. Scientific Frontline: June 2022

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Don’t Stress: Maternal Stress Affects Child’s Diet

Photo credit cottonbro
Maternal exposure to stress during pregnancy could have long term detrimental effects on their children’s diets, and thereby on health conditions related to diet – such as increased levels of obesity and obesity-related diseases – according to new research from Michele Belot, professor in the Department of Economics.

“Being exposed to stressful events when pregnant seems to impact the dietary preferences and diet of the children in a negative way, and for reasons that are actually aside from what the mother is eating herself,” says Belot, who has a joint appointment in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and College of Arts and Sciences. “So that means that we need to think about how to help pregnant women manage stress in a way that could be beneficial for the mother and also for the child.”

In the paper, “Maternal stress during pregnancy and children’s diet: Evidence from a population of low socioeconomic status” published in the journal Nutrition, Belot and her co-authors found that higher than average stress during pregnancy is linked with significantly less healthy food preferences for their children, as well as a weaker preference for sour and bitter foods.

“Stress during pregnancy could have long-term detrimental effects on the next generation in terms of a less healthy diet and subsequent health implications associated with these effects, such as higher rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases,” wrote the authors, which include Nicoli Vitt (University of Bristol), Martina Vecchi (Penn State) and Jonathan James (University of Bath). “As a consequence, we advocate for more research into understanding the sources of maternal stress and the extent to which these can be altered. Prenatal care and preconception counseling could be critical to develop preventive strategies to improve public health.”

For the study, the researchers selected 213 mothers of low socioeconomic status living in the area of Colchester, United Kingdom, with children aged between 2- and 12-years old. Their stress level during pregnancy was assessed using retrospective self-reporting. Specifically, they asked whether mothers experienced one or more of the following life events during the pregnancy with their child: Death of close family member or close friend, changes or difficulties in their relationship, legal issues, changes or difficulties in their family life, health issues, changes or difficulties in their or their spouse’s employment, financial issues, changes in their habits, other potentially stressful events.

Shedding light on reptilian health: Researchers investigate origins of snake fungal disease in U.S.

Jason Ladner assistant professor at Northern Arizona University’s Pathogen and Microbiome Institute
Credit: Northern Arizona University

Although only recently recognized as an issue in wildlife ecology, snake fungal disease (SFD) is of emerging concern in the U.S., with parallels among other better-known wildlife fungal diseases such as white-nose syndrome in bats. SFD can be deadly to snakes, and even in milder cases disrupts an animal’s abilities to perform normal biological functions such as hibernation, eating and avoiding predators.

To better understand SFD, a team of researchers, including assistant professor Jason Ladner of Northern Arizona University’s Pathogen and Microbiome Institute, conducted a genetic study of the pathogen that was recently published in PLOS Biology, “The population genetics of the causative agent of snake fungal disease indicate recent introductions to the USA.”

Collaborating with study co-author Jeff Lorch of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other scientists from the USGS, Genencor Technology Center, the University of California-Riverside, Stetson University, the Institute of Zoology, the University of Kentucky and Holyoke Community College, Ladner’s goal was to determine whether SFD originated in the U.S. or was introduced from outside the country, which could provide a historical basis for how it emerged—and ultimately inform management of the disease.

“Snake fungal disease first came to be recognized in the U.S. around 2008. There happened to be a well-studied population of rattlesnakes in Illinois that started coming down with some very severe fungal infections. People asked, ‘OK, what is this thing? Where is it? What’s going on? Is this a new emerging fungal pathogen or not?’ Ladner said. “What they eventually found was that it was already almost everywhere, at least in the eastern half of the U.S.”

Hidden in caves: Mineral overgrowths reveal unprecedented modern sea-level rise

Professional divers assisted researchers by searching for mineral overgrowths in Mallorca, Spain cave systems.
Resized Image using AI by SFLORG
Source: University of South Florida

The early 1900s were an exciting time across the world, with rapid advances in the steel, electric and automobile industries. The industrial changes also mark an inflection point in our climate. According to an international team of researchers led by the University of South Florida (USF), the sea level has risen 18 centimeters since the start of the 20th century.

The study, featured on the cover of the July 1 issue of Science Advances, works to identify preindustrial sea levels and examines the impact of modern greenhouse warming on sea-level rise.

The team, which includes USF graduate students, traveled to Mallorca, Spain – home to more than 1,000 cave systems, some of which have deposits that formed millions of years ago. For this study, they focused on analyzing deposits from 4,000 years ago to present day.

Laser Creates a Miniature Magnetosphere

Direct observations of pure electron outflow in magnetic reconnection. Scientific Reports (a) Schematics of the experiment. By irradiating a plastic target with the Gekko XII laser, plasma flow is generated in the presence of a weak magnetic field. The weak magnetic field is distorted by the dynamic pressure of the plasma flow and the anti-parallel magnetic configuration is created. (b) The insert schematically shows that the elongated magnetic field reconnects and releases the magnetic field energy as the reconnection outflows. Pure electron outflows have been measured with CTS for the first time in laser-produced plasmas
Credit: 2022 K. Sakai et al.

Magnetic reconnections in laser-produced plasmas have been studied to understand the microscopic electron dynamics, which is applicable to space and astrophysical phenomena. Osaka University researchers, in collaboration with researchers at the National Institute for Fusion Science and other universities, have reported the direct measurements of pure electron outflows relevant to magnetic reconnection using a high-power laser, Gekko XII, at the Institute of Laser Engineering, Osaka University in Japan. Their findings are published in Scientific Reports.

Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process in many space and astrophysical phenomena such as solar flares and magnetic substorms, where the magnetic energy is released as the plasma energy. It is known that electron dynamics plays essential roles in the triggering mechanism of magnetic reconnection. However, it has been highly challenging to observe the tiny electron scale phenomena in the vast universe.

Thus, the researchers have created situation-only electrons directly coupled with magnetic field in laser-produced plasmas. The so-called laboratory astrophysics allows one to access the miniature universe.

