Researchers discover first sensor of Earth’s magnetic field in an animal

A team of scientists and engineers at The University of Texas at Austin has identified the first sensor of the Earth’s magnetic field in an animal, finding in the brain of a tiny worm a big clue to a long-held mystery about how animals’ internal compasses work.

Animals as diverse as migrating geese, sea turtles and wolves are known to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. But until now, no one has pinpointed quite how they do it. The sensor, found in worms called C. elegans, is a microscopic structure at the end of a neuron that other animals probably share, given similarities in brain structure across species. The sensor looks like a nano-scale TV antenna, and the worms use it to navigate underground.

“Chances are that the same molecules will be used by cuter animals like butterflies and birds,” said Jon Pierce-Shimomura, assistant professor of neuroscience in the College of Natural Sciences and member of the research team. “This gives us a first foothold in understanding magnetosensation in other animals.”

The researchers discovered that hungry worms in gelatin-filled tubes tend to move down, a strategy they might use when searching for food.

When the researchers brought worms into the lab from other parts of the world, the worms didn’t all move down. Depending on where they were from—Hawaii, England or Australia, for example—they moved at a precise angle to the magnetic field that would have corresponded to down if they had been back home. For instance, Australian worms moved upward in tubes. The magnetic field’s orientation varies from spot to spot on Earth, and each worm’s magnetic field sensor system is finely tuned to its local environment, allowing it to tell up from down.

The research is published today in the journal eLife.

The study’s lead author is Andrés Vidal-Gadea, a former postdoctoral researcher in the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin, now a faculty member at Illinois State University. He noted that C. elegans is just one of myriad species living in the soil, many of which are known to migrate vertically.

“I’m fascinated by the prospect that magnetic detection could be widespread across soil dwelling organisms,” said Vidal-Gadea.

The neuroscientists and engineers, who use C. elegans in their research into Alzheimer’s disease and addiction, had previously discovered the worm’s ability to sense humidity. That work led them to ask what else the worms might be able to sense, such as magnetic fields.

In 2012, scientists from Baylor College of Medicine announced the discovery of brain cells in pigeons that process information about magnetic fields, but they did not discover which part of the body senses the fields. That team and others have proposed a magnetosensor in the birds’ inner ear.

“It’s been a competitive race to find the first magnetosensory neuron,” said Pierce-Shimomura. “And we think we’ve won with worms, which is a big surprise because no one suspected that worms could sense the Earth’s magnetic field.”

The neuron sporting a , called an AFD neuron, was already known to sense carbon dioxide levels and temperature.

The researchers discovered the worms’ magnetosensory abilities by altering the magnetic field around them with a special magnetic coil system and then observing changes in behavior. They also showed that worms which were genetically engineered to have a broken AFD neuron did not orient themselves up and down as do normal . Finally, the researchers used a technique called calcium imaging to demonstrate that changes in the cause the AFD neuron to activate.

How Playing Music Benefits Your Brain More than Any Other Activity .

“Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.”

“Each note rubs the others just right, and the instrument shivers with delight. The feeling is unmistakable, intoxicating,” musician Glenn Kurtz wrote in his sublime meditation on the pleasures of practicing, adding: “My attention warms and sharpens… Making music changes my body.” Kurtz’s experience, it turns out, is more than mere lyricism — music does change the body’s most important organ, and changes it more profoundly than any other intellectual, creative, or physical endeavor.

This short animation from TED-Ed, written by Anita Collins and animated by Sharon Colman Graham, explains why playing music benefits the brain more than any other activity, how it impacts executive function and memory, and what it reveals about the role of the same neural structure implicated in explaining Leonardo da Vinci’s genius.


Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout… Playing an instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once — especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. And, as in any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brain functions, allowing us to apply that strength to other activities… Playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum — the bridge between the two hemispheres — allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. This may allow musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively, in both academic and social settings.

Because making music also involves crafting and understanding its emotional content and message, musicians also have higher levels of executive function — a category of interlinked tasks that includes planning, strategizing, andattention to detail, and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects.

This ability also has an impact on how our memory systems work. And, indeed, musicians exhibit enhanced memory functions — creating, storing, and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently. Studies have found that musicians appear to use their highly connected brains to give each memory multiple tags, such as a conceptual tag, an emotionaltag, an audio tag, and a contextual tag — like a good internet search engine.

