five seriously injured. It seems like these stories of terrorist attacks are becoming all too frequent, but what is it that makes some men and women commit crimes compared to others who would never entertain the fantasy? Well, psychology may have the answer to that.

jesuischarlie

The Paris terrorism attack left 12 dead; 10 Charlie Hebdo workers and two police officers, The Guardian reported. It caused the City of Lights to go on high alert, with children being evacuated in nearby schools and police being stationed at surrounding newspaper offices, museums, and subway stations. The attackers have not made their motives known, but it’s believed that a series of cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad may have sparked the violence.

What Is Terrorism?

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation defines an act of terrorism as violent or dangerous acts to human life that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.

Although at the moment extremist Muslims are getting the majority of attention for their acts of terrorism, in truth these crimes are committed by men and women from all walks of life. Terrorism and religion are in fact not at all related, although many may confuse them to be. No one explains this better than Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green who wrote, “Religion is the red herring. What’s at the heart of all divisiveness is sin.”

In reality, most people would no sooner become involved in an act of terrorism than they would chop off their own arm. So if it’s not religion beliefs that define who may and may not become a terrorist, what is it?

What Drives Some To Kill?

Psychologists agree that at the root of terrorists’ motives is the need for significance and recognition, regardless of the reason.

“Some personality types are more prone to radical ideologies,” Arie Kruglanski, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland who focuses on radicalization, explained to NBC News. “Radical ideology promises glory and significance. Therefore, people who are more motivated toward glory and significance are more prone to accept those ideologies.”

Some are drawn to the lifestyle because it brings excitement and purpose to a life they perceive as mundane.

“Part of the appeal for many of these young men was that radical Islam ideology has an infamy about it that young men throughout the ages have searched for — whether to be part of gangs or radical anarchy or communism,” Jamie Bartlett, director of the center for the analysis of social media at Demos, a British think tank, told NBC News. “There’s a certain thrill that comes with being part of those movements. This is an extremely important part of the appeal for al Qaeda, and ISIS is the same.”

Terrorism tends to give people’s lives a sense of meaning and the religious aspect to terrorism, as reported by The Daily Beast, provides the justification for these often gruesome acts. Terrorism is not a mental illness and there is no one “terrorist” personality.

Others are drawn to terrorism in desperation and believe it is a futile attempt to bring about socio-economic changes, with Standford professor Martha Crenshaw explaining in BuzzFeedthat vengeance for perceived wrongs in the world is “one of the strongest motivations behind terrorism…”

Perhaps the most unsettling of all reasons is that some people find sympathy they so desperately crave within radical ideals on the Internet. Take, for example, Colleen LaRose, an American terrorist, better known as Jihad Jane. Through her lifelong struggles with depression, LaRose found sympathy among Islamist radicals she met online. Working on the woman’s desperation, a radical convinced the petite convert to travel to Denmark and kill a cartoonist who depicted the head of Muhammad on a dog, Reuters reported. Thankfully, LaRose was stopped before she could complete her crime, but unfortunately many others remain undetected.

COMMON HUMAN PROTEIN LINKED TO ADVERSE PARASITIC WORM INFECTIONS


150108144746-large

Worm infections represent a major global public health problem, leading to a variety of debilitating diseases and conditions, such as anemia, elephantiasis, growth retardation and dysentery. Several drugs are available to treat worm infections, but reinfection is high especially in developing countries.

Now, scientists at the University of California, Riverside and colleagues around the world have made a discovery, reported in this month’s issue of PLOS Pathogens, that could lead to more effective diagnostic and treatment strategies for worm infections and their symptoms. The researchers found that resistin, an immune protein commonly found in human serum, instigates an inappropriate inflammatory response to worm infections, impairing the clearance of the worm.

“Targeting this inflammatory pathway with drugs or antibodies could be a new therapeutic strategy to treat worm infections and the associated pathology,” saidMeera Nair, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences in the UC RiversideSchool of Medicine, whose laboratory made the discovery.  “Additionally, our data point to the diagnostic potential for resistin as a new biomarker for impaired immune responses to worms.”

Jessica Jang, the lead author of the research paper and a third-year UCR graduate student in microbiology, explained that resistin regulates the recruitment of innate immune cells called monocytes to the site of infection to produce inflammatory cytokines (small proteins that are important in cell signaling).

“Future work in my Ph.D. research will focus on further investigating the activation of monocytes so we can clinically exploit this immune pathway,” she said.