Some Viruses Make You Smell Tastier to Mosquitoes

Certain smells can attract mosquitoes to human beings, including smells caused by the dengue and Zika viruses. 
Photo credit: by Pixabay

Zika and dengue fever viruses alter the scent of mice and humans they infect, researchers report in the June 30 issue of Journal Cell. The altered scent attracts mosquitoes, which bite the host, drink their infected blood, and then carry the virus to its next victim.

Dengue is spread by mosquitoes in tropical areas around the world, and occasionally in subtropical areas such as the southeastern US. It causes fever, rash, and painful aches, and sometimes hemorrhage and death. More than 50 million dengue cases occur every year, and about 20,000 deaths, most of them in children, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Zika is another mosquito-spread viral disease in the same family as dengue. Although it is uncommon for Zika to cause serious disease in adults, a recent outbreak in South America caused serious birth defects in the unborn children of infected pregnant women. Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile are also members of this virus family.

These viruses require ongoing infections in animal hosts as well as mosquitoes in order to spread. If either of these are missing—if all the susceptible hosts clear the virus, or all the mosquitoes die—the virus disappears. For example, during the yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia in 1793, the coming of the fall frosts killed the local mosquitoes, and the outbreak ended.

A tool that can detect ancient life on Earth and beyond

Biofinder detection of biological resides in fish fossil. (a) White light image of a Green River formation fish fossil, Knightia sp., from a distance of 50 cm using the Biofinder without laser excitation. (b) Fluorescence image of the fish fossil obtained by the Biofinder using a single laser pulse excitation, 1 µs detection time, and 3.6% gain on the CMOS detector. (c) Close-up white light image of the fish fossil cross-section using a 10× objective with 54 mm working distance showing the fish remains and rock matrix. (d) Fluorescence image with a single laser pulse excitation showing strong bio-fluorescence from the fish remains. 
Photo credit: Misra, et al.

An innovative scientific instrument developed by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researchers is expected to be a game changer in the search for life—existing or extinct—on Earth and other planets.

The instrument, called a Compact Color Biofinder, uses specialized cameras to scan large areas for fluorescence signals of biological materials like amino acids, fossils, sedimentary rocks, plants, microbes, proteins and lipids. The instrument has been successfully used to detect these bio-residues in fish fossils from the 34–56 million-year-old Green River rock formation located in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

The findings are published in Nature Scientific Reports.

“The Biofinder is the first system of its kind,” said Anupam Misra, lead instrument developer and researcher at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “At present, there is no other equipment that can detect minute amounts of bio-residue on a rock during the daytime. Additional strengths of the Biofinder are that it works from a distance of several meters, takes video and can quickly scan a large area.”

Wildfires May Have Sparked Ecosystem Collapse During Earth’s Worst Mass Extinction

Credit: Victor O. Leshyk During the worst mass extinction event in Earth’s history, vast wetlands suffered increased wildfires, turning the world’s largest carbon sinks into carbon sources.
Resized Image using AI by SFLORG
Credit: Victor O. Leshyk 

Researchers at University College Cork (UCC) and the Swedish Museum of Natural History examined the end-Permian mass extinction (252 million years ago) that eliminated almost every species on Earth, with entire ecosystems collapsing. The researchers discovered a sharp spike in wildfire activity from this most devastating of mass extinctions. Promoted by rapid greenhouse gas emissions from volcanoes, extreme warming and drying led to wildfires across vast regions that were previously permanently wet. Instead of capturing carbon from the atmosphere, these wetlands became major sources of atmospheric carbon, enhancing the sharp warming trend. The research is published in PALAIOS today (30th June).

Fossils examined in eastern Australia & Antarctica

By studying fossil plant and charcoal records of the Sydney & Bowen basins in eastern Australia and Antarctica (Lambert Graben), the researchers discovered that the wetlands were regularly disturbed by fires leading up to the extinction event. In response, the plants had evolved a range of fire-coping mechanisms. However, the severe climate change and peak in fire activity during the extinction event seems to have pushed even these fire-adapted plants over a tipping point, from which the entire ecosystem could not recover for millions of years.

“Sifting through the fossil plant records of eastern Australia and Antarctica, we found high abundances of burnt, or charcoalified, plants throughout the late Permian Period. From this high baseline, charcoal abundances reached a prominent peak right at the top of the last Permian coal beds, indicating a major but short-lived increase in wildfires. This was followed by low charcoal for the next three million years of the Early Triassic Period. It was an end-Permian burnout, followed by an Early Triassic depression” comments Dr Chris Mays, Lecturer in Paleontology at University College Cork (UCC) and lead author of the study.

Earth on a path to a similar mass extinction?

The researchers highlight that in today’s world, wildfires have caused shocking mass animal die-offs in several regions around the world (e.g. California 2018, 2020, Australia 2019-20). Over the same time, our warming global climate has led to prolonged droughts and increased wildfires in typically wet habitats, such as the peat forests of Indonesia and the vast Pantanal wetlands of South America. These major ‘carbon sinks’―regions of natural capture of carbon from the atmosphere―are crucial in our fight against climate change. As the fossil record reveals, without these regions of carbon capture, the world can stay intolerably warm for hundreds of millennia.

“The potential for wildfires as a direct extinction driver during hyperthermal events, rather than a symptom of climatic changes deserves further examination. Unlike the species that suffered the mass extinctions of the past, we have the opportunity to prevent the burning of the world’s carbon sinks and help avoid the worst effects of modern warming” comments Dr Mays.

Source/Credit: Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh (University College Cork)


Scientists find trigger that sets off metastasis in pancreatic cancer

Scientists have found that cancers in the pancreas (left) readily metastasize because these tumors suppress levels of an enzyme, MSRA, that pulls oxygen atoms off amino acids called methionine. As MSRA levels decrease, methionines on proteins become more oxidized. This causes one particular protein to rev up energy production in the tumor, promoting the migration of cancer cells to other organs. Metastatic tumors on the liver (right) lead to rapid death.
Image courtesy of Christopher Chang, UC Berkeley, and Christine Chio, Columbia

Pancreatic cancer, though rare, is one of the deadliest of cancers, killing nearly 50,000 people yearly and doing so quickly, primarily because it metastasizes rapidly through the body. Barely one in 10 people survive beyond five years.

