Biochar stimulates more plant growth but less plant defense, research shows

In the first study of its kind, research undertaken at the University of Southampton has cast significant doubt over the use of biochar to alleviate climate change.Biochar is produced when wood is combusted at high temperatures to make bio-oil and has been proposed as a method of geoengineering. When buried in the soil, this carbon rich substance could potentially lock-up carbon and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The global potential of biochar is considered to be large, with up to 12 percent of emissions reduced by biochar soil application.Many previous reports have shown that biochar can also stimulate crop growth and yield, providing a valuable co-benefit when the soil is treated with biochar, but the mechanism enabling this to happen is unknown.Professor Gail Taylor, Director of Research at the University’s Centre for Biological Sciences and research colleagues, in collaboration with National Research Council (CNR) scientists in Italy and The James Hutton Institute in Scotland, have provided an explanation why biochar has this impact. They have published their findings in the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy.They found that when thale cress and lettuce plants were subjected to increasing amounts of biochar mixed with soil, using the equivalent of up to 50 tonnes per hectare per year, if applied in the field, plant growth was stimulated by over 100 percent. For the first time, the response of more than 10,000 genes was followed simultaneously, which identified brassinosteroids and auxins and their signalling molecules as key to the growth stimulation observed in biochar. Brassinosteroids and auxins are two growth promoting plant hormones and the study goes further in showing that their signalling molecules were also stimulated by biochar application.However, the positive impacts of biochar were coupled with negative findings for a suite of genes that are known to determine the ability of a plant to withstand attack from pests and pathogens. These defence genes were consistently reduced following biochar application to the soil, for example jasmonic and salcyclic acid and ethylene, suggesting that crops grown on biochar may be more susceptible to attack by pests and pathogens.This was a surprising finding and suggests that if reproduced in the field at larger scales, could have wide implications for the use of biochar on commercial crops.Professor Taylor, who co-ordinated the research, says: “Our findings provide the very first insight into how biochar stimulates plant growth — we now know that cell expansion is stimulated in roots and leaves alike and this appears to be the consequence of a complex signalling network that is focussed around two plant growth hormones. However, the finding for plant defence genes was entirely unpredicted and could have serious consequences for the commercial development and deployment of biochar in future. Any risk to agriculture is likely to prevent wide scale use of biochar and we now need to see which pest and pathogens are sensitive to the gene expression changes..”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southampton. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Cyclist Wins Pothole Injury Compensation

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Cyclist Wins Pothole Injury CompensationCyclist Wins Pothole Injury CompensationA cyclist from Hertfordshire has won his case against the County Council after he lost his job due to the injuries he suffered in a road accident when he came off his bicycle.Alan Curtis, who lives in Bushey, was earning £96,000 a year in a charity fundraising directorship when he came off his bike after it hit a pothole in October 2009.The accident in Rickmansworth led to him suffering a fractured skull, leaving him with hearing problems and short-term memory loss; the Evening Standard reports.Mr Curtis, who also broke his arm in the accident, was eventually able to return to work, but had to take a less demanding post with a salary of only £30,000. He decided to sue the County Council due to its failure to maintain the road surface and ensure the safety of riders.The bicycle accident claim was successful as Judge Pittaway QC awarded Mr Curtis £69,425, which includes £20,000 to cover any potential unemployment he may suffer should he be required to change jobs again. In making his adjudication, he said the accident will either have occurred because of Mr Curtis being thrown off his bike by hitting the pothole, or losing balance as he tried to swerve to avoid it.Commenting after the award, the 56-year old told the Evening Standard, “I’m quite pleased. I have always said I never came into this for the money and I didn’t expect to win a life-changing amount.”But the more I thought about it and the more I realised I have got permanent injuries that I will have for the rest of my life, I just felt that someone ought to be held to account. In that sense, justice has been done.”The verdict was welcomed by Mr Curtis’s solicitor Kevin O’Sullivan, who said the judgement may open the “floodgates” and lead to a series of further pothole injury compensation claims against Councils that fail to maintain the roads. Describing the outcome as “great news for cyclists”, he criticised Hertfordshire County Council for not deciding to settle out of Court. However, the local authority was unhappy with the verdict. Its spokesman said, “Mr Curtis’s pothole accident is regrettable. However, Hertfordshire County Council is disappointed with the outcome of the judgement.”The possibility of a large number of claims arising against Councils for pothole related accidents may be increased by the high number of such problems occurring on roads across the country, following the severe weather endured in the winter.However, in his budget speech last week, chancellor George Osborne acknowledged that “our roads have taken a battering” and revealed that a £200 million cash pot will be made available for Councils to apply to access in order to fund road repairs.This may lead to fewer problems in some local authorities, but where pothole accidents do occur, it may be that Councils unsuccessfully applying for funds attempt to use a lack of financial support as a defence. Conversely, those that do receive funds but fail to repair potholes may find any cases that arise harder to defend.By Francesca WitneyOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

