July 18, 2015: Pluto, protein, pandas and powerful treatments

Go Set A Watchman released on 14 July 2015

Reading fiction: it's your social obligation Sciengist

What an exciting week it has been.

We have received exciting new information and images of Pluto, as well as a newly discovered volcano cluster off the Sydney coast.

The results of several ground-breaking research projects were released this week, as was the much anticipated second novel by Harper Lee. The latter lead me to share a personal journey, and very interesting research regarding the power of reading fiction, check it out here.

In addition, a young researcher has been awarded a most prestigious research grant, providing great promise for cardiac research and neuroscience. And finally, there is scientific evidence to confirm that….Pandas are lazy!

Pluto is the largest of the non-planet worlds on the fringe of our solar system

Pluto is the largest of the non-planet worlds (Image: http://cdn.phys.org)

Pluto is the largest of the non-planet worlds (Image: http://cdn.phys.org)

Pluto is, however, relatively small.

You could drive more than halfway around the world of Pluto in the same time as a leisurely drive from Melbourne to Darwin!

In other words, Pluto is confirmed to be 2370 +/- 20 km in diameter.

You can read more about NASA’s New Horizon expedition here.

Algae is quickly making its way to the list of alternative protein choices


Algae, fast becoming the new protein alternative (Image: http://www-tc.pbs.org)

So we have all heard of legumes, and most of us are probably fairly happy to consume them. They can be pretty tasty if you ask me!

Quinoa is a relatively new protein alternative on the market but we have to admit it is pretty inoffensive.

But algae? Well, I don’t like to be a skeptic, but, let’s face it, I am.

Apparently, however, algae contains 63% protein, a decent amount of fibre and lipids, and is fairly low in carbohydrates.

To say that consumers are “excited” about algae though, I think is a little subjective. You be the judge.

Would you believe: pandas are officially lazy?


Pandas are lazy (Image: http://www.brafton.com)

Apparently pandas have lower energy expenditure than other bears of comparable size! Excuse my sarcasm, but one quick visit to the Adelaide Zoo would confirm this result.

Interestingly however, research involving wild and captive pandas has revealed pandas have reduced vital organ size in combination with their lower physical activity.

Furthermore, a reduction in thyroid hormone activity was consistent among tested pandas, and is believed to be the result of a genetic mutuation.

Read more about the lazy pandas here.

Stem cell transplants derived from bone marrow may hold the key to future lupus treatment

Lupus is a debilitating and sometimes fatal, inflammatory autoimmune disease, usually treated symptomatically with immunosuppressants.

While treating the symptoms can be useful, in the short term, very rarely does it provide a long-term treatment option for sufferers of system lupus erythematosus (SLE).

However, research released this week has shown promising results in animal models, using stem cell transplants derived from bone marrow.

These studies not only resulted in fewer side effects than current immunosuppressant treatments, but also alleviated SLE symptoms while appearing to slow disease progression.

Excellent news for lupus research, read more here.

A potential malaria cure, and possibly also preventative treatment, is now in clinical trials in Peru

Currently, malaria treatments are limited by resistance of the target parasite (Plasmodium) to common therapies.

However, the results of a promising new treatment option were released this week.

DSM265 is a new treatment which strongly targets the Plasmodium parasite, is effective at attacking the various forms of the parasite (blood and liver forms), including those that have proven to be drug-resistant.

It would appear the drug does not have negative effects on the heart, blood or liver of the patient, and may in fact, be safe for regular, preventative doses.

Read more about the potential future malaria cure and preventative here.

An ancient volcano cluster located off Sydney coastline


Volcano cluster located off Sydney coast (Image: http://www.anu.edu.au)

The Australian research vessel, The Investigator, found the volcano cluster by accident, while on a mission to locate and observe larval fish and crustaceans.

Nearly 250km off the Sydney coast, 5 km under the ocean’s surface, The Investigator located a cluster of volcanoes almost 50 million years old.

The volcanoes are extinct, but researchers say they provide “windows to the sea floor”, potentially depicting to us the history of land movement, and providing an avenue to further explore the Earth’s crust.

Measuring 20km in length, the cluster’s highest peak rises almost 4km from the sea floor!

Read more about the volcano cluster here.

Natural, powerful antioxidants now unlocked and providing beneficial cardiac-protecting properties during cancer treatment

Power of common antioxidants in red wine and berries unlocked in ground-breaking cancer research

The power of common antioxidants now unlocked

The common and highly effective cancer drug, Adriamycin, is also cardiotoxic.

Patients are therefore limited to a lifetime dose of no more than 450-550 mg/m2.

The common antioxidants, resveratrol and quercetin however, have just become available in a water-soluble form, for therapeutic use.

Their natural cardiac-protecting properties are only the beginning as far as the benefits are concerned. Read more here.

During hibernation, a squirrel’s body responds in a similar way to that of a human during cardiac arrest

Arctic ground squirrels - key to promising cardiac research

Arctic ground squirrels - key to promising cardiac research

And this is exactly the reason why the arctic ground squirrel has helped the world famous researcher, Dr Jinka, on his promising path toward therapeutic hypothermia in humans.

Infact, Dr Jinka was awarded, just this week, a very prestigious and competitive Scientist Development Grant by the American Heart Association, to continue his important and exciting research.

Read more about his work here.

If you don’t cook your pork correctly, you may just end up in close quarters with a little unwelcome guest

Ocular Sparganosis: Nodules in and around the eye. http://web.stanford.edu/group/parasites/ParaSites2009/CooperLoyd_Sparganosis/CooperLoyd_Sparganosis.html

Ocular Sparganosis: Nodules in and around the eye (Image: http://web.stanford.edu)

Sparganosis is a relatively rare disease, but has been recorded all over the world.

It can appear as nodules under the skin and is generally not very pretty.

The tapeworm (and it’s various avatars) can travel the world, in a single lifespan.

Don’t become a victim, read the story of Sparganosis here.

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