Oldest human DNA found in Spain


 
A drawing shows what the species of Homo heidelbergensis might have looked like 400,000 years ago.
 
A drawing shows what the species of Homo heidelbergensis might have looked like 400,000 years ago.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
 

There were no genetic tests 400,000 years ago, so our ancient relatives didn’t know as much about themselves as we know about them now.

Scientists have reconstructed a nearly complete mitochondrial genome of an ancient human relative, whose remains were found in Sima de los Huesos (“pit of bones”) in northern Spain. It is the oldest DNA to be recovered from an early humanlike species, authors of a study wrote in the journal Nature.

The ancient species that has revealed some of its genetic secrets, via bone fragments from a femur, is probably not directly linked to your family tree though.

“It’s quite clear that this is not a direct ancestor of people today,” said Svante Paabo, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and senior author of the study.

Instead, he said, this representative of an early humanlike species, called Homo heidelbergensis, could be an ancestor of both Neanderthals and another group called the De nisovans.

The genetic relationship to Denisovans, discovered through this DNA research, is surprising because the Homo heidelbergensis remains found in the cave have many Neanderthal-like features. The only remnants of Denisovans come from Siberia — a long way from Spain.

“It’s sort of an open question really what this means, and I think further research into the nuclear genome of these hominins will address that,” Paabo said.

How they did it

Paabo and colleagues used a new method for sequencing ancient, degraded genetic material to put together the 400,000-year-old specimen’s mitochondrial genome. It is the oldest DNA ever found outside permafrost conditions — in other words, it was not permanently frozen.

“The retrieval of such ancient human DNA is a major technical achievement, and promises further recovery of such material from other fossils in this time range, both in the Sima and elsewhere, where we would not previously have expected it, or looked for it,” said Chris Stringer, researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the study.

 

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Mitochondria are structures in cells that convert food energy into usable forms. DNA stored in the mitochondria is passed to children through the maternal line only (i.e., only moms can pass it on), so it’s only a small snapshot of inherited genes.

Genetic material in the cell’s nucleus comes from both parents and gives a fuller picture of genetic heritage.

To study genetics of our ancient predecessors, researchers have an easier time studying mitochondrial DNA because there are hundreds of times more copies of it in each cell.

“It’s a much bigger chance to find some fragments of this preserved,” Paabo said.

A skeleton of a Homo heidelbergensis representative from a cave site in Spain.
A skeleton of a Homo heidelbergensis representative from a cave site in Spain.

The method that researchers used involves separating the two strands of the DNA double helix. They then make a “library” from each of the two strands. If part of one strand is damaged, its analogue on the other strand — which is made of complementary genetic partners — may be intact.

“That is sort of the big trick involved,” Paabo said.

After sequencing the mitochondrial DNA, researchers then compared the result with genetic information about Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Since nuclear DNA encompasses more information about a person’s inheritance, a nuclear genome sequence from Homo heidelbergensis may reveal even more clearly how it is connected to other ancient humanlike species, he said.

But retrieving the nuclear DNA sequence will be challenging, study authors wrote. Just to get the mitochondrial DNA sequence, it took about two grams of bone — less than 0.1 ounce — even though hundreds of copies of this DNA are in every cell.

Still, Paabo said, the sequencing technique his group used “opens a possibility to now do this at many other sites, and really begin to understand earlier human evolution.”

Relationship to other species

Researchers thought initially the mitochondrial DNA of the Homo heidelbergensis specimen would share a common ancestor with Neanderthals. Neanderthals lived in Europe beginning as much as 300,000 years ago, Paabo said. (Homo sapiens, our species, first appeared in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.)

Instead, researchers discovered through the DNA that this specimen is closer to the Denisovans, a group related to the Neanderthals.

A likely explanation is that in Eastern Eurasia this species gave rise to Denisovans, and in Western Eurasia they were the ancestors of Neanderthals, Paabo said. But more research needs to be done to verify that theory.

Humans, Neanderthals related to yet another group

Little is known about the Denisovans. Although some of their remains were found in southern Siberia, their genetic signature is only found today on islands in the Pacific.

Paabo was also the senior author on a 2012 study in the journal Science analyzing the Denisovan genome. That research suggested that human ancestors and the Denisovans’ ancestors must have branched off from one another as much as 700,000 years ago — although that number is vague. Still, it seems that the Denisovans must have mated with indigenous people in Papua New Guinea and Australia, Paabo said.

