April 23, 2013
Microgravity Affects The Immune System – The Daily Orbit
Does spaceflight up the risk of disease and disorders?
What do you get when you mix dumb mice with human stem cells?
Ants are moving on up.
And why you should eat your mushrooms…on today’s Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
The US space shuttle program came to an end in 2011 with the return of the shuttle Atlantis. But not before bringing back cell samples eager scientists were ready to ‘get to studying.’ A research team presented their findings yesterday at the Experimental Biology 2013 conference in Boston on the increased immune system risk associated with space flight. Experiments conducted both on the shuttle and on the ground using human cells and an endotoxin called ‘LPS,’ which plays a role in septic shock, showed that there is an increased risk of infection due to altered bacterial growth in microgravity. They found that the human cells were so busy dealing with the gravity situation that they barely put up a fight against the bacteria. Genes involved in rheumatoid arthritis, tumor growth and wound repair were also altered in reduced space gravity, suggesting an elevated risk of neurological degeneration and other problems. Don’t think taking some Airborne before the flight is going to work for this!
And in more cell research, researchers have successfully transformed human embryonic stem cells into nerve cells that helped mice regain their memory and ability to learn. In the experiments, the mice’s medial septum—the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning—was intentionally damaged and then implanted with human stem cells. The implanted stem cells formed two common but essential types of neurons associated with emotions, learning, memory, and psychiatric issues…and the mice performed significantly better on common tests in both memory and learning. Researchers said they have for the first time demonstrated that human stem cells can implant themselves in the brain and heal neurological defects.
Thinking you might be in need of a change in career? Yeah so is the ant that’s crawling across your kitchen counter. Using a computer barcode tagging system on an indoor ant colony, scientists found that the ants had different jobs: 40% were nurses staying close to the queen, 30% were cleaners, and the other 30% foragers. Nurses tended to be the youngest, the next age group the cleaners, and the oldest—foragers. And it appears that they graduate to these jobs. The jobs also seem to be part of a social status, with nurses and foragers rarely interacting, but cleaners interacting with both groups. Now researchers want to know why ants move from one job to another.
Well, it looks like no fish were safe when the Microraptor was around. A fossil found of this small flying dinosaur in volcanic ash had easily identifiable fish contents in it. Previously scientists had thought this dino had only fed on small birds and mammals that lived in trees. The fossil also revealed that its teeth were adapted to catching slippery, wiggly prey-like fish. The teeth appear to have adapted to impale the fish and with a tilt of the microraptor’s head, be swallowed whole—no need for a napkin! This is the first evidence of a flying raptor to successfully prey on fish.
And if you can’t be a big boy and swallow your vitamins, or you’re a recluse and avoid the sun like the plague, here’s another way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D—eat your mushrooms. A new study shows that mushrooms can provide the same amount of Vitamin D to the body as supplemental tablets, which is important because vitamin D is essential for bone health and muscle strength. They said the results provide evidence that ingesting mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light are a good, natural source of vitamin D that you can get at the grocery store. So there ya have it!
That’s it for the Daily Orbit! Eat your mushrooms and get some sunshine in your life!