Disappearing frog populations may be recovering
Frog species that have been disappearing due to an aggressive skin fungus may be starting to come back.
In recent years, the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, has been killing large numbers of frogs around the world. Species like variable harlequin frogs from Panama disappeared entirely, leaving many scientists fearful of mass extinctions. But, researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno have started seeing certain frogs returning to their habitats.
Researchers aren’t sure what’s causing the rebound. Some think a type of skin secretion that contains pathogen-killing molecules is keeping the frogs healthy. In a lab setting, the secretion has slowed the growth of Bd.
Others aren’t convinced that frogs could evolve quickly enough to save themselves like this. They think that new habitats and warming global temperatures may be temporarily holding the fungus at bay, as Bd can only grow at cool temperatures, and in cases where frogs move to lower altitudes, or are located in regions where temperatures have gone up, frogs could be benefiting from the limitations of the fungus.
Either way, this isn’t a miracle solution to the problem — many species are still declining or at risk. But it is a glimmer of hope that we haven’t seen the last of these amphibians.
Source: The New York Times
Frozen umbilical cord blood may be useful later
The umbilical cord keeps a baby alive in the womb, sending nutrients and oxygen from the mother to her child. But many are excited about the health benefits the umbilical cord can have later in life — which has led to the phenomenon of banking the umbilical cord, or harvesting blood from it and the placenta and freezing it for later use.
Fetal blood contains many cells and molecules that aren’t really found anywhere else in the body (at least not abundantly). Most importantly, it contains stem cells, which have the potential to become several different kinds of blood cells depending on where they are needed. Umbilical cord blood cells could be used to cure rare anemia, to repopulate blood after treatment for leukemia. The effects may be similar to a bone marrow transplant, but the process of harvesting is far less invasive. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood also don’t have to be matched as closely between donor and recipient.
Because of these benefits, doctors of new moms are offering them the opportunity to save this blood, and all of its therapeutic capabilities. Though some of the possibilities may not live up to their potential down the road, this is certainly an option many parents aren’t ruling out by throwing away the umbilical cord and placenta, and the blood they contain.
Are coffee beans carcinogenic? California says yes
A court in California has ruled that retailers must label coffee with a warning to consumers that coffee contains a carcinogen. The judge’s ruling came after an eight-year legal battle over whether drinking coffee is good for your health - or whether it could raise your chances of getting cancer.
Roasting coffee beans creates the compound acrylamide as a byproduct. This compound is found in many carbohydrates after cooking, as well as in cigarette smoke and some kinds of adhesives. In one study, rats and mice that were fed acrylamide showed an increased cancer risk. However, the rats in the study were dosed with between 1,000 and 10,000 times the acrylamide than the amount people are exposed to in food. There haven’t been any studies that show strong evidence that acrylamide is carcinogenic to humans. While some research has linked the compound to kidney, endometrial, and ovarian cancer, the results have been mixed, according to the American Cancer Society, and the study data may not be accurate.
“Most experts are going to look at the risk of acrylamide in coffee and conclude that this is not something that’s going to have a meaningful impact on human health,” says Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.