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The Future of Medicine Is Bespoke – Fair Observer

Posted: July 4, 2020 at 11:48 am

There was a time when modern medicine was primitive. There were no antibiotics, so every infection took its own course, leading to decline in health. Hypertension and diabetes were largely untreatable. X-ray was new, and remedies had changed but little from medieval times. No one ever embarked on the goodness of preventative treatment, not to speak of predictive medicine, beyond taking a distasteful cod liver oil capsule.

During the last hundred years, modern medicine has undergone a sea change. Just think of it an ever-expanding repertoire of medicines, high-tech procedures, therapies and reams of clinical data to employ when one gets sick. Yet modern medicine remained (in)complete, notwithstanding the therapeutic advances.


Things are now changing thanks to the integration of all such advances, from how a persons diet interacts with ones unique genetic profile to how environmental pollutants affect our thinking, not to speak of preventative medical approaches in health and wellness. The bigperestroikahas begun, and it is poised to transform health care for a growing number of people in the near future. Welcome to a whole new world of personalized, bespoke medicine.

Personalized medicine is, in essence, tailored or customized medical treatment. It treats while keeping in mind the unique, individual characteristics of each patient, which are as distinct as ones fingerprint or signature. It also includes scientific breakthroughs in our understanding of how a persons unique molecular and genetic profile makes them susceptible to certain illnesses. Personalized medicine expands our ability to envisage medical treatments that would not only be effective but also safe for each patient while excluding treatments that may not provide useful objectives.

Personalized medicine is, in simple terms, the use of new methods of molecular scrutiny. It is keyed to help better manage a patients illness or their genetic tendency toward a particular illness or a group of diseases. In so doing, it aims to achieve optimal therapeutic outcomes by helping both clinicians and patients choose a disease management approach that is likely to work best in the context of the patients unique genetic and environmental summary. In other words, it allows to accurately diagnose diseases and their sub-types while prescribing the best form and dose of medication most suited to the given patient.

Personalized, or precision, medicine is not rocket science it is, in essence, an extension of certain traditional approaches to understanding and treating disease. What jazzed up the therapeutic fulcrum of personalized medicine are tools that are more precise. This is what also offers clinicians better insights for selecting a treatment protocol based on a patients molecular profile. Such a patient-specific methodology, as has been practiced for long in certain complementary and alternative medical (CAM) or integrative approaches, not only curtails harmful side effects but also leads to more successful outcomes, including reduced costs in comparison to the current trial-and-error approach to treatment, which has distressingly come to the fore during these extraordinary and unprecedented times of COVID-19.

It is still early days, but the fact remains that personalized medicine has changed the old ways of how we all thought about, identified and managed health issues. As personalized medicine increasingly bids fair to an exciting journey in terms of clinical research and patient care, its impact will only further expand our understanding of medical technology.

What personalized medicine has done is bring about a paradigm shift in our thinking about people in general and also specifically. We all vary from one another what we eat, what others eat, how we react to stress or experience health issues when exposed to environmental factors. It is agreed that such variations play a role in health and disease. It is also being incrementally accepted that certain natural variations found in our DNA can influence our risk of developing a certain disease and how well we could respond to a particular medicine.

All of us are unique individuals, perhaps with the exemption of identical twins, albeit the genomes are unique in them, too. While we are genetically similar, there are small differences in our DNA that are unique, which also makes us distinctive in terms of health, disease and our response to certain medicinal treatments.

Personalized medicine is poised to tap natural variations found in our genes that may play a role in our risk of getting or not getting certain illnesses, along with numerous external factors, such as our environment, nutrition and exercise. Variations in DNA can, likewise, lead to differences in how medications are absorbed, metabolized and used by the body. The understanding of such genetic variations and their interactions with environmental factors are elements that will help personalized medicine clinicians to produce better diagnostics and drugs, and select much better treatments and dosages based on individual needs not as just fixing a pill or two, as is the present-day conventional medical practice.

