Lunedì, 04 Dicembre 2017
Lunedì, 04 Dicembre 2017 15:25

The Patterns of climate change

Automatic shelters used to alter either precipitation or temperature in Garraf National Park near Barcelona. Image: Courtesy of Josep Peñuelas 


Plant Ecology researchers at the University of Tübingen have developed a technique to monitor and predict how plant species will respond to climate change. Dr. Mark Bilton and Professor Katja Tielbörger, from the Institute of Evolution and Ecology, re-analysed data with Spanish collaborators from their unprecedented 16-year experiment. The experiment was conducted in an area the size of two football pitches within the Garraf National park south west of Barcelona. The landscape is mostly a Mediterranean scrubland, featuring thickets of low rise shrubs and herbs such as rosemary and thyme, and home to many protected species. Using large automatic shelters, climate for the plants living in their natural environment was changed in order to match climate conditions predicted in the future, separately by decreasing rainfall and by raising temperatures. However, until now, it was unclear how the different species of plants were responding to changed climate, making it difficult to make further predictions about which species may be most affected in the future. The results of the study were published in the New Phytologist.

Pubblicato in Scienceonline
Lunedì, 04 Dicembre 2017 15:18

How the UK smoking ban increased happiness


Married women with children have benefited the most from the UK public smoking ban according to Lancaster University researchers. According to the World Health Organisation, smoking is directly linked to 6 million deaths every year worldwide leading to diseases like cancer, chest infections, strokes and heart attacks. Smoking has been forbidden in enclosed public spaces like pubs and restaurants following bans in 2006 in Scotland and in 2007 in England. The study led by Dr Eugenio Zucchelli of Lancaster University looked at people’s own assessments of their psychological well-being both before and after the introduction of the bans in Scotland and England using a quasi-experimental design. The researchers analysed data from the British Household Panel Survey to estimate the impact of the bans on the self-reported wellbeing of smokers, occasional smokers and non smokers, whether single or in a couple.

Pubblicato in Scienceonline

Con novembre si conclude l'anno meteorologico 2017 (dicembre 2016-novembre 2017). Dal punto di vista termometrico il 2017 ha fatto registrare, per l'Italia,un'anomalia di +1.3°C al di sopra della media del periodo di riferimento convenzionale 1971-2000, chiudendo come il quarto più caldo dal 1800 adoggi, pari merito agli anni 2001, 2007 e 2016. Più caldi del 2017 sono stati solo il 2003 (con un'anomalia di +1.36°C), il 2014 (+1.38°C rispetto alla media) e il 2015 che resta l'anno più caldo di sempre con i suoi +1.43°C al di sopra della media del periodo di riferimento.

Queste le anomalie delle temperature dei singoli mesi e delle singole stagioni di quest'anno meteorologico:

Dicembre   +1.00  23-esimo
Gennaio    -1.69 135-esimo
Febbraio   +2.12 sesto
Marzo      +2.51 quarto
Aprile     +1.64  17-esimo
Maggio     +1.55  14-esimo
Giugno     +3.22 secondo
Luglio     +1.69 decimo
Agosto     +2.53 terzo
Settembre  -0.45 101-esimo
Ottobre    +0.96  28-esimo
Novembre   +0.40  43-esimo
Pubblicato in Ambiente
Lunedì, 04 Dicembre 2017 13:47

Intestinal Worms may Solve Allergy Puzzle

While young people with parasite worms currently have a four times higher risk for developing allergies and asthma than others. Their parents are generally unaffected. Researchers at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway were surprised when they found that intestinal worms, so-called Helminths (Toxocara Canis) from animals, actually have an influence on allergy- and asthma risk in humans.  Their results showed that young people who test positive for this parasite, have a 4 times higher risk of developing asthma and allergies than others. “Usually, we consider a 50% higher risk as being high, but here we see a 400% higher risk,” says Professor Cecilie Svanes at Centre for International Health, UiB.

Key to allegy puzzle

According to Svanes, what is interesting in these results is that it seems to be only the young generation who has higher risk of getting asthma and allergies if they test positive on helminths, and not their parents.  “We do not know why the parasite only influences the young generation in a negative way and not their parents. If we can discover the reason for this, I think we will have solved the puzzle of why allergies have  increased enormously over the past few decades,” says Svanes.

Allergy explosion

Many studies show that the numbers of people with asthma and allergies have increased enormously over the past few decades. The reason for this is unknown.  “One of the most common hypotheses is that we have become more in contact with chemicals and less in contact with microbes and bacteria,” Svanes explains. “There are, however, many things that have changed during the last decades. Nobody knows why allergy and asthma levels have increased. The phenomena is happening all over the world. It probably relates to urbanisation among other things.”

Pubblicato in Scienceonline



Study field and income are important factors for understanding childlessness among college educated Swedish men. These are the results of a new thesis in sociological demography, which shows that nearly a fourth of college educated men remain childless while highly educated women tend to partner with men who have lower education. - Among college graduates, men who are the top earners are the least likely to be childless, and men who earn less are increasingly more likely to be childless. Every step down the ladder of income is associated with a higher likelihood of remaining childless, says Margarita Chudnovskaya, researcher in Demography. Previous research has shown that highly educated men and women often partner with each other, and that college educated women preferred men with a high education. In Sweden today, there are nearly two women for every man among recent college graduates. According to demographic theories of the “marriage market,” the “demand” for highly educated men should have increased as women compete for highly educated male partners.

