Composition of the cutaneous microbiome can be artificially modulated according to a new study

The composition of the skin’s microbiome can be artificially and temporarily modulated according to a research group at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. The study study published on Microbiome shows that the use of probiotic mixtures carefully constructed in the laboratory on the skin can change, only temporarily, the composition and quantity of skin bacteria.

Such a discovery could be highly useful in the context of various epidermal therapies or even in the cosmetics sector. The microbial skin community is in fact one of the richest and most complex of all the bacterial communities that exist in our body, the so-called “microbiomes.”

The composition of skin bacteria, unlike other microbiomes of other areas of the body, remains however quite stable and the microorganisms, in terms of variability and quantity, are more or less always the same throughout life. Of course, there are various pathologies that can alter this balance, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and so on. Therefore, manipulating this microbiome could prove to be a very interesting strategy to combat these diseases.

Researchers are particularly interested in Cutibacterium acnes, a bacterium of the human cutaneous microbiome seen as one of the main culprits of acne vulgaris.

The researchers, led by Marc Güell of the Spanish University’s Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, are attempting to modulate the populations of this bacterium at the strain level.

To do this they used probiotic solutions made with donor microbiomes and applied them to 18 healthy volunteers aged between 22 and 42 years.

Researchers noted that after application the recipient’s microbiome became much more similar to that of the donor but this change had no adverse effects especially since the recipient’s microbiome returned to its original state after a few weeks.

“We expect this methodology to be used to study and modify the microbial components of the skin and have broad implications for future therapies,” says Güell, convinced that this method can be an effective contrast weapon.

Indian elephants form groups of only males to survive

An article in Scientific Reports describes an unusual behavior implemented by Asian elephants. According to the researchers, young specimens living in India tend to form ever-larger groups made up of males only, something that would increase their chance of survival.

Researchers, who have analyzed various elephant communities in India, have discovered that they perform this behavior in response to increasingly difficult conditions in this region. The elephants of south-east Asia, especially those in India, must in fact face more and more the attempts of killing carried out by humans, due to poaching or to people who intend to exploit a piece of land for cultivation or to cases that see animals invade inhabited areas.

To respond to these increasingly dangerous living conditions and to a habitat that is becoming ever smaller, male elephants have adapted their behavior by forming groups of males, the only ones that seem to move away from the areas most sheltered differently from the females and the smaller ones, which evidently remain safe.

The study was carried out when several reports of large groups of adult male elephants were carried out in various areas of India.

The researchers found that the more dangerous an area is for a young male elephant, the more these groups, real elephant bands, become large.

This means that groups of elephants in inhabited areas, which are forming due to a necessity attributable to the same survival, are becoming increasingly larger and this also poses a danger to the inhabitants themselves.

New super-hard and incompressible conductive material created

In a new study presented in Nature Communications a new, previously unknown material, rhenium nitride pernitride is described. According to researchers from the University of Bayreuth who developed it, this new material could prove very useful for technological applications.

It is, in fact, a super-hard metal conductor that the researchers were able to achieve by exploiting properties previously considered to be incompatible. The new material can withstand very high pressures so that it can be compared to a diamond.

This metallically conductive, super-hard and ultra-incompressible material was considered as impossible to realize because it is property, the ones that distinguish it, considered improbable if they must exist simultaneously in the same material. However, this new study shows that it was a misconception.

“We were able to do something that, according to previous forecasts, should not have been possible, stimulating and encouraging further theoretical and experimental work in the field of high-pressure material synthesis,” explains Leonid Dubrovinsky, one of the researchers involved in the work together with Natalia Dubrovinskaia.

Scientists discover that longer telomeres denote better health

A discovery concerning telomeres, sections of DNA found in the final part of the chromosome, was carried out by a research group from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, a pediatric research institute in Melbourne.