Read more

Drug Abuse Among Unsuspecting Professionals

Addiction does not discriminate and our drug and alcohol programs here at Harmony reflect this fact well – with programs for young adults, men and women in all stages of life.The need for more addiction rehabs to focus on professionals in their programs has been highlighted in the news recently with professionals under fire for drug abuse. Last week, a high school IT teacher in England was sentenced to over 3 years in jail and permanently banned from teaching after being caught with more than 100 grams of cocaine in a narcotics lab in his home.His sentencing came after an investigation found that he was involved in high-level supply of cocaine leading to his arrest in 2012. At first the teacher denied being a distributor and said …

Read more

New approach makes cancer cells explode

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have discovered that a substance called Vacquinol-1 makes cells from glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain tumour, literally explode. When mice were given the substance, which can be given in tablet form, tumour growth was reversed and survival was prolonged. The findings are published in the journal Cell.The established treatments that are available for glioblastoma include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. But even if this treatment is given the average survival is just 15 months. It is therefore critical to find better treatments for malignant brain tumours.Researchers at Karolinska Institutet and colleagues at Uppsala University have discovered an entirely new mechanism to kill tumour cells in glioblastoma. Researchers in an initial stage have exposed tumour cells to a wide range of molecules. If the cancer cells died, the molecule was considered of interest for further studies, which initially applied to over 200 kinds of molecules. Following extensive studies, a single molecule has been identified as being of particular interest. The researchers wanted to find out why it caused cancer cell death.It was found that the molecule gave the cancer cells an uncontrolled vacuolization, a process in which the cell carries substances from outside the cell into its interior. This carrying process is made via the vacuoles, which can roughly be described as blisters or bags consisting of cell membranes. …

Read more

The Escalating Debate Over E-Cigarettes

Follow the bouncing ping-pong ball. “E-cigarettes are likely to be gateway devices for nicotine addiction among youth, opening up a whole new market for tobacco.”—Lauren Dutra, postdoctoral fellow at the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.“You’ve got two camps here: an abstinence-only camp that thinks anything related to tobacco should be outlawed, and those of us who say abstinence has failed, and that we have to take advantage of every opportunity with a reasonable prospect for harm reduction.”—Richard Carmona, former U.S. Surgeon General, now board member of e-cigarette maker NJOY.“Consumers are led to believe that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to cigarettes, despite the fact that they are addictive, and there is no regulatory oversight …

Read more

Widow of Cyclist to Sue Over Pothole Death

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Widow of Cyclist to Sue Over Pothole DeathWidow of Cyclist to Sue Over Pothole DeathThe widow of a man who died after hitting a pothole while on a charity bike ride has revealed her intention to sue a local council responsible for the road’s upkeep.Martyn Uzzell, 51, from Clevedon, was on a charity bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats when he began travelling along the A65 in Giggleswick, North Yorkshire. Although he had managed to make good time up until that point, Mr Uzzell, who was travelling with two friends, accidentally hit a pothole on a road.This sent him off balance and he veered to the other side of the road where he hit another car, which killed him instantly. The driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident has not been blamed and it is believed it would not have been possible for him to avoid the cyclist, reports the BBC.Magistrates Court hearingEarlier this month, a Skipton Magistrates’ Court hearing concluded that Mr Uzzell died from head injuries resulting from a road traffic collision. However, coroner Rob Turnbull also recorded that there was “no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause”.Prior to the bicycle accident, a police officer travelling along the A65 told the local council there was a pothole in the road, but the message was not passed on to the proper authorities and was not acted upon.Furthermore, the A65 had been inspected by the council and before Mr Uzzell was killed, it was noted that there was a “defect” along the road that needed to be fixed within 30 days.However, despite claims that North Yorkshire County Council did not do enough to keep road users safe, a review by the Crown Prosecution Service has concluded that no charges of corporate manslaughter should be brought.”Totally preventable”Speaking to reporters, Kate Uzzell, Martyn’s widow, said, “I’m very angry because it was totally preventable. They had been warned, they had inspected and they still did nothing, it’s just appalling.”[Taking civil Court action was] not what I wanted to do, [but] I wanted there to be a prosecution and for them to stand up and be counted for what they didn’t do.”It is unclear when Mrs Uzzell’s lawsuit will be heard by a civil Court, but any compensation settlement arranged to finalise the case is likely to be above six figures, so serious are the allegations in question.Pothole compensationPotholes remain a common source of grievance for many drivers and cyclists and while cases like Mr Uzzell’s are rare, councils are increasingly being forced to pay compensation to those injured in accidents caused by poor road maintenance.A Freedom of Information request published last year showed that there was a 79 per cent increase in the number of compensation claims submitted compared to 2012.Breakdown service Britannia Rescue found that almost one in ten drivers in the UK suffered car damage as a result of a pothole, although only a minority sustained injuries from their accident.By Chris StevensonOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