But a discovery by chemists at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests a new way to slow or stop metastatic spread of pancreatic and perhaps other cancers.

In last week’s issue of the journal Molecular Cell, Christopher Chang and his group at UC Berkeley, collaborating with Christine Chio’s team at Columbia University in New York, report that metastasis is triggered by the loss of an enzyme that repairs oxygen damage to proteins.

Without this enzyme to erase the oxidative damage, one particular protein in cancer cells goes on to rev up energy production and seed new cancers around the body. The researchers confirmed this by knocking down levels of the “eraser” enzyme in mice and in cultured mouse and human cells, or organoids. In both cases, this promoted the migration of cancer cells and metastatic spread.

How bacteria adhere to cells: Basis for the development of a new class of antibiotics

Adhesion of Bartonella henselae (blue) to human blood vessel cells (red). The bacterium's adhesion to the host cells could be blocked with the help of what are known as “anti-ligands".
Credit: Goethe University

Researchers from University Hospital Frankfurt and Goethe University Frankfurt have unraveled how bacteria adhere to host cells and thus taken the first step towards developing a new class of antibiotics.

The adhesion of bacteria to host cells is always the first and one of the decisive steps in the development of infectious diseases. The purpose of this adhesion by infectious pathogens is first to colonize the host organism (i.e., the human body), and then to trigger an infection, which in the worst case can end fatally. Precise understanding of the bacteria's adhesion to host cells is a key to finding therapeutic alternatives that block this critical interaction in the earliest possible stage of an infection.

The hawk has landed: braking mid-air to prioritize safety over energy or speed

A Harris hawk braking in mid-air before perching.
Resized image using AI by SFLORG
Credit: Rob Bullingham

New research from the Oxford Flight Group using computer simulations and Hollywood-style motion capture shows how birds optimize their landing maneuvers for an accurate descent.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that hawks control their flight to ensure the safest landing conditions when perching, even if it takes longer and more energy to do so. Understanding how birds optimize their landing maneuvers through learning may help in developing small aircraft capable of perching like birds.

In new research published in Nature, four Harris’ hawks wearing tiny retroreflective markers were tracked flying back and forth between two perches. Their precise movements were recorded by 20 motion capture cameras positioned around the room, allowing the research team to reconstruct their flight paths on over 1,500 flights. The research team then used computer simulations to understand why the birds chose their particular path to the perch.

Aircraft have the luxury of using a runway for braking after landing to reduce speed. In contrast, birds must brake before they arrive at the perch – however slowing down to a safe speed while in flight risks stall, leading to a sudden loss of flight control. The researchers discovered that the hawks follow a flight path that slows them down to a safe speed but minimizes the distance from the perch at which they stall.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Shrimps and worms among first animals to recover after largest mass extinction

Reconstructed sea bed scenes (A) Pre-extinction, (B-D) Induan (early Early Triassic), (E) Smithian, (F) Spathian
Credit: Yaqi Jiang

Researchers studying ancient sea bed burrows and trails have discovered that bottom burrowing animals were among the first to bounce back after the end-Permian mass extinction.

In a new study, published today in the journal Science Advances, researchers from China, the USA and the UK, reveal how life in the sea recovered from the event, which killed over 90 percent of species on Earth, from their observations of trace fossils.

Life was devastated by the end-Permian mass extinction 252 million years ago, and recovery of life on Earth took millions of years for biodiversity to return to pre-extinction levels. But by examining trails and burrows on the South China sea bed, the international team were able to piece together sea life’s revival by pinpointing what animal activity was happening when.

Professor Michael Benton from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, a collaborator on the new paper, said: “The end-Permian mass extinction and the recovery of life in the Early Triassic are very well documented throughout South China.

“We were able to look at trace fossils from 26 sections through the entire series of events, representing seven million crucial years of time, and showing details at 400 sampling points, we finally reconstructed the recovery stages of all animals including benthos, nekton, as well as these soft-bodied burrowing animals in the ocean.”

Falling stardust, wobbly jets explain blinking gamma ray bursts

A close-up view of the disk (in orange) tilting, causing the jets (in purple) to wobble.
Credit: Ore Gottlieb/Northwestern University

A Northwestern University-led team of astrophysicists has developed the first-ever full 3D simulation of an entire evolution of a jet formed by a collapsing star, or a “collapsar.”

Because these jets generate gamma ray bursts (GRBs) — the most energetic and luminous events in the universe since the Big Bang — the simulations have shed light on these peculiar, intense bursts of light. Their new findings include an explanation for the longstanding question of why GRBs are mysteriously punctuated by quiet moments — blinking between powerful emissions and an eerily quiet stillness. The new simulation also shows that GRBs are even rarer than previously thought.

The new study was published today (June 29) in Astrophysical Journal Letters. It marks the first full 3D simulation of the entire evolution of a jet — from its birth near the black hole to its emission after escaping from the collapsing star. The new model also is the highest-ever resolution simulation of a large-scale jet.

“These jets are the most powerful events in the universe,” said Northwestern’s Ore Gottlieb, who led the study. “Previous studies have tried to understand how they work, but those studies were limited by computational power and had to include many assumptions. We were able to model the entire evolution of the jet from the very beginning — from its birth by a black hole — without assuming anything about the jet’s structure. We followed the jet from the black hole all the way to the emission site and found processes that have been overlooked in previous studies.”

New Kangaroo Described from Papua New Guinea

Artist's impression of Nombe Rockshelter Megafauna, showing the Nombe kangaroo on the Right.
Image resized using AI by SFLORG
 Credit: Artwork Courtesy Peter Schouten

Australian paleontologists from Flinders University have described a new genus of giant fossil kangaroo from the mountains of central Papua New Guinea.

The new description of the fossil kangaroo has found that, rather than being closely related to Australian kangaroos, it most likely belongs to a unique genus of more primitive kangaroo found only in PNG.

The kangaroo, first described in 1983 by Professor Tim Flannery, is known from fossils around 20,000-50,000 years old. They come from the Nombe Rockshelter, an archaeological and paleontological site in Chimbu Province, Papua New Guinea.

Nombe is already known for multiple extinct species of kangaroo and giant four-legged marsupials called diprotodontids.