About 3% to 5% of the DNA of people from Melanesia (islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean), Australia and New Guinea as well as aboriginal people from the Philippines comes from the Denisovans.

On the other hand, everyone who lives outside Africa today probably has some Neanderthal DNA in them, Paabo said in 2012.

The bottom line, Paabo said, is that the relationships between these early human relatives — Homo heidelbergensis, Neanderthals and Denisovans — are not clear-cut.

“It’s going to be a more complex history that one will eventually clarify with the help of DNA,” he said.

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The First Aliens We Discover May Be Purple.


In our quest to discover strange new life on strange new worlds, a group of astronomers has modeled potential alien worlds using Earth’s biological history as a framework. From this they have determined that if we are to detect extraterrestrial biology, we should fine-tune our search to the color purple.

Top Exoplanets for Alien Life

As we discover more and more worlds orbiting other stars in ever more biologically-pleasing orbits, the question “are we alone?” becomes increasingly acute. It’s inevitable that we will soon discover an alien world with Earth-like dimensions, orbiting a sun-like star within its habitable zone. But until we develop the means to remotely probe that world’s atmosphere, we can never be sure if it is truly habitable.

Looking for a “true” Earth analog is fraught with challenges. Are we looking for a planet with the same characteristics as modern Earth, or do we try to model our planets during different epochs and work out when Earth life would have been at its most detectable? Life on Earth has been around for the best part of 4 billion years, when would have been best for an alien civilization to detect terrestrial life and what would they have needed to look for?

It’s exactly this question that an international team of researchers is trying to answer.

13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Aliens

“Clearly what we know about our planet will be our guideline for the characterization of (small rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their stars),” writes the team, headed by Esther Sanroma of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), Spain, in a paper accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “But the Earth has been inhabited for at least 3.8 (billion years), and its appearance has changed with time.”

3 billion years ago, during the Archean eon, the Earth was likely dominated by purple bacteria, a photosynthetic microorganism that inhabited the land and ancient seas. These organisms would have had a very distinctive spectroscopic fingerprint and a tell-tail sign that Earth was covered in a basic form of life.

By modeling different distributions of this microbe throughout the planet — in the oceans, on the land, around coastlines and during different atmospheric conditions — Sanroma’s team used a radiative transfer model “to simulate the visible and near-(infrared) radiation reflected by our planet.” By doing so, they were able to determine that by using multi-color photometric observations, distant observers would be able to “distinguish between an Archean Earth in which purple bacteria inhabit vast extensions of the planet, and a present-day Earth with continents covered by deserts, vegetation or microbial mats.”

ANALYSIS: Purple Plants Might Thrive Under Multiple Stars

When looking for Earth-like worlds, the researchers emphasize the need for exoplanet hunters to be aware that they may not discover a modern-looking Earth-like world, they may stumble across a purple bacteria-dominated world with a very distinctive photometric signature more fitting with an ancient Archean eon Earth-like world.

“Earth is the only planet where life is known to exist; thus observations of our planet will be a key instrument for characterization and the search for life elsewhere. However, even if we discovered a second Earth, it is very unlikely that it would present a stage of evolution similar to the present-day Earth.”
Purple plants may thrive under binary stars.

This isn’t the first time that purple alien worlds have been discussed as a possibility. In 2011, researchers examined the exotic energy-generating regimes hypothetical alien plant life would need to develop under sunlight from binary stars.

Over 25 percent of sun-like stars and 50 percent of red dwarf stars exist in binary pairs. Should there be any planets in orbit around binary systems, any life — be it flora or fauna, or some alien form of life that we can’t comprehend, let alone categorize — would be exposed to a broad spectra of light, stretching far into ultraviolet wavelengths. The upshot of this would be purple hued (or even black) plant life that has evolved to optimize photosynthesis.

It seems that in the hunt for extraterrestrial life, all roads lead to purple.

Researchers find tie between global precipitation and global warming.


The rain in Spain may lie mainly on the plain, but the location and intensity of that rain is changing not only in Spain but around the globe.