It is established that a majority of genes function precisely as intended. This gives rise to proteins that play a significant role in biological processes while allowing or helping an individual to grow, adapt and live in their environment. It is only in certain unusual situations, such as a single mutated or malfunctioning gene, that our apple cart is disturbed. This leads to distinct genetic diseases or syndromes such as sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis. In like manner, multiple genes acting together can impact the development of a host of common and complex diseases, including our response to medications used to treat them.

New advances will revolutionize bespoke medical treatment with the inclusion of drug therapy as well as recommendations for lifestyle changes to manage, delay the onset of disease or reduce its impact. Not surprisingly, the emergence of new diagnostic and prognostic tools has already raised our ability to predict likely outcomes of drug therapy. In like manner, the expanded use of biomarkers biological molecules that are associated with a particular disease state has resulted in more focused and targeted drug development.

Molecular testing is being expansively used today to identify breast cancer and colon cancer patients who are likely to benefit from new treatments and to preempt recurrences. A genetic test for an inherited heart condition is helping clinicians to determine which course of treatment would maximize benefit and minimize serious side effects while bringing about curative outcomes.

Such complexities exist for asthma and other disorders too. This is precisely where molecular analysis of biomarkers can help us to identify sub-types within a disease while enabling the clinician to monitor their progression, select appropriate medication, measure treatment outcomes and patients response. Future advances may make biomarkers and other tools affordable and allow clinicians to screen patients for relevant molecular variations prior to prescribing a particular medication.

It is already clear that personalized medicine promises three strategic benefits. In terms of preventative medicine, personalized medicine will improve the ability to identify which individuals are predisposed to develop a particular condition. A better understanding of genetic variations could also help scientists identify new disease subgroups or their associated molecular pathways and design drugs to target them. This could also help select patients for inclusion, or exclusion, in late-stage clinical trials. Finally, it will allow to work out the best dosage schedule or combination of drugs for each individual patient.

Yet not everything is hunky-dory for personalized medicine. Critics of precision medicine believe that the whole idea is too much of overhyped razzmatazz, among other things. Proponents, however, argue that when it comes to managing our own health, most of us are used to the idea of taking a one-size-fits-all approach be it medicines, supplements, diets and diagnoses. This may be wrong.

What works, as they put it, for one may be a gaffe for another. As the award-winning oncologist and medical technology innovator, Dr. David B. Agus, author of the groundbreaking bookThe End of Illness, puts it, each patients individual risk factors are based on ones DNA, the environment and a preventative lifestyle plan in response. He begins with simple, profound pointers: How is your sense of smell? and Is your ring finger longer than your middle finger? He explains with statistics-backed guidelines that moving and walking regularly is mandatory because exercising and then sitting is equivalent to smoking cigarettes, while eating and sleeping at consistent hours is imperative because irregularity causes inflammation.

The inference is obvious: We should all understand our physiology and quiz doctors with the thorough, exploratory frame of mind of a gadget buyer. This holds the key to making medicine truly personal, more humane, effective and safe while keeping in mind the individual in us all as unique and distinctive, the sum of the whole not just the parts.

The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observers editorial policy.

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The Future of Medicine Is Bespoke - Fair Observer

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Research on Gene Editing Service Market (impact of COVID-19) with Top Players: Caribou Biosciences, CRISPR Therapeutics, Merck KGaA, Editas Medicine,…

Posted: July 4, 2020 at 11:48 am

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Global market remuneration

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Research on Gene Editing Service Market (impact of COVID-19) with Top Players: Caribou Biosciences, CRISPR Therapeutics, Merck KGaA, Editas Medicine,...

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

28 cool health things that started with a Canadian – Regina Leader-Post

Posted: July 4, 2020 at 11:48 am

A special thank you to Kathleen Dickson and Dr. John Bergeron for pointing out that yes, indeed, there are also many women who have made and continue to make significant contributions to health. We have added their additions below, but this list is by no means complete.