Watch the video. URL:

Blood donors in Sweden get a text message whenever they save a life .

While blood donations in high-income countries around the world have increased by 25 percent over the last decade, efforts are being made to increase falling rates in new volunteers. According to a report released last week by the UK-based NHS Blood and Transplant organisation, there are now 40 percent fewer new blood donors in the UK than there were 10 years ago, and they need around 204,000 new volunteers to give blood this year to keep their stocks at a ‘safe’ level.

Similar rates of decline have also been seen in Sweden, so a Stockholm-based blood service called Blodcentralen has come up with a pretty great way to encourage people to donate and continue donating – they let them know exactly when their blood has been used to treat a patient.

“We want to give [donors] feedback on their effort, and we find this is a good way to do that,” Karolina Blom Wiberg from Blodcentralen told Jon Stone at The Independent. “It’s a great feeling to know you made such a big difference and maybe even saved someone else’s life.”

The automated text message service works by first thanking the donors when they give blood, and then updating them every time their blood is given to a patient. The program was launched three years ago by Blodcentralen, and thanks to the positive response from the public, other blood donation services around Stockholm and elsewhere in Sweden have been using it.

In some facilities, the public can see a chart that’s updated in real-time to show how much blood is actually left, and the urgency might encourage people to make the effort to donate. “The same info as we have internally is shown externally,” said Blom Wiberg. “Our challenge is to make the public and especially the blood donators understand just how important their contribution is.”

We could really use a service like this in Australia. According to the ABC, one in three Australians will need a blood transfusion during their lifetime, and only one in 30 are regularly donating, which means something has to give.

“We simply can’t ignore the fact that there has been a stark reduction in the number of new donors coming forward, a trend seen across the world,” Jon Latham from the NHS Blood and Transplant donor services told the press in a statement. “While we can meet the needs of patients now, it’s important we strengthen the donor base for the future.”

Efforts are also being made to get brands, retailers and celebrities in on the movement to encourage blood donations. It shouldn’t be that hard – there’s no greater feeling than when you’ve made a true difference to someone else’s life, let alone saved it, so hopefully we’ll see a whole lot more of those text messages in the future.

IV Drip Drug Used During An MRI Leaves Behind Toxic Metal Residue In Brains Of Patients

MRI toxins

Some gadolinium-based contrast agents, intravenous drugs used during an MRI, leave behind a potentially toxic metal in the brains of patients. ActiveSteve, CC BY-ND 2.0

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a technology that produces detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone, and other internal body structures for the purposes of detecting and diagnosing diseases. Commonly, a type of intravenous drug known as a contrast agent is used to improve the visibility of internal structures during an MRI. A new research article verifies past claims that some of these contrast agents pass the blood brain barrier and leave behind a potentially toxic metal.

Gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) have been used over the past 25 years in more than 100 million patients around the world. Their safety profile was believed to be exceptional, since just 0.03 percent of all administrations resulted in negative side effects for patients. These commonly used compounds are based on, as their name suggest, gadolinium; this metal ion moves differently within a magnetic field and that’s the reason it is used during an MRI.

Unfortunately, gadolinium is known to be toxic.

For many years, scientists generally assumed that patients’ bodies excreted GBCA shortly after their MRIs and whatever tiny amount of the drug remained behind was simply inconsequential, causing no detrimental health effects. In 2006, though, two European studies suggested a relationship between GBCA and nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF), a serious syndrome that is potentially fatal, in patients with renal disease. Following these studies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revised its labeling requirements andwarnings in 2006 (and then again in 2010), but then another study published in December 2013 suggested the possibility that a toxic component of GBCA may remain in the body — and in the brain — long after an MRI is completed.

The current article addresses these claims as scientists from the University of Pittsburgh investigate prior research to determine the possible hazards of these drugs.

Clear Evidence

“At this stage, we now have clear evidence that the administration of various GBCAs results in notably varied levels of accumulation of residual gadolinium in the brain and bones of patients, even those with normal renal function,” wrote the authors in their published paper.

They admit, however, that only some, but not all, GBCAs lead to residual accumulation of the toxic compound, while the clinical significance, “if any,” remains unknown. Still, they recommend both caution when using these drugs and further research to understand their effects.