Pubblicato in Scienceonline



Six out of 10 U.S. parents are choosing to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for their children, according to a report published in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends parents get two doses of HPV vaccine for their children at ages 11 or 12 to protect against cancers caused by HPV infections. Although most children are getting their first dose of HPV vaccine, many children are not completing the vaccination series. “I’m pleased with the progress, but too many teens are still not receiving the HPV vaccine – which leaves them vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV infection,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “We need to do more to increase the vaccination rate and protect American youth today from future cancers tomorrow.” Adolescents who get the first dose of HPV vaccine before their 15th birthday need two doses of HPV vaccine to be protected against cancers caused by HPV. Teens and young adults who start the series at ages 15 through 26 years need three doses of HPV vaccine to be protected against cancers caused by HPV.

Pubblicato in Scienceonline



Genetic susceptibility to bipolar disorder can increase the risk for suicide attempt, but only among those who also have experienced traumatic stress, reports a study published in the December 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP). Suicide in 2015 was the second leading cause of death among teens ages 15-19 with steep increases in suicide risk from ages 14 to 20. Bipolar disorder (BD) is one of the most heritable psychiatric conditions and is associated with high suicide risk. "We found that genetic susceptibility to BD can increase the risk for suicide attempt, but only among those who also have experienced traumatic stress such as bullying, sexual abuse, and domestic violence," said lead author Holly Wilcox, PhD, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "This work highlights the importance of severe environmental stressors in the development of suicide attempts in those at higher genetic risk for bipolar disorder."

Pubblicato in Scienceonline


Il programma genera un indotto di 23 milioni di dollari l'anno per le economie locali e protegge 8.800 specie

Il programma per le aree protette dell'Amazzonia (Programa Áreas Protegidas da Amazonia- ARPA), coordinato dal Ministero dell'Ambiente brasiliano, in collaborazione con WWF-Brasile, WWF-USA e altri partner, celebra quindici anni di attività nel 2017 come la più grande strategia sul pianeta per la conservazione e l'uso sostenibile delle foreste tropicali. L’obiettivo di proteggere almeno 60 milioni di ettari in Amazzonia (il 15% di tutto il bioma presente in Brasile) è stato raggiunto. Oggi il programma ARPA è presente in 117 “Conservation units”, che comprendono Parchi nazionali e statali, Stazioni ecologiche, Riserve biologiche o estrattive, Riserve per lo sviluppo sostenibile (RDS) negli stati di Amapá, Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondonia, Roraima e Tocantins.
Dal totale di unità protette, 39 di esse ospitano oltre 8.800 specie, ovvero l'88% delle specie di uccelli, il 68% delle specie di mammiferi e il 55% delle specie di rettili dell'intera Amazzonia. L’ARPA lavora a stretto contatto con le comunità locali e investe nella creazione, espansione, rafforzamento e mantenimento delle unità di conservazione, garantendo risorse e promuovendo lo sviluppo sostenibile nella regione. Le aree che fanno parte del programma beneficiano di beni, progetti e contratti di servizio, come l'istituzione di consigli, piani di gestione, nonché attività di integrazione tra le comunità residenti e il loro ambiente circostante. Complessivamente, il programma ha sostenuto il rafforzamento delle comunità in trenta aree protette. Secondo uno studio condotto dal programma, le unità di conservazione supportate dall'ARPA possono generare 23 milioni di dollari l'anno per le economie locali basate sulla foresta: complessivamente, l’ARPA ha sostenuto il rafforzamento delle comunità in 30 aree protette.
"La grande sfida consiste nel garantire che le aree protette raggiungano i loro obiettivi di conservazione, in modo partecipativo e trasparente, attraverso il sostegno di risorse provenienti dalle donazioni e dal governo stesso", afferma il ministro dell'Ambiente, Sarney Filho.

Pubblicato in Ambiente
Lunedì, 04 Dicembre 2017 08:39

Innovative probe visualises tumours


Gliomas are a type of brain tumour characterised by a poor prognosis. In order to improve this prognosis, as much of the tumour as possible must be removed safely during the neurosurgical operation. However, especially in the case of slow-growing, low-grade gliomas, it is often difficult to distinguish diseased tissue from healthy tissue. In a joint project, MedUni Vienna, the University of California in San Francisco and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (both USA) have now trialed a technique designed to make low-grade gliomas visible. The technique involved using an innovative probe together with 5-ALA as a fluorescence marker during the operation. 5-ALA fluorescence specialist Georg Widhalm, Department of Neurosurgery and member MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center was heavily involved in the project. In Austria, around 450 people a year develop a glioma. Nowadays, fluorescence marker 5-ALA, which accumulates in the cancerous tissue, is routinely used during surgical resection of fast-growing gliomas (glioblastomas) to help differentiate between diseased tissue and healthy tissue. A special surgical microscope that emits blue light, thereby making the brain tumour glow red, is used during the operation. This shows the surgeon exactly which parts of the brain are diseased, so he/she is better able to resect the tumour.

Pubblicato in Scienceonline


When we sleep, our organism goes through different phases of sleep, however the brain remains interconnected during non-REM sleep, which was thought not to happen. The finding by a European team of researchers has also made it possible to analyse the scientific basis of consciousness, an increasingly important field of neuroscience. Sleep is composed of various cycles in which there are different stages: slow and fast-wave, which make up non-REM sleep and REM sleep. During the night, it is normal to experience four or five complete cycles, each lasting around ninety minutes. Various investigations have shown that communication between different areas of the cerebral cortex is interrupted during non-REM sleep and also when a patient is under anaesthesia, due to the loss of consciousness. “It was thought that the brain disconnected during non-REM sleep and that the individual areas could no longer communicate effectively,” SINC was told by Umberto Olcese, a researcher from the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences of the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands).

Pubblicato in Scienceonline


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