Car Crashes and Your Insurance Company

Drivers involved in car crashes often worry about what will happen to their insurance rates. There are millions of car accidents every year, most of which involve insured drivers, and each case is different. To understand what might happen to your policy if you are involved in the crash, you have to look at several different factors.The ClaimWhenever you are involved in a car accident that results in damage to a vehicle or an injury to a person, insurance companies are usually involved. When you are involved in an accident, one of the first things you typically have to do after making sure everyone is safe and collecting all the relevant information, is to call your insurance company. After calling the company you inform the agent or representative about what happened and that representative will assign your case a claim number. The company will then assign a claims agent or investigator to the case to begin an investigation.After the insurance company investigates the claim, reviews the coverage details, and determines who is at fault, it will then, typically, make a payment on the claim. This money is designed to bring you, or the other driver, back to the condition you were in before the crash. For example, if you are in a crash where the other driver was at fault and caused your car $1,500 in damage, the other driver’s insurance company will pay you $1,500 to repair your vehicle.The AftermathOnce the claim has been settled, drivers will then have to deal with the aftermath. Even though no two accidents are identical, here is what can happen.Your rates go up. You expected this one. …

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Combating obesity with new Okinawan rice

In recent years, Okinawa has recorded the dubious distinction of having the highest obesity rate in Japan. Preventing obesity-related diseases is an urgent issue. Professor Hidetoshi Saze of the OIST Plant Epigenetics Unit is leading a new research project to develop a new strain of rice that produces digestion-resistant starch to prevent these diseases. The project, fostered by the Okinawan government, involves three activities by the medical, agricultural, and food industries: development of the new rice strain, nutritional and physiological analyses, and processing and sales.Nanshoka-Mai, or rice with digestion-resistant starch is a new breed of rice rich in starch that does not as readily break down into glucose. This rice strain was first developed by a research team at Kyushu University 30 years ago. The starch from most grains, which consist largely of an unbranched glucose polymer known as amylose, is normally broken down into glucose during the digestive process and serves as our primary energy source. However, excessive consumption of sugars (simple carbohydrates) can cause life-style-related diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. This new strain of rice is expected to serve as an alternative preventative measure. In addition to its anti-obesity effect, gathering evidence suggests that the rice with digestion-resistant starch may also provide other benefits, such as lower blood sugar levels, reduced neutral fat, and harmful cholesterol levels, and prevention of lipid accumulation in the liver.Despite its great promise, when researchers planted the original strain of resistant-starch rice in Okinawa, the yield per hectare was about half that achieved in mainland Japan. Prof. …

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Learn More about Wrongful Death

A death caused by the negligent or unjust actions of another individual is referred to as a wrongful death. While all deaths are devastating to the family and friends of the deceased, wrongful deaths can be exceptionally traumatic due to the fact that they could have been prevented. A variety of accidents and intentional harms can lead to the wrongful death of others, including car accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, workplace negligence, and even acts of violence or murder. When the numbers are added up, it is clear to see how unfortunately common wrongful deaths can be.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 37,000 prescription drug-related fatalities occurred in 2009. The Department of Transportation reports that for the same year, 33,883 traffic accident fatalities occurred. Workplace accidents also contribute significantly, with over 4,500 accident-related fatalities reported in 2010 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that approximately 225,000 individuals die each year as a result of medical malpractice.When an individual suffers a wrongful death, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate is allowed under law to bring forth a civil case against the individual (or individuals) who were either partially or fully responsible for the death. In order to be successful, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was either negligent, acted with intent to cause harm, or was strictly to blame regardless of any fault attached to their actions (or failure to take action).Each state has its own wrongful death statutes that define time limits within which a wrongful death suit can be filed, and which often place specific regulations on the damages that can be pursued for individual types of accidents. In the aftermath of an unexpected and tragic death, bereaved family and friends are distraught, angry, and often in shock at what has transpired to their loved one. The complexity and individualistic nature of wrongful death laws and lawsuits underscore the importance just how important it is for grieving families to secure the help of a qualified attorney. …

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Parents should try to find middle ground to keep teens safe online

