Rising stars, stopping tapeworms and fungi enzymes for cows

Tapeworm dilemma

Rather than endure having to get around a parasitic tapeworm that has grown to a third of its body weight, some assemblages of stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) developed an interesting way to combat it – scarring.

But while some populations develop this immune defense quickly — forming scar tissue around the tapeworm to stop its growth — other populations tolerate it instead, scarring only little or no scarring. Until now, scientists have not understood why some groups of echinoderms evolved one way or the other.

According to a new study in SciencesThe scientists confined this adaptation to a gene that is also closely related to scarring in mice. But the authors say there appears to be a constant evolutionary pressure to tolerate tapeworms, rather than scar them, given that stickleback females with a lot of scars are 80% less likely to reproduce successfully.

Rising stars in a stellar nursery

The combined power of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) was able to capture young stars spiraling into the center of a massive cluster of stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud – a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way with only 200,000 light years away.

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The massive star cluster NGC 346, located in the Small Magellanic Cloud, has long intrigued astronomers with its unusual shape. Using two separate methods, the researchers have now determined that this shape is due in part to stars and gas at the center of this cluster rising in a river-like motion. The red spiral on NGC 346 tracks the motion of stars and gas toward the center. Scientists say this spiral motion is the most efficient way to fuel star formation from the outside toward the center of mass. Credit: NASA, ESA and Andi James (STScI)

Astronomers think the spiral may fuel star formation in the vast, oddly shaped stellar nursery called NGC 346 within the galaxy.

“The spiral is really a good natural way to fuel star formation from the outside towards the center of the cluster,” explains co-author Dr Peter Zeidler, of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) of the European Space Agency, US. “It’s the most efficient way that stars and the gases that fuel more star formation can move toward the center.”

The Small Magellanic Cloud has a simpler chemical makeup than the Milky Way, so it’s similar to galaxies found in the smaller universe when heavy elements were much rarer. These findings give scientists more insight into how star formation occurred early in the history of the universe.

The new study was published in Astrophysical Journal.

How does memory for personal interactions decline with age?

The inability to remember the face that goes with the name of the person I spoke to, just hours ago, is one of the most annoying aspects of age-related memory decline. Scientists still don’t understand exactly why this happens, but a new study has been published in cell aging It offers some important new clues.

Researchers have identified a potential target for developing new therapies to treat age-related cognitive decline by studying aging mice, and discovering that levels of an enzyme called PDE11A increase with age. Specifically, it increased in the hippocampus – an area of ​​the brain responsible for many types of learning and memory – as tiny hairs in parts of neurons.

When the PDE11A gene was deleted, cognitive decline no longer occurred in older mice. But when PDE11A was added back to the hippocampus of these ancient mice, they again forgot memories of social bonding.

“PDE11 is involved in more things that are just about memory, including preferences for who you prefer to be around. So, if we wanted to develop a treatment to help with cognitive decline, we wouldn’t want to get rid of it completely or it could cause other negative side effects,” he explains. Senior author Michi Kelly, associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of Maryland College of Medicine, US.

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Memory enzyme PDE11A (green) in the brains of small (left) and large (right) mice. Credit: University of Maryland College of Medicine

Walking in search of multi-legged creatures is a lot like sliding

Apparently, the physics of walking is simpler than we thought, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

By studying several colonies of Argentine ants and multi-legged robots using a computer algorithm, researchers have found that walking (for multi-legged creatures) is a lot like sliding. They discovered a new mathematical relationship between walking, jumping, sliding and swimming in the sticky fluids of multi-legged animals and robots.

Co-author Nick Gravish, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California San Diego explains.

The researchers also hypothesize that these universal principles may have implications for understanding key evolutionary transitions, for example from swimming to walking.

Adding fungal enzymes to cow feed enhances milk production

Supplementation of dairy cattle feed with enzymes from two different types of fungi. Aspergillus oryzae And the Aspergillus niger It has a positive effect on her lactation performance, according to new research in Dairy Science Journal.

When compared to the control group, the cows fed the enzymes tended to eat more, and their milk had higher concentrations of protein, lactose, and other desirable solids. In general, enzyme consumption appears to have a marked positive effect on milk quantity and quality.

The enzymes appear to have an effect in the cow’s rumen (four-chambered stomach), enhancing the activity of microbial groups that promote the digestion of fiber from their diets.

“We’re trying to help the rumen microbes do what they do,” explains co-author Alex Christof, Distinguished Professor of Dairy Nutrition at Penn State University in the US. “The microbes produce these enzymes that break down the fibres, but we’re trying to add additional enzymes to promote fermentation in the rumen.”

These findings are important because developing strategies to improve the performance of dairy cows while reducing feeding costs is critical to feeding a growing global population.

Women’s Health Week

Last week was Jane Hayleys Women’s Health Week, an Australia-wide campaign of online events and activities focused on improving women’s health and helping women, girls and sexually diverse people put good health first.

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