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Archive for the ‘Female Genetics’ Category

Catherine Deveney: There’s so much more to achieving good mental health than just taking medication – Press and Journal

Women, say recent studies, are more likely than men to become depressed during lockdown. Apparently, they worry more, drink more and eat more junk food.

Who says that equals depression? Just because we are slumped in a corner with a glass of vino and three left-over Easter eggs doesnt mean we arent enjoying ourselves.

The findings are quite ironic. About 70% of those taken into intensive care with coronavirus are male. How come women are more depressed when men are more likely to die?

Women cry, men die. I would have put that the other way round men die, women cry but it might have suggested some kind of cause and effect which, according to one psychologist I spoke to, is not necessarily the case.

Hes gone, a female patient told him triumphantly, speaking of her husband. Dead? he asked, taken aback. No, he left me and I feel fabulous.

Mental Health Awareness week ended a fortnight ago. Why deliberately wait until its over to write about depression? Because right now, mental health is an ongoing issue and useful as campaigns are, awareness-raising doesnt end after seven days. It is the start, not the end, of the journey. A puppy is not just for Christmas, we dont only love our mothers one day a year and good mental health is not a seven day, creation-of-the-universe process.

Nor is it, as we sometimes mistakenly think, a recipe for feeling good all the time; a panacea of happiness that leaves us in a Julie Andrews bubble of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Many of us are challenged right now but good mental health is not the ability to be permanently happy. Its the ability to deal with unhappiness and challenges and even the depression that being alive and human occasionally brings in a resilient, balanced way.

Does it trivialise psychological difficulties, or encourage addiction, to joke about marital difficulties, or over-indulgence in wine and chocolate? Or does it put psychological difficulty into perspective an expected, but temporary, part of life that we learn to manage rather than obliterate?

The late American comedian Joan Rivers once spoke to me in an interview about her reputation for outrageousness. She joked about everything, she said, because it sucked the power out of difficulty and gave it to her. It put tragedy in its box.

It was a striking feature of interviewing comedians that in person they were rarely like their funny, high-energy stage personas. Mostly, they were deeply serious and introspective. Their introspection sharpened the observation that informed their performances. So what are you going to do if you dont laugh at life. Cry?

In a recent documentary, Tony Blairs old media manager Alastair Campbell, who has suffered from depression for most of his life, interviewed a geneticist. For the purposes of the programme, Campbell had looked into various research programmes, from the use of magic mushrooms to interrupt negative thought processes to experimental head vibration treatments. But it was the simple metaphor the geneticist used that struck him.

Think of a jar, she suggested. In that jar were all the different components affecting our mental health genetics, personal experiences, environmental factors. We cant make the jar smaller, but we can raise the height of it with things that make us feel good spending time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies and a healthy approach to diet, exercise and sleep.

When Campbell listed the things that created space in his jar he realised everything he had written down concerned people, lifestyle and creativity, rather than scientific solutions such as medication.

One of the themes emphasised for good mental health is kindness. There is no doubt that helping someone else, focusing on their needs, forces us out of the vortex of our own particular difficulties into someone elses frame of reference. It makes us, as well as them, feel good.

What the jam jar model reminds us, though, is that we need to be kind to ourselves as well as others.

Perhaps that includes at least attempting to think outside the box, to resist being limited by conformity or constrained by convention, because thats when lifes possibilities open up.

I smiled recently while reading the story of a young, unknown Czech painter who was baffled when her paintings were stolen from a museum. After all, she wasnt Picasso. And they were 6ft by 4ft so you could hardly walk out with them tucked under your arm.

When she met the thief at court, he was a heavily tattooed ex-con. Instead of shunning him, she asked to get to know him for two reasons.

Firstly, she wanted to paint him. Secondly, she wanted to know why he had stolen them. They were beautiful, he said eventually.

Perhaps theft is taking self-kindness too far. But the artists kind response, her curiosity about life, her ability to do the unexpected, struck me as something that would extend her mental health jar quite considerably.

An extension that I suspect limits her need for a glass of vino and three left-over Easter eggs.

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Catherine Deveney: There's so much more to achieving good mental health than just taking medication - Press and Journal

A new Benchmark in shrimp production – The Fish Site

As Benchmarks shrimp facility in Florida begins to gear up towards commercial production, Oscar Hennig, operations director of Benchmark Genetics shrimp-breeding programme who has been in the shrimp sector for nearly 30 years explains to The Fish Site what he hopes to achieve.

Benchmark Genetics

Ive been involved in the sector since 1991, starting off on farms in Australia. After finishing my masters in aquaculture in Florianpolis [in southern Brazil] I received a scholarship from the government of Japan for a two-year research project with shrimp immunology at the Shimonoseki National Fisheries University. From there I returned to Brazil for two years running a diagnostics lab for shrimp at the LABOMAR research institute. In the meantime, to make ends meet, I leased a growout farm. P. vannamei [whiteleg shrimp] farming was just starting in north-east Brazil and there was the need for expertise to help the transition from P. subtilis [southern brown shrimp].

At the end of 1999 I moved permanently to Hawaii, to manage a satellite facility of the Oceanic Institute, in Kona. I have been in Kona ever since, working as breeding-programme manager for different companies, with P. monodon [giant tiger prawn], P. stylirostris [blue shrimp] and mainly P. vannamei.

At the end of 2016 I was hired as a director for Benchmark Genetics, after Benchmark had bought CENIACUA, a P. vannamei breeding programme in Colombia. My role has been to bring this to the international arena.

Oscar Hennig

I was impressed by the CENIACUA facility, and the crew running it, in Cartagena we had as much space as we wanted and as many people as we needed, as the jobs were in the local community.

However, Cartagena doesnt have great logistics and we realised that we need a base in the US to improve our ability to export our stocks.

[The Central Florida town of] Fellsmere was suitable for a number of reasons, not least for being close to three international airports. It is also 30km from the coast, which helps with our biosecurity and also to protect us from the hurricanes that can devastate the Florida coast.

Back in 2017, when we selected the site, my only concern was that we were sourcing water from a well this can impact the fertilisation ratio but weve managed to produce steady numbers of nauplii.

Benchmark Genetics

The water comes from 750m deep, and the well brings a sterile (zero dissolved oxygen), ~32 ppt saline water that is second to none. Due to the inland location, discharging water is a challenge, so all our systems work on recirculation or on biofloc.

All activities are conducted indoors from maturation, to algae, to grow-out, to packing so the biosecurity is excellent.

Im proud of how its turned out and Im really happy with the team weve created. There are currently 15 people involved and theres plenty of space to expand. At the moment were operating at about one fifth of our capacity, as were conducting presale trials, in order to fine tune the lines of shrimp that are needed in our main markets China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand and these are now being tested in a commercial environment.

Most shrimp producers only offer one product but there are so many production systems used by the global shrimp industry and we saw that one size does not fit all. As a result, we decided to cater for a range of options and have launched three lines commercially.

The first, which weve been developing since 2008, is resistant to whitespot, EMS and other diseases. Called BMK Protect this is mainly for customers in northern China, and other areas facing disease challenges. It shows its true potential in harsh/disease conditions.

The second line was bred specifically to improve performance in sites with low salinity: shrimp farming is becoming increasingly popular in water thats less than 5 ppt. It now accounts for roughly 60 percent of Indian shrimp production, 50 percent in China, 15 percent in Vietnam and 15 to 20 percent in Thailand.

The third line, called BMK Yield, balances growth rates with survival to ensure steady production. It produces a consistent yield and a high rate of survival, making it ideal for farms that are working with processing plants, as it allows the farmer to provide a steady supply of raw material.

Benchmark Genetics

At this moment we are using some of that capacity to produce PLs for farmers, in the US and abroad. The PPL will go to our partners multiplication centres worldwide. China has been the main market during this presale year, and BMK Protect has been the number one line. The other two are doing well in the presale, but their evaluation still ongoing.

Breeding without ablation is not a big deal for us; it takes more planning and a few adjustments but nothing major. It is not done at the commercial hatcheries [as opposed to broodstock production facilities] due to a ~30 percent reduction in nauplii production. This reduction off nauplii output is mainly due to the lower frequency of female spawning, not due to lower levels of nauplii per spawn.

We believe that PL produced by non-ablated females are stronger. We ran some trials to support this belief and found that the eggs were bigger in non-ablated females, which makes sense as they have more time to go through the maturation process. We have other trials in mind that we will pursue once we get back to a normal routine.

Consolidation of the industry at different levels and partnership with local companies. I see the industry moving in two extreme directions: high-density, enclosed, biosecure farming systems and extensive open ponds, with not much left in the middle.

There was a small decline in sales during February and it has been hard to get cargo space and to predict when flights would go logistics have been crazy and transport prices also increased. However, I am optimistic that, once Covid-19 is a thing of the past, people will be wanting to celebrate life and demand for shrimp will increase beyond levels prior to this pandemic. As a result, our plan to expand is still in place.

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A new Benchmark in shrimp production - The Fish Site

How Iceland Beat the Coronavirus – The New Yorker

Mller pulled up a series of graphs and charts on her laptop. These showed that, per capita, Iceland had had more COVID-19 cases than any other Scandinavian country, and more than even Italy or Britain. There was an outbreak in a nursing home in the town of Bolungarvk, in northwestern Iceland, and one in the Westman Islands, an archipelago off the southern coast, which seemed to have started at a handball game. (In Europe, handball is a team sport thats sort of a cross between basketball and soccer.)

The numbers in the beginning were terrible, Mller said. She attributed the countrys success in bringing the caseload down in part to having got an early start. The trio, along with officials from Icelands university hospital, had begun meeting back in January. We saw what was going on in China, she recalled. We saw the pictures of people lying dead in emergency departments, even on the street. So it was obvious that something terrible was happening. And, of course, we didnt know if it would spread to other countries. But we didnt dare take the chance. So we started preparing. For example, it was discovered that the country didnt have enough protective gear for its health-care workers, so hospital officials immediately set about buying more.

Meanwhile, Mller began assembling a backup team. You know, everybody knows everyone in Iceland, she said. And so I rang up the president of the Icelandic Medical Association and the head of the nurses association. Doctors who had recently retired, nurses who had gone on to other jobsall were urged to sign up. When new cases started to be diagnosed in a great rush, the backup team, along with doctors whose offices had been shut by the pandemic, counselled people over the phone. If you were seventy, if you had high blood pressure, you got called every day, Mller told me. But, if you were young and healthy, maybe twice a week. And Im sure that this led to fewer hospital admittances and even to fewer intensive-care admittances.

This, in turn, appears to have cut down on fatalities. Icelands death rate from COVID-19 is one out of every one hundred and eighty confirmed cases, or just 0.56 per centone of the lowest in the world. The figure is so low that it raised some doubts. Mllers department decided to look into how many Icelanders had perished for any reason since the outbreak began. It turned out that over-all mortality in Iceland had actually gone down since the coronavirus had arrived.

I asked Mller about masks. In Massachusetts, an executive order issued by the governor requires that masks be worn by anyone entering a store, taking a cab, or using public transit, and violators can be fined up to three hundred dollars. In Iceland, masks arent even part of the public conversation. Mller said that wearing one might be advisable for a person who is sick and coughing, but that person shouldnt be walking around in public anyway. We think they dont add much and they can give a false sense of security, she said. Also, masks work for some time, and then they get wet, and they dont work anymore.

Mller was careful not to suggest that Iceland had beaten the virus. She seemed almost embarrassed by the idea of claiming credit for herself, for the trio, or for Iceland. The furthest she would go, when pressed, was to say, We are a nation thats used to catastrophes. We deal with avalanches, earthquakes, eruptions, and so on. Among the slides she showed me about the countrys experience with COVID was one labelled Success?

Iceland was one of the last (more or less) habitable places on earth to be settled by humans, sometime toward the end of the ninth century. Genetic analysis performed by deCODE shows that the islands original inhabitants were mainly men from Norway and women from the British Isles. (It seems likely that the women were seized by the Vikings and brought along by force.)

For centuries, hardly anyone from anywhere else bothered to travel to Iceland; it just didnt seem worth the effort. Isolation, combined with low population density, tended to keep out epidemicsthe island was, for example, spared the Black Death. But, when disease did slip in, the effects on a population that lacked immunity could be devastating. In 1707, an Icelander contracted smallpox during a trip to Copenhagen. He died on his way home and was buried at sea. His clothes continued on to the town of Eyrarbakki, on the islands southern coast, sparking an outbreak that, by 1709, had killed about a quarter of the country.

Today, Iceland is still far from anywhere. Its nearest neighbor, Greenland, is mostly ice, and the capital city of Nuuk is almost nine hundred miles away. But jets and cruise ships have turned Reykjavk into a bucket-list destination; last year, almost two million foreign tourists visited, four times the number that visited just a decade ago. Icelands first COVID casualty was, perhaps not surprisingly, a vacationer. The man, whose name was not released, was Australian. He died on March 16th, shortly after arriving at a medical clinic in Hsavk, a small town on the northern coast known for whale-watching. His widow, who also tested positive, was ordered into isolation, a development that prompted an outpouring of sympathy from Icelanders. A woman named Rakel Jnsdttir set up a Facebook group, With Love from Us, so that people could post messages to her; more than ten thousand people joined. You may not see us, you may not know us, but we all think of you and have you in our hearts, Jnsdttir wrote.

Icelanders, too, are big travellers: in 2018, more than eighty per cent of them vacationed abroad. I spoke to several people in Reykjavk whod brought the virus home from overseas. One was Brkur Arnarson, an art dealer. I went to speak to him at his gallery, i8, which was closed to the public at the time. (Rule 4b: Only those being interviewed should have direct interaction with the journalist.)

Arnarson, who represents, among others, the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, had been in New York, attending the Armory Show, at the beginning of March. After the show ended, hed gone to a crowded party where finger food was served. Im not a news guy, he told me. But I knew what was going on here in Iceland, and I knew what was going on in Europe. And I was struck by how New Yorkers were so confident. They didnt believe it was going to happen, or, if it was going to happen, somehow it was going to be O.K.

Arnarson started to feel crappy almost as soon as he got home. His daughter signed the family up for COVID tests that were being offered by deCODE; when his came back positive, Arnarson went into isolation in a studio loaned to him by an artist friend. Every day, someone on the team of nurses and doctors phoned him. They asked, How are you doing? What are your symptoms? Are you getting all the help you need? he recalled. And that was really amazing. It was so comforting, knowing that they were doing this. He was given a number to call in case of an emergency: I dont think they were getting many calls, because they were so proactive. While he was in isolation, his wife and his daughter, whod originally tested negative for the virus, came down with it. They received the same treatment. None of them ended up going to the hospital or to a clinic.

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How Iceland Beat the Coronavirus - The New Yorker

Protected on One Side of the Border, Hunted on the Other – Hakai Magazine

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For almost five decades, biologist Jim Darling has studied the gray whales that regularly return to forage in the waters off the west coast of Canada instead of completing the lengthy migration undertaken by the main herd.

Approximately 27,000 eastern North Pacific gray whales make a monumental annual trek from breeding and calving lagoons along Mexicos Baja California peninsula to summer feeding grounds in the Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi Seas. The northward migration lasts from February until May. Then, in October, the whales, led by pregnant females, leave the Arctic feeding grounds and again travel up to 11,000 kilometers to return to the warm lagoons of Baja.

However, about 250 animals opt to skip the full migration and spend from spring until fall feeding along the coast from Northern California to southeast Alaska.

Darling has watched generations of whales visit the coastal feeding grounds where they follow prey into areas such as Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Depending on prey availability, other whales will spend extended residencies in Neah Bay or Puget Sound in Washington State, or in the waters off the California-Oregon border, among other feeding grounds.

Eastern North Pacific gray whales spend their winters in the warm calving lagoons of Baja California, Mexico, where they give birth and breed. They migrate to the food-rich waters of the Arctic for summer feeding. Some whales do not complete the full migration and stop to feed in places along the route, such as Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. Map by Mark Garrison

Some animals visit for only one season, but many reappear annually, and mothers that have themselves grown up feeding along the coast bring their calves to the same locations, apparently instilling memories of the local ecosystem.

The calves return for years, and possibly all their lives, to the location their mother brought them when they were very young and where they were weaned, Darling says.

The calves are weaned in midsummer and then left alone, often hanging out with other calves for the rest of the summer and fall. While some are assumed to join the southward migration of the main herd as it passes Clayoquot Sound in December, others stay through the winter.

Mature females are key to the tendency to stay in coastal feeding areas because they are the ones that have the experience finding prey. That information is passed down to their offspring, says Darling, who, assisted by a photo-identification program, can identify many of the seasonally resident whales.

He recognizes Saddle, a male who was in Clayoquot Sound when Darlings study began in the 1970s; Blackjack, a female who has visited the area for 45 years; Elvis, a female who has had three calves since 1993; and Collage, a grandmother, first recorded in 1975, whose daughter and grand-calf also sometimes return to the sound.

A gray whale called Saddle is a longtime summer resident of Clayoquot Sound. Researcher Jim Darling has photographed the whale in Clayoquot Sound 20 times between 1974 and 2019. Individual whales can be identified by the distinct markings on their backs. Photo by Jim Darling

This is a community of whales. They know each other, in some cases for decades. They know how to sustain themselves herethis is their home. They are not just a random aggregation of whales that dont happen to migrate all the way north, Darling says.

A cross-border controversy is brewing that could put some of the whales that break off from the main migration, identified as the Pacific Coast Feeding Group (PCFG), directly in the harpoon sights of the Makah Tribe, based in Neah Bay, who have applied to hunt up to 25 whales over 10 years. (The Makah is the only tribe in the United States with an explicit treaty right to hunt whales. They legally killed one whale in 1999 and illegally killed another in 2007.) The proposal for the renewed hunt is being supported by the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has asked an administrative law judge for a waiver to the Marine Mammal Protection Actlegislation that protects marine mammals in US waters from lethal activities.

Hearings into the waiver application, held in late 2019, wrapped up after NMFS, the Makah, and groups opposing the hunt presented evidence. The public comment period closed March 16, and the next step is for the judge to make a recommendation on whether the hunt should go ahead.

