July 18, 2017

American Physiological Society (APS)

Exposure to environmental pollutants during pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma for as many as three consecutive generations, according to new research.


Los Angeles skyline, showing air pollution. (Stock image)
Credit: © Justin / Fotolia



Exposure to environmental pollutants during pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma for as many as three consecutive generations, according to new research. The study is published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology — Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

Researchers studied three generations of mice born to mothers that were exposed to either diesel exhaust particles or urban air particle concentrate during pregnancy. The research team compared cells from the lungs of the first, second and third generations of offspring to three generations of control offspring that were not exposed to the pollutants. All generations descended from mothers exposed to diesel exhaust particles had an abnormal increase in a type of immune cell, a common marker for allergy. Offspring of pollutant-exposed ancestors also showed elevated levels of interleukin proteins that are involved in regulating the immune system, which are a marker of asthma risk. However, the increase was more prominent in the first and second generations, suggesting that inherited risk factors lessen in further removed generations.

Environmental pollutant exposure before birth caused epigenetic changes in the offspring’s DNA that affect how genetic code is used (DNA methylation). The researchers found that atypical DNA methylation led to transgenerational asthma risk due to abnormal changes in a type of immune cell called dendritic cells. Dendritic cells play a key role in the development of asthma in early life.

Seeing the changes in DNA methylation and gene expression that affect the health of future generations (epigenetic transgenerational inheritance) may help doctors start to recognize asthma as not only an inflammatory disease but “to a large extent, an epigenetic disease,” explained Alexey Fedulov, corresponding researcher on the study. “This approach may allow entirely new therapeutic strategies.”

Story Source:


provided by American Physiological Society (APS)Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. David J Gregory, Lester Kobzik, Zhiping Yang, Connor C McGuire, Alexey V Fedulov. Transgenerational transmission of asthma risk after exposure to environmental particles during pregnancy.American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, 2017; ajplung.00035.2017 DOI: 10.1152/ajplung.00035.2017


Source: American Physiological Society (APS). “Environmental pollution exposure during pregnancy increases asthma risk for three generations.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2017. <>.

July 17, 2017

University of Montreal

Regulators, take note: a new international study shows that modern diesel passenger cars emit fewer carbonaceous particulates than gasoline-powered vehicles.


New results challenge the existing paradigm that late model diesel cars are associated, in general, with far higher PM emission rates.
Credit: © Tomasz Zajda / Fotolia



Modern diesel cars emit less pollution generally than cars that run on gasoline, says a new six-nation study published today in Scientific Reports whose groundwork was laid in part by an American chemist now working at Université de Montréal.

And since diesel is so much cleaner than before, environmental regulators should increasingly shift their focus to dirtier gasoline-powered cars and other sources of air pollution, says the UdeM scientist, Patrick Hayes.

“Diesel has a bad reputation because you can see the pollution, but it’s actually the invisible pollution that comes from gasoline in cars that’s worse,” said Hayes, 36, an assistant professor at UdeM.

“The next step should be to focus on gasoline or removing old diesel vehicles from the road. Modern diesel vehicles have adopted new standards and are now very clean, so attention needs to now turn to regulating on-road and off-road gasoline engines more. That’s really the next target.”

The study, led by researchers in Switzerland and Norway with help from Hayes and colleagues in Italy, France and the U.S., looked at carbonaceous particulate matter (PM) emitted from the tailpipes of cars.

Carbonaceous PM is made up of black carbon, primary organic aerosol (POA) and, especially, secondary organic aerosol (SOA), which is known to contain harmful reactive oxygen species and can damage lung tissue.

In recent years, newer diesel cars in Europe and North America have been required to be equipped with diesel particle filters (DPFs), which significantly cut down on the pollution they emit.

In the lab (at the Paul Scherrer Institute, near Zurich in Switzerland), “gasoline cars emitted on average 10 times more carbonaceous PM at 22°C and 62 times more at -7°C compared to diesel cars,” the researchers noted in their study.

“The increase in emissions at lower temperatures is related to a more pronounced cold-start effect,” when a gasoline engine is less efficient because it’s not yet warned up and its catalytic converter is not yet on, the study noted.

It added: “These results challenge the existing paradigm that diesel cars are associated, in general, with far higher PM emission rates, reflecting the effectiveness” of engine add-ons like DPFs to stem pollution.

That said, it is true that older diesel cars do pollute more than gasoline cars, because they don’t have DPFs, and diesel cars in general emit far more nitrogen oxides, which cause smog and acid rain, the study also noted.

