The researchers say their findings support the idea that low biodiversity in modern living environments could lead to "uneducated" immune systems.
Making outdoor play areas greener and more biodiverse could improve children's immune systems in one month, a new study suggests.
The diversity and richness of bacteria was markedly greater in the playgrounds with forest turf.
Image: Science Advances<h3>The 'biodiversity hypothesis'</h3><p>When we are in contact with nature, we expose ourselves to a broad range of microbes, activating different parts of our defensive system, the study explains. Reduced contact with natural environments and biodiversity, however, may adversely affect the immune system – this is known as the '<a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/109/21/8334?ijkey=ed2164001f3020fde9681aeb8faaf46a4f77890b&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">biodiversity hypothesis</a>'.</p><p>The Finnish researchers say their findings support the idea that low biodiversity in modern living environments could lead to "uneducated" immune systems and an increased prevalence of immune-mediated diseases.</p><p>Previous studies have found that children who live in rural areas and who are in contact with nature have a lower probability of catching an illness resulting from disorders in the immune system, says Sinkkonen.</p><p>The number of autoimmune diseases – where the immune system attacks the body – is <a href="https://www.immunology.org/news/report-reveals-the-rising-rates-autoimmune-conditions#:~:text=For%20different%20autoimmune%20conditions%2C%20incidence,such%20as%20type%201%20diabetes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">on the rise</a> in developed nations. The conditions include type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and coeliac disease.</p>
This week, Big Think is partnering with Freethink to bring you amazing stories of the people and technologies that are shaping our future.
- What if vegetative patients are conscious? Neuroscientist Adrian Owen, author of Into The Gray Zone and a professor at Western University in Canada, is using fMRI technology to try to reach the people who may still be aware of their surroundings.
- Consciousness has traditionally been assessed by asking patients to respond to verbal commands. Through brain imaging, Dr Owen and his team were able to prove that these tests are inadequate, and it's estimated that 20 percent of vegetative patients are conscious but are physically incapable of communicating it.
- "Communication is the thing that really makes us human," says Dr. Owen. "If we can give these patients back the ability to make decisions, I think we can give them back a little piece of their humanity."
Researchers from the University of Toronto published a new map of cancer cells' genetic defenses against treatment.
A moving target<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNjQ2Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDM3OTA0N30.z4u2eaulqRu8cslqqny8t9G7iaHr_DarbDJSFKLdDwI/img.jpg?width=980" id="21b22" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aefbbccdf3bb0d25bf14268ab87a821f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="IV drip" />
Credit: Marcelo Leal/Unsplash<p>Speaking to <a href="https://www.utoronto.ca/news/u-t-researchers-identify-genes-enable-cancer-evade-immune-system" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">U of T News</a>, lead author of the study molecular geneticist <a href="http://www.moleculargenetics.utoronto.ca/faculty/2014/9/30/jason-moffat" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Jason Moffat</a> of the university's <a href="https://ccbr.utoronto.ca/donnelly-centre-cellular-and-biomolecular-research" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research</a> says, "Over the last decade, different forms of immunotherapy have emerged as really potent cancer treatments, but the reality is that they only generate durable responses in a fraction of patients and not for all tumor types."</p><p>There can be a significant degree of heterogeneity between cancer cells from human to human, and even within the same person, making the development of therapies maddeningly difficult. Attempting to address potential cancer-cell vulnerabilities across these variations is a life-or-death game of whack-a-mole.</p><p>"It's an ongoing battle between the immune system and cancer, where the immune system is trying to find and kill the cancer whereas the cancer's job is to evade that killing," says Moffat.</p>
Mapping the mechanisms<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNjQ3Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjQ1OTM0MX0.HNtivrlU9VBYxcG9JaWKvPJ5RrBsgqd8Fw6ohfSpfh0/img.jpg?width=980" id="0faa6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7687cdc5abe93503764c1c0401b65fd4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Illustration: genes (red, green, and blue spots within the nuclei of HeLa cells) artificially superimposed on images of multi-well plates.
