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News Article | November 7, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

As people age, they often find that it's more difficult to see things up close. Reading a newspaper suddenly requires a good pair of reading glasses or bifocals. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on November 7 find that the same goes for bonobos, one of human's closest primate relatives along with chimpanzees, even though they obviously don't read. This long-sightedness in bonobos is most evident as older animals engage in grooming their peers, the researchers say. The older they get, the longer they stretch their arms from the rest of their bodies as they groom. "We found that wild bonobos showed the symptoms of long-sightedness around 40 years old," says Heungjin Ryu of the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University. "We were surprised that the pattern found in bonobos is strikingly similar to the pattern of modern humans. This suggests that senescence of the eyes has not changed much from the Pan-Homo common ancestor, even though the longevity of modern humans is far longer than that of chimpanzees and bonobos." Ryu says that researchers had already noticed this trend of bonobos needing longer distances for grooming before. There had also been anecdotal reports in chimpanzees. It's just that no one paid much attention to it. "One day, I was with another researcher and observed the oldest male bonobo Ten (TN) grooming Jeudi (JD)," Ryu recalls. "TN had to stretch his arm to groom JD, and only when he found something on JD's body would he come close to remove it using his mouth. It was funny to see how he groomed." While it might have looked amusing, the researchers began to appreciate that this long-sightedness, caused by a decline in the refractive power of the crystalline lens with age, might also have serious consequences for the survival and social lives of those older animals. To learn more, the researchers used digital photographs to measure the grooming distance of 14 wild bonobos of various ages, ranging from 11 to 45 years old. They also examined how grooming distance varied in relation to age and sex in bonobos and compared it with the nearest focus distance in humans. The measurements showed that the grooming distance increased exponentially with age. In one case, an old video of one of the bonobos, named Ki, enabled them to show that his eyesight had worsened over time. "The results we found were very surprising even for us," Ryu says. "When I started to collect data, I did not expect that age could be such a strong predictor of long-sightedness." Ryu says that long-sightedness might hinder the social lives of older individuals, explaining why older individuals aren't favored when it comes to selecting grooming partners. People who grow long-sighted with age also have particular trouble seeing in the dark, he adds. That could be a big challenge for the bonobos, living as they do in the shade of the rainforest canopy. As for us humans, the findings in our bonobo relatives suggest that long-sightedness isn't a consequence of the modern lives we lead and all that time spent reading or staring at a screen. Rather, it's a natural process of aging rooted deep in our past. Ryu says that they plan to continue studying aspects of aging in bonobos to learn more about them and us. This study was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Grants-in-aid for Scientific Research, and the JSPS Core-to-Core, and admitted by the Ministry of Scientific and Technological Research of the D.R. Congo. Current Biology, Ryu et al.: "Long-sightedness in old wild bonobos during grooming" http://www. (16)31068-5 Current Biology (@CurrentBiology), published by Cell Press, is a bimonthly journal that features papers across all areas of biology. Current Biology strives to foster communication across fields of biology, both by publishing important findings of general interest and through highly accessible front matter for non-specialists. Visit: http://www. . To receive Cell Press media alerts, contact press@cell.com.