For their investigation, the researchers utilized field work on air pollution that Hayes carried out in California in 2010 and published in 2013 when he was a researcher at the University of Colorado working with Jose-Luis Jimenez (also a co-author of the new study).

Over four weeks in a parking lot of the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, Hayes analyzed air coming from nearby traffic-heavy Los Angeles, drawn through a tube in the roof of a modified construction trailer.

Now he’s doing something similar up in Canada’s Far North, “the final resting place of atmospheric pollution,” said Hayes, a New Yorker from Albany who has lived in Montreal since 2013.

He’s interested in whether the carbonaceous PM up North exacerbates climate change.

Soot that settles on snow makes the snow darker and, warmed by the sun, the snow melts faster, for example. To better understand the origins of PM in the Arctic, for the past two years Hayes has been taking measurements at Eureka, Nunavut on Ellesmere Island.

He plans to publish his findings next year.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of MontrealNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. S. M. Platt, I. El Haddad, S. M. Pieber, A. A. Zardini, R. Suarez-Bertoa, M. Clairotte, K. R. Daellenbach, R.-J. Huang, J. G. Slowik, S. Hellebust, B. Temime-Roussel, N. Marchand, J. de Gouw, J. L. Jimenez, P. L. Hayes, A. L. Robinson, U. Baltensperger, C. Astorga, A. S. H. Prévôt. Gasoline cars produce more carbonaceous particulate matter than modern filter-equipped diesel carsScientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-03714-9


Source: University of Montreal. “Air pollution: Diesel is now better than gas, emitting fewer carbonaceous particulates.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 July 2017. <>.

July 14, 2017

University of Oxford

The world’s most indestructible species, the tardigrade, an eight-legged micro-animal, also known as the water bear, will survive until the sun dies, according to a new study.


Planet Earth. The tardigrade, also known as the water bear, is the toughest, most resilient, form of life on Earth.
Credit: © timothyh / Fotolia



The world’s most indestructible species, the tardigrade, an eight-legged micro-animal, also known as the water bear, will survive until the Sun dies, according to a new Oxford University collaboration.

The new study published in Scientific Reports, has shown that the tiny creatures, will survive the risk of extinction from all astrophysical catastrophes, and be around for at least 10 billion years — far longer than the human race.

Although much attention has been given to the cataclysmic impact that an astrophysical event would have on human life, very little has been published around what it would take to kill the tardigrade, and wipe out life on this planet.

The research implies that life on Earth in general, will extend as long as the Sun keeps shining. It also reveals that once life emerges, it is surprisingly resilient and difficult to destroy, opening the possibility of life on other planets.

Tardigrades are the toughest, most resilient form of life on earth, able to survive for up to 30 years without food or water, and endure temperature extremes of up to 150 degrees Celsius, the deep sea and even the frozen vacuum of space. The water-dwelling micro animal can live for up to 60 years, and grow to a maximum size of 0.5mm, best seen under a microscope. Researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Harvard, have found that these life forms will likely survive all astrophysical calamities, such as an asteroid, since they will never be strong enough to boil off the world’s oceans.

Three potential events were considered as part of their research, including; large asteroid impact, and exploding stars in the form of supernovae or gamma ray bursts.


There are only a dozen known asteroids and dwarf planets with enough mass to boil the oceans (2×10^18 kg), these include (Vesta 2×10^20 kg) and Pluto (10^22 kg), however none of these objects will intersect Earth’s orbit and pose a threat to tardigrades.


In order to boil the oceans an exploding star would need to be 0.14 light-years away. The closest star to the Sun is four light years away and the probability of a massive star exploding close enough to Earth to kill all forms of life on it, within the Sun’s lifetime, is negligible.

Gamma-Ray bursts

Gamma-ray bursts are brighter and rarer than supernovae. Much like supernovas, gamma-ray bursts are too far away from earth to be considered a viable threat. To be able to boil the world’s oceans the burst would need to be no more than 40 light-years away, and the likelihood of a burst occurring so close is again, minor.

Dr Rafael Alves Batista, Co-author and Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Physics at Oxford University, said: ‘Without our technology protecting us, humans are a very sensitive species. Subtle changes in our environment impact us dramatically. There are many more resilient species’ on earth. Life on this planet can continue long after humans are gone.

‘Tardigrades are as close to indestructible as it gets on Earth, but it is possible that there are other resilient species examples elsewhere in the universe. In this context there is a real case for looking for life on Mars and in other areas of the solar system in general. If Tardigrades are earth’s most resilient species, who knows what else is out there.’