In its most recent warning, the FDA decided all GBCA labels must emphasize the need to screen patients for kidney dysfunction before administration of these drugs. In particular, FDA selected three GBCAs — Magnevist, Omniscan, and Optimark — as requiring labels with additional emphasis on the inappropriateness of their use among patients with acute kidney injury or chronic severe kidney disease.

Source: Kanal E, Tweedle MF. Residual or Retained Gadolinium: Practical Implications for Radiologists and Our Patients. Radiology. 2015.

New drug triggers tissue regeneration: Faster regrowth and healing of damaged tissues: Research focuses on select tissues injured through disease, surgery and transplants, but early findings indicate potential for broad applications .

Scientist holding white laboratory mouse.

The concept sounds like the stuff of science fiction: take a pill, and suddenly new tissues grow to replace damaged ones.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve and UT Southwestern Medical Center this week announced that they have taken significant steps toward turning this once-improbable idea into a vivid reality. In a study published in the June 12 edition of Science, they detail how a new drug repaired damage to the colon, liver and bone marrow in animal models — even going so far as to save the lives of mice who otherwise would have died in a bone marrow transplantation model.

“We are very excited,” said Sanford Markowitz, MD, PhD, the Ingalls Professor of Cancer Genetics at the university’s School of Medicine and a medical oncologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center’s Seidman Cancer Center. “We have developed a drug that acts like a vitamin for tissue stem cells, stimulating their ability to repair tissues more quickly. The drug heals damage in multiple tissues, which suggests to us that it may have applications in treating many diseases.”

The institutions collaborating on this work next hope to develop the drug — now known as “SW033291” — for use in human patients. Because of the areas of initial success, they first would focus on individuals who are receiving bone marrow transplants, individuals with ulcerative colitis, and individuals having liver surgery. The goal for each is the same: to increase dramatically the chances of a more rapid and successful recovery.

The key to the drug’s potential involves a molecule the body produces that is known as prostaglandin E2, or PGE2. It is well established that PGE2 supports proliferation of many types of tissue stem cells. Markowitz and University of Kentucky Professor Hsin-Hsiung Tai earlier had demonstrated that a gene product found in all humans, 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH), degrades and reduces the amount of PGE2 in the body.

Markowitz, also a Harrington Discovery Institute Scholar-Innovator, and James K.V. Willson, MD, a former Case Western Reserve colleague now at UT-Southwestern, hypothesized that inhibiting 15-PGDH would increase PGE2 in tissues. In so doing, it would promote and speed tissue healing. When experiments on mice genetically engineered to lack 15-PGDH proved them correct, the pair began searching for a way to inactivate 15-PGDH on a short-term basis.

The preliminary work began in test tubes. Yongyou Zhang, PhD, a Case Western Reserve research associate in Markowitz’s lab and a lead author on the study, developed a test where cells glowed when 15-PGDH levels changed. Zhang then traveled to UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, where Willson serves as director. Zhang and UT Southwestern researchers Bruce Posner, PhD, and Joseph Ready, PhD, collaborated to comb through the center’s library of 230,000 different chemicals. Ultimately they identified one chemical that they found inactivated 15-PGDH.

“The chemical, SW033291, acts in an incredibly potent way,” Markowitz said. “It can inactivate 15-PGDH when added at one part in 10 billion into a reaction mixture, which means it has promise to work as a drug.”

A series of experiments showed that SW033291 could inactivate 15-PGDH in a test tube and inside a cell, and, most importantly, when injected into animal models. The third finding came through collaboration between Markowitz and Stanton L. Gerson, MD, director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, UH Seidman Cancer Center, and the National Center for Regenerative Medicine, as well as the Asa and Patricia Shiverick-Jane Shiverick (Tripp) Professor of Hematological Oncology.

Case Western Reserve research associate Amar Desai, PhD, worked between the Markowitz and Gerson laboratories to determine the effect of SW033291 on mice that had received lethal doses of radiation and then received a partial bone marrow transplant. Without SW033291, the animals died. With it, they recovered.

From there, more detailed studies showed that mice given SW033291 recovered normal blood counts six days faster than mice that were transplanted without receiving SW033291. In addition, SW033291-treated mice showed faster recovery of neutrophils, platelets and red blood cells. Neutrophils battle infection, platelets prevent bleeding, and red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body.

In addition, Desai’s work showed that when SW033291 increases PGE2 in bone marrow, the body also begins to produce other materials that bone marrow stem cells need to survive. Finally, these benefits emerged without any adverse side effects, even at SW033291 doses much higher than would be required for 15-PGDH inhibition.

