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When the Wolves Came …

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Ever since the resettlement of roughly 30 wolves into Yellowstone National Park more than 20 years ago, the park’s ecosystems have changed more dramatically than previously anticipated.

Whereas previously moose had been the predominant herbivores, their population has since declined, leaving room for other animals, such as bison, to thrive. The resulting changes in foraging and feeding behavior displayed by these species have influenced the vegetation in the National Park on a large scale: the populations of willow, poplar and aspen in particular were able to recover substantially. “We would have never seen these responses if the park hadn’t followed an ecological-process management paradigm allowing natural ecological processes to take place with minimal human intervention,” says Professor Mark Boyce, ecologist and study author from the University of Alberta in Canada, in a statement. He notes that these results might not necessarily be repeated in other systems, namely due to the influence of humans.

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16.000

16.000 genes of pregnant women were compared between the early and the late stages of pregnancy. According to this American study, more than 400 genes displayed altered activity. The results could help detect abnormal genetic changes and thus identify high-risk pregnancies.

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The Nicotine Fallout Transmissible through Sperm

Nicotine’s negative impact on offspring is not limited to uterine transmission during pregnancy and passive smoke inhalation. According to a study conducted at Florida State University, paternal sperm also plays a role. For example, the offspring of male mice that had previously been exposed to nicotine over a period of three months displayed abnormal behaviors such as hyperactivity and learning difficulties across multiple generations. It is unclear at this time to what extent these results may be applied to humans, as the nicotine dose to which the mice were exposed was extraordinarily high.

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Breathe in, Breathe out – Detecting Cancer

Detecting cancer early and as accurately as possible forms the basis of any successful therapy. British researchers are currently working on bringing a novel breath-biopsy technology to market. Their idea has matured to the point that a large clinical trial is now possible. To this end, breath samples will be taken from 1,500 patients diagnosed with different types of cancer and analyzed.The idea is not entirely new, but the researchers at Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre and Owlstone Medical are pursuing a different approach: they aim to identify molecules called “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) that are linked to the presence of certain tumor types and which can be detected in the exhaled breath of patients. Preliminary results are expected in 2021.

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