A new study by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists shows that observed changes in global (ocean and land) precipitation are directly affected by human activities and cannot be explained by natural variability alone. The research appears in the Nov. 11 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Emissions of heat-trapping and ozone-depleting gases affect the distribution of precipitation through two mechanisms. Increasing temperatures are expected to make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier (thermodynamic changes); and changes in will push storm tracks and subtropical dry zones toward the poles.

“Both these changes are occurring simultaneously in global precipitation and this behavior cannot be explained by natural variability alone,” said LLNL’s lead author Kate Marvel. “External influences such as the increase in are responsible for the changes.”

The team compared climate model predications with the Global Precipitation Climatology Project’s global observations, which span from 1979-2012, and found that natural variability (such as El Niños and La Niñas) does not account for the changes in global precipitation patterns. While natural fluctuations in climate can lead to either intensification or poleward shifts in precipitation, it is very rare for the two effects to occur together naturally.

“In combination, manmade increases in greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone depletion are expected to lead to both an intensification and redistribution of global precipitation,” said Céline Bonfils, the other LLNL author. “The fact that we see both of these effects simultaneously in the observations is strong evidence that humans are affecting global precipitation.”

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Marvel and Bonfils identified a fingerprint pattern that characterizes the simultaneous response of precipitation location and intensity to external forcing.

“Most previous work has focused on either thermodynamic or dynamic changes in isolation. By looking at both, we were able to identify a pattern of precipitation change that fits with what is expected from human-caused climate change,” Marvel said.

By focusing on the underlying mechanisms that drive changes in global precipitation and by restricting the analysis to the large scales where there is confidence in the models’ ability to reproduce the current climate, “we have shown that the changes observed in the satellite era are externally forced and likely to be from man,” Bonfils said.

Quantum Experiment Shows How Time ‘Emerges’ from Entanglement.


By collecting heat energy from the environment and transforming it into electrical power, thermoelectric energy harvesters have the potential to provide energy for a variety of small electronic devices. Currently, the biggest challenge in developing thermoelectric energy harvesters is to make systems that are both powerful and efficient at the same time.

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One material that scientists have experimented with for making thermoelectric energy harvesters is quantum dots, nano-sized crystals with semiconducting properties. Due to their sharp, discrete energy levels, quantum dots are good energy filters, which is an important property for thermoelectric devices.

In a new study published in the New Journal of Physics, a team of researchers from Switzerland, Spain, and the US has investigated a thermoelectric energy harvester design based on quantum wells. Although quantum wells are also made of semiconducting materials, they have different structures and energy-filtering properties than quantum dots.

“We have shown that quantum wells can be used as powerful and efficient energy harvesters,” said coauthor Björn Sothmann, a physicist at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. “Compared to our previous proposal based on quantum dots, quantum wells are easier to fabricate and offer the potential to be operated at room temperature.”

The energy harvester design that the researchers investigated here consists of a central cavity connected via quantum wells to two electronic reservoirs. The central cavity is kept at a hotter temperature than the two electronic reservoirs, and the quantum wells act as filters that allow electrons of certain energies to pass through. In general, the greater the temperature difference between the central cavity and the reservoirs, the greater the electron flow and output power.

In their analysis, the researchers found that the quantum well energy harvester delivers an output power of about 0.18 W/cm2 for a temperature difference of 1 K, which is nearly double the power of a quantum dot energy harvester. This increased power is due to the ability of quantum wells to deliver larger currents compared to quantum dots as a result of their extra degrees of freedom.

Although the quantum well energy harvester has a good efficiency, the efficiency is slightly lower than that of energy harvesters based on quantum dots. The researchers explain that this difference occurs because of the difference in energy filtering: quantum wells transmit electrons of any energy above a certain level, while quantum dots are more selective and let only electrons of a specific energy pass through. As a result, quantum wells are less efficient energy filters.

Quantum well energy harvesters appear promising for applications. For one thing, they may be easier to fabricate than energy harvesters that use quantum dots, since quantum dots are required to have similar properties in order to achieve good performance, and there is no such requirement for quantum wells. In addition, the fact that they can operate at room temperature may make quantum well energy harvesters suitable for a variety of applications, such as electric circuits.

“The energy harvester can be used to convert waste heat from electric circuits, e.g. in computer chips, back into electricity,” Sothmann said. “This way, one can reduce both the consumed power as well as the need for cooling the chip.”

Tylenol Just Once A Month Raises A Child’s Asthma Risk 540%.


