Craving Nature? Your Gut Microbiome Might Be Responsible

After a few months spent indoors with only your family pod for company, you might be craving fresh air, birdsong, and the scent of a pine forest. A new theory called "the Lovebug Effect" suggests there may be a backseat driver in our daydreams of nature holidays and woodland strolls: the gut microbiome

Humans have an innate tendency to seek out and spend time in natural environments, but we’re still not really sure why. A new paper published in the journal Science of The Total Environment suggests that our thirst for nature could be driven by microscopic life lurking in the deepest, darkest crevices of the gut.

“While it seems clear that we benefit from having the drive to spend time in nature, the exact reasons behind nature-seeking behavior haven’t been resolved,” senior author Martin Breed, a lecturer in biology at Flinders University, tells Mental Floss. (MORE)


Can virtual reality give you backbone? Facing your fears in VR simulations

The Interpersonal Behaviour Laboratory at the University of Lausanne use virtual reality to help people overcome the fear of public speaking. By terrifying them. Tripping over words, trembling hands you can’t conceal, the glossy eyes of an audience that didn’t laugh at your only joke. Whether it’s giving a speech at your brother’s wedding or defending your PhD thesis, public speaking is one of the most common phobias. So should we ‘face our fears’ or imagine everyone in their underwear? The most common treatment for phobias is exposure therapy, during which people must face their fears at increasing intensities whilst being taught how to manage stress. Virtual reality exposure training (VRET) does the same in immersive... (MORE)


Long non-coding RNA and inflammation in acute myeloid leukemia: a possible regulatory feedback loop

Acute myeloid leukemia is the most common form of leukemia. With an estimated global incidence of 3–8.7 people per 100,000, it’s easy to understand the importance of identifying therapeutic targets and reliable diagnostic markers. In new work, Dr Sebastien Chateauvieux of Professor Marc Diederich’s lab found that PTTG1-1:1, a long non-coding RNA, affects survival of patients with acute myeloid leukemia via a feedback loop of the regulation of inflammation. Acute myeloid leukemia is a fast-growing cancer that starts in bone marrow before moving to the blood, and primarily develops from cells that are programmed to turn into white blood cells. There is still no... (MORE)

Ancient rings around Mars? Clues from its moon

Every crater tells a story, every tilt a tale. Until recently, the 2° orbital tilt of Mars’s oldest moon, Deimos, hasn’t been considered particularly fascinating. Now, researchers claim that it points towards the existence of an ancient Martian moon-ring cycle. The slight orbital tilt of Mars’s oldest and farthest moon, Deimos, gives us clues that a moon-ring cycle of creation and destruction has already happened multiple times throughout history. This new research will be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, and was presented today at the 236th meeting of the American Astronomical Society conference. In 2017, Hesselbrock and Minton published a paper outlinoutlining the cyclic Martian moon theory. They proposed that, over billions of years, generations of Martianmoons have been destroyed, forming Martian rings of dust and moonlets... (MORE)

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Two opposing views on how best to treat actinic keratosis

Is it just a “spot” or precancerous lesion? Two physicians debate how best to treat actinic keratosis in a talk given at EADV last week. PARIS, €•In a joint, interactive session at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Congress in Paris last week, two physicians discussed the pros and cons of treatment for actinic keratosis. David de Berker, M.D., of the University of Bristol, England, argued against treatment, while Günther Hofbauer, M.D., of Allergology and Dermatology, Switzerland, proposed another argument: actinic keratosis is a precancerous growth that should be treated... (MORE)

Aspirin Does Little to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have updated treatment recommendations for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Among the recommendations:  Stop recommending aspirin to prevent CVD. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have updated treatment recommendations for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. The report was presented earlier this month at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting in New Orleans. In this slideshow, we highlight the take-home messages... (MORE)

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Aortic Stenosis Low-Risk Patients Benefit from Minimally Invasive Surgery

Death, stroke and re-hospitalizations were reduced by 46 percent in low-risk patients with severe aortic stenosis who opted for a minimally invasive procedure over open heart surgery to repair the aortic valve. 

NEW ORLEANS, €•Death, stroke and re-hospitalizations were reduced by 46 percent in low-risk patients with severe aortic stenosis who opted for a minimally invasive procedure to repair their damaged aortic valve, instead of removing it via open heart surgery. The procedure, called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), was performed using a SAPIEN 3 valve which was inserted with a catheter next to the damaged valve. The findings were reported this week at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting in New Orleans. Martin Leon, M.D., of Columbia University Irving Medical Center, described the procedure which he suggested would be suitable for patients who are at high risk of surgery-associated... (MORE)



My "Spotlight on Science & Technology" programme is on EnglishWaves radio

E1: Space stuff, making it to Mars

E2: Bacteria. PANIC. Don't panic.

E3: Bio-inspired robots, and cockroaches don't taste good

E4: Flying to the stratosphere in a solar-powered plane: that time in Lausanne

E5: Perfume: sex, science, and crying.

E6: Has the internet changed our brain?

E7: 3D printing: dinosaurs, chocolate, and human organs

E8: The earthquake that changed ice cream forever

A subscription to the radio station is required to hear some episodes

I also report the 8 am national news in France every Tuesday and Wednesday

Extract of transcript, E4

Solar-powered flight to the stratosphere.  Why? Because we can.
"Hello. Science and technology are very serious, so thank you for joining. Last year, I visited the airfield of the SolarStratos mission at Payerne airport in Lausanne and met eco-adventurer pilot Raphaël Domjan. He gave me a t-shirt. More about that anecdote another day.

"In 2022, the SolarStratos pilot Raphaël Domjan will demonstrate the feasibility of harnessing solar power by flying to the stratosphere. The high flyer Raphaël is an advocate for solar energy, and that is what the flight is about. Inspiring global change. 

"So here is the tech bit, photovoltaics. Photovoltaics is the conversion of light into electricity; it’s cheap, safe, magic, and harnesses a universal resource that is distributed relatively equally around the world. However, we will only have solar energy for around 4 billion more years. The transition to solar energy could help clean up the environmental and geopolitical poo that the fossil fuel industry did. Basically, renewable energy is an option and could be the future of energy. That is really handy if you consider that it will be millions of years before non-renewable fossil fuels replenish."



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