• The good role fat cells play in protecting us from disease

    When it comes to skin infections, a healthy and robust immune response may depend greatly upon what lies beneath. In a new paper published in the January 2, 2015 issue of Science, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report the surprising discovery that fat cells below the skin help protect us from bacteria. 

    Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, professor and chief of dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues have uncovered a previously unknown role for dermal fat cells, known as adipocytes: They produce antimicrobial peptides that help fend off invading bacteria and other pathogens. 

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  • Drugs released in environment affect plant growth

    The drugs we release into the environment are likely to have a significant impact on plant growth, finds a new study led by the University of Exeter Medical School and Plymouth University. By assessing the impacts of a range of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the research has shown that the growth of edible crops can be affected by these chemicals – even at the very low concentrations found in the environment.

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  • Japan submits new proposal to continue "scientific" whaling program

    Earlier this year whales won a historic victory when the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s scientific whaling program in the Antarctic was illegal and ordered it be ended, but Japan is back at it with plans to continue under a new proposal. Despite a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling that was put in place in 1986, Japan has continued with annual whale hunts that it claims are being conducted to collect scientific data. Whale advocates, however, have long argued that Japan has been abusing a loophole in the moratorium that allows for lethal scientific research whaling. Fortunately for whales, the court agreed, ruling that Japan’s program breached international law, had no justifications for the quotas it was setting and that it had failed to consider non-lethal alternatives under it’s JARPA II research program.

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  • China gets serious about reducing smoking

    In 2009, China's estimated 300 million smokers consumed a staggering 2.3 trillion cigarettes: more than the number smoked in the next four top tobacco-consuming countries—Indonesia, Japan, Russia, and the United States—combined. The health toll is enormous as well: Tobacco causes roughly 1 million deaths in China each year, including 100,000 fatalities blamed on secondhand smoke, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). If tobacco use is not curtailed, WHO warns, China’s death toll could rise to 3 million each year by 2050.

    The nation’s capital, Beijing, is taking that chilling message to heart. On 28 November, the Beijing Municipal Government adopted a ban on smoking in all indoor public places—"with no loopholes and no exemptions," crowed Bernhard Schwartländer, the WHO representative in China, in a press release. The new law will take effect on 1 June 2015.

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  • The link between Omega-3 fatty acid and stopping smoking

    Think you’ve tried everything to quit smoking, but just couldn’t do it? Then you’ll want to read on. According to a new study, taking omega-3 supplements reduces craving for nicotine and even reduces the number of cigarettes you smoke a day.

    “The substances and medications used currently to help people reduce and quit smoking are not very effective and cause adverse effects that are not easy to cope with. The findings of this study indicated that omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly,” said Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar, head of the addictions program at the University of Haifa.

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  • Turkey might be a better choice than fish in the tropics!

    On a tropical island vacation, one of the last things you want to worry about is food poisoning. Yet for many, a trip to the tropics includes a painful education in a mysterious food-borne illness called Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, or CFP.

    Every year, thousands of people suffer from CFP, a poisoning syndrome caused by eating toxic reef fish. CFP symptoms are both gastrointestinal and neurological, bringing on bouts of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, muscle aches, and in some cases, the reversal of hot and cold sensations. Some neurological symptoms can persist for days to months to years after exposure. There is no quick way to test for the toxins, and unless action is taken within hours of the poisoning, no cure once you’re sick.

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  • New antibiotic found in mushroom that grows on horse dung

    Researchers from the Institute of Microbiology at ETH Zurich and the University of Bonn have discovered a new protein with antibiotic properties in a mushroom that grows on horse dung. The new agent that was found in fungi is found to kill bacteria. The substance, known as copsin, has the same effect as traditional antibiotics, but belongs to a different class of biochemical substances. Copsin is a protein, whereas traditional antibiotics are often non-protein organic compounds.

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  • Is the world moving backwards on protected areas?

    Protected areas are undoubtedly the world's most important conservation success story, and recent research shows that protected areas are effective—housing more biodiversity and greater abundances of species inside rather than out. But, despite this, progress on protected areas is stalling and in some cases even falling behind. According to a sobering new paper today in Nature, only 20-50 percent of the world's land and marine protected areas are meeting their goals, while the rest are hampered by lack of funding, poor management, and government ambivalence. The paper arrives just a few days before the opening of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, a global event that happens once a decade. "Protected areas offer us solutions to some of today's most pressing challenges, but by continuing with 'business as usual,' we are setting them up for failure," said lead author James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland. "A step-change in the way we value, fund, govern and manage those areas is neither impossible nor unrealistic and would only represent a fraction of what the world spends annually on defense." 

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  • The prevalence of naturally occurring asbestos in the environment

    Naturally occurring asbestos minerals may be more widespread than previously thought, with newly discovered sources now identified within the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The asbestos-rich areas are in locations not previously considered to be at risk, according to new report that will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Vancouver, Canada, on Sunday, 20 October.

    "These minerals were found where one wouldn't expect or think to look," said Rodney Metcalf, associate professor of geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and co-researcher of the study. The naturally occurring asbestos was found in Boulder City, Nevada, in the path of a construction zone to build a multi-million dollar highway called the Boulder City Bypass, the first stage of an I-11 corridor planned between Las Vegas and Arizona.

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  • Study links childhood leukemia and power lines

    Researchers from the UK have called into question a theory suggesting that a previously reported risk of leukemia among children born close to overhead power lines could be caused by an alteration to surrounding air pollution. In a study published today, 31 October, in the Journal of Radiological Protection (the official journal of The Society for Radiological Protection), the researchers have found little evidence to support the ‘corona-ion hypothesis’ which has been cited as a possible explanation for the excess of childhood leukemia cases close to high-voltage overhead power lines in the UK prior to the 1980s.

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