News Article | November 18, 2015
Site: www.nature.com

Ocata buyout Astellas Pharma in Tokyo will pay US$379 million for Ocata Therapeutics of Marlborough, Massachusetts. Formerly called Advanced Cell Technology, Ocata has struggled financially but has continued to develop treatments in which human embryonic stem cells are coaxed into becoming retinal cells. The company has used the cells to treat two types of degenerative blindness in small-scale clinical trials. In the United States, limiting trials to a few participants would hamper speedy commercialization, but Japan has a fast-track approval system that allows commercialization of stem-cell treatments after studies on a small number of people. Olive aid The European Commission has announced a €7-million (US$7.5-million) call for proposals for research into Xylella fastidiosa, the aggressive plant pathogen that is destroying swathes of olive trees in the Puglia region of southern Italy. The call will focus on methods of detection and control. The outbreak, which has also reached some regions of France, is a major economic threat to the European Union, but has received little research funding so far. Italian regional and national governments have also promised €6 million for X. fastidiosa research. Chile budget boost Chile’s Congress was mulling a budget increase of 150 million pesos (US$210,000) for the nation’s research-funding agency as Nature went to press. The move followed street protests by researchers after the resignation of Francisco Brieva, director of the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research. The body funds more than 3,000 researchers. See go.nature.com/pbwtp8 for more. Space junk splashes down safely A chunk of space debris re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on 13 November. The fragment was too small to hurt anyone but just the right size to help scientists to practise tracking an incoming asteroid. Researchers on a chartered jet filmed the debris, which may have fallen off a lunar spacecraft, as it disintegrated above the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka. NASA astronomer Peter Jenniskens says the successful campaign proves that it is possible to gather data about an object targeting the planet, even with short notice. Paris talks go ahead International climate talks in Paris will go ahead despite the 13 November terrorist attacks that killed at least 129 people in the French capital. The climate conference will be held, with tightened security, because it is an “essential meeting for humanity”, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on 14 November. Some 40,000 participants will gather for the United Nations climate summit from 30 November to 11 December. Almost 120 government leaders will attend the meeting, which it is hoped will produce a global climate deal. Dark-matter hunt The world’s most sensitive detector for dark matter was inaugurated on 11 November at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory, run by Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics. Dark matter is thought to make up 85% of matter in the Universe. The experiment, called XENON1T, will monitor 3.5 tonnes of liquid xenon, to try to detect the tiny amount of energy that is given off when dark matter interacts with atoms of ordinary matter. The collaboration involves 125 scientists, and the experiment is expected to start collecting data by the end of March 2016. Nuclear burial Finland’s government approved the construction of a deep underground facility to permanently store spent nuclear fuel on 12 November. Minister of economic affairs Olli Rehn said the move was a world first. The repository will dispose of up to 6,500 tonnes of uranium — high-level waste produced by nuclear-power facilities — by packing it into copper canisters and burying these in a clay buffer 400 metres underground. The local government has already given its go-ahead for the facility, which will be on Olkiluoto island off Finland’s west coast and is due to open around 2023. Reef protected Laws passed on 12 November in Queensland, Australia, will protect the Great Barrier Reef (pictured) from port development, the state’s development minister said. The laws ban disposal at sea of material dredged from ports in the region, and stop any new ports being developed in the reef World Heritage Area. They form part of commitments made by Australia to safeguard the reef after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization considered categorizing the coral zone as ‘at risk’. Plans to dispose of dredging material near the reef have proved controversial in recent years, and conservation groups welcomed last week’s legislation. Pesticide risk The world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate, is unlikely to pose a cancer risk to humans, according to a report published on 12 November by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In its report, the agency set limits on how much glyphosate a person may safely ingest in a short period of time. EFSA’s finding comes nearly eight months after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said that glyphosate probably does cause cancer in humans. See go.nature.com/mb8b4l for more. Space mining is go On 10 November the US Senate passed the Space Act of 2015, allowing US citizens the rights to any materials that they gather from asteroids or other space-based resources. However, space miners will also have to comply with the 1966 Outer Space Treaty, an international agreement that states: “outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty”. The act also extends the use of the International Space Station from 2020 to at least 2024. Pipeline questions In a letter to transport minister Marc Garneau, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on 13 November called for a moratorium on crude-oil-tanker traffic along the north coast of British Columbia. The move raises questions about a pipeline project by the Calgary-based energy-delivery firm Enbridge to carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the coast for shipment. Environmentalists said that a moratorium would effectively halt the pipeline, but Enbridge said that it still hopes to discuss the plan with the prime minister. Food rules For the first time, crop farmers in the United States will have to answer to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of an effort to prevent food-borne illness. A set of rules that the agency released on 13 November requires farmers to train their workers in proper hygiene, and to test crop-irrigation systems for pathogens, among other things. But the regulations are less stringent than a 2013 FDA proposal that farmers found too burdensome. Another of the rules creates a programme to allow auditors to assess imported food and the overseas facilities that produce it. The number of controversial fish aggregating devices (FADs) being used in the oceans is rising. Using data from tuna-fishing boats (see chart), a 6 November report from the Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that between 81,000 and 121,000 FADs were set adrift in 2013 — and their use is growing (see go.nature.com/ngeubv). These FADs are free-floating, so fish and other animals shelter underneath and become easier to catch. But researchers warn that the devices encourage overfishing, and kill vulnerable species. 8,690 The wind speed in kilometres per hour on HD 189733 b, a ‘hot Jupiter’ exoplanet 19.3 parsecs away from Earth — and the first weather data from a planet outside our Solar System. Source: Louden, T. & Wheatley, P. J. Preprint at http://arxiv.org/abs/1511.03689 (2015). 19–20 November The inaugural Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS) conference convenes in California to discuss how biomedical scientists plan, conduct and communicate research. go.nature.com/narepc 23–27 November Ostend, Belgium, hosts the European Space Weather Week, a forum for space-weather forecasters and scientists. www.stce.be/esww12

Basso A.,Scientific and Technological Research | Malavolta M.,Scientific and Technological Research | Piacenza F.,Marche Polytechnic University | Santarelli L.,Marche Polytechnic University | And 3 more authors.
Rejuvenation Research | Year: 2010

