Monday, July 30, 2012

Adélie Penguin

Adélie Penguin

Pygoscelis adeliae

Photo: An Adélie penguin walking on snow
Wings spread, this Adélie penguin waddles through an Antarctic colony. Its black tail gives it a tuxedo-like appearance.
Photograph by George F. Mobley


Map: Penguin range
Adélie Penguin Range

Fast Facts

Average life span in the wild:
Up to 20 years
27.5 in (70 cm)
8.5 to 12 lbs (4 to 5.5 kg)
Group name:
Did you know?
Adult Adélie penguins have been observed stealing rocks from their neighbors’ nests.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Adelie penguin compared with adult man
Adélie penguins live on the Antarctic continent and on many small, surrounding coastal islands. They spend the winter offshore in the seas surrounding the Antarctic pack ice.
Adélies feed on tiny aquatic creatures, such as shrimp-like krill, but also eat fish and squid. They have been known to dive as deep as 575 feet (175 meters) in search of such quarry, though they usually hunt in far shallower waters less than half that depth.
Like other penguins, Adélies are sleek and efficient swimmers. They may travel 185 miles round-trip (about 300 kilometers) to procure a meal.
During the spring breeding season (in October), they take to the rocky Antarctic coastline where they live in large communities called colonies. These groups can include thousands of birds.
Once on land, Adélies build nests and line them with small stones. Though they move with the famed "penguin waddle" they are capable walkers who can cover long overland distances. In early spring, before the vast sheets of ice break up, they may have to walk 31 miles (50 kilometers) from their onshore nests to reach open water.
Male Adélie penguins help their mates rear the young and, without close inspection, the two sexes are nearly indistinguishable. They take turns sitting on a pair of eggs to keep them warm and safe from predators. When food is short, only one of the two chicks may survive. After about three weeks, parents are able to leave the chicks alone, though the offspring gather in groups for safety. Young penguins begin to swim on their own in about nine weeks.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Role of Skin Microbiota

Protective Role of Skin Microbiota Described

ScienceDaily (July 26, 2012) — A research team at the National Institutes of Health has found that bacteria that normally live in the skin may help protect the body from infection. As the largest organ of the body, the skin represents a major site of interaction with microbes in the environment. Although immune cells in the skin protect against harmful organisms, until now, it has not been known if the millions of naturally occurring commensal bacteria in the skin -- collectively known as the skin microbiota -- also have a beneficial role.

Using mouse models, the NIH team observed that commensals contribute to protective immunity by interacting with the immune cells in the skin. (Credit: © Vasiliy Koval / Fotolia)
Using mouse models, the NIH team observed that commensals contribute to protective immunity by interacting with the immune cells in the skin.
Their findings appear online on July 26 in Science.
The investigators colonized germ-free mice (mice bred with no naturally occurring microbes in the gut or skin) with the human skin commensalStaphylococcus epidermidis. The team observed that colonizing the mice with this one species of good bacteria enabled an immune cell in the mouse skin to produce a cell-signaling molecule needed to protect against harmful microbes. The researchers subsequently infected both colonized and non-colonized germ-free mice with a parasite. Mice that were not colonized with the bacteria did not mount an effective immune response to the parasite; mice that were colonized did.
In separate experiments, the team sought to determine if the presence or absence of commensals in the gut played a role in skin immunity. They observed that adding or eliminating beneficial bacteria in the gut did not affect the immune response at the skin. These findings indicate that microbiota found in different tissues -- skin, gut, lung -- have unique roles at each site and that maintaining good health requires the presence of several different sets of commensal communities.
This study provides new insights into the protective role of skin commensals and demonstrates that skin health relies on the interaction of commensals and immune cells. Further research is needed, say the authors, to determine whether skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis may be caused or exacerbated by an imbalance of skin commensals and potentially harmful microbes that influence the skin and its immune cells.
The study was led by investigators in the laboratories of Yasmine Belkaid, Ph.D., at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in collaboration with Julie Segre, Ph.D., at the National Human Genome Research Institute, and Giorgio Trinchieri, M.D., and Heidi Kong, M.D., at the National Cancer Institute. All three Institutes are NIH components.
Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided byNIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. S Naik et al. Compartmentalized control of skin immunity by resident commensalsScience, 2012 DOI:10.1126/science.1225152

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gorilla Youngsters

Gorilla Youngsters Seen Dismantling Poachers' Traps—A First

"Very confident" four-year-olds outsmart hunters and protect their clan.

gorillas picture: young gorillas dismantle poacher's snare
Wild gorillas Rwema and Dukore destroy a primitive snare in Rwanda earlier this week.
Photograph courtesy Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Ker Than
Published July 19, 2012
Just days after a poacher's snare had killed one of their own, two youngmountain gorillas worked together Tuesday to find and destroy traps in theirRwandan forest home, according to conservationists on the scene.
"This is absolutely the first time that we've seen juveniles doing that ... I don't know of any other reports in the world of juveniles destroying snares," saidVeronica Vecellio, gorilla program coordinator at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund'sKarisoke Research Center, located in the reserve where the event took place.
"We are the largest database and observer of wild gorillas ... so I would be very surprised if somebody else has seen that," Vecellio added.
Bush-meat hunters set thousands of rope-and-branch snares in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, where the mountain gorillas live. The traps are intended for antelope and other species but sometimes capture the apes.
Adults are generally strong enough to free themselves. Youngsters aren't always so lucky.
Just last week an ensnared infant named Ngwino, found too late by workers from Karisoke, died of snare-related wounds. Her shoulder had been dislocated during escape attempts, and gangrene had set in after the ropes cut deep into her leg.
The hunters, Vecellio said, seem to have no interest in the gorillas. Even small apes, which would be relatively easy to carry away for sale, are left to die.
All-Natural Arsenal
Poachers build the snares by tying a noose to a branch or a bamboo stalk, Vecellio explained.
Using the rope, they pull the branch downward, bending it. They then use a bent stick or rock to hold the noose to the ground, keeping the branch tense. A sprinkling of vegetation camouflages the noose.
When an animal budges the stick or rock, the branch springs upward, closing the noose around the prey. If the creature is light enough, it will actually be hoisted into the air.
(See National Geographic magazine mountain gorilla pictures.)
Rwema and Dukore Save the Day
Every day trackers from the Karisoke center comb the forest for snares, dismantling them to protect the endangered mountain gorillas, which the International Fund for Nature (IUCN) says face "a very high risk of extinction in the wild."
On Tuesday tracker John Ndayambaje spotted a trap very close to the Kuryama gorilla clan. He moved in to deactivate the snare, but a silverback named Vubu grunted, cautioning Ndayambaje to stay away, Vecellio said.
Suddenly two juveniles—Rwema, a male; and Dukore, a female; both about four years old—ran toward the trap.
As Ndayambaje and a few tourists watched, Rwema jumped on the bent tree branch and broke it, while Dukore freed the noose.
The pair then spied another snare nearby—one the tracker himself had missed—and raced for it. Joined by a third gorilla, a teenager named Tetero, Rwema and Dukore destroyed that trap as well.
Gorilla Tactics
The speed with which everything happened makes Vecellio, the gorilla program coordinator, think this wasn't the first time the young gorillas had outsmarted trappers.
"They were very confident," she said. "They saw what they had to do, they did it, and then they left."
Silverbacks in the Kuryama group have occasionally been caught in the snares, so Vecellio thinks the juveniles would have known the traps are dangerous.
"That's why they destroyed them," Vecellio said.
"Quite Ingenious"
Despite the unprecedented nature of the event, Vecellio said she wasn't surprised by the reports. "But," she said, "I'm always amazed and very proud when we can confirm that they are smart."
Veterinarian Mike Cranfield, executive director of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, also said he wasn't shocked by the news.
"Chimpanzees are always quoted as being the tool users, but I think, when the situation provides itself, gorillas are quite ingenious," he said.
Cranfield speculated that the gorillas may have learned how to destroy traps by watching the Karisoke center's trackers.
"If we could get more of them doing it, it would be great," he joked.
Karisoke's Vecellio, though, said actively instructing the apes would be against the center's ethos.
"No we can't teach them," she said. "We try as much as we can to not interfere with the gorillas. We don't want to affect their natural behavior."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lobsters and climate change

Lobsters to Be Supersized by Climate Change?

A small lobster is pictured at left, next to a larger lobster at right.
American lobsters raised in more acidic waters grow much larger (above, right) than lobsters grown in less acidic conditions (left), a December 2009 study found.

The experiment, which mimicked rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels that are predicted for Earth's atmosphere, shows acidic seas can produce jumbo-size shelled marine species, including lobsters, crabs, and shrimp.
Photograph courtesy Justin Ries, UNC-Chapel Hill
Brian Handwerk
National Geographic News
Attention lobster lovers—climate change may supersize your favorite seafood. So says a new study showing that more acidic oceans, a consequence of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, can produce jumbo-size shelled marine species, including lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. It's unknown whether the animals' body mass also gets beefier along with their shells. (Learn aboutgreenhouse gases.)
But it's not good news for all sea creatures. In the experiment, other species—including oysters, scallops, and clams—suffered in more acidic waters because they had more trouble building their shells.
That's because rising CO2 levels boost the amount of carbon in the oceans, but reduce levels of the carbonate ion that marine organisms need to make their protective shells.
Study leader Justin Ries, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues grew 18 species of shelled marine animals in conditions that mimicked the elevated CO2 levels predicted in Earth's atmosphere over the next two centuries.
The lobsters and other animals that thrived under higher CO2 levels during the experiment are better able to convert the inorganic carbon in seawater into a form they can use to produce shells.
Acid Tipping Point
The team also found that some species, such as calcifying algae, benefited from increased CO2 up to a point—and then quickly began to die.
This may illustrate a specific CO2 "tipping point," which scientists could identify and monitor in future studies, according to the report published in December'sGeology.
But even animals that grew larger in more acidic waters may ultimately suffer if an ocean food chain evolved over hundreds of millions of years is rapidly reorganized.
For instance clams—a main prey of crabs and lobsters—have "completely different" responses to rising CO2, Ries said.
"It's a scenario where the predator is getting stronger and the prey is getting weaker. The [clams] may not be able to sustain their populations and ultimately the predators will also be adversely impacted when the prey populations crash."
Ecological Engineers Threatened
The scenario also poses problems for "ecological engineers" such as coral, which at first had no response to the acidic water but then began to die, Ries said.
"If corals decline, like the experiment predicts, then all the organisms that need a coral reef to survive, like crabs and lobsters, are going to suffer, even though they are predicted to do well [in more acid conditions]," he said.
Likewise, the winners in acidic oceans may also see setbacks, he added.
For instance, if species are pouring more of their hard-earned energy into shell growth, other biological functions like reproduction may decline.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Novel Anti-Malarial Drug

Novel Anti-Malarial Drug Target Identified

ScienceDaily (July 19, 2012) — An international team of scientists, led by researchers from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, have identified the first reported inhibitors of a key enzyme involved in survival of the parasite responsible for malaria.
This is an illustration of Anopheles darlingi. (Credit: UC San Diego School of Medicine)

Their findings, which may provide the basis for anti-malarial drug development, are currently published in the online version of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
Tropical malaria is responsible for more than 1.2 million deaths annually. Severe forms of the disease are mainly caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, transmitted to humans by female Anopheles mosquitoes. Malaria eradication has not been possible due to the lack of vaccines and the parasite's ability to develop resistance to most drugs.
The researchers conducted high-throughput screening of nearly 350,000 compounds in the National Institutes of Health's Molecular Libraries Small Molecule Repository (MLSMR) to identify compounds that inhibit an enzyme which plays an important role in parasite development: Plasmodium falciparumglucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (PfG6PD) is essential for proliferating and propagating P. falciparum.
"The enzyme G6PD catalyzes an initial step in a process that protects the malaria parasite from oxidative stress in red blood cells, creating an environment in which the parasite survives," said senior author Lars Bode, PhD, assistant professor in the UCSD Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology and the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. People with a natural deficiency in this enzyme are protected from malaria and its deadly symptoms, an observation that triggered the reported research.
The parasitic form of the enzyme (PfG6PD) is what contributes the majority of G6PD activity in infected red blood cells. Because the parasite lives in the blood of a malaria-infected person, the scientists aimed at identifying compounds that inhibit the parasitic form but not the human form of the enzyme. "We didn't want to interfere with the human form of the enzyme and risk potential side effects," Bode explained.
Scientific testing had previously been limited by a lack of recombinant PfG6PD. Team members in the lab of Katja Becker, PhD, at the Interdisciplinary Research Center at Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen, Germany produced the first complete and functional recombinant PfG6PD, and researchers led by Anthony Pinkerton, PhD, at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute used it to identify the lead compound resulting from their efforts, ML276.
ML276 represents the first reported selective PfG6PD inhibitor, which stops the growth of malaria parasites in cultured red blood cells -- even those parasites that developed resistance to currently available drugs. "ML276 is a very promising basis for future drug design of new anti-malarial therapeutics," said Bode.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity of California - San Diego, via Newswise.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. Janina Preuss, Patrick Maloney, Satyamaheshwar Peddibhotla, Michael P Hedrick, Paul Hershberger, Palak Gosalia, Monika Milewski, Yujie Linda Li, Eliot Sugarman, Becky Hood, Eigo Suyama, Kevin Nguyen, Stefan Vasile, Eduard Sergienko, Arianna Mangravita-Novo, Michael Vicchiarelli, Danielle McAnally, Layton H Smith, Gregory P Roth, Jena Diwan, Thomas D.Y. Chung, Esther Jortzik, Stefan Rahlfs, Katja Becker, Anthony B. Pinkerton, Lars Bode. Discovery of aPlasmodium falciparumglucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase 6-phosphogluconolactonase inhibitor (R,Z)-N-((1-ethylpyrrolidin-2-yl)methyl)-2-(2-fluorobenzylidene)-3-oxo-3,4-dihydro-2H-benzo[b][1,4]thiazine-6-carboxamide (ML276) that reduces parasitJournal of Medicinal Chemistry, 2012; : 120719125855007 DOI:10.1021/jm300833h

Saturday, July 21, 2012

World's smallest working dog

کام کرنے والادنیا کا سب سے چھو ٹاکتا ’لوسی‘

واشنگٹن…این جی ٹی…امریکی ریا ست نیو جر سی کے لو سی نامی کتے کو دنیاکا سب سے چھو ٹا کام کرنے والا کتا تسلیم کرلیا گیا ہے ۔ڈھائی پونڈ وزن کے حامل لوسی کا قد صرف5اعشاریہ7انچ ہے جو ایک اسپتال میں معذور مریضوں کے لیے بحیثیت تھراپسٹ کام کرتاہے۔Leashes Of Loveنامی پروگرام کے تحت مختلف اسکولز،اسپتالوں اور نرسنگ ہوم میں کام کرنے والے تین سالہ لوسی کا نام دنیا کے سب سے کم وزن و پست قامت کام کرنے والے کتے کی حیثیت سے گینز بک آف ورلڈ ریکارڈ کا حصہ بنایا گیا ہے۔ 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Virus Discovered in Cultus Lake Sport Fish

Virus Discovered in Cultus Lake Sport Fish

A Simon Fraser University fish-population statistician, working in collaboration with non-government organization scientists, has uncovered evidence of a potentially deadly virus in a freshwater sport fish in B.C.
SFU professor Rick Routledge and Stan Proboszcz, a fisheries biologist at the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, have found evidence of the piscine reovirus (PRV) in cutthroat trout caught in Cultus Lake, in the Fraser Valley region of B.C. Tests conducted by, Fred Kibenge, a virology professor at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island, found evidence of the virus in 13 of 15 sampled fish. Follow-up analyses further confirmed the virus's presence in these fish and identified their genetic sequencing as 99 per cent identical to Norwegian strains. The virus has been scientifically linked to heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI), a disease that has reportedly become widespread in Norwegian salmon farms and can kill up to 20 per cent of infected fish. Routledge believes this first ever discovery of PRV in a B.C. freshwater sport fish indicates the virus could be prevalent in B.C. Many Canadian scientists and interest groups are concerned that B.C. salmon farms pose a serious risk to wild Pacific salmon. Scientists in other countries have specifically raised concerns about the spread of PRV from farms to wild salmon. "If PRV has been found in a Cultus Lake sport fish it could be contributing to the failure of the lake's sockeye population to return in abundance," says Routledge. He notes the federal government-mandated Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has listed the species as endangered. "The discovery of PRV in Cultus Lake's cutthroat trout also begs the question is it in other related species in the lake, such as rainbow trout, kokanee and Dolly Varden? This latest discovery could also mean that salmon and trout in any lake exposed to spawning salmon returning from the North Pacific must be considered at risk of infection."

Rick Routledge, an SFU fish-population statistician, says he has helped uncover a potentially deadly virus in a B.C. freshwater sport fish.

Earlier this year, SFU honorary degree recipient Alexandra Morton, an independent biologist who collaborates on fish research with Routledge, reported that lab tests had found PRV in Atlantic salmon sold in B.C. supermarkets. PRV is the second virus commonly associated with salmon farming that scientists say they have found in wild Pacific salmon and trout. Last fall, Routledge and Morton reported positive test results for the infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISAv) in sockeye salmon smolts. Scientists testifying at the Cohen Commission Inquiry — a federally commissioned investigation of the Fraser River's declining sockeye population — have brought forth highly contested evidence of ISAv in other wild salmon populations, including Cultus Lake sockeye. The inquiry is scheduled to release its findings this fall. "We discovered during the Cohen inquiry that pathogens are a major concern for B.C.'s salmon," says Craig Orr, executive director of Watershed Watch and an SFU graduate. "Our findings suggest we need to broaden our thinking and concerns for freshwater fish as well." "There are many examples of devastating impacts of introduced pathogens in human, mammal and marine populations," adds Routledge. "When small pox was introduced to North America it decimated the aboriginal population, which had not had any previous opportunity to build up a natural immunity to the disease. The potential for this to happen to B.C.'s highly valued Pacific salmon and trout populations must be taken seriously." Provided by Simon Fraser University 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

HIV Vaccine Research

Mouse With Human Immune System May Revolutionize HIV Vaccine Research

ScienceDaily (July 18, 2012) — One of the challenges to HIV vaccine development has been the lack of an animal model that accurately reflects the human immune response to the virus and how the virus evolves to evade that response. In the July 18 issue of Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), MIT and Harvard report that a model created by transplanting elements of the human immune system into an immunodeficient mouse addresses these key issues and has the potential to reduce significantly the time and costs required to test candidate vaccines.
"Our study showed not only that these humanized mice mount human immune responses against HIV but also that the ability of HIV to evade these responses by mutating viral proteins targeted by CD8 'killer' T cells is accurately reflected in these mice," says Todd Allen, PhD, senior author of the report. "For the first time we have an animal model that accurately reproduces critical host-pathogen interactions, a model that will help facilitate the development an effective vaccine for HIV." Recent studies by Allen's team and others have revealed that immune control of HIV is significantly limited by the ability of the virus to evade immune responses by rapidly mutating.
The traditional animal model for HIV research is the rhesus monkey, which can be infected with the related simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). But differences in viral sequences between SIV and HIV, along with differences between the human and monkey immune systems, limit the ability of the SIV model to replicate directly key interactions between HIV and the human immune system. Development of an effective HIV vaccine will require a greater understanding of how human immune responses succeed or fail to control HIV.
The current study was designed to test the humanized BLT mouse, a model created by transplanting human bone marrow stem cells, along with other human tissue, into mice lacking a functioning immune system. Andrew Tager, MD, a co-author of the report and director of the MGH Humanized Mouse Program, explains, "Multiple researchers have contributed to dramatic improvements in the ability of humanized mice to model human diseases. Earlier studies with BLT mice performed at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the MGH and elsewhere have demonstrated that this particular humanized mouse model reproduces many aspects of the human immune response."
Timothy Dudek, PhD, of the Ragon Institute, lead author of the current study, adds, "Unlike normal mice, these humanized mice can be infected with HIV. But there has been little evidence regarding whether they reproduce the interaction between HIV and the human immune system, particularly the development of specific immune responses that exert control over HIV by targeting critical regions of the virus."
Tager's team at the MGH Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases created groups of humanized BLT mice using cells and tissues from human donors with different alleles, or versions, of the immune system's HLA molecules, which flag infected cells for destruction by CD8 T cells. Particular HLA alleles, such as HLA-B57, are more common in individuals naturally able to control HIV, and some of the mice generated by Tager's group expressed this important protective allele.
Six weeks after the mice had been infected with HIV, the researchers found that the virus was rapidly evolving in regions known to be targeted by CD8 T cells. Their observation indicated that not only were the humanized mouse immune systems responding to HIV but also that the virus was mutating to avoid those responses in a manner similar to what is seen in humans. In mice expressing the protective HLA-B57 allele, just as in human patients who control viral levels, CD8 responses were directed against an essential region of the virus, preventing viral mutation and allowing the animals to more effectively contain HIV.
"We now know that these mice appear to replicate the specificity of the human cellular response to HIV and that the virus is attempting to evade these responses just as it does in humans," says Allen, an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "We are currently studying whether we can induce human HIV-specific immune responses in these animals by vaccination, which would provide a rapid, cost-effective model to test the ability of different vaccine approaches to control or even block HIV infection. If we can do this, we'll have a very powerful new tool to accelerate HIV vaccine development, one that also may be useful against other pathogens."
Tager is an assistant professor of Medicine and Dudek a research fellow in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Additional co-authors are Daniel No, Lena Fadda, Priyasma Bhoumik, Christian Boutwell, Karen Power, Adrianne Gladden, Laura Battis, Elizabeth Mellors, and Marcus Altfeld of the Ragon Institute; Edward Seung, Vladimir Vrbanac, Trevor Tivey and Andrew Luster, MGH Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases; and Xiaojiang Gao, National Cancer Institute. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Ragon Institute, the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research and the National Cancer Institute.
Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided byMassachusetts General Hospital.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. Timothy E. Dudek, Daniel C. No, Edward Seung, Vladimir D. Vrbanac, Lena Fadda, Priyasma Bhoumik, Christian L. Boutwell, Karen A. Power, Adrianne D. Gladden, Laura Battis, Elizabeth F. Mellors, Trevor R. Tivey, Xiaojiang Gao, Marcus Altfeld, Andrew D. Luster, Andrew M. Tager, and Todd M. Allen. Rapid Evolution of HIV-1 to Functional CD8 T Cell Responses in Humanized BLT MiceSci Transl Med, 18 July 2012 DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.3003984

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Endangered wild horses

Endangered wild horses head to Mongolia

Four rare Przewalski's wild horses were headed for the Mongolian steppe from Prague on Monday as part of a project to reintroduce the critically endangered species to its ancient homeland.
Prague zoo runs a breeding programme and is charged with keeping the world genealogy book for the equines which have survived only in captivity since the last wild horse was seen in Mongolia in 1969.

Przewalski horses share a moment …

The four mares, aged three to five, will be flown 18 hours in wooden boxes to Bulgan, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator.
"The mares are more nervous than last year," Prague zoo director Miroslav Bobek said, referring to another four horses sent to Mongolia in 2011.
From Bulgan, the horses will be taken by road to the Gobi B national protected park, where the population of the horses shrank to 49 from 150 during the severe winter of 2009-2010.
"They must be animals of an adequate age, with the correct genetic setup, in a good shape, and we also chose them by character to avoid taking mares susceptible to stress," Bobek said.
Two mares sent last year have already given birth in the steppe.
"We'd like to continue with the transports to Mongolia... where we're trying to create sustainable conditions for both the horses and the people who live close to them," said Bobek.
Characterised by thick necks, large heads and stocky girths, Przewalski's horses weigh between 250-350 kilograms (550-770 pounds) and stand about 1.2-1.3 metres (3.9-4.3 feet) tall at the withers.
With ancient cave paintings in Lascaux, France, featuring wild horses eerily resembling the Przewalski variety, the species is thought to have lived in Europe 20,000 years ago, but climate change chased the animals away to Asia.
Europeans only encountered the wild horses at the end of the 19th century when Russian explorer and geographer Nikolai Mikhailovich Przewalski discovered them in mountains bordering the Gobi desert.
In the 20th century, hunting brought Przewalski's horses to the verge of extinction.

Spider Venom Could Treat Muscular Dystrophy

Protein Found in Spider Venom Could Treat Muscular Dystrophy

ScienceDaily (July 16, 2012) — While Spider-Man is capturing the imagination of theatergoers, real-life spider men in Upstate New York are working intently to save a young boy's life.

UB researchers are developing a treatment for muscular dystrophy using a peptide found in the venom of a Chilean rose tarantula. (Credit: Image courtesy of University at Buffalo)
It all began in 2009, when Jeff Harvey, a stockbroker from the Buffalo suburbs, discovered that his grandson, JB, had Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The disease is fatal. It strikes only boys, causing their muscles to waste away.
Hoping to help his grandson, Harvey searched Google for promising muscular dystrophy treatments and, in a moment of serendipity, stumbled upon University at Buffalo scientist Frederick Sachs, PhD.
Sachs was a professor of physiology and biophysics who had been studying the medical benefits of venom. In the venom of the Chilean rose tarantula, he and his colleagues discovered a protein that held promise for keeping muscular dystrophy at bay. Specifically, the protein helped stop muscle cells from deteriorating.
Within months of getting in touch, Harvey and Sachs co-founded Tonus Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company devoted to developing the protein as a drug. Though the treatment has yet to be tested in humans, it has helped dystrophic mice gain strength in preliminary experiments.
The therapy is not a cure. But if it works in humans, it could extend the lives of children like JB for years -- maybe even decades.
Success can't come quickly enough.
JB, now four, can't walk down the stairs alone. When he runs, he waddles. He receives physical therapy and takes steroids as a treatment. While playing tee ball one recent day, he confided to his grandfather, "When I grow up, I want to be a baseball player." It was a heartbreaking moment.
"Oh, I would be thrilled if you could be a baseball player," Harvey remembers replying. He's doing everything he can to make sure that JB -- and other boys like him -- can live out their dreams.
Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity at Buffalo.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cloned horses

Cloned horses may compete in the 2012 London Olympics, while anti-doping testing for humans becomes more sophisticated

(NaturalNews) While performance enhancement drugs and techniques may be banned for humans, the gate has been opened for genetically modified horses to compete in the Olympic games.

