Are intestinal bugs bad news for multiple sclerosis patients, a look at one of the animal kingdom’s most distinctive features and why Selena Gomez might have been at high risk for lupus. 

Gut microbes could help trigger multiple sclerosis

(Science Magazine, 9/11/2017, Giorgia Guglielmi)

Multiple sclerosis affects 2.5 million people worldwide, but little is known about what causes the disease, which progressively disrupts information flow from and within the brain. Two new studies have added MS to the growing list of diseases that are affected by our gut microbiome. The studies suggest how our gut microbes make the immune system turn against nerve cells—a finding that could lead to treatments, like drugs based on microbial byproducts, that might improve the course of the disease. Researchers are trying to understand how these bacteria affect the immune system.

Giraffes could have evolved long necks to keep cool

(Nature, 9/12/2017)

The long neck of a giraffe is amazing. Charles Darwin’s theory is that the giraffe evolved its long neck to reach and eat higher leaves. But it’s not certain, and other possible origins for one of the animal kingdom’s most distinctive features are still a topic of debate among zoologists and evolutionary biologists alike. Scientists now argue, that giraffe’s can point their heads and necks towards the Sun, exposing less of their skin and making it easier for them to keep cool and survive the hot, dry conditions they often endure. That leads us to thermoregulation. Originally, the suggestion was that long necks (and legs) significantly tilted the balance between volume and surface area that determines how quickly animals (and other bodies) gain and lose heat. In a recent study, scientists have measured the surface area of giraffes to see how their body reacts to the Sun and keeping cool.

Young, minority women disproportionately affected by lupus

(Washington Post, 9/14/2017, Ariana Eunjung Cha)

Selena Gomez is young, beautiful and talented. She shocked her 126 million Instagram followers this week by revealing that she had disappeared from the public eye this summer because she was getting a kidney transplant  because of lupus. The disease in which the body’s immune system turns against itself, strikes women of child-bearing age at the highest rates. Those who are minorities are especially vulnerable. Only about 10 percent of white women with lupus progress to kidney failure; about 20 to 40 percent of African American or Hispanic women do so. Some of the most important research on lupus going on right now involves early identification of people who may develop lupus before they have full-blown symptoms. The National Institutes of Health is funding a study that looks at people with a certain blood-based indicator and one or two symptoms that suggest lupus. Some of those people will progress to the disease and some will not, and the goal is to try to figure out the difference between the two groups.

 

—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola