Scientists Discover Intelligence Genes

In a recent study, scientists believe they have taken encouraging steps toward mapping human intelligence systems in relation to genetic inheritance. The investigations focused on two groups of genes located in the brain that Johnson et al. believe may have some influence from one master control system. Specifically, scientists identified two networks of genes, called M1 and M3, which are involved in regulation of other genes. According to the findings, these regions “showed replicable enrichment for common genetic variants underlying healthy human cognitive abilities.” The study harnessed information from subjects’ cognitive abilities in memory, attention, processing speed and reasoning combined with genetic information submitted from people with autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, or intellectual disabilities and information from people with no similar diagnoses. Their computations revealed that the genes congruently responsible for altering the ability and intelligence of healthy people were the same genes that impaired cognitive ability and caused epilepsy when mutated in disabled patients. While there are no known cures for neurodevelopmental disorders, the new information from Johnson, et al. suggests a hopeful future in treating disorders and illnesses such as autism, epilepsy, and schizophrenia. See: http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nn.4205.html

Certain Neonicotinoids May Be Dangerous to Bees

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has performed studies revealing that three neonicotinoid pesticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam, may be harmful for bees when sprayed on plant leaves. Bees are essential for pollination and have a significant impact on agricultural yield, and protectingthespecies is therefore amajorconcern. While a two-year ban is currently in place, environmental groups are appealing to the European Union to extend this ban. The EFSA plans to reassess the risks posed by the three chemicals and will determine the extent of their impact on bees. See: http://cen.acs.org/articles/93/ web/2015/08/EU-Agency-Says-Neonicotinoids-Pose.html

 

Nuclear Waste Disposal Under Scrutiny

US nuclear waste managers are facing a challenging job when asked to dispose of radioactive waste as per government legislation. Various waste management groups are now urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to change the limitations to US nuclear waste classifications by simplifying them and following an international model. The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements states that the confusion stems from unclear, inconsistent definitions of the existing nuclear waste classifications. The Council proposes that the US establish three classes of waste: exempt waste, low-level waste, and high- level waste. These classes would be based on chemical, physical, and radioactive properties, to ensure that risk to human health and the environment is minimized and that waste can be stored with the proper amount of containment. While these recommendations may take years to turn into legislation, one positive point to note is that the United States has used its experience in the nuclear field to simplify waste classifications for countries recently emerging with nuclear capabilities. See: http://cen.acs.org/articles/93/i34/Nuclear-Waste-Long-History-Confusing.htmlHistory-Confusing.html

2015 the Hottest Year to Date as Earth’s Average Temperature Continues to Rise

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that July 2015 was the warmest month in the hottest year the Earth has ever seen. In addition, there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves, especially in Europe and the Middle East. The El Niño phenomenon, which brings warm water to the surface of the ocean, reemerged in June and is likely to continue into spring 2016. This contributes to the rise in average temperature. Compared to the 20th century average temperatures, 2015’s temperatures were 0.85º C warmer. At the end of 2015, diplomats will negotiate a climate agreement in Paris that will limit temperature increases to less than 2º C by 2100. See:http://cen.acs.org/articles/93/web/2015/08/Earths-Average-Temperature-Continues-Rise.html

Biomedical Research on Chimpanzees in the US May Halt

This year, no labs have applied for the required permits to conduct invasive research on chimpanzees in the US It is not clear whether this hiatus in biomedical research with chimpanzees is temporary or permanent. In 2013, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it would slowly halt government-funded research using chimpanzees and transfer most of them to sanctuaries. Since then, invasive research on the animals has decreased. Researchers fear that NIH’s decision will have adverse impacts on biomedical research, as many disease-related experiments have been delayed or canceled. In addition, researchers worry that this may impact labs that perform solely behavioral research on chimpanzees. Though a permit is not required for this, any stress the animals face, even snipping hair, may introduce the requirement of a permit. Robert Lanford, the director of the South National Primate Research Center (SNPRC), believes that something will be negotiated in the future to allow invasive research to continue. In the meantime, labs are debating on where the chimpanzees should live. See:http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6250/777.summary

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