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Archive for the ‘Female Genetics’ Category

Women Speak Out Against Body Shaming & Reveal Cruel Nicknames They Got For Their Weight – Storypick

Body shaming or mocking someone on their appearance can have a negative impact on their mental health, erode their self-confidence, or even lead to eating disorders. Which is why it is important to speak up against it.

Recently, a body-positive content creator and model, shared a video in which she urged everyone to stop saying that body-positive pages are glorifying obesity when theyre actually normalizing all body types. She also added that we should stop assuming that fitness is directly related to ones weight and refrain from shaming others by calling them names like sticks (for skinny people) and elephants (for curvy people).

Weight gain or loss is a function of various factors like genetics, medical issues, age, sleeping patterns, and even stress. So, lets not make fun of someone by using these names.

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Women Speak Out Against Body Shaming & Reveal Cruel Nicknames They Got For Their Weight - Storypick

Genomic Medicine is Knocking on the Courtroom Door – JD Supra

[co-author: Drew McNeill]

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

No painful procedure or biopsy needed. We can test our blood to diagnose and even predict cancer.

The Human Genome Project, a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, began in 1990 and was completed in 2003. The goal of the Project was to map all the genes of the human DNA. Genomic medicine has come a long way since then. In 2020, we can test a cancer patients blood (via liquid biopsy) to direct personalized medical decisions about treatment.

Liquid biopsy can also identify individuals with, or at risk for, hereditary cancers. Clinicians routinely use germline (hereditary) DNA genetic testing to inform clinical decisions surrounding cancer treatment and surveillance. For example, identification of a germline pathogenic variant in BRCA1 in a female patient with breast cancer could be the determining factor in her decision to pursue bilateral mastectomy vs lumpectomy or her eligibility for a particular therapy. But DNA testing alone is often inconclusive, with anywhere from 2% to 44% of identified variants classified as variants of uncertain significance (VUS). Now, pairing it with RNA genetic testing has provided a breakthrough, by resolving a substantial proportion of VUS either as benign or pathologic. RNA genetic testing can also identify mutations that DNA-only genetic testing misses.

Its not just a lab theory. Pairing +RNAinsight with hereditary cancer DNA tests, Ambry Genetics has offered a commercially available concurrent RNA and DNA genetic testing for hereditary cancer risk since 2019. In a pilot study, clinicians reported that RNA/DNA testing changed clinical recommendations for 44% of patients and 78% of families, compared to DNA testing results alone. In addition to the technical advantages discussed above, there is a practical advantage of concurrent testing as compared to sequential testing: In sequential testing, 90 percent of patients dropped out after DNA testing without sending in samples for RNA testing.

Its all fascinating from a scientific perspective, but how does it matter in a lawsuit?

Say you are involved in a medical malpractice case or a product liability case related to cancer. Determining where the cancer originated is often the first step because it helps understand if the defendants product or services had something to do with the plaintiffs cancer and/or outcome. But it is sometimes impossible to tell where a patients cancer originated. Advanced imaging techniques (like CT and PET scanning) have been helpful, but the primary (originating) site of some cancers still remain unknown. In some of those difficult cases, liquid biopsies may be able to help solve the mystery.

And there is sometimes a question of what caused the cancer. As discussed above, knowledge of genetic mutations linked to a hereditary likelihood of getting cancer, like a BRCA1 mutation causing breast cancer, is growing. Inherited or not, knowledge linking genetic mutations and mutation patterns to various features of cancer (tissue type, cell type, primary site, etc.) or patient profile (age, sex, race, exposure to certain carcinogens, etc.) is also growing. Genetic testing may even provide evidence of an independent cause of cancer, unrelated to the defendants product or service.

Also, genetic testing may reveal a patients genetic mutations that could cause other cancers or other significant diseases (autoimmune diseases, dementia, etc.). Even when the defendants product or services were related to the plaintiffs cancer or outcome, genetic mutations that would likely have shortened the plaintiffs lifespan and/or significantly worsened their future quality of life may impact damages to which that plaintiff may be entitled.

As medical knowledge advances, lawyers must keep pace. The rules of ethics require lawyers to be competent for litigators, to have the necessary understanding to properly prosecute their clients claims, or defend their clients from poorly-founded claims. Understanding the implications of genetic testing would then be not only helpful, but also necessary, for litigators going forward.

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Genomic Medicine is Knocking on the Courtroom Door - JD Supra

Cracking the code to live your best life: Canadian DNA testing companies, dnaPower and Inagene, partner to unlock true personalized health through…

Two leading edge, female-led Canadian DNA testing companies partner to offer the most comprehensive combination of DNA tests, providing personalized health recommendations on the best diet, exercise, lifestyle and medication regimen for their clients based on their unique genetics.

dnaPower Inc, a biotechnology company that offers DNA testing for health and wellness, announces their partnership with Inagene Diagnostics. Inagene Diagnostics is a DNA testing company that uses genetic information to predict response to medications commonly used to treat pain and mental health conditions. These two Canadian DNA testing companies have joined forces to crack the code on personalized healthcare, empowering people to take control of their health and live their best lives.

dnaPower is committed to helping people make better data-driven decisions about their day to day health using genetics. We are delighted to be partnering with Inagene, a strong female-led, Canadian DNA company to include their pharmacogenetic testing.In addition to providing tailored health solutions for your diet, exercise and lifestyle, we can now add the ability to identify the medications best suited for your body to keep you safe and get the best health outcome. Dr. Lois Nahirney, CEO, dnaPower Inc.

Through their partnership, dnaPower and Inagene offer a suite of tailored health solutions for anyone looking to maximize insights to optimize their health. Comprehensive DNA testing is available for preventative health and medical treatment optimization. Personalized insights include tailored diet, exercise, lifestyle recommendations, and medications to optimize ones treatment plan based on their genetic information. Together, these powerful genetic insights act as a biological roadmap to help individuals navigate their best health.

Advancements in technology have opened up a world of opportunities to personalized healthcare in ways never seen before. There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to health. Unique genes can respond differently to foods, types of exercise, and medications. Spending years through trial and error to find the best diet, exercise, and medication is a way of the past. Individuals can now enjoy the ability to take control of their health without the guesswork through genetic testing.

We are excited and proud to partner withdnaPower another leading-edge Canadian company! Our teams care deeply about helping clients and are passionate about bringing innovation and personalized medicine to consumers. Helping individuals and their healthcare providers determine which drug and dose will work best, with less trial and error, is just part of the equation; the opportunity to learn what diet and exercise regimen works best for you, further enhances the client experience. Nancy White, CEO, Inagene Diagnostics.

To celebrate their partnership, dnaPower and Inagene are offering a combined special on their DNA tests. The Ultimate Insights Package includes the suite of dnaPower and Inagene DNA tests at the incredible price of $648 (retail value $1495). See this special offer.

Together, dnaPower and Inagene are passionate about empowering individuals to control their health with genetic testing, sharing a unified principle that knowledge is power.

About Inagene Diagnostics

With over two decades of experience in genetic research and diagnostics, combined with over 30 years of commercial health experience, Inagene has witnessed and been a part of the growing technology that now makes personalized healthcare possible. Inagene believes patients are not simply seeking more information, but practical and individualized information they can use to help make the best decisions about their health. Inagene Personalized InsightsTM makes it easy for patients and health care practitioners to navigate to the safest and most effective treatment options for medications used for pain and mental health conditions, and steer clear of those that arent.

About dnaPower Inc

dnaPower was one of the first in the world to offer DNA health testing, launching in 2008. They saw enormous potential for new DNA technology to help support peoples health and wellness, particularly in diet and fitness. dnaPower was a pioneer in applying leading-edge gene research to develop targeted gene panels. Since then, they have been providing personalized testing and professional support to help people like you make better, data-driven decisions about your health. With years of experience, dnaPower provides clear results and specific recommendations to help you take proactive and positive action for your unique body.

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Cracking the code to live your best life: Canadian DNA testing companies, dnaPower and Inagene, partner to unlock true personalized health through...

America’s Ugly History With Selective Sterilization Against Women of Color – POPSUGAR

A prisoner shines a light from a window at an LA ICE detention center.

Last week, Dawn Wooten became the latest whistleblower regarding the treatment of migrants inside US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. A former detention center nurse, Wooten filed a claim with the Department of Homeland Security claiming that mass hysterectomies were being performed on women without their full consent and sometimes, without their knowledge.

These allegations rightfully shocked many, as politicians, celebrities and social media users drew comparisons between ICE conditions and Nazi Germany. But forced sterilization in America is not a random imitation of Nazi's eugenic history; it's a vile continuation of our own. In fact, it was California's mass sterilization in the 1920s, then recorded by the Eugenics Record Office, that in part helped form Hilter's blueprint for racial purification in Germany. Eugenics is the belief that the human species can be improved by preselecting those with "desirable" traits to reproduce in an effort to "breed out" disease, criminal traits, and mental illness.

In the early 1900s, sterilization in America thrived through federally funded programs used to control growing Asian and Mexican immigrant populations in the west and Black populations in the south. Originally targeting "undesirable" genes in people with criminal records and mental illnesses, it strategically evolved to include immigrants, people of color, and low-income citizens soon after. These programs purposefully sought out the most vulnerable communities, with victims who legally and financially could not fight against a government that had already predetermined their fate.

Below is a brief timeline of our country's history with sterilization, which has disproportionately affected women of color for more than 100 years.

The Eugenics movement enters the American political and economic system in an effort to eliminate "unfavorable" genetics of people with disabilities and those perceived as "socially inferior."

Michigan is the first state to introduce a compulsory sterilization bill. It does not pass.

Pennsylvania passes a sterilization bill that is later vetoed.

Indiana becomes the first state to legally pass eugenics laws and mandate sterilization of the "feebleminded," criminals, and "imbeciles."

By this year, 12 states, including California, Connecticut, and Washington, have some form of sterilization legislation in place.

By this time, 3,000 people have already been involuntarily sterilized in the country since the eugenics movement began.

Virginia's Eugenical Sterilization Act is signed into law under the guidance of Dr. Albert Priddy, the first superintendent of the Virginia Colony for Epilectics. Later that year, Priddy presents 18 subjects (all women) for a sterilization case study. The first proposed subject is Carrie Buck a 17-year-old pregnant girl who was raped by her foster family's nephew.

In Buck v. Bell, the Supreme Court approves the sterilization of individuals in all public institutions showcasing characteristics of "imbecility, epilepsy, and feeblemindedness." This included Priddy's first subject case, Buck, who became the first patient in America to face a legally mandated sterilization.

Sterilization begins in Puerto Rico. Approximately one-third of all Puerto Rican women were sterilized up until the 1970s.

Elaine Riddick, a 14-year-old Black girl in North Carolina is recommended for sterilization by a social worker after being raped. Her procedure is signed with an "x" by her illiterate grandmother, who was not informed of the procedure.

A five-person committee in North Carolina begins a sterilization program that lasts 45 years, sterilizing over 7,600 women, children, and men of color.

Two Black, mentally disabled sisters, Mary Alice Relf, 14, and Minnie Relf, 12, are sterilized without consent in Alabama after doctors tell their illiterate mother they were receiving birth control shots.

The Relf v. Weinberger case draws nationwide attention to the 100,000-150,000 people being involuntarily sterilized each year across the country.

By this year, 20 to 25 percent of Indigenous women have undergone forced sterilization in America since 1970.

In Madrigal v. Quilligan, the Supreme Court sides with Los Angeles County USC Medical Center, refusing to acknowledge coercion used to sterilize 10 female Mexican-American patients, despite a whistleblower going on the record.

By this year, California is responsible for 20,000 sterilization procedures, the highest number of any state.

Since 2006, almost 150 female prisoners in California have been secretly and illegally sterilized.

The Eugenics Compensation Act is signed into law to provide protections and reparations for victims.

As you can see, this is a devastating history, and one that isn't widely known. These eugenics methods were intentional tactics to disrupt the history and lineage of families and cultures. This drive to control marginalized groups, especially women of color, still has roots in our reproduction rights and decisions today.

If you're interested in learning more about America's history of sterilization, documentaries are a great place to start. I recommend watching The Eugenics Crusade (available on PBS and Amazon Prime) about the origins of eugenics and its role in American history. To learn how sterilization affected women specifically, No Ms Bebs (available on PBS) is a documentary about California's history of sterilizing Latina women, and Belly of the Beast is a documentary about the recent sterilizations in California's female prisons, premiering next month.

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America's Ugly History With Selective Sterilization Against Women of Color - POPSUGAR

COVID-19 and small island nations: what we can learn from New Zealand and Iceland – The Conversation AU

Despite being at opposite ends of the Earth, Iceland and New Zealand have many similarities. Both are small island nations, heavily reliant on tourism and currently led by young female prime ministers.

Both countries have also been commended for their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, characterised by science-informed policy and a high degree of public trust.

At the moment, Iceland and New Zealand have some of the lowest COVID-19 deaths per capita among OECD countries (2.83 and 0.51 per 100,000 population, respectively, compared with an OECD average of 24.01 per 100,000).

Both have been rated in the top 14 safest countries in the world for COVID-19.

But since the first cases were identified in each country in late February 2020, the two nations have taken different pathways in their COVID-19 responses. What lessons can we learn from their journeys so far?

New Zealand is one of the few countries to openly declare a COVID-19 elimination strategy. This involved a progressively strengthened contact-tracing and isolation system, with early and stringent use of shutdowns and border controls.

A nationwide shutdown was instigated on March 26 soon after community transmission was first demonstrated in the country and before any deaths had occurred. Alongside the shutdown, the border was closed to all but New Zealand citizens and residents.

A 14-day quarantine in managed facilities was implemented for all new arrivals. These border controls have continued to today despite the huge impact on the tourism industry.

Read more: Research shows Mori are more likely to die from COVID-19 than other New Zealanders

New Zealands go hard and go early strategy proved to be more effective than most had anticipated. The country moved back to its lowest alert level on June 8, after only seven weeks of shutdown.

On August 11, after more than 100 days with no community transmission of COVID-19, a cluster of cases not linked to other known case was detected in Auckland. This outbreak is still being contained and no source has yet been identified.

The response from the government was immediately to reinstate stay-at-home orders in Auckland, raise the alert level for the rest of the country, and further tighten systems at the border and in quarantine and isolation facilities.

Key to management of this resurgence was the use of rapid genome sequencing and a new requirement for mask use when travelling on public transport.

Read more: Genome sequencing tells us the Auckland outbreak is a single cluster except for one case

In contrast to New Zealand, Icelands strategy involved no shutdown period, no official border closure to non-residents, and negligible use of managed quarantine facilities.

The aim instead is to mitigate infection so it does not overwhelm the health-care system, and to keep the numbers as low as possible. As in New Zealand, there is a new requirement for wearing face masks when travelling on public transport and where physical distancing is difficult.

The cornerstone of Icelands response has been easy access to COVID-19 testing and mass screening, alongside quarantine and contact tracing. This was enabled by a public-private partnership between the Icelandic health authorities, the National University Hospital of Iceland and local biopharmaceutical company deCODE Genetics.

At one stage, Iceland was performing more tests per head of population than any other country.

As Iceland became free of community transmission of COVID-19 in mid-May, pressure grew from the tourism industry and other stakeholders to reduce the 14-day quarantine policy for new arrivals into the country.

In response, a controversial new border screening program was implemented on June 15. This required all incoming travellers to be tested once for COVID-19 on arrival and then urged to self-quarantine until results came back, usually within 24 hours.

As a consequence, tourism in June and July exceeded all expectations in Iceland.

But increasing community transmission, with several clusters arising from travellers who had tested negative on arrival prompted a stepwise tightening of the border system.

Since August 19, all incoming travellers have had to undergo mandatory self-quarantine, during which they need to return two negative COVID-19 tests at least five days apart.

The change to this two-test strategy proved to be a wise move, as 25 (20%) of the 126 active infections in inbound travellers were detected only by the second test.

Although they adopted different strategies, both Iceland and New Zealand demonstrate the importance of decisive, science-informed decision-making and clear communication involving regular public briefings by senior officials.

Read more: COVID-19 is not the only infectious disease New Zealand wants to eliminate, and genome sequencing is a crucial tool

As a consequence, high levels of public trust have been recorded in both Iceland and New Zealand although this has varied through the pandemic.

The prominent role of scientists, the use of multi-institutional collaborations as part of COVID-19 response strategies, and the willingness to adapt to new knowledge have also been key features for both countries.

Only time will enable a full assessment of each countrys COVID-19 strategy. More than ever, the global community needs to learn from each others experiences, avoid dogmatism and be adaptable in our national responses as we navigate a path out of this pandemic.

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COVID-19 and small island nations: what we can learn from New Zealand and Iceland - The Conversation AU

Sex is real –

Its uncontroversial among biologists that many species have two, distinct biological sexes. Theyre distinguished by the way that they package their DNA into gametes, the sex cells that merge to make a new organism. Males produce small gametes, and females produce large gametes. Male and female gametes are very different in structure, as well as in size. This is familiar from human sperm and eggs, and the same is true in worms, flies, fish, molluscs, trees, grasses and so forth.

Different species, though, manifest the two sexes in different ways. The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, a common laboratory organism, has two forms not male and female, but male and hermaphrodite. Hermaphroditic individuals are male as larvae, when they make and store sperm. Later they become female, losing the ability to make sperm but acquiring the ability to make eggs, which they can fertilise with the stored sperm.

This biological definition of sex has been swept up into debates over the status of transgender people in society. Some philosophers and gender theorists define a woman as a biologically female human being. Others strongly disagree. Im addressing those who reject the very idea that there are two biological sexes. Instead, they argue, there are many biological sexes, or a continuum of biological sexes.

Theres no need to reject how biologists define the sexes to defend the view that trans women are women. When we look across the diversity of life, sex takes stranger forms than anyone has dreamt of for humans. The biological definition of sex takes all this in its stride. It does so despite the fact that there are no more than two biological sexes in any species youre likely to have heard of. To many people, that might seem to have conservative implications, or to fly in the face of the diversity we see in actual human beings. I will make clear why it does not.

I call this the biological definition of sex because its the one biologists use when studying sex that is, the process by which organisms use their DNA to make offspring. Many philosophers and gender theorists will protest at making the creation of offspring foundational to how we define sex or distinguish different sexes. Theyre surely right that sex as a social phenomenon is much richer than that. But the use of DNA to make offspring is a central topic in biology, and understanding and explaining the diversity of reproductive systems is an important scientific task. Gender theorists are understandably worried about how the biology of sex will be applied or misapplied to humans. What they might not appreciate is why biologists use this definition when classifying the mind-stretching forms of reproduction observed in limpets, worms, fish, lizards, voles and other organisms and they might not understand the difficulties that arise if you try to use another definition.

Many people assume that if there are only two sexes, that means everyone must fall into one of them. But the biological definition of sex doesnt imply that at all. As well as simultaneous hermaphrodites, which are both male and female, sequential hermaphrodites are first one sex and then the other. There are also individual organisms that are neither male nor female. The biological definition of sex is not based on an essential quality that every organism is born with, but on two distinct strategies that organisms use to propagate their genes. They are not born with the ability to use these strategies they acquire that ability as they grow up, a process which produces endless variation between individuals. The biology of sex tries to classify and explain these many systems for combining DNA to make new organisms. That can be done without assigning every individual to a sex, and we will see that trying to do so quickly leads to asking questions that have no biological meaning.

While the biological definition of sex is needed to understand the diversity of life, that doesnt mean its the best definition for ensuring fair competition in sport or adequate access to healthcare. We cant expect sporting codes, medical systems and family law to adopt a definition simply because biologists find it useful. Conversely, most institutional definitions of sex break down immediately in biology, because other species contradict human assumptions about sex. The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) uses a chromosomal definition of sex XY for males and XX for females. Many reptiles, such as the terrifying saltwater crocodiles of northern Australia, dont have any sex chromosomes, but a male saltie has no trouble telling if the crocodile that has entered his territory is a male. Even among mammals, at least five species are known that dont have male sex chromosomes, but they develop into males just fine. Gender theorists have extensively criticised the chromosomal definition of human sexes. But however well or badly that definition works for humans, its an abject failure when you look at sex across the diversity of life.

The same is true of phenotypic sex, the familiar idea that sex is defined by the typical physical characteristics (phenotypes) of males and females. Obviously, this approach will produce completely different definitions of male and female for humans, for worms, for trees and so forth. Incubating eggs inside your body, for example, is a female characteristic in humans but a male one in seahorses. That doesnt mean that human institutions cant use the phenotypic definition. But it isnt useful when studying the common patterns in the genetics, evolution and so forth of female humans, female seahorses and female worms.

Understanding the complex ways in which chromosomes and phenotypes relate to biological sex will make clear why the biological definition of sex shouldnt be the battleground for philosophers and gender theorists who disagree about the definition of woman. There might be very good reasons not to define woman in this way, but not because the definition itself is poor biology.

Why did sexes evolve in the first place? Biologists define sex as a step towards answering this question. Not all species have biological sexes, and biology seeks to explain why some do and others dont. The fact that no species has evolved more than two biological sexes is also a puzzle. It would be quite straightforward to engineer a species that has three, but none has evolved naturally.

Many species reproduce asexually, with each individual using its own DNA to create offspring. But other species, including our own, combine DNA from more than one organism. Thats sexual reproduction, where two sex cells gametes merge to make a new individual. In some species, these two gametes are identical; many species of yeast, for example, make new individuals from two, identical gametes. They reproduce sexually, but they have no sexes, or, if you prefer, they have only one sex. But in species that make two different kinds of gamete and where one gamete of each kind is needed to make a new organism there are two sexes. Each sex makes one of the two kinds of gamete.

In complex multicellular organisms, such as plants and animals, these two kinds of gamete are very different. One is a large, complex cell, what wed typically call an egg. Its similar to the eggs produced by asexual species, which can develop into a new organism all on their own. Many species of insect and some lizards, snakes and sharks can reproduce using just an egg cell. The other kind of gamete is a much smaller cell that contains very little beyond some DNA and some machinery to get that DNA to the larger gamete. We are familiar with these two kinds of gametes from human eggs and sperm.

Theres no obvious reason why complex multicellular organisms need to have two kinds of gamete, or why these two kinds are so different in size and structure. Its perfectly possible to make three or more different kinds of gamete, or gametes that vary continuously, just as people vary continuously in height. One question that biologists seek to answer, then, is why those forms of sexual reproduction arent observed in complex organisms such as animals and plants.

Earthworms are hermaphrodites: one part of the worm produces sperm and another part produces eggs

When a species produces two different kinds of gamete, biologists call this anisogamy, meaning not-equal-gametes. Some anisogamic species have separate sexes, like humans do, where each individual can produce only one kind of gamete. Other anisogamic species are hermaphrodites, where each individual produces both kinds of gamete. Because they produce two kinds of gametes, hermaphroditic species still have two biological sexes they simply combine them in one organism. When a biologist tells you that earthworms are hermaphrodites, they mean that one part of the worm produces sperm and another part produces eggs.

Some single-celled and very simple multicellular organisms have evolved something called mating types. These are gametes that are identical in size and structure, but in which the genome of each gamete contains genetic markers that affect which other gametes it can combine with. Typically, gametes with the same genetic marker cant recombine with one another. Some species have many hundreds of these mating types, and newspapers often report research into this phenomenon under headlines such as: Scientists discover species with hundreds of sexes! But, formally, biologists refer to these as mating types, and reserve the term sexes for gametes that are different in size and structure.