Flinders University researchers have renamed the animal Nombe nombe, after the location of its discovery – and plan to return to PNG for further excavations and research next year.

The squat, muscular Nombe lived in a diverse montane rainforest with thick undergrowth and a closed canopy. Here, it evolved to eat the tough leaves from trees and shrubs, with a thick jaw bone and strong chewing muscles.

Cancer drug shows potential as treatment for muscular dystrophy

Dr. Farshad Babaeijandaghi
Source UBC
Researchers at UBC’s School of Biomedical Engineering have discovered that an existing cancer drug could have potential as a treatment for muscular dystrophy.

The researchers found that the drug — known as a colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R) inhibitor — helped slow the progress of Duchenne muscular dystrophy in mice by increasing the resiliency of muscle fibers.

The findings were published today in Science Translational Medicine.

“This is a class of drug that is already being used in clinical trials to treat rare forms of cancer,” says Dr. Farshad Babaeijandaghi, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC and first author on the study. “To find that it could potentially serve a double purpose as a treatment for muscular dystrophy is incredibly exciting. It shows a lot of promise, and with further testing, could help extend and improve quality of life for patients.”

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe genetic disorder that leads to progressive muscle weakness and degeneration due to disruptions to the protein dystrophin, which helps keep muscle cells intact. It is the most common congenital disease in Canada, affecting about one out of every 3,500 males, and in rarer cases, females.

DMD symptoms typically appear in early childhood, with patients facing increased loss of muscle function as they age. As the disease progresses, many patients are forced to rely on mobility aids, such as a wheelchair, with the disease eventually impacting heart and lung function. While improvements in cardiac and respiratory care have increased life expectancy in recent decades, there is currently no cure.

New Organomineral Fertilizers Created in the Urals

A new type of fertilizer was created in the Ural.
Credit: Anastasia Mavrenkova

New organomineral fertilizers have been developed in the Ural. They are based on magnesium, sulfur, silicon, calcium and poultry manure. The manure contains organics (carbon), nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. These fertilizers are more effective than organic fertilizers and safer than mineral fertilizers. They can be used for growing plants and for soil regeneration. This is a new kind of fertilizer (analogues consist of peat and other mineral components), registered under the trademark "Organomin". With favorable developments, the production of fertilizers on an industrial scale will begin this year. Now the developer, the company Nika PetroTech, a member of the Ural Interregional Research and Education Center, is in the process of registering a patent, which they expect to receive in the fall.

"Often chicken droppings are used as organic fertilizer by the poultry farms themselves. They grow plants for birds and animals in the fields. However, there are two difficulties. Firstly, often manure is put in excessive amounts - 20-30 tons per hectare, which adversely affects the soil and groundwater. Secondly, since manure contains a large amount of pathogenic microflora, it takes up to six months to decompose. In our case, after adding the mineral component, the manure can be used in a day. Moreover, according to preliminary calculations, our fertilizer is not much needed for productive plant growth - no more than one ton per hectare," explains Sergey Yakovlev, Head of the Engineering and Technological Department of Nika PetroTech.

Physicists confront the neutron lifetime puzzle

To solve a long-standing puzzle about how long a neutron can “live” outside an atomic nucleus, physicists entertained a wild but testable theory positing the existence of a right-handed version of our left-handed universe. They designed a mind-bending experiment at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to try to detect a particle that has been speculated but not spotted. If found, the theorized “mirror neutron” — a dark-matter twin to the neutron — could explain a discrepancy between answers from two types of neutron lifetime experiments and provide the first observation of dark matter.

“Dark matter remains one of the most important and puzzling questions in science — clear evidence we don’t understand all matter in nature,” said ORNL’s Leah Broussard, who led the study published in Physical Review Letters.

Neutrons and protons make up an atom’s nucleus. However, they also can exist outside nuclei. Last year, using the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, co-author Frank Gonzalez, now at ORNL, led the most precise measurement ever of how long free neutrons live before they decay, or turn into protons, electrons and anti-neutrinos. The answer — 877.8 seconds, give or take 0.3 seconds, or a little under 15 minutes — hinted at a crack in the Standard Model of particle physics. That model describes the behavior of subatomic particles, such as the three quarks that make up a neutron. The flipping of quarks initiates neutron decay into protons.

Shining some light on the obscure proteome

Group Leader in Chemical Proteomics, Dr. Guillaume Médard, and his research group in the lab.
 Credit: Uli Benz / TUM

Mass-spectrometry based proteomics is the big-data science of proteins that allows to monitor the abundances of thousands of proteins in a sample at once. It is therefore a particularly well suited readout to discover which proteins are targeted by any small molecule. An international research team has investigated this using chemical proteomics.

Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors are a class of drugs used in oncology. An international research team involving scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Cornell University in Ithaca (USA), the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg and Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg has now investigated the effects of some HDAC drugs in more detail. The scientists wanted to know whether those epidrugs engage proteins other than the HDACs which they are designed to inhibit.

“To do so, target deconvolution by chemical proteomics is the method of choice. Hence, we first made new chemical tools - the so called affinity matrices - that would allow us to systematically profile the HDACs,” explains Dr. Guillaume Médard, group leader for chemical proteomics at the TUM chair of Proteomics and Bioanalytics led by Prof. Bernhard Küster.

“I profiled 53 drugs”, details Severin Lechner, doctoral candidate at the TUM School of Life Sciences. “Most of them, but not all, hit their intended HDAC target. However there were some surprises. Drugs used in hundreds of scientific studies were not as selective as assumed. Many had additional targets that were not previously known.

Research brings new light to unsolved genetic diseases in children

Asst Prof Xue and her team in NUS study the effects of maternal SMCHD1 gene mutations on offspring.
Source: National University of Singapore

The study highlights the role of genes inherited from mothers in genetic diseases in children, and improves the understanding of such diseases

The development of an embryo is a well-orchestrated string of processes, ensuring correct formation and positioning of vital organs of the growing organism. At the molecular level, these processes are controlled in a precise manner by switching on or off specific factors such as genes or proteins. Any errors in these processes could result in physical defects or disease in the newborn organism.