The Makah, and their close relatives the Nuu-chah-nulth people of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, have a long and rich tradition of whaling for subsistence and cultural purposes. The hunt persisted into the early 20th century as this photo from 1910 attests. Photo by Book Worm/Alamy Stock Photo

But while the United States is considering whether to allow the hunt, in Canada, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) recommended to the environment minister in October 2018 that the PCFG should be designated as endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will ask for feedback on listing the whales later this year. If the recommendation to classify them as endangered is accepted, the population and their critical habitats will receive additional protection, and a recovery strategy will be put into action, says DFO communications advisor Lara Sloan.

That would mean that if the Makah hunt is approved in the United States, the very whales that are protected in Canada could be hunted just across the border.

Differences in how to treat the whales center on data interpretationwhether the whales should be regarded as a separate stock, which would give them extra protection, or be included with the overall eastern North Pacific gray whale population. US scientists view the PCFG as an aggregation rather than a stock, so deem a separate management plan unnecessary.

A successful hunt, taking the maximum allowable whales, would reduce the eastern North Pacific gray whale population by only about 0.009 percent a year, said Chris Yates, NMFS assistant regional administrator for protected resources, in a declaration to the hearings.

However, critics say that whether the PCFG is considered an aggregation or a unique stock, killing one whale out of 250 would have a significant effect.

The most faithful whales to our area will be the most punished, said Margaret Owens of the Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales in a rebuttal to Yatess declaration.

Gray whales that take up summer residence in coastal areas go to where there is available food, including crustaceans such as mysids, crab larvae, amphipods, and ghost shrimp. Gray whales are also known to scoop up bottom sediments to gather food as this whale is doing in the shallow water of Grice Bay in Clayoquot Sound. Photo by Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures

Darling and Timothy Frasier, an associate professor of biology at Saint Marys University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, conducted key research on the PCFG that helped convince COSEWIC to make the endangered status recommendation. Darling and Frasier have no doubt that the PCFG is a distinct group that acts differently from the main population and shows genetic differences, so should be managed separately.

More than a decade ago, Darling and Frasier began to investigate the genetics of these whales that seemed to show an affinity for the west coast of Vancouver Island. The pair published two research papers, in 2011 and 2013, which found that the whales using the coastal feeding areas possessed a unique genetic signature in their mitochondrial DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother and nuclear DNA is inherited from both parents. Although the PCFG whales are known to mix and mate with the main population, as is evident in their nuclear DNA, their preference for returning to coastal feeding areas is a behavior that shows up in their mitochondrial DNA signature, Frasier explains.

The mitochondrial DNA in the PCFG represent whales who learned about this feeding area, instead of the Arctic, from their mothers and then passed that along to their offspring generation after generation, Frasier says. [It] reflects the maternally-based knowledge transfer of migratory routes and feeding ground locations.

NMFS, however, has chosen to base its decision on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from all whales using these coastal feeding areasincluding those that stay for only one seasoninstead of looking exclusively at whales that regularly return.

If you lump them all together and take all the whales that have ever been seen in the PCFG area and compare them to the rest of the population, that [mitochondrial DNA] signal gets diluted because youre including a lot of individuals that dont really qualify, Frasier says. Then, of course, you are going to come to different conclusions.

After Darling and Frasier completed their initial research, it was presented at a 2010 International Whaling Commission meeting. NMFS then did its own study, which yielded similar results. The matter of how to treat the PCFG seemed to be settledto the point that it brought a 2012 NMFS assessment of the impact of a Makah hunt to a halt.

A gray whale cow and her calf feed near the kelp in Clayoquot Sound. Photo by Jim Darling

Darling is baffled that, after accepting the research a few years ago, NMFS is now questioning the extent of the genetic and behavioral differences.

I really do not understand itit is so inexplicable if you are just looking at the biology, he says.

Current NMFS views are based on a report from a 2012 task force and agency-only workshop, convened to review North Pacific gray whale data. Workshop participants looked at all whales using the coastal feeding areas, including those temporarily recruited from outside the PCFG, and concluded there was insufficient evidence to classify the group as a separate stock, and that research should continue.

Donna Wieting, director of NOAAs Office of Protected Resources, cites the report in a 2018 letter to the Pacific Scientific Review Group (which advises NOAA on the status of marine mammals) saying, there remains a substantial level of uncertainty in the strength of the lines of evidence supporting demographic independence of the PCFG.

That view was echoed at the 2019 hearings on the renewed Makah hunt by NMFS wildlife research biologist David Weller.

He noted in a submission that when samples from PCFG whales were compared with whales sampled in one of the Mexican wintering lagoons, the 2012 task force found small but significant differences in mitochondrial DNA (inherited from the mother), but no significant differences in analyses of the nuclear DNA (inherited from both parents).

Calves likely follow their mothers to feeding areas and to some extent they return to those feeding areas in subsequent years. There was no evidence, however, that whales that frequent one feeding area are reproductively isolated from whales that frequent other feeding areas, Weller wrote in his declaration.

Other scientists are questioning how the decision was made and want to see a wider-ranging discussion.

Research biologist John Calambokidis, founder of Cascadia Research Collective, based in Olympia, Washington, has conducted extensive research on eastern North Pacific gray whales.

For management purposes, I absolutely do think [the PCFG] warrants treatment as a distinct group, based on both the photo ID information and the genetic data that has come out of two different studies, he says.

A gray whale spyhops in the waters of Clayoquot Sound. Photo by Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures

Calambokidis questions the task forceworkshop method of deciding the status of the PCFG and the conclusion that, as there was insufficient evidence, further research was required.

I think NMFS should reconsider their status on the PCFG, especially because the workshop was inconclusive and there is now more information, he says. Hed also like to see the decision revisited by a wider group of scientists.

D. J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute, a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, that is presenting at the hearings, believes the separate stock argument is compelling, and he also wants to see NMFS call another meeting of scientists to look at the evidence.

But they shouldnt limit it to just their scientists; they need to invite outside scientists who do most of the research on these whales, he says.

Oddly, although NMFS does not consider the PCFG whales a separate stock, in an apparent concession to documented differences, it has proposed restrictions to protect the group and a small population of western North Pacific gray whales if the hunt goes ahead. (Some of the western population, a group once considered extinct, were recently tagged and found in areas used by eastern North Pacific gray whales.)

Over a 10-year time frame, for instance, no more than 16 hunting strikes could be on PCFG whales, with a limit of eight strikes on females, and the hunt would be stopped if the number of PCFG whales falls below 192 animals.

In even-numbered years, the hunt would take place during the migration season, reducing the risk to PCFG whales, as the entire herd of 27,000 animals would be passing through the area. In odd-numbered years, the hunt would be held during the summer feeding season to reduce the risk to western North Pacific whales. But, inevitably, that timing would increase the risk of striking any PCFG whales feeding in the area.

To say they will hunt in the summer is absurd. That means the only whales that are present are the small population of local animals, which [COSEWIC] say are endangered, Darling says.

If the hunt is approved, in the heat of the moment it will be largely impossible to differentiate between a PCFG whale and the rest of the herd before shooting, says Frasier.

A theoretical option is to have someone who knows the whales out there and say, Thats not one of our residents, but, to me, thats not really workable, he says.

So far, DFO has not been part of the debate on the status of the PCFG, but that is likely to change if the government approves the SARA designation after public consultations that could be held this fall.

If the recommendations are accepted, then DFO will automatically receive the mandate to provide science advice on these units, including the designation of critical habitat, says Thomas Doniol-Valcroze, head of DFOs cetacean research program.

Adding to the uncertainty over the status and classification of the whales is that the entire eastern North Pacific gray whale population is undergoing an unusual mortality event (UME) with 326 gray whales found dead along the coast from Mexico to Alaska in 2019 and up to May 12, 2020. Scientists estimate that the carcasses found probably represent only between 3.9 and 13 percent of the whales that have died.

Although the current UME is not over, NMFS points to the populations recovery after a 19992000 UME that killed up to one-quarter of the eastern North Pacific gray whales as evidence of their resilience. This is despite the fact that the cause of the previous UME was undetermined.

The cause of the current UME is similarly unclear. Although some whales have shown evidence of emaciation, findings are not consistent, according to NOAA, which is assembling a team of scientists to review data and determine the next step. Climate change, a lack of adequate food in the Arctic, and a theory that the gray whale population has reached carrying capacitythe maximum number of animals for its habitatare among the considerations.

While the scientists wrangle over the outstanding questions of how to classify and manage the gray whales, and how and whether to insert the current UME into the equation, other groups question the revived Makah hunta right granted the nation in 1855on the grounds of animal rights or other more philosophical concerns.

For Darling, though, the focus should remain on science, not politics. This is not about whether whaling should occur, he says, its about getting the biology correct so the impacts and consequences of a hunt and other activities that affect the population are clearly understood.

NMFS is currently preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement. If the recommendation from the judge is for the hunt to proceed, the decision will then go to the NMFS assistant administrator, followed by a 20-day public comment period.

If the hunt is given the go-ahead by the assistant administrator, regulations will be finalized and discussions held with the Makah on the particulars of the hunt.

Whichever way the decision goes, the battle is unlikely to be over, as litigation will probably follow, says Schubert.

The gray whales are currently on their northward migration, and as they make their way up the west coast of North America, they face the uncertainties of a changing ocean. Scientists are also watching to see whether the number of mystery deaths will increase.

This year, the whales will not have to contend with Makah harpoons and rifles off Neah Bay, but there is no guarantee that the hunt wont become another hazard they face during future migrations.

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Protected on One Side of the Border, Hunted on the Other - Hakai Magazine

Marielle Hall – Racing to Stay Alive as a Black Runner – runnersworld.com

I tie on my shoes every morning. Socks on first, toes pressed into the arch and then inched into the toe box. My heel finds itself at home in the back of my shoe, not through guidance but out of routine, and we are out the door for a run.

I am grateful that my feet dont fight against me the way my mind does. The last month has been a constant tug of war between numbing myself to the reality of another black person being killed for no discernible reason and letting it become all-consuming.

It feels like weve all become experts on crisis. Adjusting to our new reality, we are stretching our imaginations and getting creative with how we work, eat, live, and communicate during the age of the coronavirus.

But how does one begin to understand an epidemic of violence aimed at victims like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Sean Reed? Before them, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice? And the story that has hit closest to home, Ahmaud Arbery? When police found his body, he was lying in the middle of the street, which was exactly where he was confronted, shot, and killed three months ago by Gregory and Travis McMichael for jogging.

I watched the video of Ahmaud being hunted and gunned down in Georgia, and I immediately regretted visiting the footage.

In running I find there is purposeful pain. I have learned to stretch the limits of discomfort to unlock my potential. Weekly two-hour long runs, grueling tempo sessions on the track, and intense speedwork will teach your body how to make sense of deep physical discomfort. I know pain. But watching that video was one of the most horrific, violent, and painful things Ive ever seen.

His murder took place in February and is only being revisited through our justice system and on social platforms because of video evidence. The same is true of George Floyd. The dehumanization of black and brown bodies seems to matter only when we are forced to look at these types of graphic episodes.

The limited scope of where, and how black people can exist, can have deadly consequences. Its often that individuals dont recognize black people out of place from where they expect to see us. Ahmaud, who, just as many Americans are now doing in the face of COVID-19, turned to running as a way to move through uncertainty. His crime? Occupying space his killers felt was not his within which to exist.

The misinterpretation and characterization of black peoples experiences is something I know well. When I was in high school, a parent approached my coach to inquire whether my mom was white. She had seen my dad at meets to confirm he is black, but the woman was searching for something to explain my discipline and focus. In her world, blackness didnt equate to those characteristics, and it certainly didnt add up to running cross country.

People frequently ask me why I, a distance runner, went to college at the University of Texas. I had the pedigree in high school to go to a powerhouse distance program, but I chose Texas. What was my reasoning behind attending a sprint specialty school as a distance runner?

Cortney White

I was looking for an opportunity to be in a more diverse and more inclusive environment. I was at an age, and time in my life, where I was seeking growth, and you do that by having a variety of people and experiences you are exposed to.

I didnt want to deal any longer with microaggressions of well-meaning friends reminding me that classmates were only asking me out not because I was desirable, but because they were curious about what a black girl would be like or teachers looking to me to give the black perspective on Huckleberry Finn. When I went to visit Texas, I saw the possibility of having a black roommate, a black female head coach, and a community where it wouldnt be a struggle to maintain a sense of self and identity, because I saw myself reflected in my peers.

I felt angry with myself that day for pressing play on the video showing Ahmaud Arberys murder. I knew before I opened that browser that his killers didnt really see him on that February afternoon. Just like that parent who asked if my mom was white never really saw me during my race. Sustained, preconceived notions of people distort authentic narratives. The human experience is vast, and racism cuts our stories short.

I keep hearing COVID-19 referred to as the great equalizer. There is this idea that we are all experiencing tragedy together, that this vortex our lives have suddenly been encapsulated in has funneled out inequalities.

But when I see Ahmauds mother on TV grieving her son, or when I read the staggering data of how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected black communities because of underlying health issues as a manifestation of genetics or poverty, I come to realize there are parts of this country that will never open back up to some Americansbecause they were never open to them to begin with.

Here is my reality: Im going running tomorrow. Im not afraid to go running, but it feels inconceivable that I even have to think about it. Its even more frightening that there will be people who dont run tomorrow. Who will tell their kids not to run tomorrow, or whose families will sit at home wondering if their loved ones will return home.

Its time to acknowledge that the running community, which has long been heralded as one of the most accessible, most inclusive communities, does not exclude itself from the impact that issues of intolerance and bigotry create in this country.

Sean RayfordGetty Images

As a professional runner, I make a living being singularly focused. I spend months at a time sequestered in the mountains at altitude training camps in order to be performance-ready. These deaths like Ahmauds, however, shock the system.

They bring us back from our individual realities and demand a collective response. I find it difficult to look at these tragedies as isolated incidents. You cannot overlook the structural breakdowns in our society that allow for a young man to be murdered in broad daylight, individuals instigating police action on innocent people, harassment in parks, targeted social distance stops, and leadership that calls exhausted and enraged protesters thugs because they are trying to navigate and stand up against police brutality after years of justice being demanded and denied. Moving forward means truly lamenting.

But expressing grief is hard when you are navigating two realities. I often feel compelled to maintain a certain demeanor as to not alienate myself. If I talk about whats going on, I cant be too angry. I dont want to offend anyone, or be overbearing with my opinions. I am on high alert to be disappointed, and above all discouraged, that human lives are being minimized to hashtags. It is frightening to see all the names and deaths that have been recorded, and even more unsettling to know that there are many more that have gone on unreported.

Im sad, Im righteously angry, and to be honest, Im exhausted. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, and now George Floyd weigh heavily in my mind. Every day we are waking up to headlines that remind us of how fragile and undervalued black lives seem to be.

If we want our running community to be a force for change, and not a reflection of the biases that our nation endures, we have to be willing to consistently have a sustained conversation that will effect change and is capable of asking questions without immediate answers or solutions.

I hear people laughing about the inconveniences of having socially distant parties, and it feels forced to join in that laughter. All around me, I hear small talk about whether the lockdown was worthwhile, and guilt consumes me for taking part in those conversations.

I hear this chatter and all I can really think about is how sad it is that in Chicago, black people are 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths but make up only 30 percent of the population.

These patterns are appearing all over the U.S., yet this tragedy is often mocked or said to be blown out of proportion because of our refusal to really see and acknowledge the people it affects most.

Perceiving my body as a target for violence or fearing for my life during exercise may not be my exact experience. I do know, however, what its like to be viewed, but not really seen. To view Ahmaud was to see him as a criminal running away from something, because thats what black bodies do. To see him is to know that among many things, he was a son, a student, an athlete, and a friend.

His name is Ahmaud Arbery, his murder was no mistake, and he should be alive today. His execution could send a message that black Americans cant exercise, even when that exact action could help combat structural inequalities black Americans endureliving in food deserts and parts of the country with poor air quality, or lacking health insurance.

Ahmauds story is not a singular event. If we want our running community to be a force for change, and not a reflection of the biases that our nation endures, we have to be willing to consistently have a sustained conversation that will effect change and is capable of asking questions without immediate answers or solutions.

I dont know how you unlearn the type of hate that threatens black life. I do know that the work needs to happen everywhere, not just in individual communities in Georgia, Minneapolis, New York, or Louisville.

The ripple effects of racism that lead to the violence we are witnessing are likely to be appearing in our schools, workplaces, and communities. Who is in our running groups? Who do we follow on Instagram? What books are we reading, shows are we watching, or podcasts are we listening to? Do they feature stories with people of color? I believe challenging ourselves to have relationships and interactions that are diverse, transparent, and open to authentic dialogue can effect meaningful change.

Fighting racial injustice in America is an endurance sport. It is going to take time, and sustained focus, to galvanize our communities. Being tired is not enough. The race can be won, but it requires dutiful action from all of us.

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Marielle Hall - Racing to Stay Alive as a Black Runner - runnersworld.com

Skeletal remains of ‘Lady in the Well’ reveal long-distance migrations began 4000 years ago – Brinkwire

The skeleton of a Central Asian women found at the bottom of a well after a violent death in an ancient city in Turkey is helping scientists understand population movements during a crucial juncture in human history.

Dubbed the Lady in the Well, her bones are found among 110 skeletal remains of people found at different site who lived in a region of blossoming civilization running from Turkey through Iran between 7,500 and 3,000 years ago.

After analyzing genome-wide data of the remains, the team discovered that populationsacross Anatolia, which is modern-day Turkey, and the Southern Caucasus, which roughly corresponds to modern Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, began to genetically mix some 8,500 years ago, resulting in a distinct admixture that gradually spread across the entire region.

However, the Lady in the Well showed evidence of long-distance migrations on an individual level during the late Bronze Age about 4,000 years ago, as either she or her ancestors traveled from Central Asia to the Mediterranean Coast.

The study was conducted by a team of international scientists in Europe, Asia and North America, led by the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

The team analyzed the skeletal remains of 110 people unearthed in archaeological sites in in Anatolia, Northern Levant, and the Southern Caucasus, which revealed two influential genetic events.