Why distinguish between these two phenomena? One reason is that the evolution of anisogamy gametes that differ in size and structure explains the later evolution of sex chromosomes, sex-associated physical characteristics and much more. But the existence of mating types doesnt have these dramatic knock-on evolutionary effects. Another reason to keep the distinction is that anisogamy and mating types are thought to have evolved via different evolutionary processes. One theory is that anisogamy appeared when mating-type genome markers somehow became linked to genes that controlled the size of the gamete, or mutated in some way that affected gamete size. These differences in gamete size would then kickstart the evolution of sexes.

The evolution of sex seems to be strongly associated with multicellularity, so the obvious place to look for a shift from mating types to sexes is in organisms that sit at the multicellular boundary such as algae, which sometimes exist as single-celled organisms, and sometimes as colonies of cells. And indeed, there are species of algae where gametes are just a little bit anisogamous, blurring the distinction between mating types and sexes. Theres much we dont know about how sex evolved, and how it might have evolved differently across species. But the point is that sexes and mating types are very different phenomena, with different causes and consequences.

The fact that sex evolved in some species but not others tells us something important about how biologists think about sex. Many cultures take the difference between male and female to be something fundamental, and label other natural phenomena such as the Sun and the Moon as male or female. But for biologists, the separation between male and female is no more fundamental or universal than photosynthesis or being warm-blooded. Some species have evolved these things, and some havent. They exist when they do only because of the local advantages they afforded in evolutionary competition.

So why did some species evolve two, distinct sexes? To answer this question, we need to forget about creatures with complex sex organs and mating behaviours. These evolved later. Instead, think of an organism that releases its gametes into the sea, such as coral, or into the air, such as fungal spores. Next, consider that there are two goals that any gamete must achieve if its to reproduce sexually. The first is finding and recombining with another gamete. The second is producing a new individual with enough resources to survive. One widely accepted idea, then, is that the evolution of sexes reflects a trade-off between these goals. Because no organism has infinite resources, organisms can either produce many small gametes, making it more likely that some of them will find a partner, or produce fewer but larger gametes, making it more likely that the resulting individual will have what it needs to survive and thrive.

Since the 1970s, this idea has been used to model how anisogamic species might have evolved from species with only one kind of gamete. As mutations introduce differences in gamete size, two winning strategies emerge. One is to produce a large number of small gametes too small to create viable offspring unless they recombine with a larger, well-provisioned gamete. The other winning strategy is to produce a few, large, well-resourced gametes that can create viable offspring, no matter how small the recombinant they end up merging with. Intermediate approaches, such as producing a moderate number of moderately well-provisioned gametes, dont do well. Organisms that try to follow the middle way end up with gametes less likely to find a partner than smaller gametes, and more likely to have insufficient resources than larger gametes. When the two successful complementary strategies have evolved, fresh evolutionary pressures make the gametes even more distinct from one another. For example, it can be advantageous for the small gametes to become more mobile, or for the large, immobile gametes to send signals to the mobile ones.

Once anisogamy has evolved, it shapes many other aspects of reproductive biology. Most species of limpet shellfish that you see on rocks at the beach are sequential hermaphrodites. When young and small they are male, and when mature and large they become female. This is believed to be because small limpets dont have sufficient resources to produce large female gametes, but theyre capable of producing the smaller male ones. In some other species, successful males can arrest their growth and remain small (and male) for their entire life.

Chromosomes arent male or female because these bits of DNA define biological sex. Its the other way around

Sequential hermaphroditism occurs in the opposite direction too. Australian snorkellers love to spot the large blue males of the eastern blue groper, but its rare to see more than one. Most groper are smaller, brown females. They are all born female and become sexually mature after a few years, when 20 or 30 cm in length. At around 50 cm, they change sex and acquire other male characteristics, such as being blue. Unlike the limpet, the main problem facing a male groper is controlling a territory on the reef, so becoming male when youre small is a losing strategy.

Biology aims to understand the extraordinary diversity of ways in which organisms reproduce themselves, as well as to identify common patterns, and to explain why they occur. In general, organisms become sexually mature when they reach an optimal size for reproduction. This optimal size is often different for the two sexes, because the two sexes represent divergent strategies for reproduction. The limpet and the groper are two of many examples. In constructing these explanations, biological sex is defined as the production of one type of viable anisogamous gamete. If we defined sex in some other way, it would be hard to see the common patterns across the diversity of life, and hard to explain them.

So-called sex chromosomes, such as the XX and XY chromosome pairs seen in humans, are often brandished as something thats fundamental to sex. Its partly the inadequacy of this definition that drives scepticism about the existence of two, discrete biological sexes. Molecular genetics is likely to require a shift from binary sex to quantum sex, with a dozen or more genes each conferring a small percentage likelihood of male or female sex that is still further dependent on micro- and macroenvironmental interactions, writes the gender scholar Vernon Rosario.

But any biologist already knows that theres more to sex determination than chromosomes and genes, and that male and female sex chromosomes are neither necessary nor sufficient to make organisms male and female. Several species of mammal, all rodents of one kind or another, have completely lost the male Y chromosome, but these rats and voles all produce perfectly normal, fertile males. Other groups of species, such as crocodiles and many fish, have neither sex chromosomes nor any other genes that determine sex. Yet they still have two, discrete biological sexes. The Australian saltwater crocodile, whom we met before, lays eggs that are very likely to develop into gigantic, highly territorial males if incubated between 30 and 33 degrees Celsius. At other temperatures, genetically identical eggs develop into much smaller females.

The reality is that chromosomes arent called male or female because these bits of DNA define biological sex. Its the other way around in some species that reproduce using two discrete sexes, those sexes are associated with different bits of DNA. But in other species this association is either absent or unreliable. Medical institutions use a chromosomal definition of sex because they judge, rightly or wrongly, that this is a reliable way of categorising humans. But humans really arent the best place to start when trying to understand sex across the diversity of life.

So much for genes. But perhaps sex could be defined by the physical characteristics that organisms develop, which then add up to constitute an organisms sex? An organism with more female than male characteristics would be more female than male and vice-versa. Thats a reasonable way to think about sex, and this idea of phenotypic sex is widely used. But if we apply the biological definition of sex, some of the individuals who are in the middle as far as sex-associated characteristics go are bona fide members of one biological sex. Others are not clearly members of either biological sex.

Nothing in the biological definition of sex requires that every organism be a member of one sex or the other. That might seem surprising, but it follows naturally from defining each sex by the ability to do one thing: to make eggs or to make sperm. Some organisms can do both, while some cant do either. Consider the sex-switching species described above: what sex are they when theyre halfway through switching? What sex are they if something goes wrong, perhaps due to hormone-mimicking chemicals from decaying plastic waste? Once we see the development of sex as a process and one that can be disrupted it is inevitable that there will be many individual organisms that arent clearly of either sex. But that doesnt mean that there are many biological sexes, or that biological sex is a continuum. There remain just two, distinct ways in which organisms contribute genetic material to their offspring.

Whats more, the physical characteristics of an organism can be labelled as male or female only if there is already a definition of sex. Whats so male about a groper being blue as opposed to brown? Many male organisms are brown. Whats so female about incubating eggs in a womb? After all, in many pipefish and seahorse species the male incubates the eggs in his brood pouch. What makes this part of the hermaphroditic earthworm male and that part female? Gender studies scholars have noticed this logical discrepancy, and some have gone on to argue that the sexes must therefore be defined in terms of gender. But from a biological perspective, what makes an observable physical characteristic male or female is not its association with gender, but its association with something more tangible: the production of one or other of the two kinds of gamete.

This explains why the existence of individuals with combinations of male and female characteristics doesnt show that biological sex is a continuum. These organisms have a combination of characteristics associated with one biological sex and characteristics associated with the other biological sex. They do not have some part of the ability to make small gametes combined with some part of the ability to make large gametes. Their phenotypic sex might be intermediate, but their biological sex is not. Being fully biologically male and fully biologically female hermaphroditic can be an effective evolutionary strategy, and we have encountered several hermaphroditic species already. But making both kinds of gametes incompletely would be an evolutionary dead-end.

Like phenotypic characteristics, sex chromosomes can be more or less reliably associated with biological sex. The eastern three-lined skink, an Australian lizard, has sex chromosomes, and under some circumstances XY skinks become male and XX skinks become female, just as in humans. But in cold nests, every skink becomes male, whatever their chromosomes. By becomes male, biologists mean that they grow up to produce small gametes sperm.

No animal is conceived with the ability to make sperm or eggs (or both). This ability has to grow

This effect of temperature on sex is not surprising, as many reptile species produce genetically identical offspring whose sex is determined by incubation temperature. Whats more surprising is that varying the size of the egg yolk in this species of skink can produce both sexes with the wrong sex chromosomes: XX males and XY females. The skink seems to have three mechanisms for determining sex chromosomes, temperature and hormones in the yolk. This is not a mere quirk of nature. The skink is one of many species that actively control the sex of their offspring, responding to environmental cues that predict whether male or female offspring have better chances of surviving and reproducing.

If all species were like the skink, we probably wouldnt label sex chromosomes as male or female. After all, we dont think of extreme nest temperatures as female and intermediate temperatures as male, merely because they produce male and female crocodiles or male and female geckos. We think of sex chromosomes as male or female because we focus on species where they are reliably associated with the production of male or female gametes.

Sex chromosomes play much the same role in sex determination as nest temperatures and hormones. Theyre simply mechanisms that organisms use to turn genes on and off in offspring so that they develop a biological sex. No animal is conceived with the ability to make sperm or eggs (or both). This ability has to grow, through a cascade of interactions between genes and environments. In some species, once an individual acquires a sex, it remains that sex for the rest of its life. In others, individuals can switch sex one or more times. But in every case, the underlying mechanisms are designed to grow organisms that make either male or female gametes (or both). The other changes the body undergoes as it becomes male, female or hermaphroditic are designed to fit the reproductive strategies that this species has evolved.

These mechanisms by which organisms develop or switch biological sex are complex, and many factors can interfere with them. So they produce a lot of phenotypic diversity. Sometimes, organisms grow up able to make fertile gametes, but otherwise atypical for their biological sex. Sometimes, they grow up unable to make fertile gametes of either kind. This is usually an accident, but sometimes by design. In bees, eggs that arent fertilised develop into males, so male bees have half as many chromosomes as female bees. Meanwhile, all fertilised eggs start to develop into females, but most of them never complete their sexual development. The queen sends chemical signals that block the development of the worker bees ovaries at an early stage. So worker bees are female in the extended sense that they would develop into fertile females if they werent actively prevented from doing so. Occasionally, worker bees manage to evade these controls and lay their own eggs. They are not popular with beekeepers, who select against these mutant strains.

The diversity of outcomes in individual sexual development doesnt mean that there are many biological sexes or that biological sex is a continuum. Whatever the merits of those views for chromosomal sex or phenotypic sex, they are not true of biological sex. A good way to grasp this is to imagine a species that really does have three biological sexes. Biotechnologists have proposed curing mitochondrial diseases by removing the nucleus from an egg with healthy mitochondrial DNA, and inserting a new nucleus containing the nuclear DNA from an unhealthy egg and the nuclear DNA from a sperm. The resulting child would have three genetic parents.

Now imagine if there was a whole species like this, where three different kinds of gametes combined to make a new individual a sperm, an egg and a third, mitochondrial gamete. This species would have three biological sexes. Something like this has actually been observed in slime moulds, an amoeba that can, but need not, get its mitochondria from a third parent. The novelist Kurt Vonnegut imagined an even more complex system in Slaughterhouse-Five (1969): There were five sexes on Tralfamadore, each of them performing a step necessary in the creation of a new individual. But the first question a biologist would ask is: why havent these organisms been replaced by mutants that dispense with some of the sexes? Having even two sexes imposes many extra costs the simplest is just finding a mate and these costs increase as the number of sexes required for mating rises. Mutants with fewer sexes would leave more offspring and would rapidly replace the existing Tralfamadorians. Something like this likely explains why two-sex systems predominate on Earth.

We can also imagine a species where biological sex really does form a continuum. Recall that some algae have slightly anisogamous gametes, much closer together than sperm and eggs. We can imagine a more complex organism using this system, with some slightly smaller gametes and some slightly larger ones. Successful reproduction might require two gametes that, when added together, are big enough but not too big. But the sexually reproducing plants and animals that actually exist all have just two, very different kinds of gamete male and female. Theyre not merely different in size, theyre fundamentally different in structure. This is the result of competition between organisms to leave the greatest number of genetic descendants. In complex multicellular organisms such as plants and animals, we know of only three successful reproductive strategies: two biological sexes in different individuals, two biological sexes combined in hermaphroditic individuals, and asexual reproduction. Some species use one of these strategies, some use more than one.

Human beings have come up with many ways to classify the diversity of individual outcomes from human sexual development. People who want to apply the biological definition of sex to humans should recognise that its ill-suited to do what many human institutions want, which is to sort every individual into one category or another. What sex are worker bees? They are sterile workers whose genome was designed by natural selection to terminate ovary development on receipt of a signal from the queen bee. They share much of the biology of fertile female bees but if someone wants to know Are worker bees really female?, theyre asking a question that biology simply cant answer.

Nor is being a sterile worker a third biological sex alongside male and female. This is easier to see in ants, where there is more than one sterile caste. Workers, soldiers, queens and male flying ants each have specialised bodies and behaviour, but there are not four biological sexes of ant. Workers and soldiers are both female in an extended sense, but not in the full-blown sense that queen ants are female. There is a human imperative to give everything a sex, as mentioned above, but biology doesnt share it.

The biological definition of sex wasnt designed to ensure fair sporting competition, or settle healthcare disputes

Juvenile organisms and postmenopausal human females also cant produce either kind of gamete. Juveniles are assigned to the sex they have started to grow into. But once again, this is more complicated than it seems when we focus only on humans. In almost all mammals, sexual differentiation is initiated by a region of the Y chromosome, so a mammalian egg can become either male or female. In birds, its the other way around the egg carries the sex-determining W chromosome, so sperm can become either male or female. After fertilisation, therefore, we can say that an individual mammal or bird has a sex in the sense that it has started to grow the ability to produce either male or female gametes. With a crocodile or a turtle, though, wed have to wait until nest temperature had its sex-determining effect. But that doesnt mean that we need to create a third biological sex for crocodile eggs!

More importantly, nothing guarantees that any of these organisms, including those with sex chromosomes, will continue to grow to the point where they can actually produce male or female gametes. Any number of things can interfere. From a biological point of view, there is nothing mysterious about the fact that organisms have to grow into a biological sex, that it takes them a while to get there, and that some individuals develop in unusual or idiosyncratic ways. This is a problem only if a definition of sex must sort every individual organism into one sex or another. Biology doesnt need to do that.

In human populations, there are plenty of individuals whose sex is hard to determine. Biologists arent blind to this. The definition of biological sex is designed to classify the human reproductive system and all the others in a way that helps us to understand and explain the diversity of life. Its not designed to exhaustively classify every human being, or every living thing. Trying to do so quickly leads to questions that have no biological meaning.

Human societies cant delegate to biology the job of defining sex as a social institution. The biological definition of sex wasnt designed to ensure fair sporting competition, or to settle disputes about access to healthcare. Theorists who want to use the biological definition of sex in those ways need to show that it will do a good job at the Olympics or in Medicare. The fact that its needed in biology isnt good enough. On the other hand, whatever its shortcomings as an institutional definition, the concept of biological sex remains essential to understand the diversity of life. It shouldnt be discarded or distorted because of arguments about its use in law, sport or medicine. That would be a tragic mistake.

The authors research is supported by the Australian Research Council and the John Templeton Foundation. He would also like to thank Nicole Vincent, Jussi Lehtonen, Stefan Gawronski and Joshua Christie for their feedback on earlier drafts.

Sex is real -

Faculty of Medicine researchers receive $15M from CIHR’s Project Grant program – UBC Faculty of Medicine

Twenty-two research projects led by researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and affiliated health authority research centres were awarded $15 million from the Canadian Institute of Health Research Project Grant Spring 2020 competition.

The Project Grant program supports researchers in building and conducting health-related research and knowledge translation projects, covering all areas of health.

In addition to the Project Grant Spring 2020 competition, one Faculty of Medicine project was awarded a priority announcement bridge grant of $100,000.

Pilot RCT for cognitive-behavioural & mindfulness-based online programs for female sexual dysfunctionUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Lori Brotto, department of obstetrics & gynaecology

Identification of HOXB13 inhibitors to treat castrate-resistant prostate cancerUBC Principal Investigators: Dr. Martin Gleave, department of urologic sciences, Nathan Lack, department of urologic sciences

Predicting and Evaluating Anal Cancer in HIV with novel biomarkers: The PEACH StudyUBC Principal Investigators: Dr. Jonathan (Troy) Grennan, department of medicine

A randomized trial of doxycycline chemoprophylaxis for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM)UBC Principal Investigators: Dr. Jonathan (Troy) Grennan, department of medicine, Mark Hull, department of medicine

Chronic diseases in mothers and risks of neuro-developmental disorders in offspring: an international comparisonUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. K. S. Joseph, School of Population and Public Health

Novel endothelial engineering and localized immunosuppression approaches for the protection of organ transplantsUBC Principal Investigators: Dr. Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu, department of pathology and laboratory medicine

Childhood Epigenetic Age Deviations and Developmental Differences (CEAD3)UBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Michael Kobor, department of medical genetics

Characterization and treatment of a novel conditional mouse model of pyridoxine-dependent epileptic encephalopathy caused by antiquitin mutations.UBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Blair Leavitt, department of medical genetics

Improving clinical practice recommendations for late preterm antenatal corticosteroids: incorporating a decision support tool to tackle the uncertain balance of risks and benefitsUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Jessica Liauw, department of obstetrics & gynaecology

Enterovirus subversion of the autophagy pathwayUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Honglin Luo, department of pathology and laboratory medicine

Reducing unsafe prescribing of prescription opioid medications to opioid nave patientsUBC Principal Investigators: Dr. Rita McCracken, department of family practice, Evan Wood, department of medicine

Maternal exposures during pregnancy as drivers of susceptibility to allergic asthma and Th2 inflammation.UBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Kelly McNagny, department of medical genetics

Self-Management for Amputee Rehabilitation using Technology (SMART) program: A peer supported mHealth approach for rehabilitation after lower limb amputationUBC Principal Investigators: Dr. William Miller, department of occupational science and occupational therapy, Maureen Ashe, department of family practice, William Mortenson, department of occupational science and occupational therapy, Michael Payne, medical microbiology

Evaluating tetrahydrocannabinol as an adjunct to opioid agonist therapy for individuals living with opioid use disorder: A Phase II, placebo-controlled, blinded, pilot study to assess safety and feasibilityUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Michael-John Milloy, department of medicine

Engaging and retaining marginalized populations in primary health care in the downtown east side of VancouverUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. David Moore, department of medicine

Improved Assessment of Disease in Lymphoma Patients using Quantitative PET ImagingUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Arman Rahmim, department of radiology

Delineating between pathophysiologic phenotypes of hypoxic ischemic brain injury after cardiac arrestUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Mypinder Sekhon, department of medicine

Tissue resident and migratory group 2 innate lymphoid cells in health and diseaseUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Fumio Takei, department of pathology & laboratory medicine

Neuro-cardiac predictors of treatment response to rTMS in depression: a mechanistic study using interleaved TMS-fMRIUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, department of psychiatry

Low frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) vs. intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation TMS effectiveness in depression and suicidal ideation: a randomized non-inferiority trialUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, department of psychiatry

The role of PRDM16 in neuroendocrine prostate cancer development and aggressivenessUBC Principal Investigator: Dr. Yuzhuo Wang, department of urologic sciences

A prospective and longitudinal investigation of concussive and subconcussive mild traumatic brain injury mechanisms in ice hockeyUBC Principal Investigators: Dr. Alexander Rauscher, department of pediatrics, Lyndia (Chun) Wu, Faculty of Applied Science, Paul van Donkelaar, Faculty of Health and Social Development

Understanding Human Primary Atopic Disorders (Priority Announcement:Skin Conditions)UBC Principal Investigators: Dr. Stuart Turvey, department of pediatrics, Catherine Biggs, department of pediatrics

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Faculty of Medicine researchers receive $15M from CIHR's Project Grant program - UBC Faculty of Medicine

Want More Women in Leadership Roles? Focus on Their Strategy and Not Their Smile – The Globe Post

American economistMilton Friedmanrevealed that the secret to success in a capitalistic world lies in learning to play within the rules of the game. Business leaders have often clamored around this truth when playing the centuries-old game of economic strategy: a game, wherein the only rules involve engaging in open and free competition without deception or fraud.

This may be the case for those at the top of Americas societal hierarchy the wealthy, white men who reign over boardrooms and political podiums alike, dominating the most powerful positions for most of Americas history.

Yet for women, this is not, and has never been, completely true.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to squeeze women from the US workforce, so too increased the news medias scrutiny on the unequal playing field faced by women in the workforce. However, long before the pandemic hit, women in the American workforce faced a much more difficult path to the top.

Women engage in a second kind of game; a game quietly played beneath the surface, like a secret handshake to an underground society wherein an invisible set of rules apply.

The idea is to be effective yet not too assertive. Be pleasant and agreeable without seeming too soft. Remember to be charming so people dont feel threatened by your ideas or your intelligence. Dont talk too loud. Dont talk too much. Dress in a way that is neither too feminine nor too masculine. Be empathetic but never emotional.

And for a woman of color, these rules are even more mysteriousand harder to discern. A woman of color constantly battles the widely preconceived notion that either by dint of genetics or environment her knowledge and abilities are lesser than others.

Yet her success also hinges on being pleasant, articulate, gregarious, and putting everyone at ease in her presence, lest she be deemed angry or dispensable. But above all else regardless of race or ethnicity a woman must always come to the boardroom or the podium wielding her best, most disarmingsmile.

We are so deeply entrenched in these beliefs that we unwittingly became our own gatekeepers.

Recently, one of us returned from a photo shoot for an award honoring trailblazing female leaders. The resulting photos showed a commanding businesswoman sitting at a boardroom table, flanked by two male colleagues. She was clearly and confidently assuming a leadership role. However, the photos engendered an overwhelming fear. The photos seemed to say, I dont look warm or likable enough.

The charming mask so often worn by women to appear less threatening had slipped, and the resulting photos revealed a powerful businesswoman. The fear of being rejected for looking overtly powerful is something a man would never consider.

Even the strongest, most accomplished women leaders cant escape these cultural expectations. While admired by many for her stoic strength, razor-sharp intellectualism, and unrelenting toughness,Kamala Harrisrecently came under fire just hours before winning the spot asJoe Bidens running mate. News coverage was riddled with sexist attacks on Harris lack of personal charm and warmth.

Unfortunately, Harris is just one of the many female political casualties. Bashed with sexist barbs due to perceived lack of likability and warmth, these women Hillary Clinton,Sarah Palin,Elizabeth Warren, to name a few disappeared in the public court of opinion.

For these women, the need for striking the perfect balance between being assertive without being bossy surpasses the need for intelligence, professional achievements, and even their policy.

Women at the top of their industry have found that to be successful in todays America means being smart and extremely effective but never so overtly as to bruise an ego.