When investigators treated mice with other diseases, the SW033291 drug again accelerated tissue recovery. For example, the investigators teamed with Fabio Cominelli, MD, PhD, a Case Western Reserve Professor and Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Liver Disease, to study a mouse model of ulcerative colitis. SW033291 healed virtually all the ulcers in the animals’ colons and prevented colitis symptoms. In mice where two-thirds of their livers had been removed surgically, SW033291 accelerated regrowth of new liver nearly twice as fast as normally happens without medication.

Because bone marrow, colon, and liver are significantly different tissues, the investigators believe the pathway by which SW033291 speeds tissue regeneration is likely to work as well for treating diseases of many other tissues of the body. However, the next stages of the research will concentrate on three diseases where SW033291 already shows promise to provide dramatic improvement.

In bone marrow transplants, for example, effects of SW033291 in accelerating tissue growth would provide the body the cells required to fight off the two most common and sometimes fatal complications, infection and bleeding. For those suffering the debilitating impact of colitis, accelerating tissue growth could heal colon ulcers more quickly, which in turn could allow patients to take lower dosages of other medications that treat colitis — some of which have serious side effects. Finally, the promise of tissue growth could increase survival rates for patients with liver cancer; in some cases today, physicians are unable to perform surgery because the amount of the liver to be removed would be so great as to pose severe risk to the patient. But having a drug to accelerate the liver’s regrowth could make surgery a viable option.

The team’s next step will be to complete studies showing safety of SW033291-related compounds in larger animals, a required part of the pathway to secure approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for trials in humans. If the drugs prove safe and effective in those clinical trials, they could then become available for general use by physicians. Investigators hope to partner with pharmaceutical companies to be able to start human trials within three years.

“These are thrilling times for us as researchers, and it is also an exciting time for Case Western Reserve,” Markowitz said. “In Cleveland, there has been a major effort in the last two to three years to figure out how all our institutions can together work to develop drugs. This discovery is really something we should celebrate. It helps put us on the map as a place where new drugs get invented.”

Markowitz added that this research received crucial financial assistance from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine’s Council to Advance Human Health (CAHH), from the Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals, and from multiple National Institutes of Health grants that included the Case GI SPORE, led by Markowitz, and the National Center for Accelerating Innovation at the Cleveland Clinic. Additional support was received from the Marguerite Wilson Foundation; the Welch Foundation; the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas; Inje University; and the Korean National Research Foundation. Generous major gifts also came from the Leonard and Joan Horvitz Foundation and the Richard Horvitz and Erica Hartman-Horvitz Foundation.

Markowitz said the authors’ contributions to this research are truly a tribute to the powers of collaboration. Senior authors Hsin-Hsiung Tai, Stanton L. Gerson, Joseph M. Ready, Bruce Posner, James K.V. Willson and Markowitz provided substantial leadership. Markowitz and Willson, former director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and now director of the Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern, initiated the project to study the potential of inhibiting 15-PGDH as a tissue-healing treatment strategy. Tai, at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, originally discovered 15-PGDH and tested SW033291 as a 15-PGDH inhibitor. Gerson and Markowitz partnered to show the SW033291 drug is effective for regenerating bone marrow in mice. Ready, a UT Southwestern chemist, synthesized SW033291 for the studies and has made multiple other highly promising derivatives of the compound. Posner, also a chemist from UT Southwestern, oversaw the search through the 230,000 compounds in the UT Southwestern chemical library.

Lead authors Yongyou Zhang, Amar Desai, Sung Yeun Yang, Ki Beom Bae, Monika I. Antczak, Stephen P. Fink and Shruiti Tiwari contributed equally to the scientific investigation. Zhang, Case Western Reserve, led the experiments that identified the drug. Desai, Case Western Reserve, performed experiments that showed that SW033291 works in bone marrow transplantation in mice. Yang and Bae, now at Inje University in Korea, worked in the Markowitz laboratory on studies of colitis (Yang) and on liver regrowth after surgery (Bae). Antczak worked in the Ready lab at UT Southwestern on the chemical synthesis of SW033291. Fink and Tiwari, both of Case Western Reserve, completed the work on the colitis mouse model.