Dr David Sloan, Co-author and Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Physics at Oxford University, said: ‘A lot of previous work has focused on ‘doomsday’ scenarios on Earth — astrophysical events like supernovae that could wipe out the human race. Our study instead considered the hardiest species — the tardigrade. As we are now entering a stage of astronomy where we have seen exoplanets and are hoping to soon perform spectroscopy, looking for signatures of life, we should try to see just how fragile this hardiest life is. To our surprise we found that although nearby supernovae or large asteroid impacts would be catastrophic for people, tardigrades could be unaffected. Therefore it seems that life, once it gets going, is hard to wipe out entirely. Huge numbers of species, or even entire genera may become extinct, but life as a whole will go on.’

In highlighting the resilience of life in general, the research broadens the scope of life beyond Earth, within and outside of this solar system. Professor Abraham Loeb, co-author and chair of the Astronomy department at Harvard University, said: ‘It is difficult to eliminate all forms of life from a habitable planet. The history of Mars indicates that it once had an atmosphere that could have supported life, albeit under extreme conditions. Organisms with similar tolerances to radiation and temperature as tardigrades could survive long-term below the surface in these conditions. The subsurface oceans that are believed to exist on Europa and Enceladus, would have conditions similar to the deep oceans of Earth where tardigrades are found, volcanic vents providing heat in an environment devoid of light. The discovery of extremophiles in such locations would be a significant step forward in bracketing the range of conditions for life to exist on planets around other stars.’

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of OxfordNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. David Sloan, Rafael Alves Batista, Abraham Loeb. The Resilience of Life to Astrophysical EventsScientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-05796-x


Source: University of Oxford. “The last survivors on Earth may well be the tardigrade.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2017. <>.

July 11, 2017

George Washington University

Scientists have designed and constructed a prototype for a new solar cell that integrates multiple cells stacked into a single device capable of capturing nearly all of the energy in the solar spectrum.


Stacked solar cell.
Credit: Matthew Lumb



A George Washington University researcher helped design and construct a prototype for a new solar cell that integrates multiple cells stacked into a single device capable of capturing nearly all of the energy in the solar spectrum.

The new design, which converts direct sunlight to electricity with 44.5 percent efficiency, has the potential to become the most efficient solar cell in the world.

The approach is different from the solar panels commonly seen on rooftops or in fields. The new device uses concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) panels that use lenses to concentrate sunlight onto tiny, micro-scale solar cells. Because of their small size — less than one millimeter square — solar cells that utilize more sophisticated materials can be developed cost effectively.

The study, “GaSb-based Solar Cells for Full Solar Spectrum Energy Harvesting,” was published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

The stacked cell acts almost like a sieve for sunlight, with the specialized materials in each layer absorbing the energy of a specific set of wavelengths, said Matthew Lumb, lead author of the study and a research scientist at the School of Engineering and Applied Science. By the time the light is funneled through the stack, just under half of the available energy has been converted into electricity. By comparison, the most common solar cell today converts only a quarter of the available energy into electricity.

“Around 99 percent of the power contained in direct sunlight reaching the surface of Earth falls between wavelengths of 250 nanometers and 2,500 nanometers, but conventional materials for high-efficiency multi-junction solar cells cannot capture this entire spectral range,” Dr. Lumb said. “Our new device is able to unlock the energy stored in the long-wavelength photons, which are lost in conventional solar cells, and therefore provides a pathway to realizing the ultimate multi-junction solar cell.”

Scientists have worked to develop more efficient solar cells for years, however this approach has two novel aspects. It uses a family of materials based on gallium antimonide (GaSb) substrates, which are usually found in applications for infrared lasers and photodetectors. These GaSb-based solar cells are assembled into a stacked structure along with high efficiency solar cells grown on conventional substrates that capture shorter wavelength solar photons. In addition, the stacking procedure uses a technique known as transfer-printing, which enables three dimensional assembly of these tiny devices with a high degree of precision.

This particular solar cell is very expensive, but researchers believe it was important to show the upper limit of what is possible in terms of efficiency. Despite the current costs of the materials involved, the technique used to create the cells shows promise, researchers say. Eventually a similar product enabled by cost reductions from very high solar concentration levels and technology to recycle the expensive growth substrates could be brought to market.