Just ask the likes of fierce former CEO of Hewlett-Packard,Carly Fiorina, fashion mogulVictoria Beckham, and sports iconSerena Williamshow often they have been found lacking by the media for their inability to smile like women.

As we look to a near future in which the pandemic will most assuredly continue to hit women in the workforce the hardest there should be no doubt that now is the time to dissolve this game and strip ourselves of these subtle yet deeply ingrained rules that govern it.

To fully tap into the potential of womens strength, women must first endeavor to change the way we speak, worrying less about deliverance and more about the content of our words. This means being unfiltered, speaking unapologetically, refusing to let others speak for us. Perhaps even changing speech patterns rather than softening our voices, we must speak with a tone of authority.

This new approach boils down to a simple rule women need to remember: being likable is not our sole mission.

While it must be every womans goal to unapologetically toss aside the archaic rulebook that shapes our idea of the successful female leader, it is not just women who need to change. We must look into our culture, starting with how we raise our children.

For example, rather than solely emphasizing obedience, cooperation, and supportiveness, society must encourage girls to share their opinions, take risks, assume leadership roles, solve problems and praise them when they do so.

If we want more female leaders, we need to vote for them, support their business, and shine the light on female role models who are unapologetically using their voices to drive change.

The most important culture shift is also the simplest. We must all shift to hear what women have to say. We need to listen instead of scrutinizing. Allow women to express their ideas regardless of their looks or the way they speak. When we are able to support women based on their ability to lead, vision, and strategy rather than their people-pleasing demeanor we can all smile.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and not of New York Medical College.

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Want More Women in Leadership Roles? Focus on Their Strategy and Not Their Smile - The Globe Post

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Endometriosis? –

If youre a woman, youre probably intimately familiar with the abdominal pain and cramps that pop up once a month during your period. Generations of women have been taught that its normal to feel menstrual painbut a new wave of doctors say thats not always the case: Sometimes, pelvic pain can be a sign of a serious condition called endometriosis, and if you dont address it quickly, your future fertility could be at risk. These are some of the signs and symptoms that something more than just period pain is going on.

To understand endometriosis, first you need to know about the endometrium: Thats the lining inside the uterus that builds up once a month to allow for the implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb. If theres no fertilized egg, theres no need for a cushy lining, so the body sheds that layeralso know as having your period if youre a woman. Whats shed is a mixture of blood, vaginal secretions, and endometrial cells.

But sometimes, the blood flow gets mixed up, and instead of flowing out, it flows up, going back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis. Endometrial cells that mistakenly ended up in the pelvis can attach onto its walls, as well as the outside of the uterus, the fallopian tubes, or any of the organs within the pelvis. Those adventurous cells arent where theyre supposed to be, but they still try to perform the task they were designed for, and that is to collect blood to form a lining and release the blood if theres no baby on board.

Thats what endometriosis is: The growth of endometrial cells and development of thick tissue outside of the uterus that can lead to inflammation, lesions, and scarring. This tissue can grow on other organs, reducing blood flow and raising the risk of fertility issues. Endometriosis can cause intense painor none at all.

The biggest risk factor for this condition is being female (not much you can do there!). There also seems to be a genetic component involved, so if your mother, aunt, or sisters have endometriosis, you have a higher likelihood of getting it, too.

Experts estimate that 11% of reproductive-age women have endometriosis worldwide, yet here in the U.S., it can take up seven to 12 years for a proper diagnosis. That decade of pain can be attributed to a mix of factors, including limited access to care, a stigma around pelvic pain and menstruation-related complaints, and doctors who dont fully understand how to treat it.

Experts suspect endometriosis is caused by something know as retrograde menstruation. This is when menstrual fluid (blood, vaginal fluid, and endometrial cells) flows upwards rather than down and out of the body. In retrograde menstruation, the fluid is released into the pelvic cavity, overwhelming the bodys ability to remove it. This gives the endometrial cells the opportunity to find a new home. And thats the start of endometriosis.

Additionally, endometriosis can happen when endometrial cells are released into the abdomen during a surgery, such as a c-section. There are also theories that involve cells outside of the uterus mimicking endometrial cells when theyre activated by certain hormones, like estrogen.

For women who have severe cases of endometriosis, their main symptom is pain which can express itself in several different ways. Heres what to look for.

Chronic pelvic pain: There may be dull cramping throughout a womans cycle, not only when she is bleeding. Those who suffer from chronic pelvic pain (40% to 50% of those with endometriosis) often report that it gets worse when they have their period.

Constipation: If endometriosis occurs on the bowels or lower intestine, it can lead to constipation.

Heavy menstrual bleeding: Symptoms of so-called menorrhagia can include needing to use double sanitary protection (like a tampon and a pad), bleeding for more than seven days, passing blood clots larger than a quarter, and soaking through at least one pad or tampon every hour for several hours. Drop everything and go to the doctor ASAP if you have menstrual bleeding so bad that youre soaking through one pad or tampon every hour for more than two hours, bleeding between periods, or bleeding post-menopause. These can be symptoms of endometriosis, but also symptoms of other issues, including endometrial cancer.

Infertility: Between 30% and 50% of women who have endometriosis suffer from infertility issues. The causes are still being debated, but it could be that the endometriosis messes with the jobs of the ovaries and fallopian tubes. It could also be due to endocrine (hormone) or ovulatory disorders which interfere with the release and fertilization of healthy eggs. Or the normal shedding of the endometrial layer in the uterus is disrupted if endometriosis is present, and that causes infertility.

Painful sex: Between 40% and 50% of women with endometriosis report having deep dyspareunia, which is the fancy term for painful sex during deep penetration. So how do you know if pain during sex is related to endometriosis? If you have a burning sensation when your partner is first entering you, thats not probably endometriosis. If it is a knife-stabbing feeling when a partner is thrusting deeper, thats a red flag for the condition.

Sharp lower abdominal pain: This can be caused by an ovarian cyst that started as endometriosis. It can also be caused by endometriosis that attaches itself to two different organs, like an ovary and the large bowel, acting like connective tissue that binds these organs to each other. When thats jostled around, say during sex or a bowel movement, it can cause pain.

Painful urination: If endometriosis shows up outside the bladder, it can make urination painful, or blood can show up in the urine.

Severe cramping: Known as dysmenorrhea, this affects 60% to 80% of women with endometriosis. To expel the endometrial lining, the uterus contracts. What triggers those uterine contractions are prostaglandins, which are hormone-like compounds that can cause pain and inflammation. More prostaglandins are linked to more painful menstrual cramps, and endometriosis is linked with a higher level of prostaglandins.

If youre saying to yourself: Wow, it wouldnt dawn on me to go see my gynecologist if Im having poop problemsId see a gastroenterologist! youve now identified one of the challenges with endometriosis. Because of the nature of the disease, its symptoms can cross over into other conditions, making it hard to get to the root of the issue. Without a specific screening test for endometriosis, it may take some trial and error before you receive a correct diagnosis.

Despite these symptoms, 20% to 25% of endometriosis patients are asymptomatic. For them, the discovery often comes when theyre tryingand failingto get pregnant. Still, it is definitely possible to get pregnant if you have endometriosis, and its something you and a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist can discuss.

Asymptomatic patients may also learn about their endometriosis if the tissue mass gets very large and leads to excessive bloating. Other women find out when they have pelvic surgery for something elsesuch as a tubal ligation, or to have an appendix removedand the surgeon sees the endometriosis.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, its worth noting that the prevailing wisdom dictates that doctors begin treating endometriosis before theres a definite diagnosis. Thats because the only way to be sure that its present is to do a laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgery in which a long thin camera and other tools are inserted into the pelvis through small incisions in the abdomen, and tissue samples are taken and studied by a pathologist. The procedure is expensive and time-consuming, so doctors may sometimes decide to begin treatment if all other indications are for endometriosis.

So what might some of those treatments be?

The first line of defense is NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which block the bodys production of the hormonal compound prostaglandin, thus cutting down on pain, inflammation, and cramping. NSAIDs are most effective if you start to take them before your period starts. Talk to your doctor about dosage. Dont take more than is listed on the label unless directed by your doc, though he or she may want to bump you up to the prescription type.

Contraceptives that contain hormones, such as the pill, patch, ring, shots, or a hormonal IUD can treat endometriosis by managing a womans cycle or eliminating menses altogether.

A doctor may also opt to put you on a short stint of a nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor, which is a class of drugs that prevents the cells in the body from making estrogen or by suppressing estrogen production. It essentially creates a menopause-like state. Doctors are wary of using it long-term because, down the road, estrogen suppression can lead to issues like osteoporosis, heart disease, and cognitive decline. But in some cases, turning off the estrogen gives the body time to clean out the endometriosis.

If medical remedies dont work, surgerys an option. Doctors typically do minimally invasive surgery and either cut out or laser off the endometriosis that they see. The good news: It can provide immediate relief of the symptoms. Bad news: For 40% to 80% of women, surgery doesnt provide a total cure, and pain returns within two years of the procedure. This happens because there can be areas of endometriosis so small that the surgeon missed them.

Beyond meds and surgery, researchers are investigating the role genetics play in endometriosis in hopes that it can them predict who will develop it, and aid in the creation of highly effective treatments, too. In the meantime, lifestyle changes may also help control the condition.

For example, we know that endometriosis is an inflammatory disease, and that inflammation can exacerbate painful symptoms. So reducing the amount of inflammatory foods (such as red meat and alcohol) in your diet can help, as can adding in anti-inflammatory foods like salmon, nuts, and olive oil.

Whats more, exercisesomething you may feel challenged to do when dealing with chronic painmay help to ease some symptoms, like cramping and bloating. You dont have to go all-in on marathon running or kickboxing to see a positive effect: Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, like walking or jogging, can help ease your symptoms while improving your overall health and fitness.

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What are the Signs & Symptoms of Endometriosis? -

Ever heard of ligers? The cross between lion and female tiger has the Internet worried – India Today

Snip from the viral video. Photo: Twitter/ Nature Is Lit

We all know about lions and tiger, but are you aware of a species called liger? Ligers are a crossbreed between a lion and a female tiger. Yes, you read that right.

An old video of a liger has been creating quite the sensation on the internet lately. The clip that we are talking about was shared by the Twitter account Nature Is Lit. They posted the video with the simple caption, A Liger which is a cross between a male lion and a female tiger (sic).

The 30-second video shows Kody Antle walking with a huge liger and caressing its back. If you look carefully, you will be able to see that the animal is actually huge and has tiny legs in comparison. This inturn makes it difficult for the feline to walk.

Ligers generally become very large. They outgrow both their parents and are also believed to be the largest cats in the world. The video became a hit as soon as it was shared and was viewed over 105k times.

However, netizens were not impressed with the video. Most of the comments talked about how it wrong to produce these hybrids. Have a look:

Ligers are not the only hybrid offsprings that we know about, there is also an animal called tigon which is a cross between a male tiger and a lioness.

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Ever heard of ligers? The cross between lion and female tiger has the Internet worried - India Today

What’s hard about studying a White Mountain butterfly? Pretty much everything. – Concord Monitor

When first described to me, it sounded like a simple task: Figure out how to protect a butterfly that lives only on the Presidential Range.

Simple? Ha!

Nothings simple in wildlife biology, especially when youre dealing with a tiny creature the caterpillars are so small I couldnt find one even when biologists pointed right at it living in a fragile ecosystem that limits research activity, and youre starting from scratch.

And I do mean starting from scratch.

The first year, we didnt know how to tell male from female, said Heidi Holman, a wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game who is leading the study of the White Mountain fritillary.

This orange-and-black butterfly, about the size of a half dollar with a wing pattern that Holman said reminders her of 1970s zig-zag pattern, lives only on scattered vegetation patches between Mount Eisenhower and Mount Madison. Microclimates cause snow to linger longer in these spots, supporting a different mix of plants than nearby.

We dont know how many fritillaries there are; we dont know if the population is growing, shrinking or moving; and while we know climate change is altering snow communities we dont know how this will affect the butterflies, or what changes, if any, are happening to its predators or food supply.

We dont know enough to even generate hypotheses. Thats why basic studies like this are crucial, said Steven Fuller, a conservation biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is supporting N.H. Fish and Games work.

Endangered species listing

The question is whether the White Mountain fritillary, already a state priority species, should be added to the federal list of endangered species. Efforts to make that decision began in 2017, building on research done several years earlier, and are slated to finish by 2027. That may not be enough time.

Case in point: After three years, biologists still havent been able to determine the host plant for the caterpillars, which is needed to raise a colony in labs for study. (The White Mountain fritillarys lifespan is far more caterpillar than butterfly: two years crawling vs. less than two months flying.)

Tests with plants that caterpillars have been seen on in the wild alpine bilberry, dwarf bilberry, mountain cranberry, bearberry willow and dwarf birch have failed to sustain the population, for reasons that are unclear.

One possibility: Some caterpillars avoid plants that are damaged. It might be a sign of predators or competition, said Holman. Perhaps the problem is that Holmans team is raising caterpillars on plant cuttings rather than potted living plants.

Testing that idea will require creating a miniature study greenhouse that will probably have to go in the Fish and Game lab near Concord Municipal Airport, since the projects laboratory on Mount Washington is a single table in a basement storage room of the Sherman Adams Visitor Center.

Remember, all this is an attempt to find a way to keep a colony going so biologists can do things like analyze its genetics and test various strategies. This isnt even really the first step in the scientific process; more like the preparation to begin the first step.

But nobodys panicking. We look 15 to 20 years out. If it takes 3 or 4 years to learn enough information about a species, thats not a big deal, said Fuller.

Back into the wild

Last Friday, Holman and Fuller released four female White Mountain fritillaries back into the wild, accompanied by a couple of huffing-and-puffing journalists.

Starting at the Adams Building at the top of the Mount Washington Auto Road, Holman put the butterflies into carrying cages and we scrambled down the ankle-twisting Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the lip of the ravine, where they released two of the fritillaries. Then we hiked over to Lakes of the Cloud AMC hut to release another, and then went around the back of Mount Monroe to release the final one.

This scattered dispersal was necessary to return each female to the room-sized patch of vegetation where Holman and her team had collected them a few weeks ago, much to the interest of local hikers.

People notice where you go off-trail with a collecting net, Holman commented. She said its not unusual for a full day of collecting to involve conversation with 100 people.

Going off trail is another reason this study isnt moving faster. The alpine zone the portion of the White Mountains that is above treeline and exposed to the winds and cold of the worlds worst weather is incredibly fragile. So researchers cant run around willy-nilly trying to find and catch butterflies, and they cant put out markers or tape or cages and other materials common to wildlife studies.

The female butterflies had been gathered so their eggs could be collected for the latest effort in creating a viable study population. They have about 200 eggs, Holman said. This past winter, 17% of them survived, which is better than the winter before when none did.

Holman was careful to return the females to the same place they were collected because its possible the butterflies will lay more eggs before they die in the next week or two, and she didnt want to mix up the genetics. This puzzled me until she explained:

Even though the total range of the butterfly is tiny, it might be the case that distinct sub-populations have developed on different mountains because theyre far enough apart. Thats one of the things later studies will determine, meaning the populations must be kept separate until then.

Thats surprising but it get more surprising: Its possible there are different subpopulations separated not by geography but by whether the year ends in an even or an odd number.

Holman explained. Because the caterpillars live for two years before turning into butterflies to mate and lay eggs from a functional standpoint, butterflies are nothing but flying sex organs the species could have developed even-year and odd-year populations.

In other words, caterpillars that turn into butterflies in even-numbered years would mate with each other, while caterpillars that turn into butterflies in odd-numbered years would mate with each other. If this happens consistently for long enough, then even though theyre the same species living side by side on the same plants in the same area, they would never mix their genes and could evolve differently.

Left behind

The White Mountain fritillary is an example of a cold-weather species left behind when the glaciers retreated at the end of the Ice Age some 15,000 years ago, leaving only a few places with the right sort of conditions. The aptly named White Mountain Arctic butterfly is another species in the same boat.

Its no stretch to think that as the climate continues to get hotter and more erratic, species like these that depend on small, easily disturbed environments are in trouble. One of the long-range goals of Fish and Games work, in fact, is to see whether a captive population of the White Mountain fritillary could be establish to augment wild populations in the future, if that proves necessary.

For the time being, however, the goals are more modest.

We want to understand them better, said Holman. Thats what we need to help them.

The rest is here:
What's hard about studying a White Mountain butterfly? Pretty much everything. - Concord Monitor

WVU expert discusses why COVID-19 kills more men than women – WTRF

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. While men are not more likely to contract COVID-19 than women, once infected, they are more likely to suffer from severe complications or die from it.

This is according to Jennifer Franko, a teaching assistant professor in the West Virginia University School of Medicine, who studies sex differences in immune responses. Franko said there are many factors that contribute to this disparity and one of them is simply that in general, men tend to be more susceptible to infection than women.

While this difference may or may not be specific to coronaviruses, similar trends were seen in previous coronavirus outbreaks, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, Franko said in a WVU press release. In both of these instances, higher mortality rates were reported in males versus females. Its the same situation that were seeing now with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

Franko said a less robust immune response in males may result in slower viral clearance and poorer outcomes when dealing with COVID-19. Some of these differences between men and women, she said, could be a result of the hormonal or genetic factor.

As an example, Franko said in the release, in females, estrogen and progesterone are typically thought to stimulate the immune system and may provide a higher level of protection against infection. Whereas, in males, testosterone may suppress such a response.

From a genetics standpoint, many immune-related genes are encoded on the X chromosome. Females have two copies of the X chromosome. Males have only one. In order to balance the dosage of X-linked genes between males and females, one female X chromosome is typically inactivated. Interestingly, we are now beginning to realize that not all of those X-chromosome-linked genes are inactive all the time. In some instances, these genes escape inactivation, resulting in a double dosage effect and higher levels of gene expression in females. If these are immune-related genes, they may correlate with stronger immune responses. This may be an additional reason why females respond to infection with more robust responses.

And Another factor that could account for the disparity, Franko said, is that males may have more underlying conditions that may amplify their risk of severe complications and death. Underlying factors like hypertension or heart disease can lead to worse outcomes when COVID-19 is factored in.

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WVU expert discusses why COVID-19 kills more men than women - WTRF

With Kamala Harris, Americans yet again have trouble understanding what multiracial means – The Conversation US

News that Sen. Kamala Harris was Joe Bidens choice for the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee drove speculation and argumentation about her identity. The big question appeared to be, Is Kamala Harris truly African American?

There were numerous articles and opinion pieces about whether Harris can legitimately claim to be African American; the authenticity of her Black identity if she has an Indian mother; what it means for her to be biracial; and other articles opining and speculating about her racial, ethnic and even national identity.

Harris, the daughter of immigrant parents from Jamaica and India, identifies as Black/African American while also embracing her Indian heritage. Yet the questions in social media and news outlets swirling around her identities demonstrate a continued misunderstanding of race and mixed-race people.

While the debates about Harris racial identities may seem new given the recent media attention focused on her, they are similar to the commentary other high-profile mixed-race people have received.

When I did research for my chapter on Tiger Woods in my book Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture, I found much criticism of Woods calling himself Cablinasian (a word Woods made up as a teen to account for his Caucasian, Black, American Indian and Asian heritages) and for not solely identifying as Black. Several articles expressed confusion about his multiraciality the uncertainty over the most accurate racial category to fit him into.

The discussions of Woods mirror the critiques of Harris.

The competing interpretations of Harris identity, like with Woods, seem to be a function of her multiple, intersecting identities (including race, class and gender) as well as the publics deep discomfort with people who dont fit into fixed boxes.

For example, some people want to disavow Harris Blackness because of her multiple ethnic and racial affiliations. Others claim her as Jamaican or Indian, which serves as evidence of her success as a member of an ethnic group or which celebrates a shared cultural connection with her.

Some see her Jamaican and Indian ethnicities as diminishing her claim to a Black American experience, unlike those who are known as ADOS, or American Descendants of Slavery. Because Harris ancestors do not include those who were enslaved in the U.S., ADOSs concern is that neither she nor her family can know the deep historical pain of U.S. anti-Black racism.

Embedded in this concern are echoes of the questions Black Americans face who have passed, who chose whiteness to escape slavery or the Jim Crow South or those who choose multiraciality to flee the social stigma of Blackness. Questioning Harris bona fides to being a Black American is questioning where her loyalties lie.

There are political reasons why some may want to discredit Harris claims to Blackness, believing that saying shes not truly Black means she shouldnt be relatable to Black voters.

But the desire to see Harris as only Black or worry that she is not truly African American derives from the racist U.S. past of the one-drop rule of racial impurity, which sociologist F. James Wood has described as the idea that a single drop of black blood makes a person a black. That was an ideology from the majority of U.S. history from its founding through to the Jim Crow era when race was firmly believed to be a matter of blood.

Scientists for well over half a century have disproven any link between race and genetics. Scholars have been writing and researching, for decades, about how race is a social construction rather than a biological absolute.

But in public discussion in the U.S., race is treated as an entity that can be measured and labeled. That is why people are questioning the validity of Harris African American identity. They believe that her racial affiliation can somehow be quantified and weighed on a scale of authenticity.

Underlying these questions of authenticity are questions of legitimacy. Multiracial people are constantly confronted by those who question their whole selves and their choice to authentically identify with multiple races. For these critics, to qualify for membership in a race or ethnicity means one must be 100% of that group. Anything less means you cannot be a real member of any given culture, ethnicity or race.

Yet the reality and experiences of multiracial peoples lives, like that of Harris, suggest that basic math cannot capture the realities of what it means to embody multiple races and ethnicities. As one subject of multiracial artist Kip Fulbecks photo installation of mixed-race Asian Americans in The Hapa Project states, I am 100% Black and 100% Japanese.

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Racial identity is not only about external features (eye shape, hair texture, skin color) and ancestral lines. It is about the cultural and social habits and rituals that people participate in as they claim their affiliations with ethnic and racial groups.

The Indian food that Harris consumes speaks volumes about the ethnic influences she embraces, as does the Black sorority she pledged and the historically Black college she attended.

Anyone confused about Kamala Harris multiraciality may recall that the U.S. is a nation that was not built by a single ethnic or racial group.

Indeed, U.S. land was taken from various Indigenous nations and built by the enslaved labor of people from multiple African nations and tribes for the benefit of others who hailed from a variety of European nations. And other immigrants from Latin America and the Pacific Rim settled in North America and made the U.S. their home.

Harris, as the U.S.s first multiracial, multiethnic female vice presidential candidate, reflects the evolution of racial categories, which coincides with an ever-evolving understanding of race and racism in the 21st century.

Continued here:
With Kamala Harris, Americans yet again have trouble understanding what multiracial means - The Conversation US

Identifying the Misshapen Head: Craniosynostosis and Related Disorders – American Academy of Pediatrics


Pediatric care providers, pediatricians, pediatric subspecialty physicians, and other health care providers should be able to recognize children with abnormal head shapes that occur as a result of both synostotic and deformational processes. The purpose of this clinical report is to review the characteristic head shape changes, as well as secondary craniofacial characteristics, that occur in the setting of the various primary craniosynostoses and deformations. As an introduction, the physiology and genetics of skull growth as well as the pathophysiology underlying craniosynostosis are reviewed. This is followed by a description of each type of primary craniosynostosis (metopic, unicoronal, bicoronal, sagittal, lambdoid, and frontosphenoidal) and their resultant head shape changes, with an emphasis on differentiating conditions that require surgical correction from those (bathrocephaly, deformational plagiocephaly/brachycephaly, and neonatal intensive care unit-associated skill deformation, known as NICUcephaly) that do not. The report ends with a brief discussion of microcephaly as it relates to craniosynostosis as well as fontanelle closure. The intent is to improve pediatric care providers recognition and timely referral for craniosynostosis and their differentiation of synostotic from deformational and other nonoperative head shape changes.

