A large-scale study from King's College London explores the link between genetics and sun-seeking behaviors.
- There are a number of physical and mental health benefits to sun exposure, such as boosted vitamin D and serotonin levels and stronger bones.
- Addictions are multi-step conditions that, by definition, require exposure to the addictive agent and have also been proven to have a genetic factor. Countless people are exposed to addictive things, but not all become addicted. This is because of the genetic component of addiction.
- This large-scale study explores the link between sun-seeking behaviors and the genetic markers for addiction.
The benefits of sunlight<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyMjI1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzk0NDUxNH0.lbYbZidJkNXPUcWM6m8cucuzAFOANkqPaIVfJdqkJ4Q/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="d5fcd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f44fcc9a31393c8102803eb50d01a19a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="woman sitting on dock in the sunlight" />
The mental and physical health benefits of sunlight have been heavily researched.
Credit: eldar nurkovic on Shutterstock<p>The benefits of sunlight have been widely discussed for many years. In fact, there are a number of physical and mental health benefits to sun exposure.</p><p><strong>Sunshine (and the lack of) impacts your hormone levels. </strong></p><p>Sunlight (and alternatively, the lack of sunlight) triggers the release of certain hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase serotonin, which is associated with boosting your mood and helping you feel calm and focused. </p><p>Alternatively, dark lighting triggers melatonin, a hormone that is helpful in allowing you to rest and fall asleep. Without enough sunlight, your serotonin levels can dip - and low serotonin levels have been associated with a higher risk of major depression with seasonal pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder).</p><p><strong>Sunlight can build strong bones. </strong></p><p>Exposure to the ultraviolet-B radiation in the sun's rays can interact with your skin, causing it to create vitamin D. <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to NHS</a>, vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities or bone pain. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2008 study</a> has shown that even 30 minutes in sunlight (while wearing a bathing suit) can boost vitamin D levels. </p><p><strong>Can sunlight actually prevent cancer? </strong></p><p>Although heavy exposure to sunlight has been proven to contribute to certain skin cancers, a moderate amount of sunlight has actually been shown to have preventative benefits.</p><p><a href="https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/3/5/1548.full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to a 2008 study</a> from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, those who live in areas with fewer daylight hours are more likely to have some specific cancers (including but not limited to colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer) than those who live in areas with increased daylight hours.</p><p><strong>Additionally, sunlight has been shown to help people with skin conditions such as psoriasis. </strong></p><p><a href="http://www.who.int/uv/faq/uvhealtfac/en/index1.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to the World Health Organization</a>, sun exposure may also be able to help treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, jaundice, and acne. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight#benefits" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Some research</a> has also indicated the sun benefits people who struggle with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus, and inflammatory bowel disease. </p>
Can you be addicted to the sun?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyMjI1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzE5NTMwOX0.pHOWSr3FcIndYkBAVND1UsD8AheTQmxsePKRi3XvYTw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=31%2C0%2C32%2C0&height=700" id="93c87" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="384e08fdcd535ed2b792eef419af9e2c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="hands holding up the sun" />
The large-scale study examines the link between addiction and sunlight, with some surprising results...