The research builds off of the advancements made by the MOSAIC Program, a $24 million research project funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy that funds 11 separate teams across the United States seeking to develop technologies and concepts to revolutionize photovoltaic performance and reduce costs. Funding for this type of research is essential for developing viable commercial technology in the future, the researchers said.

Story Source:

Materials provided by George Washington UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Matthew P. Lumb, Shawn Mack, Kenneth J. Schmieder, María González, Mitchell F. Bennett, David Scheiman, Matthew Meitl, Brent Fisher, Scott Burroughs, Kyu-Tae Lee, John A. Rogers, Robert J. Walters. GaSb-Based Solar Cells for Full Solar Spectrum Energy HarvestingAdvanced Energy Materials, 2017; 1700345 DOI: 10.1002/aenm.201700345


Source: George Washington University. “Scientists design solar cell that captures nearly all energy of solar spectrum.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 July 2017. <>.

‘Molecular Recorder’ would reveal secrets of brain development

July 12, 2017

NIH/National Institute of Mental Health

For the first time, a primitive movie has been encoded in — and then played back from — DNA in living cells. Scientists say it’s a major step toward a ‘molecular recorder’ that may someday make it possible to access an archive of the changing internal states of a developing cell by sequencing its genome. The ability to record such sequential events as a movie at the molecular level is key to this reinventing of recording.


For the first time, a primitive movie has been encoded in — and then played back from — DNA in living cells.
Credit: Image courtesy of NIH/National Institute of Mental Health



For the first time, a primitive movie has been encoded in — and then played back from — DNA in living cells. Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health say it is a major step toward a “molecular recorder” that may someday make it possible to get read-outs, for example, of the changing internal states of neurons as they develop.

“We want to turn cells into historians,” explained neuroscientist Seth Shipman, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, Boston. “We envision a biological memory system that’s much smaller and more versatile than today’s technologies, which will track many events non-intrusively over time.”

Shipman, Harvard’s Drs. George Church, Jeffrey Macklis and Jeff Nivala report on their proof-of-concept for a futuristic “molecular ticker tape” online July 12, in the journal Nature. The work was funded by NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The ability to record such sequential events like a movie at the molecular level is key to the idea of reinventing the very concept of recording using molecular engineering, say the researchers. In this scheme, cells themselves could be induced to record molecular events — such as changes in gene expression over time — in their own genomes. Then the information could be retrieved simply by sequencing the genomes of the cells it is stored in.

“If we had those transcriptional steps, we could potentially use them like a recipe to engineer similar cells,” added Shipman. “These could be used to model disease — or even in therapies.”

For starters, the researchers had to show that DNA can be used to encode not just genetic information, but any arbitrary sequential information into a genome. For this they turned to the cutting-edge, NIH-funded gene editing technology CRISPR. They first demonstrated that they could encode and retrieve an image of the human hand in DNA inserted into bacteria. They then similarly encoded and reconstructed frames from a classic 1870s race horse in motion sequence of photos — an early forerunner of moving pictures.

The researchers had previously shown that they could use CRISPR to store sequences of DNA in bacteria. CRISPR is a group of proteins and DNA that act as an immune system in some bacteria, vaccinating them with genetic memories of viral infections. When a virus infects a bacterium, CRISPR cuts out part of the foreign DNA and stores it in the bacteria’s own genome. The bacterium then uses the stored DNA to recognize the virus and defend against future attacks.

“The sequential nature of CRISPR makes it an appealing system for recording events over time,” explained Shipman.

The researchers then similarly translated five frames from the race horse in motion photo sequence into DNA. Over the course of five days, they sequentially treated bacteria with a frame of translated DNA. Afterwards, they were able to reconstruct the movie with 90 percent accuracy by sequencing the bacterial DNA.

Although this technology could be used in a variety of ways, the researchers ultimately hope to use it to study the brain.

“We want to use neurons to record a molecular history of the brain through development,” said Shipman. “Such a molecular recorder will allow us to eventually collect data from every cell in the brain at once, without the need to gain access, to observe the cells directly, or disrupt the system to extract genetic material or proteins.”


Story Source:

Materials provided by NIH/National Institute of Mental HealthNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Seth L. Shipman, Jeff Nivala, Jeffrey D. Macklis, George M. Church. CRISPR–Cas encoding of a digital movie into the genomes of a population of living bacteriaNature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature23017


Source: NIH/National Institute of Mental Health. “Scientists replay movie encoded in DNA: ‘Molecular Recorder’ would reveal secrets of brain development.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 July 2017. <>.