Populations in Anatolia and the Southern Caucasus began to genetically mix some 8,5000 years ago.

This event led the introduction of new genetic lineages into the population that slowly began to spread across the entire nation.

This gradual change, which experts call cline in genetics, was observed a millennia laterin Anatolian populations that spanned from Central-North to Eastern Anatolia.

Rather than indicating stationary populations, as apparent genetic continuity often does, the authors argue the spread of genetic information from North and Central Anatolia to the Southern, the researches shared in a press release.2

The team suggests that the Caucasus mountains, which stretch from the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and Zagros mountains,a long range in Iran, Iraq and southeastern Turkey, indicated ongoing human mobility and development of a regional genetic melting pot in Anatolia.

Johannes Krause, co-director at Max Planck and senior author of the study, said: This far-reaching vortex of homogenization shows that ancient people within Western Asia biologically mix before their increasing connectedness and emerging sociocultural developments became visible in the archaeological record.

In contrast to the gradual changes taking place in Anatolia, the Northern Levant experienced an introduction of new populations.

Eirini Skourtanioti, lead author of the study, said: We found that the genetic makeup of Bronze Age populations from the ancient cities of Alalakh and Ebla in todays southern Turkey and northern Syria differed from preceding populations from the same area.

We detected subtle genetic changes that point to influences from external groups.

Along with the long-term transitions of entire populations, the team also uncovered proof of long-distance movements of individuals.

While investigating theAlalakh site in southern Turkey, the team found the lady in the well, whose genetic makeup is similar toBronze Age populations in Central Asia.

Her DNA showed she came from somewhere in Central Asia, some 2,000 miles away from where she was laid to rest in a watery grave.

The analysis also suggested that she was 40 to 45 years old when she died, which was probably between1625 BC and 1511 BC.

Researchers know she experienced a violent death due to the multiple injuries found on her skeleton.

Philipp Stockhammer, co-director of MHAAM and another senior author of the study, said: I was fascinated by our results for the lady in the well.

She provides a unique insight into individual female mobility over large distances. We know from literary sources that women traveled in this time throughout Western Asia very often as marriage partners.

However, the story of this woman of Central Asian origin will remain an enigma.

The lady in the well has raised multiple questions that scientists know can not be uncovered using analytical tools.

They wonder how this woman move from her home in Central Asia to Northern Levant?

Was she exiled from her home?

Was her death an accident or was the woman murdered?

Although there is much mystery that surrounds the lady in the well, researchers noted that she proves ancient humans traveled long distances in the pastand points to the existence of migrant communities in a globalized ancient world.

Ludwig Maximilian University Munich archaeologist and co-author of the study Philipp Stockhammer, said: How and why a woman from Central Asia or both of her parents came to Alalakh is unclear, said Trader? Slaves? Marriage?

What we can say is that genetically this woman is absolutely foreign, so that she is not the result of an intercultural marriage, he added.

Therefore, a single woman or a small family came this long distance.

The woman is killed. Why? Rape? Hate against foreigners? Robbery? And then her body was disposed in the well.

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Skeletal remains of 'Lady in the Well' reveal long-distance migrations began 4000 years ago - Brinkwire

Study Suggests That Genetics Could Be Why Some Women Gain …

A new study has suggested that genetics could be the reason as to why some women gain weight while they're on birth control.

Many women take birth controlregularlyin order to regulate their menstrual cycle and prevent pregnancy. But like with any medication, it comes with its fair share of side effects. Some of them can be a mere nuisance whereas others can be serious or even life-threatening.

One side effect that leans towards the former is weight gain. While it can happen, it doesn't happen to every woman who goes on birth control. That can be frustrating if this side effect has happened to you. But now,a new study has revealed that genetics could determine why some women gain weight while using birth control.

The study in question was carried out by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. They recruited 276 women to see if they gained weight while having an etonogestrel contraceptive implant inserted in their arm. Since it contains etonogestrel, it inhibits ovulation. Moreover, it's arguably the most effective method of birth control.

Related: The Strangest Myths About Birth Control Debunked

The study found that 73.9 percent of participants gained weight with theetonogestrel contraceptive implant. When they looked at just how much weight they gained, the median was 3.2 kilograms, which is just over seven pounds. That median was determined over a time span of 27 months.

After that, researchers looked into whether or not genetics played a role in why some participants gained weight, and others didn't. That study found genetic variants in estrogen receptor 1 (ESR1) were associated with weight gain. Women with two copies of ESR1 were found to have gained an average of 14.1 kilograms (over 31 pounds) while using the aforementionedcontraceptive implant.

There are currently no links found between ESR1 and obesity. However, past research had found links between ESR1 and how it affects other medications. Also, it's not yet known if ESR1 is only linked to weight gain to other forms of birth control outside the contraceptive implant used in the study. More studies will need to be conducted in order to determine this. That being said, this is a great start looking into this particular matter.

"For years, women have said that birth control causes them to gain weight but many doctors failed to take them seriously.Now we have looked at the genetics and found that the way genes interact with some hormones in birth control could help explain why some women gain more weight than others," explained Aaron Lazorwitz, Md., the study's lead author.

Next: Hailey Bieber Admits That Starting Birth Control Lead To Acne Breakouts

Source:TheJakarataPost

How To Effectively Quit Smoking While Trying To Conceive

Elizabeth Sarah Larkin is a full-time freelancer who specializes in writing, social media, and public relations. She has published articles for many online publications, including Babygaga and Moms.com. She graduated from Conestoga College with a Bachelor of Public Relations (Honours), where she learned and honed her skills. Her interests include music, video games and working out. You can follow her on Twitter (@ElizabethSL95) or Instagram (@elizabethsarahl); or you can contact her at elizabeth@elizabethsarahlarkin.ca

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Study Suggests That Genetics Could Be Why Some Women Gain ...

African-American, white women share genetic mutations …

May 19 (UPI) -- African-American and white women share several genetic mutations that increase risk for breast cancer, according to a study published Tuesday by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers at Boston University and the Mayo Clinic found that mutations of the BRCA1, BRCA2 and PALB2 genes, which are known to raise breast cancer risk in white women, including those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, are also found in African-American women with the disease.

The genetic mutations have been associated with a more than seven-fold higher risk of breast cancer, the researchers noted.

"We also found that mutations in PALB2, RAD51C and RAD51D confer increased risks of estrogen receptor negative breast cancer in the African-American population," study co-author Fergus Couch, the Zbigniew and Anna M. Scheller Professor of Medical Research at the Mayo Clinic, said in a statement.

About one out of every eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetimes, according to BreastCancer.org. African-American women tend to be diagnosed at a younger age and are more likely to die from the disease.

However, rates of breast cancer genetic testing are substantially lower in African-American women than in white women, the authors of the JNCI study said. Differences in health recommendations given to African-American women have been identified as one of the drivers of this disparity, they added.

For the study, Couch and his colleagues sequenced germline DNA from 5,054 African-American women with breast cancer and 4,993 age-matched African-American women without cancer, looking for mutations in 23 genes believed to predispose women to the disease. The researchers then estimated the risk of developing breast cancer associated with having a mutation in any of the genes.

They found that more than 7 percent of women with breast cancer, regardless of race, had a mutation in one of the genes, as compared with 2 percent of the controls. Among women with breast cancers that lacked estrogen receptors -- or had estrogen receptor negative breast cancer -- more than 10 percent had a mutation in one of these genes.

In comparison, 5 percent of women with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer had a mutation in the cancer-related genes.

In addition to common mutations of the BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, RAD51C and RAD51D, the authors identified four other genetic mutations associated with a more moderate increase in risk for breast cancer among the women in the study. Previous studies of women of African ancestry were too small to identify genetic mutations other than those affecting BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Based on these findings, testing for breast cancer predisposition genes can prevent breast cancer deaths -- both in women who have never had breast cancer and in women with breast cancer -- according to the researchers.

"The multi-gene panels that are currently available to test women diagnosed with breast cancer or women at high risk due to their family history will be useful for African American women," said co-author Julie Palmer, director of Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center.

"Depending on results of the testing and an individual's own weighing of pros and cons, a woman with a mutation in any of these genes may choose more aggressive screening for cancer, and women with mutations in the high risk BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes may choose removal of her breasts and/or ovaries as a way to prevent initial breast cancer or recurrence," she added.

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African-American, white women share genetic mutations ...

Multi trait genetic evaluation: No longer just for purebred and seedstock operations – Fence Post

Jason Osterstock, DMV, PhD, vice president of Zoetis and the global head for the genetics portion of the business, said ensuring each animal U.S. agriculture grows must reach its full genetic potential in order to sustainably and responsibly feed a hungry world.

It is by applying genetics and data to commercial operations, he said, so more high-quality beef can be produced.

To this end, Zoetis Genetics has released INHERIT Select, a genetic test borne of a combination of genomic technologies and advancements. The multi-breed genomic test provides predictions for commercial females and, in turn, those predictions provide genetic insights to improved replacement selection and improved breeding decisions.

Dr. Kent Andersen, Zoetis director of global beef genetics, is active on his familys Nebraska cow calf operation though he and his family live in Colorado. Andersen said replacement costs to raise a heifer to the day she has her first calf are second only to feed costs on most operations. Through identification of heifers that express greater lifetime efficiency of production, he said the herd can be frontloaded efficiently.

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Theres things behind the scenes that might be economically relevant that I might be overlooking, he said. Hence, Im likely selling some I should have otherwise kept and vice versa, keeping some I should have otherwise culled.

Andersen said choosing based on which female will be the most productive over her lifetime includes optimum mature cow size and milk production level, teat and udder quality, growth relative to sensible birth weight and, post weaning, which females will produce progeny that will convert most efficiently and produce carcasses that bring the largest premiums. While he said visual appraisal and good cowboy common sense ought not be abandoned, INHERIT can offer a look into those traits that are economically relevant.

The test, which requires an Allflex tissue sampling unit, or an ear punch, is a multibreed genetic evaluation that is designed specifically for commercial cow calf producers running a crossbreeding program. The samples should be collected on any commercial female that meet the visual criteria to be considered as a replacement. It is not, Andersen said, a way to enable commercial producers to breed and keep purebred bulls, and only data on females will be reported. INHERIT Connect, a companion product, enables bull batteries to be tested to allow for parentage determination of the daughters.

Previously, Andersen said, only purebred seedstock producers have had access to genetic evaluation. This test provides predictions for 16 traits, and while there is a tremendous amount of information available, producers are provided Zoetis Indexes to summarize the complex data into a few summaries. The Zoetis Cow Calf Index is designed for producers who sell their calves at weaning, the Zoetis Feedlot Carcass Index ranks animals based on combined genetic merit post-weaning including gain, dry matter intake, carcass weight and grade, and the Zoetis Total Return Index is an economic index that ranks animals for genetic merit across all evaluated traits.

With that one number you can access the ranking of animals from the expected net return perspective for all the evaluated traits, he said.

Genomic approximation of breed composition is also available by taking the marker information and returning a percentage of Angus or Red Angus, British (South Devon and Hereford), or Continental (Simmental, Gelbvieh, Limousin and Charolais) breeds. Other breeds that would show as unknown breed composition include Indicus, dairy and Wagyu. As far as beef on dairy calves, an Angus/Holstein cross calf could certainly be tested for authentication of breed composition but if they are over 25 percent unknown breed, the efficacy of the predictions would be compromised. In the future, Andersen said he looks toward growth and carcass information being added for beef on dairy crosses.

The bottom line, he said, is the tool can identify the strengths and weaknesses of a cowherd to improve bull selection in the future based on where emphasis ought to be placed.

Its good then for a lifetime of mating decisions, particularly for cow calf customers using synchronization and AI on their heifers and maybe even in their cows, he said. We know most of them turn out multiple sires and multiple breeding pastures. It enables more strategic thinking to get bulls matched with females to accentuate and complement the strengths but then to correct any weaknesses.

Marketing is another area that can benefit from the tool. Producers who sell replacement baldie females can authenticate the merit of the animals at time of sale and, he said, although the test is for females, it would provide information about the steer mates, offering ammunition to use in the negotiation of selling cattle.

Results are available in a spreadsheet and also in an online tool called Search Point, an online cow calf management tool that comes with the purchase of the tests. Tests are run weekly, so results are updated weekly as additional information is added from the companys seedstock partners to expand ranking and benchmarking. Additional features may also be added, including a PAP EPD for high altitude cattle.

Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at rgabel@thefencepost.com or (970) 768-0024.

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Multi trait genetic evaluation: No longer just for purebred and seedstock operations - Fence Post

Dairy farm exploits genomic testing to become more productive – FarmingUK

A Pembrokeshire dairy farm is screening the genomics of its heifer calves to select the best replacements for the milking herd.

Rearing replacements is one of the biggest costs on a dairy farm - rearing a calf from birth to calving is estimated to be around 1,800.

The Hannah family believes that testing their heifers for genomic traits is where big gains can be made in their spring calving herd.

They farm at Mountjoy, near Haverfordwest, where they milk a herd of 370 mainly New Zealand Friesian dairy cows and rear 200 replacement heifers.

The farm has embarked on a project to improve the lifetime productivity of cows by selecting efficient genetics for the herd.

Working with the Welsh government's Farming Connect scheme, the business aims to rear only the most productive heifers, to prevent unnecessary costs.

The less productive animals can be sold, removing the unnecessary cost of rearing and, in turn, improving the genetics and performance of the dairy herd.

Genomic testing could help us to select the best herd replacements to match the requirements of our system," said farmer William Hannah.

We feel there are real gains to be made from this, by eliminating poor genetics so that only the very best animals are retained within the herd."

Genomic testing could help select the best herd replacements to match the requirements of the farm's system, said farmer William Hannah

Industry figures show that 14.5% of female youngstock fail to reach their first calving, whilst 33% dont make it to their second lactation.

Dairy cows dont start paying back through milk sales until after the second lactation, by which time a vast amount of money and effort have been invested.

Simon Pitt, dairy technical officer with Farming Connect, who is overseeing the project at Mountjoy, said genomic estimated breeding values can be calculated at birth.

As it has a high accuracy, a strategy that utilises these advantages can be used to determine which female calves will be the most cost effective and the most productive.

Compared to traditional herd genetics, which is 18-25% accurate, genomic testing is 50-60% accurate (SCI-Spring Calving Index), he explained.

Genomic selection offers many advantages with regards to improving the rate of genetic gain in dairy cattle breeding programs.

"One benefit of interest to this project is that genetic testing can predict a greater accuracy of predicted genetic merit for young animals," said Mr Pitt.

Health benefits are also flagged up through testing; as Mountjoy sits in a high-risk TB area, among the traits of interest are TB Advantage and calf survival index.

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Dairy farm exploits genomic testing to become more productive - FarmingUK

How to live to 100 – Business Times

FROM 1960 till 2020, there has been a 28-fold increase in the number of centenarians. The path to longevity is strewn with false promises of expensive elixirs, exotic supplements, and stem cell rejuvenation. Human longevity is a complex interplay between the genes, the environment and lifestyle.

Genes and longevity

The study of human longevity genes is a developing science. Scientists estimate that between 15 and 30 per cent of the variation in human life span is determined by genes, but it is not clearly understood which genes are relevant, and how they contribute to longevity. In 2015, Ancestry, a genealogy and genetics company, partnered Calico, a Google spinoff, to study data from more than 54 million families and their family trees representing six billion ancestors, and were able to tease out a set of pedigrees that included over 400 million people. These individuals were connected to one another by either a parent-child or a spouse-spouse relationship.

In 2018, they published their results in Genetics, a journal of the Genetics Society of America. The study found that the lifespan of spouses were more similar and better correlated than in siblings of opposite gender. The study concluded that life span heritability is likely 7 per cent or less, and hence the contribution of genes to longevity is even lower.

Although genes seem to have only a small influence on lifespan, they appear to play a larger role in centenarians. Hence, there are a few genetic factors that do give you a headstart in the journey to longevity.

Being a first-degree relative of a centenarian makes it more likely for you to remain healthy longer and to live to an older age than your peers. First-degree relatives are less likely at age 70 years to have the age-related diseases that are common among older adults.

Women generally live longer than men , and the number of female centenarians is more than fourfold higher than that of male centenarians. It is thought that this is due to a combination of social and biological factors. Studies on mammals and Korean eunuchs has shown that the removal of testosterone at a young age was correlated with an increase in lifespan.

Genetic studies show that centenarians have a lower genetic risk of having heart disease, stroke , high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Alzheimer's disease and decreased bone mineral density. A study on Chinese centenarians published in 2013 showed that 55 per cent have normal systolic blood pressure, 82 per cent had normal diastolic blood pressure and less than 20 per cent were on long term medication. Hence, centenarians appear to have genes that reduce that risk of age-related chronic illnesses.

Biological clock

Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. One of the major mechanisms in which epigenetics manifest itself is by the process of DNA methylation, which involves the chemical modification of the DNA, thereby modifying the gene function and expression.

Through this process, certain genes can be silenced or activated and potentially impact age-related diseases such as cancer, osteoarthritis, and neurodegeneration. The biological or epigenetic clock in centenarians show a decrease in DNA methylation age, indicating that they are biologically younger than their chronological age. There is also data to suggest that although circadian rhythms deteriorate during ageing, they seem to be well preserved in centenarians, including preserved sleep quality.

Environment and longevity

Environmental factors have a large impact on longevity. Better living environment, clean food, clean water, good sanitation, reduction of infectious diseases, and access to better healthcare have resulted in significant improvement in human longevity.

Using Italy as an example of the impact of a better living environment, the average life expectancy went up from 29 years in 1861 to 84 years in 2020. The number of centenarians in Italy increased from 165 in 1951 to more than 15,000 in 2011, and the incidence of deaths occurring in those less than 60 years of age, decreased from 74 per cent in 1872 to less than 10 per cent in 2011 .

The continuous increase in lifespan in recent decades is mainly due to the advances in medical science. It is estimated that medical advances have allowed an increase in lifespan of five years in the last two decades and additional two years in the last decade.

