Author Archives: Ramesh Iven

Food packaging compounds detected in breast milk

Compounds that are used in ink that are in turn used in many types of food packaging, the so-called photoinitiators, have been identified by a research group in human breastmilk after past research had already detected it in human blood serum. The same researchers, who published their own study in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, however, ensure that these levels do not seem to be of concern to the health of either the mother or the infants.

These substances are mainly used in the photopolymerization process, a technology which is considered more environmentally friendly than others, and which is used to synthesize light-sensitive materials such as ink, coatings and UV-curable resins.

In the press release that presents the research, it is explained that evidently not all these substances are exhausted during the reaction process and that several of them therefore tend to end up in food. Only at high levels do these substances have toxic or carcinogenic effects. The maximum amount ingested calculated by the researchers was still four times lower than the safety level set by the European food safety authorities.

To carry out the research, the researchers analyzed the mother’s milk of 60 US women by detecting 15 different types of photoinitiators, the most common of which was benzophenone which was detected in 97% of the samples and which represented 79% of the total photoinitiator substances.

Nitrogen pollution considered even more devastating than carbon pollution

There is a type of pollution probably even more serious than that deriving from carbon according to a group made up of more than 150 important international scientists from more than 70 scientific institutes that have released a communiqué concerning nitrogen pollution, an open letter sent to the United Nations Secretary António Guterres.

This element is indeed causing many problems to the environment and therefore to the fauna and humans. So the same scientists ask the countries to “wake up” and reduce the waste that contains nitrogen and all its derivatives. In fact, nitrogen can be present in many forms, from ammonia to nitrogen dioxide to end up with the terrible nitrous oxide, a 300 times more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. In all these versions, nitrogen poses a threat to human and animal health as well as to the diversity of the world.

According to the report, to date, 80% of the nitrogen that men use, mostly in the context of agriculture and breeding but also for the energy sector and for the industrial sector as well as for the purification of wastewater, is included in the environment in polluting form. For example, in the United Kingdom alone, 1.4 million tons of nitrogen per year are released into the environment and, globally, the total nitrogen entering the environment rises to 200 million tons per year.

“If we want to counteract climate change, air pollution, water pollution, biodiversity loss, soil degradation and stratospheric ozone depletion, then a new focus on nitrogen will be vital,” report the scientists in the release.

According to Sutton of the Center for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), UK, it is essential to increasingly exploit a circular economy especially with regard to nitrogen to prevent large-scale impacts that will involve the whole planet.

People with psychopathic traits can control themselves: scientists discover why

A group of researchers believes they have discovered how people with psychopathic traits manage to control their “dark impulses.” Many people with antisocial if not psychopathic tendencies, even strong enough, manage not to commit typical psychopathic acts and the researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Kentucky have decided to find out why. They then analyzed those mechanisms that could explain these trends using neuroimaging technologies. The same researchers confirmed that these people show greater development in those neural structures that promote self-regulation.

In particular, also performing structural magnetic resonances, they discovered that “successful” psychopaths, ie those who manage to control themselves, show a higher level of gray matter density in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.

The latter is one of the brain areas that has, among its various tasks, those related to self-regulation. It includes the regulation of the most primitive instincts and reactive emotions such as anger or fear.

A denser region allows these people a greater capacity for self-control, as reported by Emily Lasko, a student at the VCU Department of Psychology who led the study: “This is important because it is one of the first evidence that indicates a biological mechanism that can potentially explain how some psychopathic people are able to ‘succeed’ while others cannot.”

Absorption of carbon dioxide in the Amazon is half of what was calculated

Disturbing news comes from the study conducted by an international team of scientists who have discovered that the absorption of carbon dioxide by the plants of the Amazon forest must be reduced by about 50% compared to what was previously calculated. The difference is that the previous climate models had not considered phosphorus deficiency.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience, shows how these models can be considered “obsolete” because they are based on the belief that the amount of phosphorus, one of the main nutrients for plants, in the basement of the Amazon forest was more than sufficient.

In fact the ecosystem of the Amazon rainforest, as pointed out by Jennifer Holm, a researcher at the Berkeley Lab and one of the authors of the study, has been characterized by a great impoverishment of phosphorus over millions of years due above all to the different types of weather to which this same environment has been subjected.

The researchers came to this conclusion by monitoring tree growth and leaf development as well as root growth in a region north of Manaus, Brazil. The same researchers hope that these results can be used to more realistically represent how the Amazon can counter global climate changes underway caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, a contrasting force much more dependent on the acquisition of phosphorus from part of the plants and evidently weaker than thought.

Scientists develop gene therapy that makes obese mice lose 20% of their weight

A group of researchers has developed a new gene therapy that “specifically reduces adipose tissue” in rats, a characteristic for which it may be thought that it may be useful for human beings as well to counteract the obesity and all the diseases associated with it, such as stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

The same gene therapy, discussed in a study on Genome Research, seems to reverse the metabolic disease related to obesity in obese mice. The study was developed to try to overcome the side effects, which can sometimes be serious, linked to the anti-obesity drugs currently on the market.

The researchers, led by Jee Young Chung, carried out experiments on mice. They developed, through CRISPR technology, a gene silencing therapy against the Fabp4 gene, a gene that metabolizes fatty acids. In essence, they reduced their expression and therefore also reduced the storage of lipids in adipocytes.

As a result, the researchers achieved a 20% reduction in body weight of mice as well as an improvement in insulin resistance after six weeks.

The same researchers then noted other improvements such as a reduction in the deposition of fatty lipids in the liver and a reduction in triglycerides.