Macular degeneration is a leading cause of visual impairment in people over 65 and can lead to blindness. One in three people will eventually suffer some degree of macular degeneration, which is caused by abnormal blood vessels under the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye. We treat both the more common “dry” as well as the more dangerous “wet” forms of macular degeneration. While there is currently no cure for this disease, we offer the latest treatments to reduce the risk of vision loss and blindness. These include anti-VEGF drugs—which attack proteins that create the abnormal blood vessels that cause macular degeneration—and photodynamic therapy, in which patients ingest medication that is then activated with a laser.
Online News Editor David Grimm joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss a controversial new paper that estimates how many rodents are used in research in the United States each year.
Though there is no official number, the paper suggests there might be more than 100 million rats and mice housed in research facilities in the country—doubling or even tripling some earlier estimates.
Next, Staff Writer Jennifer Couzin-Frankel talks with Sarah about a new theory behind the cause of irritable bowel syndrome—that it might be a localized allergic reaction in the gut. Sarah also chats with Taline Kazandjian, a postdoctoral research associate at the Centre for Snakebite Research & Interventions in Liverpool, U.K., about how the venom from spitting cobras has evolved to cause maximum pain and why these snakes might have developed the same defense mechanism three different times.
The world’s major powers agree: the resources of Antarctica should be exploited peacefully. They have promised to promote peace and scientific research in Antarctica, and to protect its environment. But is this spirit real, or just a lot of talk?
This documentary features interviews with researchers, activists, diplomats, and military personnel from Spain, Russia, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, and the United States. There’s been much debate over how to share control of resources in Antarctica, which is the world’s oldest ecosystem. Critics say that behind the scenes, a game of high-stakes poker is underway. Could this competition end in armed conflict? Or will Antarctica serve as a model for peaceful international cooperation? This film addresses these complicated issues with in-depth analysis, accompanied by magnificent images of the Antarctic landscape. The documentary’s soundtrack was composed by Javier Weyler, former drummer of the Welsh rock band, the Stereophonics.
New research suggests that if the current rate of deforestation continues, the Amazon rainforest could transform into a savannah within 15 years. Do we have time to stop it?
The Amazon basin spans over 6 million square kilometers, and is home to one-fifth of the world’s land species. In addition, it supports the 30 million people who live and depend on the land as a source of food, medicine, and shelter. That’s not even including the key role it plays in regulating the regional AND global climate.
Trees absorb water through their roots and transport it to their leaves, where it’s released as vapor through small pores in a process called transpiration. As the water vapor rises and condenses, it forms rain clouds over the forest canopy. Basically, the rainforest is making its own weather. For example, one large tree can release 1,000 liters of water into the atmosphere in a single day.
The rainforest recycles this water up to six times before it moves out of the region, but as more trees are cut down, those that remain may not be able to recycle enough water to survive. Less trees means more sunlight will hit the forest floor, exposing the forest to higher temperatures. Since deforestation began accelerating in the 1970’s, 800,000 square kilometers of the Amazon have been lost. And over that same period, the average temperature of the basin has risen by 1 degree Celsius.
Beetles are virtually crash resistant. Their wings fold up when they collide with objects, and then quickly spring back into place. That helps the insects stay on course and fly straight, rather than spiral to the ground, while exerting little energy. Researchers have now built a winged robot that mimics this capability.
The “beetlebot” keeps flying, even after it crashes into poles, researchers report this month in Science. The energy-efficient robot could even navigate narrow environments, such as collapsed buildings, to aid rescue missions, the team says.
Stroke is far more common than you might realize, affecting more than 795,000 people in the U.S. every year. It is a leading cause of death and long-term disability. Yet until now, treatment options have been limited, despite the prevalence and severity of stroke.
Not so long ago, doctors didn’t have much more to offer stroke victims than empathy, says Kevin Sheth, MD, Division Chief of Neurocritical Care and Emergency Neurology. “There wasn’t much you could do.” But that is changing. Recent breakthroughs offer new hope to patients and families. Beating the Clock Think of stroke as a plumbing problem in the brain. It occurs when there is a disruption of blood flow, either because of a vessel blockage (ischemic stroke) or rupture (hemorrhagic stroke).
In both cases, the interruption of blood flow starves brain cells of oxygen, causing them to become damaged and die. Delivering medical interventions early after a stroke can mean the difference between a full recovery and significant disability or death. Time matters. Unfortunately, stroke care often bottlenecks in the first stage: diagnosis. Sometimes, it’s a logistical issue; to identify the type, size, and location of a stroke requires MRI imaging, and the machinery itself can be difficult to access.
MRIs use powerful magnets to create detailed images of the body, which means they must be kept in bunker-type rooms, typically located in hospital basements. As a result, there is often a delay in getting MRI scans for stroke patients. Dr. Sheth collaborated with a group of doctors and engineers to develop a portable MRI machine. Though it captures the images doctors need to properly diagnose stroke, it uses a less powerful magnet. It is lightweight and can be easily wheeled to a patient’s bedside.
“It’s a paradigm shift – from taking a sick patient to the MRI to taking an MRI to a sick patient,” says Dr. Sheth. Stopping the Damage Once a stroke has been diagnosed, the work of mitigating the damage can begin. “Brain tissue is very vulnerable during the first hours after stroke,” says vascular neurologist Nils Petersen, MD. He and his team are using advanced neuro-monitoring technology to study how to manage a patient’s blood pressure in the very acute phase after a stroke.
Dr. Petersen’s research shows that optimal stroke treatment depends on personalization of blood pressure parameters. But calculating the ideal blood pressure for the minutes and hours after a patient has a stroke can be complicated. It depends on a variety of factors—it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Harnessing the Immune System Launching an inflammatory reaction is how the body responds to injury anywhere in the body – including the brain, following stroke. However, in this case, the resulting inflammation can sometimes cause even more damage.
But what if that immune response could be used to the patient’s advantage? “We’re trying to understand how we can harness the immune system’s knowledge about how to repair tissues after they’ve been injured,” says Lauren Sansing, MD, Academic Chief of the Division of Stroke and Vascular Neurology. Her team is working to understand the biological signals guiding the immune response to stroke.
That knowledge can then direct the development of targeted therapeutics for the treatment of stroke that minimize early injury and enhance recovery. “We want to be able to lead research efforts that change the lives of patients around the world,” says Dr. Sansing.
Learn about these developments and more in the video above.
This week, world leaders are announcing a series of pledges to protect and sustainably use the world’s oceans. The pledges form the crowning achievement of the ‘High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy’ a multinational group formed back in 2018.
The panel has sought to bring together research, published in a number of so-called ‘blue papers’ and special reports by scientists, policy- and legal-experts from around the world – all with the ear of 14 participating world leaders.
Erna Solberg, the prime minister of Norway, co-led the Panel. In this podcast, she speaks with Springer Nature’s editor-in-chief Philip Campbell about the panel’s work.