The vast majority of babies are given Tylenol (acetaminophen) within the first six months of life. It is the go to medicine for modern parents whenever discomfort or fever strikes even very young children and its use is frequently encouraged by many pediatricians.

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Now, a major study of over 20,000 children suggests that giving this popular medicine even as infrequently as once per year could have a permanent, life-threatening health effect.

Researchers at the University of A Coruna in Spain asked the parents of 10,371 children ages 6-7 and 10,372 adolescents aged 13-14 whether their children had asthma and how often they had been given acetaminophen within the previous year and when they were babies.
The children in the younger age group who had received the medicine only once per year were at 70% greater risk for asthma while those receiving Tylenol once a month or more were shockingly 540% more likely to have asthma.

The study, published in the European Journal of Public Health, also found that children who had even a single dose of Tylenol before their first birthday had a 60% risk of developing asthma.

In the older age group of 13 and 14 year-olds, asthma was 40 percent more likely if they had taken acetaminophen within the previous 12 months. The young teenagers were 250% more at risk if they took it once a month.

The researchers speculated that Tylenol, called paracetamol in the UK, may reduce a potent antioxidant called glutathione in the lungs and blood, which results in damage to the lung tissue. Glutathione is produced by the body (it is a combination of three amino acids:  cysteine, glycine and glutamine) and is referred to as the “mother” of all antioxidants by Dr. Mark Hyman MD.
While Tylenol use is strongly associated with a significant increase in asthma and the effect is greater the more often the drug is taken, no causal link is yet established via randomized-controlled trials. Does this mean the results of this large study should be dismissed and parents should continue favoring use of the popular over the counter medication for fever and pain?
Not so fast.

It would certainly be the wise and cautious approach for parents to investigate alternatives to Tylenol while additional follow-up research is performed.

Asthma rates have been on the increase for decades at the same time Tylenol use became more widespread. The potential link cannot and should not be ignored.

Examination of 20,000 children establishing such a strong associative risk must be taken seriously and the dismissal of the research by some doctors is irresponsible given the seriousness and life altering outcome of an asthma diagnosis.

Satellite measures ‘quake island’.


The “quake island” that rose from the sea off Pakistan this week is pictured clearly in a new satellite image.

It was acquired by the French Pleiades high-resolution Earth-observing system, and has enabled scientists to map the muddy mound’s precise dimensions.

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It is almost circular – 175.7m on the long axis and 160.0m on the short axis, giving a total area of 22,726 sq m.

The island, sited near the town of Gwadar, came up after the 7.7-magnitude tremor in the region.

Scientists say the intense shaking likely disturbed previously stable sediments and gas at the sea floor, which then oozed to the surface rather like a mud volcano.

The feature is not expected to persist. The ocean will erode the soft sediments, like it has with similar quake islands in the past.

The Gwadar mound is reported to be the fourth in the region since 1945, and the third during the last 15 years.

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Pleiades is primarily a French national space project. It comprises two satellites that can resolve features on the ground as small as 50cm across.

The pair were built by Astrium, Europe’s largest space company; the imaging instrument was supplied by Thales Alenia Space (France).

Pleiades has both a civilian and a military role, and a number of European countries (Austria, Belgium, Spain and Sweden) have part-funded the project to get access to the pictures.

‘Terminator’ polymer can spontaneously self-heal in just two hours.


In the future, we may praise the computer repairman on his needlework. After all, the self-healing power of skin has served life very well over the years; it could be just as powerful in other contexts, too. If we surrounded the most sensitive  computer components with a sac of soft material, air- and water-tight, repairs could end with the technician suturing shut a scalpel hole.

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Researcher Ibon Odriozola at CIDETEC Centre for Electrochemical Technologies has created a polymer that has the potential to lead to such a future. The material is comprised of a poly (urea-urethane) elastomeric matrix, a network of complex molecular interactions that will spontaneously cross-link to “heal” most any break. In this context, the word “spontaneous” means that the material needs no outside intervention to begin its healing process, no catalyst or extra reactant. In the experiments, a sample cut in half with a razor blade at room temperature healed the cut, with 97% efficiency, in just two hours.

