Fecal microbiota transplants, hot brains and water on Mars?


Fecal microbiota transplants by capsule rather than by colonoscopy

Fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) – taking a sample of someone else’s poo and introducing it into a patient’s gut – have been has had great success in the treatment of recurrent bacterial infections Clostridium difficile.

Fecal microbiota transplant preparations restore healthy gut microbiota — the microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea, that live in the digestive tract — without having to administer antibiotics that can further damage it. This process usually involves the administration of liquid fecal microbiota transplants via colonoscopy, but new search suggests that capsules containing freeze-dried microbes taken orally have similar safety and efficacy.

In the study, 301 faecal microbiota transplants were performed in 269 patients, with two-thirds of the procedures performed by faecal microbiota transplant capsules. Cure rates were 86% at one month and 81% at two months and there was no significant difference in cure rates between capsules and colonoscopic fecal microbiota transplants.

“Capsule FMT may avoid the complications of colonoscopy and make it easier to access this potentially life-saving therapy,” says first author Dr. Byron Vaughn, gastroenterologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School in United States.

The research was published in the journal Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology

Capsules for oral administration of fecal microbiota transplants. Credit: University of Minnesota Microbiota Therapeutic Program

What happens to the brain when it gets too hot?

Researchers have combined genetic technology and neurophysiology to understand what happens inside the brains of living organisms when the temperature around them becomes uncomfortable.

“We wanted to look at the mechanisms that limit the thermal tolerance of organisms. Which animals will survive when the Earth’s temperature increases due to climate change, and why? We chose to look at the brain,” says first author Anna Andreassen, a PhD student at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

They did this through experiments with newly hatched zebrafish larvae (Danio rerio) that had been genetically engineered so that neurons in the brain emit fluorescent light when active.

When the temperature rose, the brain stopped responding to stimuli and was completely inactive. But then when they turned the temperature up a bit more, the whole brain lit up in what could have been some kind of seizure.

“To our surprise, we found that oxygen level played a role in controlling thermal tolerance. When we added supplemental oxygen, fish larvae performed better at higher temperatures, had higher brain activity, and also recovered faster after being exposed to higher thermal limits compared to fish at low oxygen,” says Adreassen.

Being “insensitive” to fluctuations in oxygen levels could therefore be an evolutionary advantage as the temperature on Earth increases.

The research was published in a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Woman holding a zebrafish tank
Zebrafish play the starring role when PhD candidate Anna H. Andreassen conducts experiments to find out how brain cells respond to temperature changes. Credits: Ingebjørg Hestvik

New evidence for the possible existence of liquid water on Mars

An international team of researchers has new evidence that liquid water may exist beneath Mars’ southern polar cap.

They used spacecraft laser altimeter measurements of the shape of the ice sheet’s upper surface to identify subtle patterns in its height, and then showed that these patterns match computer model predictions of how a body of water below the ice sheet would affect the surface .

Their findings agree with earlier radar measurements that were originally interpreted to show a potential area of ​​liquid water beneath the ice, but which other studies have suggested was not due to liquid water. .

The resultsreported in the review natural astronomyprovide the first line of independent evidence, using data other than radar, that there is liquid water beneath Mars’ south polar ice cap.

850 march water.  University of Cambridge
The left panel shows the surface topography of Mars’ south pole, with the outline of the south polar cap in black. The light blue line shows the area used in the modeling experiments, and the green square shows the region containing the inferred subglacial water. The ice in the area is about 1500 m thick. The right panel shows the surface waviness identified by the Cambridge-led research team. It is visible as the red zone, which is raised 5-8m above the regional topography, with a smaller depression (2-4m below the regional topography) upstream (to the upper right of the image). The black outline shows the area of ​​water inferred by the orbiting radar. Credit: University of Cambridge

Monitoring turtle nesting sites

Newly discovered turtle nesting sites in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea could help coastal mega-projects minimize their impact on these endangered species, says a new study in PeerJ.

Saudi Arabia’s part of the Red Sea has around 1,150 islands, but only a few have been surveyed for sea turtles, a lack of data that makes it difficult to predict and prevent potential ecological damage from coastal developments.

So, in 35 visits from March to November 2019, researchers visited three undocumented beaches in the central Red Sea to look for signs of turtle nesting.

They found evidence of hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nests on two of the beaches. The discovery suggests islands in this area could hold a large portion of the Red Sea turtle population, raising questions about how to protect them.

“A large-scale survey of all the islands off the Red Sea coast for evidence of nesting and migration corridors will help us identify priority areas,” says first author Kirsty Scott, PhD holder. doctorate. student at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia.

Find out how KAUST researchers are working to protect endangered Red Sea turtles. Credit: © 2022 KAUST; Morgan Bennet Smith.


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