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Microplastic Found In Philippine Mussels—Risks Ocean Biodiversity

[bctt tweet=”Study shows that Mussels in the Philippines contain microplastic. Moreover, another study shows that microplastic consumption could affect mussels survivability. ” username=”Z6Mag”]

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Photo by Mai Moeslund on Unsplash

Green mussels or locally known as “tahong” or green mussels shells in the Philippines were tested 100% positive for microplastics. The recent findings follow with information gathered across different countries relating to global marine pollution.

The Philippine study was conducted on three samples across three different locations—two of which were tested positive for microplastics while the third set tested positive for “suspected microplastics.”

The study was conducted by Dr. Jose Isagani Janairo from the De La Salle University in coordination with the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Furthermore, the researchers conducted the experiment using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR).

“This is the first time we encounter analyzing samples with possible contamination of microplastic in the tahong or green mussels shells using FTIR,” said Dr. Araceli Monsada, director of the DOST-Advanced Materials Testing Laboratory.

Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy or FTIR is a widely used technology in detecting microplastics since fragments are too small that they are invisible to the naked eye. Other countries, such as the UK and China, also conducted studies regarding the matter.

The microplastic identified in the study were Polyethylene or PET. Janairo describes this type of plastic as a resource commonly used in making plastic bottles, textiles, and fabrics.

The discovery raises attention towards possible health risks from consuming mussels with microplastics in its system. Janairo says that it is likely that humans will digest microplastics while eating mussels.

From a different perspective, a study conducted last October 2018 where researchers gathered data on microplastics in mussels from coastal waters and supermarkets in the United Kingdom, discovered that coastal mussels sampled all contain microplastics.

Moreover, supermarket bought mussels for human consumption also all contain microplastics where 43% or 57% of debris items from coastal/supermarket mussels were microplastics. The researchers predicted consumers ingested 70 microplastic items in 100 g processed mussels.

Fortunately, the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources claim that the findings do not pose a threat to human health and remain to be safe for public consumption.

Roy Ortega chief of the BFAR Aquaculture Division urges that the recent findings on green mussels harvested in the Philippines are not something to be worried about unless there is a red tide alert.

However, microplastic levels found in mussels may not affect human health — it affects the health and survivability of the aquatic animal.

Microplastic is an emerging pollutant in marine environments. The continued human pollution in the ocean has led the filter-feeding organisms to consume plastic through tiny amounts. The problem could result in devastating impacts on ocean ecosystems, as well as a worldwide industry worth between 3 to 4 billion US dollars per year.

An article published in Science Daily tells that continued microplastic consumption by mussels affect their ability to attach themselves to their surroundings such as rocks.

The recent research, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, was led by Dr. Dannielle Green of Anglia Ruskin University and was carried out at the Portaferry Marine Laboratory in Northern Ireland.

The study found that increased microplastic consumption by mussels led to the aquatic animal to produce lesser byssal threads, which are thin fibers that help mussels attach themselves to rocks and ropes. This enables the mussels to defend itself against strong waves and tides.

Moreover, the study also noted that byssal threads functioned more than just enabling mussels to have a firm grip unto rocks. The byssal threads also help in creating extensive reefs that provide habitats for other marine animals.

Dr. Green, a senior lecturer in Biology at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “Tenacity is vital for mussels to form and maintain reefs without being dislodged by hydrodynamic forces. Our study showed that the presence of non-biodegradable microplastics reduced the number of byssal threads produced by the mussels, which likely accounts for the 50% reduction in their attachment strength.

“Byssal threads help mussels to form aggregations, increasing fertilisation success and making mussels more resistant to predation. A reduction in these byssal threads in the wild could lead to cascading impacts on biodiversity as well as reducing yields from aquaculture, as mussels are more likely to be washed away by waves or strong tides.”

“Our research also shows that even biodegradable microplastics can affect the health of mussels. Both biodegradable and non-biodegradable plastic are used in making single-use packaging, which if it becomes litter can break down into microplastics. Better recycling and an overall reduction of these materials can play an important role in helping to safeguard our marine environment.”

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Neuralink Will Allow You To Control Things With Your Mind

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Source: Neuralink

Neuralink is a 100-man team of researchers that are developing cutting-edge brain implants that will ultimately allow paralyzed patients to perform everyday tasks just by simply thinking about it.

The startup company is another project by Elon Musk, who continuously breaks the ceiling on how technology can be pushed farther. Now, he’s aiming to accomplish tasks such as typing on a computer, scroll through a smartphone, and even send emails through a sensor attached within a person’s brain.

“This is going to sound pretty weird, but ultimately, we will achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” Musk says at a news conference Tuesday night in San Francisco. “This is not a mandatory thing. It is a thing you can choose to have if you want. This is something that I think will be really important on a civilization-level scale.”

The year is literally 2077, like Microsoft’s upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 featuring Keanu Reeves, where people can now have the option to enhance their physical capabilities technologically. However, we’re not jumping into anything too complex. The idea, for now, is to help paralyzed patients be more adept in everyday life.