Pediatric health care providers evaluate and care for children with a variety of head shapes, some of which represent craniosynostosis and other craniofacial disorders, some of which are deformational in nature, and some of which are simply normal variants. Identifying the various types of head shape abnormalities is important for aesthetics, to identify candidates for future monitoring, and, at least in some, to prevent increases in intracranial pressure (ICP) and allow proper brain development. This report reviews several of the important head shape abnormalities and normal variants that pediatric health care providers are likely to see, describes their salient clinical and radiologic features, and discusses the optimal timing for referral and surgical correction. The report begins with an overview of the normal development of the skull and sutures and the pathophysiology of craniosynostosis.

The skull is a complex skeletal system that meets the dual needs of protecting the brain and other sensory organs while allowing its ongoing growth during development. The calvarial vault (Fig 1) is composed of paired frontal, parietal, and temporal bones and a single occipital bone. The paired frontal bones are separated from each other by the midline metopic suture, and the paired parietal bones are separated from each other by the midline sagittal suture. The frontal and parietal bones are separated by the paired coronal sutures, the parietal and temporal bones are separated by the paired squamosal sutures, and the parietal and occipital bones are separated by the paired lambdoid sutures. There are also a number of sutures and synchondroses involving the skull base. The anterior fontanelle (bregma) forms at the junction of the paired frontal and parietal bones, whereas the posterior fontanelle () forms at the junction of the paired parietal bones with the midline occipital bone.

Three-dimensional CT scan showing (A) top and (B) side views of the skull bones with metopic (m), sagittal (s), coronal (c), lambdoid (l), and squamosal (sq) sutures, as well as the anterior fontanelle (af). Reproduced with permission from Governale LS. Craniosynostosis. Pediatr Neurol. 2015;53(5):394-401.

The skull encompasses the skull base, calvarial vault, and pharyngeal skeleton.1,2 The bones of the skull base mineralize through endochondral ossification involving the replacement of a fully formed cartilaginous anlagen with bone matrix. In contrast, the bones of the calvarial vault form by intramembranous ossification involving the mineralization of bone matrix from osteoblasts without a cartilaginous intermediate. Craniosynostosis involves the abnormal mineralization of suture(s) and fusion of one or multiple contiguous bones of the cranial vault and can include additional abnormalities of both the soft and hard tissues of the head.3 The role of cartilage growth disturbance within the cranial base in craniosynostosis is still a matter of debate.47

The bones of the cranial vault ossify directly from undifferentiated mesenchyme.8,9 Differentiating osteoblasts accumulate on the leading edges of cranial vault bones as the brain expands during prenatal and early postnatal growth. Undifferentiated cells between these osteogenic bone fronts form the cranial vault sutures, which function to keep the suture patent while allowing rapid and continual bone formation at the edges of the bone front until brain growth is complete.10 Sutures are fibrous joints that allow temporary deformation of the skull during parturition or trauma, inhibit bone separation for the protection of underlying soft tissues, and, perhaps most importantly, enable growth along the edges of the 2 opposing bones until they ossify and fuse later in life.10,11 Sutures normally remain unossified well into adolescence. When sutures mineralize (close) abnormally, growth is prevented at the fused suture and is instead redirected to other patent sutures, which, in turn, alters the shape of the skull in predictable ways.

Research has revealed multiple genetic factors, involving several major cellular signaling pathways such as wingless and Int-1 (WNT), bone morphogenetic protein (BMP), fibroblast growth factor (FGR), and others, that interact to direct the behavior of particular subpopulations of cells within the suture. In craniosynostosis, these cells receive and emit signals that stimulate osteogenic differentiation far earlier than expected,12 resulting in mineralization and progressive ossification that unites the bones on either side of the suture. Pathogenic variants of fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs) are the most common genetic variants associated with craniosynostosis.1315 FGFRs are transcription factors that initiate and regulate the transcription of multiple genes throughout prenatal development.1621 Various mouse models expressing FGFR pathogenic variants have been developed and demonstrate phenotypes analogous to the human craniosynostosis syndromes, including premature coronal suture closure and midface flattening (retrusion).2231 Pathogenic variants in TWIST1 (twist family basic Helix-Loop-Helix transcription factor 1) gene, another transcription factor associated with craniosynostosis,3234 directly affect BMP signaling of skull preosteoblasts, leading to variations in cerebral brain angiogenesis.35 These animal models as well as studies of cellular behavior in human craniosynostosis cell lines provide the means to examine the structural, cellular, and molecular changes that occur during prenatal development.36,37

Aesthetic consequences aside, there are concerns that craniosynostosis, in some cases, affects brain growth and intellectual development. A recent systematic review strongly suggests that craniosynostosis is associated with a higher risk for presurgical neurocognitive deficits compared with the population unaffected by craniosynostosis; these deficits persist postoperatively, suggesting that they may occur independent of surgical correction.38 Generalized IQ is shifted downward with increased learning disabilities, language delays, and behavioral difficulties.39 At least 4 mechanisms have been proposed: (1) globally elevated ICP, (2) global brain hypoperfusion, (3) localized compression and deformity, and (4) genetic predisposition. It has proven difficult to extract the exact contributions of each factor, and studies have provided conflicting data. Moreover, many studies suffer from a variety of methodologic flaws, including the inclusion of several types of craniosynostosis, varying definitions of ICP elevations (and lack of normative data), the use of different neurocognitive testing strategies, lack of randomization, inconsistent operative approaches, variations in operative timing, and small study cohorts, to name a few.

To what extent, if any, treatable causes contribute to neurocognitive deficits in craniosynostosis, and whether prompt surgical treatment can improve neurobehavioral outcomes, is a matter of debate. Elevated ICP is present in 4% to 42% of children with single-suture craniosynostosis and approximately 50% to 68% with multisutural involvement4044; the incidence of intracranial hypertension is higher among older untreated individuals.42,44 Elevated ICP correlates with developmental and cognitive outcomes in some studies40 but not others.39,45,46 Neither has the severity of the deformity correlated with the presence of neurocognitive deficits.39 A few studies have suggested that earlier treatment of craniosynostosis may result in better early and late neurocognitive outcomes,45,47 but the majority have not found such an association.12,4850 Finally, genes involved in craniosynostosis syndromes have recently been found to be involved in brain development,51 and syndromic craniosynostosis syndromes having virtually identical patterns of skull fusion may carry widely different risks for neurodevelopmental deficits (see below).

Single sutural synostosis results in predictable changes in skull shape (Fig 2, Table 1). Persing et al52 proposed 4 rules that govern calvarial growth and predict the head shape in cases of craniosynostosis. These rules are based on the principle that calvarial growth occurs by osseous deposition from calvarial bones lying adjacent to each suture, and this deposition is oriented perpendicular to the intervening suture:

Bones that are fused as a result of craniosynostosis act as a combined growth plate, having reduced growth potential at all of the margins of the plate;

Bone is, therefore, deposited asymmetrically, with greater osseous deposition in the bones opposite the perimeter sutures of the combined growth plate;

Non-perimeter sutures that are in-line with the combined bone plate deposit bone symmetrically at their suture edges; and

Both perimeter and in-line (abutting) sutures nearest the combined bone plate compensate with greater osseous deposition than more distant sutures.

Drawing showing the various head shape changes that occur with single-suture synostosis and deformational posterior plagiocephaly. Reproduced with permission from the cover of the May 2016 issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics. 2016 American Association of Neurologic Surgeons. Artist: Stacey Krumholtz.

Head Shapes Resulting From Craniosynostosis and Positional Deformations

To use sagittal synostosis as an example, the fused parietal bones act as a single, combined growth plate with reduced growth perpendicular to the sagittal suture; accelerated bone deposition occurs within the frontal and occipital bones. The metopic suture, as an abutting in-line suture, deposits bone symmetrically at an accelerated rate. The result is an elongated head (scaphocephaly) with parietal narrowing as well as frontal and occipital bossing. A similar analysis predicts the head shape for the other sutural synostoses (Fig 2). Multisutural synostosis can be appreciated as the combined effect of fusion involving each of the individual component sutures.

Sagittal synostosis is the most common form of craniosynostosis, accounting for approximately 40% to 45% of cases5355 and having a prevalence of 2 to 3.2 per 10000 live births.53,56,57 Sagittal synostosis has a distinct male predominance of 2.5 to 3.8:1.53,55 Sagittal synostosis produces scaphocephaly, characterized by both an elongated head and biparietal narrowing that is evident at birth. The head elongation is best appreciated by looking at the infant from the side (Fig 3). Some patients have an associated saddle deformity at the vertex, giving an overall peanut shape to the head. The second consistent abnormality is the biparietal narrowing when looked at from the front or from above. Normally, the parietal bones project straight up or even bowed outward from the temporal region. Biparietal narrowing in sagittal synostosis produces a cone-head or bullet-shaped head when viewed from the front and a bicycle racing helmet shape when viewed from above (Fig 3). Frontal or occipital bossing is a variable feature and tends to worsen as the infant ages. Physical examination also demonstrates a prominent midline interparietal, or sagittal, ridge that extends between the anterior and posterior fontanelles; the sagittal suture is longer, as measured from the anterior to the posterior fontanelles. Partial synostosis may cause an incomplete ridge involving only a portion of the suture. One may demonstrate the fusion of the 2 parietal bones by placing a thumb on each of them near the midline and alternatingly depressing each of them; there should be no independent movement.

Scaphocephaly attributable to sagittal synostosis. A, Lateral view shows elongated antero-posterior dimension with modest frontal bossing and saddle deformity at vertex. B, Frontal view in same child shows parietal bones that curve inward giving a conical head shape attributable to parietal narrowing.

Sagittal synostosis produces an elongated head on lateral radiographs and a bullet-shaped head on anterior-posterior (AP) radiographs (Fig 4A and B). The normal sagittal suture tapers toward the midline on AP radiographs; in sagittal synostosis, the fused sagittal suture may not be visible, but, more commonly, it appears to have an abrupt, more squared-off appearance (Fig 4B), paradoxically appearing to be open when, in fact, it is not. Computed tomography (CT) scans demonstrate the elongated head with biparietal narrowing (Fig 4C); the fused sagittal suture is best appreciated on coronal reconstructions by using bone algorithms (Fig 4D); three-dimensional reconstructions are particularly well suited to demonstrate the midline sagittal ridge (Fig 4E) but may involve more radiation exposure, particularly with thin slices.

Radiologic features of sagittal synostosis. A, Lateral skull radiograph demonstrates an elongated head (sagittal suture is difficult to see from this perspective). B, Anteroposterior skull radiograph shows conical head shape. Note that part of the sagittal suture appears fused (arrowhead), whereas some appears open with sharp borders and adjacent hyperdensities (arrows). The entire suture was fused at surgery. C, Axial CT scan shows elongated head shape with prominent frontal bossing and fused posterior sagittal suture (arrowhead). D, Coronal CT scan shows conical shape of head with fusion of the sagittal suture (arrowheads). E, Three-dimensional CT scan shows prominent midline ridged sagittal suture (arrowheads); both coronal and lambdoid sutures are patent.

It is important to distinguish scaphocephaly from dolichocephaly. Although these 2 terms have been used interchangeably by many, dolichocephaly refers to an elongated head without associated biparietal narrowing and is caused by positioning. Dolichocephaly most commonly occurs in preterm infants in the NICU: so-called NICUcephaly. Of course, there is no midline sagittal ridge as there is in sagittal synostosis, and, with the thumb maneuver described above, the parietal bones will move independently, often making the infant cry because this appears to be painful.

Infants with frontal bossing from hydrocephalus or chronic subdural hematomas or hygromas may generate confusion. However, these infants have neither an elongated head nor biparietal narrowing, and they have no midline sagittal ridge. Metopic synostosis is readily differentiated from sagittal synostosis by the presence of a prominent midline ridge that extends from the nasion to the anterior fontanelle, anterior to the sagittal suture, and is often associated with a triangular or keel-shaped forehead (trigonocephaly) with recession of the lateral orbits and narrow set eyes. Bathrocephaly is another condition that can produce confusion. Bathrocephaly results in a prominent occiput that angles sharply inward toward the neck but without frontal bossing, biparietal narrowing, or sagittal ridging (Fig 5). Bathrocephaly is associated with a persistent mendosal suture, an embryonic suture that extends transversely between the 2 lambdoid sutures and, normally, is gone by birth Fig 5C.58 Bathrocephaly does not require treatment.

Bathrocephaly attributable to persistent mendosal suture. A, Infant with focal prominent occiput (arrowheads). Note the lack of frontal bossing. B, Lateral skull radiograph shows prominent occiput (black arrowhead) and steep angle of the posterior skull (white arrowhead). C, CT scan shows persistent mendosal suture (arrowheads).

Infants who have sagittal synostosis should be referred to a specialist for repair as early as possible because surgical correction is usually performed much earlier (often at 612 weeks of age) than for other forms of synostosis. Surgical management options include both open and endoscopic repairs; adjunctive postoperative helmet therapy is recommended for up to 1 year postoperatively, after more limited endoscopic repairs.59,60 The importance of early recognition and referral for surgical management cannot be overemphasized because infants treated after 6 to 10 months of age increasingly require more extensive and morbid complete calvarial vault remodeling to achieve adequate correction.

Metopic synostosis is presently the second most common form of craniosynostosis, accounting for 19% to 28% of cases5355 and having a prevalence of 0.9 to 2.3 per 10000 live births.53,57 The prevalence of metopic synostosis may have increased over the past decades (without a corresponding increase in other synostoses) for uncertain reasons.54 Metopic synostosis also has a distinct male preponderance of 1.8 to 2.8:1.53,55 Metopic synostosis produces trigonocephaly with reduced growth potential perpendicular to the metopic suture, a pronounced metopic ridge, and hypotelorism; the forehead forms a keel, similar to the prow of a boat, with bilateral orbital retrusion and bitemporal narrowing (Fig 5). Reduced bifrontal and accelerated biparietal growth along the coronal sutures, with additional symmetrical growth along the in-line sagittal suture, results in a widened, pear-shaped calvarium behind the coronal suture (Fig 6B).

Trigonocephaly attributable to metopic synostosis. A, Frontal view of infant showing pronounced midline metopic ridge and bilateral temporal narrowing. B, Vertex view in the same infant shows triangular-shaped forehead.

Some infants may display only a palpable (and sometimes visible) metopic ridge with little or no trigonocephaly; whether this represents a forme fruste of metopic synostosis or another distinct process is unknown. Infants with an isolated metopic ridge and minimal or no trigonocephaly do not require surgical correction.

Plain radiographs may display prominent bony fusion of the metopic suture; however, care must be taken because the metopic suture may normally begin closing as early as 3 months of age and all are closed by 9 months of age.61 CT scans readily demonstrate the triangular-shaped anterior fossa with midline thickening of the metopic suture and hypotelorism (Fig 7).

Radiologic features of trigonocephaly. A, Axial CT shows triangular-shaped forehead with fused metopic suture (arrowhead) and bitemporal narrowing. B, Three-dimensional CT scan vertex reconstructions show prominent midline metopic ridge with triangular-shaped forehead, bilateral orbital retrusion, and hypotelorism.

Unicoronal synostosis is the third most common form of craniosynostosis, accounting for 12% to 24%53,55 of nonsyndromic cases and with a prevalence of 0.7 per 10000 live births.57 Unlike other forms of synostosis that have a male predominance, unicoronal synostosis has a female preponderance of 1.6 to 3.6:1.53,57 Unicoronal synostosis produces anterior plagiocephaly in which growth along the ipsilateral coronal suture is reduced and results in a flattening of the ipsilateral forehead (Fig 8). Accelerated growth of the contralateral frontal bone along the perimeter (metopic) and in-line (contralateral frontal) sutures results in compensatory bossing of the contralateral forehead. Some parents and providers may focus on the contralateral compensatory bossing rather than the ipsilateral flattening on the involved side. The metopic suture is bowed toward the side of the flattening. Accelerated growth along the squamosal suture (another perimeter suture) also produces a degree of ipsilateral temporal bossing as well as posterior and inferior ear displacement. The net effect of these changes is a trapezoidal head shape with flattening of the ipsilateral calvarium (both frontally and occipitally) compared to the contralateral side (Fig 8A). This presentation stands in distinct contrast to the parallelogram head shape that accompanies most cases of occipital deformational plagiocephaly (DP) (see below).

Anterior plagiocephaly attributable to unilateral coronal synostosis. A, Vertex view in a child with left coronal synostosis shows flattening of the left forehead and compensatory prominence of the right forehead, upward displacement of the left eyebrow, deviation of the nasal root toward the right and nasal tip toward the left, and trapezoidal head shape. B, Frontal view in another infant with right coronal synostosis shows elevation of the right eyebrow and misshapen orbit, deviation of the nasal root toward the right and nasal tip toward the left, and significant facial scoliosis.

Coronal synostosis additionally involves the sphenozygomatic, frontosphenoidal, and sphenoethmoidal sutures along the frontal skull base, which produces additional secondary morphologic changes involving the orbits and face. Elevation of the lateral sphenoid wing with foreshortening of the zygoma and orbit results in a characteristic elevation of the ipsilateral eyebrow, a seemingly larger palpebral fissure, and/or mild proptosis (Fig 8). The contralateral orbit may be comparatively smaller and is displaced inferiorly and laterally, sometimes leading to a vertical orbital malalignment (dystopia). Diminished growth along the ipsilateral anterior skull base deviates the nasal root toward the involved side and the nasal tip toward the contralateral side (Fig 8B), and the ipsilateral tragus is often displaced anteriorly and inferiorly. In some cases, the entire face appears to be curved with its convexity toward the involved side, leading to a facial scoliosis (Fig 8B).

Plain radiographs demonstrate poor visualization of the involved coronal suture. If visible, the ipsilateral suture is deviated anteriorly compared to the contralateral suture; one caveat is that the radiograph must be truly lateral by demonstrating that the ears and/or external ear canals are properly aligned. On the AP view, a characteristic Harlequin (or Mephistophelean) orbit is visible on the involved side and is attributable to elevation of the lesser sphenoid wing (Fig 9A). The nasal bone is also askew, with its upper part deviated toward the involved side.

Radiologic features of unilateral coronal synostosis. A, A-P radiograph shows elevated ipsilateral sphenoid wing giving rise to the Harlequin eye deformity (arrowheads). The nasal bone is deviated superiorly toward the fused suture. B, Axial CT scan shows trapezoidal head shape with retrusion of the right forehead (white arrowhead), prominence of the left forehead (black arrowhead), and elevation of the sphenoid wing (white arrow).

The findings of unicoronal synostosis are also readily apparent on CT scans. The involved coronal suture is not visible over most or all of its length, whereas the contralateral side is readily apparent on axial images. The ipsilateral flattening and contralateral bossing are also readily evident on axial images. Finally, the sphenoid wing elevation produces a distinct asymmetry to the skull base, with the ipsilateral orbital roof being visible on more superior axial images (and elevated on coronal images) compared to the contralateral orbital roof (Fig 9B). Coronal images also demonstrate the Harlequin orbit to good advantage. Three-dimensional CT reconstructions also demonstrate all of the findings.

The differential diagnosis would include occipital DP and frontosphenoidal synostosis, both discussed below. Hemifacial microsomia is another consideration, although the latter is manifest by primary underdevelopment of the midface and mandible, with relative sparing of the forehead and orbits; the ear is also malformed, and there are often preauricular skin tags.

Bicoronal synostosis accounts for about 3% of nonsyndromic and most syndromic synostoses,53 with a prevalence of approximately 0.5 per 10000 live births.57 In bicoronal synostosis, the coronal sutures are palpable on both sides, the entire forehead is flattened, the head is reduced in the anteroposterior dimension (anterior brachycephaly), and the forehead often has a towered appearance (turricephaly). The combination of frontal and maxillary foreshortening results in shallow orbits and produces significant exophthalmos; in addition, the orbits are recessed (retruded) or shallow bilaterally (Fig 10). The nasal bone is short and upturned in many cases.

Brachycephaly attributable to bicoronal synostosis in a child with Saethre-Chotzen syndrome. A, Frontal view shows flattened forehead, shallow orbits with bilateral orbital retrusion, a modestly upturned (beaked) nose, bilateral ptosis, and midface hypoplasia. B, Lateral view of the same infant shows flattened and tall (turricephaly) forehead, with shallow orbits and midface hypoplasia.

On radiographs, the anterior fossa and orbits are short and both coronal sutures are radio dense or difficult to see and anteriorly deviated. Bilateral Harlequin orbit deformities are present with elevation of both sphenoid wings. Because both frontal bones are involved, the nasal bone remains midline. CT scans demonstrate brachycephaly, thickening and/or nonvisualization of both coronal sutures, a shallow anterior fossa and orbits, and bilateral sphenoid wing elevation (Fig 11). Coronal images nicely demonstrate bilateral Harlequin orbits as well.

Radiologic features of bilateral coronal synostosis. A, Axial CT scan shows shallow anterior fossa and absence of both coronal sutures (arrowheads). B, Three-dimensional CT scan reconstructed vertex view shows shallow anterior fossa, bilateral superior orbital retrusion, and bilaterally fused coronal sutures (arrowheads).

Lambdoid synostosis is rare; in contemporary series, lambdoid synostosis accounts for only 2% of cases and has a prevalence of 0.1 per 10000 live births.55,57 Older studies likely included children with DP and their prevalence rates are, therefore, higher. In one small series, male and female patients were equally represented.55 True lambdoid synostosis is usually readily differentiated from occipital DP (see below), with which it is most commonly confused. True lambdoid synostosis is most commonly characterized by a flattening of both the ipsilateral occiput and forehead, leading to a trapezoidal or rhomboidal head shape (Fig 12). The contralateral occiput may be prominent by comparison. The lambdoid suture is prominently ridged. The ipsilateral ear is deviated posteriorly (in contrast to DP, in which it is deviated anteriorly), and the mastoid process and associated retromastoid occipital bone are unusually prominent, producing a retroauricular bulge (Fig 12). Bilateral involvement produces a flattened occiput with ridging of both lambdoid sutures and retromastoid bulge on both sides. The posterior sagittal suture may also be involved, producing an element of scaphocephaly as well as ridging of both lambdoid and posterior sagittal sutures (the Mercedes-Benz sign).

Unilateral lambdoid synostosis. A, Anterior view shows asymmetric head with calvarium deviated toward the left. Note the symmetry of orbits. B, Posterior view shows prominent curvature of the occiput toward the left with a retromastoid bulge on the right (arrow) and flattening inferior to the bulge. C, Axial CT scan shows prominent left mastoid bulge and indentation of the occipital skull (arrowhead). D, Three-dimensional CT scan posterior view shows the fused left lambdoid suture, retromastoid bulge (white arrowheads), and indentation of the occipital bone (black arrowhead).

Plain radiographs commonly demonstrate significant prominence and hyperostosis or nonvisualization of the involved lambdoid suture(s). CT scans also demonstrate hyperostosis or nonvisualization of the involved lambdoid suture(s). The retromastoid bulge and posterior displacement of the petrous ridge are prominent; the posterior midline and the foramen magnum at the base of the skull are also drawn toward the ipsilateral side (Fig 12C). Three-dimensional CT scans also demonstrate these findings to good advantage (Fig 12D). Treatment involves open posterior cranial vault reconstruction between 5 and 9 months of age or endoscopic repair as early as 2 to 3 months of age, followed by molding helmet treatment for up to 1 year.

An extremely rare form of synostosis involves the frontosphenoidal suture, located at the anterior skull base and contiguous with the coronal suture and orbital roof.62,63 Synostosis involving the frontosphenoidal suture produces plagiocephaly with ipsilateral forehead flattening that resembles unilateral coronal synostosis but differs from the latter in that the ipsilateral orbit is deviated inferiorly rather than superiorly, and the nasal root is deviated away from rather than toward the side of the synostosis (Fig 13 A and B). The coronal suture is visible on neuroimaging studies, and there is no Harlequin eye orbital deformity (Fig 13 C and D); CT demonstrates the fusion of the frontosphenoidal suture (Fig 13E). Treatment involves a fronto-orbital reconstruction.62,63

Frontosphenoidal synostosis. A, Frontal view of infant with left frontosphenoidal synostosis, with left forehead depression and retrusion and depression of left orbit. B, Vertex view demonstrating left forehead and orbital retrusion. Note in both images the deviation of the nasal root away from, and the nasal tip toward, the involved side, in contrast to coronal synostosis. C, Frontal three-dimensional reconstruction CT scan shows inferiorly displaced ipsilateral eyebrow and orbital roof (arrowheads) and deviation of the nasal root (arrow) toward the contralateral side (in contrast to unicoronal synostosis, see Fig 8). D, Vertex three-dimensional reconstruction CT scan shows left forehead flattening but open coronal suture on that side (arrowheads). E, Three-dimensional reconstruction CT scan with a view of the inside of the skull base with the calvarium digitally subtracted shows flattening of the left orbit. The right frontosphenoidal suture is patent (arrowhead), whereas the left is fused.

A number of craniosynostosis syndromes have been described phenotypically (Table 2). All of these, most commonly, include elements of bicoronal synostosis and midface hypoplasia. Ophthalmologic manifestations are also common and include shallow orbits, some degree of exorbitism, and extraocular muscle dysfunction with strabismus and resultant amblyopia and poor visual acuity.64,65 More recent genetic testing has revealed significant genotypic overlap, with the same genetic mutation capable of producing distinctly different phenotypes, and a single phenotype resulting from different genetic pathogenic variants. It is beyond the scope of this report to describe all of the various syndromes in detail; brief descriptions of the more common syndromes are provided. The interested reader is referred elsewhere for more detailed information.66,67

Genetics of Craniofacial Syndromes

Crouzon syndrome is most frequently characterized by bicoronal synostosis leading to a shallow anterior fossa, a high and flat forehead (turricephaly) with reduced anteroposterior cranial measurement (brachycephaly), shallow orbits and prominent globes (exorbitism), midface hypoplasia leading to an underbite and malocclusion, and upturned (or beaked) nose. Involvement of other sutures may also occur, and progressive sutural fusion has been described during the first 2 years of life.68 Craniosynostosis is a variable feature and, rarely, may be absent. Syndactyly is notably absent. Rarely, vertebral fusion, ankylosis (particularly the elbows), and acanthosis nigricans may be present. Cognitive development is often normal, and neurocognitive deficits are uncommon. Crouzon syndrome is transmitted as an autosomal-dominant condition with varying penetrance; pathogenic variants in the FGFR1 or FGFR2 genes are responsible for all but Crouzon with acanthosis nigricans, which is caused by pathogenic variants in the FGFR3 gene.

The craniosynostosis pattern in Apert syndrome is similar to that in Crouzon syndrome, although progressive fusion of additional sutures during the first 2 years occurs more commonly in Apert syndrome. Like in Crouzon syndrome, turricephaly, brachycephaly, exorbitism, beaked nose, and malocclusion are cardinal clinical manifestations in Apert syndrome. Down-slanting palpebral fissures are typical. Palatal abnormalities may be present and include narrowing, bifid uvula, and cleft palate,69 and vertebral fusion abnormalities (most commonly involving C5-C6) may be present.70 Structural brain abnormalities may be present, including agenesis of the corpus callosum, gyral malformations, absent or defective septum pellucidum, megalencephaly, and static or progressive ventriculomegaly. Unlike Crouzon syndrome, neurocognitive deficits are more common, with more than one-half having subnormal IQ scores. The most striking extracranial abnormality in Apert syndrome is osseous and/or soft tissue syndactyly involving fingers and/or toes, particularly the second, third, and fourth digits (Fig 14). The digits are short, and broad distal phalanges may also be present. Apert syndrome is transmitted as an autosomal-dominant condition; a mutation in the FGFR2 gene is responsible.

Syndactyly involving the toes in an infant with Apert syndrome.

Pfeiffer syndrome is characterized by bicoronal synostosis, and the midface is narrow but not generally retruded; there is, therefore, less significant exorbitism and malocclusion. Like Crouzon and Apert syndromes, cranial sutures in Pfeiffer syndrome may progressively fuse over time. The nose is generally small with a low nasal bridge. Partial syndactyly of the second and third fingers and/or toes are cardinal features of Pfeiffer syndrome, and the distal phalanges of the thumb and great toe are often wide. Pfeiffer syndrome is transmitted as an autosomal-dominant condition with variable penetrance; a mutation in the FGFR2 gene is responsible.

Cohen has described 3 types of Pfeiffer syndrome.71 Type I is characterized by typical coronal synostosis, midface hypoplasia, and digital malformations with normal neurocognitive development. Types II and III are associated with much more severe involvement, usually involving all of the sutures (and, in type II, producing a cloverleaf skull), with shallow orbits and severe exorbitism sufficient to produce corneal exposure, airway obstruction, partial syndactyly and elbow ankylosis, various visceral abnormalities, and moderate to severe neurocognitive impairment.

Saethre-Chotzen syndrome is characterized by bicoronal synostosis (with occasional involvement of other sutures) leading to turricephaly and brachycephaly with biparietal foramina but less severe midface hypoplasia and modest exorbitism. Differentiating manifestations include ptosis of the eyelids (Fig 10A), a low anterior hairline, and a prominent nose. Lacrimal duct abnormalities and a characteristic prominent ear crus may be present. Extracranial abnormalities can include partial soft tissue syndactyly, most commonly involving the second and third fingers and third and fourth toes; the digits are often short and the great toes may be broad. Saethre-Chotzen syndrome is transmitted as an autosomal-dominant condition; a mutation in the TWIST gene is responsible.

Carpenter syndrome is characterized by synostosis most commonly involving both coronal sutures and variably others as well, with shallow supraorbital ridges and flat nasal bridge, midface, and/or mandibular hypoplasia, low-set and malformed ears and a high arched palate. A number of digital malformations may occur including brachydactyly, clinodactyly, and camptodactyly (medial deviation and flexion deformity of the distal phalanges, respectively) and polydactyly involving the toes. Cardiac malformations occur in one-half of affected individuals and include septal defects, tetralogy of Fallot, transposition of the great vessels, and persistent ductus arteriosus. Carpenter syndrome is transmitted as an autosomal-recessive condition; pathogenic variants in the RAB23 or MEGF8 genes are responsible.

Antley-Bixler syndrome is characterized by bicoronal synostosis (in 70%) with turricephaly but with frontal bossing, midface hypoplasia with exorbitism, and a flat and depressed nasal bridge. Low-set and dysplastic ears are a consistent feature, and choanal atresia or stenosis is present in 80%. Limited limb mobility and a diminished range of motion involving virtually all joints, phalangeal abnormalities (including long fingers with tapering fingernails), radiohumeral synostosis, and femoral bowing are common features as well. Impaired steroidogenesis and genital abnormalities are associated features. Antley-Bixler syndrome is most commonly related to pathogenic variants in the POR gene (with impaired steroidogenesis) and autosomal-recessive transmission and pathogenic variants of the FGFR2 gene (without impaired steroidogenesis), with autosomal-dominant transmission.

Muenke syndrome is characterized by fusion of one or both coronal sutures with a broad and shallow supraorbital ridge and prominent forehead (bossing). Hypertelorism and flattened maxillae are variable features. Hearing loss is present in approximately one-third of patients, and macrocephaly is present in approximately 5%.72 Muenke syndrome is transmitted as an autosomal-dominant condition and is unusual among the syndromic synostoses in that it involves a mutation in the FGFR3 gene.

The evaluation and management of craniosynostosis are beyond the scope of this review, but a few general comments are helpful. Imaging of suspected craniosynostosis most commonly includes either plain skull radiographs or CT scans. In general, plain skull radiographs are of limited value if craniosynostosis is strongly suspected because CT scans will likely be performed by the craniofacial team as part of surgical planning. On the other hand, obtaining a CT scan in children with low suspicion for craniosynostosis is often unnecessary. Cranial ultrasonography is used by some, and studies suggest that it is as effective as plain radiographs or CT scans in identifying a fused suture.73 However, not all radiologists are equally experienced at identifying fused sutures on ultrasonography, so it is recommended that the provider check with the radiologist first before obtaining this study. Many craniofacial teams prefer that providers refer these children early and postpone imaging until after the child is seen by specialists. For children with occipital DP, the diagnosis is usually obvious by clinical inspection, the absence of significant deformity at birth, and the absence of a retroauricular bulge; questionable cases might require neuroimaging, but these are rare.

The timing of surgery (and, by extension, referral) is another important consideration. Traditional repairs of coronal, metopic, and frontosphenoidal synostosis are generally delayed until 6 to 10 months of age. However, the child with symptomatic increased ICP may require earlier repair. Moreover, sagittal synostosis repairs and endoscopic approaches are performed much earlier, some as early as 8 weeks of age. Delays in referral often lead to more extensive surgical repairs; early referral is, therefore, preferable, even in questionable cases of craniosynostosis.

There are many accepted surgical options for craniosynostosis that are influenced by which suture(s) are involved, the clinical indication, the experience and expertise of the craniofacial surgical team, and, most importantly, the timing of the operation. It is not the intent of this review to recommend any particular operative technique because they all have their merits.

Surgical techniques may include endoscopic suturectomy with helmet therapy, spring-assisted cranioplasty, and subtotal and complete calvarial vault remodeling. Advantages of endoscopic suturectomy include smaller incisions and less operative time and blood loss, but correction should be performed early (during the first few months of life) and followed by up to 12 months of postoperative molding helmet therapy (23 hours a day) to achieve correction comparable to open techniques. Spring-assisted cranioplasty is another surgical adjunct that can be used, in which spring-loaded devices are inserted temporarily to help distract the freed bones.

The advantages of open operative correction include more immediate and complete correction, without the need for extended molding helmet therapy. Disadvantages include a larger incision, longer operative times, greater intraoperative blood loss, and, for coronal and metopic synostosis, the need to remodel the superior orbital rim (which generally requires that the surgery be performed after the infant has reached 6 months of age so the orbital rim is thick enough to hold the surgical screws). A variety of open techniques exist, but surgical timing is important. Open sagittal synostosis repairs are performed much earlier (ideally between 2 and 6 months of age) than are metopic or coronal synostosis. Sagittal synostosis repair includes a midline or paramedian (so-called ) craniectomy coupled with a variable degree of posterior (parietal and occipital) vault reconstruction with barrel stave osteotomies. Later surgery (generally beyond 68 months of age) may require a more extensive total calvarial vault remodeling. Lambdoid suture repair is also, generally, performed early. In contrast, for open coronal or metopic synostosis, in which both cranial and orbital reconstruction are performed, later surgical correction, usually between 6 and 10 months, is preferred so that the orbital rim is thick enough to hold the surgical constructs used to advance and remodel the bone. All open surgical approaches involve a full release of the fused suture and immediate surgical remodeling of the skull; postoperative helmeting is not routinely used after open repair.

The surgical management of midface hypoplasia deserves special mention because it is a frequent component of syndromic synostosis. Severe midface hypoplasia can lead to airway obstruction that requires an immediate intervention, such as a tracheostomy to secure the airway. Definitive midface correction is usually performed when the child is older (68 years or more) and is usually accomplished by using distraction osteogenesis, in which the midface is surgically separated from the skull base and distraction plates are applied to the maxillary bones. By using distraction screws that are turned by the patient or family on a daily basis, the midface is slowly advanced forward, and bone grows in the intervening gap, much like an Ilizarov procedure accomplishes for long bones.

The most common head shape abnormality is deformational (also called positional or nonsynostotic) plagiocephaly (DP) or brachycephaly (DB). The incidence of DP/DB has been estimated at 20% to 50% in 6-month-old children.74 It is more common (approximately 60% of cases) in male children.75 DP/DB in 80% of cases presents as an acquired postnatal condition that is most commonly noted during the first 4 to 12 postnatal weeks, although 20% of cases appear to be noted at birth, likely attributable to intrauterine forces (relative fetal restraint, such as primiparity, oligohydramnios, multiple gestation, or bicornuate uterus).75 Eighty percent of cases are right sided, and the flattening corresponds to the side to which the infant naturally turns the head; this correlates well with observations made by Volpe76 that normal supine infants look toward the right 80% of the time, toward the left 20%, and almost never look straight up. In addition, 15% to 20% of infants with DP/DB have some degree of neck muscle imbalance or torticollis.75 It is now apparent that DP/DB is not synostotic but rather is caused by persistent pressure on the skull in the supine infant. The incidence increased significantly after the 1992 Back to Sleep campaign, which recommended supine sleep (although the decreased rate of sudden unexpected death in infancy certainly supports the continued endorsement of this strategy).74

It is important to differentiate DP/DB from true coronal or lambdoid craniosynostosis. The majority of cases can be readily identified by the history (as described above) and clinical examination. The infant is examined from the front, back, and, most importantly, top of the head. DP/DB is characterized by occipital flattening: unilaterally in DP (Fig 15) and bilaterally in DB. The ipsilateral ear is deviated anteriorly with respect to the contralateral side (which can be most readily identified by placing a finger in each ear and looking down from above the infants head); the pinna may be rotated outward as well. Finally, there is often some anterior displacement of the ipsilateral forehead. The resulting deformation results in a parallelogram head shape (Fig 15A) in which the entire ipsilateral head appears to have been displaced anteriorly. In contrast, the child with unilateral coronal or lambdoid synostosis will have a trapezoidal-shaped head with ipsilateral flattening of both frontal and occipital calvarium and posterior and inferior deviation of the ipsilateral ear, as discussed above. Patients with DP may have an element of facial scoliosis (Fig 15B). Although the ipsilateral orbit in DP may be slightly misshapen, the Harlequin orbit deformity observed in unicoronal synostosis is not present. Similarly, the bulging retromastoid area in lambdoid synostosis is absent in DP and DB. In DB, the occiput is flattened bilaterally, and the head is, therefore, brachycephalic and widened in the transverse dimension, leading to a round face. However, the absence of turricephaly, orbital retrusion, Harlequin orbit, and exophthalmos differentiate DB from bicoronal synostosis.

Occipital deformational flattening (plagiocephaly and brachycephaly). A, Vertex view of DP shows parallelogram-shaped head with ipsilateral flattening, anterior deviation of the ipsilateral ear, and mildly prominent ipsilateral frontal bossing. B, Frontal view shows the calvarium deviated toward the right but no elevated eyebrow and/or orbit or deviation of the nasal root or tip. Note the upward slanting cranial vault from patients left to right (Gumby deformity). C, Posterior view of DP shows flattened right occiput with parietal boss.

Other abnormalities observed in some cases with DP include an element of facial scoliosis. Some have elevation and shortening of the mandible with a hollow space in the submandibular region, superficially resembling hemifacial microsomia. This variant seems to be more common among those whose DP is present at birth and/or those with torticollis; it is suggested that perhaps the shoulder may lie within this hollow and restrict neck rotation in utero. Another less common variant of DP is what is referred to as the Gumby head shape in which, when viewed from the front, the ipsilateral calvarium is flattened and the vertex slopes upward toward the opposite side (Fig 15B).

A number of centers quantify the severity of DP and DB, both for the initial assessment and at subsequent follow-up visits, by measuring certain anthropometric indices with cranial calipers. The severity of DP is described by using the cranial vault asymmetry index (CVAI), which describes the difference between the longest and shortest head axes along the diagonal when viewed from above (Fig 16). In general, a CVAI of >3.5 is consistent with DP.74 The severity of DB is described by using the cranial index (CI), which measures the ratio of head width to head length when viewed from above. A CI of 85% is consistent with brachycephaly.77

Diagram showing the calculation of the (A) CVAI and (B) CI. See text for definitions.

The differential diagnosis of DP includes unilateral coronal and unilateral lambdoid craniosynostosis, both described above. In most cases, the diagnosis of DP or DB is readily apparent on clinical examination, and adjunctive imaging such as plain radiographis or CT scans is unnecessary and would expose the child to ionizing radiation. The use of imaging should be reserved for equivocal cases. Plain radiographs are usually difficult to interpret, except in cases of DB in which the occipital flattening is evident on lateral films. Partial nonvisualization or focal areas of calcification adjacent to the lambdoid suture may be identified on plain radiographs and CT scans but should not be interpreted as lambdoid synostosis. Axial CT scans readily differentiate DP and DB from coronal synostosis, demonstrating the parallelogram head shape, open coronal sutures, and normally formed anterior skull base with normal sphenoid wing and absent Harlequin orbit.

It is not our intent with this report to discuss treatment options for DP and DB. However, the parents of infants with DP or DB should be reassured that since the infant does not have craniosynostosis, surgery is not indicated; they should be counseled that DP and DB are solely aesthetic conditions, with no credible medical evidence suggesting that DP and DB affect brain development or cause any other medical condition. The head shape often improves as the child gains developmental milestones and lies less frequently on the flattened side.74 Supervised tummy time as well as varying head positions while holding the child can help; alternating head positions for sleep can be attempted, but, to reduce the incidence of sudden unexplained death in infancy, it should be emphasized that the infant should sleep alone, on his or her back, and in a crib (the ABCs of safe sleep). A recent study noted a correlation (not necessarily causal) between DP and poorer cognitive outcomes78; children with DP should, therefore, be monitored for possible developmental delays. The child with muscular neck imbalance or torticollis may be referred to physical therapy to teach the parents stretching and muscle strengthening exercises to reduce the tension of the sternocleidomastoid muscle and improve the strength of contralateral muscles. Use of a molding helmet may be considered for the infant with a moderate or severe deformity but is not required; a detailed evidence-based review of DP and DB treatment options can be found in a recent publication by the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.7984

Two other common referrals to craniofacial clinics are concerns about early closure of the anterior fontanelle and microcephaly. Although the anterior fontanelle most commonly closes at approximately 12 months of age, there is a wide variation in the timing of fontanelle closure, with the fontanelle closing between 4 and 26 months.85 Moreover, it is important to note that closure of the fontanelle does not mean that the sutures are closed, nor does it mean that further calvarial growth is not possible. Rather, closure of the fontanelle simply reflects the apposition of the 2 frontal and 2 parietal bones in such a manner that a gap cannot be palpated, although sutures are still present. In fact, even after normal fontanelle closure, significant head growth continues throughout childhood. As long as appropriate head growth is occurring along the normal head growth curve and the head shape is normal, there should not be concern for craniosynostosis. However, other medical conditions can be associated with premature fontanelle closure, including hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, hypophosphatasia, and rickets.

Microcephaly is defined as a head circumference below the fifth percentile for age. There are numerous causes for microcephaly, some of which are listed in Table 3. Primary microcephaly may be genetic; multiple pathogenic variants with both autosomal-dominant and recessive inheritance patterns have been described. Other conditions are usually identified by history, physical examination, and/or neuroimaging. Important considerations include a family history of microcephaly, the presence or absence of developmental delays or cognitive impairment, and a past history of pre- or postnatal brain injury. Infants with normal developmental milestones, no past history of brain injury, and a normal head shape most often have constitutional microcephaly. Single-suture craniosynostosis virtually never causes significant microcephaly, although multisutural synostosis can. Craniosynostosis is rarely a cause of microcephaly in infants whose head circumferences, although low, are running parallel to the normal curve and who have both a normal head shape and no family history of craniosynostosis.86

Conditions Causing Microcephaly

Single-suture craniosynostosis produces consistent head shape abnormalities that should be readily identifiable by the pediatric health care provider. Sagittal synostosis produces an elongated head (scaphocephaly), and metopic synostosis produces a triangular-shaped forehead (sometimes with hypotelorism). Unilateral coronal and lambdoid synostosis as well as occipital DP all produce an asymmetric head shape (plagiocephaly) but are readily differentiated by the shape of the head (parallelogram versus trapezoid or rhombus), the position of the ears (anterior or posterior), and secondary features such as nasal deviation, orbital asymmetry, or bulging of the retromastoid region. Bilateral coronal and lambdoid synostosis produce a short head (brachycephaly) and are differentiated by the presence or absence of associated midface hypoplasia or bilateral retromastoid bulging.

DP and DB are the most common head shape abnormalities encountered by primary care physicians; they are readily identified by conducting a history and clinical examination and do not usually require adjunctive imaging. Early detection and positional changes (with physical therapy for those with torticollis) suffice for most infants; referral at 5 to 6 months of age is considered for helmet therapy for those who have moderate or severe deformities that have not responded to treatment.87

Because both single-suture craniosynostosis and DP/DB can usually be diagnosed on clinical examination, routine imaging for the initial evaluation of infant head shape is not recommended to avoid exposing the child to unnecessary radiation. Instead, timely referral of infants with craniosynostosis and those with moderate or severe DP/DB to an experienced craniofacial team (including both a pediatric neurosurgeon and craniofacial surgeon) will allow sufficient time for the team to help the family cope with the diagnosis, obtain any necessary imaging for surgical planning, discuss treatment options, and plan a timely correction.

Anticipatory guidance for parents of children with craniosynostosis should include monitoring for symptoms of elevated ICP or developmental delays, especially for those with multisutural synostosis, and a discussion about the importance of early and timely referral to specialists. Parents of children with DP or DB should be encouraged to initiate positional changes early and, for those with torticollis, should be taught neck stretching exercises and/or referred to a physical therapist. For those with moderate or severe deformities, consider a referral to craniofacial specialists to discuss molding helmets.

Children with craniosynostosis most commonly present with stereotypically shaped heads, each associated with particular sutural fusions:

long (scaphocephaly: sagittal);

short (brachycephaly: bicoronal or bilambdoid);

anteriorly pointed (trigonocephaly: metopic); and

asymmetric (plagiocephaly: unilateral coronal or lambdoid).

DP and DB are the most common head shape abnormalities, recognized by their parallelogram-shaped head, lack of retroauricular bulge, and, in 80%, absence of deformation at birth.

Syndromic craniosynostosis most commonly manifests with bicoronal synostosis, midface hypoplasia, and shallow orbits with exorbitism and strabismus.

Surgery is often performed within the first 8 to 10 weeks for sagittal synostosis repairs, endoscopic procedures, and raised ICP. Orbitofrontal advancements for coronal and metopic synostosis are most often performed between 6 and 10 months.

Early referrals to craniofacial teams are encouraged to allow early identification and repair.

Mark S. Dias, MD, FAAP, FAANS

Thomas Samson, MD, FAAP

Elias B. Rizk, MD, FAAP, FAANS

Lance S. Governale, MD, FAAP, FAANS

Joan T. Richtsmeier, PhD

Philip R. Aldana, MD, FAAP, Chairperson

Douglas L. Brockmeyer, MD, FAAP

Andrew H. Jea, MD, FAAP

John Ragheb, MDGregory W. Albert, MD, MPH, FAAP

Sandi K. Lam, MD, MBA, FAAP, FACS

Ann-Christine Duhaime, MD, FAANS

Jennifer Lynn Rhodes, MD, FAAP, FACS, Chairperson

See original here:
Identifying the Misshapen Head: Craniosynostosis and Related Disorders - American Academy of Pediatrics

NAU awarded $1.5 million grant to examine how natural systems might adapt to increasing temperatures and invasive species – NAU News

The National Science Foundation has awarded Northern Arizona University a four-year, $1.5 million grant to examine survival strategies that natural systems might use to respond to the combined effects of environmental change and invasive species. The research effort is a collaboration among investigators at NAU, the Desert Botanical Garden and Arizona State University.

Owing to record increases in temperature and invasive species disturbance in Arizona and throughout the American Southwest, there is a pressing need to understand whether and how plants will be able to adapt to rapidly changing conditions owing to climate change.

Our overarching goal is to develop solutions to these threats using Fremont cottonwood, a foundation species that is recognized as being critically important for biodiversity conservation, said the projects principal investigator, Gery Allan, a professor of biological science and the Laboratory of Environmental Genetics and Genomics, and a member of the Center for Adaptable Western Landscapes (CAWL).

Our findings could serve as a model for adaptive management of arid regions around the world, including the familiar ribbon of green that accompanies rivers and streams in the western United States, Allan said.

This project will use a combination of experimental gardens composed of thousands of Fremont cottonwood trees and the National Ecological Observatory Networks (NEON) airborne remote sensing technology. The research team will examine the capacity these trees have to tolerate heat stress, drought and habitat disturbance caused by salt cedar, also known as tamarisk. Salt cedar is an invasive species that is a serious threat to riparian ecosystems in the Southwest.

Using NEONs airborne remote-sensing capabilities will allow us to scale measurements taken from greenhouse and common gardens to large parts of the Southwest, said Chris Doughty, one of the projects co-principal investigators and assistant professor of ecological and environmental informatics.

The team will build on techniques developed by project co-PI Greg Asner at Arizona State Universitys Asner Lab to critically evaluate the genetic responses of cottonwoods to environmental changes that occur across the species distribution.

Specifically, this study will determine if genetic differences among cottonwoods from warm to cool regions result in differing adaptive responses to a changing environment. For example, the research team will examine differing strategies cottonwoods use for regulating leaf temperature and carbon balance as an adaptive response to heat stress.

The research team also will investigate the ability of cottonwoods to produce naturally occurring hybrids that are better adapted to emerging conditions and the use of beneficial soil fungi to promote cottonwood survival in tamarisk-altered soils. The Desert Botanic Garden will develop the projects public outreach program, led by Kevin Hultine, one of the projects co-principal investigators.

This research is an outgrowth of three decades of work by NAU researchers in the field of community and ecosystem genetics using Fremont cottonwood trees. Cottonwoods support thousands of insects, birds and mammals, making their survival essential across the West, said Thomas Whitham, Regents professor of biological science, a co-principal investigator for this project and a CAWL member. I am very proud to be part of a research effort that offers potential solutions to climate change in Arizona and beyond for this critical species. I am equally proud that our research group is inclusive, creating opportunities for young female scientists like postdoctoral scholar Hillary Cooper and doctoral student Jaclyn Motyka Corbin, both part of the research team who contributed to the grants development.

CAWL was established as NAUs newest research center on May 5. CAWL seeks to promote robust scientific research to enhance sustainable management of ecological populations, communities and landscapes and to develop solutions to ecological problems across the American Southwest and Colorado Plateau.

Catherine Gehring, professor of biological science and co-director of CAWL, is also a co-PI on the project.

Lara M. SchmitCenter for Adaptable Western Landscapes

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NAU awarded $1.5 million grant to examine how natural systems might adapt to increasing temperatures and invasive species - NAU News

Raised by Wolves: Ridley Scott and Aaron Guzikowski Talk Parenting on a New Planet – Den of Geek

Aaron Guzikowski: Ive been into science fiction for all my life, basically. My father got me into it, so its always been an obsession of mineand often just the way in terms of how I think about the world and try to think through these science fiction scenarios and try to understand the present day a little bit better. But I also have three young sons and, you know, just thinking about them and the encroachment of technology and what the future might bring: if should they ever be given the opportunity to start a new civilization, start from scratch, but they know what happened on Earth, you have all of that informationmaking that decision [of] what are you gonna take with you and what are you gonna try and leave behind? Is that even something were able to do, or are we so genetically programmed as human beings to keep falling back into these cycles? Is there some rut that we cant get out of, or is this something that we can free ourselves from and find some renewed sense of purpose?

I think a lot of sci-fi is asking exactly that right now. Ridley, how did you get involved?

Sir Ridley Scott: The script was fantastic. I was going to come in as a producer with my company [Scott Free Productions], but I was blown away by honestly the first three episodes, and I felt I didnt want to let this get away. I wanted to be involved in the casting of the characters, how it looksvery importantbecause with such a great script, you dont want it to go off the rails and become a bit more normal or the usual suspects. Really, the inspiration was the material.

Aarons spec script inspired some visual interpretations from you, which led to further shaping the series. Can you describe your collaboration?

Sir Ridley Scott: I read visuallythats the way my mind worksso when Im reading Im getting You know, the most visual medium in the world is radio, because your brain is gonna be better than any screen. And on a screen you are already focused on that and your brain is processing that, but its not thinking. I come from the generation just out of the war, [and] my mothers favorite thing to do was to sit on a Thursday night and listen to a radio show called Inner Sanctum. But she was so afraid to listen to the radio [alone], shed make my brother and I sit with her to accompany her. It would begin with a creaking door and footsteps, and a deep voice would say, Good evening friends, this is [your host Raymond Edward Johnson], the story for this evening is and hed go into a new story, and wed all be scared to death after the next hour.

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Raised by Wolves: Ridley Scott and Aaron Guzikowski Talk Parenting on a New Planet - Den of Geek

Bringing the endangered Vancouver Island marmot back from the brink – The Narwhal

The best way to trap a Vancouver Island marmot is with peanut butter and not the healthy kind. Marmots use beaver-like incisors to chow down on an alpine meadow buffet of more than 40 species of grasses, herbs and wildflowers. The starfish leaves of alpine lupins are a favourite dish. But place a teaspoon of peanut butter, preferably containing sugar and hydrogenated fats, near a marmot that is fattening up after six or seven months of hibernation and it will quickly eschew the salad bar.

For wildlife veterinarian Malcolm McAdie, feeding dozens of captive marmots at the Tony Barrett Mount Washington Marmot Recovery Centre, where marmots are bred and released into the wild, is a daily preoccupation. One entire room at the centre is devoted to food preparation. The marmot youngsters, McAdie jokes, are eating us out of house and home.

The Vancouver Island marmot, Canadas most endangered mammal, is only found in the wild on Vancouver Island mountains. The heaviest member of the squirrel family, marmots are about the size of a large house cat, have dainty ears like their chipmunk cousins and sport chocolate-brown fur with splashes of cream. Like other marmot species, Vancouver Island marmots are highly social; they live in colonies, rub noses in greeting and play fight like boxers.

The Vancouver Island marmot is about the size of a large house cat and is Canadas most endangered mammal. Photo: Ryan Tidman

Marmota vancouverensis were so plentiful a century ago that the Victoria Times newspaper described swarms at the head of Nitinat Valley and a brace of marmots hunted in the Beaufort Range. But by 2003 following clearcut logging, road building and other human disturbances, giving predators like cougars easy access to marmot colonies only 27 Vancouver Island marmots were left in Canadas wild.

Following intensive recovery efforts, the wild population has increased eight-fold, to just over 200 animals. Today, Vancouver Island marmots are found on more than 20 mountain sites compared to five sites in 2003, one with a solitary marmot. Yet they remain one of the rarest mammals in the world.

As the former executive director of a local land trust, Adam Taylor had largely focused on trying to save snake, slug and bat species from extinction by protecting their vanishing habitat. When Taylor became the executive director of the Marmot Recovery Foundation in 2015, he was motivated, in part, by the opportunity to use the charismatic marmots as a poster child for raising awareness about efforts to save all endangered species.

It feels like we have a real shot, Taylor says, to take a species that is critically endangered, clearly at the absolute brink of extinction, and actually restore it to a reasonably healthy population.

Adam Taylor, executive director of the Marmot Recovery Foundation, says its easy to feel like its hopeless to recover endangered species. Photo: Cheyney Jackson

In May 2019, scientists around the world warned of a global biodiversity crisis, saying nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history. Close to one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, according to a comprehensive United Nations report, which called for transformational changes to protect species and ecosystems.

We are in a period where its going to be pretty grim. We are going to lose species, Taylor says. And it is easy to believe that its hopeless, that we simply cant recover these species and that theres no point in even trying. And I think its important that we have these success stories we can point to that both uplift us within the conservation community and that we can use as exemplars to talk about the value of conservation programs, that they do really have the potential for success, that theyre not doomed to failure.

By 2003, there were just 27 Vancouver Island marmots left in Canadas wild. Now the wild population has increased eight-fold to just over 200 animals. Photo: Ryan Tidman

British Columbia, which markets itself as super, natural, is home to more than 2,000 species at risk of extinction, more than any other province or territory in Canada. Yet, unlike most provinces, B.C. does not have a standalone law to protect endangered species. Such a law might have reversed the fortunes of the Vancouver Island marmot much earlier by protecting its critical habitat before the species was almost wiped out, in addition to providing earlier resources for recovery efforts.

Recovering a species on the brink of extinction is not easy, and its not cheap either. From hatching northern spotted owls in a laboratory as forest sounds play in the background to sedating pregnant caribou and flying them in helicopters to a breeding pen high in the Misinchinka mountains, substantial amounts of money are going toward complex efforts to recover endangered species in British Columbia and around the world.

Vancouver Island marmots are bred in captivity, where they are acclimatized to predators by rolling taxidermic cougars and wolves past their enclosures to test their response. They are given names like The Dude and P-Man, or litters are named by theme: one year it was Gord, Rob, Paul and Johnny, after members of the band the Tragically Hip. The marmots undergo surgery to implant radio transmitters in their abdomens, allowing each one to be tracked. Their heartbeats are monitored and their teeth are checked. And then comes the day when they are released into the wild.

On a cool rainy morning in late June, I meet Taylor and recovery team member Quinn Andrews in a deserted ski hill parking lot on Mount Washington, on central Vancouver Island, to witness the release of three young marmots Dora, George and Jabber onto a ski hill. Taylor gives me hand sanitizer and a spray bottle of disinfectant for the soles of my hiking boots, which I have already cleaned, along with my clothes, as instructed.

Boot disinfectant has always been required for anyone associated with the recovery team who is in the marmot colonies to avoid inadvertently bringing in invasive species seeds and to protect the marmots from any potential unknown disease. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, McAdie and other marmot handlers wore disposable gloves and face masks in the recovery centre, a two-storey wood and concrete building with adjoining indoor and outdoor marmot pens, staff sleeping quarters, quarantine rooms and a surgery room. But the pandemic has heightened safety precautions especially since hamsters, a distant relative of the marmot, have tested positive for the disease and now staff wear face masks in close proximity to wild marmots as well.

Quinn Andrews, a member of the field crew for the Marmot Recovery Foundation, hoists a caged marmot through a meadow on Mount Washington. Photo: Ryan Tidman

The Vancouver Island marmot has gone through an extraordinary genetic bottleneck, Taylor says, referring to a dramatic reduction in population numbers that threatens genetic diversity and the long-term survival of a species. When that happens, it does leave a species vulnerable to disease We dont know that theres any risk to marmots, but its not a chance we want to take.

Our destination, a half-hour hike up a steep dirt road, is a grassy pasture sandwiched between the more difficult Invitation and Fantastic ski runs. The slope provides just the sort of habitat that marmots need a subalpine meadow with plenty of opportunities to excavate burrows and escape tunnels in the uneven terrain and rocks on which they can lounge, keeping careful watch for predators.

Taylor points to a plywood box nestled into the mountainside, which is about to become temporary accommodations for the yearlings, who are among 14 marmots released from captivity in the summer of 2020. Under the box, which will be removed in a few days, is a tunnel quarried by wild marmots. The goal is to ease the marmots into their sudden exposure into life in the wild, Taylor says. They come out, and they find a burrow that is not currently being used by other marmots.

McAdie, arriving by truck with two other team members and the marmots, carries a plastic bag of shavings and hay, taken from the marmots enclosures, downhill to the box. The vet dips nutrition biscuits the same Marzuri Leaf-Eaters fed to primates in zoos into a jar of peanut butter, placing them around and on top of the hutch and on a nearby tree stump. Recovery team members hurriedly pick wild lupins, sparkling with beads of rain and dew, to add to the welcome basket in the new abode.

Moving slowly, the vet and two other team members hoist big cages onto their backs. Seen from a distance, masked and wearing dark clothing, moving carefully down the slope in the misty rain, they could be mistaken for cattle rustlers about to pull off a heist. Every few seconds, one of the marmots pierces the silence with a loud whistle. The characteristic call, which earns the marmot its nickname whistle pig, indicates Dora, George and Jabber are not entirely happy with the situation.

Malcolm McAdie, Greg Mevlin and Quinn Andrews prepare to release two Vancouver Island marmots at Mount Washington. Photo: Ryan Tidman

One by one, the cages are joined to a removable plywood tunnel that connects to the hutch. If a marmot wont leave its cage, someone tickles its feet. They dont like that very much, Taylor says. But some of them are really stubborn and they wont go in even with the feet tickling. So, you have to take the ultimate irritation measure, which is to blow on their bums that always seems to convince them.

But today its just some foot tickling for Dora, and some foot tickling and a little cage jiggling for George and Jabber. Dora, named after Dora the Explorer from the childrens animated television series, is released first because males are more likely to block the entrance for others. The staff retreat 30 or 40 metres. McAdie checks his phone. After 15 minutes, allowing the animals time to absorb the strange smell of their new box and the familiar scent of old bedding, the plywood door is unscrewed and we wait for the trio to emerge into the brightening day.

Sometimes it only takes a minute or two for the first nose to poke out. But Dora, George and Jabber are not the Three Marmoteers, it turns out. It also doesnt seem that Dora will live up to the reputation of her namesake. This might be a record, McAdie says after almost an hour. He walks back up to the box to check on his charges, spotting them huddled at the back.

Finally, the telltale white ring that encircles a Vancouver Island marmot nose shimmers at the door. Then a chin pokes out, and immediately retreats. Over and over, the nose pops out and pulls back, like a swimmer slowly dipping into cold water. And then a head emerges, followed, a few seconds later, by two front paws. Finally, the marmot dashes out to a biscuit dipped in peanut butter. Is it Dora? George? Jabber? Were too far away to tell. A second marmot begins a jack-in-the-box routine at the hutch door, while the first one continues its peanut butter surveillance mission, seemingly unaffected by the morning trip up the mountain.

The Marmot Recovery Foundation raises marmots in captivity and then releases them into the wild. Photo: Ryan Tidman

Vancouver Island marmots are the heaviest member of the squirrel family and sport chocolate-brown fur with splashes of cream. They live in colonies, rub noses in greeting and play fight like boxers. Photo: Ryan Tidman

The three youngsters have come from the Mount Washington marmot recovery centre, a 12-minute drive down the bumpy road. Yet they have travelled a great distance to get this far. Dora and George were born in the spring of 2019 at the Toronto Zoo, which, along with the Calgary Zoo, breeds marmots for the recovery program. The duo was among nine marmots, all slated for release this spring, who were flown last fall to Vancouver. McAdie met them at the airport and brought them to Vancouver Island by truck and ferry so they could acclimatize at the Mount Washington facility in time for hibernation.

Jabber had a much shorter distance to travel; he was trapped by the recovery team in a clearcut last year and transported to the recovery centre by helicopter. Left in the cutblock, Taylor says Jabber and his future offspring would almost certainly have been picked off by cougars, which use the cover of growing trees to more easily stake out the marmots.

Historically, predation was not an issue for Vancouver Island marmots. But high-elevation logging and road building have fragmented habitat around marmot colonies in alpine meadows, isolating populations. Its not like anyone went in and logged a marmot colony, Taylor says. Theyre tree-free by nature But we did make a lot of disturbances around these colonies. So you have these little pockets of habitat.

Marmots who disperse, as the species does naturally, cant find their way to another colony through the disturbances. They end up in odd places. The recovery team once trapped a marmot that had taken up residence in a woodshed in Qualicum Beach. In 2013, they pulled a marmot named Morgan out of downtown Nanaimo. They were even called in 2015 to get a marmot that had been found wandering on the beach by the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

The Marmot Recovery Foundation is working to establish marmot colonies in close proximity to provide stepping stones for the population to rebound. Photo: Ryan Tidman

Marmots on the move like to burrow in clearcuts, which mimic their treeless alpine and subalpine slopes but make them a far easier target for predators when trees start to grow back and provide cover. When you factor in the small dam in Strathcona Park next to Mount Washington, which created a reservoir in the middle of the park and severed marmot networks, and add climate change, which allows trees to grow at high elevations, the end result is less habitat for marmots and fewer avenues for dispersal.

At some point in time, we started building all sorts of roads on Vancouver Island, Taylor says. Some support logging operations, but many are for residential development and mining, he notes. Historically, it would have been a pretty high energy cost for predators to get into marmot habitat and a pretty low return. Marmots were never a primary food source for wolves or cougars.

The recovery team hopes that re-establishing enough marmot colonies close to each other will provide stepping stones for natural dispersal. There are now at least 12 colonies throughout the 700 square kilometre Nanaimo Lakes region. The exception to the stepping stone approach is a colony the team established on Steamboat Mountain, releasing captive-bred marmots with the opposite approach. If everything goes south, if theres a disease thats introduced that wipes out the population in the Nanaimo Lakes region, we need to have a colony thats geographically and reproductively isolated, Taylor says.

Historically, it would have been a pretty high energy cost for predators to get into marmot habitat and a pretty low return. Marmots were never a primary food source for wolves or cougars.

The journey for marmota vancouverensis, as a species, has been much longer and more difficult. And its come with a hefty price tag.

The recovery foundations annual budget is between $750,000 and $800,000, depending on the year. In the past 10 years alone, the foundation has spent almost $8 million on marmot recovery efforts. Extrapolating, the price tag to save Vancouver Island marmots since the foundation was created in 1998 is somewhere in the order of $15 million. And that doesnt include money to breed and raise marmots in zoos and fly them to B.C.

Each year, the B.C. government matches the funding contributed to the recovery foundation by two forestry companies that log near marmot colonies Island Timberlands and TimberWest. This year, each of the three parties will contribute $70,000. The rest of the foundations budget comes from foundations and individual donors some donors join the Adopt-a-Marmot Club while Mount Washington Alpine Resort donates land for recovery efforts.

Money is far from the only investment in the marmots recovery and well-being. A stud book keeps track of lineage, aiming to ensure genetic diversity. Throughout the year, staff and vets from the zoos and recovery foundation meet with Vancouver Island University biology professor Jamie Gorrell, who sequences marmot DNA and advises which male marmot should be paired with which female.

Zoo staff weigh in with observations about individuals that might impede the ideal genetic match. We sort out some of the practicalities of that, Taylor explains. One female marmot named Rizzo, for instance, only likes a male named Oban. Its great that shes got the genetics, but shes literally going to eat her partner unless its Oban. Can we mate her with Oban again or are we starting to worry about over-representation?

Malcolm McAdie oversees captive breeding and marmot care at the Mount Washington marmot recovery centre. Here he holds a hibernating Vancouver Island. Photo: Ryan Tidman

There are also concerns about how captive-bred marmots will adapt to an environment with predators. To see if they recognize predators and take appropriate action whistling an alarm to other marmots and hiding in burrows the Calgary Zoo wheels taxidermic cougar, wolf, marmot and domestic goat mounts past marmot cages, monitoring a video camera for the animals reactions. Mounts are pulled along a track in front of the marmot enclosures at the zoos off-site breeding facility, south of Calgary.

We set it up so theyre on top of their hay bales, so theyre up high and they can see, and theyre eating, so theyre relaxed, so that we know theyre in a good behavioural state, says Natasha Lloyd, conservation research manager for the Calgary Zoo, which has sent a total of 131 marmot pups to Vancouver Island for release. And then we bring this taxidermied stimulus across to them, and we leave it for one minute and pull it out. The marmots did indeed recognize the predators and act appropriately, she says.

Over the past few years, the zoo has repeated the study, expanding it to include a golden eagle, a great horned owl, a magpie and a goose. Lloyd said the results are still being analyzed, but broad trends show captive marmots are still able to distinguish predators from non-predators and take immediate action to protect themselves.

Working together, the zoo and the recovery foundation have also determined that captive-bred marmots stand a much higher chance of surviving when they are released onto Mount Washington for a year before they are moved to more remote colonies such as those in the Nanaimo Lakes area. They call it the stepping stone approach.

Weve found that year of learning really helps, Lloyd says. Because its a ski hill and theres human presence around, we believe that the predation levels are lower, but there are still some predators around. So it gives the marmots a bit of an easier time to learn how to discern predators, how to avoid predators. And because marmots are such a social species, the other marmots out there, the wild marmots, give alarm calls and help them understand what to do.

Mount Washington also has plenty of marmot burrows and hibernacula, giving newly released marmots more time to learn how to excavate. If theyre yearlings or younger individuals, they can be adopted into a wild burrow and hibernate together, which is a really great learning experience for them too, Lloyd says.

A record 17 pups were born at the Calgary Zoo this year, while eight were born at the Toronto Zoo. And 12 pups were born this spring in four litters at the Mount Washington facility.

Surgeries to implant radio transmitters in captive marmots are carried out at the recovery centre in June, with marmots given two weeks to recover before being released. On a mid-June morning, McAdie prepares to implant a transmitter into a young marmot named Diego Doras brother from the same Toronto Zoo litter.

Diego lies on his back on a blue surgical sheet in the yellow surgery room at the recovery centre. His front paws stick up in the air, a plastic mask around his nose to supply a carefully controlled concentration of anesthetic. McAdie listens to Diegos heartbeat and lungs with a stethoscope, measures his testicles and inserts a rectal thermometer to provide a digital readout of the marmots temperature throughout the surgery. He lifts Diegos floppy head and peers into his mouth. Thats a nice-looking marmot, he says. Incisors are intact.

Diego has a radio transmitter implanted in his abdomen at the recovery centre in June. Photo: Marmot Recovery Foundation

The vet holds an EKG sensor between Diegos paws to check for any potential heart ailments and wraps a pulse oximeter sensor around the marmots left hind leg to check his oxygen saturation and heartbeat. He takes a blood sample from Diegos other back paw, wiping on disinfectant first, and wraps a doppler sensor around that paw to get an audio signal from his heartbeat for another pulse reading during the procedure.

