Emil von Behring: The Founder of Serum Therapy.


Upbringing and Education

Emil Behring (1854-1917) was born on March 15, 1854 in Hansdorf, West Prussia, as the first child of the couple August and Auguste Behring. His father was a village school teacher, who during his first marriage had had four children and after the birth of Emil had another eight children.

A talented pupil, Emil Behring was above all assisted by the village minister, who made it possible for him to attend the Gymnasium (High School) in the village Hohenstein. His orientation as a theology student appeared to have changed after a friend who was a military doctor arranged for him to start his medical studies at the University of Berlin. He obtained a scholarship and from 1874 through 1878 he studied at the Academy for Military Doctors at the Royal Medical-Surgical Friedrich-Wilhelm-Institute, where he also earned his medical degree. In the following years he had to perform as a military doctor and also worked as a troop doctor in various garrisons. After having been assigned as captain of the medical corps to the Pharmacological Institute at the University of Bonn, he was given a position at the Hygiene Institute of Berlin in 1888 as an assistant to Robert Koch (1843-1910), one of the pioneers of bacteriology. During this time, Behring’s first authoritative publication on diphtheria and tetanus serum therapy appeared.

Behring
Emil von Behring in a military uniform.
Photo: Courtesy of Aventis Behring

The Behring Family

During his early years as a military doctor, Behring’s income was not sufficient for him to think about starting a family. Only in 1896, when he had a regular salary, did he marry the 20 year old Else Spinola. They went on a three-month honeymoon to the island of Capri. Else, born August 30, 1876 in Berlin, was the daughter of Werner Spinola, Administrative Director of Charité, the university medical clinic in Berlin.

In 1898, after having become professor at the University in Marburg (then part of Prussia), Behring moved with his family into a house in Wilhelm-Roser-Strasse in Marburg, where his six sons were born. Behring was a family man, though rather patriarchal, which at that time was quite normal. In the circle of his family he felt content, although his scientific work presumably did not leave him much time for his wife and children.

wedding photo
Wedding picture of Emil and Else von Behring.
Photo: Courtesy of Aventis Behring

On March 31, 1917, Behring died and was entombed in a mausoleum at the Marburg Elsenhöhe. After Behring’s death, Else von Behring served as chairwoman of the Women’s National Organisation in Marburg, Germany. She died in 1936 of a heart attack at the age of only 59.

Family and Friends

On the list of his sons’ godfathers, it appears obvious who stood closest to Emil von Behring besides his family. His first son, Fritz, had the bacteriologist Friedrich Loeffler (1852-1915) and Behring’s friend and co-worker, Erich Wernicke as godfathers. The godfather of his third son, Hans, was the Prussian Under-Secretary of Education and Cultural Affairs, Friedrich Althoff. His fifth son, Emil, had as a godfather the Russian researcher Elias Metschnikoff (1845-1916), founder of the theory of phagocytosis, with whom Behring had continuous scientific exchange of ideas. Emil’s second godfather was the pupil of Louis Pasteur, Émile Roux (1853-1933), who like Behring Sr. dealt with the fight against diphtheria. In 1913, the godfather of his sixth son, Otto, was the physician Ludolph Brauer (1865-1951), who had taught together with Behring at the Marburg Medical Faculty as a professor of internal medicine.

The Development of the Diphtheria-Therapeutic-Serum

Behring, who in the early 1890s became an assistant at the Institute for Infectious Diseases, headed by Robert Koch, started his studies with experiments on the development of a therapeutic serum. In 1890, together with his university friend Erich Wernicke, he had managed to develop the first effective therapeutic serum against diphtheria. At the same time, together with Shibasaburo Kitasato he developed an effective therapeutic serum against tetanus.

Behring and colleagues
Behring together with his colleagues Wernicke (left) and Frosch (center) in Robert Koch’s laboratory in Berlin.
Photo: Courtesy of Aventis Behring

The researchers immunized rats, guinea pigs and rabbits with attenuated forms of the infectious agents causing diphtheria and alternatively, tetanus. The sera produced by these animals were injected into non-immunized animals that were previously infected with the fully virulent bacteria. The ill animals could be cured through the administration of the serum. With the blood serum therapy, Behring and Kitasato firstly used the passive immunization method in the fight against infectious diseases. The particularly poisonous substances from bacteria – or toxins – could be rendered harmless by the serum of animals immunized with attenuated forms of the infectious agent through antidotes or antitoxins.

Kitasato
Shibasaburo Kitasato.
Photo: Courtesy of Aventis Behring

The Introduction of Serum Therapy

The first successful therapeutic serum treatment of a child suffering from diphtheria occurred in 1891. Until then more than 50,000 children in Germany died yearly of diphtheria. During the first few years, there was no successful breakthrough for this form of therapy, as the antitoxins were not sufficiently concentrated. Not until the development of enrichment by the bacteriologist Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915) along with a precise quantification and standardization protocol, was an exact determination of quality of the antitoxins presented and successfully developed. Behring subsequently decided to draw up a contract with Ehrlich as the foundation of their future collaboration. They organized a laboratory under a railroad circle (Stadtbahnbogen) in Berlin, where they could then obtain the serum in large amounts by using large animals – first sheep and later horses.

In 1892, Behring and the Hoechst chemical and pharmaceutical company at Frankfurt/Main, started working together, as they recognized the therapeutic potential of the diphtheria antitoxin. From 1894, the production and marketing of the therapeutic serum began at Hoechst. Besides many positive reactions, there was also noticeable criticism. Resistance, however, was soon put aside, due to the success of the therapy.

The Marburg Years

Behring was given the opportunity to start a university career through one of the leading officers (Ministerialrat) of the Prussian Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs, Friedrich Althoff (1839-1908), who wanted to improve the control of epidemics in Prussia by supporting bacteriological research. After a short period as professor at the University of Halle-Wittenberg, Behring was recruited by Althoff to take over the vacant chair in hygiene at Philipps Marburg University on April 1, 1895. His appointment as full professor followed shortly thereafter against the will of the faculty, who besides all of Behring’s outstanding discoveries, wanted a university lecturer who would broadly represent the field. However, Althoff rejected all counterproposals and Behring took over as Director of the Institute of Hygiene at Marburg. His position included giving lectures for hygiene and concurrently held a teaching contract in the history of medicine. In 1896, the Marburg Institute of Hygiene moved to a building on a road nearby Pilgrimstein Road, previously the Surgery Clinic. Behring divided the Institute into two departments, a Research Department for Experimental Therapy and a Teaching Department for Hygiene and Bacteriology. He remained Director of the Institute until his retirement as professor in May 1916.

Scientific Contacts

Behring belonged to a scientific discussion group called “The Marburg Circle” (das Marburger Kränzchen), whose other members were the zoologist Eugen Korschelt (1858-1946), the surgeon Paul Friedrich (1864-1916), the botanist Arthur Meyer (1850-1922), the physiologist Friedrich Schenk (1862-1916), the pathologist Carl August Beneke (1861-1945) and the pharmacologist August Gürber (1864-1937). They often met at Behring’s home where they had rounds of vivid and prolific scientific discussions.

Active Protective Vaccination against Diphtheria

vials
Old vials (1897 and 1906) with hand-written labels.
Photo: Courtesy of Aventis Behring

The therapeutic serum developed by Behring prevented diphtheria for only a short period of time. In 1901, Behring, therefore, for the first time, used a diphtheria innoculation of bacteria with reduced virulence. With this active immunization he hoped to help the body also produce antitoxins. As a supporter of the humoral theory of immune response, Behring believed in the long-term protective action of these antitoxins found in serum. It is well-established knowledge today that active vaccination stimulates the antitoxin (antibody) producing cells to full function.

The development of an active vaccine took a few years. In 1913, Behring went public with his diphtheria protective agent, T.A. (Toxin-Antitoxin). It contained a mixture of diphtheria toxin and therapeutic serum antitoxin. The toxin was meant to cause a light general response of the body, but not to harm the person who is vaccinated. In addition, it was designed to provide long-term protection. The new drug was tested at various clinics and was proven to be non-harmful and effective.

Tetanus Therapeutic Serum during World War I

In 1891, tetanus serum was introduced considerably more quickly in clinical practices than the diphtheria serum. The Agricultural Ministry supported research efforts to develop a therapeutic agent against tetanus to protect agriculturally valuable animals. The large amounts of serum required were obtained through the immunization of horses. However, there was no substantial clinical testing on humans; this led the Military Administration to accept it only on a small scale at the beginning of World War I.

During the first months of the war, this restraint led to massive losses of human lives. Also, after the distribution of the tetanus antitoxins in the military hospitals, many futile attempts at therapy were noted. At the end of 1914, as a result of Behring’s constructive assistance, the injection of serum was established as preventing disease. Starting in April 1915, the mistakes in dosage and the shortage of supplies were overcome and the numbers of sick fell dramatically. Behring was declared “Saviour of the German Soldiers” and was awarded the the Prussian Iron Cross medal.

engraving
Historical engraving showing how the medicinal serum was obtained from immunized horses.
Photo: Courtesy of Aventis Behring

An Attempt to Develop a Therapeutic Method against Tuberculosis

After Robert Koch had failed with his tuberculosis therapy in 1893, Behring began to search for an effective therapeutic agent against this disease. However, very soon, he had to admit that combating tuberculosis using a healing serum was not feasible. Therefore, he concentrated on working on a preventive vaccination, which, however, required precise knowledge of the mechanism of infection. In Behring’s view, the tubercle bacillus was transmitted to children through the milk of a mother or a cow infected with tuberculosis. He then started treating milk with formaldehyde, so as to eliminate this source of infection. This procedure was not accepted due to the bad smell of the milk. Moreover, the transmission of tubercle bacilli through the respiratory tract was proven to be more likely than through the digestive system, as had been claimed by Behring.

From 1903, Behring worked on active immunization through attenuated tuberculosis infectious agents, which he then tried on cows, however, with only moderate success. His aim was to obtain a protective and therapeutic agent for humans. A number of agents (tuberculase, tulase, tulaseactin, tulon) failed to make a breakthrough. At the beginning of World War I, Behring halted his efforts to combat tuberculosis and dedicated himself entirely to the further development of tetanus serum.

Behring’s Relationship to Paul Ehrlich

Paul Ehrlich was Behring’s colleague at Robert Koch’s institute. Here, he was able to work out a reliable and reproducible standardization method for diphtheria serum. However, in later years, tension developed between the two researchers. Differences with Ehrlich’s pupil, Hans Aronson, resulted in bad feelings, which increased when Ehrlich’s Royal Institute of Experimental Therapy was founded at Frankfurt/Main. The previous friendship between the two researchers never fully succumbed, through the mediation of Friedrich Althoff. However, it was subsequently demonstrated that the only photograph showing Behring and Ehrlich together, which appeared on the cover of a Berlin newspaper on the occasion of their 60th birthday in 1914, was a photomontage made up of two separate photographs.

report
Report of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (Berlin Illustrated Newspaper) about Emil von Behring and Paul Erlich and their work on the occasion of their 60th birthday.
Photo: Courtesy of Aventis Behring

Behring’s Health

Behring lived entirely for his idea of revolutionizing medicine through serum therapy. This idea hung above him and motivated him, in his own words, “like a demon.” His enormous concentration on his work often drove him to physical illnesses, as well as to deep depressions, which forced him to take time off work for a sanatorium stay from 1907 through 1910.

Acknowledgements and Honors

In 1903, Emil von Behring was given the title of “Wirklicher Geheimer Rat mit dem Prädikat Excellenz” by the German emperor Wilhelm II. The diploma says: “This is in order that Behring should remain in unbroken loyalty to Myself and the Royal Family and to fulfill his official responsibility with continuous eagerness, whereby he who has the right connected to his present character, will receive the highest protection by Myself”. A splendid uniform was provided along with the title.

In 1901, when the Nobel Prizes were awarded for the first time, Behring received the Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

diploma
A detail (right) and the diploma for the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, awarded to Behring in 1901.
Photo: Courtesy of Aventis Behring

Behring Jubilee in 1940

On December 4, 1940, the Philipps University Marburg celebrated the 50th anniversary of the original publication of Emil von Behring’s decisive discovery of serum therapy. Top leaders of the National Socialist Party, the rectors of numerous German universities, representatives of the Behringwerke and many scientists and friends of Emil von Behring from abroad were also present. The celebration, which continued over a few days, began with lectures and addresses by officials, both of the state and party. Finally, a foundation certificate for a new Institute for Experimental Therapy was handed over. The professors then moved from the university auditorium (Aula), to unveal a new Behring Memorial close to the St. Elisabeth Church. The celebration was followed by a two-day scientific meeting, presenting the state of the art of immunology and the fight against infectious diseases.

The Background of the Celebration

In the view of the National Socialists, Else von Behring was regarded as a “half-Jew”, as her mother came from a Jewish family. With the help of a number of friends she was able to get her sons accepted by Hitler as “Aryans” and not stigmatized as “half-breeds”. After the death of Else von Behring in 1936, no obstacles were left for the Nazi party to use Emil von Behring as a glorified representative of national socialist “Germanic” science. During the ceremony there were, however, some signs of tension. Although one of Behring’s sons participated in the ceremony, he was not greeted by any of the official speakers. Only the Danish researcher, Thorvald Madsen from Copenhagen, who had previously been chairman of the Health Organisation of the League of Nations, dared to mention Behring’s friendly connection with researchers from enemy countries, such as those at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. Courageously, he also recalled the great bacteriologist Paul Ehrlich, despised by the Nazis due to his Jewish origin, who had played a significant role in Behring’s successes.

Can singing a lullaby ease a child’s pain?


Guitar and patient
Nick Pickett playing to Sam Wallace

Amid the beeping of heart monitors, a more gentle noise can be heard on the wards of Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The soft voice of musician Nick Pickett and the strumming of his guitar are entertaining the young patients in Bear Ward.

All the children here are under three years old. Some are facing the long wait for a heart transplant and are being kept alive by the rhythmic beating of a mechanical heart.

Sam Wallace’s bed is surrounded by balloons, toys and other reminders of home. His grandmother, Viv Green, says the music has a transformative effect.

“Oh, Sammy loves music, he has always loved music.

Keira and Ian Bowers

Keira and Ian

Three-year-old Keira has been in hospital since the middle of June with heart failure.

She needs a Berlin mechanical heart, which helps her own heart pump blood around the body.

Her father Ian says the music makes a “big difference.

“It gives them a lift with the musical instruments, just to take their mind off where they are and the conditions they have.

“It perks her day up so it makes her feel wanted in a respect, so it does leave a lasting impression.”

“It just makes him happy. He will sing and dance. He loves to dance, he moves with the music as soon as he hears it and it just brightens him up completely – he’s a different boy.”

Improving moods

But is the bedside entertainment having a clinical benefit on children such as Sam? Can a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star actually help patients?

A team at the hospital and University of Roehampton tried to find out.

Thirty-seven children were played songs – including Five Little Ducks, See-Saw Marjorie Daw and Hush-a-Bye Baby – while nurses monitored their heart rates and assessed their pain levels.

The impact of the music was compared with storytelling or just leaving a child alone.

High Glucose Linked to Poorer Memory, Even in People Without Diabetes.


Higher levels of both short-term and long-term blood glucose markers are significantly associated with poorer memory and with decreased volume and microstructure of the hippocampus in persons without diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), according to a new study.

The results imply that lowering blood glucose levels, possibly even to relatively low levels, might help preserve cognition, study author Agnes Flöel, MD, Department of Neurology and Center for Stroke Research Berlin, Charite-University Medicine, Berlin, Germany, toldMedscape Medical News.

Strategies that help lower blood glucose levels include a healthy Mediterranean-type diet and regular physical activity, she added.

The study is published online October 23 in Neurology.

Direct Relationship

The cross-sectional study included 141 healthy persons (mean age, 63.1 years) who were recruited through advertising. Persons with diabetes, IGT, or neurologic disorders and those taking antidepressants were excluded.

Researchers obtained blood measurements, including glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), which reflects peripheral glucose levels of the preceding 8 to 12 weeks; fasting glucose; and insulin. They also carried out apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotyping.

Participants underwent cognitive testing using the German version of the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test. Researchers calculated hippocampal volume from MRI scans and assessed hippocampal microstructure by mean diffusivity (MD) estimated by using diffusion tensor imaging.

According to Dr. Flöel, this was the first time that this MD method provided data on the association between hippocampal microstructure and glucose metabolism.

The investigators found that lower performance on 3 memory tasks (delayed recall, learning ability, and consolidation) was associated with higher levels of both the long-term marker of glucose control (HbA1c) and the short-term glucose marker (all P ≤ .01).

For insulin, there was a “general trend going in the same direction” but correlations were less clear, and without the same direct relationship, said Dr. Flöel.

Potential Mechanisms

Memory performance was correlated with hippocampal volume (P = .001) and lower MD (P = .01), lower age, and, in part, lower blood pressure and female sex. Researchers did not find a statistically significant association between memory performance and APOE genotype, body mass index, Beck Depression Inventory score, physical activity, or smoking.

Lower levels of HbA1c were associated with larger hippocampal volume (nonsignificant trend; P = .06). The associations between lower fasting glucose levels and higher hippocampal volume did reach significance (P = .01). There was no significant relationship between hippocampal volume and insulin.

As for hippocampal microstructure, the researchers noted that lower levels of all 3 markers of glucose metabolism significantly correlated with lower MD within the hippocampus.

There was no significant association between glucose markers and volume or MD in brain areas other than the hippocampus (eg, gray matter and thalamus).

The hippocampus is particularly vulnerable to disturbances in metabolic supply, including glucose, said Dr. Flöel.

“Elevated blood sugar levels may damage the outer membrane of the cells, or decrease neurotransmitter levels, which would disturb signaling within and between hippocampal cells. Information transfer between cells, which is indispensable for memory encoding, storage and retrieval, would then be compromised.”

Elevated blood sugar levels may also damage small and large vessels in the brain, leading to decreased blood and nutrient flow to brain cells or even brain infarcts, and this may further damage memory-relevant brain structures, added Dr. Flöel.

The current findings are in line with studies of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and IGT, but earlier research was unable to confirm the deleterious effects of nondiabetic glucose levels on cognition. This, said the authors, may be because of different methods for classifying glucose levels and varying cognitive tests used.

Prevention Research

The authors also pointed out that the current study used MRI with higher magnetic field strength, which offers a higher sensitivity of hippocampal volumetry and greater statistical power to observe significant associations.

Following a diet high in lean protein and complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and fiber) and low in heavily refined foods will help lower blood glucose, said Dr. Flöel. Another important lifestyle strategy is regular physical activity.

How low is it safe to go in terms of blood glucose levels? According to Dr. Flöel, that depends in part on lifestyle. “If you’re used to low blood sugar levels, you can go quite low,” she said.

She likened this to the situation with blood pressure. “At one time, it was assumed that you needed a certain level to function, but that actually is not true. You can go very low and still maintain normal function, and it might actually be better in the long run.”

Although the study uncovers the protective potential of lower blood glucose levels, the relationship between high blood glucose and poor memory “seems to be more linear” and changing recommended cutoffs may not make much of a difference, said Dr. Flöel.

On the other hand, what could be key is prevention, she said.

“There have been some initiatives to put prevention more on the agenda of dementia research,” she said. “There has been so much money spent on treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and it has already been established that this is not very successful. “

Dementia prevention strategies could include taking measures at an earlier stage to encourage physical fitness and control hypertension, blood lipids (including cholesterol and triglycerides), and now, possibly, blood glucose levels, she said.

Patients should have their fasting glucose and HbA1c levels measured as part of a regular medical check-up starting at age 55 years, unless there’s a personal or family history of diabetes or the patient is obese, in which case the family doctor may opt for earlier and more intense monitoring, said Dr. Flöel. She pointed out that such tests are easy to do and are already carried out regularly in pregnant women.

Fresh Eyes

Commenting on the findings for Medscape Medical News, Marwan N. Sabbagh, director, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, Sun City, Arizona, said that the study looks at the link between glucose metabolism and cognition with fresh eyes.

“This is saying that immediate learning and A1c levels, and potentially even blood sugars, interact even in people who are nondemented, and I don’t think anyone has looked at it that way before,” said Dr. Sabbagh.

“The idea is that the lower the A1c the better your brain function. This is a very exciting development and clearly helps put a frame around the Alzheimer’s discussion, but more importantly, it talks about how blood sugar metabolism and cognitive function directly interact.”

The study opens “a whole new territory” because until now, HbA1c and blood glucose have been looked at only in the context of diabetes and the risk for diabetes, added Dr. Sabbagh. “Maybe we need to rethink our normalization of glucose with an eye toward cognition and not simply a diabetes risk.”

Blood sugar levels could be linked to memory loss in people without diabetes – Mirror.co.uk


Journal study finds with with lower blood sugar levels achieved highest scores in memory tests – those with high levels could suffer memory loss

People who have even slightly raised blood sugar levels may suffer memory loss, a study shows.

Researchers performed tests on 141 healthy people with an average age of 63.

None had diabetes or pre-diabetic symptoms.

But the study published in journal Neurology found those with with lower blood sugar levels achieved better scores in memory tests.

In a test to recall 15 words 30 minutes after hearing them, higher blood sugar levels were linked with poorer memory.

Lead researcher Dr Agnes Floel, of the Charite University Medicine in Berlin, Germany, said: “These results suggest that even for people within the normal range of blood sugar, lowering their blood sugar levels could be a promising strategy for preventing memory problems and cognitive decline as they age.

“Strategies such as lowering calorie intake and increasing physical activity should be tested.”

Dr Clare Walton, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We already know that Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease but this new study suggests that higher blood sugar levels may also be linked to poor memory in people without diabetes.

“The research suggests that regulating blood sugar levels might be a way to improve people’s memory, even if they don’t have diabetes.”

Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, added: “While we do not know whether the people in this study would have gone on to develop dementia, the findings serve as a warning that we should be conscious of the impact that subtle changes in our health could have on our brain.

“Current evidence suggests the best way to keep the brain healthy is to eat a balanced diet, take regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, not smoke and keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check.”

Secret of Usain Bolt’s speed unveiled.


Scientists say they can explain Usain Bolt‘s extraordinary speed with a mathematical model.

His 100m time of 9.58 seconds during the 2009 World Championships in Berlin is the current world record.

They say their model explains the power and energy he had to expend to overcome drag caused by air resistance, made stronger by his frame of 6ft 5in.

_68964204_62060713 (1)

Writing in the European Journal of Physics, the team hope to discover what makes extraordinary athletes so fast.

According to the mathematical model proposed, Bolt’s time of 9.58 seconds in Berlin was achieved by reaching a speed of 12.2 metres per second, equivalent to about 27mph.

Less dynamic

The team calculated that Bolt’s maximum power occurred when he was less than one second into the race and was only at half his maximum speed. This demonstrates the near immediate effect of drag, which is where air resistance slows moving objects.

They also discovered less than 8% of the energy his muscles produced was used for motion, with the rest absorbed by drag.

When comparing Bolt’s body mass, the altitude of the track and the air temperature, they found out that his drag coefficient – which is a measure of the drag per unit area of mass – was actually less aerodynamic than that of the average man.

Effects of drag

Jorge Hernandez of the the National Autonomous University of Mexico said: “Our calculated drag coefficient highlights the outstanding ability of Bolt. He has been able to break several records despite not being as aerodynamic as a human can be.

“The enormous amount of work that Bolt developed in 2009, and the amount that was absorbed by drag, is truly extraordinary.

“It is so hard to break records nowadays, even by hundredths of a second, as the runners must act very powerfully against a tremendous force which increases massively with each bit of additional speed they are able to develop.

“This is all because of the ‘physical barrier’ imposed by the conditions on Earth. Of course, if Bolt were to run on a planet with a much less dense atmosphere, he could achieve records of fantastic proportions.

“The accurate recording of Bolt’s position and speed during the race provided a splendid opportunity for us to study the effects of drag on a sprinter.

bolt

“If more data become available in the future, it would be interesting to see what distinguishes one athlete from another,” added Mr Hernandez.

Bolt’s time in Berlin was the biggest increase in the record since electronic timing was introduced in 1968.

Large stride

John Barrow at Cambridge University who has previously analysed how Bolt could become even faster, explained that his speed came in part due his “extraordinary large stride length”, despite having such an initial slow reaction time to the starting gun.

“He has lots of fast twitch muscle fibres that can respond quickly, coupled with his fast stride is what gives him such an extraordinary fast time.”

He said Bolt has lots of scope to break his record if he responded faster at the start, ran with a slightly stronger tail-wind and at a higher altitude, where there was less drag.

Bolt’s Berlin record was won with a tail wind of only 0.9m per second, which didn’t give him “the advantage of helpful wind assistance”, he added.

“You’re allowed to have a wind no greater than 2m per second to count for record purposes, so without becoming any faster he has huge scope to improve,” Prof Barrow told BBC News.

Source: BBC

Paleobiology


Childhood field trips to natural history museums were, for many of us, our first brush with the field of paleobiology. Paleobiologists still use many of the tools and methods we associate with the study of ancient animals: exploration, digging, fossil collecting, and microscope work. In recent years, however, the field has become less of a collecting and describing science and moved increasingly into the analytical, data-driven realm.

Spectroscopy, DNA sequencing, X-ray computed tomography scans, and computer models of movement are bringing new insight into ancient organisms, including animal behavior, diet, and evolution (1). Scanning electron microscopes, for example, indicate some feathered dinosaurs were brilliantly colored. Computerized locomotion models indicate how ancient animals may have walked. Isotopic analysis of ancient human hair indicates whether the owner had a more uniform or varied diet.

Beyond incorporating new analytical methods, paleobiology has moved into the applied sciences, gaining a voice in conservation biology. Because the climate has oscillated in the past, for example, preserved records of species distributions, assemblages, individual size, and other measurements can hint at what the future holds and how we can manage ecosystems for preservation and biodiversity (2).

Recent work studying tropical fossils suggests conditions became so hot during the Early Triassic that few plants or animals survived. Those animals left were primarily stunted (3). Paleobiology also lends weight to the importance of habitat preservation, especially along migration corridors. The seasonal migration routes traveled by herds of pronghorn antelope in western Wyoming have been used for 5,000 to 6,000 years. Those routes must be saved if the species is to be (2). Beyond informing policy, some researchers advocate paleobiology training for wildlife managers themselves, helping them answer forensic questions, such as: Are these the remains of a poached animal? (2).

A few biologists, however, question the field’s usefulness for conservation. The ancient record is spotty. Sampling is a product of luck as much as anything. Not all organisms are equally preserved and soft-bodied animals are hardly preserved at all. The links between past environmental and biological changes can be complex, nonlinear, or seemingly absent.

“Even a decade ago, the prevailing wisdom about fossil accumulations was that they were hopelessly biased,” writes Julien Louys, “to the extent that it would be difficult to ever meaningfully compare fossil communities to modern ones. That has luckily proved not to be the case” (4).

Instead, Louys argues, important measurements, such as species composition, trophic structure, abundance, and even genetic diversity, to an extent, can be traced through time, informing and guiding conservationists as they seek to protect modern ecosystems.

References

 

  1. Lyman RL

(2012) Biodiversity, paleozoology, and conservation biology. Paleontology in Ecology and Conservation, ed Louys J (Springer, Berlin), pp 147169.

 

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  1. Lyman RL

(2006) Paleozoology in the service of conservation biology. Evol Anthropol 15:1119.

CrossRefWeb of Science

 

  1. Sun Y,
  2. et al.

(2012) Lethally hot temperatures during the Early Triassic greenhouse. Science338(6105):366370.

 

Abstract/FREE Full Text

 

  1. Louys J

, ed (2012) Paleontology in Ecology and Conservation (Springer, Berlin).

Source : http://www.pnas.org

 

In Berlin, crisis breeds creative business.


On a typical autumn evening at a low-lit, retrofitted bar in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district, the cozy murmur of conversation and music seems to foreshadow the approaching cold months. But tonight, a mysterious group in black clothing pours through the front door, and one of them begins presenting patrons with small, white menus.

“Hi, my name is Serena,” the tall, dark-haired woman says with a smile. “I’m from Theater am Tisch (Theater at the Table), and this is the evening’s selection of dramatic pieces.”

The menu contains a list of scenes from cinema and stage, including one from the movie American Beauty, with monologues priced at 1.50 Euros and duets at 2 Euros per audience member. Serena nods in acknowledgement of some orders, situates empty chairs alongside the table, and whisks away to her colleagues at the other end of the bar.

Soon a man and woman take their seats at the table, placing a candle at its center. “The flame indicates the start of the scene,” they explain, lighting the candle.

The scene plays out believably: raised voices cause heads to turn, but only momentarily. The space of the tiny table seems to contain the captivating drama. Afterwards, thin but enthusiastic applause at the table is followed by handshakes and exchanges between the actors and their patrons.

It isn’t long before surrounding tables sneak a secondary peak at their menus and motion Serena over to place their orders.

Italian-born Serena Schimd launched Theater am Tisch in Berlin after moving to the city from Milan, where economic hard times put her previous employer out of business and made work generally difficult to find.

“We needed new opportunities,” Schimd says of herself and boyfriend Emiliano Saurin, a mobile web developer and entrepreneur.

“You can’t do the things you can do in Berlin in Milan; it’s too expensive. Here we can try things and see how they work without worrying about how to survive at the same time.”

Schimd and Saurin aren’t alone: Germany saw a drastic influx of immigrants from European Union countries in 2011, according to a report by the German Ministry of Migrants and Refugees. Immigration from places such as Greece increased as much as 90 percent from 2010.

Italian immigrants to Germany in 2011 ranked fifth in number among E.U. nations after those from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

An interior designer by trade, Schimd says Theater Am Tisch started when she and some friends developed the business as part of a cultural association near Milan. With the project enjoying modest success in Milan after only a year, she immediately recognized a potential market in Berlin.

“There’s a lot of culture here,” she says. “You don’t have to ‘rent’ a bar to offer something like this; locale owners are happy to have you come in and try something new. Milan, on the other hand, is kind of a closed city. It’s a fashion hub, so there’s a lot of money there, and you have to pay to visit places, and you never know how much you’re going to earn.”

Schimd says Theater am Tisch – whose Berlin rendition includes nine actors from three countries — has been booked to perform at an upcoming awards show in Berlin, and that she is working to warm restaurants up to the concept.

“In Berlin, we’ve actually found it hard to get people to reserve performances because there’s often too many things to do in the city. That actually worked better in Milan, where this was more about food: people enjoyed the idea of sitting down to a dinner and ordering performances between courses.”

But Schimd says the project’s spontaneity has been surprisingly welcome in Berlin. She has even been able to raise prices in hip, upscale neighborhoods such as Prenzlauer Berg.

“We’re looking forward to the winter, when everyone is together inside bars and cafes in the evening and pleased to come across something new.”

Source: Smart Planet.