A team of scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) led by Assistant Professor Xue Shifeng from the Department of Biological Sciences has discovered a new way to interpret unsolved Mendelian diseases – diseases inherited from either parent due to gene mutations in the developing egg or sperm – through studying the inheritance of a protein known as SMCHD1 which is coded by the SMCHD1 gene. Mutations in the SMCHD1 gene can cause diseases such as facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) which is a muscle degenerative disorder, and Bosma arhinia microphthalmia syndrome (BAMS) which causes abnormalities of the nose and eyes.

The researchers found that SMCHD1 from mothers controls the expression of a group of genes in offspring, known as the HOX genes, which determines the position of body parts in an embryo along the axis from its head to tail. The researchers also found that the inactivation of SMCHD1 in female zebrafish results in alterations to HOX gene expression leading to skeletal defects in their offspring.

The study led by NUS researchers, in collaboration with A*STAR, Yale-NUS and Aix-Marseille University, was published in Nature Communications.

Student helps find world’s largest frog in Equatorial Guinea for first time in almost two decades

Left: Student Sam Hurley (left) with local guide Edu. Right: A goliath frog found in Monte Alén National Park, Equatorial Guinea
Source: University of Bristol

Field researchers from the University of Bristol and Bristol Zoological Society have found the world’s largest frog in Equatorial Guinea for the first time in almost two decades.

The most recent amphibian survey in the country’s Monte Alén National Park, which is one of the goliath frog's few known habitats, recorded no sign of it.

Goliath frogs can be as big as some housecats, measuring up to 34cm in length and weighing more than 3kg.

Concerned by the lack of recent evidence of the species in the national park, conservationists travelled to Equatorial Guinea to find evidence that the giant amphibian was not lost to the region.

Working in partnership with INDEFOR-AP, the national park service of Equatorial Guinea, the researchers conducted a survey along the Benito River.

Over 10 days in the forest, the researchers spotted the amphibian in a small waterfall. They had hoped to collect vocal recordings of the frog, however, the animal was not heard calling, perhaps confirming previous accounts that it is indeed a quiet, if not silent, amphibian. More study is needed.

Bernese researchers simulate defense of the earth

Info graphic which shows what effects the collision of DART could have on the orbit of Didymos B.
Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission is the world’s first full-scale planetary defense test against potential asteroid impacts on Earth. Researchers of the University of Bern and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS now show that instead of leaving behind a relatively small crater, the impact of the DART spacecraft on its target could leave the asteroid near unrecognizable.

66 million years ago, a giant asteroid impact on the Earth likely caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Currently no known asteroid poses an immediate threat. But if one day a large asteroid were to be discovered on a collision course with Earth, it might have to be deflected from its trajectory to prevent catastrophic consequences.

Last November, the DART space probe of the US space agency NASA was launched as a first full-scale experiment of such a manoeuvre: Its mission is to collide with an asteroid and to deflect it from its orbit, in order to provide valuable information for the development of such a planetary defense system.

In a new study published in The Planetary Science Journal, researchers of the University of Bern and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS have simulated this impact with a new method. Their results indicate that it may deform its target far more severely than previously thought.

COVID-19 Fattens Up Our Body’s Cells to Fuel Its Viral Takeover

Illustration of a SARS-CoV-2 viral particle entering a cell. The particle pierces through a cell’s membrane, made of two layers of lipids.  A PNNL-OHSU team has shown how lipids are key to the ability of the virus to replicate.
Credit: Illustration by Michael Perkins | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The virus that causes COVID-19 undertakes a massive takeover of the body’s fat-processing system, creating cellular storehouses of fat that empower the virus to hijack the body’s molecular machinery and cause disease.

After scientists discovered the important role of fat for SARS-CoV-2, they used weight-loss drugs and other fat-targeting compounds to try to stop the virus in cell culture. Cut off from its fatty fuel, the virus stopped replicating within 48 hours.

The authors of the recent paper in Nature Communications caution that the results are in cell culture, not in people; much more research remains to see if such compounds hold promise for people diagnosed with COVID. But the scientists, from Oregon Health & Science University and the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, call the work a significant step toward understanding the virus.

“This is exciting work, but it’s the start of a very long journey,” said Fikadu Tafesse, the corresponding author of the study and assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at OHSU. “We have an interesting observation, but we have a lot more to learn about the mechanisms of this disease.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

How did vertebrates first evolve jaws?

A zebrafish showing the skeleton and jaw (magenta), the eye (green circle on the left), and gill-like pseudobranch and gills (green structures on the right).
Image resized using AI by SFLORG
Credit: Mathi Thiruppathy/Crump Lab

Five-hundred million years ago, it was relatively safe to go back in the water. That’s because creatures of the deep had not yet evolved jaws. In a new pair of studies in the journals eLife and Development, scientists reveal clues about the origin of this thrilling evolutionary innovation in vertebrates.

In the studies, Mathi Thiruppathy from Gage Crump’s laboratory at USC, and collaborator J. Andrew Gillis from the University of Cambridge and the Marine Biological Laboratory, looked to embryonic development as way to gain insight into evolution—an approach known as “evo-devo.”

In fishes, jaws share a common developmental origin with gills. During development, jaws and gills both arise from embryonic structures called “pharyngeal arches.” The first of these arches is called the mandibular arch because it gives rise to jaws, while additional arches develop into gills. There are also anatomical similarities: the gills are supported by upper and lower bones, which could be thought of as analogous to the upper and lower jaws.

“These developmental and anatomical observations led to the theory that the jaw evolved by modification of an ancestral gill,” said Thiruppathy, who is the eLife study’s first author and a PhD student in the Crump Lab. “While this theory has been around since the late 1800s, it remains controversial to this day.”

Highly antibiotic-resistant strain of MRSA that arose in pigs can jump to humans

Pig farm 
Credit: Mark Holmes

The strain, called CC398, has become the dominant type of MRSA in European livestock in the past fifty years. It is also a growing cause of human MRSA infections.

The study found that CC398 has maintained its antibiotic resistance over decades in pigs and other livestock. And it is capable of rapidly adapting to human hosts while maintaining this antibiotic resistance.