Parents might take a lesson from Goldilocks and find a balanced approach to guide their teens in making moral, safe online decisions, according to Penn State researchers.In a study on parenting strategies and online adolescent safety, the researchers found evidence that suggests that parents should try to establish a middle ground between keeping their teens completely away from the internet not monitoring their online activities at all.”It’s a Goldilocks problem,” said Pamela Wisniewski, a postdoctoral scholar in information sciences and technology. “Overly restrictive parents limit the positive online experiences a teen can have, but overly permissive parents aren’t putting the right types of demands on their children to make good choices.”Active mediation and monitoring online behavior, not blanket rules, may be a better strategy.”Parents should have some level of monitoring their teens online usage, but not necessarily in a covert way because that may create trust problems, ” said Wisniewski, who works with Mary Beth Rosson, professor; John M. Carroll, Distinguished Professor and Heng Xu, associate professor, all of information sciences and technology.Ideally, parents would start to work with their teens to guide their moral development in making decisions about online behavior when their children are young. The earlier the better, according to Wisniewski.”By the time they are age 16 or 17, it’s probably too late to jump in and start to intervene,” said Wisniewski.Parents who learn more about technology can better guide their children, according to the researchers, who presented their findings at the recent Computer Supported Cooperative Work conference in Baltimore.”Our analysis also suggests that parents’ level of digital literacy moderates their mediation strategies,” the researchers noted. “Parents who knew more about technology tended to be more actively engaged in their teens’ online behaviors while parents who were less technically inclined tended to be more in favor of restricting how their teens engaged with others online.”The researchers studied the parenting styles and mediation strategies of 12 pairs of parents and their teen children, who ranged in age from 13 to 17. They interviewed the children and parents separately about online activities such as illegal downloading, cyber bullying and identity theft.The researchers assessed responses to 270 statements on moral behavior based on a common six-staged chart of moral development used by psychologists. They also analyzed 555 parental statements that indicated their parenting and mediation styles, from authoritarian with active mediation to indulgent with little mediation.Most of the younger teens were more compliant to parents — considered stage one of the moral development scale — while older teens tended to make moral decisions by weighing personal rewards and punishment — a second stage strategy on the scale.The researchers are currently conducting a study with a larger group of parents and teens. Eventually, these studies could help software designers create online monitoring software that helps parents actively engage with their teens in developing moral guidelines for online behavior, as opposed to just imposing restrictions on teens’ online activities.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. The original article was written by Matt Swayne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Foods and moods: Considering the future may help people make better food choices

Emotional eating is something we’re all familiar with. Maybe you had had a rough week at work and all you want on Friday night is to plop down and watch a movie with a giant bowl of buttery popcorn. Maybe you’re a student stressed about a big exam and you’re munching on candy as you study. Or maybe your child’s birthday party is coming up and you’ve bought an ice cream cake to serve a small army to celebrate. Happy or sad, up or down, there’s a plethora of media in the world that tells us our moods often dictate the foods we choose to eat.More recent studies, though, have shown that negative moods and positive moods may actually lead to preferences for different kinds of foods. For example, if given the choice between grapes or chocolate candies, someone in a good mood may be more inclined to choose the former while someone in a bad mood may be more likely to choose the latter.But what if we could make better choices in any emotional state?A forthcoming article by University of Delaware associate professor Meryl Gardner finds that there’s more to stress eating than simply emotion and in fact, thinking about the future may help people make better food choices.”We were interested in the ‘why,'” said Gardner. “Why when someone is in a bad mood will they choose to eat junk food and why when someone is in a good mood will they make healthier food choices?”Gardner, a faculty member in UD’s Lerner College of Business and Economics, with co-authors Brian Wansink of Cornell University, Junyong Kim of Hanyang University ERICA and Se-Bum Park of Yonsei University, found that a lot depends on our perspective of time.”In an evolutionary sense, it makes sense that when we feel uncomfortable or are in a bad mood, we know something is wrong and focus on what is close to us physically and what is close in time, in the here and now,” said Gardner. “We’re seeing the trees and not the forest, or how to do things and not why to do things.”To get at the “why,” the researchers married the theories of affective regulation (how people react to their moods and emotions) and temporal construal (the perspective of time) to explain food choice.They conducted four laboratory experiments to examine whether people in a positive mood would prefer healthy food to indulgent food for long-term health and well-being benefits and those in a negative mood would prefer indulgent foods to healthy foods for immediate, hedonistic mood management benefits.In the first study, the researchers investigated the effect of a positive mood on evaluations of indulgent and health foods by examining 211 individuals from local parent-teacher associations (PTAs).The findings indicated individuals in a positive mood, compared to control group participants in a relatively neutral mood, evaluated healthy foods more favorably than indulgent foods.”We expect this is possibly because they put more weight on abstract, higher-level benefits like health and future well-being,” said Gardner. “The remaining question was whether individuals in a negative mood would act differently.”Testing that question in a second study using 315 undergraduate students recruited from a large Midwestern university, the researchers found further support for their hypothesis that individuals in a negative mood liked indulgent foods more than healthy foods.According to Gardner, the finding that people in a positive mood liked the more nutritious options and also liked the idea of staying healthy in their old age is consistent with the hypothesis that time construal is important.”It suggests that positive mood makes people think about the future, and thinking about the future makes us think more abstractly,” said Gardner.The researchers were then left to eliminate goal achievement as an alternative explanation.”Our manipulations of mood in the first two studies involved having participants read positive, negative or neutral articles,” said Gardner. “As it turned out, the positive articles involved someone who had a great life and achieved lots of goals, and the negative articles involved someone who had a sad life and did not achieve goals. …

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Concerned about the health risk of soda?

Last week, Consumer Reports released a study on the levels of a caramel coloring agent known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) in many popular, carbonated beverages. The report used phrases such as “health risk” and “potential carcinogen,” leaving many wondering whether their favorite sodas should be discarded because of a cancer risk. This is a question that toxicologists can help answer.”Our work as toxicologists is to help conduct and interpret the findings of a variety of studies that evaluate the potential hazard of natural products, environmental chemicals, and drugs to provide people with the information necessary to make informed, personal decisions,” says Lois D. Lehman-McKeeman, PhD, ATS, 2013-2014 President of the Society of Toxicology.There have been many toxicological studies of 4-MEI over the years, but focusing on the study conducted by the National Toxicology Program cited in the Consumer Reports article, there are some significant details of how the study was conducted that are important toxicologically and for understanding the results.4-MEI was administered to both mice and rats over their two-year lives through their food, so the exposure to the chemical was oral or the same as exposure would be in humans by drinking carbonated beverages. Different levels, or doses, of 4-MEI were tested. A basic tenant of toxicology is that the dose makes the poison. The level at which exposure occurs is crucial to understanding if a chemical poses a risk to health. Likewise, the greater the dose, the greater or more likely the adverse affect. The rats in the study exposed to only the highest doses of 4-MEI (not the minimal or moderate doses) experienced a higher incidence of leukemia than the control group. The mice, though, showed no such result. …

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Recent Study Reveals Treatment Factors Associated With Long Term Survival for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer which, like pleural mesothelioma, is caused by exposure to asbestos. Instead of attacking the pleura that surrounds the lung, this type of mesothelioma attacks the lining which surrounds the organs of the abdomen. Peritoneal mesothelioma is very rare, accounting for only approximately 500 of the 2,500 to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed per year.Prior studies have revealed that treatment utilizing cytoreductive surgery to remove all visible tumor in combination with intraoperative or perioperative high-dose regional chemotherapy to kill any remaining tumor cells offers the best prognosis and has become the standard of care in treating peritoneal mesothelioma.In an effort to identify the factors that contribute to long term survival, an analysis of 211 cases of peritoneal mesothelioma from 1992 and 2010 was performed by …

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Susan Vento, Wife of Deceased Congressman and Mesothelioma Victim Bruce Vento, Expresses Her Strong Opposition to the So-Called “FACT Act”