When comparing two countries at different stages of development in 1950, the average life expectancy increase of 11 years from 68 years in 1950 to 79 years in 2020 in the USA, which was more developed in 1950, was much less remarkable than the increase of 3114 years in average life expectancy from 43 years in 1950 to 77 years in 2020 in China, which was less developed in 1950. The significant improvement in the living environment in China has contributed to the narrowing in the average life expectancy between those living in the US and China.

Lifestyle and longevity

In addition to environmental factors, lifestyle factors have an important impact on longevity. A study of more than 300,000 individuals over 7.5 years showed that individuals with social relationships have more than 50 per cent greater probability of survival compared with those with few and poor social interactions.

A study on centenarians in Utah in the US between 2008 and 2015 suggested that sleep, life satisfaction and social attachment were significant predictors of days lived. There is an extricable linkage between lifestyle and socioeconomic status. The term socioeconomic status as used in longevity studies encompass all the factors that can impact longevity including wealth, geography, education, occupation, ethnicity, cultural environment, neighbourhood environment, quality of healthcare and quality of diet. It is well established that the socioeconomic status of an individual will have a major impact on health and longevity.

A study on more than 120, 000 individuals by researchers from Harvard, published in the Circulation journal in April 2018, identified five low-risk lifestyle factors for increased life expectancy. They were: no smoking, non obese ( body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2), exercise (at least 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, including brisk walking), low-risk alcohol consumption (5 to 15 gm/day for women and 5 to 30 gm/day for men), and a high score for healthy diet.

In this study, the projected life expectancy at age 50 years was on average 14.0 years longer among female Americans with five low-risk factors compared with those with zero low-risk factors; for men, the difference was 12.2 years.

These findings are consistent with a study on Chinese centenarians in which less than 20 per cent were smokers and less than 40 per cent drank alcohol. Hence, in general, most centenarians do not smoke, do not drink alcohol or are low-risk alcohol drinkers, are sociable, friendly, cope well with stress, are satisfied with life, have healthy diets and sleep well.

In summary, the main drivers of longevity in the first eight decades of life are the socioeconomic environment and lifestyle choices. Beyond the eighties, the inheritance of genes that defer age-related chronic diseases and a younger biological clock will help to propel these individuals beyond a hundred years.

This series is produced on alternate Saturdays in collaboration with Singapore Medical Specialists Centre

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How to live to 100 - Business Times

Why do opposites attract, and can we change our political leanings as we grow older? Neuroscience has the answers – The Canberra Times

life-style, books,

We all know at least one couple who just make no sense, a perplexing pairing that irks and boggles us. One of them might be vivacious, gregarious, classically attractive and yet the other is a little freeze ray of misery and seems to despise socialising. So why, oh why, are they together? Neuroscience, according to Dr Hannah Critchlow, may have the answer to this eternal question, and plenty more - why we get more opinionated and closed minded as we age, how our political leanings are formed, why some couples don't even seem to like each other much. Critchlow, a British researcher, writer and broadcaster who has been described as "the female Brian Cox", lays out in her brain-bending book - The Science of Fate - just some of the recent research into determinism and the theory that we don't so much make our own decisions as inherit them. The fast-moving field of modern neuroscience will, she believes, "one day be considered as profound as Darwin's Theory of Evolution". So, what can the brain tell us about the laws of opposite attraction? Well, there's a lot more to love than what meets our eyes, and it may well involve senses we didn't know we were even using. "Scientists used to believe we only had five senses, but we're finding more and more we didn't know we had, through experiments, all the time," explains Critchlow, who found herself "happily stuck" in Noosa by the coronavirus lockdown while on an Australian book tour. One fascinating trial, carried out at the Zoological Institute at Bern University and later replicated in the US, showed that women may actually be turning the smell of potential male partners into complex information. Researchers asked men to wear the same T-shirt for a few days without washing, deodorising or eating smelly foods. A group of women were then given the appetising task of sniffing the shirts and rating them for attractiveness. The results clearly showed that women would choose the odour of men whose immune systems were highly differentiated from their own. Finding a mate with different gene variations from your own produces the strongest possible offspring; a child with the greatest resistance to a wide range of infections, and thus the best chance of survival. Just how women were able to detect their biological ideal man using optimum genetics via the smell of a stinky armpit is "quite mysterious", as Critchlow understates it. "But we are, at some level, just animals, driven by the single desire to interact in a way that will pass on our genetic material," she says. "Love, it seems, is largely a by-product of the brain circuitry that prioritises reproduction and the survival of the species." Interestingly, the sniff test does not work with men, but boys are not without their own mysteries. A study of thousands of lap dances in the US found that strippers would make almost twice as much in tips on the few days when they were at the most fertile point of their menstrual cycle. Somehow, the men just found them more attractive on those days, without having any idea why. "When it comes to sex, it seems that a choice that may feel highly personal and deeply intimate is, to a large extent, the behavioural result of our brains' coding to seek maximum opportunities for our genes to be passed on," Critchlow says. Like many of her colleagues, she has come to accept that many of the choices we make are hugely influenced by the genes given to us by our parents, and our grandparents' parents. Even the foods we like are choices driven by what our ancestors were eating, and enjoying. "Basically, we are designed to eat food when we can get it, because there might not be any around tomorrow, but now we live in a world where many of us can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, which obviously leads to obesity," she says. "Genetic mutations to encourage eating less weren't passed on because food was scarce and there was no advantage in that. Mutations that made us eat as much as possible in case there was no more are a problem now that we live in abundance. "Evolution has not caught up with Uber Eats." The reassuring sense we have that we are making our own choices is "just our brains messing with us", in much the same way that we like to perceive the sun as "rising" and "setting", when we know, scientifically, that it is just the world turning. "There is always scope for changing your mind, this is the basis for consciousness, but it's not as big as we perceive it - that scope to change is limited based on the genetics we've been given," Critchlow says. "Remember that our brains use 20 per cent of our daily energy quota to fuel this enormous circuit board, and to save energy your brain filters a lot of information, and makes assumptions, based on past experience. "Judging people in the first few minutes that we meet them is all about saving energy. "With friendship groups, or clans, people look for individuals with a similar outlook and who have similar genetics as well (unlike the way they look for sexual partners). "You are drawn to people, friends, who are genetically similar to you, so you are more likely to see the world in the same way and have the same biases. "You're saving energy because you don't have to explain things." Speaking of biases, just think how reassuring it would be to discover that people who hold political views that strike you as unjustifiable were just born that way. As Critchlow puts it, understanding that people believe in certain things, like religion or politics, because their brains were built that way, "might have massive consequences for reducing conflict at every level - as we discover more about the neurobiology of belief formation and prejudice, we might be able to boost our openness to new ideas". She quotes the work of Jonas Kaplan, Professor of Psychology at USC's Brain and Creativity Institute, who has found that activity in the amygdala, and the size of people's anterior cingulate cortex, can be used to predict whether they are liberal or conservative. His researchers were able to use brain scans to predict the political leanings of American test subjects - whether they voted Republican or Democrat - "with high sensitivity and accuracy". "It's quite incredible and it does help me to understand people a little bit more, because those who are more liberal have a less-sensitive amygdala are more able to think about collaborations and partnerships for the future, rather than being scared in the moment," Critchlow says. "Conservative types have a more reactive amygdala, and that gives them a heightened reactivity to fear. They assess risks and react conservatively. "But the fact is, both types of people are really important for our survival as a species. If we were all one type it would be a disaster, we wouldn't have moved forward as a species." This, of course, raises the interesting quote most often wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill: "if you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart , if you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." Why would people's leanings change as they age? "There's been some research at Oxford into that, following people from the 1960s to see whether they got more conservative as they got older, and it showed a 20-point increase in conservatism by the time they were 80 years old," Critchlow says. "As you get older, you rely on more tried and tested routes within your mind, there is slightly less potential for plasticity, so you might become more risk averse. "You also start to weigh how you process information differently; you place less weight on signals from the outside world, and more weight on the internal capacity of your mind - the information you have stored there. "In a way, older people are not really listening to new ideas, because they take too much energy. They're relying on their own, refined information. Or what we think of as wisdom." Kaplan, from USC, provides the quote in The Science of Fate that most neatly sums up the way most neuroscientists now see the world, which sounds radical to most people but is, Critchlow says, very much the accepted wisdom in her academic milieu. "I don't believe in free will. The universe is deterministic,'' Kaplan says. "We aren't the authors of our own actions, because everything is caused by something prior." He is aware, however, that unlike scientists, many people would find this idea hard to live with, and adds: "Decisions are partially controlled by our emotional state, and most people find it depressing to believe that they have little or no free will, so there is a lot of value in believing in it." Critchlow says abandoning the idea of free will can actually be quite relaxing. She says she frets less about the way she parents her young son, because she's not sure there's much point worrying about it. "I tend to forget that most people don't think this way and I was chatting with my agent recently and she said 'So hang on, you really think we're really just like machines?' And I was like, 'oh yeah, that's what all of the people in my little bubble of neuroscientists think'," she says. "But I think it's an idea that will become more accepted, and it's starting to happen. "Don't forget that Darwin's theories were pretty radical there for a while."

https://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/9gmjQxX8MpSQh6J68NHMnY/97fc079b-a059-4a2f-a1e9-c7ff49cbd985.jpg/r74_0_5021_2795_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg

We all know at least one couple who just make no sense, a perplexing pairing that irks and boggles us. One of them might be vivacious, gregarious, classically attractive and yet the other is a little freeze ray of misery and seems to despise socialising. So why, oh why, are they together?

Neuroscience, according to Dr Hannah Critchlow, may have the answer to this eternal question, and plenty more - why we get more opinionated and closed minded as we age, how our political leanings are formed, why some couples don't even seem to like each other much.

Critchlow, a British researcher, writer and broadcaster who has been described as "the female Brian Cox", lays out in her brain-bending book - The Science of Fate - just some of the recent research into determinism and the theory that we don't so much make our own decisions as inherit them. The fast-moving field of modern neuroscience will, she believes, "one day be considered as profound as Darwin's Theory of Evolution".

So, what can the brain tell us about the laws of opposite attraction? Well, there's a lot more to love than what meets our eyes, and it may well involve senses we didn't know we were even using.

"Scientists used to believe we only had five senses, but we're finding more and more we didn't know we had, through experiments, all the time," explains Critchlow, who found herself "happily stuck" in Noosa by the coronavirus lockdown while on an Australian book tour.

One fascinating trial, carried out at the Zoological Institute at Bern University and later replicated in the US, showed that women may actually be turning the smell of potential male partners into complex information.

Researchers asked men to wear the same T-shirt for a few days without washing, deodorising or eating smelly foods. A group of women were then given the appetising task of sniffing the shirts and rating them for attractiveness.

The results clearly showed that women would choose the odour of men whose immune systems were highly differentiated from their own. Finding a mate with different gene variations from your own produces the strongest possible offspring; a child with the greatest resistance to a wide range of infections, and thus the best chance of survival.

Dr Hannah Critchlow, author of The Science of Fate. Picture: Simon Weller

Just how women were able to detect their biological ideal man using optimum genetics via the smell of a stinky armpit is "quite mysterious", as Critchlow understates it.

"But we are, at some level, just animals, driven by the single desire to interact in a way that will pass on our genetic material," she says.

We are, at some level, just animals, driven by the single desire to interact in a way that will pass on our genetic material.

"Love, it seems, is largely a by-product of the brain circuitry that prioritises reproduction and the survival of the species."

Interestingly, the sniff test does not work with men, but boys are not without their own mysteries. A study of thousands of lap dances in the US found that strippers would make almost twice as much in tips on the few days when they were at the most fertile point of their menstrual cycle. Somehow, the men just found them more attractive on those days, without having any idea why.

"When it comes to sex, it seems that a choice that may feel highly personal and deeply intimate is, to a large extent, the behavioural result of our brains' coding to seek maximum opportunities for our genes to be passed on," Critchlow says.

Like many of her colleagues, she has come to accept that many of the choices we make are hugely influenced by the genes given to us by our parents, and our grandparents' parents. Even the foods we like are choices driven by what our ancestors were eating, and enjoying.

"Basically, we are designed to eat food when we can get it, because there might not be any around tomorrow, but now we live in a world where many of us can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, which obviously leads to obesity," she says.

"Genetic mutations to encourage eating less weren't passed on because food was scarce and there was no advantage in that. Mutations that made us eat as much as possible in case there was no more are a problem now that we live in abundance.

"Evolution has not caught up with Uber Eats."

The reassuring sense we have that we are making our own choices is "just our brains messing with us", in much the same way that we like to perceive the sun as "rising" and "setting", when we know, scientifically, that it is just the world turning.

"There is always scope for changing your mind, this is the basis for consciousness, but it's not as big as we perceive it - that scope to change is limited based on the genetics we've been given," Critchlow says.

"Remember that our brains use 20 per cent of our daily energy quota to fuel this enormous circuit board, and to save energy your brain filters a lot of information, and makes assumptions, based on past experience.

"Judging people in the first few minutes that we meet them is all about saving energy.

Abandoning the idea of free will, and leaving everything to fate, can actually be quite relaxing. Picture: Shutterstock

"With friendship groups, or clans, people look for individuals with a similar outlook and who have similar genetics as well (unlike the way they look for sexual partners).

"You are drawn to people, friends, who are genetically similar to you, so you are more likely to see the world in the same way and have the same biases.

"You're saving energy because you don't have to explain things."

Speaking of biases, just think how reassuring it would be to discover that people who hold political views that strike you as unjustifiable were just born that way.

As Critchlow puts it, understanding that people believe in certain things, like religion or politics, because their brains were built that way, "might have massive consequences for reducing conflict at every level - as we discover more about the neurobiology of belief formation and prejudice, we might be able to boost our openness to new ideas".

She quotes the work of Jonas Kaplan, Professor of Psychology at USC's Brain and Creativity Institute, who has found that activity in the amygdala, and the size of people's anterior cingulate cortex, can be used to predict whether they are liberal or conservative.

His researchers were able to use brain scans to predict the political leanings of American test subjects - whether they voted Republican or Democrat - "with high sensitivity and accuracy".

"It's quite incredible and it does help me to understand people a little bit more, because those who are more liberal have a less-sensitive amygdala are more able to think about collaborations and partnerships for the future, rather than being scared in the moment," Critchlow says.

"Conservative types have a more reactive amygdala, and that gives them a heightened reactivity to fear. They assess risks and react conservatively.

"But the fact is, both types of people are really important for our survival as a species. If we were all one type it would be a disaster, we wouldn't have moved forward as a species."

This, of course, raises the interesting quote most often wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill: "if you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart , if you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." Why would people's leanings change as they age?

"There's been some research at Oxford into that, following people from the 1960s to see whether they got more conservative as they got older, and it showed a 20-point increase in conservatism by the time they were 80 years old," Critchlow says.

"As you get older, you rely on more tried and tested routes within your mind, there is slightly less potential for plasticity, so you might become more risk averse.

"You also start to weigh how you process information differently; you place less weight on signals from the outside world, and more weight on the internal capacity of your mind - the information you have stored there.

"In a way, older people are not really listening to new ideas, because they take too much energy. They're relying on their own, refined information. Or what we think of as wisdom."

Kaplan, from USC, provides the quote in The Science of Fate that most neatly sums up the way most neuroscientists now see the world, which sounds radical to most people but is, Critchlow says, very much the accepted wisdom in her academic milieu.

"I don't believe in free will. The universe is deterministic,'' Kaplan says.

"We aren't the authors of our own actions, because everything is caused by something prior."

He is aware, however, that unlike scientists, many people would find this idea hard to live with, and adds: "Decisions are partially controlled by our emotional state, and most people find it depressing to believe that they have little or no free will, so there is a lot of value in believing in it."

Critchlow says abandoning the idea of free will can actually be quite relaxing. She says she frets less about the way she parents her young son, because she's not sure there's much point worrying about it.

"I tend to forget that most people don't think this way and I was chatting with my agent recently and she said 'So hang on, you really think we're really just like machines?' And I was like, 'oh yeah, that's what all of the people in my little bubble of neuroscientists think'," she says.

"But I think it's an idea that will become more accepted, and it's starting to happen.

"Don't forget that Darwin's theories were pretty radical there for a while."

Original post:
Why do opposites attract, and can we change our political leanings as we grow older? Neuroscience has the answers - The Canberra Times

Smithsonian’s National Zoo Seeks Help in Naming Four Cheetah Cubs – Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

The Smithsonians National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is asking the public to help name the litter of four cheetah cubs born April 8 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia. The births were streamed live on the Zoos new cheetah webcam, and virtual viewers have been watching them grow ever since. Keepers currently identify each cub by a small shave mark on their left shoulder (male), right hip (female), left hip (male) and base of the tail (male). Voters can select their favorite names from May 22 to May 26on the Zoos website.

The names were selected from a list submitted to SCBIs cheetah animal care team by staff from across the Zoo, SCBI and Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), the Zoos membership organization. There are three possible name choices for the female cub and five choices for the three male cubs. The names that receive the most votes will be bestowed on the cubs. Keepers will assign the winning names to the individual animals. The winning names will be announced May 27.

The name choices for the female cub are:

The name choices for the three male cubs are:

The cubs were born to first-time mom, 5-year-old Echo and sired by 4-year-old Scott. Staff have been closely monitoring Echo and her cubs via the webcam. Keepers approached the cubs for the first time April 14. Less than a week later, the cubs were sexed and weighed. The cubs had their first vet exam May 20. Follow #CheetahCubdates on the Zoos Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up-to-date on cheetah cub milestones.

The cheetah webcam is one of six live animal webcams hosted on the Zoos website. A downloadable animal webcam educational activity packet is available. As the cheetah cubs continue to grow, they will spend more time outside the den. If the cubs are not on the cam,the public can check out the photos and videos located on the cams page.

SCBI is part of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalitiona group of 10 cheetah breeding centers across the United States that aim to create and maintain a sustainable North American cheetah population under human care. These cubs are a significant addition to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan for Cheetahs, as each individual contributes to this program. Earlier this year, SCBI experts performed a successful in vitro fertilization resulting in two cubs.

Cheetahs live in small, isolated populations mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of their strongholds are in eastern and southern African parks. Due to human conflict, poaching and habitat- and prey-base loss, there are only an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild. TheInternational Union for Conservation of Natureconsiders cheetahsvulnerableto extinction.