The results highlight the potential threat that this strain of MRSA poses to public health. It has been associated with increasing numbers of human infections, in people who have and have not had direct contact with livestock.

“Historically high levels of antibiotic use may have led to the evolution of this highly antibiotic resistant strain of MRSA on pig farms,” said Dr Gemma Murray, a lead author of the study, previously in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Veterinary Medicine and now at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

She added: “We found that the antibiotic resistance in this livestock-associated MRSA is extremely stable – it has persisted over several decades, and also as the bacteria has spread across different livestock species.”

Rock art detection via machine learning model a breakthrough

A hypothetical example of possible rock art image detection on an image from Kakadu National Park.
 Source: Griffith University

Researchers have developed a way to detect the presence of rock art in remote, hard-to-reach areas in Australia’s rugged landscapes using Machine Learning (ML) methods.

Co-led by Dr Andrea Jalandoni, a digital archaeologist from Griffith University’s Centre for Social and Cultural Research, the study used hundreds of images of rock art found within Kakadu National Park to train a ML model to detect whether painted rock art was present within the image.

The model achieved an 89% success rate, meaning it determined which images contained rock art the vast majority of times.

“Some of these sites are not easily accessible, so alleviating some of the time, effort and expense to mount some explorative missions is of huge value to this type of archaeological research in some of the most remote areas of Australia,” Dr Jalandoni said.

“Once our ML model picks up whether an area photographed potentially contains previously undiscovered rock art, scientists can then go in and ground-truth the site to verify if there is rock art present and report on it further.”

Magnetic resonance in tabletop format revolutionizes diagnostics and material analysis

Magnetic resonance in table device format revolutionizes diagnostics and material analysis
 Credit: Amadeus Bramsiepe, KIT

In the SFB HyPERion, which is coordinated by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), researchers from KIT and the universities of Kaiserslautern, Konstanz and Stuttgart are jointly developing a technology for compact, high-performance magnetic resonance. In the future, this could be used in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, in medical practices or at border crossings. The German Research Foundation (DFG) will support the interdisciplinary network from the 1st. July 2022 over four years with more than 10.6 million euros.

Magnetic resonance is the most chemically specific and at the same time the most versatile measurement method for detailed information on the structure and function of molecular matter. Therefore, it is the basic technique for chemical, biological or material science characterizations. The low sensitivity and the relatively high degree of specialization stand in the way of nationwide use. The Collaborative Research Center "Compact high-performance magnetic resonance systems - HyPERiON" (High Performance Compact Magnetic Resonance) wants to change this by questioning conventional concepts along the entire signal processing chain. The aim is to improve the sensitivity, resilience and applicability of magnetic resonance in equal measure. The team led by SFB spokesman Professor Jan G. Korvink from the KIT Institute for Microstructure Technology (IMT) wants to reduce the volume of high-performance magnetic resonance systems from two cubic meters to the size of a 10-liter bucket - more than a factor of 200. This would enable them to be used from the laboratory in chemical and pharmaceutical factories, medical practices or at border crossings, making the technology universally usable. "Ultimately, it is about researching new and exciting applications in the field of chemistry, biology and chemical process engineering," says Korvink.

Miniaturization also makes magnetic resonance usable for smaller budgets

In order to achieve its goals, the SFB focuses on the miniaturization of all components involved in magnetic resonance technology. These are superconducting magnets, cooling systems, high-speed electronics, magnetic resonance sensors, devices for ultra-fast data transmission as well as devices for hyperpolarizing the nuclear spin of materials and biological samples. "The integration of all these technologies into a modern, portable platform will mean that we can advance applications of social relevance, such as in the diagnosis of diseases, the use of medical implants or the discovery of medication," explains SFB spokesman Korvink . The participants in the SFB assume that their research results will make the fast and high-resolution characterization of materials available for smaller budgets by means of magnetic resonance and will drive developments in chemistry and materials science as a whole.

Quick search for the best materials

In many ways, social well-being depends crucially on access to optimal materials. But the requirements are complex and include not only the function of the material, but also its effects on our biology, on the environment and on how the material can be recovered or broken down. “If the material characterization can be carried out quickly and in high resolution for a very large number of variants with only tiny samples and we can also carry out the tests under operating conditions and examine degradation processes, then we have the chance to find the best starting materials that meet our expectations correspond. This applies in particular to a minimal carbon footprint."Jan Korvink is convinced:" HyPERiON will fundamentally change the possibilities of material characterization and train a new generation of young researchers and engineers in their application for social challenges."

In addition to HyPERiON, KIT is also involved in another new collaborative research center, which will also be. July 2022 starts: SFB 1537 "ECOSENSE" under the leadership of the University of Freiburg wants to identify and predict more precisely and quickly critical changes in the forest ecosystem that arise from climate change.

Source/Credit: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology


Monday, June 27, 2022

United States Army And Sikorsky Strengthen Army Aviation Fleet With 10th H-60 Black Hawk Helicopters

Lockheed-Martin-Sikorsky-HH60M-Black-Hawk-June-2022 An HH-60M MEDEVAC takes flight at Sikorsky’s headquarters in Stratford, Connecticut. Sikorsky continues to modernize and enhance the Black Hawk thanks to a hot production line, mature well-established supply chain and digital factory.
 Photo courtesy Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company.

The United States government and Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company (NYSE: LMT), signed a five-year contract for a baseline of 120 H-60M Black Hawk helicopters, with options to reach a total of 255 aircraft to be delivered to the U.S. Army and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers. Sikorsky continues to modernize and enhance the Black Hawk to meet the Army's challenging and evolving missions by continuously delivering aircraft thanks to a hot production line, mature well-established supply chain and digital factory.

The "Multi-Year X" contract for UH-60M Black Hawk and HH-60M MEDEVAC aircraft marks the 10th multiple-year contract for Sikorsky and the U.S. government for H-60 helicopters. With more than 2,100 H-60 variants in the U.S. Army's inventory, the Black Hawk continues to be the workhorse and backbone of U.S. Army Aviation. As the Army continues to develop its Future Vertical Lift (FVL) capabilities, they will continue to operate the H-60M for the next several decades and alongside the future fleet.