Read more

New approach to breast reconstruction surgery reduces opioid painkiller use, hospital stays

A new approach to breast reconstruction surgery aimed at helping patients’ bodies get back to normal more quickly cut their postoperative opioid painkiller use in half and meant a day less in the hospital on average, a Mayo Clinic study found. The method includes new pain control techniques, preventive anti-nausea treatment and getting women eating and walking soon after free flap breast reconstruction surgery. It has proved so effective, it is now being used across plastic surgery at Mayo Clinic. The findings were being presented at the Plastic Surgery Research Council annual meeting March 7-9 in New York.Breast reconstruction surgery is common after breast tissue is removed to prevent or treat breast cancer; in free flap breast reconstruction, the plastic surgeon transfers a section of tissue from one part of the body to the chest. Using traditional care, the hospital stay averaged roughly four and a half days after that procedure. Using a new approach known as an “enhanced recovery pathway,” patients spent an average of three days in the hospital, the researchers found.Opioid painkiller use by patients in the hospital after surgery also declined with the new method, and those patients reported less pain at 24 hours after surgery than those who received the traditional approach. Calculated in oral morphine equivalents, opioid use averaged 142.3 milligrams over the first three days in the hospital, compared with an average of 321.3 milligrams over the same period with traditional care.Patients are giving the changes positive reviews, says senior author Michel Saint-Cyr, M.D., a plastic surgeon in the Breast Diagnostic Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.”I think it minimizes their apprehension and anxiety preoperatively and they go into surgery with a better mindset. The majority do not think it was as painful as they thought it would be after surgery,” Dr. Saint-Cyr says. “We’re seeing pain scales ranging from 0 to 4 out of 10, compared to 6 to 8 out of 10 before the pathway. …

Read more

Genetically modified spuds beat blight

In a three-year GM research trial, scientists boosted resistance of potatoes to late blight, their most important disease, without deploying fungicides.The findings, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and The Gatsby Foundation, will be published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B on 17 February.In 2012, the third year of the trial, the potatoes experienced ideal conditions for late blight. The scientists did not inoculate any plants but waited for races circulating in the UK to blow in.Non-transgenic Desiree plants were 100% infected by early August while all GM plants remained fully resistant to the end of the experiment. There was also a difference in yield, with tubers from each block of 16 plants weighing 6-13 kg while the non-GM tubers weighed 1.6-5 kg per block.The trial was conducted with Desiree potatoes to address the challenge of building resistance to blight in potato varieties with popular consumer and processing characteristics.The introduced gene, from a South American wild relative of potato, triggers the plant’s natural defense mechanisms by enabling it to recognize the pathogen. Cultivated potatoes possess around 750 resistance genes but in most varieties, late blight is able to elude them.”Breeding from wild relatives is laborious and slow and by the time a gene is successfully introduced into a cultivated variety, the late blight pathogen may already have evolved the ability to overcome it,” said Professor Jonathan Jones from The Sainsbury Laboratory.”With new insights into both the pathogen and its potato host, we can use GM technology to tip the evolutionary balance in favor of potatoes and against late blight.”In northern Europe, farmers typically spray a potato crop 10-15 times, or up to 25 times in a bad year. Scientists hope to replace chemical control with genetic control, though farmers might be advised to spray even resistant varieties at the end of a season, depending on conditions.The Sainsbury Laboratory is continuing to identify multiple blight resistance genes that will difficult for blight to simultaneously overcome. Their research will allow resistance genes to be prioritized that will be more difficult for the pathogen to evade.In a new BBSRC-funded industrial partnership award with American company Simplot and the James Hutton Institute, the TSL researchers will continue to identify and experiment with multiple resistance genes. By combining understanding of resistance genes with knowledge of the pathogen, they hope to develop Desiree and Maris Piper varieties that can completely thwart attacks from late blight.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Norwich BioScience Institutes. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