Credit: KieferPix on Shutterstock<p>Addictions are multi-step conditions that, by definition, require exposure to the addictive agent. Due to the increase of serotonin (a chemical in the human body <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin" target="_blank">that has been proven</a> to help reduce depression, regulate anxiety, and maintain bone health), it's natural that being exposed to prolonged periods of sunlight could become somewhat addictive to the human body and mind. We crave things that make us feel good, and sometimes those cravings become something we depend on. This is the very nature of addiction.</p><p>Countless people are exposed to addictive things (substances, medications, and yes, even the sun), but not all become addicted. This is because of the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3506170/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">genetic component of addiction</a>. </p><p>A large-scale study from King's College in London examines more than 260,000 people to better understand how sun-seeking behavior in humans can be linked to genes involving addiction, behavior traits, and brain function. </p><p><strong>The study included two phases:</strong></p><p>Phase one suggested genetics play a role in sun-seeking behaviors and phase 2 helped pinpoint what those genetic markers are.</p><p>Phase 1: The researchers studied the detailed health information of 2,500 twins, including their sun-seeking behavior and their genetics. Identical twins in a pair were more likely to have similar sun-seeking behavior than non-identical twins, indicating that genetics plays a role here. </p><p>Phase 2: The team of researchers then were able to identify five key gene markers involved in this sun-seeking behavior from further analysis of 260,000 participants. Some of the genes indicated have been linked to behaviors traits that are associated with risk-taking and addiction (including smoking and alcohol consumption).</p><p><strong>What does this study really prove? </strong></p><p>Some may think it's natural to become addicted to something that makes you feel good. The physical and mental health benefits of the outdoors have been heavily studied...so what does this study really mean? </p><p>First and foremost, it means more research needs to be done to examine the link between human conditions and exposure to sunlight. Senior author Dr. Mario Falchi explains to the <a href="https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/addicted-to-the-sun-its-in-your-genes" target="_blank">King's College London News Center</a>: "Our results suggest that tackling excessive sun exposure or use of tanning beds might be more challenging than expected, as it is influenced by genetic factors. It is important for the public to be aware of this predisposition, as it could make people more mindful of their behavior and the potential harms of excessive sun exposure."</p><p>Additionally, it could mean alternative treatments, and further research needs to be conducted in terms of how we treat certain conditions that are caused or heavily influenced by human exposure to sunlight. </p>
Despite Boseman's young age, this cancer is increasingly common in people under 50.
- Though Chadwick Boseman was only 43, rates of cancer in people under 50 have been increasing since 2006.
- African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to get this cancer and 40 percent more likely to die from it than other racial groups.
- Preventive measure include better diet, exercise, regular screenings, and a reduction in smoking and drinking.
What is Colorectal Cancer?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="42f9d31fe776910c0e2b852fe7f9e89f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fW4Y_poPPxg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><h3>Signs and symptoms</h3><ul><li>An increase in diarrhea or constipation</li><li>Changes in the consistency of stool </li><li>Rectal bleeding</li><li>Constant abdominal discomfort</li><li>Feeling that your bowel never completely empties</li><li>Fatigue or extreme tiredness</li><li>Unexplainable weight loss</li></ul><h3>Risk Factors </h3><ul><li>Old age</li><li>Being African-American</li><li>Having a personal history of polyps or colon cancer</li><li>Inflammatory intestinal conditions</li><li>Inherited syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome</li><li>Family history of colorectal cancer</li><li>Radiation therapy during other cancer treatments</li><li>A diet low in fiber and high in fat, aka the "Western diet" </li><li>Increased risk from eating red meat and processed meats</li><li>Sedentary lifestyle</li><li>Diabetes</li><li>Obesity</li><li>Smoking</li><li>Alcohol</li></ul><h3>Interventions</h3><ul><li>A varied diet with lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains</li><li>Moderate to no alcohol use </li><li>Stop smoking</li><li>Regular exercise</li><li>Maintain a healthy body weight</li><li><a href="https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/acs-recommendations.html" target="_blank">Regular screenings</a> after the age of 45</li></ul>
Actor Chadwick Boseman attends the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards at Barker Hangar on June 16, 2018 in Santa Monica, California.
Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV<h3>Survivor Stories</h3><p>Sara Stewart is a <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/02/health/colon-cancer-seriousness-awareness-wellness/index.html" target="_blank">survivor</a> of stage III colon cancer. While all cancers are terrible, she says people are especially unlikely to discuss colon cancer—and that needs to change. Colorectal cancers are predicted to increase by 90 percent by 2030. She advises broader discussions on this topic, an especially important point as she didn't take her own symptoms seriously for two years. Her gastroenterologist discovered a sizable tumor after she finally agreed to a colonoscopy. </p><p>Incredibly, a connection in Hollywood helped her change her perspective on cancer. This connection never told anyone about her own struggle with colon cancer because "she would be blackballed from jobs, written off as unreliable and sickly, even though she continued to work long hours around her treatments." In fact, she lost a big job after someone discovered her cancer. Stewart continues, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Is it any wonder that Boseman, with his meteoric rise to fame and the responsibility of being one of the preeminent faces of Black empowerment in Hollywood and beyond, didn't share his diagnosis publicly?"</p><p>Fabian Alsultany has worked in the music industry for over a quarter-century, and he did not remain quiet about his struggle with colon cancer 2B—a tumor perforated his colon. A surgery to remove the tumor (and cut out inches of his colon) and six months of chemotherapy <a href="https://riseupeight.org/how-to-succeed-in-music-overcoming-cancer/" target="_blank">left him exhausted</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"My reality was existing in a two-week cycle of death and rebirth. I experienced every side effect in the book: extreme nausea, neuropathy, dizziness, loss of appetite, hair loss, inability to hold any food in…you get the point: it was miserable. I was fortunate to have my family and friends around me through it all."</p><p>Fortunately, Alsultany was able to confide in those around him. He also documented his cancer journey through <a href="http://alsultany32.blogspot.com/" target="_blank">his blog</a>. While he's an outspoken advocate for discussing cancer, not everyone feels safe in this regard. </p><p>Social connections are especially important when struggling with cancer. Hopefully, the ridiculous stigma around cancer, as evidenced in Stewart's writing above, will end with Boseman's death. We need to have these conversations without fear of retribution, and our health care system must make screenings affordable and available to everyone. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
New research shows that neurons in autistic brains begin to developmentally diverge in early prenatal stages.
- Autism is known to emerge during prenatal development, but it can't be diagnosed until a child is at least 12 months old.
- A new study observed the differences between autistic and control nerve cells as they grew in vitro.
- Researchers found that developmental divergence in autistic neurons occurs early in prenatal neurodevelopment.
Watching young neurons grow<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU4OTIwMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjQ3MzUxNX0.jsrKxkbhXM__nrBuPFUIXkOZIxOKm1BuYrjkUob8HhQ/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=57%2C0%2C55%2C0&height=700" id="3f6d4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3957b54c4b6205cf0989eab3ea2ac644" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A side-by-side comparison of neural rosette formation in developing autistic and control neurons.
Not for a cure but acuity<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d02f675d1c4231c04990aea1362fbcdc"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yX1a1pKkbgU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Could this research lead to a cure for autism? No, and that's not its purpose. In fact, the very wording of that question is misleading as autism isn't a disease. Autistic people aren't sick. Their brains have simply developed uniquely, leading them to think and see the world through a mental lens that is their own.</p><p>As Simon Baron-Cohen, study co-lead and director of Autism Research Centre at Cambridge, said in the same release: "Some people may be worried that basic research into differences in the autistic and typical brain prenatally may be intended to 'prevent,' 'eradicate,' or 'cure' autism. This is not our motivation, and we are outspoken in our values in standing up against eugenics and in valuing neurodiversity. Such studies will lead to a better understanding of brain development in both autistic and typical individuals."</p><p>Future studies in this area may lead to improved diagnostic techniques. This may help families find the resources and support they need to put kids on the path to a healthy, happy life earlier. And the more we know, the more knowledge we have at our disposal to counter disinformation, limiting the spread of the fears and misunderstandings that surrounds autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions.</p>
On the list of animals at risk are several endangered species.
- SARS-CoV-2 enters our cells by binding with ACE2 receptors.
- A study finds many animals may provide a similar point of entry for the infection.
- COVID-19 has already been seen in a range of non-humans.
