Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0692-z Aedes aegypti mosquito on human skin. Image Credit: khlungcenter / Shutterstock By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MDNov 25 2018A new study has tried to assess the genetic variants among mosquitoes that make them more susceptible to spreading deadly viral diseases such as dengue, yellow fever, Zika and chikungunya and more resistant to insecticides that are used to kill them.The study titled, ‘Improved reference genome of Aedes aegypti informs arbovirus vector control’, by researchers from seven countries, including Australia’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, has mapped the genetic make-up of these insects which could be ground breaking in vector control. The team was looking at the genomes of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry viruses like Zika and dengue. They noted that some newly discovered genes could make them resistant to insecticides.Modification of these resistant genes may help stop the mosquitoes from spreading disease, the researchers hope. Dr. Gordana Rasic, one of the researchers said, “One of the key things that we want to achieve is to modify these mosquitoes in a way that will help control them.” They looked at “physical and cytogenetic maps of the mosquitoes to see how these mosquitoes differed in their preference for human hosts for biting as well as how it alters their egg laying sites. They noted that there is a specific locus called the M locus on the mosquito genome where there is a variation in the glutathione S-transferase genes or the GST gene that is important for resistance to insecticides.Related StoriesDoes genetic testing affect psychosocial health?Gene modulation goes wireless hacking the “boss gene”Study: Causes of anorexia are likely metabolic and psychologicalThese GST genes are actually responsible for coding for proteins that detoxify and excrete the insecticides that are used to kill the mosquitoes. When modified these GST genes help the mosquitoes develop a resistance to the insecticides used against them and this makes the chemical ineffective against the pests.A look at these genes of the AaegL5 genome would help interventional strategies for vector control in controlling mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus and the Zika virus.The authors write, “high-quality genome assembly and annotation described here will enable major advances in mosquito biology.”The team also found variants of “chemosensory ionotropic receptors” among the mosquitoes. These connect the attraction of the mosquitoes to certain smells and tastes present on human skin that make them more prone to mosquito bites.The authors state in their work that this could provide clues to developing “novel mosquito repellents. ‘Sterile Insect Technique’ and ‘Incompatible Insect Technique’” that could help reduce mosquito populations. Genetic modification of the male mosquitoes could help alter the genes of the progeny is ways so that they fail to transmit the infection.The authors sign off that better understanding of the genetics of mosquitoes could “facilitate genetic control of mosquitoes that infect many hundreds of millions of people with arboviruses every year.”Mosquito bites are known to spread several life-threatening diseases including malaria, dengue, chikungunya, zika etc.Zika alone affects around 86 countries and regions around the world and can affect pregnant mothers and severely harm the unborn babies.Dengue too is a viral infection carried by mosquitoes that causes deadly hemorrhagic fever or fever along with very low platelet counts that can cause spontaneous bleeding.Malaria is a parasitic infection that still manages to kill hundreds of thousands around the world.
Source:https://www.ucr.edu/ Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Feb 6 2019Astronomers at the University of California, Riverside, have teamed with teachers at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, or CSDR, to design an astronomy workshop for students with hearing loss that can be easily used in classrooms, museums, fairs, and other public events.The workshop utilized a sound stage that allowed the CSDR students to “feel” vibrations from rockets, stars, galaxies, supernovae, and even remnants of the Big Bang itself. The members of the team have made their materials public and written up their experiences to help teachers and other educators worldwide to similarly engage the deaf community in STEM activities.Since 2015, Gillian Wilson, senior associate vice chancellor for research and economic development and a professor of physics and astronomy at UCR, and Mario De Leo-Winkler, director of the National System of Researchers of Mexico and a former postdoctoral scholar at UCR, have developed astronomy outreach activities – astronomy photography competitions, traveling astronomy exhibitions, K12 workshops, interdisciplinary honors thesis projects, hands-on undergraduate astrophotography – that have touched 40,000 people.They have worked closely with CSDR teachers before, ensuring American Sign Language, or ASL, at public astronomy events, but had never developed an activity targeted for the deaf community.Around 360 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss. In the United States, about 11 million citizens are functionally deaf or report some trouble hearing. The city of Riverside contains a large concentration of deaf students because it is home to CSDR, the only public school for the deaf in Southern California.”Designers of informal STEM education and public outreach activities often overlook people with hearing loss,” De Leo-Winkler said. “For our workshop we decided to focus on astronomy -a gateway to science- because of the breathtaking imagery it offers, the big questions it tackles, and its increasingly interdisciplinary nature. We used storytelling, videos, and images in the workshop to bring meaning to the sounds of the universe — all of which made for a very engaging experience for the students.”Related StoriesTAU’s new Translational Medical Research Center acquires MILabs’ VECTor PET/SPECT/CTMalaria drug may help those with hereditary hearing loss finds studySmarter, more educated people get a cognitive ‘head start’, but aren’t protected from Alzheimer’s”The students clearly loved the experience,” said Wilson, “and that’s the whole point.”De Leo-Winkler and Wilson presented the workshop multiple times over three days at CSDR, using feedback from the teachers and students not only to better convey the scientific concepts, but also to improve the students’ experience. Their presentation took the students on a cosmic voyage: the students “traveled” from Earth, where thunderstorms were raging, to the sun, where they experienced a solar storm. The voyage continued to Jupiter, flew through the rings of Saturn, and continued on to stars Alpha Centauri A and B. The students flew past the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy and encountered a supernovae explosion. The voyage ended by encountering the Cosmic Microwave Background, the radiation leftover from the Big Bang. Temperature variations in this radiation were sonified to allow the students to experience them as vibrations.”Deaf individuals have a more developed sense of touch than hearing people due to their brain ‘rewiring’ in a process called neuroplasticity,” De Leo-Winkler said. “We paid close attention to this when designing the workshop. The students sit on a special interlocking wooden floor and face a TV screen. When sounds are played, they are transmitted by the sound system onto the floorboard as vibrations. Meanwhile videos and images that provide information are displayed on the screen. We tell the story and an interpreter signs what we say in American Sign Language.”The workshop opens a new way of communicating cosmic phenomena, related to sound, to the deaf community, and opens the door for further developments in public outreach using vibrations to engage and excite students.”It was very important to us to make our materials publicly accessible,” Wilson said. “There are dozens of these sound stages in the U.S. alone. Our workshop could easily be adapted to include other astronomical phenomena or to focus on another scientific discipline. I hope knowing that this was such a positive experience for us will inspire others.”