Credit: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash<p>Moffat and his colleagues decided to investigate and identify genes within cancer cells that help them defeat treatment. Co-lead author Keith Lawson of Moffat's lab explains that "it's important to not just find genes that can regulate immune evasion in one model of cancer, but what you really want are to find those genes that you can manipulate in cancer cells across many models because those are going to make the best therapeutic targets."</p><p>To accomplish this, the researchers, working with scientists at <a href="https://www.agios.com" target="_blank">Agios Pharmaceuticals</a> in Cambridge, Massachusetts, first exposed cells from breast, colon, kidney and skin cancer tumors to T cells in lab dishes. This established a baseline of their responses to treatment. Next, using CRISPR, the scientists went through the cells, exhaustively turning off one gene at a time to determine its role in immunotherapy resistance by comparing the cells' response to the T cells compared to their original baseline response.</p><p>The team identified 182 "core cancer intrinsic immune evasion genes" that affected the cells' response to T cells. The fact that some of the identified genes were already known to be involved in resistance provided the researchers with some confidence that they were on the right track.</p><p>Still, many of the genes they ID'ed had not been previously implicated. "That was really exciting to see because it means that our dataset was very rich in new biological information," says Lawson.</p>
It's complicated<p>Unfortunately, Moffat's research also makes clear that defeating cancer-cell resistance is not as simple as removing certain genes. It's true that when the team switched off some of the genes they'd identified, the cancer cells became more vulnerable to T cells, but on the other hand, removal of some other genes made the cancer cells more resistant.</p><p>There also appear to be relationships between multiple genes that complicate matters. </p><p>The team explored the manipulation of the genes that allow cancer cells to engage in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autophagy" target="_blank">autophagy</a>, the process by which cells clear out no-longer useful materials to facilitate speedy recovery from damage. Surprisingly, when the researchers deleted certain genes responsible for cancer cells' autophagy, they found the cells' resistance to T cells increased. Apparently, removing one autophagy gene strengthened another mutated autophagy gene.</p><p>"We found this complete inversion of gene dependency," said Moffat. "We did not anticipate this at all. What it shows us is that genetic context — what mutations are present — very much dictates whether the introduction of the second mutation will cause no effect, resistance or sensitivity to therapy."</p><p>There remains a long road ahead when it comes to unraveling cancer cells' resistance to immunotherapy. However, this new study presents a new map that can help scientists navigate what comes next.</p>
The images were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and show how prolific coronavirus can become in a mere four days.
Not exactly camera shy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzg2MjU2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDcyMzY5N30.P9-pN3720tOzXNrYTybx3X7qc_7ZO8ZdF15ztj5cgXA/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="dc41e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd5152d7ead13cca82f0f19be988f538" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Another image of novel coronavirus. This one shows the virions 10 times closer than the above image.
Protect your lungs, wash those hands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9626d989ee28bca36e49da0bbbc6c064"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/deJ3nZhK8KI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>These images are a stark reminder of why COVID-19 infections can so devastate the human body. It's not only that our bodies serve as their viral birthing centers. It's that we're their all-in-one resource smorgasbord.</p><p>Because <a href="https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Virus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">viruses can't reproduce on their own</a>, they have to inject their genetic material into host cells. They incorporate their DNA or RNA into a host cell's genome, and a bouncing baby virion is born, one that often kills the host upon release. It's basically the backstory of "<a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090605/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">Aliens</a>" at a Lilliputian scale, and should viral proliferation spread too quickly, even our immune-responsive Marines can't put up a fight. If enough cells are destroyed, the harm can affect the entire host organism—which now includes us.</p><p>"These images of SARS-CoV-2 infected cultures showing ciliated cells jam-packed with viruses releasing large clumps of virus particles make a strong case for the use of masks by infected and uninfected individuals to limit SARS-CoV-2 transmission," Ehre said.</p><p>They certainly do. Warnings about coronavirus in the abstract can make the case for physical distancing, shuttered schools, and wearing stifling makes while shopping. For a while. But as we've seen, people will eventually tire of their social sacrifices. Perhaps the idea of the above horror show occurring more closely to home will spur us to keep up the fight and listen to the experts for a while longer.</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>