In a surprising but not shocking development, the Federation Equestre Internationale has decided to overturn a ban previously placed on cloned equines.

According to The Chronicle of the Horse at their recently held sports forum it was said, "The FEI will not forbid participation of clones or their progenies in FEI competitions. The FEI will continue to monitor further research, especially with regard to equine welfare."

Whereas in 2007, the stance of the FEI was the polar opposite; "The competitive equestrian couple of horse and rider are both acknowledged as athletes by the FEI. The cloning of either with a view to competing at international level would be unacceptable to the FEI. The FEI opposes cloning for it goes against one of the FEI's basic objectives: to enable FEI athletes 'to compete in international events under fair and even conditions."

This announcement comes in light of the London 2012 Olympics being touted as having "the most sophisticated anti-doping operation in the history of the Games." According to CNN, for the first time in Olympics history, a private company will provide its facilities - $30 million state-of-the-art laboratory - to aide in the testing of samples from Olympic participants to detect illegal performance enhancements. This is being provided by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). According to GSK, the facilities will offer "enable expert analysts from King's (College, London) to independently operate a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory during the Games."

Although the FEI announcement has come too late for cloned horses to participate in the London 2012 Olympics, the implications will be far reaching, placing pressure on other equestrian governing bodies to relax the generally held stance of not allowing physiologically altering performance enhancement to be used by any participants.

This action has set a precedent for all sports, and the broader implications of such a development may mean that the rules pertaining to human performance enhancement may be contested, and become relaxed amid pressure from those who advocate its use.

Currently, the world's biggest companies offering cloning are ViaTech in Texas and Cryozootech in Sonchamp, France.

They have both welcomed the news, and stated that their main aim is to allow the genes of top horses that have died or been gelded to be available again.

Sources for this article include:

About the author:
Simon Victor is a health health and fitness enthusiast who believes in being practical with healthy living.
his personal journey can be followed at

Learn more:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Wolverines need refrigerators

Study: Wolverines Need Refrigerators

ScienceDaily (July 12, 2012) — Wolverines live in harsh conditions; they range over large areas of cold mountainous low-productivity habitat with persistent snow. The paper suggests wolverines take advantage of the crevices and boulders of the mountainous terrain, as well as the snow cover to cache and "refrigerate" food sources such as elk, caribou, moose and mountain goat carrion, ground squirrels and other food collected during more plentiful times of year.

Wolverine. (Credit: Mark Packila, WCS)
These cold, structured chambers provide protection of the food supply from scavengers, insects and bacteria. In addition, the refrigerated caches increase the predictability of available food resources, reduce the energy spent by females searching for food while in lactation phase, and decrease the time mothers spend away from cubs.
The paper appears in the current edition of the Journal of Mammalogyand was co-authored by Robert M. Inman of WCS, Audrey J. Magoun of Wildlife Research and Management, Jens Persson of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Jenny Mattisson of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.
"People don't normally think of insects and microbes as being in competition for food with wolverines," said lead author Robert Inman of the Wildlife Conservation Society's North America Program. "But in fact, bacteria will devour an unprotected food source if that source is available."
Through an extensive literary review, the authors noted that wolverine reproduction is confined to a brief period of the year, and the lactation phase in females (February through April) corresponds to a period of low availability of food resources. Wolverines, which are opportunistic foragers, have adapted by amassing food caches during the preceding winter months when food is more readily available. Without the cached food supply or an unforeseen alternative (such as a winter-killed ungulate), early litter loss occurs.
Inman said, "Understanding why and how wolverines exist where they do and the various adaptations they have evolved to eke out a living will better inform population management strategies and conservation of the species."
Climate change will play a key role in management planning for the conservation of wolverines, the authors say.
In a study published in 2010, wolverine biologists demonstrated a relationship between the areas where wolverines exist (their distribution) and persistent snow cover. The first theory advanced was that wolverines must have deep snow available in springtime so that they can give birth to their small cubs in a warm, secure den. The newly released study suggests that other factors related to climate and snow pack, such as competition for food, may also be involved in explaining the limits to wolverine distribution.
Because of their dependence on snow pack, wolverines were recently listed as warranted for protection under the Endangered Species Act due in large part to the threat of climate change reducing distribution and habitat connectivity. The authors say that a deeper understanding of how and why wolverines use snow pack the ways they do is critical to understanding how climate change will impact survival and reproductive rates. "Shedding light on the specific mechanism of how climate will affect wolverines is important in order to know what to do to help them hold on," said WCS's North America Program Director, Jodi Hilty.
Inman and co-authors published a study in December of 2011 on the spatial ecology of wolverines in the Journal of Wildlife Management. This latest paper represents the second of several that will help to inform a conservation strategy for the species.
Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided byWildlife Conservation Society, via Newswise.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. Robert M. Inman, Audrey J. Magoun, Jens Persson, Jenny Mattisson. The wolverine's niche: linking reproductive chronology, caching, competition, and climateJournal of Mammalogy, 2012; 93 (3): 634 DOI: 10.1644/11-MAMM-A-319.1