Markowitz also cited important collaboration of two Case Western Reserve participating authors — gastroenterologist Fabio Cominelli, who played a role in the success of the colitis experiments in mice, and Mark Chance, who contributed proteomics expertise for studies that showed how SW033291 works. Other participating investigators also contributed substantially: Joseph E. Willis, Dawn M. Dawson, David Wald, Wei-Dong Chen, Zhenghe Wang, Lakshmi Kasturi, Gretchen A. Larusch, Lucy He, Luca Di Martino, Juan Sanabria, Chris Dealwis, and Debra Mikkola, all of Case Western Reserve; Zora Djuric, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Ginger L. Milne, Vanderbilt University, Nashville; and Noelle S. Williams, Jacinth Naidoo, and Shuguang Wei, all at UT-Southwestern, Dallas.

“An impressive number of individuals contributed to the discovery of this 15-PGDH inhibitor drug,” Markowitz said. “Each one of them has done something absolutely remarkable and indispensable to the success of the study.”

Why You Should Get Active in the A.M.

The alarm clock blares, startling you from a dream-filled, quiet sleep. You unhurriedly make your way to the alarm clock to shut off that dreaded noise. At a snail’s pace, over the course of the following hour or two, you make your way from the door of your home to the door of your car. Barely awake and not 100% responsive at this point, you drive to work where a demanding day awaits.


Feelings of lethargy, lack of energy, grogginess, etc. are common among anyone familiar with the above-mentioned routine. Rather than improve these feelings through some natural, positive and health-focused approach, more often than not, people succumb to the use of caffeine and nothing more to get their “up” feeling in the morning.

Recent commentary within the medical community suggests that physical activity in the morning can be beneficial to one’s physical health and mental alertness. A study published by the British Journal of Nutrition found that working out in the morning on an empty stomach allows for 20% more body fat to be burned.[1]

While physical results are the goal for some, they are only the beginning in a long list of both physical and mental benefits associated with an active-filled morning routine.

1) If you don’t do it now, you may not do it at all.

Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise in San Diego explains that, “Research suggests in terms of performing a consistent exercise habit, individuals who exercise in the morning tend to do it better. The thinking is that they get their exercise in before other time pressures interfere.”

This isn’t a ground-breaking point to most of us. Procrastination is a real thing and we’re all susceptible to it. Putting off exercise (or any other goal for that matter) makes room for excuses down the road and, more often than not, gives reason for subsequent excuses and delays in action.

Make room in your schedule for consistent goals to be met. Set times, dates and expectations for yourself. More importantly, reward yourself. Physical activity will produce results.

2) Your mind will be sharper and so will you, as a result.

Arriving to work groggy, negative and sluggish is a common sight. It’s a far-too-common sight – all hands on deck, no words spoken, as employees watch the coffee drip into one mug after another. Morning activity can provide for mental stimulation, preparing the mind and body for the work day ahead.

Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical University speaks to this point, suggesting that regular exercise can improve mental function and sharpness.

“When you exercise and move around, you are using more brain cells. Using more brain cells turns on the genes to make BNDF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).”[2]

When one exercises, he or she stimulates brain regions involved in memory function and, in turn, releases the chemical BNDF.

3) Allow yourself some consistent “me time” and feel accomplished as a result

While suggesting and appreciating these incentives for early exercise/activity is easy, the part that may be difficult is application. Find reason to exercise in your life – don’t look for it elsewhere.

Grant yourself this opportunity and take advantage of it. It’s helpful to think of it as killing two birds with one stone. If you find that you don’t have enough me-time in your life and need some time to think, use this opportunity to improve your self-reflection and physical activity at the same time. If you’d like to spend some more time with a friend, neighbor or loved one, invite them to join you on a morning walk, run or workout.

Many people put off working out toward the end of the day and, as the clock ticks closer to that time, our motivation is often drained (and excuses accumulated). Allocating a block of time every morning for this activity removes the after-work anxiety to work out from your equation. No matter what you choose to do after work, you can rest assured throughout the day (and after) that you’ve accomplished something that morning.

4) Avoid Nature Deficit Disorder and explore the world around you

Moreover, if you feel that you’ve spent too much time inside – hunched in front of a computer, watching TV, washing dishes, etc. – take this time to absorb the world around you. Exercising, or even just being outside, provides for an environment that’s healthy and naturally stimulating.