Fossils in the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ may be more than a million years older than previously thought

Darryl Granger of Purdue University developed the technology that updated the age of an Australopithecus found in Sterkfontein Cave. New data pushes its age back more than a million years, to 3.67 million years old.
Purdue University photo/Lena Kovalenko

The earth doesn’t give up its secrets easily – not even in the “Cradle of Humankind” in South Africa, where a wealth of fossils relating to human evolution have been found.

For decades, scientists have studied these fossils of early human ancestors and their long-lost relatives. Now, a dating method developed by a Purdue University geologist just pushed the age of some of these fossils found at the site of Sterkfontein Caves back more than a million years. This would make them older than Dinkinesh, also called Lucy, the world’s most famous Australopithecus fossil.

The “Cradle of Humankind” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Africa that comprises a variety of fossil-bearing cave deposits, including at Sterkfontein Caves. Sterkfontein was made famous by the discovery of the first adult Australopithecus, an ancient hominin, in 1936. Hominins includes humans and our ancestral relatives, but not the other great apes. Since then, hundreds of Australopithecus fossils have been found there, including the well-known Mrs. Ples, and the nearly complete skeleton known as Little Foot. Paleoanthropologists and other scientists have studied Sterkfontein and other cave sites in the Cradle of Humankind for decades to shed light on human and environmental evolution over the past 4 million years.

Darryl Granger, a professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences in Purdue University’s College of Science, is one of those scientists, working as part of an international team. Granger specializes in dating geologic deposits, including those in caves. As a doctoral student, he devised a method for dating buried cave sediments that is now used by researchers all over the world. His previous work at Sterkfontein dated the Little Foot skeleton to about 3.7 million years old, but scientists are still debating the age of other fossils at the site.

New optical device could help solar arrays focus light, even under clouds

Different stages of the graded index glass pyramid fabrication: when in optical contact with a solar cell, the pyramid at the final step (bottom right corner) absorbs and concentrates most of the incident light and appears dark.
Image credit: Nina Vaidya

Stanford engineers’ optical concentrator could help solar arrays capture more light even on a cloudy day without tracking the sun

Researchers imagined, designed, and tested an elegant lens device that can efficiently gather light from all angles and concentrate it at a fixed output position. These graded index optics also have applications in areas such as light management in solid-state lighting, laser couplers, and display technology to improve coupling and resolution.

Even with the impressive and continuous advances in solar technologies, the question remains: How can we efficiently collect energy from sunlight coming from varying angles from sunrise to sunset?

Solar panels work best when sunlight hits them directly. To capture as much energy as possible, many solar arrays actively rotate towards the sun as it moves across the sky. This makes them more efficient, but also more expensive and complicated to build and maintain than a stationary system.

Light during sleep in older adults linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure

In a sample of older men and women ages 63 to 84, those who were exposed to any amount of light while sleeping at night were significantly more likely to be obese, and have high blood pressure and diabetes compared to adults who were not exposed to any light during the night, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Light exposure was measured with a wrist-worn device and tracked over seven days.

This is a real world (not experimental) study demonstrating the prevalence of any light exposure at night being linked to higher obesity, high blood pressure (known as hypertension) and diabetes among older adults.

“Whether it be from one’s smartphone, leaving a TV on overnight or light pollution in a big city, we live among an abundant number of artificial sources of light that are available 24 hours of a day,” said study corresponding author Dr. Minjee Kim, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine physician. “Older adults already are at higher risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, so we wanted to see if there was a difference in frequencies of these diseases related to light exposure at night.”

Study researchers were surprised to find that less than half of the 552 study participants consistently had a five-hour period of complete darkness per day. The rest of participants were exposed to some light even during their darkest five-hour periods of the day, which were usually in the middle of their sleep at night.

Oil and Gas Activity Linked to Most Recent Earthquakes in West Texas

The Yates Oil Field in the Delaware Basin.
Credit: Jan Buchholtz.

Since 2009, earthquakes have been rapidly rising in the Delaware Basin – a prolific oil-producing region in West Texas and New Mexico. According to a study led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, the majority of them can be linked to oil and gas production.

The researchers looked back on data that tracked seismicity and oil and gas production in the region from 2017 to 2020 and found that 68% of earthquakes above magnitude 1.5 were highly associated with one or more of the following oil and gas production activities: hydraulic fracturing or the disposal of produced formation water into either shallow or deep geologic formations. Formation water is found in all subsurface reservoirs and produced with oil and gas. Companies dispose of produced water by injecting it into geologic formations that are separate from oil and gas reservoirs.

All of these production activities are known to increase subsurface pore pressure, which is a mechanism for triggering earthquakes, said the study’s co-author, Alexandros Savvaidis, a researcher at the UT Bureau of Economic Geology and the principal investigator of Texas’ state seismic monitoring network and seismicity research TexNet, which is overseen by the bureau. By using a combination of statistical analysis and physics-based modeling, the study was able to disentangle which activities have a connection to past earthquakes.

“This paper shows that we now know a lot about how oil and gas activities and seismic activity are connected,” Savvaidis said. “The modeling techniques could help oil and gas producers and regulators identify potential risks and adjust production and disposal activity to decrease them.”

The study was published in Seismological Research Letters.

Southern resident killer whales not getting enough to eat since 2018

A southern resident killer whale.
Credit: NOAA, Ocean Wise

The endangered southern resident killer whale population isn’t getting enough to eat, and hasn’t been since 2018, a new UBC study has determined.

The animals have been in an energy deficit, averaging across spring, summer and fall, for six of the last 40 years—meaning the energy they get from food is less than what they expend. Three of those six years came in the most recent years of the study, 2018 to 2020. The average difference in energy is 28,716 calories, or about 17 per cent of the daily required energy for an average adult killer whale, the authors say.

“With the southern resident population at such a low level, there’s a sense of urgency to this kind of research,” says lead author Fanny Couture, a doctoral student at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries (IOF) and Ocean Wise. “Both killer whales and Chinook salmon, the southern resident’s main prey, are important, iconic species for the west coast of Canada. Studying what is happening to the population may help offer solutions, both for the southern residents and potentially other killer whale populations in the future.”