Friday, July 13, 2012

Aggressiveness in dog

If Your Dog Is Aggressive, Maybe It Is in Pain

ScienceDaily (June 13, 2012) — Dogs can sometimes suffer sudden episodes of aggression without their owners understanding why. But, in many cases, the cause of these attacks can be pain that has never been diagnosed or treated. For the first time the study describes the characteristics of this irritability, which can make dogs violent and increase aggression in already conflictive individuals.

The pain produced by hip dysplasia is a key factor in the risk of large dogs becoming aggressive. (Credit: Alex E. Proimos)
There are many factors that explain aggression in dogs: the conditions of the mother during gestation, the handling of the puppy in the neonatal phase, the age at weaning, the experiences of the animal during the socialising phase, diet, exercise, genetics and learning techniques based on active punishment during adulthood. However, aggressive behaviour also arises from the presence of pathologies and pain in the dog.
Between 2010 and 2011 a team of researchers from the department of Animal and Food Science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) in Spain analysed the aggression problems of 12 dogs (Giant schnauzer, Irish setter, Pit-bull, Dalmatian, two German shepherds, Neapolitan Mastiff, Shih-tzu, Bobtail, Catalan Sheepdog, Chow-chow and Doberman) who were brought to the UAB's Veterinary Hospital by their owners.
"All (eleven males and one female) were diagnosed as having aggression caused by pain. Out of the 12 studied, eight had suffered a hip dysplasia," as was outlined by Tomás Camps, lead author of the study that was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior and researcher at the Animal Nutrition and Welfare Service of the UAB.
Scientists identified the most frequent circumstances in which dogs were aggressive, the most characteristic positions, the most frequent target of attacks and if they were impulsive or, in other words, whether or not they showed signs before an imminent attack.
The study shows that dogs that were already aggressive for other reasons before the onset of pain attacked their owners more intensely and frequently when food was taken away, when they were moved from their rest area or when they were made to do something. Animals displayed aggression in the same situations (or nearly) as those that were already aggressive.
On the other hand, "dogs that had never been aggressive before the onset of pain began to behave in this way in situations were an attempt is made to control them," points out Camps.
In addition, the study shows that those dogs were more impulsive or, in other words, attacked with no prior warning in the form of growls, for instance. The research team states that "if the pet is handled when in pain, it will quickly act aggressively to avoid more discomfort without the owner being able to prevent it."
Diagnosing hip dysplasia
Canine hip dysplasia affects more than 40% of Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Rottweillers and is a hereditary and degenerative bone disorder that affects the joint connecting the hip and the femoral head. In general, it can affect any breed of large dog but is less frequent is small breeds.
The new study suggests that the pain produced by hip dysplasia is a key factor in the risk of large dogs becoming aggressive. But the problem begins when the dog experiences periods of little pain and the illness is not diagnosed on time.
The researchers have reassessed the importance of diagnosis and treatment of pain since, according to Camps, "it can cause aggression or worsen aggression problems."
Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided byPlataforma SINC, via AlphaGalileo.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. Tomás Camps, Marta Amat, Valentina M. Mariotti, Susana Le Brech, Xavier Manteca. Pain-related aggression in dogs: 12 clinical casesJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 2012; 7 (2): 99 DOI:10.1016/j.jveb.2011.08.002
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...