Parasitic worms, known scientifically as helminths, include filarial worms and hookworms. They cause diseases such as elephantiasis, which produces extreme swelling of extremities, and necatoriasis, which causes abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss. The infections are often associated with life-long morbidity, including malnutrition, growth retardation and organ failure.

In many developing countries where parasitic worms are prevalent due to substandard sanitation facilities, infections in humans are common, as are reinfections. Some infected patients develop immunity, but others remain susceptible to infections when they are re-exposed or develop chronic infections. Currently, no vaccine is available against human worm pathogens.

The research directed by Nair’s lab combined mouse studies with human data to demonstrate that resistin is actually detrimental, causing excessive inflammation that impedes the body’s ability to clear parasitic worms.

In the animal studies, mice containing the gene expressing human resistin and infected with a parasitic worm similar to the human hookworm experienced excessive inflammation, leading to increased weight loss and other symptoms. Clinical samples from two groups of individuals from the south Pacific island of Mauke and from Ecuador – one group infected with filarial worms causing lymphatic filariasis and a second group infected with intestinal roundworms Ascaris – revealed increased levels of resistin in the infected individuals compared to those who were uninfected or immune.

A better understanding of human resistin may also reveal new knowledge about obesity and diabetes. Resistin has been mapped to the pathway of immune-mediated inflammation that promotes diabetes and other obesity-related disorders and Nair hopes to combine her lab’s basic science expertise with the developing clinical research enterprise in the UCR medical school as a future avenue to research new diagnostic or treatment strategies.

NEUROPROSTHETICS FOR PARALYSIS: BIOCOMPATIBLE, FLEXIBLE IMPLANT SLIPS INTO THE SPINAL CORD


150108144734-large (1)

EPFL scientists have managed to get rats walking on their own again using a combination of electrical and chemical stimulation. But applying this method to humans would require multifunctional implants that could be installed for long periods of time on the spinal cord without causing any tissue damage. This is precisely what the teams of professors Stéphanie Lacour and Grégoire Courtine have developed. Their e-Dura implant is designed specifically for implantation on the surface of the brain or spinal cord. The small device closely imitates the mechanical properties of living tissue, and can simultaneously deliver electric impulses and pharmacological substances. The risks of rejection and/or damage to the spinal cord have been drastically reduced. An article about the implant will appear in early January in Science Magazine.

So-called “surface implants” have reached a roadblock; they cannot be applied long term to the spinal cord or brain, beneath the nervous system’s protective envelope, otherwise known as the “dura mater,” because when nerve tissues move or stretch, they rub against these rigid devices. After a while, this repeated friction causes inflammation, scar tissue buildup, and rejection.

An easy-does-it implant
Flexible and stretchy, the implant developed at EPFL is placed beneath the dura mater, directly onto the spinal cord. Its elasticity and its potential for deformation are almost identical to the living tissue surrounding it. This reduces friction and inflammation to a minimum. When implanted into rats, the e-Dura prototype caused neither damage nor rejection, even after two months. More rigid traditional implants would have caused significant nerve tissue damage during this period of time.

The researchers tested the device prototype by applying their rehabilitation protocol — which combines electrical and chemical stimulation – to paralyzed rats. Not only did the implant prove its biocompatibility, but it also did its job perfectly, allowing the rats to regain the ability to walk on their own again after a few weeks of training.

“Our e-Dura implant can remain for a long period of time on the spinal cord or the cortex, precisely because it has the same mechanical properties as the dura mater itself. This opens up new therapeutic possibilities for patients suffering from neurological trauma or disorders, particularly individuals who have become paralyzed following spinal cord injury,” explains Lacour, co-author of the paper, and holder of EPFL’s Bertarelli Chair in Neuroprosthetic Technology.

Flexibility of tissue, efficiency of electronics

Developing the e-Dura implant was quite a feat of engineering. As flexible and stretchable as living tissue, it nonetheless includes electronic elements that stimulate the spinal cord at the point of injury. The silicon substrate is covered with cracked gold electric conducting tracks that can be pulled and stretched. The electrodes are made of an innovative composite of silicon and platinum microbeads. They can be deformed in any direction, while still ensuring optimal electrical conductivity. Finally, a fluidic microchannel enables the delivery of pharmacological substances – neurotransmitters in this case – that will reanimate the nerve cells beneath the injured tissue.