World’s most powerful terahertz laser chip

University of Leeds researchers have taken the lead in the race to build the world’s most powerful terahertz laser chip.A paper in the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) journal Electronics Letters reports that the Leeds team has exceeded a 1 Watt output power from a quantum cascade terahertz laser.The new record more than doubles landmarks set by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and subsequently by a team from Vienna last year.Terahertz waves, which lie in the part of the electromagnetic spectrum between infrared and microwaves, can penetrate materials that block visible light and have a wide range of possible uses including chemical analysis, security scanning, medical imaging, and telecommunications.Widely publicised potential applications include monitoring pharmaceutical products, the remote sensing of chemical signatures of explosives in unopened envelopes, and the non-invasive detection of cancers in the human body.However, one of the main challenges for scientists and engineers is making the lasers powerful and compact enough to be useful.Professor Edmund Linfield, Professor of Terahertz Electronics in the University’s School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, said: “Although it is possible to build large instruments that generate powerful beams of terahertz radiation, these instruments are only useful for a limited set of applications. We need terahertz lasers that not only offer high power but are also portable and low cost.”The quantum cascade terahertz lasers being developed by Leeds are only a few square millimetres in size.In October 2013, Vienna University of Technology announced that its researchers had smashed the world record output power for quantum cascade terahertz lasers previously held by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Austrian team reported an output of 0.47 Watt from a single laser facet, nearly double the output power reported by the MIT team. The Leeds group has now achieved an output of more than 1 Watt from a single laser facet.Professor Linfield said: “The process of making these lasers is extraordinarily delicate. Layers of different semiconductors such as gallium arsenide are built up one atomic monolayer at a time. We control the thickness and composition of each individual layer very accurately and build up a semiconductor material of between typically 1,000 and 2,000 layers. The record power of our new laser is due to the expertise that we have developed at Leeds in fabricating these layered semiconductors, together with our ability to engineer these materials subsequently into suitable and powerful laser devices.”Professor Giles Davies, Professor of Electronic and Photonic Engineering in the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, said: “The University of Leeds has been an international leader in terahertz engineering for many years. This work is a key step toward increasing the power of these lasers while keeping them compact and affordable enough to deliver the range of applications promised by terahertz technology.”This work was mainly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Four unknown galaxy clusters containing thousands of galaxies discovered 10 billion light years from Earth

Four unknown galaxy clusters each potentially containing thousands of individual galaxies have been discovered some 10 billion light years from Earth.An international team of astronomers, led by Imperial College London, used a new way of combining data from the two European Space Agency satellites, Planck and Herschel, to identify more distant galaxy clusters than has previously been possible. The researchers believe up to 2000 further clusters could be identified using this technique, helping to build a more detailed timeline of how clusters are formed.Galaxy clusters are the most massive objects in the universe, containing hundreds to thousands of galaxies, bound together by gravity. While astronomers have identified many nearby clusters, they need to go further back in time to understand how these structures are formed. This means finding clusters at greater distances from Earth.The light from the most distant of the four new clusters identified by the team has taken over 10 billion years to reach us. This means the researchers are seeing what the cluster looked like when the universe was just three billion years old.Lead researcher Dr David Clements, from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, explains: “Although we’re able to see individual galaxies that go further back in time, up to now, the most distant clusters found by astronomers date back to when the universe was 4.5 billion years old. This equates to around nine billion light years away. Our new approach has already found a cluster in existence much earlier than that, and we believe it has the potential to go even further.”The clusters can be identified at such distances because they contain galaxies in which huge amounts of dust and gas are being formed into stars. This process emits light that can be picked up by the satellite surveys.Galaxies are divided into two types: elliptical galaxies that have many stars, but little dust and gas; and spiral galaxies like our own, the Milky Way, which contain lots of dust and gas. Most clusters in the universe today are dominated by giant elliptical galaxies in which the dust and gas has already been formed into stars.”What we believe we are seeing in these distant clusters are giant elliptical galaxies in the process of being formed,” says Dr Clements.Observations were recorded by the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) instrument as part of Herschel Multi-tiered Extragalactic Survey (HerMES). Seb Oliver, Head of the HerMES survey said: “The fantastic thing about Herschel-SPIRE is that we are able to scan very large areas of the sky with sufficient sensitivity and image sharpness that we can find these rare and exotic things. …