From open heart surgery to child-resistant containers, prestigious awards and bombs (not that kind), Canada has a long history of Canadians whose ideas and inventions have played huge roles in defining this nations healthcare.

DNA and cancer

Nada Jabado at McGill affiliated Childrens Hospital is a pioneer in pediatric cancer and her discovery of the role of what is known as the epigenome that marks the DNA in our genes in cancer. She is a leader in innovation in Health research and recognized for her leadership in the application of discoveries to address brain tumours in children.


Perhaps the most famous health innovation to come out of Canada, if such a thing can be measured. The arrival of insulin has saved countless lives since its creation in 1922 when Frederick Banting and Charles Best isolated and extracted insulin from the pancreas of dogs. Their Nobel Prize arrived swiftly thereafter in 1923.

28 cool health things that started with a Canadian - Regina Leader-Post

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Speaking Out: Taking Action Against Skin Cancer –

Posted: July 4, 2020 at 11:48 am

Patients can pick from a growing array of treatments, from same-day- results surgery to game-changing immunotherapy, to fight the most common type of cancer.

BY By Beth Fand Incollingo and Kristie L. Kahl

In an interview with CURE, Dr. Jeremy Brauer, a dermatologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City and a spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation, reviewed the latest strategies for treating these cancers, which include squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas, as well as the less common but more aggressive melanoma.

CURE: What surgical strategies are used to treat skin cancers?

Brauer: The intervention with the highest cure rate for surgical procedures is Mohs micrographic surgery. This is ideal for nonmelanoma skin cancers specifically, but there also is growing interest and use in certain melanomas, depending on the skin cancer and its location.

(Tissue is removed and tested a little at a time until the area being treated is free of cancerous cells).

Theres no leaving the office and waiting a week for your results; everything is done on-site in real-time. We process the tissue, and a Mohs surgeon also functions as the pathologist to read the slides and map out where the tumor is or isnt. The benefit of this is that it allows for tissue conservation, (especially on) the tip of the nose and ears. Also, it has a higher cure rate with the good cosmetic outcome because you are sparing tissue.

Another surgical intervention is a standard excision. You excise, take a big piece of skin and put stitches in, just like you would with Mohs, but its not a staged procedure. In general, its just one procedure.

Could you describe some of the nonsurgical therapies?

Nonsurgical treatments include electrodesiccation and curettage. These tend to be reserved for individuals who have a superficial basal cell carcinoma or what we call in situ squamous cell carcinoma, where the lesion is very superficial and on the uppermost part of the skin. Here, we use a sharp tool called a curette to scrape the area of involvement, but we also use electrodesiccation to burn the surrounding skin. This is often repeated in series a few times to remove the majority, if not all, of the tumor.

The goal here is to avoid having to cut and sew. The drawback is that you cant evaluate the tissue under the microscope because youre scraping and burning the remaining tumor cells.Another nonsurgical option is radiation therapy. This is sometimes used in conjunction with surgical treatment if it is determined that the subtype of skin cancer warrants it.

If involvement of the nerves is found during the course of Mohs surgery or when the specimen comes back after incision, we refer the individual to receive concurrent radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy is also good for (skin cancer that is not being treated with surgery). In certain instances, the individual might not able to tolerate (surgery) or declines the procedure. Similarly, certain tumors that dont heal well may be better candidates for a nonsurgical option.

Which medical options do you consider the most exciting?

I really do believe immunotherapy and targeted therapies for metastatic disease have been game changers. We consider immunotherapy an option for melanoma. Its been a game changer for ... survival in advanced cancers. That has definitely prolonged life for many individuals who unfortunately otherwise would not have fared as well.

Another interesting and promising area is targeted therapy. Here, were looking at the identification within the tumor of a mutation, specifically in a gene or pathway, and then targeting that gene or pathway (with medication). This has also led to increased survival rates and really allowed for a change in the way we approach some of the more advanced tumors.