July 11, 2017

Washington University in St. Louis

Viruses in the intestines may affect a person’s chance of developing Type I diabetes, new research suggests. Children whose gut viral communities are less diverse are more likely to generate self-destructive antibodies that can lead to Type 1 diabetes. Further, children who carried a specific virus belonging to the Circoviridae family were less likely to develop diabetes than those who carried members of a different group of viruses.


Herbert “Skip” Virgin IV, MD, PhD, talks with postdoctoral researcher Dale Balce, PhD. Virgin led a study linking intestinal viruses to the development of Type 1 diabetes. The study showed that children who carried a specific virus belonging to the Circoviridae family were less likely to head down the path toward diabetes than those who carried members of a different group of viruses.
Credit: Robert Boston



Doctors can’t predict who will develop Type 1 diabetes, a chronic autoimmune disease in which one’s own immune system destroys the cells needed to control blood-sugar levels, requiring daily insulin injections and continual monitoring.

Now, a new study led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that viruses in the intestines may affect a person’s chance of developing the disease. Children whose gut viral communities, or viromes, are less diverse are more likely to generate self-destructive antibodies that can lead to Type 1 diabetes. Further, children who carried a specific virus belonging to the Circoviridae family were less likely to head down the path toward diabetes than those who carried members of a different group of viruses.

“We identified one virus that was significantly associated with reduced risk, and another group of viruses that was associated with increased risk of developing antibodies against the children’s own cells,” said Herbert “Skip” Virgin IV, MD, PhD, the Edward Mallinckrodt Professor and head of Pathology and Immunology, and the study’s senior author. “It looks like the balance of these two groups of viruses may control the risk of developing the antibodies that can lead to Type 1 diabetes.”

The findings, published online the week of July 10 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest a way to predict, and maybe even prevent, the life-altering diagnosis.

Type 1 diabetes develops as a two-step process. First, a person acquires antibodies against cells in the pancreas responsible for producing insulin, a hormone that allows cells to absorb sugar from the bloodstream so they can burn it for energy. Some children generate the antibodies — called auto-antibodies because they target the person’s own cells — but never go on to develop disease.

In other children, however, the auto-antibodies signal a progressive attack by the body’s own immune system against the pancreatic cells, killing them and hindering the body’s ability to produce insulin. When the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin, a person develops Type 1 diabetes.

The new research follows an earlier study by Mikael Knip, MD, PhD, of the University of Helsinki, and Ramnik Xavier, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who studied the gut bacterial ecosystems of 33 children who carried genes that put them at high risk of developing Type 1 diabetes. The researchers collected monthly stool samples from the children from birth to age 3, and monitored the children for the development of auto-antibodies and the disease. In a small group of children who developed Type 1 diabetes, the team noted significant alterations in the diversity of bacterial species in the gut before diagnosis. But this study only looked at bacteria in the gut — not viruses.

So, Virgin, Guoyan Zhao, PhD, an assistant professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University, and colleagues took the same samples and analyzed the population of viruses in a select subset of children. They carefully matched 11 children who went on to acquire auto-antibodies — five of whom later developed Type 1 diabetes — with 11 children who did not develop auto-antibodies or the disease. All 22 children carried genes that put them at high risk to develop the disease.

A previously unknown virus related to circoviruses was found in five of the 11 children who did not develop auto-antibodies, but not in any of the children who did. Circoviruses are small viruses that infect a range of mammals but that are rarely linked to viral disease.

“Circoviruses have never been associated with disease in people,” said Zhao, the study’s first author. “Multiple lines of evidence support the inverse association between the virus we found and the development of auto-antibodies. This suggests that having a circovirus may be a good thing for people at high risk for diabetes.”

The researchers also found differences in a group of viruses called bacteriophages that infect bacteria in the gut, not human cells. Children carrying bacteriophages that target Bacteroidesspecies — one of the major groups of intestinal bacteria — were more likely to start down the path toward diabetes.

“Previous studies had found that changes in Bacteroides species are associated with developing Type 1 diabetes, and here we found that viruses that infect Bacteroides are associated with the development of auto-antibodies,” said Virgin, who is also a professor of molecular microbiology and of medicine. “Our findings support the idea that Bacteroides or other bacteria, and the viruses that infect them, play a role in the pathological process that leads to diabetes.”

When each child’s gut viral population was analyzed as a whole, the researchers found that children who went on to take a first step toward diabetes had fewer and a narrower range of viruses than those who did not.

