Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Vegetarian diet may up cancer, heart disease risk in Indians: Study

Scientists found evidence that a vegetarian diet has led to a mutation that may make people more susceptible to inflammation, and by association, increased risk of heart disease and colon cancer.

By: PTI | New York | Published:March 31, 2016 10:38 am
broccoli-mainVegetarian diet has led to a mutation that may make people more susceptible to inflammation, increased risk of heart disease and colon cancer.
Long term vegetarian diet can lead to a genetic mutation that may increase the risk of cancer and heart disease in Indians, a new study by Cornell University researchers has claimed.
Scientists found evidence that a vegetarian diet has led to a mutation that may make people more susceptible to inflammation, and by association, increased risk of heart disease and colon cancer.
The discovery by researchers including Kumar Kothapalli from Cornell University in US provides the first evolutionary detective work that traces a higher frequency of a particular mutation to a primarily vegetarian population from Pune (about 70 per cent), when compared to a traditional meat-eating American population, made up of mostly Kansans (less than 20 per cent).
By using reference data from the 1000 Genomes Project, researchers provided evolutionary evidence that the vegetarian diet, over many generations, may have driven the higher frequency of a mutation in the Indian population.
The mutation, called rs66698963 and found in the FADS2 gene, is an insertion or deletion of a sequence of DNA that regulates the expression of two genes, FADS1 and FADS2. These genes are key to making long chain polyunsaturated fats, researchers said.
Among these, arachidonic acid is a key target of the pharmaceutical industry because it is a central culprit for those at risk for heart disease, colon cancer, and many other inflammation-related conditions, they said.
Treating individuals according to whether they carry 0, 1, or 2 copies of the insertion, and their influence on fatty acid metabolites, can be an important consideration for precision medicine and nutrition.
The insertion mutation may be favoured in populations subsisting primarily on vegetarian diets and possibly populations having limited access to diets rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially fatty fish, researchers said.
“With little animal food in the diet, the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids must be made metabolically from plant PUFA precursors,” researchers said.
“The physiological demand for arachidonic acid, as well as omega-3 EPA and DHA, in vegetarians is likely to have favoured genetics that support efficient synthesis of these key metabolites,” they said.
Changes in the dietary omega-6 to omega-3 balance may contribute to the increase in chronic disease seen in some
developing countries, researchers said.
The findings were published in the journal Molecular 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A decade of Twitter: Here’s what you need to know

  • AFP, Washington
  •  |  
  • Updated: Mar 20, 2016 10:53 IST
Twitter came to life on March 21, 2006, when co-founder Jack Dorsey sent out the first tweet: “just setting up my twttr.” Dorsey followed up with the first “human-generated” tweet: “inviting coworkers.”