Dr. Ratey says;

We are meant to be out there. The more different things we do and see, the better.”  [3]

If a full-fledged workout isn’t your cup of tea in the morning, that shouldn’t discourage you. It’s something to be worked up to.

The simple practice of stepping outside, taking a walk and breathing the fresh air in the morning can be equally stimulating and beneficial to your health. The contemporary wellness trend known as Earthing suggests that placing your body in direct contact with the Earth’s surface (i.e. going barefoot) allows your body to absorb the earth surface’s nearly limitless supply of free electrons. Doing so helps to neutralize harmful free radicals that, studies suggest, are responsible for health ailments including inflammation.

Article Reference




Poverty, Education Tied to Outcomes in Musculoskeletal Diseases

  • As observed in other chronic diseases, lower educational level and socioeconomic status (SES) have a strong independent association with poorer physical and mental health in those with musculoskeletal disease, according to research published online in RMD Open.

Led by Polina Putrik, a PhD student in health policy at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, the study analyzed population survey data from the Dutch National Monitor on Musculoskeletal System 2010. A demographically representative sample of 8,904 members of the Dutch population completed a survey on sociodemographics, physician-diagnosed morbidities, and physical and mental health measured by standard instruments.

Regression models were computed: first, in the total group of patients with musculoskeletal disease, with education, age, gender, origin, and place of residence as independent variables; and, second, in individuals expected to have paid work, with an added variable of social status. Models were repeated for five other subgroups of chronic disorders (cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer, mental, and respiratory).

Physician-confirmed musculoskeletal disease was reported by a substantial 1,766 (20%) participants (mean age 59 years, 38% male). In addition, 1,855 respondents (21%) reported cardiovascular disease (CVD), 679 (8%) respiratory disorders, 547 (6%) diabetes, 526 (6%) mental disorders, and 270 (3%) cancer. More than half (4,525/51%) reported no disease.

Musculoskeletal disease was associated with the lowest level of physical health. In musculoskeletal disease patients, primary-school versus university education was consistently associated with worse physical and mental health: -5.3 on the physical component summary (PCS) subscale of the 12-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12), and -3.3 on its mental component summary (MCS) subscale. Being on state subsidy versus having paid employment also related to poorer health: -5.3 PCS and -4.7 MCS.

“These health gradients are unfair and partly avoidable, and require consorted attention and action in and outside healthcare,” Putrik and colleagues wrote.

Gender was relevant only for PCS: female versus male -2.1. With the exception of cancer, other diseases showed comparable differences in health by education and SES. No health gradients by ethnic origin or place of residence were observed.

The physical health gradient by education seen in musculoskeletal disease patients was also present in comparable magnitude in persons with CVD: lower-education CVD patients had a 6.6-point lower PCS score compared with university graduates. The effect was even stronger in patients with mental disorders (8.0 points lower) and respiratory disorders (9.1 points lower). Gradients were also seen in patients with diabetes (5.0 points lower) and in the healthy population (4.2 points lower).

As for SES, differences in PCS between employed persons and those receiving state living allowances were higher in patients with CVD, mental disorders, and respiratory disorders compared with musculoskeletal disease patients: employed musculoskeletal disease patients had on average a 5-point higher score on PCS, while in CVD and mental, and respiratory disorders those differences reached 11.6, 5.9 and 8.8 points, respectively.

In mental health, a comparable gradient by education was seen in musculoskeletal disease and CVD patients: the mental health of persons with the lowest versus the highest educational attainment was on average 3.8 points lower in those with CVD and 3.3 lower in those with musculoskeletal disease. In all other diseases, a trend to have worse mental health in less-educated individuals was present but did not reach statistical significance.

Significantly, comorbidities and smoking status were always important confounders for both physical and mental health in patients with chronic diseases, and body mass index was particularly relevant for physical function. “It is of note that the presence of comorbidities even amplified the effect of not having paid employment (having to rely on living allowance) on mental health,” the investigators wrote.

Noting theirs is the first study to compare both mental and physical health gradients by SES across the major chronic diseases, the authors speculate that persons of lower educational level may lack the skills to cope with the consequences of their diseases. “Healthcare systems should become more aware that individuals with low SES may benefit from preventive and clinical care, tailored to [the] specific needs of these persons, independently of the type of the disease they suffer from,” they wrote.