That said, early intervention is key. Once weve detected these skin cancers, early intervention results in very high cure rates and, hopefully, prevents some of these local tumors from becoming metastatic or advanced.

What is on the horizon for patients with skin cancer?

Patients can be encouraged by the fact that medicine, technology and innovation are all moving at a very fast pace. More immunotherapy and targeted therapies will be made available to individuals with metastatic melanoma and advanced squamous cell carcinoma.

Also, right now, a biopsy is invasive. There is numbing and taking a blade to the skin. But there are other imaging techniques, and as our ability to detect skin cancer becomes better and greater, well begin to see additional noninvasive biopsy techniques.

How can patients become empowered to be their own best advocates when making treatment decisions?

It starts with education. Knowledge is power. A great resource is a board-certified dermatologist, who can discuss in detail the diagnosis and expectations. Also, reputable websites like that of the Skin Cancer Foundation offer information. Within dermatology, the American Academy of Dermatology and other societies can be great resources.

Going back to prevention, people need to understand that skin cancer is serious. You can die from skin cancer. But the good news is that these are preventable tumors and cancers. You have to take action to prevent it.

How do you do that? (It takes) appropriate use of UVA- or UVB-spectrum sunscreen, sun-protected behaviors when outdoors and screening, not just seeing a dermatologist once a year but also doing monthly self-skin examinations. Look for something new, unusual or changing and bring that to the attention of a dermatologist. Early detection results in early intervention, which results in very high cure rates.

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Speaking Out: Taking Action Against Skin Cancer -

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Pools in the Mexican desert are a window into Earth’s early life – Science Magazine

Posted: July 4, 2020 at 11:48 am

Azure pools rich in magnesium and calcium carbonate but low in phosphorus provide an ideal habitat for ancient bacterial reefs at Cuatro Cinegas, in theChihuahuan Desert of Mexico.

By Rodrigo Prez Ortega Jun. 30, 2020 , 3:40 PM

Valeria Souza Saldvar never planned to devote her life to a remote and ancient oasis more than 1000 kilometers north of her laboratory in Mexico City. But a call in early 1999 changed that.

Its one of the best cold calls Ive ever made, says James Elser, a limnologist at the University of Montana. He had picked up the phone to invite Souza Saldvar to join a NASA-funded astrobiology project in Cuatro Cinegasa butterfly-shaped basin with colorful pools, or pozas, in the middle of Mexicos Chihuahuan Desert.

Neither Souza Saldvar, a microbial ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, University City, nor her ecologist husband and research partner Luis Eguiarte Fruns, also at UNAM, had ever visited Cuatro Cinegas. That first trip convinced them to completely change their research plans. Looking at those mountains and the water, I fell in love, Souza Saldvar says.

The landscapemore than 300 turquoise-blue pozas scattered across 800 square kilometers, among marshes and majestic mountainswasnt the only draw. The waters, whose chemistry resembled that of Earths ancient seas, teemed with microbes; unusual bacterial mats and formations called stromatolites carpeted the shallows. When Souza Saldvar first cultured the organisms from the pozas, The amount of microbes was enormous, as was the diversity of colors and colony sizes, she recalls. For her, this remote microbial hot spot was an irresistible mystery.

Since then, work by Souza Saldvar, Eguiarte Fruns, and a widening circle of collaborators in Mexico and the United States has shown that Cuatro Cinegaswhich means four marshes in Spanishis one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Theres nowhere that has so much ancient diversity of microorganisms, says Michael Travisano, an evolutionary ecologist at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, who has collaborated with the Mexican researchers since 2001. Among the most recent additions to that menagerie are hundreds of species of archaea, the ancient microbes that may have given rise to eukaryotesorganisms with complex, nucleated cells.