Source:https://www.esmo.org/ Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Feb 25 2019First study to investigate long-term effect of postoperative chemotherapy or radiotherapy on sperm count and concentrationMen with early stage testicular cancer can safely receive one course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy after surgery without it having a long-term effect on their sperm count, according to a study published in the leading cancer journal Annals of Oncology today (Monday).Although it is known already that several rounds of chemotherapy or high doses of radiotherapy given to men with more advanced testicular cancer can reduce sperm count and concentration, it has been unclear whether a single cycle of chemotherapy or radiotherapy would have a similar effect in men with stage I disease.Dr Kristina Weibring, a cancer doctor at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, who led the study, said: “We wanted to examine in more detail if postoperative treatment, given to decrease the risk of recurrence after the removal of the tumorous testicle, would affect the sperm count and sperm concentration long term in testicular cancer patients with no spread of the disease. To our knowledge, no such study has been done before.”This is important to find out, since treatment with one course of postoperative chemotherapy has been shown to decrease the risk of relapse substantially, thereby reducing the number of patients having to be treated with several courses of chemotherapy.”Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men between the ages of 15 and 40. When it is diagnosed, all patients have the testicle containing the tumour removed, a surgical procedure called orchiectomy.In this study, 182 men aged between 18 and 50, diagnosed with stage I testicular cancer and who had had an orchiectomy within the past five years, took part in the study between 2001 and 2006. They were treated either in Stockholm or Lund. After surgery, they received radiotherapy (14 fractions of 1.8 Gy each, up to a total dose of 25 Gy) or one course of chemotherapy, or were managed by surveillance, meaning there was no postoperative treatment. They provided semen samples after orchiectomy but before further treatment, and then six months, one year, two years, three years and five years thereafter. From 2006 onwards, radiotherapy was no longer used as a standard treatment in Sweden because of the risk of causing secondary cancer.”We found no clinically significant detrimental long-term effect in either total sperm number or sperm concentration, irrespective of the type of postoperative treatment received,” said Dr Weibring. “Among men who received radiotherapy, there was a distinct decrease in average sperm number and concentration six months after treatment, though not in those who received chemotherapy. However, sperm number and concentration recovered in the radiotherapy group after six months, and continued to increase in all groups up to five years after treatment.Related StoriesResearchers use AI to develop early gastric cancer endoscopic diagnosis systemLiving with advanced breast cancerHow cell-free DNA can be targeted to prevent spread of tumors”I am very excited to see these results as I wasn’t expecting sperm to recover so well after postoperative treatment. I didn’t expect as negative an effect as if the patient had received many courses of chemotherapy, since it is much more toxic, but I was not sure how much the sperm would be affected by one course.”With the results of this study we can give the patients more adequate information on potential side effects from postoperative treatment. Testicular cancer patients are often young men wanting to father children at some point, and we find, in many cases, that the patients are afraid of the potential risk of infertility caused by chemotherapeutic treatment. These findings should provide some reassurance to them.”A well-known problem for men diagnosed with testicular cancer is an impaired ability to create sperm. A condition called testicular dysgenesis syndrome, characterised by poor semen quality among other things, may play a role in this and is also associated with a higher risk of developing testicular cancer. In addition, the orchiectomy and the cancer itself may also affect sperm quality. The removal of one testicle does not necessarily affect a man’s sperm count and concentration as the remaining testicle can compensate.Dr Weibring concluded: “Our results are promising but more studies are needed, and we still recommend sperm banking before orchiectomy as a number of patients may have low sperm counts at the time of diagnosis that persists after postoperative treatment. In addition, the type of testicular cancer and whether or not it will need further treatments are unknown factors before the orchiectomy. Assisted reproductive measures may be necessary for these patients regardless of any treatment given.”Editor-in-chief of Annals of Oncology, Professor Fabrice André, Professor in the Department of Medical Oncology, Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France, commented: “This study, together with other research efforts, explores the paths to recovering a normal life after cancer. The finding that one course of chemotherapy has minimal impact on sperm count offers hope for thousands of patients worldwide, but we all must keep in mind that these data are preliminary and will require validation before we can use them in clinics. The next step will be to establish how to predict the toxic effects on sperm count of different chemotherapy regimens.”
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