Neonatal thymus grafts exert a rejuvenating action on various immunological and nonimmunological functions found altered in old mice. Commonly, half of a thymus is grafted under the kidney capsule. The invasiveness of the surgical procedure and the use of limited thymus tissue may explain why precedent survival kinetics remain unaffected. In this trial, we grafted two neonatal thymi into the axillary cavity of old mice, thus reducing the invasiveness of the intervention and increasing the amount of grafted neonatal tissue. Using a Piantanelli parametric model of survivorship, we found a significant change in mortality rate between the two groups (thymus graft and controls). © 2010 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

News Article | October 26, 2016
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

BUENOS AIRES—Sixty-eight million years ago in what is now Antarctica, there were no ice floes groaning or collapsing into an ice-covered sea. Instead the region had a moderate climate, temperate waters and a silence occasionally broken by the “hoink hoink” calls of prehistoric birds. That, at least, is the scenario suggested by Argentine and U.S. paleontologists who recently described in detail, in an article published in Nature, the oldest fossilized remains found so far of a syrinx—the sound-making structure of birds. “This is the first fossil evidence of the vocalization apparatus of a bird of the Mesozoic era," says paleontologist Fernando Novas, a researcher at the National Scientific and Technological Research Council here. “It belonged to an extinct genus of birds called Vegavis iaai, which lived on today’s Vega Island, north of the Antarctic Peninsula. This animal was about 40 centimeters long, resembled a duck and coexisted there with the dinosaurs.” It is not yet known exactly how birds evolved, how they learned to fly or how they diversified over millions of years to end up living among us. Paleontologists know that birds descend from dinosaurs, but not from all of them. “We want to know [about] that sequence, which began 240 million years ago. How is it that these animals with whom we share the planet today acquired their traits?” says Novas, who is also the director of the Department of Comparative Anatomy at the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences. Until recently this field of work and study of the evolutionary history of modern birds was restricted to researchers from Germany, the U.K., the U.S. and China. But the latest findings in the Southern Hemisphere are changing this situation. This new work started in a territory whose omnipresent ice and low temperatures make for harrowing working conditions. “In 1992 we explored an area north of James Ross Island, about 60 kilometers from Argentina’s Antarctic Marambio base,” recalls geologist Daniel Martinioni of the University of Buenos Aires. “We noticed some 70-million-year-old rocks that showed a few hollow bones breaking the surface.” After years of preparation and delicate removal of the rock, researchers realized they had in their hands the ancient remains of a bird. With the collaboration of U.S. paleontologist Julia Clarke, a specialist in the early evolution of these animals, the material was transported to the U.S. where it was “stripped” in a CT scanner. This was where Clarke, an associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin, found a huge surprise: Preserved among the fragile fossilized bones of this prehistoric bird there were pieces of soft tissue, specifically a section of the trachea and a series of rings that make up a syrinx. Unlike other terrestrial vertebrates—including humans—birds lack vocal cords but do have a vocal organ, located in the lower part of the trachea where it divides into the bronchi; it allows them to emit a variety of sounds, from calls and cries to spectacular songs. “By comparing the three-dimensional structure of the syrinx with other fossils and 12 modern birds including ducks and geese, we reconstructed the evolution of this small organ,” Clarke described in the study. Armed with this information, Novas and colleagues hypothesize that V. iaai, whose name combines the site of the discovery with the Spanish initials of Antarctic Argentine Institute, emitted squawks that might have been similar to the honking sounds of their living relatives. “This syrinx allowed them to emit complex sounds in order to be heard, defend territory or find a mate, and they used it in the same way modern birds do,” Novas says. This research is also important because it reveals that birds such as V. iaai—which, despite having mostly terrestrial habits, could tolerate long periods underwater—were already highly specialized toward the end of the nonavian dinosaur era, when they wandered among the large creatures. “It shows that before the mass extinction that wiped out many of the dinosaurs on Earth along with two thirds of all living species, birds were already diversified,” Novas concludes. “And somehow, Vegavis managed to survive.”

PubMed | Scientific and Technological Research
Type: Comparative Study | Journal: Rejuvenation research | Year: 2010

Neonatal thymus grafts exert a rejuvenating action on various immunological and nonimmunological functions found altered in old mice. Commonly, half of a thymus is grafted under the kidney capsule. The invasiveness of the surgical procedure and the use of limited thymus tissue may explain why precedent survival kinetics remain unaffected. In this trial, we grafted two neonatal thymi into the axillary cavity of old mice, thus reducing the invasiveness of the intervention and increasing the amount of grafted neonatal tissue. Using a Piantanelli parametric model of survivorship, we found a significant change in mortality rate between the two groups (thymus graft and controls).

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