Evidence of fossilised brains in small arthropods 500 million years ago has been found

Evidence of fossilised brain tissue was found in arthropods that lived 500 million years ago according to a team of researchers. In case the confirmation comes, it would be a very important paleontological discovery because it would answer one of the most mysterious questions of paleontology: can nervous tissue, especially the brain, fossilize?

The discovery of these two fossils of Alalcomenaeus, an arthropod that lived between 543 and 490 million years ago, could help to find an answer to this question. In addition to the exoskeleton, in fact, also the soft tissues of the brain and nerves would have remained fossilized, tissues that in the vast majority of cases tend to disappear precisely because they are not hard unlike the skeleton (or teeth). Compared to bones, soft tissues degrade much earlier and therefore there is no time to start the fossilization process that leaves an impression.

In a new study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the research team describes the discovery of these fossil findings occurred, as explained by Javier Ortega-Hernández, a paleobiologist at Harvard University and one of the authors of the study, in exceptional circumstances.

One of the fossils, found in the Utha, has symmetrical spots along the perpendicular line of the body of the creature, spots reminiscent of those of the nervous system of some arthropods living today, including some species of crabs, spiders and scorpions. These same spots also contained good levels of carbon, a basic element of the same nervous tissue. And furthermore, these dark spots seem to be connected to the four eyes of the animal, which reminds once again to a nervous system.

The researchers then compared this fossil with two other fossils, one found in the same area and another in China, which seem to have the same traces as regards the possibility of fossilisation of brain matter.

Already in the past paleontologists had found a specimen of Alalcomenaeus for which it seemed that the fossilized imprint of the nervous tissue was also present in addition to that of the skeleton but the announcement of the discovery was greeted with a certain skepticism. Now this new discovery will give strength to the theory that also nervous tissues can fossilize at the level of footprints.

Another similar discovery had already occurred in 2012 when a team of researchers had found a fossilized Fuxianhuia protensa fingerprint that seemed to contain also the imprint of the brain.
According to some researchers, not the majority, it’s possible in fact, through a real stroke of luck, that the brain can fossilize and leave a footprint thanks to the fossilized footprints of the same bacteria that degraded it which would form a sort of biofilm.

Applying cold water is the best first approach for treating burns on children

Cooling the newly burned part of a child’s body with running water is the best method to reduce the chances of the following skin grafts and surgical procedures in general according to a new study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine.

This is very clearly stated by Bronwyn R. Griffin, a researcher at the Centre for Research on Children’s Health at the University of Queensland (Australia) who published the study: if a child gets burned, the first treatment should be 20 minutes of cold running water. The latter, in fact, proves to be more effective and its usefulness lasts up to three hours after the injury.

The study made use of data from children who suffered burns and who received, once they entered the emergency room, initial therapy with 20 or more minutes of cooling down with water. This initial approach reduced the likelihood of the need for a skin graft by more than 40%. In addition, this approach was linked to a reduction in the likelihood of hospitalization (by 35.8%) and a reduction in the likelihood of surgery (by 42.4%).

This is also important because healing more quickly involves a lower risk of scars remaining on the body.

The same study points out that the first treatment with running water was also better than the alternatives represented mostly by treatment with aloe, gel, butter or egg whites, for example.

“Whether you are a parent or a paramedic, it is highly recommended that you administer 20 minutes of cold running water to a child’s burn. This is the most effective way to reduce the severity of tissue damage from all thermal burns,” Griffin reports.

Producing steel without emitting CO2 is perhaps possible thanks to hydrogen

Producing steel also means emitting a lot of CO2 into the environment. It is estimated, in fact, that the steel industry itself generates between 7 and 9% of CO2 emissions among all those generated through the use of fossil fuels, as noted in a new statement published on the CORDIS website.

Of course, several studies are underway to limit CO2 production when steel is produced, but not many of them have achieved results that suggest real applications. Now a new project, called H2Future and funded by the European Union, aims to discover new energy sources to achieve, albeit gradually, a real decarbonisation of steel production. In this regard, it is planned to use hydrogen as a renewable electricity source.

A pilot plant has already been set up in Linz, Austria, which has a capacity of 6 MW of electricity from renewable sources to produce up to 1200 m³ of green hydrogen. The press release on the launch of this new plant speaks of “an important milestone for the industrial application of electrolysis” in the steel industry, refineries, fertiliser production and other industrial sectors.

The new plant is based on the technique of electrolysis, a phenomenon in which water is divided into hydrogen and oxygen by electric current, as explained in the press release on the project website: “PEM technology works using a proton exchange membrane as the electrolyte. This membrane has a special property: it is permeable to protons but not to gases such as hydrogen and oxygen. This means that in a PEM-based electrolyzer the membrane acts as an electrolyte and separator to prevent the mixing of gaseous products.”