Twitter, which turns 10 years old Monday, has grown into one of the leading global social networks. Here are some key facts about the messaging platform:
Twitter came to life on March 21, 2006, when co-founder Jack Dorsey sent out the first tweet: “just setting up my twttr.” Dorsey followed up with the first “human-generated” tweet: “inviting coworkers.”
The company was incorporated in April 2007 after it stole the show at the influential South by Southwest technology and music festival in Austin, Texas. It was co-founded by Biz Stone, Evan Williams and Dorsey -- @biz, @ev and @jack.
According to the Real-Time Statistics Project, some 500 million tweets are sent out each day, adding up to some 200 billion per year.
User base
The key figure used to measure Twitter’s success is the number of its monthly active users, which has remained at 320 million for the past two quarters. Twitter says the vast majority of these -- 254 million -- are outside the United States.
But chief executive Dorsey says another 500 million people use Twitter without logging in, and the company has launched an effort to draw more ad revenues from those visitors.
Twitter also says one billion people each month view sites with embedded tweets, which further expands the reach of the platform.
Stars on Twitter...
The reigning queen of Twitter for some time has been singer Katy Perry, whose followers now number more than 84 million.
Justin Bieber ranks second with 77 million, and Taylor Swift third at 72 million. The @BarackObama account, which is run by the US president’s entourage, holds the number four spot with 71 million.
Among official public figures, the most popular after Obama is Queen Rania of Jordan with 4.6 million followers, the British prime minister’s office with 4.3 million and... the late president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela at 4.2 million, even though his account has been inactive since he died in 2013.
Among the current White House contenders, Republican Donald Trump has some seven million followers to just 944,000 for rival Ted Cruz. In the Democratic camp, Hillary Clinton has amassed 5.7 million followers to 1.7 million for rival Bernie Sanders.
... and scientists too
Twitter is not just for journalists, activists and celebrities but has been a tool for a variety of scientific research.
Researchers have found that analyzing tweet patterns can offer insights into political leanings as well as the spread of disease.
A recent study showed that tweet patterns revealed the extent of damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, making it “a viable platform for preliminary rapid damage assessment in the chaotic time immediately after a disaster.”
Another study showed how Twitter data captured in the early stage of the Ebola outbreak in Africa could serve as a real-time tool for monitoring the spread of the disease, demonstrating “the usefulness of Twitter mining to inform public health education.”
By some measures, Twitter is the number three social network behind Facebook (1.5 billion) and Facebook-owned Instagram (400 million).
Using a broader definition of social platforms, it is also dwarfed by Google-owned video sharing service YouTube with one billion users; other messaging platforms with a large user base include WhatsApp (900 million), China-based QQ (860 million), Facebook Messenger (800 million) and Chinese app WeChat (650 million), according to the website Statista.
China’s blogging platform QZone has an estimated 653 million users and Yahoo-owned Tumblr 555 million, according to Statista. Google+ claims more than 400 million users but the platform is seen as having far less engagement than rivals.
LinkedIn, the professional social network, has some 414 million registered members, and the bulletin-board style network Pinterest has 100 million.
Snapchat, known for its disappearing messages and its appeal to young audiences, is seen as a rising threat in the sector, claiming 100 million users daily and a growing list of media partnerships.
In 2015, Twitter boosted its revenue to $2.2 billion, mostly from advertising, compared with $1.4 billion in 2014.
But the company has never turned a profit, losing $521 million last year, a bit less than the $577 million in 2014.
Twitter has launched a variety of new ad products but still appears far from profitability.
Its share price on Wall Street reflects skepticism. Its initial public offering in 2013 priced shares at $26, and the stock leapt briefly to as high as $69 that year, but has been on a downward trend ever since.
In recent months, Twitter shares have moved up slightly from all time lows, and hovered around $14 to $17, which gives it a market value of around $11 billion.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Puppy frozen in time for 12,400 years is thawed by scientists in remarkable footage

The tiny animal is thought to be an extinct breed of dog and scientists are now hoping to bring the species back to life

Scientists have 'thawed' an extinct species of dog - which is thought to have been frozen in Siberian permafrost ice for 12,400 years.
The ancient puppy still has its own teeth, and its brain is also thought to be intact.
Experts are examining whether the young animal was a "pet", while controversial South Korean cloning guru Hwang Woo-suk - present at a remarkable autopsy of the extinct Pleistocene canid - has taken samples in a bid to bring the extinct species back to life.
A video shows how mud and dirt from a dozen millennia was washed off the frozen puppy ahead of a post mortem on the animal in Yakutsk, capital of Russia's Sakha Republic, where the mummified remains were found on a steep bank of River Syalakh.
The puppy was found to be well preserved, including the brain, reported The Siberian Times, which revealed the pictures and video from the procedure.
Russian expert Dr Pavel Nikolsky, research fellow of the Geological Institute, Moscow, said: "The carcass is preserved really very well.
Will StewartPuppy frozen in time for 12,400 years
The puppy has been defrosted by scientists
"And one of the most important things is that the brain is preserved.
"The degree of preservation is about 70 to 80 per cent. We will be able to say more precisely after it is extracted.
"For now we can see it on MRI scans.
"Of course, it has dried out somewhat, but the both parencephalon, cerebellum and pituitary gland are visible.
"We can say that this is the first time we have obtained the brain of a Pleistocene canid."
It is the first intact brain of a predator from this era, he said.
A suspected sibling of this puppy was pulled from the same location near the village of Tumat four years earlier - in 2011.
Sergey Fedorov, research fellow from Russia's North-Eastern Federal University, said: "This puppy is better preserved than the previous one, so we hope to get more new information."
Cloning specialist Professor Hwang Woo-suk was "satisfied with the degree of preservation. He was very excited," he said.
"He took the samples from the skin, muscles and ear cartilage."
The South Korean is also working on bringing the extinct woolly mammoth back to life.
Will StewartPuppy frozen in time for 12,400 years
The dog is almost perfectly intact according to scientists
Dr Artemiy Goncharov, head of the research laboratory of the Department of Epidemiology, Parasitology and Desinfectology at the North-Western State Medical University in St Petersburg, said: 'We took the samples of the ground which surrounded the carcass to find out the bacteria there.
'Later we will compare them with the bacteria from the puppy's intestines. We hope to find ancient bacteria among them. "
A search is underway for "parasites - ticks, fleas" on the prehistoric dog.
Examination of the earlier puppy found at the site suggests it was a dog rather than a wolf.
Likely human remains were also found at the site indicating that the puppies were pets or would-be working dogs of early man.