As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, the Smithsonians National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is temporarily closed to the public. Animal keepers and veterinary staff remain working on site at the Zoo and SCBI to provide the usual highest quality care for the animals.Due to the public closure, a COVID-19 Emergency Fund has been created as the Zoo is no longer receiving important funds on which it relies.Additional information on the Zoos COVID-19 response is posted to theZoos website. During the closure, the Zoo is sharing animal updates from behind the scenes using the hashtag #NatZooZen onFacebook,InstagramandTwitter.

The Zoos legacy of conservation work extends beyond the public Zoo in Washington, D.C., to SCBI in Front Royal, Virginia. Scientists at SCBI study and breed more than 20 species, including some that were once extinct in the wild, such as black-footed ferrets and scimitar-horned oryx. Animals thrive in specialized barns and building complexes spread over more than 3,200 acres. The sprawling environment allows for unique studies that contribute to the survival of threatened, difficult-to-breed species with distinct needs, especially those requiring large areas, natural group sizes and minimal public disturbance.

SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Virginia, the Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of todays most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.

Read more here:
Smithsonian's National Zoo Seeks Help in Naming Four Cheetah Cubs - Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Coronavirus: BAME deaths urgently need to be understood, including any potential genetic component – The Conversation UK

The difference in COVID-19 death rates between white people and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the UK is shocking. One recent report found that, between the beginning of February and the end of April 2020, black people in England were 71% more likely than white people to die from COVID-19. And Asian people were 62% more likely.

This disparity has led to an inquiry by Public Health England and funding for urgent academic research into the issue. We expect many factors to be involved, including the disadvantages that BAME people face due to greater chances of poverty and health issues.

But its important that we examine whether there may also be a genetic component to the problem in order to fully understand whats going on. My colleagues and I are conducting research among frontline healthcare workers to try to see if there are any innate differences in the way different peoples immune systems respond to this specific virus, including genetic differences that may be associated with ethnicity.

Researchers have identified a greater chance of dying from COVID-19 among BAME people in several countries aside from the UK, including Norway and the US. There are many social reasons why ethnic minorities may generally be more vulnerable to disease, including a greater chance of malnutrition, more exposure to pollution due to where they live, or greater likelihood of working in less healthy environments.

Inequality and poverty also play a role in the fact that BAME people are more likely to suffer conditions that we know are linked to a greater chance of dying from COVID-19, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Initial data suggests that BAME healthcare workers are more likely to die from COVID-19 than their white colleagues. British Medical Association research has found that BAME doctors are twice as likely as white doctors to feel pressured into working with inadequate PPE when they are at risk of infection. And they are twice as likely not to feel confident enough to raise concerns about workplace safety.

However, all these established facts alone dont seem to explain why the risks of COVID-19 vary between different ethnic groups and are lowest among white people. This is particularly the case when we compare it with other forms of viral pneumonia that do not lead to such a difference.

The study that found BAME people in England were more likely to die from the disease accounted for differences in some underlying health conditions that are strongly linked to social issues, suggesting these werent the main factor. But the preliminary results from another study suggest ethnic minorities arent more likely to die once other factors linked to deprivation are taken into account.

To clarify this issue, its important to examine whether there may be some genetic component that predisposes ethnic minorities to a higher risk to COVID-19, while still recognising the critical role of other factors.

The way peoples immune systems work depends on genetic factors, not just environmental and social ones. There are effectively two parts to our immune systems. One is the part that produces antibodies, called the adaptive immune system. When our body has never seen a virus before, it can take several days for it to produce them, which is why some people get sick in the first place.

We also have an innate immune system that acts before our body has had time to make antibodies. This system is strong in children and young people, but not very good after the age of 65. This is likely to be one reason why older people are at higher risk of dying of COVID-19.

When a virus like the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 enters a cell, molecules called toll-like receptors, or TLRs, alert the immune system that something potentially harmful is present. Interestingly, many of the bodys TLRs that can detect viruses come from genetic instructions found in the X chromosome, for which men have only one copy and women two.

We know that women can have a more effective innate immune response to other viruses such as HIV than men, and that oestrogen, the female hormone, enhances this type of immune response. We also know that women are less likely to die from COVID-19 than men.

Just as there are variations in DNA that are responsible for the differences in response of immune cells between the sexes, there can also be variations between people of different ethnic backgrounds. For example, the amount and type of genes that immune cells produce when the TLR-virus pathway is stimulated, are very different between people of African and of European origin.

This is not surprising, because we know that human populations from different parts of the planet have had to adapt to different types of infections. Ethnic differences in the risk to other respiratory viral diseases have been linked to genetic variation, and these variants are different in BAME groups and white people in these same pathways. However, the role of ethnicity in genetic susceptibility to viral diseases is still controversial.

We want to see if it could be a factor in the higher rate of BAME deaths from COVID-19. To do this, we are taking blood from frontline healthcare workers of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, assessing DNA differences and measuring the various substances the samples contain. The results could indicate if differences in the innate immune systems of BAME groups result in higher risk of developing severe COVID-19.

If there is some genetic element to the different death rates from COVID-19 between ethnic groups, its important that we understand it to give us the best chance of fighting the disease. For example, if we do find that the way the innate immune system works plays a role, we can advise people on ways to improve that system, such as through what we eat.

But that wont change the fact that the generally worse health among BAME groups in western societies is strongly linked to socioeconomic factors that are known to play a very significant role in this pandemic.

Read more:
Coronavirus: BAME deaths urgently need to be understood, including any potential genetic component - The Conversation UK

Movies that got science right and ones that got it oh so wrong – Bend Bulletin

Good science fiction has always been based in truth. George Lucas borrowed from the history of World War II for the look and feel of the original Star Wars trilogy, even Mary Shellys Frankenstein, the first of the genre,* is steeped in allegory for the world she lived in.

But what about the accuracy of the science used in sci-fi? Some movies use a lot of suspension of disbelief, bad physics and downright poor research to propel their storyline forward.

While bad science in science fiction isnt necessarily bad to watch, here are some movies that get a lot right and some that really miss the mark.

These are not documentaries and should not be treated as such. They are Hollywoodized for the sake of audience attention spans and to make things more interesting.

(*Some cite Lady Margaret Cavendish as the spark for science fiction as a genre with her 1666 novel The Blazing World. Bottom line, the genre was pretty much invented by women, the gender most widely underrepresented throughout the genre, but thats another list.)

The Best

Keir Dullea in a scene from 2001: A Space Odyessy (1968).

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) What is this movie about? A lot of things, and apparently according to director/writer Stanley Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke, if you can figure it all out, they failed to do their jobs. Suffice it to say, the classic sci-fi movie is full of not only well-predicted events and ideas of the future (corporate sponsorship, commercial spaceflight) but it also did a remarkable job of staying as scientifically accurate as it could. Kubrick hired aerospace engineers to design devices in the spacecraft interiors instead of usual prop makers, and artists employed by NASA were hired to design spacesuits and capsules. The result was at first not well-received by audiences or critics but with time it found its place and cemented itself as one of the greatest and most accurate (scientifically speaking) films ever made. Rent it on Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube.

Jodie Foster stars in "Contact" (1997).

Contact (1997) While a lot of sci-fi nerds have a lot of issues with this one mostly due to the ending, which I personally enjoyed Contact has a lot of things going for it. First and foremost, it has a female main character! She is clearly the smartest person in the room, though the dudes around her arent as interested in listening to her. The story follows Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) and her work with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program and her discovery of a radio transmission coming from around the Vega system, which relies on a series of prime numbers to send information from beyond our solar system. The novel the film is based on took an unusual route to existence. Author and scientist Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan worked together to create a screenplay in 1979. When the original film stalled, Sagan turned it into a book, which was then made into the film after his death. The movie that was made follows Sagans original story well along with the science and protocols that exist in real life. Rent it on Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube.

Ethan Hawke in a scene from Gattaca (1997).

Gattaca (1997) The film starring Ethan Hawke, Jude Law and Uma Thurman is a staple in many science classrooms when discussing the subject of genetics. Following the idea that in the near future, parents can choose the genetic makeup of their children, making them more attractive, intelligent, faster, stronger, etc., it becomes more common for children to be conceived this way rather than the old-fashioned route. For the few who are conceived through traditional means, they are looked on as second-class citizens, struggling with diseases or other ailments that would never occur in humans whose genetics have been chosen for them. The movie sparks a great debate between science and nature, and prejudices based on DNA. Stream it on Crackle, Tubi or CBS All Access or rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu or YouTube.

A scene from "Finding Nemo" (2003).

Finding Nemo (2003) Yes, it may be surprising to see the heart-tugging animated movie about a fish is one of the more accurate films, but here it is. Ignoring the truth about real clownfishs ability to switch between using their male or female reproductive traits based on whether the dominant female in the community should die, the rest of the film depicts an unusually high accuracy when it comes to most marine biology and ecology. Fish do travel along the East Australian Current as described in the movie (though not as fast), and clownfish do live in sea anemones (at least the species depicted does), then there are the more subtle accuracies like the rows of sharks teeth, fish communications, even nods to poaching. The heartwarming story surrounds the incredible journey of clownfish Marlin and his search for his son Nemo, who has been scooped up by a diver and taken to Sydney. With the help of a forgetful blue tang fish named Dory, theyll go on the adventure of their lives to find Nemo. Stream it on Disney Plus or rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube.

Matt Damon stars in "The Martian" (2015).

The Martian (2015) The inciting incident of the film, a major storm that leaves scientist Mark Watney (played by the always steady Matt Damon) behind on Mars, isnt actually possible in real life, and there are a few liberties taken for the sake of drama and aesthetics. But a lot of films use of science is sound. Screenwriter and original novelist Andy Weir took great care to research the ins and outs of orbital mechanics, Martian conditions, spaceflight and botany. The film is a basic survival/rescue story that is well told and compelling throughout as NASA and the Chinese space program work together (what a concept!) to bring the lost astronaut home. Plus there are some great lines including Whatneys Im going to science the s--t outta this. Stream it on Hulu (with Live TV subscription) or rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu or YouTube.

The Worst

Ben Affleck and Michael Clarke Duncan in a scene from "Armageddon" (1998).

Armageddon (1998) If you split an asteroid or giant meteorite in two, you will just have two of them to hit the earth. They wont conveniently split and go around it. Its also not a great movie.

Dennis Quaid, left, and Dash Mihok in "The Day After Tomorrow" (2004)

The Day After Tomorrow (2004) Arguably one of the most inaccurate depiction of the laws of thermodynamics and just a bad movie in general, The Day After Tomorrow ignores so many facts for the sake of drama its hard to list them all here. One of the main points is that the great freeze and sudden glaciation of the planet comes from a discovery on the part of paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) that the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation current, which brings warm air from the equatorial tropics, has failed and this will cause another ice age. While the current is now known to be slowing down, and the climate of Western Europe will be drastically affected by it, its going to take around 400 years for that to happen. What follows in the film is even more egregious: Giant and impossible storms across the planet aid in triggering the ice age, ice sheets in Greenland melt suddenly and ocean levels rise at a laughable level. Then when the ice does form, the oceans dont then recede as normal physics dictates.

Sandra Bullock in a scene from Gravity (2013).

Gravity (2013) Between implausible events and just poor research, Gravity sinks into the worst category in terms of how it uses the science its trying to depict. For one, George Clooney is meant to be playing an incredibly adept astronaut, but the way he is portrayed as a braggart who showboats and takes a series of unnecessary risks while out on spacewalks. But the biggest problem comes with a spoiler and how space works. Youve been warned. George Clooney didnt have to die. Not even close to it. When he and Sandra Bullock are tethered, he decides to sacrifice himself and let go, floating off into the abyss. Well, thats not how space works. You cant just let go of something and expect to be flung off into oblivion without being pushed by something. Plus all that Sandra Bullock needed to do was give the rope a slight tug and good ol George would come sailing back up to her.

Sam Neill in a scene from Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park (1993) I will forever love this film no matter what. Its great and it holds up story-wise and effects-wise. Im not getting into its physical interpretations of some of the dinosaurs within it as it used the information they had available to them at the time. Heres the main thing the movie got wrong though: You really cant get the blood from a fossilized mosquito to give you the DNA patterns needed to replicate a dinosaur. The DNA would be destroyed after about 6 million years, and since the dinos they re-created lived something between 100-200 million years ago, it seems impossible to clone the creatures.

Scarlett Johansson in "Lucy" (2014).

Lucy (2013) The entire premise is based on the old saying that humans only use about 10 percent of their brain capacity and what would happen if someone could access 100% of that power. Well, its wrong from the get-go. Humans use 100% of their brain. Apparently, writer-director Luc Besson knew this and went for it anyway. That didnt make any difference the movie is still a stinker.

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Movies that got science right and ones that got it oh so wrong - Bend Bulletin

Insights into the Fertility Clinics & Infertility Services Industry in the US to 2025 – Featuring Allan Guttmacher Institute, California Cryobank…

Dublin, May 22, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The "Fertility Clinics & Infertility Services Industry (U.S.)" report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com's offering.

This 4th edition report examines the $6 billion infertility services/fertility clinics industry.

This loosely regulated baby business grew strongly from 2014 to 2019, boosted both by demand domestically and via medical tourism patients from Europe and China. However, due to the Coronavirus, the industry will be hit hard in 2020, as many clinics shut down for two months and foreign patients are not coming to the U.S. any longer.

ART (assisted reproductive technology) now produces more than 50,000 babies per year in the U.S. via 330,000 IVF procedures, and demand is growing from the ranks of 7+ million infertile women, many of which delayed childbearing due to careers. There are about 450 U.S. fertility clinics, 100+ sperm banks, an unknown number of egg donors, and 1,700 reproductive endocrinologists competing for the business, which is lucrative.In addition, the U.S. market for fertility drugs is worth about $749 million. Only two large chains, IntegraMed and Prelude Fertility exist, as most programs are run by small MD practices or are part of a hospital or University. The market is fragmented, served by mostly small regional clinics.

This 4th edition study examines the nature/evolution of the business, national receipts/growth from 1988 to 2019, 2020 forecast, 2025 forecast, infertile customer demographics, key industry trends, industry regulation, pricing, industry consolidation, insurance coverage, ethical issues, and more. Contains results of the latest (2015-2018) CDC ART survey national data, with IVF success rates and long-term trends, as well as European ART cycles and outlook. The report also examines the nature/size of the U.S. sperm banks, egg donors, and fertility drugs markets, and surrogacy programs.

Key Topics Covered:

1. Introduction

2. Report Scope & Methodology, Sources used

3. Executive Overview of Major Findings

4. Nature & Structure of the Industry

5. Patient Demographics

6. Industry Size and Growth

7. Sperm Banks

8. Egg Donor Market

9. The Fertility Drugs Market

10. Findings of 2016-2018 CDC ART Surveys on Assisted Reproductive Technology

11. Tables and analyses of 2016 report: National Summary

12. Text, analyses & discussion covering these topics: (long-term trend data)

13. List of recent fertility start-up companies.

14. Industry Reference Directory

15. List of adoption and fertility services industry trade groups, associations, surveys, consultants, articles, and other sources.

Companies Mentioned

For more information about this report visit https://www.researchandmarkets.com/r/y55htc

Research and Markets also offers Custom Research services providing focused, comprehensive and tailored research.

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Insights into the Fertility Clinics & Infertility Services Industry in the US to 2025 - Featuring Allan Guttmacher Institute, California Cryobank...

Nutrition and Hair Thinning – FemaleFirst.co.uk

22 May 2020

Hair thinning is when one experiences mild to moderate hair loss for an extended period of time. Your hair loses its volume and gives the appearance of thinner areas of hair on your head.

Hair thinning

This is a concern for most people and many companies such asManual, a UK company offer treatments to combat this.

A lot of factors contribute to hair loss. Medical conditions, genetics, and the aging process have been highlighted many times in the past. However, not many are aware that your diet can play a big part in it too.

In this article, well take a look at how the lack of (or excess) nutrients may be linked with hair thinning.

What is a Nutrient Deficiency?

Nutrient deficiency or malnutrition is when your body does not get enough vitamins or minerals needed to sustain itself. You may picture this happening in only the poverty-ridden places in the world, but dont be surprised that your traditional Western dietcan lack certain nutrients as well.

Now, lets take a look at the nutrients commonly linked to hair loss:

Iron

Iron deficiency is the most common type of nutrient deficiency. Foods rich in iron include beef, chicken liver, and sardines. Contrary to popular belief, vegans and vegetarians arent at a higher risk of iron deficiency if their diets are well-balanced with a reasonable portion of whole grains, legumes, and nuts.

Women of reproductive age are more susceptible to iron deficiency due to excessive blood loss during their menstrual cycles.

Iron is crucial in the process of cell growth. They are a component of an enzyme called ribonucleotide reductase. When iron levels are low, hair follicles may not be able to grow effectively, and the amount of hair you naturally shed every day outpaces the rate in which your hair grows.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A can be found naturally in many of our food sources such as leafy vegetables, eggs, and fish. This vitamin is important in cell growth. Generally speaking, if you follow a Western diet, the risk of vitamin A deficiency is unlikely.

Based on current research, there isnt solid evidence to state that vitamin A deficiency can cause hair thinning. However, high levels of vitamin A can.

According to hairlossdoctors.com, excessive vitamin A causes hair follicles to reach the end of the growth phase quicker and fall off faster than the rate in which the body produces more hair.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin or vitamin D is unique in the sense that it acts similarly to hormones. Currently, research has shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and alopecia areata, a disorder that causes bald patches to form.

Vitamin D encourages hair follicle growth and your hair growth may be negatively affected when you dont have enough of it. A natural way to get your daily dose of vitamin D is to be out and about under the sun for 10-30 minutes multiple days a week followed by a diet consisting, fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, and cheese.

During the colder months where there isnt much daylight, you should consider supplementing yourself with vitamin D, as suggested by the NHS.

Disclaimer

Although there are links between nutrient deficiencies and hair loss, there isnt a lot of evidence that could directly correlate this to hair loss and the advice here should not be taken as medical advice. If you are experiencing thinning hair, you should consult your dermatologist as they will assess their patients on a case-by-case basis.

