Does excessive salt in your diet harm your autoimmune system? There is some evidence that it might;
Salt may play an important role in autoimmune diseases, according to two new papers published today (March 6) in Nature. Exposure to high levels of salt was found to make both cultured mouse and human T cells more pathogenic, and high-salt diets worsened autoimmune disease in mice.
“I thought the papers were very exciting and provocative,” said John O’Shea, a doctor at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), who wrote a Nature commentary accompanying the new findings and was not involved in the study.
Meanwhile, David Hafler’s lab at Yale University was coming to similar conclusions from the opposite direction. The group had completed a study where they measured TH17 cells in the blood of healthy human subjects, sequenced the people’s microbiomes, and had them fill out questionnaires about their diets. While the study was supposed to be focused on the influence of the microbiome, the researchers noticed that participants who frequently ate in fast food restaurants had elevated levels of pathogenic TH17 cells. They hypothesized that the saltiness of the food could be part of the explanation.
“That led to a whole series of experiments trying to figure out the role of salt,” Hafler said. Unlike Regev and Kuchroo’s labs, which looked at TH17 differentiation in mouse cells, Hafler’s lab added salt to human cell cultures. They also found that it was associated with more pathogenic TH17 cells. “Salt just seems to trigger all the genes associated with bad autoimmune T cells,” Hafler said.
But the effect hasn’t been proven in humans. There is proof for mice, and some correlation in humans.
The Brain: help for us oldies:
The flip of a single molecular switch helps create the mature neuronal connections that allow the brain to bridge the gap between adolescent impressionability and adult stability. Now Yale School of Medicine researchers have reversed the process, recreating a youthful brain that facilitated both learning and healing in the adult mouse.
Scientists have long known that the young and old brains are very different. Adolescent brains are more malleable or plastic, which allows them to learn languages more quickly than adults and speeds recovery from brain injuries. The comparative rigidity of the adult brain results in part from the function of a single gene that slows the rapid change in synaptic connections between neurons.
By monitoring the synapses in living mice over weeks and months, Yale researchers have identified the key genetic switch for brain maturation a study released March 6 in the journal Neuron. The Nogo Receptor 1 gene is required to suppress high levels of plasticity in the adolescent brain and create the relatively quiescent levels of plasticity in adulthood. In mice without this gene, juvenile levels of brain plasticity persist throughout adulthood. When researchers blocked the function of this gene in old mice, they reset the old brain to adolescent levels of plasticity.
That would be nice; I’ve found it is harder for me to absorb brand new material, though I have more context for other material.
Nature Cicadas have interesting wings: they have a structure that enables them to kill bacteria by an interesting mechanism:
The veined wing of the clanger cicada kills bacteria solely through its physical structure — one of the first natural surfaces found to do so. An international team of biophysicists has now come up with a detailed model of how this defence works on the nanoscale. The results are published in the latest issue of the Biophysical Journal1.
The clanger cicada (Psaltoda claripennis) is a locust-like insect whose wings are covered by a vast hexagonal array of ‘nanopillars’ — blunted spikes on a similar size scale to bacteria (see video, bottom). When a bacterium settles on the wing surface, its cellular membrane sticks to the surface of the nanopillars and stretches into the crevices between them, where it experiences the most strain. If the membrane is soft enough, it ruptures
Note: this is “rupture by stretching” rather than by puncturing.
Austerity during a recession does NOT drive down the deficit; remember that stimulus puts money into the economy.
I don’t know who to give credit to, but this is fun:
Is there really a woman in this picture? Look carefully.
Actually, I see the human figure in all of these cropped pictures.
Swim workout 2650 yards (1.5 miles); 500 of long/free, 500 of fist/free, 500 of 3g/free, 500 of (50 side/50 free), 6 x (25 fly, 25 free, 25 back, 25 free), 50 free.
This was routine and seemed “short”, at least in terms of duration.
Yes, Ms. “purple suit” was back!
Paul Krugman points out that Keynesian economic ideas ARE/DID win the day, so to speak, though the conservatives constantly lie or attempt to distort what actually happened.