ACE2<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU4MTgwMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMTI3NDU4NH0.BceDb6l6wcwImHgniUPCNX_F5NeJ8vSsrAWNH7DG-x0/img.jpg?width=980" id="2fb6e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="77a7d2b0d83cfc72479f2b9089e512ac" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="3D illustration of SARS-CoV-2 binding with ACE2 receptors" />
3D illustration of SARS-CoV-2 binding with ACE2 receptors
Image source: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock<p>SARS-CoV-2's main point of entry into our systems, its main cellular receptor, is an angiotensin converting enzyme-2 known as ACE2. There are many types of cells and tissues in humans that contain ACE2, including the epithelial cells found in the mouth, nose, and lungs. SARS-CoV-2 binds to 25 ACE2 amino acids to get into our cells.</p><p>The researchers investigated the presence of these amino acids in other organisms on the assumption that their presence would provide SARS-CoV-2 entry to their cells as they do in ours. Says first author of the study <a href="https://www.ucdavis.edu/person/articles/27275" target="_blank">Joana Dama</a> of UC Davis, "Animals with all 25 amino acid residues matching the human protein are predicted to be at the highest risk for contracting SARS-CoV-2 via ACE2."</p><p>The precise mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 infections occur and lead to COVID-19 is still under exploration. Nonetheless, the study operates on the principle that more of the 25 amino acids an animal has, the higher its risk of infection. "The risk is predicted to decrease the more the species' ACE2 binding residues differ from humans," says Dama.</p>
Which species are at risk?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU4MTgwMi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzA5ODY4Nn0.oZHKdhpvHJjihgp2R3E23hMotY-yazjh0vCw5S_L2F8/img.png?width=980" id="3130d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8edb6a4f609576554b9067ee019ab08b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="species risk chart" />
Image source: Matt Verdolivo/UC Davis<p>Their analysis leads Dama and her co-authors to the conclusion that about 40 percent of the species at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's <a href="https://www.iucn.org/resources/conservation-tools/iucn-red-list-threatened-species" target="_blank">"threatened" list</a>.</p><p>Sumatran orangutans, Northern white-cheeked gibbons, and the Western lowland gorillas are all critically endangered and are vulnerable to infection. Some marine animals are also at high risk, including bottlenose dolphins and gray whales.</p><p><span></span>The study asserts that many animals most likely to live among humans are apparently at low risk, including cats, dogs, cattle, sheep, horses, and pigs. Chinese hamsters carry a high risk.</p><p>It's worth noting, however, that there <em>are</em> cases on record of SARS-CoV-2 infections in <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/05/13/cats-can-catch-covid-19-from-one-another-study-finds-the-question-is-can-we/" target="_blank">cats</a> and <a href="https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/stakeholder-info/sa_by_date/sa-2020/sa-06/sars-cov-2-dog" target="_blank">dogs</a>. <a href="https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa325/5811871" target="_blank">Hamsters</a>, too. Less likely house pets like <a href="https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/news/sa_by_date/sa-2020/ny-zoo-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">lions, tigers</a>, and <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/06/25/882095588/dutch-minks-contract-covid-19-and-appear-to-infect-humans" target="_blank">mink</a> have also been infected.</p><p>Bats, the presumed <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2012-7" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">source of SARS-CoV-2</a>, are found by the study to be at very low risk of infection due to a lack of ACE2 receptors. Other experimental data lines up with the study's finding, which suggests that spread of SARS-CoV-2 from bats is likely to have involved intermediate hosts en route to infecting humans.</p><p>The authors have made available for <a href="https://www.pnas.org/highwire/filestream/945399/field_highwire_adjunct_files/1/pnas.2010146117.sd01.xlsx" target="_blank">download</a> the full list of animals its authors find may be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection.</p>
Animal exposure to SARS-CoV-2<p>Lead author Harris Lewin explains the importance of the research:</p><p>"The data provide an important starting point for identifying vulnerable and threatened animal populations at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. We hope it inspires practices that protect both animal and human health during the pandemic."</p><p>The study finds the same 40 percent of animals may also be especially likely to encounter the infection through human contact. The main locus of such interaction cited by the study is zoos. (Both the <a href="https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/news/covid-19-update" target="_blank">National Zoo</a> and the <a href="https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/videos?playlistVideoId=6151893073001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">San Diego Zoo</a> contributed genetic material to the researchers for the study.)</p><p>Co-author Klaus-Peter Koepfli of the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation explains that zoo personnel already guard against such transmissions, saying, "Zoonotic diseases and how to prevent human to animal transmission is not a new challenge to zoos and animal care professionals." The study makes keeping animals and humans apart at zoos more urgent than ever, though, and "this new information allows us to focus our efforts and plan accordingly to keep animals and humans safe."</p>
DNA molecules are highly programmable.
By folding DNA into a virus-like structure, MIT researchers have designed HIV-like particles that provoke a strong immune response from human immune cells grown in a lab dish. Such particles might eventually be used as an HIV vaccine.