Furthermore, Neuralink won’t function as instantly as one would think. “All of this will occur actually quite slowly,” Musk says. “It’s not going to be like suddenly, Neuralink will have this incredible neural lace and start taking over people’s brains. It will take a long time, and you will see it coming.”

How will Neuralink allow people to control things with their mind?

The basic idea of Neuralink is by attaching sensors within a person’s brain, where they can effectively pick up brain signals compared to non-invasive devices. The sensor will then send the message that the brain signals are trying to perform over to the desired device, and voilá, the paralyzed is now casually scrolling through his or her phone’s web pages.

Primarily, the brain sensors are equipped with 3,072 electrodes per array that constantly picks up signals in the brain’s neurons and synapses. The device is called “threads,” according to Neuralink. Furthermore, the “threads” are thinner than a human hair at only one-third of which in width and are barely perceptible with the human eye.

Significantly, “threads” is a breakthrough technology because similar devices have tried to achieve similar results. However, others are far larger compared in size and diameter—requiring more invasive procedures to implant in the brain. As a result, most of these devices are prone to causing more detrimental side effects in a person’s brain function, which made it achieve little success in the past.

Additionally, another key factor that allowed Neuralink to achieve its success is the development of their robotic arm that provides the extreme precision and care needed to implant this extremely small device.

Particularly, the robot is about the size of a barbecue grill, and it uses high-end optics to drill 8mm holes in the skull and then place the wires precisely. 

The lenses and computer vision software help the robot avoid hitting blood vessels, reducing damage to the brain and formation of scar tissue. “Because these things are so thin and flexible, the idea is that they move with the tissue instead of tearing the tissue,” says Neuralink researcher Philip Sabes.

When will Neuralink be available for public use?

As of the moment, the device Neuralink has created only been found effective in mice and even primate subjects. In a research paper released on Tuesday evening, Neuralink said it has performed at least 19 surgeries on animals with its robots, and successfully placed the “threads” about 87% of the time.

In the experiment, the test rat was able to move around a large rectangular plastic cage filled with wood shavings and Parmesan cheese. “We definitely need to address the monkey in the room,” Musk says. “This is a sensitive subject. A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain.”

Sabes says the amount of data being gathered from the rat was about ten times greater than what today’s most powerful sensors can collect.

However, Neuralink’s scientists told The New York Times in a briefing on Monday that the company still has a “long way to go” before it can get anywhere near offering commercial service, but as early as now, Neuralink is trying to secure approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in order to allow them to conduct human clinical trials as early as next year.

“We will painlessly laser-drill the holes into the skull, place the threads, plug the hole with the sensor, and then you go home,” Max Hodak, the President and co-founder of Neuralink say. “It’ll basically be an experience like getting Lasik.”

Shortly, the company is eyeing for the technology to help not only the paralyzed but also amputees by attaching the sensor receiver to prosthetics, or it could be used to treat epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and even provide “rich visual feedback to the blind.” They also went as far as to be able to insert new languages into the brain, but then again, the technology is still has a long way to go.

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India Chandrayaan-2 Postponed Due To Technical Difficulties

India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission delayed but its historic first landing on the moon will still push through but at a different date

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Chandrayaan-2 | ISRO | Twitter

India was set to perform the first step toward its historic first moon landing with it its launch of the Chandrayaan-2 today. However, the move was otherwise postponed due to technical difficulties.

Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to launch at 02:51 local time on Monday (21:21 GMT Sunday) from Sriharikota space station in India’s eastern coast. The launch was stopped minutes at 56:24, only 36 minutes away.

“A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at T-56 minute. As a measure of abundant precaution, #Chandrayaan2 launch has been called off for today,” the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said in a tweet momentarily after media was blocked.

Furthermore, the agency told that the delay was due to an abundance of precaution. ISRO Chief, K Sivan, said this was “the most complex space mission ever to be undertaken by the agency.”

Although a new launch date is set to be announced soon, the 10-minute backup window on Tuesday would seem most likely for the ISRO to opt for the Chandrayaan-2.

So far, India’s Chandrayaan-2 is touted to be the country’s most ambitious space mission to date with its goal of making a soft landing on the moon along with a lander and orbiter aboard its most powerful rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-III), which weighs 640 tonnes and stands at 44 meters (144ft).

To achieve such goal, India has devised its hardware and technology that would allow them to explore the moon’s hardly-explored south pole. This serves as an interesting location for space exploration since it was theorized that the craters on that side of the moon are permanently shadowed, which could hold water ice — a vital resource for future space exploration.

Through a team of nearly 1,000 engineers and scientists, the team developed their lander, orbiter, and rover aside from its powerful GSLV Mk-III launcher — a task that the United States is currently developing.

Initially, the ISRO plans to get the Chandrayaan-2 into the moon’s orbit by September by which it will deploy its lander called Vikram, named after Dr. Vikram Sarabhai who was considered as the Father of the Indian space program. Vikram is also designed to function for one lunar day.