The reaction, called a metathesis reaction, has led Ibon to dub the material his “Terminator” polymer, in reference to Terminator 2′s T-1000. That’s an apt comparison, since this homogenous material resembles the thick liquid of T-1000′s interior. Unlike other self-healing materials, this one requires so catalyst and no layering. There’s currently no word on how well it can heal itself over multiple separations, but so long as it’s not cut in precisely the same place twice, that shouldn’t cause too many problems.

There is potential for this technology to help extent the lift-spans of some plastic parts, things that are under a lot of repetitive strain often slowly acquire minute but growing fractures. The group’s main goal now is to make a harder version, perhaps one that could be formed into such parts itself. As it exists today, the polymer is squishy and somewhat soft. The researchers couldn’t stretch a single piece to breaking by hand, either before or after the cut, but it’s not rigid enough to make parts from just yet.

A good self-healing material has been one big challenge for artificial skin, something that can quickly stop up small wounds on its own. Self-healing also potentially grants to the ability to grow over time, as new units of the matrix could be incorporated as the material stretches and tears on the microscopic level. A graft of artificial skin given to a growing child might be able to grow along with them for a while. And since it allows easy surgical work, self-healing skin lets the body stay shut up tight against germs.

If its healing mechanism proves robust enough, we could even see this Terminator material injected like an adhesive or a sealant. Its impressive combination of elasticity and strength could let it bring the self-healing advantage to everything from leaky window frames to painful joints in need of some padding to stop bones from rubbing together. 

And then there’s the possibilities for protective coatings. Inventors have long been in search of a self-healing protective coating, a top-sheet that could soak up small nicks and return to its prior state. Even the thick piece cut in the video healed with a barely perceptible “scar,” so there’s at least hope for a transparent coating that heals invisibly.

Chamomile Benefits: Growing Your Own Medicine.


Chamomile marks many people’s first venture into herbalism, and it’s usually because they have problems sleeping. The value of the plant as a mild relaxant has made it a popular choice in prepared teas found in nearly every grocery store. But chamomile benefits don’t stop there—this flowering jewel is able to provide an array of health perks. What’s more, growing chamomile at home is quite an easy task.

There are several varieties of chamomile, all members of the Asteraceae family. Most popular in herb gardens and commercially prepared teas, however, is German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), also sometimes called Hungarian chamomile, wild chamomile, or scented mayweed.

This plant is an annual (dies off in the cold season) and grows in small bushes to be about 20 to 30 inches high. It has smooth stems with long, narrow leaves, and little white flowers that used in herbal preparations. These small flowers resemble small daisies, with yellow centers and a strong, pleasant scent.


Brief History of Chamomile

The first recorded use of chamomile occurred in Ancient Egypt. The plant was held in high reverence for its ability to cure ‘Ague’, what is very much like an acute fever. Because an acute fever can be relatively common, extremely uncomfortable, and usually just goes away with time, a cure for the illness probably made chamomile quite popular.

The word chamomile comes from the Greek Chamomaela, which translates to “ground apple”. In Spain, it is still called the “Little Apple”. These titles likely come from its scent.

Over the years, the herb has been used for flavorings, incense, beverages, and for treating a variety of health ailments.

Chamomile Benefits: Healing Uses of Chamomile

Perhaps the most widely known use of chamomile is in its benefits as a mild relaxant or sedative. It has been used in this manner for centuries and can be found in grocery store aisles under names like “Sleepy Time Tea” for precisely this reason. Taken 30 to 45 minutes before bed, chamomile can help you relax and prepare for a restful slumber.

But despite its popularity as a soothing relaxant, chamomile benefits don’t end there.

Much of Chamomile’s ability to heal is due to phenolics within the plant. Phenolics represent a large family of compounds including flavonoids, quinones, phenolic acids, and other antioxidant compounds; they provide a range of health benefits, including protection against stress and healing cells. But what else is Chamomile good for?

Researchers with the American Chemical Society found that chamomile’s phenolics have antibacterial activity, suggesting it could be useful in boosting the immune system and fighting illnesses like the common cold. In addition, study subjects who drank the tea on a regular basis had elevated levels of glycine, a protein known for relieving muscle spasms, which could explain it’s relaxing qualities.

Chamomile has also been shown to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiplatelet, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and antimutagenic properties, according to researchers with the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center.

While science is slowly unlocking all of Chamomile’s benefits in the lab, there is no question that individuals throughout history have experienced the benefits even without the science to back it up.

Through tradition and folk healing over the years, chamomile has also been used to treat:

·         Anxiety

·         Insomnia

·         Digestive problems like nausea and bloating

·         Menstrual cramps

·         Migraines

·         Burns and scrapes

·         Rashes like eczema

·         Mouth sores and gum disease

Even better news? You can easily grow your own chamomile to experience chamomile benefits.

Growing and Harvesting Your Own Chamomile

Like growing oregano or growing parsley, growing chamomile is fairly easy with some basic tips. Because there are several varieties of the herb we know as chamomile, these tips are specifically geared towards growing the variety known as German chamomile.

The plant is best grown from seed, rather than potted as an already partially grown plant. Seeds can be started indoors and moved outside after fear of the last frost has passed. Otherwise you can direct sow in the soil in late spring.

Chamomile seeds need sunlight to germinate. This means you don’t want to completely bury them in the dirt or plant them in a heavily shaded area. Instead, scatter the seeds and lightly mix with the top soil. As for water, the plant doesn’t need to be overwatered, but it shouldn’t be completely dry between soakings either.

When the flowers on your chamomile plant begin opening up, harvest them. The more you harvest, the more that will grow. You should be harvesting every few days. Cut the stem just above a lead node, or where a leaf joins the stem, then remove the flower and place in a basket or on a drying rack.

Move the flowers around from time to time to ensure they are drying completely. Once they are thoroughly dried, you can store the flowers in a glass jar in your cabinet. They will keep for several months as long as they are kept dry and out of the sun.

Using Medicinal Chamomile

There are many applications for dried chamomile including tinctures and essential oils though the easiest and most often used is an infusion or tea. For stomach ailments, muscle spasms, and help in falling asleep, use about one tablespoon of dried herb per cup of water. Pour boiling water over the herbs and allow to steep for about 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

If you want to use chamomile topically– on rashes, cuts and other skin ailments, for instance—you can create a compress by simply making a more concentrated “tea”. Once the tea has cooled, dip a cloth in it, wring it out and apply to the affected area. You can similarly use this tea as a facial or hair rinse.

From your skin to your stomach or even a stressed mind, chamomile is a master-soother, and one you can easily add to your healing herb garden. Experience chamomile benefits today, and share your thoughts with others!

Source: http://naturalsociety.com

Mediterranean Diet May Reverse Genetic Risk for Stroke.


Following a Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) may not only reduce fasting glucose concentrations and lipid levels in patients who are genetically at increased risk for type 2 diabetes but may also lower their risk for stroke, a new study suggests.

Polymorphisms of the transcription factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2) gene are strongly associated with type 2 diabetes, as well as, in some studies, plasma lipids and cardiovascular disease. In this study, researchers looked at whether the MedDiet, which features olive oil, nuts, fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthier fats, could moderate the genetic risk for cardiovascular outcomes associated with one of these polymorphisms, TCF7L2-rs7903146.

“Being on the Mediterranean diet reduced the number of strokes in people with 2 copies of the variant,” said study author José M. Ordovás, PhD, professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, in a press release. “The food they ate appeared to eliminate any increased stroke susceptibility, putting put them on an even playing field with people with one or no copies of the variant.”

The study results “support the benefits of a MedDiet, especially for genetically susceptible individuals and emphasize the importance of studying entire dietary patterns rather than individual components,” the authors, led by Dolores Corella, PhD, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health School of Medicine, University of Valencia, Spain, conclude.

The study was published online August 13 in Diabetes Care.

Genetically Susceptible

This analysis included 8018 older men and women entered in the PREvención con DIetaMEDiterránea (PREDIMED), a multicenter clinical trial aimed at assessing the effects of the MedDiet on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Patients in the study had type 2 diabetes or at least 3 cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, or smoking.

Previous reports from the PREDIMED study have shown that this diet reduced carotid plaqueimproved cognitive functionreduced cardiovascular events by about half, and also halved new-onset type 2 diabetes vs the low-fat arm of the study during the trial.

For this analysis, DNA was extracted from these patients and genetic variation in TCF7L2-rs7903146 was determined. About 14% of the participants were homozygous carriers, meaning they carried 2 copies of theTCF7L2 gene variant, a group referred to as TT.

Study patients were randomly assigned to the MedDiet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, to the MedDiet supplemented with mixed nuts, or to a control group that followed a low-fat diet. The groups were followed for a median of 4.8 years.

As expected, the TCF7L2-rs7903146 polymorphism presented a highly significant association with type 2 diabetes at baseline. Researchers also noted a highly significant association (P < .001) between this polymorphism and increased fasting glucose, although the statistical significance was lessened after adjustment for type 2 diabetes.

Their results showed significant gene-diet interactions. When adherence to the MedDiet prior to randomization in PREDIMED was low (below sample mean of 9 points), patients carrying the TT genotype had higher fasting glucose concentrations than those with other genetic variations (132.3 vs 127.3 mg/dL; P = .001). When adherence to the diet was high (≥9 points), there was no such increase.

This modulation by diet was also detected for total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

Stroke Risk

During the study period, 262 major cardiovascular events occurred, including 130 strokes.

When adherence to the MedDiet was low, TT patients presented a higher risk for stroke than those with other genetic variants (hazard ratio [HR] in the adjusted model that included diabetes, 2.44; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.26 – 4.72). No higher risk was found when adherence to the MedDiet was high (HR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.44 – 2.22).The mechanism of this effect is unknown, said the authors.

Importantly, the study showed that in the low-fat control diet, homozygous carriers were almost 3 times as likely to have a stroke as people with 1 or no copies of the gene variant (adjusted HR, 2.91; 95% CI, 1.36 – 6.19; P = .006).

Because modulation of stroke incidence by the MedDiet was similar in the group that received the diet supplemented with olive oil and the one supplemented with nuts, “our results suggest once again that it is the overall MedDiet pattern rather than specific foods that contribute to not increasing stroke risk in TT individuals,” said the authors.

“Our study is the first to identify a gene-diet interaction affecting stroke in a nutrition intervention trial carried out over a number of years in thousands of men and women,” commented Dr. Ordovás in the release. “The PREDIMED study design provides us with stronger results than we have ever had before. With the ability to analyze the relationship between diet, genetics, and life-threatening cardiac events, we can begin to think seriously about developing genetic tests to identify people who may reduce their risk for chronic disease, or even prevent it, by making meaningful changes to the way they eat.”

Although the study’s sample size was large, the interactive findings of stroke risk with the MedDiet rest on relatively few stroke cases, the authors point out.

Source: medscape.com

What Firefox OS means for you.


Firefox recently announced that Firefox OS phones are now available! (As of this post, in Spain and Poland.)

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If it’s not available in your market, do you have a stake in the success of Firefox OS? We brought in an expert that says “Yes!” and explains why.

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Welcome Christian Heilmann!

Q: Christian, how are you involved with Firefox OS?

A: I worked with the system, I helped developers port their apps to it and I spend hours and hours writing about it, making demos and talking to the press and anyone who’d stand still long enough (or sit on a plane next to me).

Q: Why do you think Firefox OS is important?

A: Here are a few reasons.

  • Firefox OS kills the idea of mobile Web connectivity only being for the rich in the western world. Yes, for those in the US or the UK having a new shiny phone every half year is not an issue. But that is just not affordable to everyone, and even if it was, in many countries if you have no credit card you couldn’t even buy apps for those phones. This is unfair, elitist and plainly against anything the web stands for. Firefox OS is affordable, and apps can be bought on prepay or on your phone bill.
  • Firefox OS does not assume a fast, stable and always available connection. When traveling I start hating my Android phone (which I love to bits otherwise.) Having dozens of megabyte updates over roaming is out of the question and neither is using flaky and slow wireless connections. Firefox OS has no native apps – all of them, including the system apps are written in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Thus they are much smaller and can have atomic updates instead of having to be replaced as a unit every single time.
  • Firefox OS is the web in your pocket. It is Firefox and nothing else (other than a Linux core to access the hardware). Thus I will not be told to “download the native app” when I go to Web sites that are perfectly fine to use.
  • Firefox OS is the platform HTML5 deserves. For developers, our HTML5 solutions are finally first-class citizens. We are not shoved into a slower Web view and told we can not access the hardware.
  • Firefox OS apps are Web-distributed apps. Users can go to the marketplace and find our apps by hand or via review or they could search for a certain song, movie, football team and dish and find our app that way. App discovery is as simple as using the Web and finding Web sites.

Source: /blog.mozilla.org