Susan Vento lost her husband in October of 2000, just eight months after he had been diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Susan’s husband was Democratic Congressman Bruce Vento of Minnesota who served as a United States Representative for 24 years and devoted his work in the government to environmental and homeless causes. When he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, he began championing asbestos victims’ rights and was committed to raising awareness for mesothelioma and the urgent need for research funding.Recently, Susan and many others whose lives have been turned upside down by asbestos disease were eager to offer testimony to lawmakers in opposition to House Resolution 982, the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act”. They were told they would get the opportunity to do so, but instead Susan and the …

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Accident Health Insurance Plans is drawing lot of concentration

Accident Health Insurance Plans is drawing lot of concentrationAccident health insurance plans are pulling insurers attentions towards the supplementary fortuity insurance coverage market on account of its usefulness. The personal injury insurance plan falls under the restitution group rather than the insurance group. Restitutes insure you for disability, loss, or accidental injury in cash expenditure to you either directly or through the healthcare provider. These accidental health insurance plans are as if guarantee subject & doesn’t require any wellness queries while inscribing. Those Americans who own this kind of accident insurance plan go through all the advantages concerning with this plan like treatment with any doctor, ER hospital, or urgent and critical care services.Those who have these plans can decide a welfare quantity of amount, policy …

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Life insurance how do I find the best price.

It’s going to come down to how much work you want to put into finding the lowest price. There is not a source or company that is always going to provide the lowest price for everyone. For example, some companies have more favorable rates for people who smoke and some may place more emphasis on a prior medical condition you had and charge higher rates. When you are comparing rate quotes you need to make sure you talk to a qualified agent. Many quote services will quote you the super preferred class of rates, but in the end you may only qualify for the standard class based on your personal or health history, a good agent will make you aware what you can expect through the underwriting …

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Beyond antibiotics: ‘PPMOs’ offer new approach to bacterial infection, other diseases

Oct. 15, 2013 — Researchers at Oregon State University and other institutions today announced the successful use of a new type of antibacterial agent called a PPMO, which appears to function as well or better than an antibiotic, but may be more precise and also solve problems with antibiotic resistance.In animal studies, one form of PPMO showed significant control of two strains of Acinetobacter, a group of bacteria of global concern that has caused significant mortality among military personnel serving in Middle East combat.The new PPMOs offer a fundamentally different attack on bacterial infection, researchers say.They specifically target the underlying genes of a bacterium, whereas conventional antibiotics just disrupt its cellular function and often have broader, unwanted impacts. As they are further developed, PPMOs should offer a completely different and more precise approach to managing bacterial infection, or conceptually almost any disease that has an underlying genetic component.The findings were published today in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, by researchers from OSU, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Sarepta, Inc., a Corvallis, Ore., firm.”The mechanism that PPMOs use to kill bacteria is revolutionary,” said Bruce Geller, a professor of microbiology in the OSU College of Science and lead author on the study. “They can be synthesized to target almost any gene, and in that way avoid the development of antibiotic resistance and the negative impacts sometimes associated with broad-spectrum antibiotics.”Molecular medicine,” Geller said, “is the way of the future.”PPMO stands for a peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer — a synthetic analog of DNA or RNA that has the ability to silence the expression of specific genes. Compared to conventional antibiotics, which are often found in nature, PPMOs are completely synthesized in the laboratory with a specific genetic target in mind.In animal laboratory tests against A. baumannii, one of the most dangerous Acinetobacter strains, PPMOs were far more powerful than some conventional antibiotics like ampicillin, and comparable to the strongest antibiotics available today. They were also effective in cases where the bacteria were resistant to antibiotics.PPMOs have not yet been tested in humans. However, their basic chemical structure, the PMO, has been extensively tested in humans and found safe. Although the addition of the peptide to the PPMO poses an uncertain risk of toxicity, the potency of PPMOs reduces the risk while greatly improving delivery of the PMOs into bacterial cells, Geller said.Geller said research is being done with Acinetobacter in part because this pathogen has become a huge global problem, and is often spread in hospitals. It can cause respiratory infection, sepsis, and is a special concern to anyone whose immune system is compromised. …

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Read with your children, not to them