“There are many autoimmune diseases that are much more common these days,” Virgin said. “It could be that we’ve made ourselves unhealthy by not having the right viruses in our virome.”

Virgin and Zhao have begun animal studies to understand what effect circoviruses have on the immune system and whether the virus can prevent diabetes.

“There’s a lot of verification that needs to be done,” Virgin said. “We need to see if we can replicate these findings in another group of children, and then we have to show causality in an animal model. But if these results hold up, we may one day be able to prevent Type 1 diabetes by treating high-risk children with circoviruses. It can be a terrible disease and no one knows how to prevent it. Circoviruses are worth investigating.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. Original written by Tamara Bhandari. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Guoyan Zhao, Tommi Vatanen, Lindsay Droit, Arnold Park, Aleksandar D. Kostic, Tiffany W. Poon, Hera Vlamakis, Heli Siljander, Taina Härkönen, Anu-Maaria Hämäläinen, Aleksandr Peet, Vallo Tillmann, Jorma Ilonen, David Wang, Mikael Knip, Ramnik J. Xavier, Herbert W. Virgin. Intestinal virome changes precede autoimmunity in type I diabetes-susceptible childrenProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201706359 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1706359114


Source: Washington University in St. Louis. “Type 1 diabetes risk linked to intestinal viruses.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 July 2017. <>.

July 10, 2017

IOP Publishing

The Greenland ice sheet is often seen as a pristine environment, but new research has revealed that may not be the case. Scientists have examined how microbes from the ice sheet have the potential to resist and degrade globally-emitted contaminants such as mercury, lead, PAH and PCB.


Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, Greenland.
Credit: © Nicole / Fotolia



The Greenland ice sheet is often seen as a pristine environment, but new research has revealed that may not be the case.

A Danish-led study, published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters, examined how microbes from the ice sheet have the potential to resist and degrade globally-emitted contaminants such as mercury, lead, PAH and PCB.

Dr Aviaja Hauptmann, from the University of Greenland, led the research. She said: “Globally emitted contaminants accumulate in the Arctic and are stored in the frozen environments of the cryosphere, essentially meaning they have become reservoirs of toxic chemicals.

“Our understanding of how biological processes interact with contamination in the Arctic is limited, which is why we hope our study represents a large step forward in the understanding and solving of this problem.”

The researchers took samples from multiple surface ice locations on the Greenland ice sheet, which they analysed using metagenomic data and binned genomes. Their results show that the microbial communities found in the ice sheets have the potential to resist and degrade contaminants.

Dr Hauptmann said: “The microbial potential to degrade anthropogenic contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and the heavy metals mercury and lead, was found to be widespread, and not limited to regions close to human activities.”

They also found that binned, or grouped, genomes showed close resemblance to microorganisms isolated from contaminated habitats. Since the genetic potential of contaminant resistance and degradation usually indicates the presence of the relevant contaminants, their results indicate that, from a microbiological perspective, the Greenland ice sheet is not a pristine environment.

Dr Hauptmann added: “More attention needs to be paid to the potential release of anthropogenic contaminants in this fast-changing environment. As the ice sheets melt due to climate change, they have the potential not only to increase sea level, but also pollute the environment around them through the release of other anthropogenic pollutants that have accumulated in them.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by IOP PublishingNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Aviaja L Hauptmann, Thomas Sicheritz-Pontén, Karen A Cameron, Jacob Bælum, Damian R Plichta, Marlene Dalgaard, Marek Stibal. Contamination of the Arctic reflected in microbial metagenomes from the Greenland ice sheetEnvironmental Research Letters, 2017; 12 (7): 074019 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa7445


Source: IOP Publishing. “Greenland ice sheet toxicity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2017. <>.


NIH Collaboratory Webinar: John Laschinger, MD and Jules Mitchel, PhD to Present the CTTI Registry Trial Project


Target Health has been a member of the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI) since 2008, and we strongly support CTTI’s mission of transforming and modernizing clinical trials. While it has been a long journey, there have been many fruits of our labors, including the Registry Work Stream, which culminated in a CTTI Webinar in May, and now an NIH Collaboratory Webinar being held this month.