Read more

Genetic chip will help salmon farmers breed better fish

Atlantic salmon production could be boosted by a new technology that will help select the best fish for breeding.The development will enable salmon breeders to improve the quality of their stock and its resistance to disease.A chip loaded with hundreds of thousands of pieces of DNA — each holding a fragment of the salmon’s genetic code — will allow breeders to detect fish with the best genes.It does so by detecting variations in the genetic code of each individual fish — known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These variations make it possible to identify genes that are linked to desirable physical traits, such as growth or resistance to problematic diseases, for example sea lice infestations.Salmon breeders will be able to carry out the test by taking a small sample of fin tissue.The chip carries over twenty times more genetic information than existing tools. Similar chips have already transformed breeding programmes for land-farmed livestock including cattle and pigs.Salmon farming contributes around half a billion pounds to the UK economy each year and provides healthy, high quality food. Worldwide, approximately 1.5 million tonnes of Atlantic salmon are produced every year.Scientists from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and Edinburgh Genomics initiative developed the chip with researchers from the Universities of Stirling and Glasgow. They worked with industrial partners Affymetrix UK and Landcatch Natural Selection. The work was funded by the UK’s innovation agency — the Technology Strategy Board — and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.The chip is highlighted in a study published today in the journal BMC Genomics and it will be available to breeders and farmers from March 2014.Dr Ross Houston, of The Roslin Institute, said: “Selective breeding programmes have been used to improve salmon stocks since the 1970s. This new technology will allow the best breeding fish to be selected more efficiently and accurately, particularly those with characteristics that are difficult to measure such as resistance to disease”Dr Alan Tinch, director of genetics at Landcatch Natural Selection, said: “This development takes selective breeding programmes to a whole new level. It is an extension to the selective breeding of salmon allowing more accurate identification of the best fish to create healthier and more robust offspring.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Edinburgh. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Arctic biodiversity under serious threat from climate change

Unique and irreplaceable Arctic wildlife and landscapes are crucially at risk due to global warming caused by human activities according to the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA), a new report prepared by 253 scientists from 15 countries under the auspices of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council.”An entire bio-climatic zone, the high Arctic, may disappear. Polar bears and the other highly adapted organisms cannot move further north, so they may go extinct. We risk losing several species forever,” says Hans Meltofte of Aarhus University, chief scientist of the report.From the iconic polar bear and elusive narwhal to the tiny Arctic flowers and lichens that paint the tundra in the summer months, the Arctic is home to a diversity of highly adapted animal, plant, fungal and microbial species. All told, there are more than 21,000 species.Maintaining biodiversity in the Arctic is important for many reasons. For Arctic peoples, biodiversity is a vital part of their material and spiritual existence. Arctic fisheries and tourism have global importance and represent immense economic value. Millions of Arctic birds and mammals that migrate and connect the Arctic to virtually all parts of the globe are also at risk from climate change in the Arctic as well as from development and hunting in temperate and tropical areas. Marine and terrestrial ecosystems such as vast areas of lowland tundra, wetlands, mountains, extensive shallow ocean shelves, millennia-old ice shelves and huge seabird cliffs are characteristic to the Arctic. These are now at stake, according to the report.”Climate change is by far the worst threat to Arctic biodiversity. Temperatures are expected to increase more in the Arctic compared to the global average, resulting in severe disruptions to Arctic biodiversity some of which are already visible,” warns Meltofte.A planetary increase of 2 C, the worldwide agreed upon acceptable limit of warming, is projected to result in vastly more heating in the Arctic with anticipated temperature increases of 2.8-7.8 C this century. …