Sep. 12, 2013 — Research has found that reading with young children and engaging them can make a positive impact on the child’s future and their family.Bradford Wiles is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in early childhood development at Kansas State University. For most of his career, Wiles’ research has focused around building resilience in vulnerable families.His current research is focused on emergent literacy and the effect of parents reading with their children ages 3 to 5 years old.”Children start learning to read long before they can ever say words or form sentences,” said Wiles. “My focus is on helping parents read with their children and extending what happens when you read with them and they become engaged in the story.”The developmental process, known as emergent literacy, begins at birth and continues through the preschool and kindergarten years. This time in children’s lives is critical for learning important preliteracy skills.Although his research mainly focuses on 3-5 year olds, Wiles encourages anyone with young children to read with them as a family at anytime during the day, not just before going to bed. He also believes that it is okay to read one book over and over again, because the child can learn new things every time.”There are always opportunities for you both to learn,” said Wiles, “and it creates a family connection. Learning is unbelievably powerful in early childhood development.”It goes deeper than just reading to them, as parents are encouraged to read with their children. Engaging children is how they become active in the story and build literacy skills.”There is nothing more powerful than your voice, your tone, and the way you say the words,” said Wiles. “When I was a child, my dad read to me and while that was helpful and I enjoyed it, what we are finding is that when parents read with their children instead of to them, the children are becoming more engaged and excited to read.”Engaging the child means figuring out what the child is thinking and getting them to think beyond the words written on the page. While reading with them, anticipate what children are thinking. …

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Radiotherapy in girls and the risk of breast cancer later in life

Sep. 11, 2013 — Exposing young women and girls under the age of 20 to ionizing radiation can substantially raise the risk of their developing breast cancer later in life. Scientists may now know why. A collaborative study, in which Berkeley Lab researchers played a pivotal role, points to increased stem cell self-renewal and subsequent mammary stem cell enrichment as the culprits. Breasts enriched with mammary stem cells as a result of ionizing irradiation during puberty show a later-in-life propensity for developing ER negative tumors — cells that do not have the estrogen receptor. Estrogen receptors — proteins activated by the estrogen hormone — are critical to the normal development of the breast and other female sexual characteristics during puberty.”Our results are in agreement with epidemiology studies showing that radiation-induced human breast cancers are more likely to be ER negative than are spontaneous breast cancers,” says Sylvain Costes, a biophysicist with Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division. “This is important because ER negative breast cancers are less differentiated, more aggressive, and often have a poor prognosis compared to the other breast cancer subtypes.”Costes and Jonathan Tang, also with Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division, were part of a collaboration led by Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff, formerly with Berkeley Lab and now at the New York University School of Medicine, that investigated the so-called “window of susceptibility” known to exist between radiation treatments at puberty and breast cancer risk in later adulthood. The key to their success were two mammary lineage agent-based models (ABMs) they developed in which a system is modeled as a collection of autonomous decision-making entities called agents. One ABM simulated the effects of radiation on the mammary gland during either the developmental stages or during adulthood. The other simulated the growth dynamics of human mammary epithelial cells in culture after irradiation.”Our mammary gland ABM consisted of millions of agents, with each agent representing either a mammary stem cell, a progenitor cell or a differentiated cell in the breast,” says Tang. …

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Who’s got guts? Young infants expect animals to have insides

Sep. 11, 2013 — A team of researchers has shown that 8-month-old infants expect objects they identify as animals to have insides. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.University of Illinois professor of psychology Renée Baillargeon, who led the new study with graduate student Peipei Setoh, said that many psychologists have theorized that babies are born with core physical and psychological frameworks that help them navigate the world.For instance, when babies see a self-propelled object, their core physical framework leads them to understand that the object has internal energy. And when babies see that an object has control over its actions (that is, responds to changes in its environment), their core psychological framework leads them to view the object as an agent that has mental states.”In each case, babies seem to be born equipped with abstract expectations that drive their reasoning,” Baillargeon said.For a long time, researchers debated whether in addition to these physical and psychological expectations, infants also possess biological expectations that orient them to think about animals the right way.”Our contribution was to find a way to tackle this question experimentally, by asking what young babies know about animals’ insides,” Baillargeon said.Researchers have previously found that preschool-age children possess biological knowledge about animals’ insides. “Young children expect animals to have different insides from inanimate objects, and they realize that an animal’s insides are important for its survival,” Setoh said. “They know that if you remove the insides, the animal can’t function.”The team decided to test whether 8-month-old babies already understand that animals have insides.Setoh designed an experiment utilizing the violation-of-expectation method: If babies see something happen that they don’t expect, they look at it longer than they otherwise would. The researchers first familiarized the babies in the experiments with objects that had different characteristics. Some objects appeared to be self-propelled and agentive, other objects had only one of these properties, and other objects had neither of these properties. The researchers then tested the babies’ expectations by revealing that the objects were hollow.The infants looked longer at the hollow objects only if the objects were previously shown to be both self-propelled and agentive, indicating that those objects’ hollowness violated the infants’ expectations, Baillargeon said.”When babies encounter a novel object that is both self-propelled and agentive, they categorize it as an animal, and they assume it has insides,” Baillargeon said. “It cannot be hollow.”Another experiment the group preformed took advantage of the fact that by eight months, most babies have learned to use fur as a cue that an object might be an animal. …