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Nutrition and Hair Thinning - FemaleFirst.co.uk

Is it more difficult to be good that be good? The debate is on Twitter – Play Crazy Game

We dont know if the intention of the creators of Twitter was the platform to become a place for ongoing discussion of any topics; what seems increasingly evident is that it is the social network of the opinadores. And with their tweets as a speaker, some people become trend by launching their reflections more or less successful.

One of the last to become viral has been Wall Street Wolverinean influencer remarkable with close to 100,000 followers he says that to say that the beauty standards are more stringent in women that in men is have no idea. A little bit of the urge to fight had, it is hard to see another way.

Wolverine is also youtuberwith 300,000 followers on that platform talking about political and economical topics. But yesterday he stressed especially on Twitter for his attempts to prove that being attractive is more difficult for men than for women. And first example, puts Margot Robbie at the side of Chris Hemsworth, perhaps a comparison is ill-chosen.

His meditations include phrases like this: A woman with a balanced diet and exercise you can achieve that physique without too much of a problem with constancy. The physical man are, instead, very advanced. Are physical or many years of training or directly use chemistry to achieve it. Given the fact that in order to be attractive you have to be a weightlifter semi-professional, of course.

Among the thousands of comments, a high percentage despising the words of Wolverine, there is a multitude of girls that argue that even doing exercise and maintaining a healthy diet will not get those bodies Something obvious to anyone familiar with the concepts of metabolism and genetics, but the youtuber refuses to accept as well.

Nor is it easy to follow him in his thread of reasoning: it Is a glimpse of a culture of envy and mediocrity tremendous. Chasing the extraordinary vanagloriar conformismshe says as an apparent response to the criticism he has been receiving and as a meditation end of the thread. Ehm, what?

The fact that put to Angelina Jolie as one of the female examples, suspect that has happened at some time or other the operating room, gives a clue that the argument has, to be generous, points flimsy. As his own formulation to begin with.

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Is it more difficult to be good that be good? The debate is on Twitter - Play Crazy Game

Mule societies pull together – The Scottish Farmer

A NEW promotional body has been set up to bring together the marketing of all types of Mule sheep.

The Mule Group aims to promote the 'adaptability, profitability and ideal mothering characteristics' of females from each of the five main Mule Societies Scotch Mules, North of England Mules, Welsh Mules, Cheviot Mules and Highland Mules.

While each society has always worked as an individual association and will continue to do so, there is a commonality between them in that they all share the same sire in the Bluefaced Leicester and the Bluefaced Leicester Association is supporting the new group to promote the overall message that Mules are the UK's 'Number One commercial breeding female' and ensure marketing of the cross-breds reaches its full potential.

It is estimated that 400,000 mule females are sold annually, with enough breeders involved to give the Mule Group a combined membership of 3500.

Newly appointed chairman of the group, Derek Hall, of the Firth flock, Penicuik, is confident the new initiative will increase demand for both the females and the Bluefaced Leicester breed.

It is important we challenge our competitors and the only way we can do that is to join forces under the one umbrella to promote the attributes of Mules," said Mr Hall. "There is variation in the different types of Mules, however, their key traits of hybrid vigour and mothering ability are all similar.

The message we want to push is that the Mule is adaptable and ultimately ensures profitability to any flock," he said. The Mule is the key link in the sheep industry that brings the hills and uplands, right down to the lowlands together. It is now our challenge to cooperate with each other to ensure the best marketing of the mighty Mule!"

According to Mr Hall, the hybrid vigour of the Mule produces a breeding female that is hardier, with 'amazing' mothering abilities, that can perform well in many different systems.

The hybrid vigour comes from the uniqueness of the Bluefaced Leicester, which is genetically, a different breed of sheep to all others, consequently, the genetics from the Blue provide a higher level of hybrid vigour than any other breed," he asserted. "This in turn ensures a hardy cross-bred female with attributes that outperform that of any other breed or cross."

I am really excited to see where The Mule Group takes us because there is so much room to develop and expand the breeding potential of the Mule and everyone seems to be up for the challenge. Whatever the question, the answer is the Mule!"

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Mule societies pull together - The Scottish Farmer

More Canadian women have COVID-19 and are dying as a result. Here’s some possible reasons why – q107.com

More men have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, across the world than women except in Canada.

According to the latest data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, more women have been diagnosed with COVID-19 than men, and more women have died as a result. As of May 15, 55 per cent of confirmed cases of COVID-19 are women, and 45 per cent are men.

Of the total deaths, 53 per cent are women and 47 per cent are men.

READ MORE: How many people is coronavirus really killing? Ontarios data cant tell us

The provinces with the highest number of cases and deaths Quebec and Ontario also have starker gaps between the genders, according to daily provincial epidemiologic summaries.

In Ontario, currently around 57 per cent of those infected are women, while close to 42 per cent are men. Similarly, in Quebec, close to 60 per cent of confirmed COVID-19 cases are women and around 54 per cent of deaths are also women.

This kind of data stands out from other countries who track coronavirus cases, as the vast majority have had more men than women die of COVID-19 since the emergence of the virus, according to Global Health 50/50, an organization out of the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health in London, England.

Its difficult to discern why women are being more affected by COVID-19 in Canada, but there are several factors that could impact how the virus impacts different genders, says Colin Furness, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto who specializes in infection control.

One possible reason could be because there are more female residents in Canadas long-term care homes, where the brunt of the cases and deaths in Canada are concentrated, Furness said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus numbers miss some deaths, experts warn. Heres why

Eighty-two per cent of Canadas COVID-19-related deaths have been in nursing homes, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Because of life expectancy differences, you are going to have more women represented in , Furness said, pointing out that Canadian women have higher life expectancies than men.

Data published in 2018 by Statistics Canada found that women were more likely to be widowed than men, and were more likely to be living in a nursing home or seniors residence.

Other countries are not seeing their long-term care homes ravaged by COVID-19 to the extent that Canada has. A study by the International Long-Term Care Policy Network published this month found that compared to 14 other countries, Canada had the most COVID-19-related deaths in long-term care.

Along with a higher representation in nursing homes, women are also more likely to work in caring professions that involve a lot of interaction with other people, Furness said.

This includes jobs like personal support workers (PSWs), like those who work in long-term care homes, he said. A recent study on PSWs in Canada found that workers are largely women and people of colour and/or immigrants.

READ MORE: Canadas lack of race-based COVID-19 data hurting Black Canadians: experts

A report published in February by the Ontario Health Coalition found that Ontario is facing a shortage of PSWs as many leave the profession due to being overworked, underpaid or injured on the job.

Last month, after a second PSW in Ontario died due to COVID-19, the union representing health care workers across the province blamed their deaths due to a lack of available personal protective equipment (PPE).

A report by Global News in April also found that long-term care homes across the country are struggling to access PPE.

Its also important to assess exactly which women are being impacted by COVID-19, said Suzanne Sicchia, an associate professor at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

If data on race and socioeconomic status is collected, its likely to show women of colour are being disproportionately impacted, she said. More women of colour are employed as personal support workers in Canada, and research has found that people of colour often have worse health outcomes.

Canada should also be collecting data when it comes to the care work women do, personally and professionally, she said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 3rd Ontario personal support worker dies from COVID-19

Paid or unpaid, womens care work, for the sick and elderly at home, in their extended family, in their communities, is another possible source of elevated risk of infection, Sicchia said.

Many often think health is shaped by lifestyle choices or genetics, which are important. But its crucial to remember there are a multitude of other factors that shape the health of individuals or populations including income, employment, social status and racism, Sicchia said.

While more women in long-term care along with the number of women working as care providers are factors, its difficult to make concrete assessments without consistent data being collected by governments, Sicchia said.

Undoubtedly there are other determinants at play, and this is why more research and the collection of race-based data and data on other intersecting determinants of health is so important.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptomscan include fever, cough and difficulty breathing very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms,contact public health authorities.

Toprevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News,click here.

2020Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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More Canadian women have COVID-19 and are dying as a result. Here's some possible reasons why - q107.com

Two young cattle farmers bring auctions to communal areas – Farmer’s Weekly

Business partners Soyama Mthongana and Athenkosi Denga, both 26, started farming in Peddie in the Eastern Cape in 2011, but only formalised their business, Lizwe Meat, in 2015.

Growing up in Port Elizabeth, the pair learnt about farming from their fathers and grandfathers, who ran livestock. From the outset, Mthongana and Dengas goal was to build on the knowledge they had gained from their families, and find innovative ways to farm better at a commercial level.

When starting out on their own, they decided to run farms independently from their families.

Setting an exampleDenga says that one of the purposes of their business operation is to demonstrate that black South African youth can produce quality beef cattle.

We cant leave unchallenged the stigma that farming is for the older generation.

He adds that a successful livestock business requires substantial financial investment in land, labour and infrastructure, as well investing time and resources to upskill oneself. This is why he and Mthongana took up studies specifically to help them in their business operation.

Between them, they hold degrees in marketing, accounting and business administration. Denga is in the process of completing a masters degree that researches ways of improving beef sales in South Africa.

The partners farming operation is run on leased land.

Were in year four of a 10-year lease of a 600ha farm. About 400ha is suitable for grazing, Denga says.

They have a commercial beef cattle herd consisting of 88 Bonsmara, Brangus and Hereford-type animals.

The genetic traits of these breeds, such as good feed conversion, are well suited to the environment we farm in. The weaners produced by the herd perform well in the feedlot.

The South African market requires cattle that produce tender carcasses with a high meat-to-bone ratio and uniform marbling.

They have three bulls and 85 female animals and produce about 75 weaners a year. From 2015 they decided to farm only one breed, and chose the Bonsmara because of its good performance record in the feedlot industry.

They are still in the process of converting their existing mixed herd to a pure Bonsmara herd by bringing in more Bonsmara bulls.

Over the long term, they also intend acquiring more land to grow their operation further.

Grazing campsDenga and Mthongana have implemented a rotational grazing system.

Without this system, the farm will be overgrazed, and it will take a long time to recover, he says.

They have four camps, and use two for their female animals, keeping between 40 and 45 in each camp. The bulls are kept in the third camp and the fourth is left to rest.

According to Denga, the cattle should be moved on before the grass is grazed down to its roots, as this has a negative effect on regrowth.

Production systemDuring the breeding season, one bull is taken to each female animal camp and a third is alternated between the two camps, so at times there are two bulls in one camp. The bulls run with the cows/heifers for three months, and calving is in October.

At the moment, we achieve a conception rate of 90%. However, were working on this by improving the genetics of the herd, says Denga.

They implement a strict culling regime; any cow that fails to produce one calf a year is culled. The calves stay with their dams until they are weaned at seven to eight months.

Their calving rate is about 90% and their weaning rate 95%.

Calves are not weighed at birth, but at weaning; the partners aim for a weaning weight of 210kg, at which point the weaners can be marketed to feedlots.

To ensure the health of our herd, we maintain constant communication with the provincial agriculture department state veterinarian, Dr Chauke Maluleke, to find out what diseases are prevalent in the area, and we vaccinate and treat animals accordingly, says Denga.

Feedlots and auctionsIn addition to selling weaners directly to feedlots, Mthongana and Denga sell their cattle through auctions, which they organise in partnership with GWK and the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC).

Auctions are not easily accessible for emerging and communal farmers because of the costs associated with them.

Transport to and from the auction for individual farmers can be prohibitively high.

This was the main reason we decided to become involved in auctions, and host them in such a way that theyd become more widely accessible, Denga says.

They conducted market research about which areas needed access to markets, and started by focusing on an area close to Mthatha in the former Transkei.

According to Denga, the livestock at auctions sells itself as people can see which animals are in good health.

These events also give farmers an opportunity to benchmark themselves against other farmers, and share information on how to improve the quality of their animals.

In addition, auctions create healthy competition between farmers and inspire them to produce better-quality livestock.

Denga adds that some older farmers are not knowledgeable about the South African red meat grading system and the market demand for tender beef from younger animals.

In our experience, many of the older farmers we deal with dont understand that this is where the industry is going, he says.

Denga says he and Mthongana hold most of their auctions close to the end of the year, when the majority of farmers want to sell their cattle to satisfy increased demand. The auctions are hosted in temporary structures set up at different venues in the rural areas.

We try to meet the farmers who participate halfway by offering them a reasonable rate to assist with transport to and from the auction venues, says Denga.

Auctions also represent a safer way for farmers to sell their cattle, as all proceeds from sales are transferred electronically, which is more secure than dealing on the informal market, says Denga.

Agriculture has great potential to contribute to South Africas economy. We believe that farming is where the countrys next generation of millionaires will come from.

Email Athenkosi Denga at [emailprotected], or Soyama Mthongana at [emailprotected].

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Two young cattle farmers bring auctions to communal areas - Farmer's Weekly

Hybrid lobster species discovered with new genetic test Earth.com – Earth.com

In a new study from the University of Exeter, researchers have identified a hybrid lobster species with both American and European genes.

According to study co-author Dr. Charlie Ellis, the discovery has potentially concerning implications for the lobster industry and conservation efforts, and further research is needed to assess the extent of the threat.

Lobsters imported from North America have been washing up on European shores in recent years. Experts have feared that the American lobsters may establish themselves as a native species or spread disease.

There have also been concerns about the negative effects of hybridization, but lab studies suggested that the European and American lobsters were not likely to mate.

Now, the offspring of a female American lobster found in a fjord in Sweden have been genetically identified as being clearly distinct from both European and American lobsters.

We had just developed a genetic test for seafood traceability that could separate any American lobsters mislabeled as more expensive European equivalents once theyve been cooked and shell coloration is no longer a useful indicator of the species, said Dr. Ellis.

What we found when we tested these offspring is that they came out exactly in the middle of this separation half American and half European so these lobsters were hybrids.

Until recently, it was thought that American and European lobsters would avoid crossbreeding, but this introduced American female has mated with a native European male, probably because she was unable to find an American male.

We now need to check whether any mature adult hybrids are fertile, because if they are then they have the ability to spread these unwanted American genes far and wide across our native lobster stocks.

According to the researchers, the study highlights the vital use of genetics to distinguish hybrid lobsters which might look almost identical to a pure strain.

It is particularly concerning that we seem to have found American lobster genes in one of our lobster reserves, said study co-author Linda Svanberg.

The better news is we now have this genetic tool to test lobsters or their eggs for hybridisation, so we can use it to track the spread of these alien genes to assess how big a threat this presents to our native lobster species, said study lead author Dr. Jamie Stevens.

For a range of conservation reasons, including potential contact with American lobsters, the researchers advise that the general public should never release a marketed lobster back into the wild.

Although we appreciate that all animal-lovers have concern for the fate of individual animals, in this case the rescue of one animal might endanger the health of the entire wild population, so once a lobster has entered the seafood supply chain thats where it should stay, said Dr. Tom Jenkins.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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Hybrid lobster species discovered with new genetic test Earth.com - Earth.com

Study analyses risks of maternal infections, neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring – Devdiscourse

With the help of a mouse model, researchers have found that the immune responses in a female before pregnancy can help predict how her offsprings are to have behavioural deficits if the immune system is activated during pregnancy. The results of the study could help resolve what role serious infections during pregnancy play in the later development of conditions such as autism and schizophrenia in the offspring.

The researchers from the Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis co-authored the study findings published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Both genetics and a variety of environmental risk factors are thought to play a role in mental illness, said Professor Kim McAllister, director of the Center for Neuroscience and senior author on the paper.

"Most pregnancies are resilient, although the risk from maternal immune activation is low, it could provide a way into the underlying problems that lead to schizophrenia or autism," she said. "Our research focuses on how to predict which pregnancies are at risk and discover new ways to intervene and prevent disease in offspring."

The first evidence for a role for maternal infection in mental and developmental disorders came from the influenza epidemic of 1918, McAllister said. Epidemiological studies 15 to 20 years later of children who were in gestation at the time showed an increase in these disorders. Other evidence comes from animal studies.Apart from influenza, a wide variety of viruses and bacteria have been implicated in maternal immune activation. So the effect is more likely due to the mother's reaction to infections than with the infectious organism itself.

To reproduce this in mice, McAllister's team doses pregnant mice with a molecule called polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid, or poly (I:C), which is double-stranded RNA, the genetic material for many viruses including influenza and coronaviruses. The immune system recognizes poly (I:C) as if it were a virus and triggers an immediate inflammatory response, especially releasing a molecule called interleukin-6, or IL-6.

The mice continue with the pregnancy and when the offspring are about 2 months old, the researchers test them for behavioural abnormalities, such as repetitive behaviours or freezing in place. Professor Judy Van de Water, an immunologist at the UC Davis School of Medicine and part of Estes' thesis committee, suggested looking at baseline immune reactivity in the mice before they became pregnant.

When they did that, the team found that the IL-6 response of a particular mouse to poly (I:C) before it became pregnant could predict the likelihood of behavioural problems in offspring if the mouse were treated with poly (I:C) later during pregnancy. "People assume that their mice are all the same, but there is clearly a wide range of baseline immunoreactivity," McAllister said. That baseline immunoreactivity turns out to predict resilience or susceptibility to immune activation during pregnancy.

"We can dose them with poly (I:C) and look at the IL-6 response and predict which ones will have affected offspring if we treat them during pregnancy," she said.With a reliable model for resilience and susceptibility, researchers can start to work out what genes and proteins involved in brain development are affected by immune activation and how this could lead to neurodevelopmental disorders. "The next steps are to figure out what it is that is different about those mice," McAllister said.

"Now that we can predict which mice are at risk, we want to determine how specific patterns of immune signalling in the mom cause distinct outcomes in offspring. We are hoping to figure out how maternal infection can lead to no problem in many pregnancies and to a range of distinct diseases in offspring from other pregnancies," McAllister added. Secondly, it could lead to biomarkers for identifying pregnancies at higher risk from infections and taking steps to protect mothers by vaccination or treatment.