Pretty crabs I am not one to call a crab “pretty”, but Jerry Coyne has an article about such a species.
(click on the small photo to see the larger one at the source, along with the article)
Religion and the mind
Friendly atheist has an article with a provocative title: If you can answer this math problem correctly, you may be an atheist. Yes, the title is illogical: you might get the problems correct and not be an atheist….and….well, there are plenty of atheists who would miss the problems.
What are the problems?
1. “If 5 machines in 5 minutes can make 5 widgets, how long will it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?”
2. “A population of lily pads in a pond doubles every day. On day 48, the pond is completely full. On what day was the pond half full?”
3. “A baseball and a baseball bat together costs 110 dollars. The bat costs 100 dollars more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”
What was curious to me wasn’t “what group did better” on the questions; it was THIS (via Scientific American):
But the researchers went beyond this interesting link, running four experiments showing that analytic thinking actually causes disbelief. In one experiment, they randomly assigned participants to either the analytic or control condition. They then showed them photos of either Rodin’s The Thinker or, in the control condition, of the ancient Greek sculpture Discobolus, which depicts an athlete poised to throw a discus. (The Thinker was used because it is such an iconic image of deep reflection that, in a separate test with different participants, seeing the statue improved how well subjects reasoned through logical syllogisms.) After seeing the images, participants took a test measuring their belief in God on a scale of 0 to 100. Their scores on the test varied widely, with a standard deviation of about 35 in the control group. But it is the difference in the averages that tells the real story: In the control group, the average score for belief in God was 61.55, or somewhat above the scale’s midpoint. On the other hand, for the group who had just seen The Thinker, the resulting average was only 41.42. Such a gap is large enough to indicate a mild believer is responding as a mild nonbeliever—all from being visually reminded of the human capacity to think.
Another experiment used a different method to show a similar effect. It exploited the tendency, previously identified by psychologists, of people to override their intuition when faced with the demands of reading a text in a hard-to-read typeface.
The bottom line: reminding people of thinking (turning on the “logic vs. intuition” switch) immediately made people MORE skeptical.
Atheism and labels
The following video troubled some fellow atheists (including a couple that I have a lot of respect for):
I admit that I had no trouble at all with this; all Dr. Tyson was saying is that he really isn’t interested in taking part in this debate, so to speak.
Yes, I think a lot about it and I self identify as an atheist (strictly speaking, I am an agnostic atheist with respect to some amorphic “spirit of the universe”, “higher power”, “creative force”, etc. and an “almost gnostic” atheist with regards to the deities that I am aware of (the Hindu ones, the Mormon ones, the Abrahamic deity(s), etc.)
But, well, I ENJOY thinking about some things. I really don’t care how Dr. Tyson identifies (or doesn’t identify) himself.
This is good enough for me:
And anyone who thinks that we are here because of naturalistic processes and that there is no direct divine intervention in the universe and that we (the earth and humans) were not the intentional outcome of some plan…well, they are a kindred spirit, IMHO.
I really don’t care about the rest.
Leg weights (up to 200 on adduction and abduction; 135 on push backs; some lunges and hip hikes)
Swimming: 2200 yards: 10 x 25 fist, 25 free, 5 x 25 fist, 75 free, 5 x 25 free, 25 back, 50 free, 5 x 25 fly, 50 side, 25 free, 200 cool down.
It went ok.
Fallacies of thinking: there are times when I commit some of these. I am ok at overriding my “natural” distrust of probabilities. But there are times when I make up my mind on emotion and then try to “argue the case” with logic; that is, use logic to reinforce my current opinion. Giving up securely held beliefs is tough. I am good about avoiding some of these.
No a penny dropped off the Empire State Building won’t kill you; it reaches terminal velocity at a drop of 50 feet. But a ball point pen is another matter.
Religion and fundamentalism
This is how some creationists see evolution.
Surf to PZ Myers’ blog to see more.
So yes, this claim about “Village Idiots” is not really an exaggeration.
Then we have this:
That is right: Pat Robertson said that prayer could have turned the tornadoes away. It is astonishing how superstitious some adults are.
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