The implant can also be used to monitor electrical impulses from the brain in real time. When they did this, the scientists were able to extract with precision the animal’s motor intention before it was translated into movement.

“It’s the first neuronal surface implant designed from the start for long-term application. In order to build it, we had to combine expertise from a considerable number of areas,” explains Courtine, co-author and holder of EPFL’s IRP Chair in Spinal Cord Repair. “These include materials science, electronics, neuroscience, medicine, and algorithm programming. I don’t think there are many places in the world where one finds the level of interdisciplinary cooperation that exists in our Center for Neuroprosthetics.”

For the time being, the e-Dura implant has been primarily tested in cases of spinal cord injury in paralyzed rats. But the potential for applying these surface implants is huge – for example in epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and pain management. The scientists are planning to move towards clinical trials in humans, and to develop their prototype in preparation for commercialization.

EXPOSURE TO NANOPARTICLES MAY THREATEN HEART HEALTH


aorta-151145_640

Nanoparticles, extremely tiny particles measured in billionths of a meter, are increasingly everywhere, and especially in biomedical products. Their toxicity has been researched in general terms, but now a team of Israeli scientists has for the first time found that exposure nanoparticles (NPs) of silicon dioxide (SiO2) can play a major role in the development of cardiovascular diseases when the NP cross tissue and cellular barriers and also find their way into the circulatory system. Their study is published in the December 2014 issue of Environmental Toxicology.

The research team was comprised of scientists from the Technion Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Rambam Medical Center, and the Center of Excellence in Exposure Science and Environmental Health (TCEEH).

“Environmental exposure to nanoparticles is becoming unavoidable due to the rapid expansion of nanotechnology,” says the study’s lead author, Prof. Michael Aviram, of the Technion Faculty of Medicine, “This exposure may be especially chronic for those employed in research laboratories and in high tech industry where workers handle, manufacture, use and dispose of nanoparticles. Products that use silica-based nanoparticles for biomedical uses, such as various chips, drug or gene delivery and tracking, imaging, ultrasound therapy, and diagnostics, may also pose an increased cardiovascular risk for consumers as well.”

In this study, researchers exposed cultured laboratory mouse cells resembling the arterial wall cells to NPs of silicon dioxide and investigated the effects. SiO2 NPs are toxic to and have significant adverse effects on macrophages. a type of white blood cell that take up lipids, leading to atherosclerotic lesion development and its consequent cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke. Macrophages accumulation in the arterial wall under atherogenic conditions such as high cholesterol, triglycerides, oxidative stress – are converted into lipids, or laden “foam cells” which, in turn, accelerate atherosclerosis development.

“Macrophage foam cells accumulation in the arterial wall are a key cell type in the development of atherosclerosis, which is an inflammatory disease” says co-author Dr. Lauren Petrick. “The aims of our study were to gain additional insight into the cardiovascular risk associated with silicon dioxide nanoparticle exposure and discover the mechanisms behind Si02’s induced atherogenic effects on macrophages. We also wanted to use nanoparticles as a model for ultrafine particle (UFP) exposure as cardiovascular disease risk factors.”

Both NPs and UFPs can be inhaled and induce negative biological effects. However, until this study, their effect on the development of atherosclerosis has been largely unknown. Here, researchers have discovered for the first time that the toxicity of silicon dioxide nanoparticles has a “significant and substantial effect on the accumulation of triglycerides in the macrophages,” at all exposure concentrations analyzed, and that they also “increase oxidative stress and toxicity.”

A recent update from the American Heart Association also suggested that “fine particles” in air pollution leads to elevated risk for cardiovascular diseases. However, more research was needed to examine the role of “ultrafine particles” (which are much smaller than “fine particles”) on atherosclerosis development and cardiovascular risk.

“The number of nano-based consumer products has risen a thousand fold in recent years, with an estimated world market of $3 trillion by the year 2020,” conclude the researchers. “This reality leads to increased human exposure and interaction of silica-based nanoparticles with biological systems. Because our research demonstrates a clear cardiovascular health risk associated with this trend, steps need to be taken to help ensure that potential health and environmental hazards are being addressed at the same time as the nanotechnology is being developed.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is a major source of the innovation and brainpower that drives the Israeli economy, and a key to Israel’s renown as the world’s “Start-Up Nation.” Its three Nobel Prize winners exemplify academic excellence. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world including life-saving medicine, sustainable energy, computer science, water conservation and nanotechnology. The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute is a vital component of Cornell NYC Tech, and a model for graduate applied science education that is expected to transform New York City’s economy.