That will likely involve further work in mice followed up with experiments in nonhuman primates before moving into human studies. (ANI)

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Study analyses risks of maternal infections, neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring - Devdiscourse

A Failed Deception: The Early Days of the Coronavirus Outbreak in Wuhan – DER SPIEGEL

On the morning of Dec. 20, 2019, the Chinese fish monger Chen Qingbo was cleaning out his stand at the market, completely unaware that he would soon become the focus of intense scientific research, that he was carrying a virus within him of a kind the world had never seen before. He was unaware that his fate was linked closely with that of all of humanity.

He had been up since 5 a.m. and had already made deliveries to his primary customers, including a number of hotels and restaurants in the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan. The Huanan retail and wholesale market, located not far from the train station, had been his base of operations for the last 10 years. By around 11 a.m., he had finished his work for the day and climbed into his Chevrolet for the short drive from the market to his home.

Chen is a sturdily built 42-year-old with a buzz cut and round glasses, married with two children. His small company employs three workers and he owns two delivery trucks, an apartment in Wuhan and two other apartments in his home province of Fujian. He works every day of the week, including weekends. "But on that Friday," he says, "I felt strangely tired and despondent."

Indeed, he was feeling so poorly that afternoon that he dropped by a doctor's office in his neighborhood and he received an infusion, not an uncommon treatment in China. He then went back to work on Saturday and again on Sunday and Monday, but he was feeling worse by the day, with the doctor suspecting a viral infection. Then, on Tuesday, Chen could no longer make it to the market: He had developed a fever and a cough. On Thursday, he checked into the Central Hospital of Wuhan.

Just four days later, Chen was fighting for his life. From the sample that doctors took from his lungs, a laboratory in Shanghai ultimately managed to sequence for the very first time the complete genome of an unknown virus: SARS-CoV-2, the cause of the pandemic that would ultimately spread across the entire world.

On that Dec. 20 in Wuhan, the day that Chen began feeling ill, there was nothing to indicate that a catastrophe was on the horizon. Like all cities in China, Wuhan was preparing for the Chinese New Year's festival at the end of January, an atmosphere comparable to that in Europe ahead of the Christmas holidays - days of pleasant anticipation combined with hectic preparations. Companies were planning parties while workers and students were buying train tickets back home. Communist Party officials also had plenty to do: In early January, city and provincial parliaments were scheduled to meet, an annual ritual.

Wuhan is a vast metropolis, with a population larger than that of cities like New York, London and Paris. It is a place where important rail lines and shipping routes meet, a wealthy, modern city on the banks of the Yangtze River with an impressive skyline and an historical town center built in the European colonial style. The city's politicians and business leaders have long hoped to see Wuhan on a par with other huge Yangtze megalopolises like Shanghai, Nanjing and Chongqing.

Instead, the name Wuhan has become synonymous the world over with a pandemic. That day in December 2019, it became the birthplace of a crisis that can only be compared with the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And with the 2008 financial crisis, the consequences of which have already been overshadowed by what we are experiencing today.

The novel coronavirus has thus far killed more than 260,000 people officially and has plunged the global economy into an historical recession. It has changed the day-to-day lives of people around the world, fundamentally altered citizens' relationship with the state and reshaped geopolitics.

The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 20/2020 (May 09, 2020) of DER SPIEGEL.

The political and economic consequences of the coronavirus are so significant that the entire world order may ultimately be transfigured. It may slow globalization, or it may accelerate it. It could catapult the world out of the industrial age into a new era. The only thing that is certain is that change is coming.

More than four months after fish monger Chen became one of the very first people to come down with the respiratory illness later named COVID-19, there are a number of theories and opinions in circulation about the origins and spread of the illness. DER SPIEGEL has reconstructed events in Wuhan in an effort to learn how the outbreak could have happened and what took place in the early days in the city's hospitals and health agencies. And to learn whether the global pandemic could have been prevented if officials, doctors and politicians had behaved differently. In short, to learn who might share the blame for this pandemic.

This reconstruction is based on numerous discussions and meetings, on reporting in Wuhan itself but also on reporting by Chinese journalists. A complete picture can only be provided by an in-depth international investigation of the kind being demanded by experts and politicians around the world - an investigation that Beijing has thus far resisted. But it can already be said with certainty that mistakes were made in Wuhan and that the global spread of the disease could, at the very least, have been slowed.

It isn't known when and where the first person became infected with SARS-CoV-2. But it is considered extremely likely that the precursor to the pathogen comes from bats and based on genetic analysis, it is believed that the virus jumped to humans only one single time, at some point in fall 2019.

A traditional market in Wuhan: The virus only jumped to a human on one single occasion.

That is rather unusual. It is generally the case that a longer process of genetic adaptation is necessary before a virus that originates in animals can be passed from human to human. Generally, humans repeatedly become infected by animals before a pathogen mutates such that it can be passed from person to person. But SARS-CoV-2 followed a different path. Researchers believe that a specific genetic sequence is responsible, one that joined the genome that produced SARS-CoV-2 predecessor completely by chance. It is that sequence that has made it so easy for the virus to spread.

Researchers have two hypotheses for the beginning of the pandemic: Either this genetic sequence was added to the virus when it was still reproducing in its animal host - whether it be bats, pangolins or raccoon dogs so that the first person who became infected was immediately able to pass it along. Or a precursor was circulating unnoticed for months, but wasn't particularly contagious before the new sequence was added.

Either way, close contact between humans and animals provide ideal conditions for viruses to jump to humans. And those conditions were present at a wildlife market in Wuhan.

On Dec. 26, the day when the fish monger Chen Qingbo checked into the Central Hospital of Wuhan, the pulmonologist Zhang Jixian, 54, had her first encounter with the virus at a different clinic in Wuhan. An elderly patient was suffering from a fever, a cough and breathing difficulties and tests for influenza and other, similar illnesses had all come back negative. Dr. Zhang ordered a CT scan of the patient's lungs and found that she was suffering from a severe and unusual form of pneumonia.

One day later, the neurological department asked Zhang for assistance with an elderly patient experiencing similar symptoms. His CT scan had also revealed severe pneumonia. The doctors soon figured out that the male patient and the female patient were married. "I felt something was wrong," Zhang would later tell the state-run news agency Xinhua.

The doctor learned that the son of the two patients had brought them to the hospital and she convinced him to submit to a CT scan of his own lungs. "He resisted initially," according to Zhang. "He had no symptoms and thought we wanted to get him to undergo an expensive procedure."

Once the scan was performed, though, it revealed the same lesions on the lungs that his parents had. For Zhang, it all pointed to a "contagious disease," and after a few more tests, she was convinced. "This was not an ordinary virus." That same day, she reported her findings to the authorities.

People suffering from the same symptoms were showing up at other hospitals in the city as well. Most had one thing in common: Like Chen Qingbo, they had been traders, suppliers or customers of the Huanan market.

Before it was closed down, the market consisted of two large halls separated by a broad road. Each hall contained dozens of stands and Chen's stand was in the eastern part of the market, where primarily fish and shellfish were on offer. In one corner of the larger, western half of the market, there were several stands that offered exotic wares like snake, fox and salamander meat along with scorpions, crocodiles, live hedgehogs (for the equivalent of 4.50 euros per kilogram), living wolf pups (3 euros) and civets (32 euros). Civets are thought to be the transmitter of the SARS coronavirus that began spreading in southern China in 2002.

In such markets, animals are crammed into cages in horrific conditions, and images taken from this part of the market in Wuhan before it was shuttered on Jan. 1 show dismal-looking stands with dire hygienic conditions. Even today, more than four months later, you can still smell the rotten stench if you approach the site, which has been completely cordoned off.

"They allegedly also sold pangolins there," says Chen Qingbo. "But I never saw them. I never went over to those stands. I find wild animals to be dirty and I'm afraid of them." The eastern part of the market, by contrast, was a completely normal Chinese market, says Qingbo. "Even the restrooms were OK. They were cleaned every day."

After he was taken to the Central Hospital, Chen's condition worsened quickly. He was hardly able to stand on his own and his temperature climbed to 39.8 degrees Celsius (103.6 degrees Fahrenheit). He grew panicky when the doctor showed him the CT scan of his lungs. "He told me he had never seen such bad pneumonia. Three quarters of my lungs were completely white in the scan." On Dec. 30, Chen lost consciousness. The doctors took a sample of the fluid in his lungs and told his family that he was in critical condition.

At this point, they had just an initial idea of what kind of virus they could be facing. Several days earlier, the Wuhan Central Hospital had sent a sample from a patient suffering from similar symptoms to Vision Medicals, a genetic laboratory in Guangzhou, and on Dec. 27, the lab had got back to them with the results. "They just called and told us that it was a new type of coronavirus," a head physician from the hospital told the magazine Caixin, adding that he was surprised they hadn't sent a written report.

Because most of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience mild symptoms or none at all, scientists now believe that the virus had already spread widely by this point - in Wuhan and likely beyond. Several months later, French doctors went back and tested old samples from patients who had reported flu-like symptoms and found that a man near Paris had become infected with the novel coronavirus as early as Dec. 27.

"I think that the more people look, the more such early cases will be found," says Thomas Briese, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. A group of British and French scientists did something similar, combing through an online database on the search for tiny differences in genome sequences in thousands of SARS-CoV-2 samples from around the world. In the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution, they write: "The genomic diversity of the global SARS-CoV-2 population being recapitulated in multiple countries points to extensive worldwide transmission of COVID-19, likely from extremely early on in the pandemic."

"It seems unlikely to me that a global spread could have been prevented," says Grard Krause, head of epidemiology at Germany's Helmholtz Center for Infection Research. Nevertheless, says Torsten Feldt, infectiologist and chief physician at the University Hospital of Dsseldorf, "I am quite certain that many lives would have been saved by an earlier lockdown."

On the afternoon of Dec. 30, Ai Fen, head of emergency services at the Wuhan Central Hospital, received the test results of yet another patient. The test had been performed by a laboratory in Beijing called CapitalBio and the doctor found the results deeply unsettling. The finding: "SARS-coronavirus."

SARS first appeared out of the blue in the early 2000s, an unknown infectious disease with the potential to trigger a pandemic. That illness killed just 774 people before it was then stopped, essentially a warning shot to the world. Was it now back?

"I was so scared I broke out in a cold sweat," Ai later described her reaction on reading the lab report. She informed the clinic leadership, marking the words "SARS-coronavirus" on the report with a red pen, took a photo and sent it along with a patient's CT scan to former medical school classmates and to colleagues in her ward "to remind everybody to be careful."

Ai's message also reached her colleague Li Wenliang, who worked as an ophthalmologist on the third floor of the Central Hospital. At 5:43 p.m., he used WeChat to inform university friends of a presumed SARS outbreak. An hour later, he amended his message due to the apparent preliminary nature of the results from the Beijing laboratory: "It has been confirmed that it is a coronavirus infection, but the precise subtype of the virus is still being evaluated."

As it would turn out, the new pathogen is similar to the SARS coronavirus -- it's not quite as deadly, but it's apparently even more contagious. And the doctors Ai and Li were right to issue warnings, as events would soon show.

On the morning of Dec. 31, officials in white protective suits began disinfecting the Huanan market. Meanwhile, the health agency issued its first public statement on the new illness: In Wuhan, it said, 27 cases of "pneumonia of unknown causes" had appeared. Thus far, the statement continued, there were no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission.

That last piece of information was reassuring to doctors, researchers and health policy officials around the world. And it seemed perfectly plausible: New viruses generally tend to spread slowly early on.

But despite its plausibility, the information was incorrect. SARS-CoV-2 was an exception. It could be that there were no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission in late December, but the findings by doctors leave no doubt that such transmissions had long since begun.

Fully 21 days would pass, however, before the Chinese government publicly admitted as much three weeks that contributed immensely to a local epidemic rapidly growing into a worldwide pandemic.

Dr. Ai Fen: "I was so scared, I broke out in a cold sweat."

Shi Zhengli is the most accomplished scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. She was at a conference in Shanghai when she received an urgent phone call from Wuhan telling her to drop everything she was doing. Samples had arrived, she was told, from seven patients exhibiting SARS-like symptoms.

Shi is an internationally recognized virologist who has been nicknamed "Bat Woman" by her colleagues for the virus research she has performed on the animals. She was the one who first identified the viruses that SARS derived from and she has published numerous papers in well-respected journals. In the PubMed database, she is listed with 66 papers published about coronaviruses.

Her team spent the next several days feverishly sequencing the genetic code of the new virus, but Shi herself concentrated on trying to find out whether the new virus matched one of the viral strains on which her institute had been conducting research in recent years. She was initially concerned that an accident may have occurred and a sample may have escaped her laboratory.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology, where she works, is a sprawling complex surrounded by a high electric fence in the southern part of the city. Five years ago, it became the first research site in China with the highest biosafety level BSL-4.

But it wasn't the only state laboratory where Chinese researchers were working hard to sequence the virus. Lan Ke, director of the State Key Laboratory of Virology at Wuhan University, received samples on Jan. 2 containing lung secretions from two patients from Zhongnan Hospital for analysis. "Honestly, my first though was that it could be a new pathogen to be identified," he told DER SPIEGEL. "But we were not sure if it was SARS." By Jan. 3, he and his team had detected the first RNA fragment of the pathogen. They then decoded the sequence and compared it with known viruses using an online database. They found no matches. The scientists furthermore recognized that the pathogen was less similar to SARS than it was to bat-born coronaviruses.

On Jan. 11, the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center became the first to publish the genome sequence of the pathogen, doing so on the research website virological.org. The sequence came from a sample taken from the fish monger Chen Qingbo.

The next day, the center was temporarily closed down by Chinese authorities. No reason was given for the move.

On Dec. 31, Chen Qingbo was transferred from the Central Hospital of Wuhan to the Jinyintan Hospital, the first of the city's large hospitals to be dedicated specifically to treating patients suffering from the novel coronavirus. The fish seller initially ended up in the intensive care ward, but he was unaware of what was happening to him. He also still didn't know - though it is likely whether he was among the 41 patients chosen by specialists in the hospital to be part of a study that would be published three weeks later in the respected medical journal The Lancet. Even today, it remains one of the most important clinical studies on the early phase of the crisis.

Once his condition began improving and he was transferred to a different ward, Chen started receiving visits from "people from health services or some provincial agency." He says they would show him their IDs and ask him questions. "I don't know anymore who they were or what they wanted," he says. "I could only see their eyes behind thick protective goggles."

Chen has precise memories, though, of the mayor of Wuhan visiting his ward on Jan. 6. "After he left, the nurses told us that the government would be paying for our treatment from then on. And shortly thereafter, all of our costs were reimbursed."

On Jan. 3, Wuhan health officials reported 44 patients with unidentified viral lung infections, including 11 serious cases such as the one experienced by Chen Qingbo. But the number did not reflect the true expanse of the crisis. Many increasingly frustrated doctors were having difficulties reporting the number of new infections to the authorities.

Patients waiting to be transfered to another hospital in Wuhan: The city also provided the blueprint for combating the pandemic.

That system for reporting infections is the key element in what are actually strict regulations in China designed to track outbreaks of contagious diseases. The system was introduced following the SARS crisis and requires clinics to report suspicious cases to the government in Beijing without delay. The system is "quite simple," a doctor told the magazine Caixin. "Prior to corona, when we discovered a case of hepatitis B or another serious infectious disease, we were able to enter our diagnoses directly. A report card would open up, which we would fill out and then click "OK" to upload it."

It was this system that provided Beijing with a timely warning in 2013 of the bird flu outbreak and, in November 2019, of two pneumonic plague cases in Inner Mongolia. But in Wuhan, it suddenly stopped working. The authorities began demanding that hospitals first clarify each new case with the local authorities before they were allowed to upload them into the national reporting system.

In early January, scientists at several genetic laboratories received calls from provincial health authorities from the province of Hubei. They were asked to stop work on the analyses they were currently performing and to destroy their samples. They were then told: "If you perform tests in the future, be sure to report to us," one of the scientists later told Caixin.

As early as Dec. 29, the Central Hospital of Wuhan had sent four reports of corona cases to the local health office for appraisal. The head of the office promised to report back soon, adding that similar case reports had been received from other clinics. Two days later, the doctors asked about the results, but were told to be patient. On Jan. 3, they asked if they should post the case reports - seven of them by then to the national reporting system. They were asked to wait.

The most important political events of the year, after all, were imminent. On Jan. 6, a session of the city parliament was set to begin, and the Peoples Congress for the Hubei province was to convene on Jan. 11. And it was now that the provincial government also issued an order that entries into the national disease tracking system be made "cautiously. Entries were to be coordinated not just with the local health authorities, but also with the city and provincial governments.

The authorities were doing all they could to keep both the public and the central government in the dark about the true extent of the epidemic likely to prevent the disruption of the two parliamentary sessions. It could, however, also have been because they simply didn't want to spread bad news especially not to Beijing.

The loudest voices, the doctors Ai Fen and Li Wenliang, had already been silenced by then. On Jan. 2, Ai was given an "unprecedented, extremely harsh reprimand, as she would later say in a magazine interview. Then, on Jan. 3, the police interrogated Li and he was forced to pledge in writing that he would cease spreading "rumors. He returned to the hospital and contracted the virus himself on Jan. 8.

But even as the authorities sought to downplay the crisis, an increasing number of people infected with the virus began turning up at Wuhan hospitals. The citys health authority reported only 59 cases on Jan. 5, and on Jan. 11, it even spoke of "41 initially diagnosed cases. It claimed that there had been "no new cases since Jan. 3. Against all evidence, the authority also stated that there was no indication that the pathogen, which was now being referred to as the "novel coronavirus, was transmissible from human to human.

But the bad news reached Beijing, anyway, despite the lies from the local authorities. Virologist Gao Fu, the head of Chinas Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has made a habit of scanning China's internet before bedtime for indications of possible disease outbreaks. On Dec. 30, Gao came across rumors about an internal memo from the Wuhan Health Commission on the outbreak of an undefined lung disease. He called an official at the authority and was exasperated by the evasive answers he was given.

The next morning, Gao sent the first of three teams of experts to Wuhan. The Beijing office of the World Health Organization was also officially informed that same day. Shortly afterward, Gao spoke by phone with Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, who was on vacation at the time. Redfield was deeply disturbed about what Gao had to report. According to a report in the New York Times, Gao even broke into tears during a later conversation with Redfield.