The southern resident population, which feeds mainly on Chinook salmon, numbered 73 individuals as of October 2021, compared with the increasing northern resident population of about 300. Studies have posited that the growth of the southern resident population may be impeded by a lack of food.

Supernumerary virtual robotic arms can feel like part of our body

VR supernumerary robotic system. In this diagram of the system, the dotted lines represent wireless connections and solid lines represent wired connections.
Credit: 2022 Ken Arai.

Research teams at the University of Tokyo, Keio University and Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan have developed a virtual robotic limb system which can be operated by users’ feet in a virtual environment as extra, or supernumerary, limbs. After training, users reported feeling like the virtual robotic arms had become part of their own body. This study focused on the perceptual changes of the participants, understanding of which can contribute to designing real physical robotic supernumerary limb systems that people can use naturally and freely just like our own bodies.

What would you do with an extra arm, or if like Spider-Man’s nemesis Doctor Octopus, you could have an extra four? Research into extra, or supernumerary, robotic limbs look at how we might adapt, mentally and physically, to having additional limbs added to our bodies.

Doctoral student Ken Arai from the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST) at the University of Tokyo became interested in this research as a way to explore the limits of human “plasticity” — in other words, our brain’s ability to alter and adapt to external and internal changes. One example of plasticity is the way that we can learn to use new tools and sometimes even come to see them as extensions of ourselves, referred to as “tool embodiment,” whether it’s an artist’s paintbrush or hairdresser’s scissors.

Virus Discovery Offers Clues About Origins of Complex Life

Comparison of all known virus genomes. Those viruses with similar genomes are grouped together including those that infect bacteria (on the left), eukaryotes (on the right and bottom center). The viruses that infect Asgard archaea are unique from those that have been described before.
Credit: University of Texas at Austin.

The first discovery of viruses infecting a group of microbes that may include the ancestors of all complex life has been found, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin report in Nature Microbiology. The discovery offers tantalizing clues about the origins of complex life and suggests new directions for exploring the hypothesis that viruses were essential to the evolution of humans and other complex life forms.

There is a well-supported hypothesis that all complex life forms such as humans, starfish and trees — which feature cells with a nucleus and are called eukaryotes — originated when archaea and bacteria merged to form a hybrid organism. Recent research suggests the first eukaryotes are direct descendants of the so-called Asgard archaea. The latest research, by Ian Rambo (a former doctoral student at UT Austin) and other members of Brett Baker’s lab, sheds light on how viruses, too, might have played a role in this billions-year-old history.

“This study is opening a door to better resolving the origin of eukaryotes and understanding the role of viruses in the ecology and evolution of Asgard archaea,” Rambo said. “There is a hypothesis that viruses may have contributed to the emergence of complex cellular life.”

Researchers find deadly fungus can multiply by having sex, which could produce more drug-resistant, virulent strains

 Jianping Xu, professor in McMaster University’s
Department of Biology and researcher with Canada’s
Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats
Credit: McMaster University
Researchers at McMaster University have unlocked an evolutionary mystery of a deadly pathogen responsible for fueling the superbug crisis: it can reproduce by having sex.

And while such fraternizing is infrequent, scientists report it could be producing more drug-resistant and more virulent strains of Candida auris, capable of spreading faster.

C. auris is a fungus that can cause severe infections and sometimes death, often striking immunocompromised hospital patients.

Unlike animals and plants, microorganisms of this nature usually divide and reproduce asexually, so one produces two, two produce four and so on, all genetically identical to each other, through a process of very simple division and without the exchange of genetic material.

“One of the really complex and puzzling questions about this fungal pathogen is its origin and how it reproduces in nature,” says Jianping Xu, a professor in McMaster’s Department of Biology and researcher with Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats.

For the study, recently published online in Computation and Structural Biotechnology Journal, researchers analyzed nearly 1,300 strains available on a public database of C. auris genome sequences. They searched for and confirmed recombination events, or sexual activity.

The findings will help to further research because scientists can now replicate those sexual behaviors in the lab.

“The research tells us that this fungus has been recombined in the past and can recombine in nature, which enables it to generate new genetic variants rather quickly,” explains Xu. “That may sound frightening, but it’s a double-edged sword. Because we learned they could recombine in nature, we could possibly replicate the process in the lab, which could allow us to understand the genetic controls of virulence and drug resistance and potentially other traits that make it such a dangerous pathogen, much faster.”

Long-term liquid water also on non-Earth-like planets?

Low-mass planets with a primordial atmosphere of hydrogen and helium might have the temperatures and pressures that allow water in the liquid phase. The presence of liquid water is favorable for life, so that these planets potentially harbor exotic habitats for billions of years.
Credit: (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) - Thibaut Roger - Universität Bern - Universität Zürich

Liquid water is an important prerequisite for life to develop on a planet. As researchers from the University of Bern, the University of Zurich and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS report in a new study, liquid water could also exist for billions of years on planets that are very different from Earth. This calls our currently Earth-centered idea of potentially habitable planets into question.

Life on Earth began in the oceans. In the search for life on other planets, the potential for liquid water is therefore a key ingredient. To find it, scientists have traditionally looked for planets similar to our own. Yet, long-term liquid water does not necessarily have to occur under similar circumstances as on Earth. Researchers of the University of Bern and the University of Zurich, who are members of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS, report in a study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, that favorable conditions might even occur for billions of years on planets that barely resemble our home planet at all.

Will renaming carp help control them?

Joseph Parkos directs the Illinois Natural History Survey’s Kaskaskia, Ridge Lake and Sam Parr biological stations in Illinois.
Photo Credit: B. Gallo-Parkos

Illinois officials this month announced that Asian carp would now be called “copi” in an attempt to make the fish more desirable for eating. Joseph Parkos, the director of the Illinois Natural History Survey’s Kaskaskia, Ridge Lake and Sam Parr biological stations in Illinois, spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about scientific initiatives to study and control carp/copi fish populations and the potential for rebranding to aid those efforts.

What are Asian carp/copi and where in Illinois are their populations a problem?

Silver carp produce more offspring than other carp species. 
Photo Credit: USGS

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