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Household routines may help reduce BMI in minority children

Sep. 9, 2013 — An intervention to improve household routines known to be associated with obesity increased sleep duration and reduced TV viewing among low-income, minority children, and the approach may be an effective tool to reduce body mass index (BMI) in that population, according to a study published by JAMA Pediatrics, a JAMA Network publication.Racial and ethnic minority children and those who live in low-income households are disproportionately overweight and it is urgent to develop an intervention for them, Jess Haines, Ph.D., M.H.Sc., of the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues, write in the study background.”The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which a home-based intervention, compared with a mailed control condition focused on healthful development, resulted in improvements in household routines that may be preventive of childhood overweight and obesity among racial/ethnic minority and low-income families with children aged 2 to 5 years,” the authors note.The study assigned 121 families with children at random into intervention (n=62) or control groups (n=59). A total of 111 children-parent pairings completed the six-month follow-up assessments.The intervention, which used home-based counseling and phone calls, was designed to change behaviors related to excess weight gain, but child weight was not discussed in the intervention.Compared with the control group, which received educational materials, intervention participants experienced increased sleep duration (0.75 hours/day), greater decreases in TV viewing on weekend days (-1.06 hours/day) and decreased BMI (-0.40), according to the study results.”In summary, after six months, we found that the Healthy Habits, Happy Homes intervention improved sleep duration and TV viewing behaviors, as well as decreased BMI among racially/ethnically diverse children from low-income households. Future studies with a longer follow-up are needed to determine maintenance of these behavior changes,” the authors conclude.

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Genetic similarities between bats and dolphins discovered

Sep. 4, 2013 — The evolution of similar traits in different species, a process known as convergent evolution, is widespread not only at the physical level, but also at the genetic level, according to new research led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London and published in Nature this week.The scientists investigated the genomic basis for echolocation, one of the most well-known examples of convergent evolution to examine the frequency of the process at a genomic level.Echolocation is a complex physical trait that involves the production, reception and auditory processing of ultrasonic pulses for detecting unseen obstacles or tracking down prey, and has evolved separately in different groups of bats and cetaceans (including dolphins).The scientists carried out one of the largest genome-wide surveys of its type to discover the extent to which convergent evolution of a physical feature involves the same genes.They compared genomic sequences of 22 mammals, including the genomes of bats and dolphins, which independently evolved echolocation, and found genetic signatures consistent with convergence in nearly 200 different genomic regions concentrated in several ‘hearing genes’.To perform the analysis, the team had to sift through millions of letters of genetic code using a computer program developed to calculate the probability of convergent changes occurring by chance, so they could reliably identify ‘odd-man-out’ genes.They used a supercomputer at Queen Mary’s School of Physics and Astronomy (GridPP High Throughput Cluster) to carry out the survey.Consistent with an involvement in echolocation, signs of convergence among bats and the bottlenose dolphin were seen in many genes previously implicated in hearing or deafness.”We had expected to find identical changes in maybe a dozen or so genes but to see nearly 200 is incredible,” explains Dr Joe Parker, from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and first author on the paper.”We know natural selection is a potent driver of gene sequence evolution, but identifying so many examples where it produces nearly identical results in the genetic sequences of totally unrelated animals is astonishing.”Dr. Georgia Tsagkogeorga, who undertook the assembly of the new genome data for this study, added: “We found that molecular signals of convergence were widespread, and were seen in many genes across the genome. It greatly adds to our understanding of genome evolution.”Group leader, Dr Stephen Rossiter, said: “These results could be the tip of the iceberg. As the genomes of more species are sequenced and studied, we may well see other striking cases of convergent adaptations being driven by identical genetic changes.”

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East Antarctic Ice Sheet could be more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought

Aug. 28, 2013 — The world’s largest ice sheet could be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than previously thought, according to new research from Durham University.A team from the Department of Geography used declassified spy satellite imagery to create the first long-term record of changes in the terminus of outlet glaciers — where they meet the sea — along 5,400km of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet’s coastline. The imagery covered almost half a century from 1963 to 2012.Using measurements from 175 glaciers, the researchers were able to show that the glaciers underwent rapid and synchronised periods of advance and retreat which coincided with cooling and warming.The researchers said this suggested that large parts of the ice sheet, which reaches thicknesses of more than 4km, could be more susceptible to changes in air temperatures and sea-ice than was originally believed.Current scientific opinion suggests that glaciers in East Antarctica are at less risk from climate change than areas such as Greenland or West Antarctica due to its extremely cold temperatures which can fall below minus 30°C at the coast, and much colder further inland.But the Durham team said there was now an urgent need to understand the vulnerability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds the vast majority of the world’s ice and enough to raise global sea levels by over 50m.Dr Chris Stokes, in Durham’s Department of Geography, said: “We know that these large glaciers undergo cycles of advance and retreat that are triggered by large icebergs breaking off at the terminus, but this can happen independently from climate change.”It was a big surprise therefore to see rapid and synchronous changes in advance and retreat, but it made perfect sense when we looked at the climate and sea-ice data.”When it was warm and the sea-ice decreased, most glaciers retreated, but when it was cooler and the sea ice increased, the glaciers advanced.”In many ways, these measurements of terminus change are like canaries in a mine — they don’t give us all the information we would like, but they are worth taking notice of.”The researchers found that despite large fluctuations in terminus positions between glaciers — linked to their size — three significant patterns emerged:In the 1970s and 80s, temperatures were rising and most glaciers retreated; During the 1990s, temperatures decreased and most glaciers advanced; And the 2000s saw temperatures increase and then decrease, leading to a more even mix of retreat and advance. Trends in temperature and glacier change were statistically significant along the East Antarctic Ice Sheet’s warmer Pacific Coast, but no significant changes were found along the much cooler Ross Sea Coast, which might be expected if climate is driving the changes, the Durham researchers said.Dr Stokes said that the cause of the recent trends in air temperature and sea ice were difficult to unravel but were likely to reflect a combination of both natural variability and human impacts.However, he added that the changes observed in glaciers in East Antarctica needed further investigation against the backdrop of likely increases in both atmospheric and ocean temperatures caused by climate change.Dr Stokes said: “If the climate is going to warm in the future, our study shows that large parts of the margins of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet are vulnerable to the kinds of changes that are worrying us in Greenland and West Antarctica — acceleration, thinning and retreat.”When temperatures warm in the air or ocean, glaciers respond by retreating and this can have knock-on effects further inland, where more and more ice is drawn-down towards the coast.”We need to monitor their behaviour more closely and maybe reassess our rather conservative predictions of future ice sheet dynamics in East Antarctica.”

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Fecal microbiota transplantation as effective treatment for C. difficile and other diseases

Aug. 22, 2013 — Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has emerged as a highly effective treatment for recurrent Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection, with very early experience suggesting that it may also play a role in treating other gastrointestinal (GI) and non-GI diseases. The topic is examined in the Review Article, “An overview of fecal microbiota transplantation: techniques, indications, and outcomes” in the August issue of GIE: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.Fecal microbiota transplantation refers to the infusion of a suspension of fecal matter from a healthy individual into the GI tract of another person to cure a specific disease. FMT has received public attention recently with the publication of several studies showing that stool is a biologically active, complex mixture of living organisms with great therapeutic potential for Clostridium difficile infection and perhaps other GI and non-GI disorders. C. difficile is a bacterium recognized as the major causative agent of colitis (inflammation of the colon) and diarrhea that may occur following antibiotic intake. The disruption of the normal balance of colonic microbiota as a consequence of antibiotic use or other stresses can result in C. difficile infection. It is now estimated that 500,000 to 3 million cases of C. …