Here are the Collaboratory details:


On Friday, July 21, 2017, 1:00-2:00 p.m. EDT, John Laschinger, MD, Medical Officer, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Clinical Trials Operations and Biostatistics Branch, US FDA, and Jules Mitchel, MBA, PhD, President, Target Health Inc. will be presenting the “CTTI Registry Trials Project: Evaluation and Design of Registries for Conducting Clinical Trials.“ For more information go to


This webinar covers CTTI’s recommendations on conducting clinical trials using registries. Those interested in evaluating or designing a registry for the purposes of conducting clinical trials can learn more about the project’s tools, intended for the following purposes:


1. To determine if an existing registry is appropriate for embedding clinical trials

2. To assess if an existing registry contains the elements needed to support a clinical trial

3. To design a new registry suitable for embedding clinical trials


For more information about Target Health contact Warren Pearlson (212-681-2100 ext. 165). For additional information about software tools for paperless clinical trials, please also feel free to contact Dr. Jules T. Mitchel. The Target Health software tools are designed to partner with both CROs and Sponsors. Please visit the Target Health Website, and if you like the weekly newsletter, ON TARGET, you’ll love the Blog.


Joyce Hays, Founder and Editor in Chief of On Target

Jules Mitchel, Editor



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Chrondrodermatitis Nodularis Helicas (CNH)

Chondrodermatitis helicis nodularis in a 67-year-old man. Photo credit: Klaus D. Peter, Gummersbach, Germany – Own work (own photograph), CC BY 3.0 de; Wikipedia Commons


The word dermatology derives from the 1) ___ dermatos and derma, meaning “skin.“ Originally it meant “to flay“ skin.


Chondrodermatitis nodularis chronica helicis (CNH), also known as chondrodermatitis nodularis helicis, is a small, nodular, tender, chronic inflammatory lesion occurring on the helix of the 2) ___. CNH is a common, benign, painful condition of the helix or antihelix of the ear which more often affects middle-aged or older men, but cases are also reported in women. In a 2006 report by Rex et al., of 74 patients treated for CNH, 72.9% of patients were 3) ___ while 16.2% were women.


Pediatric cases of CNH have also been reported, with one case reported in a 9-month-old infant. This case indicated that the infant slept on the ear of occurrence, where she developed 2 nodules. The infant had also recently started sleeping on a hard pillow, which may have contributed to the lesion. An excisional biopsy of the lesion at 9 months showed histologic features consistent with CNH. The papule resolved with a change in sleeping 4) ___ over 6 months.


The exact cause of CNH is unknown, although most experts believe it is caused by prolonged and excessive pressure. Several anatomic features of the ear predispose persons to the development of this condition. The ear has relatively little subcutaneous tissue for insulation and padding, and only small dermal blood 5) ___ supply the epidermis, dermis, perichondrium, and cartilage. Dermal inflammation, edema, and necrosis from trauma, cold, actinic damage, or pressure probably initiate the disease. In most cases, focal pressure on the stiff cartilage most likely produces damage to the cartilage and overlying skin. Anatomic features of the ear, as listed above, prevent adequate healing and lead to secondary perichondritis. The 6) ___ ear is more commonly involved. A 2009 report concluded that specific perichondrial arteriolar changes may be the cause of CNH. Although physicians have regarded CNH as an idiopathic disorder with no systemic associations, exceptions to this have been noted. CNH may also occasionally be associated with autoimmune or connective-tissue disorders, including autoimmune thyroiditis, lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis, and scleroderma. Such cases may be more common in pediatric or young adult female patients. A 2009 report detailed CNH in monozygotic twins, suggesting a possible 7) ___ factor. The exact incidence of CNH is unknown. While the incidence in patients age 60-80 years is predominantly male, cases presenting in young 8) ___ appear to be associated with evidence of underlying systemic illness in some instances. CNH has been reported to occur most commonly in fair-skinned individuals with severely 9) ___-damaged skin; however, it can occur in persons of any races. The prognosis for patients with CNH is 10) ___, although long-term morbidity is common. Spontaneous resolution is the exception; remissions may occur, but CNH usually continues unless adequately treated.


ANSWERS: 1) Greek; 2) ear; 3) men; 4) position; 5) vessels; 6) right; 7) hereditary; 8) females; 9) sun; 10) excellent


Peter Wisch MD and his very sympatico nurse, Agata Tuszakowski, photo taken today at the end of my appointment. I thought I had a cancerous growth but the quick diagnosis was: Chondrodermatitis Nodularis Helicas. Dr. Wisch is the best dermatologist in New York, and has been our family’s dermatologist, for many years. His manner is kind, informative, reassuring and relaxing. We recommend Dr. Wisch highly for anyone looking for an excellent physician.