Addressing study limitations, they cited the low response rate of 22.4% to the survey, which may lessen the generalizability of findings. Furthermore, compared with data from the Dutch Bureau of Statistics, the sample seemed to have a somewhat lower representation of lower-education respondents. They also conceded that self-administered surveys find it more difficult to reach respondents with low levels of education and literacy, which could lead to an underestimation of the extent of the problem.

“Low SES of the patient should be a signal for healthcare professionals and other stakeholders to join efforts in order to reduce health inequities,” they concluded.

Heyde’s syndrome

Satellites show world is running out of water – new NASA study .

Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The world is losing its underground water resources at an alarming rate, as the world’s quickly depleting aquifers put millions of people at risk due to dwindling water supplies, new NASA research claims.

A joint study conducted by scientists from NASA and the University of California has revealed that the world’s water reserve levels have become dangerously low.

The main reason is humanity’s constantly growing demand for water.

The researchers have concluded that “significant segments of Earth’s population are consuming groundwater quickly without knowing when it might run out.”

The research findings were published in the Water Resources Research journal on Tuesday.

The scientists used NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites between 2003 and 2013 to take precise measurements of the world’s groundwater reservoirs, yielding the most detailed view of the planet’s underground water reserves to date. The GRACE satellites detected changes in the Earth’s gravitational pull, as large volumes of water under the ground create stronger gravitation.

“This has really been our first chance to see how these large reservoirs change over time,” said Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist at Oregon State University, who was a member of the research team.

The study has showed that about one third of Earth’s largest groundwater basins – 13 of the planet’s 37 – are being rapidly depleted while receiving little to no recharge.

“Given how quickly we are consuming the world’s groundwater reserves, we need a coordinated global effort to determine how much is left,” said UCI professor and principal investigator Jay Famiglietti, who is also the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Underground aquifers supply up to 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide, being the primary source of freshwater for approximately two billion people, according to the study.

Natural cataclysms such as drought can increase that demand.

“As we’re seeing in California right now, we rely much more heavily on groundwater during drought,”said Famiglietti. “When examining the sustainability of a region’s water resources, we absolutely must account for that dependence.”

The extremely stressed aquifers are situated in relatively poor, densely populated areas, such as northwest India, Pakistan, and North Africa, where there are almost no alternatives to underground water supplies.

The world’s most stressed aquifer, which is being rapidly tapped with no recharge at all, is the Arabian Aquifer which supplies water for more than 60 million people, followed by the Indus Basin in India and Pakistan, and the Murzuk-Djado Basin in Libya and Niger.

Global warming is making the regions near the equator drier, leading to a situation where people have to tap more water from aquifers to solve the issue of water scarcity.

Most of the groundwater used for human consumption does not go back down to aquifers, but evaporates or is dumped into the rivers along with production and utilization wastes, eventually ending up in ocean.

The scientists emphasize that water-insensitive industrial activities put serious strain on the health of aquifers, leading to their rapid depletion. In the Australian Canning Basin, for example, less than 1 percent of the aquifer is covered by residential areas, yet it ranks third in rate of depletion according to the GRACE research. Scientists suspect the rapid exhaustion of reserves may be due to mining activities in the area.

Alexandra Richey, the research project’s leading scientist, said the team has tried to warn the international community and call for active management of water resources today, in order to protect the future.

“We don’t actually know how much is stored in each of these aquifers. Estimates of remaining storage might vary from decades to millennia,” said Richey. “In a water-scarce society, we can no longer tolerate this level of uncertainty, especially since groundwater is disappearing so rapidly.”

A 2012 Japanese study suggested that up to 40 percent of the sea-level rise observed in the last ten years can be accounted for by groundwater flushed into the ocean after human use.

What Scientists Discovered Underneath The Easter Island Heads!


What Scientists Discovered Underneath The Easter Island Heads

The grand mystery of the heads of Easter Island has just deepened…literally!

Archaeologists have excavated around the heads and guess what they found? The heads have full bodies!

The bodies are covered in ancient and as of yet indecipherable writings calledpetroglyphs.

“The reason people think they are [only] heads is there are about 150 statues buried up to the shoulders on the slope of a volcano, and these are the most famous, most beautiful and most photographed of all the Easter Island statues,”Van Tilburg, who is also a fellow at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Life’s Little Mysteries.

“This suggested to people who had not seen photos of [other unearthed statues on the island] that they are heads only.”

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