By analyzing the DNA of 1800 children and their parents from various parts of Australia, the researchers, led by John Nguyen, have discovered that longer and larger telomeres turn out to be healthier than the shorter or “frayed” ones. Less healthy telomeres are in turn a characteristic sign of aging and diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

This is because these small sections of chromosome become a little smaller each time there is a cell division: the more time passes, the shorter they become.

To understand the concept, Nguyen brings up the shoelaces: the telomeres themselves can be compared to those hard plastic ends located at the end of the laces. If this end breaks, frays or otherwise gets damaged, the laces themselves begin to fray, failing in their functions.

The length of telomeres, according to Nguyen, is partly due to genetics but can also be influenced by environmental factors. However, other studies will have to be carried out to understand “the complex inheritance patterns of telomere length and the link between telomere shortening and disease.”

Researchers discover gene linked to schizophrenia

Two teams of researchers, one from the University of Queensland, Australia and one composed of Indian researchers, identified a gene, called NAPRT1, which is linked to schizophrenia. The study considered more than 3,000 Indian people, mostly belonging to ethnic descendants of European descent, whose genomes were analyzed.

Researchers have discovered more likely schizophrenia in people with a certain genetic variant. They identified the NAPRT1 gene, which encodes a particular enzyme that is responsible for the production of vitamin B3. By conducting experiments on zebrafish, and eliminating the NAPRT1 gene in the latter, the researchers noted that the development of the fish brain was compromised.

Specifically, the zebrafish brain could not symmetrically divide, as specified by Bryan Mowry of the Queensland Brain Institute, one of the authors of the study. Among other things, this would explain, according to the same researcher, why studies showed, in people with schizophrenia, defects in the corpus callosum, or the conjunction between the left and right sides of the brain in humans.

This study can help, according to Mowry, to clarify those causes that can lead or determine the state of schizophrenia and everything that makes people susceptible to this disease: “Now there are a multitude of genetic variants related to schizophrenia, but not we still know what the hundreds of genes involved are,” says Mowry, suggesting that many other studies will have to be carried out to fully understand the relationships between genes and schizophrenia.

Degradable and recyclable bioplastic produced from food waste

There are many laboratories in the world that are trying to produce increasingly efficient bioplastics but few of them are trying to use the waste to find the basic “ingredients.”

Producing, for example, economically efficient bioplastics using food waste would, as they say, kill two birds with one stone.

This is precisely what some researchers at the University of Canterbury are trying to do, who have created a new type of catalytic conversion to transform food waste into valuable chemical components that can then be used to produce bioplastics.

In collaboration with the Hong Kong Polytechnic, Alex Yip is planning a new catalyst to achieve precisely this goal and the result he has achieved, at least for now, has been to demonstrate that the concept is feasible.

Specifically, the researcher, together with his team, succeeded in extracting three key chemical components, including polylactic acid and 5-HMF, an organic compound, which allows the creation of sustainable bioplastics with various properties similar to plastic.

This new bioplastic would be 100% recyclable or completely biodegradable. It could be used mainly for packaging and food containers.

There are hundreds of cases of sharks and fish caught in plastic

New research by scientists at the University of Exeter shows that there are hundreds of sharks and other marine animals including the breeds that have to withstand waste, often plastic, that get stuck in their bodies.

For example, the study considered the case of a mako shark found with a fishing rope wrapped tightly around its back. In this case, the shark had continued to grow and this had caused the rope to dig into his skin damaging its spine.

This waste, which can get caught in the body of fish, especially the larger ones, can cause pain, suffering and even the death of the animal, as noted by Kristian Parton, of the Center for Ecology and Conservation of Exeter, one of the authors of the study.

By reviewing various academic articles and reports on Twitter, the researchers found more than 600 cases of sharks and rays caught in plastic, very often fishing nets, in all the oceans of the world, from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the Indian Ocean.

Most of the objects that ended up entangled in the body of the fish consisted of phantom fishing gear, especially nets. There was no lack of other types of waste such as tire pieces, packaging waste or polyethylene bags.

The study was published in Endangered Species Research.