Meanwhile, officials in Wuhan continued to play down the situation to their colleagues in Beijing. "They said the course of the disease was mild, not much different from seasonal flu, says a member of the second Beijing delegation, which would arrive in Wuhan about a week later.

The local authorities even issued an order that the only patients that should be counted were those who had themselves been to the Huanan market or had a connection with a visitor to the market. As a result of that order, the growing number of infections simply vanished from the statistics. An increasing number of infections, after all, had no connection with the market whatsoever.

Still, even though Beijing was now aware of the situation, official reporting did not change.

The city of Wuhan on Feb. 3: The largest quarantine ever imposed in the history of humankind.

And the Wuhan health authority continued to lie: On Jan. 11, it reported that there hadn't been a single known case among medical staff. In chatrooms, though, the opposite claim was spreading, something that epidemiologist Li Lanjuan learned on Jan. 17. Alarmed, she reported to the National Health Commission and requested permission to drive to Wuhan immediately. Officials in Beijing agreed. On Jan. 18, Li left for the city together with five other epidemiologists. It was only after this visit by the third Beijing delegation that the world would find out what was happening in Wuhan.

The team visited several hospitals, the Huanan market and the Center for Disease Control located only 300 meters away. The experts no longer had any doubts about human-to-human transmission of the virus or that medical personnel had themselves become infected. In a confidential meeting, Li urged that the highest disease alert level - normally reserved for plague or cholera outbreaks be declared. She proposed sealing off the city of Wuhan. There were only a few days left until the peak of the New Year travel season, and the concern was that the disease could spread throughout the country.

The experts flew back to Beijing on Jan. 19 armed with these recommendations. At around midnight, they were received by the Chinese health minister, and the next morning, they attended a cabinet meeting in Zhongnanhai, the innermost circle of power in the Chinese leadership. They issued their warnings at the meeting.

It was then, on Monday, Jan. 20, that the Chinese and the rest of the world would learn of the shocking news from Chinese media. Three days later, in the early morning hours of Jan. 23, Beijing moved to seal Wuhan off from the outside world. In the following days, the lockdown would be extended to include the entire Hubei province. Around 60 million people were ordered to shelter in place in their homes in the largest quarantine ever imposed in the history of humankind.

On the morning of Jan. 23, Wuhan was smothered in a thick layer of smog, with particulate matter levels at six times the legal limit. But there were very few cars on the streets and the few people who did attempt to leave the city were turned back. A convoy of police buses arrived at the airport and by 10 a.m., it was no longer possible to leave the city by air either.

There were also long lines of people in front of hospitals, while emergency rooms had become places of panic and desperation. Ai Fen reported that more than 1,500 patients were now crowding into her department each day, "three times the usual maximum. More than 200 of the 4,000 employees at the Wuhan Central Hospital got infected with the virus at the peak of the epidemic.

Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was so ill by the end of January that he had to be transferred to the intensive care unit and intubated. On Jan. 27, he defied the official ban on speaking to the press and gave an interview to the state-run Beijing Youth Daily using a messaging app. He could no longer speak. On Feb. 5 and 6, his condition deteriorated further and he had to be placed on life support. The hospital reported on his treatment using the microblogging platform Weibo. Some 17 million users followed the increasingly hopeless developments late into the night.

Shortly before 3 a.m., the doctors lost the battle to save their colleagues life. It unleashed an overwhelming wave of sympathy, with 870,000 users expressing their anger and grief on the internet, leading the state to ultimately abandon its censorship efforts. Li, 33, who left behind a son and a pregnant wife, embodied the center of Chinese society, precisely that segment on which the party bases its rule: the young, hard-working and well-educated. Like many doctors, he had been a member of the Communist Party.

The death of Li Wenliang, who had seen the danger coming, had warned his friends and colleagues and was punished for his efforts, shook many young Chinese so deeply that for a few days it appeared as though the party might lose its hold on society. In some ways, it was evocative of 31 years before, when the death of Hu Yaobang, a politician also revered by many young Chinese and humiliated by the party, triggered the protests in Tiananmen Square.

This time, though, there were no protests. Mourners laid flowers and candles in front of the Central Hospital. The party hastened to announce that it had expressed its condolences to Lis family and it initiated an investigation on the day of his death into the events surrounding his interrogation. A few days later, the government declared Li and 13 other doctors who had died of COVID-19 as "martyrs.

By now, the state and the party were now moving to mobilize all available resources. In the northwest and far south of the city of Wuhan, the Peoples Liberation Army set about constructing two emergency hospitals with more than 2,500 beds, finishing the job within two weeks. Stadiums and convention centers were also converted into makeshift hospitals, and within days, block after block of apartment buildings had been cordoned off, with party members standing guard to make sure people didnt leave their homes.

Virologist Gao Fu: Exasperated by the evasive answers he was given.

The world watched in a daze as Chinas leaders submitted millions of people to its quarantine regime. DER SPIEGEL and other Western media wrote that a lockdown that strict was "unthinkable in a democratic society. At that point, few had any idea that the events in Wuhan were providing a glimpse into their own future - and that only a few weeks later, a significant segment of the global population would find itself stuck in a similar situation. Far from just being the breeding ground for the virus, Wuhan also provided a blueprint for fighting the epidemic.

Eleven weeks after the lockdown was imposed on Wuhan, Wang Xinghuan, the director of one of the largest hospitals in the city, was standing outside his clinic in a tracksuit and speaking of the lessons he had learned from the crisis. "Three things are essential," he said, "rigorous testing, the immediate isolation of suspected cases and the wearing of masks." He said that he was in regular contact with colleagues in New York and that one of them had told him that the wearing of masks was unfortunately a cultural issue. "But it isn't a cultural issue," Wang insisted. "It's stupid to not wear a mask."

In March, an international team of epidemiologists calculated that the number of infections would have been three-times, seven-times or 18-times higher respectively if China had imposed the lockdown on Wuhan one, two or three weeks later than it did. It is difficult to imagine how many cases and deaths there might be in the world today had the country waited.

But the same study estimates that the numbers would have been 66 percent, 86 percent or 95 percent lower respectively had the government closed off the city one, two or three weeks earlier than it did.

Depending on one's perspective, then, Beijing is to be commended for protecting the world from a much greater catastrophe - or is to be condemned for triggering the disaster we are currently experiencing in the first place.

In February, the regime began pushing the first of the two narratives. Chinese President Xi Jinping has even claimed that he personally issued "specifications for the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus" way back on Jan. 7 in a speech before the Politburo Standing Committee. The text of that speech has not been released to the public, but anonymous sources have said that Xi merely decreed that the measures should not detract from the "festive atmosphere" ahead of the Chinese New Year.

The question regarding when Xi learned of the new virus is crucial when it comes to assigning responsibility. There are a number of indications that Beijing was misled by the provincial government and that the central government only recognized the severity of the epidemic in mid-January. But if Xi really was aware of the problem on Jan. 7, then he would have to bear responsibility for the fact that the world was deceived for so long regarding the true nature of the disease.

Wuhan's new top Communist Party official - his predecessor was fired in February proposed in early March that the people of the city undergo "gratitude education." The party went on to publish a book called "2020: A Battle Against the Epidemic," which honors Xi's alleged accomplishments in the "people's war" against the virus. Following a wave of indignation in the Chinese internet, though, the campaign was soon suspended.

The government, however, can now point to foreign sources to prop up its version of events. WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had been "impressed and encouraged by the president's detailed knowledge of the outbreak" following a visit he made to Beijing in late January. Quotes such as this one are quite helpful to Beijing, both for its domestic propaganda and for its international PR campaign, which seems to be growing in strength by the week.

In this battle over the coronavirus narrative, Chinese diplomats eagerly cite statements and tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump. Quotes like this tweet from Jan. 24: "China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. () I want to thank President Xi!" Or this remark from Feb. 7: "I just spoke to President Xi last night. () I think he's handled it really well."

In the meantime, of course, Trump has begun disputing the numbers that he was praising just 10 weeks ago and is now accusing China of lying and he's not the only one. He has also begun claiming that he has intelligence information whereby the virus actually escaped from a Chinese laboratory, a reference to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the southern part of the city the lab where "Bat Woman" Shi Zhengli works.

People pay respect at a memorial to Dr. Li Wenliang: "There should be more than one voice in a healthy society."

In February, Shi told the U.S. magazine Scientific American that she worked day and night at the beginning of the epidemic comparing all the samples the institute had ever used for research with the genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2 - and found no matches. "That really took a load off my mind," she told the magazine. She believes her lab bears no responsibility for the outbreak.

In mid-April, only a few cars could be seen on the other side of the electric fence in the parking lot of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Visitors are not welcome. A car drove up and a young man in street clothes introduced himself as Mr. Zhao from "Bio Security." He demanded to know what the reporter was looking for. An interview with Dr. Shi, perhaps? "Impossible," was the response. But wouldn't it be helpful to respond to the rumors that are spreading around the world? Mr. Zhao smiled. "It doesn't matter what we say. These theories will spread regardless."

Some of those theories are rather preposterous. Nobel prize laureate Luc Montagnier, who was one of the scientists to discover the virus that causes AIDS, claimed on French television that SARS-CoV-2 was produced in the lab and contains genome sequences from the HIV virus. Researchers were quick to contradict him: "Montagnier failed to find that both fragments are actually also commonly found in many other viruses, including coronaviruses from bats and pigeons," the team of Yang Zhang, professor of computational medicine and bioinformatics at the University of Michigan, told DER SPIEGEL.

The most likely scenario is that the two genome fragments ended up in SARS-CoV-2 as the result of a completely natural process. That, at least, is what the vast majority of leading virologists believe.

It is, of course, possible that an employee of the Wuhan Institute of Virology may have become infected with an unknown, natural bat virus despite wearing protective clothing, but it is "extraordinarily unlikely," says Robert Garry of the Tulane University School of Medicine.

U.S. intelligence likewise issued a statement saying that the broad consensus is that the virus is not manmade. China has thus far refused to permit an international investigation into the origins of the virus. But without such a study, rumors will continue to spread regarding the beginning and development of the disease.

A particularly absurd conspiracy, which ironically originated in the U.S., has been spreading in Wuhan itself. The fish seller Chen Qingbo says that "many of my friends believe, as do I, that the virus was brought to Wuhan during the Military World Games last fall. The U.S. athletes apparently stayed in a hotel not far from the Huanan market and some of them allegedly were suffering from a similar illness." He then asks: "Couldn't that be true?"

Following his recovery, Chen was released from the hospital on Jan. 11, well before the epidemic reached its peak. After finishing his quarantine, he received a text message from the hospital's chief physician: "Recovered patients are kindly requested to donate blood plasma for scientific purposes." Chen responded immediately and has been to the hospital five times since then. He has resumed working, but he now supplies fruit and vegetables instead of fish. And he now works out of a different market.

Ai Fen is still the head of emergency services at the Central Hospital of Wuhan. On March 10, she gave a long interview to China's state-run People magazine in which she said: "I regret that back then I didn't keep screaming out at the top of my voice. I've often thought to myself what would have happened if I could wind back time."

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A Failed Deception: The Early Days of the Coronavirus Outbreak in Wuhan - DER SPIEGEL

Sex, Genes and Vulnerability – Technology Networks

Some diseases exhibit a clear sex bias, occurring more often, hitting harder or eliciting different symptoms in men or women.

For instance, the autoimmune conditions lupus and Sjgren's syndrome affect nine times more women than men, while schizophrenia affects more men and tends to cause more severe symptoms in men than in women.

Likewise, early reports suggest that despite similar rates of infection, men are dying from COVID-19 more often than women, as happened during previous outbreaks of the related diseases SARS and MERS.

For decades, scientists have tried to pinpoint why some diseases have an unexpected sex bias. Behavior can play a role, but that explains only a piece of the puzzle. Hormones are commonly invoked, but how exactly they contribute to the disparity is unclear. As for genes, few, if any, answers have been found on the X and Y sex chromosomes for most diseases.

Now, work led by researchers in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School and at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard provides a clear genetic explanation behind the sex bias observed in some of these diseases.

The team's findings, reported May 11 inNature, suggest that greater abundance of an immune-related protein in men protects against lupus and Sjgren's but heightens vulnerability to schizophrenia.

The protein, called complement component 4 (C4) and produced by the C4 gene, tags cellular debris for prompt removal by immune cells.

The team's key findings:

"Sex acts as a lens that magnifies the effects of genetic variation," said the study's first author, Nolan Kamitaki, research associate in genetics in the lab of Steven McCarroll at HMS and the Broad.

"We all know about illnesses that either women or men get a lot more, but we've had no idea why," said Steven McCarroll, the Dorothy and Milton Flier Professor of Biomedical Science and Genetics at HMS and director of genomic neurobiology at the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad. "This work is exciting because it gives us one of our first handles on the biology."

McCarroll is co-senior author of the study with Timothy Vyse of King's College London.

Although C4 variation appears to contribute powerfully to disease risk, it is only one among many genetic and environmental factors that influence disease development.

The study's results are informing the ongoing development of drugs that modulate the complement system, the authors said.

"For example, researchers will need to make sure that drugs that tone down the complement system do not unintentionally increase risk for autoimmune disease," said McCarroll. "Scientists will also need to consider the possibility that such drugs may be differentially helpful in male and female patients."

On a broader level, the work offers a more solid foundation for understanding sex variation in disease than has been available before.

"It's helpful to be able to think about sex-biased disease biology in terms of specific molecules, beyond vague references to 'hormones,'" McCarroll said. "We now realize that the complement system shapes vulnerability for a wide variety of illnesses."

Cell sweeper

In 2016, researchers led by Aswin Sekar, a former McCarroll lab member who is a co-author of the new study, made international headlines when they revealed that specific C4 gene variants underlie the largest common genetic risk factor for developing schizophrenia.

The new work suggests that C4 genes confer both an advantage and disadvantage to carriers, much as the gene variant that causes sickle cell disease also protects people against malaria.

"C4 gene variants come with this yin and yang of heightened and reduced vulnerability in different organ systems," said McCarroll.

The findings, when combined with insights from earlier work, offer insights into what may be happening at the molecular level.

When cells are injured, whether from a sunburn or infection, they leak their contents into the surrounding tissue. Cells from the adaptive immune system, which specialize in recognizing unfamiliar molecules around distressed cells, spot debris from the cell nuclei. If these immune cells mistake the flotsam for an invading pathogen, they may instigate an attack against material that isn't foreign at all--the essence of autoimmunity.

Researchers believe that complement proteins help tag these leaked molecules as trash so they're quickly removed by other cells, before the adaptive immune system pays too much attention to them. In people with lower levels of complement proteins, however, the uncollected debris lingers longer, and adaptive immune cells may become confused into acting as if the debris is itself the cause of problem.

As part of the new study, Kamitaki and colleagues measured complement protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid of 589 people and blood plasma of 1,844 people. They found that samples from women aged 20 through 50 had significantly fewer complement proteins--including not only C4 but also C3, which activates C4--than samples from men of the same age.

That's the same age range in which lupus, Sjgren's and schizophrenia vulnerabilities differ by sex, Kamitaki said.

The results align with previous observations by other groups that severe early-onset lupus is sometimes associated with a complete lack of complement proteins, that lupus flare-ups can be linked to drops in complement protein levels and that a common gene variant associated with lupus affects the C3 receptor.

"There were all these medical hints," said McCarroll. "Human genetics helps put those hints together."Two flavors

The bulk of the findings arose from analyses of whole genomes from 1,265 people along with single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data from 6,700 people with lupus and 11,500 controls.

C4 genes and proteins come in two types, C4A and C4B. The researchers found that having more copies of the C4A gene and higher levels of C4A proteins was associated with greater protection against lupus and Sjgren's, while C4B genes had a significant but more modest effect. On the other hand, C4A was linked with increased risk of schizophrenia, while C4B had no effect on that illness.

In men, common combinations of C4A and C4B produced a 14-fold range of risk for lupus and 31-fold range of risk for Sjgren's, compared to only 6-fold and 15-fold ranges in women, respectively.

The researchers didn't expect the genes' effects to be so strong.

"Large genetic effects tend to come from rare variants, while common gene variants generally have small effects," said McCarroll. "The C4 gene variants are common, yet they are very impactful in lupus and Sjgren's."

Still, complement genes don't tell the full story of lupus, Sjgren's or schizophrenia risk, none of which are caused entirely by genetics.

"The complement system contributes to the sex bias, but it's only one of probably many genetic and environmental contributors," said Kamitaki.

Answers from diversity

Complement genes and another family of immune-related genes, called human leukocyte antigen or HLA genes, are interspersed throughout the same complex stretch of the human genome. HLA variants have been shown to raise risk of developing other autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and researchers had long believed that something similar was happening with lupus and Sjgren's.

The culprit, however, remained stubbornly hard to pin down, because specific variants in HLA genes and C4 genes always seemed to appear together in the same people.

Kamitaki and colleagues overcame this hurdle by analyzing DNA from a cohort of several thousand African American research participants. The participants' DNA contained many more recombinations between complement and HLA genes, allowing the researchers to finally tease apart the genes' contributions.

"It became quite clear which gene was responsible," said McCarroll. "That was a real gift to science from African American research participants. The question had been unsolved for decades."

The discovery provides further proof that the field of genetics would benefit from diversifying the populations it studies, McCarroll said.

"It will really help for genetics to expand more strongly beyond European ancestries and learn from genetic variation and ancestries all over the world," he said.

C4 variation could contribute to sex-based vulnerabilities in other diseases not yet analyzed, the authors said. It's not yet clear whether C4 pertains to the sex bias seen in COVID-19.

"We don't know the mechanism yet for why men seem to get sicker from COVID-19," said McCarroll. "Complement molecules are potentially important in any immune or inflammatory condition, and in COVID-19, it seems the immune response can be part of a downward spiral in some patients. But we don't know the key details yet."

It also remains to be seen how the differing effects of complement genes apply to people with intersex traits, also known as disorders or differences of sex development, who don't always fit textbook genetic or biological definitions of male and female.

"That is important to understand," said McCarroll.

Reference:Kamitaki et al.Complement genes contribute sex-biased vulnerability in diverse disorders. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2277-x.

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