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Relating animals to humans could help conservation projects

Aug. 22, 2013 — New research by conservationists at the universities of Kent, Oxford, Columbia (USA) and Monash (Australia) suggests that people’s tendency to relate more to animals that bear a resemblance to humans (anthropomorphism) could help improve public engagement with conservation projects.In a paper published by the journal Biodiversity Conservation, the researchers also suggest that anthropomorphism is overlooked as a powerful tool for promoting low-profile species that are either endangered or require urgent attention.At present, anthropomorphism in conservation is limited to social, intelligent animals, such as chimpanzees, polar bears and dolphins. According to the research, this would imply that other species are not worthy of conservation because they are not like humans in the ‘right’ ways.However, by making conservationists more aware of how people construct anthropomorphic meanings around species and how they engage with species and attribute value to their characteristics — e.g. people may attribute personhood or emotions to species that they play with, such as pets or even livestock — they can create conservation programmes which speak to people through their cultural expectations and emotional connections.Co-author, Diogo Verissimo of the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation Ecology (DICE), said: ‘Anthropomorphisation of species is a common way for people to relate to other species but as a conservation tool it is under-used and is not being utilised as a way of effectively promoting the relationships between people and nature through conservation programmes.’Despite there being some limitations of using anthropomorphism, for example inappropriate expectations of animals’ behaviour or species picking up negative social stereotypes by being human-like, there is a need for more research in marketing and social sciences that will lead to more effective used of anthropomorphism in conservation outreach.’Lead author, Dr Meredith Root-Bernstein of the University of Oxford, said: ‘Scientists have been wary of anthropomorphism for a long time, because it was seen as leading to unscientific hypotheses about animal behaviour. But as conservationists we can look at it as a kind of popular folk theory of the similarities between humans and all other species. These popular ways of relating to the natural world are powerful and we should try to understand and work with them.’

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Cardiovascular risk in type 2 diabetics with dangerously low blood sugar levels

July 30, 2013 — Type 2 diabetics who have severe hypoglycaemia are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, a new article suggests.Severe hypoglycaemia is a condition where there is an abnormally low content of sugar in the blood. It is often classed as a medical emergency.Severe hypoglycaemia is a potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes and recent clinical trials have failed to demonstrate a beneficial effect of intensive glucose control on overall CVD events.Although observational studies have reported a positive association between severe hypoglycaemia and CVD risk, the association remains controversial. So researchers from Japan, the USA and the Netherlands carried out the first systematic review to assess this association.They analysed the results of six studies involving a study population of 903,510 patients. Information on patients’ characteristics was taken, including: age, gender, duration of diabetes, CVD history, insulin use, BMI and smoking status.In total, 0.6 — 5.8% of participants experienced severe hypoglycaemia from one to five years follow-up. Overall, this added just 1.56% to the total risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the whole population, but the link was consistent with all studies showing a positive correlation.Given this risk, the researchers say avoiding severe hypoglycaemia may be important to prevent CVD and “less stringent glycaemic targets may be considered for type 2 diabetic patients at high risk of hypoglycaemia.”The positive association has been previously explained by having one or more other serious illnesses, but the researchers say this is unlikely to explain this. They suggest that the prevalence of serious illnesses would need to be “unrealistically high” among patients who experienced severe hypoglycaemia and the association between serious illnesses and cardiovascular disease would need to be “extremely strong.”In conclusion, the researchers say that their results suggest “that severe hypoglycaemia is associated with a 2-fold increased risk of CVD.” They say that choices of glucose lowering agents with a low propensity to induce hypoglycaemia, patient education, and self-monitoring of blood glucose can be useful in preventing hypoglycaemia which in turn, “may be important to prevent cardiovascular disease in type 2 diabetes patients.”

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