Monthly Archives: February 2014

Skin ‘TALKS’ to the Liver

NHT- Blog- XXXIII- 28 January 2014Researchers from the University of Denmark have led to a very important investigation that the skin is capable of communicating with the liver. The discovery will help in understanding the effect of skin diseases on the rest of the body. The researchers performed an experiment on laboratory mice and discovered the fact that skin can communicate with the liver.

Researcher Susanne Mandrup and Ditte Neess, laboratory manager in Professor Nils Faergemen’s group, showed the skin affecting the metabolism in the liver which was quite surprising. The fat accumulation in the liver of the knock-out mice was first assumed to be a result of the gene that was missing in the liver. The experiment was repeated on rumpled and weak knock-out mice whose fur was greasy and had a leaky skin from which it lost more water than normal mice. Heat of the body is lost with water.

The water and heat loss was not the reason for the accumulated fat in the liver as mice that lacked the fat binding protein in the skin also accumulated fat in their liver and became weak when weaned from their mother. This proved that the lack of the fat-binding protein was sufficient to induce accumulation of fat in the liver.

The researchers then covered the mice with mice in order to find out how a defect in the skin ‘talks’ to the liver. The Vaseline was used to prevent water evaporating from the skin thereby stopping the heat loss. As a result the fat accumulation in the liver disappeared. There was still confusion as Vaseline contains fat that could be absorbed by the skin or ingested by the mice.

To assure the result, the mice were then covered with liquid latex. The researchers saw that the fat accumulation in the liver of the mice covered with blue latex disappeared again. The researchers concluded the experiment with the fact that the leaking of water from the skin made the mice feel cold which led to the breakdown of fat in their tissue. This broken down fat was then moved to the liver.

I don’t Want the World to be a Desert

Earth Girl- Blog- XXVII- 28 January 2014Few days back, I planned an expedition to the Himalayas with my mountaineer friend Charles. While climbing the mountain, we came across a glacier. The sight was too alluring to avoid for me. My friend told me that the last time he was here, the glacier was much bigger than it is now. Not surprised with the fact as I knew the reason for this – global warming.

Both we and the environment are being adversely affected by the phenomenon of global warming. Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles including mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica and Greenland, and Arctic sea ice. Sea levels are rising at a faster rate and are expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches by the end of the century.

The water resources have been heavily affected by the global warming phenomenon. Water cycle is important for every human activity and is being adversely affected by global warming. The changing climate has led to increasing floods all around the world. Excessive evaporation has led to fall in water levels in many regions leading to torrential downpours thereby increasing the chance of flood.

The increased rate of global warming has caused the ice sheets in the West Antarctic Circle and Greenland to shrink. The release of carbon sediments in the air has increased the carbon emission that has resulted in the reduction of the ice sheets. Loss of mountain-snow reduces the amount of water available for irrigation.

The increased warming will lead to stronger hurricanes and other storms in future. It will also affect the availability of fresh water for drinking. For instance, if the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru continues to melt at the current rate, it will be gone by 2100. This will leave thousands of people without a source for drinking water and electricity.

There is something that needs to be done before it’s too late. There’s a lot that can be done to reduce emissions, prevent climate change and protect our threatened freshwater sources. A wise thing to start with is using less energy. We must prefer driving less and drive more fuel-efficient cars. Eating lower on the food chain can also have a significant impact on environmental resources.

Traffic-related Air Pollution Deteriorating Health

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Air pollution is probably the most intensely studied field in today’s environmental health research. There are a number of air pollutants produced by vehicle engines that pose risk to health. Cars, buses, trucks and other motor vehicles are one of the largest sources of air pollution.

According to a research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), approximately 21,000 premature deaths occur in Canadian cities as a result of air pollution every year. Almost 32% of the population of Canada lives within 500 meters of highways and are exposed to increased levels of traffic-related air pollution.

Burning of fuel by engines leads to the emission of chemicals such as fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxides, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). People are largely exposed to traffic-related air pollution on a daily basis.

Air pollution from road traffic negatively affects health. Children living in areas with high traffic volumes have more respiratory illnesses than other children. Exposure to traffic pollution aggravates asthma in children. A number of other health issues are also caused as a result of traffic-related air pollution such as heart attack, coronary artery disease and increased risk of death from respiratory and cardiac conditions. It can also worsen the symptoms for people with existing heart and lung conditions.

Pollutants such as NO2, O3, and PM components intensify the risk of asthma and contribute to asthma pathogenesis. Studies show an increased risk for lung cancer in urban residents as compared to rural population. The highest exposure to such pollutants is found in outdoor walkers such as policemen. Studies suggest an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and DNA adducts in the WBCs of traffic police workers.

There is something for sure that you can do help reduce pollution from road traffic and save yourself from this type of pollution. Consider taking public transit instead of using a vehicle. Turn off the engine of the car when you stop for more than ten seconds. Avoid being near areas where traffic is heavy. Prefer routes with low traffic volume.

The Increasing Threat of Micro Plastics on Marine Life

IMG1Micro-plastics can be referred to as tiny pieces of plastic material (under 1mm in size) identified in the marine environment. These particles are a result of the breakdown of the larger plastic materials in the water. They are also formed as a result of the shedding of synthetic fibers from textiles during domestic cloth washing and also from the use of small plastic beads in various consumer and industrial products.

These particles contain additives such as UV- stabilizers, colorings and flame retardants
that are susceptible for uptake and accumulation by living organisms. They can absorb persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and facilitate their transfer in marine food webs.

Under the influence of sea water, sun, action of sands and rocks, plastic breaks up into smaller pieces and spread all over the seas and oceans. These particles are not biodegradable and enter the bodies of organisms. Studies show that micro plastic particles have been found in species such as plankton, sea cucumbers, mussels, oysters, lobsters and fish. This causes toxicological effects and the transfer to higher tropic levels. As plastic enters our food chain, it threatens our own health.

Most of the personal care products such as scrub, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, eyeliner, lip gloss and deodorant contain plastic particles. These particles finally reach the sewer system after being flushed down and reach the river streams later. This causes untreated sewage released into the environment. These micro particles are made of Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Nylon and a few more. They not only pose damage to the human health but also pollute the water and so affect the marine life to a great extent.

The problem of plastic pollution is very complex and huge. However, there is a lot that can be done to reduce the use and effects of micro-plastics. The new sources of plastic pollution that are entering the seas and oceans must be prevented. There should be a global ban on using micro-plastics in personal care products.

Guess the Height by Listening to the Voice

NHT- Blog- XXXXI- 31 January 2014A new study by the researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, University of California, Los Angeles and Indiana University discovered that being a listener, one can find out the height of the speaker just by listening to him talk. Both males and females can equally distinguish and rank the heights of talkers of both genders. The reason may be a particular type of sound produced in the lower airways of the lungs, known as subglottal resonance.

Subglottal resonances can be understood in the best way by imagining blowing into a glass that is partially filled with liquid. Lesser the liquid in the glass, lower the sound. The frequency of the subglottal resonance depends on the height of the person generating it. The resonance reduces with the increase in height.

John Morton, a psychologist at Washington University and his colleagues performed two sets of experiment. The first one involved recording of pairs of same-sexed talkers of different heights as they read identical sentences. These recordings were then played to listeners who guessed the taller one between the two speakers. In the second experiment, the listeners ranked five talkers from tallest to shortest, after hearing them.

The research shows that deep-voiced men are preferred by women and it is thought that females subconsciously make a link between the pitch of a man’s voice, his masculinity and the quality of his genes. The study may also explain other research which has shown that gravelly-toned men have the most children. On the other hand, men find high-pitched voices in women alluring as it indicates that they are more subordinate, feminine, healthier and younger.

The studies also show that we associate deep voices with leadership potential. This is the reason that explains why Labor leader Ed Miliband was forced to deny surgery to remove his adenoids to make his voice less nasal and more attractive to the public.