The Sun’s Effect On Our Lifespan: Solar Activity At Birth May Predict How Long We Live


Health care professionals are constantly warning us that too much sun exposure can significantly increase our risk for skin cancer, but it appears UV rays can affect our lifespan well before we’re old enough to catch a tan on the beach. A recent study conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has revealed that being born during a period of heightened solar activity can shorten our lifespan by over five years.

Sun Exposure

“This study is the first to emphasize the importance of UVR (ultraviolet radiation) in early life,” the authors explained. “UVR is a global stressor with potential ecological impacts and the future levels of UVR are expected to increase due to climate change and variation in atmospheric ozone. Our results are thus highly relevant and contribute to a deeper knowledge of the consequences of UVR for animal life history, including human health.”

Researchers gathered data using 8,662 people born in Norway between 1676 and 1878 while controlling for maternal effects and socioeconomic status. Individuals were categorized by poor and wealthy backgrounds as well as birth during periods of heightened solar activity, also known as solar maximum and minimal solar activity, also known as solar minimum. The sun’s 11-year cycle includes three years of heightened solar activity and eight years of minimal solar activity. Solar activity is gauged via sunspots and solar flares.

Norwegian individuals who were born during a period of heightened solar activity had a lifespan that was, on average, 5.2 years shorter than those who were born during a period of minimal solar activity. Infants born during a period of solar maximum were also at a higher risk to dying before the age of 2 compared to infants born during a period of solar minimum. Women from a poor socioeconomic background born during a period of heightened solar activity were also more likely to be interfile, but not women from a wealthy socioeconomic background.

“Our findings suggest that maternal exposure to solar activity during gestation can affect the fitness of female children,” the authors added. “The effect of socio-economic status on the relationship between solar activity and fertility suggests that high-status pregnant women were better able to avoid the adverse effects of high solar activity.”

The research team was unable to determine what exactly caused solar activity’s effect on human lifespan, but speculated it has something to do with the deterioration of B vitamin folate. Vitamin B9 folate or folic acid is recommended for any expecting mother to help prevent major birth defects that may impact their child’s brain and spine. Folic acid is essential to our body’s production of cells especially during pregnancy.

Source: Skjærvø G, Fossøy F, Røskaft E. Solar activity at birth predicted infant survival and women’s fertility in historical Norway. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 2014.

NASAL SPRAY WITH INSULIN EQUIVALENT SHOWS PROMISE AS TREATMENT FOR ADULTS WITH MILD COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT, ALZHEIMER’S DEMENTIA


smile-191626_640

A man-made form of insulin delivered by nasal spray may improve working memory and other mental capabilities in adults with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease dementia, according to a pilot study led by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

The study’s subjects were 60 adults diagnosed with amnesic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia (AD). Those who received nasally-administered 40 international unit (IU) doses of insulin detemir, a manufactured form of the hormone, for 21 days showed significant improvement in their short-term ability to retain and process verbal and visual information compared with those who received 20 IU does or a placebo.

Additionally, the recipients of 40 IU doses carrying the APOE-e4 gene – which is known to increase the risk for Alzheimer’s – recorded significantly higher memory scores than those who received the loser dosage or placebo, while non-carriers across all three groups posted significantly lower scores.

Previous trials had shown promising effects of nasally-administered insulin for adults with AD and MCI, but this study was the first to use insulin detemir, whose effects are longer-lasting than those of “regular” insulin.

“The study provides preliminary evidence that insulin detemir can provide effective treatment for people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s-related dementia similar to our previous work with regular insulin,” said Suzanne Craft, Ph.D., professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study, which is published online in advance of the February issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. “We are also especially encouraged that we were able to improve memory for adults with MCI who have the APOE-e4 gene, as these patients are notoriously resistant to other therapies and interventions.”

The researchers also sought to determine if the insulin detemir doses would cause any negative side effects, and found only minor adverse reactions among the subjects.

The study’s overall results support further investigation of the therapeutic value of insulin detemir as a treatment for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, Craft said.

“Alzheimer’s is a devastating illness, for which even small therapeutic gains have the potential to improve quality of life and significantly reduce the overall burden for patients, families and society,” she said. “Future studies are warranted to examine the safety and efficacy of this promising treatment.”