Read more

Caring for animals may correlate with positive traits in young adults

Young adults who care for an animal may have stronger social relationships and connection to their communities, according to a paper published online today in Applied Developmental Science.While there is mounting evidence of the effects of animals on children in therapeutic settings, not much is known about if and how everyday interactions with animals can impact positive youth development more broadly.”Our findings suggest that it may not be whether an animal is present in an individual’s life that is most significant but rather the quality of that relationship,” said the paper’s author, Megan Mueller, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist and research assistant professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. “The young adults in the study who had strong attachment to pets reported feeling more connected to their communities and relationships.”Mueller surveyed more than 500 participants aged 18-26 and predominately female about their attitudes and interaction with animals. Those responses were indexed against responses the same participants had given on a range of questions that measure positive youth development characteristics such as competence, caring, confidence, connection, and character, as well as feelings of depression, as part of a national longitudinal study, the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, which was led by Tufts Professor of Child Development Richard Lerner, Ph.D., and funded by the National 4-H Council.Young adults who cared for animals reported engaging in more “contribution” activities, such as providing service to their community, helping friends or family and demonstrating leadership, than those who did not. The more actively they participated in the pet’s care, the higher the contribution scores. The study also found that high levels of attachment to an animal in late adolescence and young adulthood were positively associated with feeling connected with other people, having empathy and feeling confident.”We can’t draw causal links with this study but it is a promising starting point to better understanding the role of animals in our lives, especially when we are young,” said Mueller.To learn more about how and if interacting with animals is linked with positive youth development future studies need to look at specific features of human experiences with animal experiences, as well as how these relationships develop over time, and include a larger, more diverse sample, Mueller noted.Mueller has a unique vantage point from which to study human-animal interaction. As both a developmental psychologist and a faculty member at the Cummings School, she has insight into both sides of the relationship between people and animals, and is a leader in bringing the developmental perspective to the field.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Tufts University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

The Disability Divide: Employer Study

The Disability Divide: Employer StudyPosted onJuly 5, 2013byRichard ReichThe Council for Disability Awareness (CDA), recently published The Disability Divide: Employer Study, outlining the gaps between employees’ beliefs – and  those of HR professionals – about the odds, timing and causes of disability and the importance of protecting against it.  While I recommend this study to HR professionals, I think others might find it quite enlightening.The State of Disability in AmericaBefore we take a look at the varying beliefs mentioned above, let’s first take a look at these statistics:More than 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year olds will become disabled before they retire. 1 Ninety-five percent of disabling illnesses and accidents are not work-related and therefore are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance. 2 There were 8.8 million disabled wage …

Read more

Bacteria-eating viruses ‘magic bullets in the war on superbugs’

Oct. 16, 2013 — A specialist team of scientists from the University of Leicester has isolated viruses that eat bacteria — called phages — to specifically target the highly infectious hospital superbug Clostridium difficile (C. diff).Now an exciting new collaboration between the University of Leicester, the University of Glasgow and AmpliPhi Biosciences Corporation could lead to the use of bacteriophages for treating the superbug Clostridium difficile infections.Dr Martha Clokie, from the University of Leicester’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation has been investigating an alternative approach to antibiotics, which utilizes naturally occurring viruses called bacteriophages, meaning ‘eaters of bacteria’.The work has predominantly been funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).Dr Clokie said: “Ever since the discovery of the first antibiotic, penicillin, antibiotics have been heralded as the ‘silver bullets’ of medicine. They have saved countless lives and impacted on the well-being of humanity.”But less than a century following their discovery, the future impact of antibiotics is dwindling at a pace that no one anticipated, with more and more bacteria out-smarting and ‘out-evolving’ these miracle drugs. This has re-energised the search for new treatments.”One alternative to antibiotics is bacteriophages, known as phages, which unlike antibiotics, are specific in what they kill and will generally only infect one particular species, or even strain, of bacteria — referred to as the ‘host’. Following attachment to their hosts, they inject their DNA into the bacterium, which then replicates many times over, ultimately causing the bacterial cell to burst open. The phages released from the dead bacterium can then infect other host cells.”Dr. Clokie and her team have achieved the remarkable feat of isolating and characterising the largest known set of distinct C. diff phages that infect clinically relevant strains of C. diff. …

Read more

Chimpanzees: Alarm calls with intent?