Then he shaves the middle of Diegos abdomen, a patch smaller than a credit card. His assistant, Jordyn Alger, vacuums up the stray fur. McAdie swabs red surgical soap on the patch, the first of at least three scrubs.

A surgical kit is unwrapped to reveal two sterile blue drapes containing surgical instruments, including a scalpel. McAdie disinfects his hands anew, right up to his elbows. Alger keeps watch over Diegos vitals, pulling on one of his front paws to stimulate respiration.

The vet unfolds a transparent drape, cutting a hole in the middle and slips the drape over Diego.

OK, making the incision, he says, bending over the patch. He inserts the transmitter and sews Diego up, finishing with a layer of tissue adhesive, the surgical equivalent of crazy glue. The marmot will be eating again by the next day, the vet predicts.

McAdie releases Diego two weeks later, on Gemini Mountain in the Haley Lake Ecological Reserve, along with another marmot born at the Toronto Zoo, named for the basketball player Kawhi Leonard.

Like his sister Dora, Diego will be monitored all summer by staff who travel to marmot colonies with hand-held antennae, switching the frequency to check on different marmots. The transmitters respond to temperature, sending pulses that tell recovery team staff whether a marmot is alive, dead or hibernating.

Mike Lester uses an antenna at Mount Arrowsmith to check on the marmots in the area. The pulse rate of the transmitter indicates the body temperature of the marmot. Photo: Ryan Tidman

The vet has become somewhat of a Sherlock Holmes when it comes to marmot mortalities, which are low on Mount Washington, where marmots hibernate in deep snow below snowboarders and downhill skiers. Dora, George and Jabber have an 80 per cent chance of surviving their first year in the wild, he says.

Arriving at the scene of a death, McAdie looks for signs of a struggle, scat, fur, bones and the radio transmitter, which indicate how the marmot was consumed. Cougars, which have been responsible for 85 per cent of the marmot deaths in the past decade, make a kill and then drag the marmot to a more secluded area with vegetation. The cougar wont eat the marmot right away.

Theyll prepare it, McAdie says. They use their incisors and barber the hair off. Leaving a ring of marmot hair, cougars will also remove the gastrointestinal tract and larger bones like parts of the skull before eating the meat. Cougars tend to kill multiple marmots in short order, which is why Jabber was airlifted to safety from a clear cut, along with a female and her four kits.

Wolves, on the other hand, will consume the entire marmot on the spot. Theyll also often leave a calling card of stool in the vicinity and will sometimes leave tooth marks in the resin coating the transmitter. Bears, which only rarely kill Vancouver Island marmots, are sloppy. Theyll leave the hide and the skeleton and will consume all the internal organs, McAdie says.

In the early 2000s, predation by golden eagles was also cause for concern. Golden eagles were only a vagrant species on Vancouver Island until Eurasian rabbits were introduced, affording the raptors an easy food source and prompting the establishment of golden eagle populations. Golden eagles cant lift a marmot, which typically weigh between four and seven kilos. Theyll use their talons to drag the marmot along the ground, letting gravity sever the spine, and will eat only the organs. Generally, there are signs of the eagle striking the marmot and signs of a bit of a struggle, McAdie says. Quite often theyll leave a few feathers [and] quite often before they fly theyll defecate as well so theyll leave some whitewash.

Scientists believe that marmots arrived on Vancouver Island up to 100,000 years ago, crossing from the mainland on land connections about the time the first modern humans, Cro-Magnons, emerged in Africa. Marmots were hunted by First Nations in the late summer for robes and food. Prehistoric marmot remains have been found at eight locations on Vancouver Island, all outside the marmots current area of distribution, suggesting a much larger historical range. One paleontological find in a cave near Nimpkish Lake, just south of Port McNeill, was radiocarbon dated to 10,000 years ago. Other undated remains have been found in caves near Tahsis.

In June, scientists published a paper that examined almost 30,000 species of terrestrial vertebrates to determine which are on the brink of extinction. They found 515 species with fewer than 1,000 individuals, species they said likely will become extinct soon.

Taylor read the paper with concern. He agreed with its conclusion that swift action is imperative to prevent more species from becoming extinct. But among those 515 species the scientists said are likely to become extinct soon is the Vancouver Island marmot. When it comes to the marmot, Taylor says, were going to prove them wrong.

Two Vancouver Island marmots scope their surroundings at Mount Washington. Photo: Ryan Tidman

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Bringing the endangered Vancouver Island marmot back from the brink - The Narwhal

Frankie Meyer: Celebrate women’s suffrage by recording the health history of a female relative or ancestor – Joplin Globe

Attention, women genealogists! August is our month. The centennial of womens suffrage is being celebrated this month. One hundred years ago, the 19th Amendment went into effect, giving women the right to vote. National Sisters Day is also this month.

Celebrate the month by recording the health history of female relatives and ancestors. From your details, family members can learn about risk factors that exist in the family, symptoms of those conditions, lifestyle changes that can lower the risks, tests that can identify people at risk, chances of passing the condition to descendants and treatments that will be helpful. The information may save the lives of those you love.

Several online family medical charts are available free of charge. The charts have blanks where conditions can be recorded for each family member. Basic questions are name, date of birth, sex and ethnicity.

In addition, the charts list medical conditions with a space to record the date at which it developed. Some examples are: substance abuse, alcoholism, heart attacks, birth defects, mental illness, stillbirths, infertility, miscarriages, hemophilia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, breast cancer, Parkinsons disease, ovarian cancer, skin cancers and neurofibromatosis.

To learn about medical conditions of deceased family members, check family journals, biographies, old letters, obituaries and death certificates.Interview older family members. Are there vague stories of a family member who went to a sanitarium or insane asylum? Learn where those local institutions were located and where the records are stored.

Be aware that some family members cherish their privacy and will choose not to share health information. Use discretion when sharing medical details, and get permission from family members before doing so.

Many genetic conditions occur as a result of interactions between genetics and the environment. Breast cancer seems to run in my family, but why does it occur among some descendants and not others? In hopes of helping scientists answer that question, several years ago I became part of the sister study sponsored by the National Institute of Health and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with partner organizations, such as American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen organization. Between 2003 to 2009, the study enrolled over 50,000 women who had at least one sister with breast cancer. The study tracks the health of participants in order to learn how environmental factors influence the development of different types of breast cancer.

Similar large-scale studies are being done with other genetic conditions, such as Parkinsons disease.

Comments or suggestions? Contact Frankie Meyer at

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Frankie Meyer: Celebrate women's suffrage by recording the health history of a female relative or ancestor - Joplin Globe

Identity of the native Bermudian – Royal Gazette

Published Aug 25, 2020 at 8:00 am(Updated Aug 25, 2020 at 9:46 am)

O you mankind, surely We created you of a male and a female, and We have made you races and tribes that you may get mutually acquainted. Surely the most honourable among you in the providence of God are the most pious; surely God is ever-knowing, ever-cognisant. Koran

All over the planet, we have a variety of people with differing ethnicity and race. The beauty of the planet is meant to be seen in its diversity. We can be known by those differences, with the best among us not determined by our looks but by our behaviour.

Life isnt static. There is always movement and the blending of cultures, customs and races. While there can be majorities and minorities, there is no need or prerogative of any group to destroy or colonise the identity or specificity of another subgroup by force or propaganda.

The Pacific is a beautiful example of thousands of years of ethnic divergence. To the untrained eye or ear, there could be an easy tendency to assume that many parts are all of one people. They look alike, the sounds of their vowels and consonants are similar, yet the languages are distinctly different and the DNA of the genetic pools are just as different.

Yes, you may use the generic term Asian, but look a little deeper because if one makes the assumption they are the same, a Japanese person would firmly argue that they are not Chinese or Vietnamese. A Malaysian will firmly assert they are not Indonesian and will be insulted for being identified that way.

We can also look a bit closer and take, for example, some ethnicity that had developed in the West Indies because of circumstances that forced movement and the histories of peoples to blend together, creating new identities.

In that regard, I speak of the Carib Indians, who were familiar to many islands and South America, and after whom the area was called the Caribbean. When the Africans were introduced to the area, many of them escaped slavery and captivity, and assimilated with the Caribs.

Later this assimilation became known as the Black Caribs, who along with indigenous Caribs resisted colonisation by all the European colonisers. They were forced to leave places such as St Vincent the home of my great-grandfather and became known as the Garifuna.

The Garifuna are Africans mixed with Carib; no one can deny either their African or Carib roots. Their circumstance has a uniqueness: they are a product of suffering and struggle of two separate groups of people, but ended up with a single identity and ethnicity of their own. Its an important distinction and one the world does respect as belonging solely to them, as they recall the tales of their unique experience.

In similar fashion, Bermudians descending from the early 1600s have a unique experience with African, Native American, Irish and English thrown together to populate what has become the indigenous population of the island. Today the genetics of those subgroups of people have a distinct pattern that indicates its own ethnicity. When one adds the DNA pattern, the distinct dialect and unique history, we have a unique classification that could be rightfully termed as native to Bermuda.

As a qualifier, one of my sons attended Dalhousie University and as an elective chose a course in genetics. His DNA was tested as a sample student and the results gained as reported by the professor showed that Bermuda was at the edge of its own ethnicity and was more homogeneous than the Japanese.

The other thing needing to be understood, particularly because of the lifestyle of the early 1800s, with white men cohabitating with mulatto women, which became commonplace pre-emancipation, the majority of what is termed white Bermudian has at least a great-great-great-grandmother who was black.

Given the way assimilation occurs, there are very few whites who do not have a black Bermudian ancestor. This, like it or not, is a truth about the DNA of native Bermudians: they are more of a tribe than they are of separate races.

It is extremely important that Bermudians preserve their identity and, given the threats levied against that identity of being truly Bermudian and the attempts to deny its nativity by removing its authenticity, calling it only a by-product of an other, it has become necessary to add the distinction native to emphasise the ethnicity and uniqueness of their history as being connected to this island called Bermuda.

It is important that all global institutions, even Google and information networks, also the United Nations, find cause to recognise the nativity and indigenous status of native Bermudians. No one can claim or remove what is a self-evident and living truth. Those who can find their way into the 18th century and are of that history cannot be legislated away or buried under false myth.

A great example of this is in fact, the Garifuna, because those who are native Bermudian are as Bermudian, as they are Garifuna. All those who can trace their family into the 18th century, when asked about their ethnicity, should say I am native Bermudian and not just Bermudian.

The difference is, one is a national ID and can be granted; the other is anthropological and cannot.

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Identity of the native Bermudian - Royal Gazette

Don of many firsts and survivor of terror attack – Daily Nation

By David Muchunguh

What do you consider as your most important research or publication? Why?

I think our paper published in Nature is my most significant publication. Not only did we manage to publish in a highly respected international peer reviewed journal but also our work was featured on the cover.

We reported on inter-group relations among prehistoric communities of hunter-gatherers who lived in Nataruk, west of Lake Turkana. Together with Dr Marta Mirazn Lahr, Prof Robert Foley, and others, we were able to show that human conflict over resources is historical. Until this was published, violence of this nature was mainly associated with more settled or socially developed people, who had more resources to protect, for example food grain or land. But this study was able to show that warfare and violence did occur among communities irrespective of their wealth or possessions; or whether they were hunters or gatherers.

I am also especially fond of the paper that came out of my PhD research titled The origins of African Sheep: Archaeological and Genetic Perspectives in African Archaeological Review (2013) 30:3950) that documented the routes of how sheep were introduced into Africa and how sheep pastoralism spread throughout the continent.

You have been re-appointed as a member of the Commission for University Education, what fundamental changes do we need to improve the competitiveness of our university education?

Covid-19 pandemic has caused all universities to re-think how they operate. We have to adopt new and innovative ways of teaching and interacting with students. We have to ensure that learning and research continues.

This means greater investment in technology. Innovations and technology can be a great driver for economic development. I think there is not enough money going into research. If universities could get even half of what is envisioned in the Vision 2030 (which is 2 per cent of the GDP) it would make a huge impact on the economy. The universities need to upgrade and modernise their infrastructure for scholarship and research.

Expound on your role at the WHO

At the end of 2018, a Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, made a startling announcement, that he had genetically altered two babies genes in order to prevent them from getting HIV. This announcement was shocking because there are easier and safer ways to prevent HIV infections.

The gene editing technology that Jiankui used called CRISPR is not safe for use on humans and the implications of his experiments on innocent babies are huge. The Director General of the World Health Organization set up the WHO Expert Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing to which I was appointed.

We are developing a governance framework for the management of this science. We are working very hard to complete this and we anticipate it will be finalised by December.

How did the Westgate experience affect the way you work, if at all it did?

My experience at Westgate changed me. Not only did I come face-to-face with death (after being shot twice in the chest at point-blank range) and survive, I saw humanity at its worst and at its best. I have chosen to carry the good with me.

My sister (who was with me) and I saw people putting their lives at risk to rescue and save us. I learnt what it means to be committed and to serve. And I have tried to emulate this from that experience.

Youve scored a number of firsts, would you like to tell us about them?

I was the founder and the first chairperson of the Department of Botany at JKUAT at 26 years of age. This automatically made me a member of the JKUAT Senate and I made history by being the youngest member of the JKUAT Senate.

The following year, I was appointed JKUAT Senate representative to the University Council. This was my first board appointment and at 27 years, it inducted me into leadership at a young age.

I was promoted to the post of associate professor in 2007 and to a full professor in 2013, making me the first female professor of Genetics in the country.

In research, I was the first in the world to characterise the sheep of Africa using molecular biology tools and the first in JKUAT to publish in the Nature journal. Like I mentioned earlier, we were the first to report violence among groups of hunter gatherers

What do you think is the future of science studies in Kenya?

The future is very bright. Since 2018, I have been honoured to be the chief Judge for the Young Scientist Kenya (YSK) National Science and Technology Exhibition. Every year students from all 47 counties assemble and showcase technologies, innovations and ideas that they have developed to use and more importantly to solve challenges that face their communities.

These are the minds that we need to nurture, because they know what their challenges are and they do not wait for someone else to provide solutions, they do that on their own.

YSK is an initiative of both the Ministry of Education and the Government of Ireland. When we have more students doing STEM in secondary school, then we will have more doing STEM at the tertiary level in universities and technical and vocational colleges. Research has shown that countries that have strong science, technology and innovation cultures develop faster economically and make the nation strong and competitive internationally.

What are you working on right now?

Right now my research involves identifying local innovations that can have a positive impact on increasing livestock production. Farmers are real innovators. They identify their problems and come up with solutions.

So you find that there are many inventions, innovations and local technologies at the farm level that should be patented, scaled up and disseminated to other regions to help other farmers. I am also keen on identifying digital solutions that can be integrated into livestock production.

For example, the use of digital platforms to connect farmers directly to sellers and thus increasing their profits and cutting out costly middlemen.

What do you do during your free time?

I read autobiographies and I knit beanies ... woollen hats. I am a member of a womens book club called Hodari Mothers Club and we have a project where we (among other things) make beanies for charity. Last year, we made beanies and donated them for use in preemie (premature baby) wards in the public hospitals. Right now our focus is to make beanies and donate them to adolescent cancer survivors.

Don of many firsts and survivor of terror attack - Daily Nation

WVU expert discusses why COVID-19 kills more men than women – WVNS-TV

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. While men are not more likely to contract COVID-19 than women, once infected, they are more likely to suffer from severe complications or die from it.

This is according to Jennifer Franko, a teaching assistant professor in the West Virginia University School of Medicine, who studies sex differences in immune responses. Franko said there are many factors that contribute to this disparity and one of them is simply that in general, men tend to be more susceptible to infection than women.

While this difference may or may not be specific to coronaviruses, similar trends were seen in previous coronavirus outbreaks, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, Franko said in a WVU press release. In both of these instances, higher mortality rates were reported in males versus females. Its the same situation that were seeing now with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

Franko said a less robust immune response in males may result in slower viral clearance and poorer outcomes when dealing with COVID-19. Some of these differences between men and women, she said, could be a result of the hormonal or genetic factor.

As an example, Franko said in the release, in females, estrogen and progesterone are typically thought to stimulate the immune system and may provide a higher level of protection against infection. Whereas, in males, testosterone may suppress such a response.

From a genetics standpoint, many immune-related genes are encoded on the X chromosome. Females have two copies of the X chromosome. Males have only one. In order to balance the dosage of X-linked genes between males and females, one female X chromosome is typically inactivated. Interestingly, we are now beginning to realize that not all of those X-chromosome-linked genes are inactive all the time. In some instances, these genes escape inactivation, resulting in a double dosage effect and higher levels of gene expression in females. If these are immune-related genes, they may correlate with stronger immune responses. This may be an additional reason why females respond to infection with more robust responses.

And Another factor that could account for the disparity, Franko said, is that males may have more underlying conditions that may amplify their risk of severe complications and death. Underlying factors like hypertension or heart disease can lead to worse outcomes when COVID-19 is factored in.

Here is the original post:
WVU expert discusses why COVID-19 kills more men than women - WVNS-TV

Were stewards of our land: the rise of female farmers – The Guardian

On 23 March, the night lockdown was announced, Catherine St Germans was on a Zoom call with farmers, policymakers and activists. There was a sense of foreboding, as they became aware that lockdown would have a catastrophic effect on UK farms.

Using nothing more complicated than Google Sheets and WhatsApp, St Germans and a team of volunteers created Farms To Feed Us, a document listing farms by postcode and what they sold. The file could be easily shared, or signed up to by those who had food to sell. The database launched on 25 March, within an hour or so it was on the Guardians Covid live blog, and engagement was immediate.

The response was really revealing as to the state of where we think our food comes from, says St Germans, who also co-founded the Port Eliot festival. Many didnt know where their nearest farm was. Farmers helped each other out, including neighbours surplus produce into their deliveries. People started to use the database not only for themselves, but to shop for shielding relatives. One of the things that most surprised me is how many people thought farming was mundane, only done on a large scale, or just done by men.

Thats changing with momentum building over the previous decade. According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2018 about 17% of farmers were women, up from 7% in 2007-2008. In higher education courses, women agricultural students now outnumber men almost two to one, making up 64% of the 2017-2018 graduates.

Mary Quicke runs the cheesemaking and farming of Quickes in Devon, the 14th generation to do so. Shes thrilled to see more women enter the industry. When I first came into farming, around 1982, I went to the Oxford farming conference and there were several thousand people there and there were three women, she remembers. At one of those early conferences, I remember someone saying Oh your father must be so disappointed that none of your brothers are interested in running the farm.

It hadnt occurred to her that shed be seen as a second-choice. I did have to overcome peoples sense that it belittled them to be told what to do by a woman. I had to cajole people, bring them round, but thinking about how you serve the people you work with is sensible anyway.

With leaders such as president of the National Farmers Union Minette Batters (farming folk think shes fabulous), Quicke thinks there are sufficient models to make the industry more receptive to diversity. That being said, she believes many multigenerational family farms remain pretty traditional. For the last five years, Quicke has been the chair of the Devon County Agriculture Association. Theres a sense that its not unremarkable, she says thoughtfully, adding that agricultural shows such as theirs are part of the wider community. When I think of my lifes purpose, its that all people be inspired by a connection to food and farming 90,000 people come to the Devon County Show.

She and St Germans both hope that, with the recent disruptions to food and supply, the interest in how consumers get their food is harnessed into more direct engagement with farms across the country. Two months into lockdown, three million people bought veg boxes or direct from farms for the very first time, St Germans says. We want that momentum to continue.

Our challenge now is how we farm for the future in a way that supports our species being here, Quicke says. Were stewards of our land and must produce and make food choices in a way that creates the kind of planet we want to live on. HO

Sinead FentonGrows vegetables and edible flowers at Aweside Farm, East Sussex

Sinead Fenton is on an early lunch break, hiding from the sun. Its ridiculously intense, so I think were going to call it a day and crack back on in the evening, she says. Fenton and her partner, Adam Smith, have been putting in beds and getting ahead on groundwork for next year. This year, there will be no commercial crops on the couples 4.5-acre plot.

They signed the papers on their farm last November and moved onto the land in March. Around the time they needed to make decisions about how theyd manage their first harvest, lockdown happened. With restaurants and florists their main clients out of action for the foreseeable future, they made the decision not to sow seeds but concentrate on opening up the land. We were going to do it over three or four years, so were squeezing three years of work into this year, so we can focus on growing next year, Fenton says.

She and Smith cut their scythes at Audacious Veg, a 0.1-acre plot in Hainault, at the end of the Central Line between Essex and London. Shortly after volunteering at the allotment in 2017, they heard the project was about to finish: Naively, with about three weeks worth of growing experience, we decided that wed take it on and get the produce to chefs.

Smith worked in insurance accounting and while Fenton most recently worked in software and food policy, her background was in geology. I came at farming from an activist point of view, she says. I was always fascinated by getting things out of the ground, but that is a destructive industry. Farming is nicer because I can do something for the system instead of taking everything from it.

There was a lot of insecurity around the project. Land is contentious, especially in London, and land law is difficult and expensive to negotiate for those with no farming background. Adam and I are both from cities Im from London, hes from Essex. Were from low-income families, and we had no access to farms growing up, Fenton explains. Its basically impossible to get on the land, because its so expensive, or passed down through generations.

They got the land for Aweside through the Ecological Land Co-op, which buys fields designated by Defra as only being good for arable crops, then splits them up to create smallholdings. Aweside is neighbours with a veg-box scheme, and waiting for others wholl transform what once was a 20-acre maize field into a cluster of small farms rich with biodiversity. Now Fenton and Smith have a 150-year lease, and no worries that what they create will be taken away.

Its not yet a permanent home. Fenton says theyll be living in a caravan for a few years: Another part of land law in the UK that makes land inaccessible is that if you want to live on your land you have to go through five years of proving your business is profitable, viable and that there is a functional need for you to live there. Having livestock is an easy way to pass the test, but because Aweside is a vegan farm, Fenton and Smith need to cultivate and show they use every bit of plot.

Its daunting but Fenton is excited about having a blank slate to work with. Theres so much more to food than what supermarkets tell us to eat, she says, explaining that theyll grow varieties at risk of extinction, or that arent commonly grown in a mass market food system. Seed diversity and plant genetics are serious issues.

The three principles the couple work to are: more flowers, more trees, thriving soil. Theyre working no-dig, putting compost directly on the ground and letting the soil life mix everything over time. Theyre pesticide-free and are counting on the fact that the more diversity they have in the system, especially with a high proportion of flowers to pollinators and insects, the fewer problems theyll face.

Socially, economically and environmentally, something needs to change. Things have been done the same way by the same people for a long time, says Fenton of the farming industrys need for greater diversity. I learned to grow on an allotment site where there are lots of different things growing at once. Bringing that approach into sites like this is needed the industry needs it to keep itself relevant. HO

Gala Bailey-BarkerShepherd at Plaw Hatch Farm, East Grinstead, Sussex

Gala Bailey-Barker was out with her flock of 80 Lleyn and Romney sheep and her sheepdog, Pip, in the first week of April when she realised that she couldnt hear anything. Dual carriageways that would normally throb with commuter traffic from 5.30am were empty. The flights that land every two minutes at Gatwick Plaw Hatch is in the flight path had been quietened. It was so silent you could hear the birds, Bailey-Barker says. It was extraordinary.