Heartburn medication useful to fight labial herpes according to study

A new combination of drugs that could be helpful in treating lip herpes more effectively has been developed by a team of researchers at the University of Kent.
The study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, explains how researchers tested different drugs by applying them to various cell cultures and discovered how some drugs used for heartburn improve the effectiveness of antiviral acyclovir. The latter is the drug used to fight the Herpes simplex virus.

The drugs used by researchers in combination with acyclovir are drugs treated for heartburn and are included in the category of proton pump inhibitors. They also include omeprazole.
Herpes simplex can be very worrying for people with weak or suppressed immune systems. In these people it can cause life-threatening conditions or even blindness as the infected person can transfer the virus from the lips to other parts of the body including the eyes (a process also called self-inoculation). It can lead to conjunctivitis or keratitis in the eyes and this can worsen, especially if the patient continues to rub the eye at the point of injury.

The drugs to treat heartburn were combined by researchers, led by Professor Martin Michaelis of the School of Biosciences, with acyclovir on cell cultures. The researchers found that they reduced the spread of the aforementioned virus in cells and the maximum effect was caused by omeprazole.
“The combination of these two drugs could significantly improve the broader treatment of the herpes simplex virus,” says Martin Michaelis of the University of Kent.

Bacteria engineered to save bees from viruses and pests

Bacteria genetically modified to protect bees from the deadly tendency that is characterizing them and that is worrying not only the scientific world. Even in the United States, honey bee colonies are decreasing so much that, during last winter, beekeepers had to give up more than 40% of their colonies, the highest rate since surveys began 13 years ago.

Nancy Moran, Professor of Integrative Biology, is working with colleagues to engineer particular strains of bacteria to be introduced into the bowels of honeybees. These bacteria act as “biological factories”: they trigger the immune system of bees to protect themselves from the deformed wing virus, one of the two main causes of their collapse together with varroa mites, parasites of bees. These two conditions very often come together: the more the mites feed on bees, the more the virus spreads, which makes bees increasingly vulnerable to various pathogens in the environment.

This is a method that is not as complex as it might appear: the engineering of bacteria in the laboratory, once the method is completed, is not at all prohibitive, just as it is not prohibitive to inoculate them into the body of bees by causing them to spread into colonies. The implication of such a method is direct, as Moran herself states. It is also the first time that the bee microbiome has been genetically engineered to improve bee health.

During the tests, bees with the engineered bacterium in their bodies showed a 36.5% higher probability of surviving after 10 days than control bees. At the same time, Varroa mites feeding on bees treated with the engineered bacterium were about 70% more likely to die by day 10 than mites feeding on control bees.

BTW, on the topic of bees, please check out this article:

Why Vegans Don’t Eat Honey (And You Shouldn’t Either)

Cases of childhood diarrhoea in Africa linked to the climate phenomenon in La Niña

A curious discovery was made by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The researchers, conducting a study in Botswana, found that spikes in childhood diarrhea are associated with climatic conditions related to the La Niña phenomenon.

Diarrhea can be fatal in low and middle income countries with underdeveloped medical networks, especially in children under the age of five. In Africa, diarrhea rates in children under five are particularly high and account for 1/4 of all deaths caused by diarrhea.

Researchers have found a connection with the La Niña phenomenon. The latter is an atmospheric phenomenon linked to the larger phenomenon called El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), an irregular variation in the winds and surface temperatures of the oceans in the tropical eastern Pacific area.

ENSO is linked to both La Niña and El Niño: with the former, the ocean temperatures are warmer and with the latter colder. This phenomenon can affect weather conditions in various parts of the world such as temperature, wind and precipitation.

Analyzing statistics on childhood diarrhea (the one that affects children under five) in the Chobe region of northeastern Botswana, researchers have found that the La Niña phenomenon is associated with colder temperatures, increased rainfall and more frequent flooding in the same rainy season.

This same climatic phenomenon, as the researchers found, is associated with a 30% increase in the incidence of childhood diarrhea in the rainy season from December to February.

According to Alexandra K. Heaney, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, one of the authors of the study, the results of this research show that the phenomenon of ENSO can be used as a medium-long term forecasting tool for the spread of childhood diarrhea in southern Africa.

Specifically, when this climate phenomenon advances, it would be appropriate to accumulate more medical supplies, such as hospital beds, and more health workers in these areas to manage the increased incidence of this childhood disease.

Diarrhea can be caused by many different pathogens, including viruses, protozoa bacteria, and exposure to these pathogens itself can be facilitated by weather conditions: more rain and flooding means more contact with water, which is an ideal vector for some of these pathogens.