After then, it will make a soft landing of its rover, which a 27 kilogram, six-wheeled robotic vehicle named Pragyan that can travel up to 500 meters and leverages solar energy for its functioning.

There will also be the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter that will be able to communicate with the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu, Karnataka as well as the lander Vikram. The mission life of the Orbiter is one year, and it will be placed in a 100X100 km lunar polar orbit.

Overall, the mission costs about $150 million to complete, which is largely encouraged by the first lunar mission by the ISRO back in 2008 with the Chandrayaan-1.

Though the Chandrayaan-1 did not make a lunar landing, it was able to provide one of the most in-depth probes on the existence of water on the moon’s surface and a first using radars.

If successful, India will join the other three countries who achieved the feat, including the United States, Russia, and China. Furthermore, aside from national pride and achieving a new milestone for the ISRO, successfully completing the unmanned mission will allow the agency for manned flights as early as 2022.

Interestingly and historically, the Chandrayaan-2 is led by women namely Vanitha Muthayya, head of the mission as Project Director, and Ritu Karidhal as the mission director. 

Specifically, both women have proved their capabilities in the past. Vanitha has worked with the Chandrayaan-1 with her data-handling expertise and has effective managerial skills. This time, she is overseeing the mission from start to finish. While Karidhal has worked with India’s Mars Orbital Mission in 2013 and will now oversee the spacecraft’s insertion into the lunar orbit.

On the other hand, it is quite interesting since India continues to be a very sexist country whereas they are known to have very misogynist culture. “Women power is powering India’s Moon ambitions,” Dr. Sivan said, adding that at Isro, “women and men are all equal. Only talent matters – not the gender.”

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FDA Says That Grain Free Dog Food Linked To Heart Disease

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Photo by Mike Burke on Unsplash

The US Food and Drug Administration recently published a statement that they are looking into particular dog food formulations responsible for potential heart failure in dogs. Furthermore, the report indicated specific brands that reflected the frequency of heart failure.

Although the FDA has been looking into dog food labeled as “grain free” since 2018, the most recent June 2019 statement is the first time that the agency has specified brands that appear to be linked more than others with canine dilated cardiomyopathy.

Reports gathered between January 2014 and April 2019 totaled to 515 reported cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy. Among the 515, there are 222 proclaimed cases between December 2018 and April 2019.

Notably, the FDA is looking at the connection between the significant presence of grain-free diets amongst those with dogs who experienced fatal heart disease.

“As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump, and heart valves may leak, leading to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen,” the FDA describes.

Furthermore, DCM is recognized as a genetic condition in dogs, typically in large or giant breeds, such as the Doberman pinscher, Great Dane, and the Irish wolfhound. But many of the reported cases were of breeds not previously known to be genetically disposed to the disease, the FDA said.

In particular, the condition started to manifest on much smaller breeds who required less work from the heart—another factor that led the FDA into conducting its research on the grain-free diet.

Grain free dog foods contain a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds (pulses), and/or potatoes in various forms (whole, flour, protein, etc.) as primary ingredients.

According to the FDA, there were 16 significant grain free dog food brands linked to DCM in dogs. These brands are ordered by the number of cases linked to them, ranging from highest (67) to lowest (10).

16 Grain Free Dog Food brands linked to DCM cases:

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4Health
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Merrick
  • California Natural
  • Natural Balance
  • Orijen
  • Nature’s Variety
  • NutriSource
  • Nutro
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

The FDA received an additional 13 other brands that link to DCM in dogs but were deemed “not significant” since reported cases are low compared to the ones mentioned above.

Furthermore, most of the reports were associated with dry dog food formulations. However, it also includes raw food, semi-moist food, and wet food.

In light of the recent report, the FDA noted that their findings are only “based on reports that included brand information and that some reports named multiple brands” and that the agency needs to conduct more research on the connection between the grain-free diet and dogs’ susceptibility to the potentially fatal heart disease.

“We’re not saying don’t use these brands; we’re just telling pet owners to work directly with their veterinarians because we’re still investigating,” Lindsay Haake, an FDA spokesperson said.

However, ahead of the FDA’s report, some vets have already expressed their sentiment against grain free dog foods.

Knowing there had been studies showing that diet could play a role in the development of heart disease in dogs, Dr. Anna Gelzer, a veterinary cardiologist and an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine states that they’re “making investigations into what each owner was feeding,” via NBC News.

Currently, uncertain reasons are leading to explain why grain free dog food became a trend. Some say that it’s because pet owners believe that it’s a healthier version to feed their furry pets. Gelzer debunked this claim and said that “there’s no scientific reason for going without grain.”

“They are trying to do what they perceive as the right thing for their dogs unless the dog has a documented sensitivity to grains, it’s probably not worth the risk at this point to feed these products,” said Dr. Bruce Kornreich. Kornreich is a veterinary cardiologist in the department of clinical sciences at the Veterinary College of Cornell University and associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center.

“What we don’t know is if [the foods] used in these diets in place of grains are causing the problem,” adds Kornreich. “It’s also possible that could be some kind of toxin.”

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