The life of a shepherd during a global pandemic, it seems, is mostly the same, only much more peaceful than usual. I often work at Christmas and new year, she says, and it was like it was permanently Christmas Day. It was surreal. Bailey-Barker, 30, is a first-generation shepherd. She studied archaeology at university, before undertaking an apprenticeship at Plaw Hatch. Eight years on, she helps run the 200-acre community farm that skirts the edge of the Ashdown Forest.

Plaw Hatch is a biodynamic farm. We try to create a self-sustaining system, she says. We produce as much of the feed for the animals as we can. Biodynamic farming is regenerative: youre improving the soil and creating closed loops so youre not just taking from nature, but trying to keep the fertility in the system.

Covid-19 has been good for business: customers have been flocking to Plaw Hatch part of the Fibreshed movement, which connects fashion, textiles and farming in record numbers. Its been massively busy in the farm shop, says Bailey-Barker. As supermarkets ran out of essentials like bread and eggs during the early weeks of lockdown, consumers went to Plaw Hatch for their fresh produce. There was a lot of panic buying, says Bailey-Barker, which was difficult, because we are limited on stock. We had to keep saying to people: The chickens arent going to stop laying eggs because of Covid!

The best thing about her job, she says, is the variety: It changes so much. Youre trying to manage the ecosystem; close the loop. Every decision you make has so many variables. The worst thing? Trying to prevent blowfly strike, a disease resulting from the invasion of living tissue by blackbottle flies, in her flock of sheep. The maggots eat the sheep alive, Barker says. It is the most disgusting thing youve ever seen. Its like a horror film. That, and warding off potential dog attacks: in 2019, Bailey- Barker lost 15 pregnant ewes in a single dog attack.

As a woman in a male-dominated field, Bailey-Barker encounters her fair share of ignorance from the public. When shes out checking the flock with her partner, an architect, people often assume that hes the farmer. People say to me: You dont look like a farmer, she says. But what does a farmer look like? Were all individual people. Plaw Hatch is now predominantly operated by women 75% of its farmers are female and Bailey-Barker relishes the opportunity to act as a role model. I love to represent women, because I would have loved to see women farming as a child. It was never presented as a possible career at school.

Being out with her flock every day, she sees the climate emergency up close. Id love four weeks of rain right now, she says. Barker was pregnant with her daughter during the summer of 2018, when a heatwave led to droughts and wildfires across Europe. It was 28C, but it felt more like 45C, because I was pregnant, Barker says. Mitigating the impact of the climate crisis on the farm requires careful and thoughtful planning. You have to mitigate between the extremely dry, and the extremely wet, she says. Ive been looking at our soil a lot more to see if there is anything we can do to make it more resilient to those extremes.

It is a busy life, but a happy one. During lambing season in April, she starts work at 5am. The rest of the year, shes out with the flock by 7am. You are never not responsible for animals. Its not a nine-to-five. Ive been with my flock now for eight years. I have great granddaughters of the sheep I started out with. Its amazing to have that sort of relationship with animals. SK

Ruby RadwanHalal farmer at Willowbrook Farm, Oxfordshire

Since the lockdown eased weve got so popular on the weekends, says Ruby Radwan. Willowbrook Farm may be off the beaten track in a small hamlet in Oxfordshire, but it is directly opposite an ancient right of way, rediscovered by people escaping the house for a walk. Weve been here for 17 years, but now people are walking across a field to us and having tea. We have a chef in, were doing some simple French dishes and its working really well.

Radwan loves welcoming the new faces her time on Willowbrook hasnt always been so cheery. Rural life is notoriously tough and neither she nor her husband Lutfi, both originally Londoners, had a background in farming: she taught part-time, both at high school and in holistic therapies; he was a geography academic at Oxford. They wanted to live a more sustainable life but didnt have the resources to buy an established farm. Instead they found a piece of land, about 43 acres, 10 minutes drive from where they lived.

We had quite a positive view about being in the country with holistic people and lovely farmers but we were naive, or ignorant, of the reality, she says. They encountered hostility from some people because they werent from the area, as well as because of their religion. Also, trying to build on green-belt land brought its own set of problems, as did raising a young family. At first, they were only farming for themselves, but quickly landed a contract for eggs with the local Co-op. We were so busy; we lived in a caravan; we didnt have a tractor, just a little Ford Fiesta which did our egg deliveries and our children-to-school deliveries all in one run.

Not everything worked a rhubarb-lined path seemed like a creative idea, but once planted, they realised they hadnt considered irrigation so they had to plant a more standard vegetable garden, like normal people.

Sometimes we look back and think were so stupid, its unbelievable. You cant just cross it out when you make a mistake in growing something, you have to wait a whole season, Radwan explains. It took about seven or eight years before we realised we could do this more seriously and make a business of it.

They reinstated hedgerows, and planted around 5,000 deciduous native trees and 120 traditional slow-growing fruit trees, eventually added lambs and switched from laying birds to chickens for meat all free-range and high welfare. Lutfi gave up his job, and now their two elder sons also work on the farm, helped out part-time by their partners, as well as having two full-time employees.

Willowbrook is run according to Islamic principles to live in balance with the environment physical, social, political and economic and Radwan believes they may have been the first ethical and sustainable halal farm in the UK. They used to have certification from the Soil Association but decided to work outside that system, still maintaining high standards of sustainability, welfare and biodiversity. We let our customers in to see the farm and be our conscience, Radwan says. Theyre going to question us and that keeps us on our toes.

At first, most of their customers were Muslim, including people who had converted but were still eating with a non-Muslim family, so were looking for turkey, goose or steak: Things that Muslims werent traditionally buying, but they still wanted to make sure that good welfare and memory of God had been observed.

Increasingly, the Radwans sell to non-Muslim customers, but they dont supply to wholesale or restaurants only people they can have direct contact with: It means we get maximum profit and theres less waste.

New customers will find lamb and beef to buy, but not chicken, which has been much in demand since lockdown. We started to use the word enough, Radwan explains. While she admits it was tempting to build more chicken houses and get more birds, they werent willing to compromise on welfare, so have only increased their stock by 20 chickens a month. For regular customers theyve created a scheme that gives them two chickens every four weeks. Anything over goes to the farmers markets.

We have enough a roof over our heads, food in our tummies we dont need to go mad chasing money, Radwan says, then adds laughing that, despite having 1,400 birds running round, the family hasnt eaten chicken for more than two months. The customer comes first Im waiting for my roast. HO

Abi Aspen GlencrossHead of grains at Duchess Farms, Hertfordshire

It was, Abi Aspen Glencross was well aware, an odd, even inopportune time to launch a crowdfunding campaign. In June, with the country still locked down, Duchess Farms asked for support to buy dehulling, cleaning and milling equipment. The Hertfordshire farm needed about 16,000, and the money would go towards boosting the production of ancient and heritage grains for making flour.

A lot of crowdfunders have been for charity or please keep our restaurant open, says the 28-year-old Glencross, head of grains or senior flour nerd at Duchess Farms since 2019. We felt a bit bad, but we lost a lot of our business overnight when all the restaurants closed and we were like: God, we hope we dont go under. It was quite a scary time for everyone.

Still, if we have learned one thing from Covid-19, when times are hard, British people get baking. Perhaps inspired by countrywide shortages of flour, maybe invigorated by a new interest in left-field, older wheats such as einkorn and emmer, Duchess Farms sprinted to its target. Weve just done some ordering of equipment this morning, says Aspen, when we speak in July. Its been a tough time for everyone but it has cascaded into some beautiful things and were just so thankful.

Glencrosss path to farming was circuitous. She studied chemical engineering, but while her classmates were heading off for jobs at ExxonMobil and Procter & Gamble, she was more of a hippy at heart. She decided she wanted to learn more about soil and its role in food production. This led her to Blue Hill Stone Barns, Dan Barbers pioneering farm-to-table restaurant in the Hudson Valley, north of New York. She spent four months working on the farm and in the bakery, receiving a crash course in ancient grains an obsession of Barbers. But the moment Glencross knew she herself wanted to farm came in 2016 in a field in Hertfordshire. She was with John Cherry, who was showing her around Weston Park Farms, 2,500 acres of land he maintains with minimal fertiliser use and zero tillage.

We were walking around the fields of wheat and I just said: Where does all this go? Theres so much of it, Glencross says. And John goes: Oh probably for animal feed. Its a consistent market, theyll take it, its easy, even if we dont earn that much money from it. And I was like: This is crazy. And that was the beginning of me getting on this grain bender because I was like: Why cant we grow these grains organically and not feed them to animals? So I realised Id have to start a business, because there were not very many people doing that.

Heritage grains can be harder to produce in vast quantities einkorn, especially, is a bitch to harvest but they do have advantages over conventional wheats. They typically have deep roots and grow tall, which means they shade out weeds and do not require chemical sprays. The end product is more nutritious and then theres the taste. Since 2017, Glencross has run a roving supper club called the Sustainable Food Story with Sadhbh Moore, and Duchess Farms has worked closely with bakeries such as E5 Bakehouse in east London and Gails, and restaurants including Doug McMasters Silo. Heritage grains are delicious: when you stop growing for yield and you start growing for quality the flavour is insane, says Glencross.

Learning to farm from scratch has not been straightforward, but you sense thats a big part of the appeal for Glencross. Theres all these decisions the farmer makes throughout the year and why he sprays and why he doesnt, she says. You realise that most people get up, sit at a computer all day and if they press the wrong button, they just delete it. When youre a farmer, you plant at the wrong time of year and tomorrow it washes away your whole crop.

Glencross acknowledges that it is almost unprecedented for women to run arable farms. She struggles to name a single other example in the UK. She also notes wryly that men dominate all the farming conferences, saying: They have a wife but its always the men who have written the book and given the presentation.

With more role models, Glencross hopes things will change. Im not cool in any way, but Im a reasonably young lady, she says, laughing. And so when people say: What do you do? Oh, youre a farmer. Maybe I could do that So Im hoping that it might become seen as quite a desirable, almost cool career. A pause: Even if its very much not cool. TL

Original post:
Were stewards of our land: the rise of female farmers - The Guardian

Covid-19: Is It The Right Time To Conceive Through IVF? – Outlook India

A majority of couples, who want to conceive through lab procedure (In Vitro Fertilization), are more worried about time running out of their hands than the effect of coronavirus on their babies.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process in which an egg from a womans ovary is fertilised with a sperm in a laboratory, and the fertilised egg is then placed in the womans womb for growth. Infertile couples often opt for this process.

As the country went through a three-month strict lockdown from the end of March till June, IVF clinics had to shut down and all assisted reproductive process was postponed. Many patients, who were undergoing treatment, had to cancel their plans midway.

Experts say that when couples plan IVF, they are concerned about the time frame and want the process to finish as soon as possible. So, any delay in it is a frustrating experience for them.

ALSO READ: What You Should Do If You Come In Contact With A Covid-19 Patient

The biggest apprehension of couples is not the effect of the virus on their bodies or on their babies, but how delays in the treatment could affect their chances of having a baby, Dr Firuza Parikh, Director, Dept. of Assisted Reproduction & Genetics at Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai, said.

She added, I would like to allay this worry of theirs, as there is strong evidence that a delay of up to 6 months in starting IVF treatment would not cause an unfavourable outcome.

Other doctors also feel that there is no harm in waiting till the coronavirus curve flattens as it is still very early to definitely and accurately predict the trajectory and spread of the virus due to lack of research and data availability.

Dr (col.) Pankaj Talwar, Head, Medical Sevices-IVF and Fertility, CK Birla Hospital, said, IVF is a cold procedure which implies that it can be delayed, and it is not life-threatening. But it can have emotional and psychological implications which, unfortunately, few people understand and give enough importance to.

He added, Educated couples showed more restraint and that reflected in the number of couples coming forward for IVF which were very less in bigger cities. Bigger cities are still reeling under COVID effect as compared to small-towns which are showing signs of recovery.

ALSO READ: What Is The Treatment For Coronavirus?

However, with the unlocking process, IVF clinics are allowed to operate now and some of them are back into business.

Life is slowly inching back to normalcy. There is definitely some apprehensions, especially when patients think of pregnancy, but precautions coupled with counselling give them the desired proof points to proceed, Dr Kshitiz Murdia, CEO, Indra IVF Hospitals, said.

He added, As the government has allowed IVF clinics to operate, all we can do is to take special precautions and follow all norms.

Dr Parikh, however, says that there are several researchers working on whether the virus can reach the male and female reproductive systems.

There is some evidence of its presence in semen. The embryo has the machinery to allow viral entry into its cells and recent literature has also shown the presence of the virus in the human placenta. Also, vertical transmission to the fetus has been demonstrated. Hence, it is important to make couples aware of this, she said.

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Covid-19: Is It The Right Time To Conceive Through IVF? - Outlook India

Study sheds light on trumpeter swans, a species back from the brink – Duluth News Tribune

If they failed to catch a swan, theyd move on to a different part of northern Minnesota.

There were trumpeters in the area they'd spotted 17 swans, about half adults and half cygnets, as juvenile birds are called, the previous evening but catching one of the majestic birds in its home habitat isnt always easy. Especially in an area the size of Roseau River WMA, which covers more than 75,000 acres.

In reality, it took Wolfson and Drake maybe 10 minutes from the time they left shore in the 14-foot jon boat they use for their research until they emerged through the break in the cattails with a trumpeter swan. A picture of grace and beauty, the swan was surprisingly docile in Wolfsons arms as Drake steered the mud motor designed to navigate shallow water back to shore.

Which begged the question: Is catching a trumpeter swan always this easy?

For the most part, yes, laughed Drake, a wildlife technician and graduate of Bemidji State University.

Well, it can be, Wolfson said, adding a caveat:

Provided youve spotted a swan, obtained permission to access the property, are able to drag the jon boat to open water and are lucky enough to encounter a swan that is molting.

It isnt always easy, in other words, but its nice when it is.

A doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, Wolfson is leading a multi-year study to fit about 40 trumpeter swans across the state with GPS tracking collars this summer to learn more about their movements, mortality risks and habitat use.

Sporting collar 5E, the mature female at Roseau River was trumpeter swan No. 36 for the summer; Wolfson and Drake would wrap up the collaring effort a few days later in northeast Minnesota.

The study is a partnership between the Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit of the U.S. Geological Survey and several collaborators, including the University of Minnesota, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Twin Cities-based Three Rivers Park District and the Trumpeter Swan Society.

In the very simplest of terms, the study aims to build on the knowledge of the so-called Interior Population of trumpeter swans, which includes Minnesota birds, and their remarkable story of recovery from the brink of extinction.

Little is known about the migration patterns of trumpeter swans in the Interior Population, Wolfson said. Among the questions hes seeking to answer are how likely they are to migrate, how far they travel and where they winter.

An important aspect of the ecology of wildlife species is to understand annual movements and migration pathways," Wolfson said. That can help you make management decisions and understand how to conserve animal species.

The study also is looking at lead concentrations in every collared swan to gauge the effects of lead exposure, Wolfson said, along with evaluating the genetics of the Interior Population, which was restored by a multitude of reintroduction efforts across the Midwest.

Coupled with similar studies underway in Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Manitoba, researchers will be able to track about 100 swans fitted with the GPS collars, Wolfson said.

Conducting a trumpeter swan study during the Covid-19 pandemic required David Wolfson and research partner Tori Drake to follow guidelines such as wearing masks and driving in separate work vehicles to work sites. Overall, the impact wasn't bad, they said. (Photo/ Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald)

We're catching swans across basically almost the entire breeding range of the Interior Population, and so well be able to have a much more representative idea of whats going on across the population, he said.

The collars, which cost about $1,200 each, capture data points every 15 minutes and download the information to a cell tower either daily or whenever cell service is available.

Connections can be sparse, but (the collar) can store a lot of information onboard the unit and then transmit the batch once the collar is within reception of a cell tower, Wolfson said.

Eventually, findings from the study will form the basis for Wolfsons doctoral thesis.

According to the Minnesota DNR, trumpeter swans historically flourished across North America from Illinois northwest to Alaska. But market hunting, driven by demand for the birds meat, skin and feathers, along with habitat loss as settlers moved across the region, led to population declines.

By the 1880s, trumpeter swans had disappeared from Minnesota, and by the 1930s, only 69 trumpeter swans remained in the lower 48 states, the DNR said, living in the remote Red Rock Lakes wildlife refuge of southwestern Montana.

People thought those were the last ones left, and then years later, they found a wild population in Alaska that was pretty sizable, Wolfson said.

Minnesota's efforts to reintroduce trumpeter swans began in the 1960s, when what today is known as the Three Rivers Park District got 40 swans from the fledgling Montana population. In the 1980s, Minnesota's Nongame Wildlife Fund funded by a checkoff on Minnesota tax forms got a permit to collect 50 eggs from Alaska.

Thanks to those and subsequent reintroductions, Minnesota's trumpeter swan population has grown as much as 20% annually since 2000, based on observations from annual Minnesota waterfowl surveys, and today numbers about 30,000 birds, the DNR says.

As with many bird species, trumpeter swans go through a molt every summer to replace their flight feathers. During that period, which usually begins in July and continues into August, the adult swans cant fly.

That makes the birds easier to catch, and Wolfson and Drake have captured and collared trumpeter swans from nearly every region of Minnesota.

Ideally, they target breeding pairs with cygnets, Wolfson said.

Typically, at least one adult is in molt during this time of year, so we'll approach the pair, he said. Usually, the one thats not molting will fly, and then the other one uses its wings to kind of swim and flap away. But were faster than the swan is so we can just kind of boat up to it and catch it, and its all pretty quick, pretty easy.

When it works well, it works well.

Tori Drake and David Wolfson launch a jon boat Tuesday, Aug. 4, at Roseau River Wildlife Management Area. They were back on shore with a female trumpeter swan barely 10 minutes later. (Photo/ Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald)

Working during a pandemic hasnt been difficult, Wolfson said. Theyve traveled in separate vehicles, wore masks and spent more time staying in hotels instead of onsite lodging where they work, he said. Overall, the pandemic guidelines havent hampered their time in the field.

It hasnt been as bad as I feared, Wolfson said. As far as what were doing, were outdoors, were in remote settings, and were not really interacting with people. The two of us take a lot of precautions around each other, but other than that, it hasnt been too bad.

I kind of thought they would cancel the whole field season, but they didnt.

With this years field season complete, Wolfson and other project partners will continue to collect data and analyze results throughout the duration of the four-year study.

The Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund is funding the project, as recommended by the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others.

More info on the study is available on the project website at The site includes updates, annual reports and a map showing the locations of the collared study birds.

The website for the Interior Trumpeter Swan Population research study includes a map that's regularly updated showing the location of collared swans not only in Minnesota, but the other partner states and Manitoba. (Credit/

Tori Drake and David Wolfson wrap up a successful trumpeter swan capture Tuesday, Aug. 4, at Roseau River Wildlife Management Area in northwest Minnesota. The pair captured 40 trumpeter swans this summer and fitted them with GPS tracking collars as part of a four-year study. (Photo/ Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald)

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Study sheds light on trumpeter swans, a species back from the brink - Duluth News Tribune

The health benefits of Cannabis and THC – Nation Valley News

Cannabis 101: CBD vs THC

A column by Dr. Pierre Milot, PhD.

The Genetics of Cannabis

Cannabis is believed to be one of the oldest domesticated crops. Throughout history, humans have grown different varieties of cannabis for industrial and medical uses.

Tall, sturdy plants were grown by early civilizations to make a variety of foods, oils and textiles, such as rope and fabrics. These plants were bred with other plants with the same characteristics, leading to the type of cannabis we now know as hemp.

Other plants were recognized for being psychoactive and were bred selectively for medical and religious purposes. This led to unique varieties of cannabis that we now know as marijuana.

According to Dan Sutton of Tantulus Labs, a Canadian company that specializes in cannabis cultivation technology, the core agricultural differences between medical cannabis and hemp are largely in their genetic parentage and cultivation environment.

In fact, scientists believe the early separation of the cannabis gene pool led to two distinct types of cannabis plants. The two species (or subspecies) of cannabis are known as Cannabis Indica and Cannabis sativa.

THC Content

Cannabis plants contain unique compounds called cannabinoids. Current research has revealed over 100 different cannabinoids so far, but THC is the most well known. THC is credited with causing the marijuana high.

While marijuana plants contain high levels of THC, hemp contains very little or none at all of the psychoactive chemical. This single difference is what most rely on to distinguish hemp from marijuana. For example, countries like Canada have set the maximum THC content of hemp at 0.3 percent. Any cannabis with higher THC levels is considered marijuana instead.

In comparison, medical marijuana produces anywhere between 5-20 percent THC on average, with prize strains tipping the scale at 25-30 percent THC.

Hemp and marijuana plants contain another important cannabinoid: CBD. Hemp plants produce more CBD than THC, while marijuana produces more THC than CBD. Interestingly, research has shown that CBD acts to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC, separating hemp further from marijuana.


Hemp and marijuana are grown for different uses, and therefore require different growing conditions.

Medical cannabis has been selectively bred over generations, and its characteristics are optimized in its cultivation environment to produce female flowering plants that yield budding flowers at the flowering stage of their life cycle,

In contrast, hemp plants are primarily male, without representing flowering buds at any stage in their life cycle. Instead, centuries of selective breeding have resulted in relatively low concentrations of THC, and tall, fast growing plants optimized for higher stalk harvests.

* Achieving maximum THC levels in marijuana is tricky and requires close attention to grow-room conditions. Marijuana growers usually aim to maintain stable light, temperature, humidity, CO2 and oxygen levels, among other things.

On the other hand, hemp is usually grown outdoors to maximize its size and yield and less attention is paid to individual plants.

A Bit About the Anatomy of the Marijuana Plant

Most people know that THC is only present in the female cannabis plant, because this is the one that produces those resinous flowers that are able to provide the high that so many marijuana consumers desire. On the other hand, the male cannabis plant, which is also known by some as hemp, might not have any THC present, but it does contain some CBD. Both the female and male cannabis plants have a source of CBD, so they both make suitable options for cannabidiol oil extraction and processing.

* In addition to being female and male, cannabis plants can also be hermaphroditic (a.k.a. both!). Pretty neat right? Hermaphrodite plants are capable of pollinating themselves, because they contain both female and male sex organs. This is a nuisance though for marijuana growers, because it means their final product will be filled with seeds and the hermaphrodite genetics can be passed down onto other generations, which defeats the purpose of having feminized seeds. To ensure a female plant, either specifically bred feminized seeds can be purchased, or clones of a female cannabis plant.

The structure of a female cannabis plant, also known as the marijuana plant, is typically built up of a stem with roots that dig deep into the earth, with fan leaves and sometimes colas that stick out in between some of the fan/water leaves. These colas are a mass collection of the buds, which are the flowers and the part of the plant that can get you high.

* These buds contain sugar leaves, which are coated with those crystal-appearing trichomes (the component that directly contains the THC and shown in the last picture). Additionally, pistils and stigmas are those tiny, usually orange hairs mixed amongst the sugar leaves. Lastly, there are calyxes and bracts, which also contain potent quantities of cannabinoids.

Hope you enjoyed this article and once again I encourage you to email me any questions or comments you might have on cannabis, request more explanations or share a success story with other readers at:

Talk to you soon,

Dr. Pierre Milot, PhD., PhD. (tc)Certified Medical Cannabis CounselorWinchester, ON.


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The health benefits of Cannabis and THC - Nation Valley News