Oct. 16, 2013 — Major research led by University of York scientists has discovered remarkable similarities between the production of vocalisations of wild chimpanzees and human language.Dr Katie Slocombe and Dr Anne Schel, of the Department of Psychology at York, led the project in Uganda which examined the degree of intentionality wild chimpanzees have over their alarm calls.The results of their research, which demonstrated that chimpanzee alarm calls show numerous hallmarks of intentional communication, is published in PLOS ONE.Many scientists consider non-human primate vocalisations to be a simple read-out of emotion (e.g. alarm calls are just an expression of fear) and argue they are not produced intentionally, in sharp contrast to both human language and great ape gestural signals. This has led some scientists to suggest that human language evolved from a primitive gestural communication system, rather than a vocal communication system.The study challenges this view and shows that chimpanzees do not just alarm call because they are frightened of a predator; instead, they appear to produce certain alarm calls intentionally in a tactical and goal directed way.In Uganda, the researchers presented wild chimpanzees with a moving snake model and monitored their vocal and behavioural responses. They found that the chimpanzees were more likely to produce alarm calls when close friends arrived in the vicinity. They looked at and monitored group members both before and during the production of calls and critically, they continued to call until all group members were safe from the predator. Together these behaviours indicate the calls are produced intentionally to warn others of the danger.Dr Slocombe said: “These behaviours indicate that these alarm calls were produced intentionally to warn others of danger and thus the study shows a key similarity in the mechanisms involved in the production of chimpanzee vocalisations and human language.”Our results demonstrate that certain vocalisations of our closest living relatives qualify as intentional signals, in a directly comparable way to many great ape gestures, indicating that language may have originated from a multimodal vocal-gestural communication system.”Dr Schel said “Observing the chimpanzees reacting to the snake model was intriguing. It was particularly striking when new individuals, who had not seen the snake yet, arrived in the area: if a chimpanzee who had actually seen the snake enjoyed a close friendship with this arriving individual, they would give alarm calls, warning their friend of the danger. It really seemed the chimpanzees directed their alarm calls at specific individuals.”The research team worked with wild chimpanzees at the Sonso field site of the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Budongo Forest Reserve in Uganda.The study involved other researchers from Budongo Conservation Field Station, the University of Zurich, Harvard University, the University of Neuchâtel, and the University of St Andrews. The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Read more

Plant community plays key role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from carbon rich moorlands

Sep. 18, 2013 — Different moorland plants, particularly heather and cotton grass, can strongly influence climate warming effects on greenhouse gas emissions, researchers from Lancaster University, The University of Manchester and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have discovered.The findings, published this week in the journal Ecology Letters, show valuable carbon stores, which lie deep below peaty moorlands, are at risk from changes in climate and from land management techniques that alter plant diversity.But the study found that the make-up of the plant community could also play a key role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from these carbon rich ecosystems, as not all vegetation types respond in the same way to warming.The research, supported by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grant, took place at Moor House National Nature Reserve, high up in the North Pennines, a long-term, ecological monitoring site for the UK Environmental Change Network.The newly set up experimental site manipulated both temperature and the composition and diversity of vegetation at the same time, allowing the team to study the combined effects of these global change phenomena for the first time.Temperatures were increased by around 1°C using open-topped, passive warming chambers, specially built on site, which mimicked the predicted effects of global warming.The researchers found that when heather was present, warming increased the amount of CO2 taken up from the atmosphere, making the ecosystem a greater sink for this greenhouse gas. However, when cotton grass was present, the CO2 sink strength of system decreased with warming, and the amount of methane released increased.Professor Richard Bardgett, who led the research team, and has recently moved to The University of Manchester, said: “What surprised us was that changes in vegetation, which can result from land management or climate change itself, also had such a strong impact on greenhouse gas emissions and even changed the way that warming affected them.”In other words, the diversity and make-up of the vegetation, which can be altered by the way the land is farmed, can completely change the sink strength of the ecosystem for carbon dioxide. This means that the way we manage peat land vegetation will strongly influence the way that peat land carbon sink strength responds to future climate change.”Dr Sue Ward, the Senior Research Associate for the project at Lancaster Environment Centre, said: “Setting up this experiment allowed us to test how greenhouse gas emissions are affected by a combination of changes in climate and changes in plant communities.”By taking gas samples every month of the year, we were able to show that the types of plants growing in these ecosystems can modify the effects of increase in temperature.”Dr Ward said the study would be of interest and relevance to ecological and climate change scientists and policy makers.”Changes in vegetation as well as physical changes in climate should be taken into account when looking at how global change affects carbon cycling,” she added. “Otherwise a vital part is missing — the biology is a key ingredient.”Professor Nick Ostle, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, a joint partner in the research, said: “This ‘real-world’ study of the response of peat lands to climate change is unique, making these findings even more important.”It seems that the identity of the plants present in these landscapes will exert a strong influence on the effect of climate warming on soil CO2 emissions back to the atmosphere. If this is true then we can expect similar responses in other carbon rich systems in the Arctic and Boreal regions.”

Read more

Council fined over health and safety failing

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2013 » 10 » Council fined over health and safety failingCouncil fined over health and safety failingA council has been hit with a £48,000 fine after it was found to have overseen health and safety failings that resulted in the disfigurement of a school child.Galashiels Academy student Nadine Craig was forced to spend ten days in hospital and six months off school following an incident in her classroom in 2007 in which she was dragged into an unguarded lathe, reports the Southern Reporter.Sheriff Kevin Drummond initially handed the local authority a £72,000 fine at Selkirk Sheriff Court this week, but he later reduced it to £48,000 in recognition of Scottish Borders Council’s early plea.He explained the lathe had regularly been used without a guard, despite the fact one could be purchased for around £260.Mr Drummond said: “The degree of risk was substantial and it was one which was allowed to continue over a significant period of time. The fact that schoolchildren were, in fact, permitted to be involved in the operation of machinery in these circumstances was a serious failure.”He also refused the idea that the teacher had not been given the resources required to carry out a full risk assessment of the machine in order to decide whether it was safe for pupils to use.A spokesman for the council said it had issued a full apology to Miss Craig and accepted it was responsible for the incident.The representative added: “A full safety review of technical classes in all secondary schools was carried out immediately after the accident.”It remains to be seen whether the steps taken by the local authority will prevent similar occurrences in schools in the Scottish Borders in the coming months and years.By Francesca WitneyOr call us on 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

Read more

Kissing helps us find the right partner – and keep them

Oct. 10, 2013 — What’s in a kiss? A study by Oxford University researchers suggests kissing helps us size up potential partners and, once in a relationship, may be a way of getting a partner to stick around.’Kissing in human sexual relationships is incredibly prevalent in various forms across just about every society and culture,’ says Rafael Wlodarski, the DPhil student who carried out the research in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. ‘Kissing is seen in our closest primate relatives, chimps and bonobos, but it is much less intense and less commonly used.’So here’s a human courtship behavior which is incredibly widespread and common and, in extent, is quite unique. And we are still not exactly sure why it is so widespread or what purpose it serves.’To understand more, Rafael Wlodarski and Professor Robin Dunbar set up an online questionnaire in which over 900 adults answered questions about the importance of kissing in both short-term and long-term relationships.Rafael Wlodarski explains: ‘There are three main theories about the role that kissing plays in sexual relationships: that it somehow helps assess the genetic quality of potential mates; that it is used to increase arousal (to initiate sex for example); and that it is useful in keeping relationships together. We wanted to see which of these theories held up under closer scrutiny.’The researchers report their findings in two papers, one in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior and the second in the journal Human Nature, both published by Springer. They were funded by the European Research Council.The survey responses showed that women rated kissing as generally more important in relationships than men. Furthermore, men and women who rated themselves as being attractive, or who tended to have more short-term relationships and casual encounters, also rated kissing as being more important.In humans, as in all mammals, females must invest more time than men in having offspring — pregnancy takes nine months and breast-feeding may take up to several years. Previous studies have shown women tend to be more selective when initially choosing a partner. Men and women who are more attractive, or have more casual sex partners, have also been found to be more selective in choosing potential mates. …

Read more

Discovery should save wheat farmers millions of dollars

Oct. 9, 2013 — The global wheat industry sometimes loses as much as $1 billion a year because prolonged rainfall and high humidity contribute to grains germinating before they are fully mature. The result is both a lower yield of wheat and grains of inferior quality. This phenomenon, known as pre-harvest sprouting or PHS, has such important economic repercussions for farmers around the world that scientists have been working on finding a solution to the problem for at least a couple of decades. Their focus has been on genetic factors, and on the interaction between genotypes and the environment as they have tried to breed wheat that is resistant to PHS, but with little success so far.But now, findings by a McGill team suggest that the solution may lie not with genetics alone, but rather with a combination of genetic and epigenetic factors. The team, led by Prof. Jaswinder Singh of McGill’s Department of Plant Science, has identified a key gene that acts as a switch to determine how a particular plant will respond to high humidity and excess rainfall by either germinating early (PHS) or not. This switch is to be found in a key gene, ARGONAUTE4_9, in the “RNA dependent DNA Methylation” pathway (RdDM).“The complex RdDM machinery is composed of several proteins that guide the genome in response to growth, developmental and stress signals. It’s a bit like the plant’s brain,” says Singh. “Although in the past scientists have identified it as the pathway that regulates the way a variety of genes are expressed, until now no one had made the link with PHS.”The McGill team made the discovery by using a variety of genomic and molecular tools to identify specific ARGONAUTE4_¬9 genes, and then compare the way that these genes are expressed in PHS resistant versus PHS susceptible varieties of wheat.“This discovery is important for other cereals like barley as well as for wheat,” said Surinder Singh, a Ph.D. …

Read more

Utilizzando il sito, accetti l'utilizzo dei cookie da parte nostra. maggiori informazioni

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close