Moritz Kaposi, MD

Moritz Kaposi – Photo credit: Unknown – Images from the History of Medicine (NLM), Public Domain; Wikipedia Commons


According to his biographer, Dr. J.D. Oriel, “in his lifetime, Moritz Kaposi, MD, was acknowledged as one of the great masters of the Vienna School of Dermatology, a superb clinician and renowned teacher“. While his mentor, Ferdinand von Hebra, is considered the “father of dermatology“, Kaposi was one of the first to establish dermatology on its anatomical pathology scientific basis. He became the chairman of the Vienna School of Dermatology, after Hebra’s death in 1880.


Moritz Kaposi, a Hungarian physician, was born on 23 October 1837 in Kaposvar, Austria-Hungary and died on 6 March 1902 in Vienna. This well-known physician is best known as the dermatologist who discovered the skin tumor that received his name (Kaposi’s sarcoma). Kaposi was born to a Jewish family, whose original surname was Kohn. But with his conversion to the Catholic faith, he changed it to Kaposi in 1871, in reference to his town of birth. One purported reason behind this is that he wanted to marry a daughter of current dermatology chairman, Ferdinand Ritter von Hebra, and advance in the society, which he could not have done being of Jewish faith. This seems unlikely because he married Martha Hebra and converted to Catholicism several years prior to changing his name, by which time he was already well established in the Vienna University faculty and a close associate of von Hebra. A more plausible explanation is based on his own comments to colleagues that he changed his name to avoid confusion with five other similarly named physicians on the Vienna faculty. Rumors about the sincerity of both his marriage and his concerns about his Jewish ancestry may have arisen through professional jealousy. According to William Dubreuilh (1857-1935), first professor and chairman of dermatology in Bordeaux: “On disait de Kaposi qu’il avait pris la fille de Hebra, sa maison, sa chaire et sa clientele, laissant le reste a son beau-frere Hans Hebra.“ – “It was said of Kaposi that he had taken the daughter of Hebra, his home, his chair and his clientele, leaving the rest to his brother-in-law, Hans Hebra.“


In 1855, Kaposi began to study medicine at the University of Vienna and attained a doctorate in 1861. In his dissertation, titled Dermatologie und Syphilis (1866), he made an important contribution to the field. Kaposi was appointed as professor at the University of Vienna in 1875, and in 1881 he became a member of the board of the Vienna General Hospital and director of its clinic of skin diseases. Together with his mentor, Ferdinand Ritter von Hebra, he authored the book Lehrbuch der Hautkrankheiten (Textbook of Skin Diseases) in 1878. Kaposi’s main work, however, was Pathologie und Therapie der Hautkrankheiten in Vorlesungen fur praktische Arzte und Studierende (Pathology and Therapy of the Skin Diseases in Lectures for Practical Physicians and Students), published in 1880, which became one of the most significant books in the history of dermatology, being translated to several languages. Kaposi is credited with the description of xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare genetic disorder now known to be caused by defects in nucleotide excision repair (“Ueber Xeroderma pigmentosum. Medizinische Jahrbucher, Wien, 1882: 619-633“). Among other diseases, Kaposi was the first to study Lichen scrofolosorum and Lupus erythematosus. In all, he published over 150 books and papers and is widely credited with advancing the use of pathologic examination in the diagnosis of dermatologic diseases.


Kaposi’s name entered into the history of medicine in 1872, when he described for the first time Kaposi’s sarcoma, a cancer of the skin, which he had discovered in five elderly male patients and which he initially named “idiopathic multiple pigmented sarcoma“. More than a century later, the appearance of this disease in young gay men in New York City, San Francisco and other coastal cities in the United States was one of the first indications that a new disease, now called AIDS, had appeared. In 1993, the discovery that Kaposi’s sarcoma was associated with the herpesvirus, sparked considerable controversy and scientific in-fighting until sufficient data had been collected to show that indeed KSHV was the causative agent of Kaposi’s sarcoma. The virus is now known to be a widespread infection of people living in sub-Saharan Africa; intermediate levels of infection occur in Mediterranean populations (including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Italy and Greece) and low levels of infection occur in most Northern European and North American populations. Kaposi’s sarcoma is now the most commonly reported cancer in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Kaposi’s sarcoma is usually a localized tumor that can be treated either surgically or through local irradiation. Chemotherapy with drugs such as liposomal anthracyclines or paclitaxel may be used, particularly for invasive disease. Antiviral drugs, such as ganciclovir, that target the replication of herpesviruses such as KSHV have been used to successfully prevent development of Kaposi’s sarcoma, although once the tumor develops these drugs are of little or no use.


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