At the Pozas Azules ranch in Cuatro Cinegas, about 100spring-fed pools dapple the desert. Each has a unique microbial and mineral composition.

The diversity includes strains with unusual adaptations, such as the ability to build their lipid membranes with sulfur instead of the usual phosphorus, which is scarce in the waters of thepozas. It includes potential sources of new compounds for medicine and agriculture. And it poses a question that has occupied Souza Saldvar and Eguiarte Fruns for the past 20 years: How did this Noahs Ark of ancient microbes arise? Its a dream for every biologist to know the origin of diversification, Souza Saldvar says.

But her dream might be short-lived. Since the 1970s, farmers have intensively drained water from thepozasand rivers to irrigate nearby fields of alfalfa, grown for cattle fodder, gradually drying the improbable oasis. Souza Saldvar has galvanized a conservation effort that has slowed the drainage; in the coming weeks, a canal that removes 100 million cubic meters of Cuatro Cinegass water annually is scheduled to close. In the meantime, the researchers have been trying to describe as much as they can, as fast as they can, before their belovedpozasdry up and the precious microscopic life that has survived undisturbed for millions of years dies off.

Cuatro Cinegasservedas a stopping point for hunter-gatherers for thousands of years. To date, 50 archaeological sites with cave paintingssome dating to 2275 B.C.E.have been found in mountain cavesaround the basin. Much later, the region made a mark on history when Venustiano Carranza, born in a village at the basins margin, became a leader of the Mexican Revolution and president of Mexico from 1917 to 1920. Nowadays, the village is called Cuatro Cinegas de Carranza after him.

But in the 1960s, Cuatro Cinegas started to become famous for its biodiversity, as biologists began to describe new species of snails, fish, turtles, and plants found in the pools and marshesand often nowhere else.

Wendell Minck Minckley, a renowned ichthyologist at Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe, was first lured to Cuatro Cinegas after learning thatthe worlds only aquatic box turtle(Terrapene coahuila) lived there. Over the years, Minckley made frequent trips to thepozas, describing their snails and fish (Herichthys minckleyi, a cichlid, bears his name) while making connections with the local people.

In the Cuatro Cinegas Basin, ringed with mountains and desert, an aquifer feeds hundreds of pools and marshes. But canals tapping water for agriculture threaten the wetlands and the biodiversity they host.


Minckley also noticed peculiar, rocky structures in the pools. They were stromatolites, biological structures normally found as fossils dating back as much as 3.5 billion years. Colonies of photosynthesizing bacteria, which boosted early Earths oxygen, created the layered formations by depositing carbonates and trapping sediment in ancient, shallow seas. But these stromatolites were alive. Also found in other extreme environments such as Australias warm, salty Shark Bay, living stromatolites are sort of a window into early Earth, Elser says. Thepozasalso nurture bacterial mats, a soft form of stromatolites normally found deep in the ocean.

As early as the 1970s, Minckley realized the pools and their diversity were under threat: Local farmers were carving canals to tap their water. Thanks in part to his lobbying, the Mexican government in 1994 designated an 85,000-hectare protected area. But the drainage continued. Minckley knew that Cuatro Cinegas was going to die, Souza Saldvar says. He thought NASA might be its salvation.

In 1998, NASA established its Astrobiology Institute, a network of researchers studying life in extreme environments that might resemble conditions on other planets. Minckley saw an ideal astrobiology study site in the waters of thepozas, with their seemingly inhospitable chemistry and living stromatolites. But he was no expert on extreme environments, so he enlisted Elser, who specializes in how water chemistry affects ecosystems and also works at ASU. After they submitted a 1998 proposal to fund the project, however, NASA said they should add experts on microbiology and evolutionand those experts had to be Mexican to help secure permits to obtain samples. Based on colleagues suggestions, Elser called Souza Saldvar and Eguiarte Fruns, newly minted professors at UNAM. They joined, and NASAapproved the 3-year project.

Stromatolites, reeflike colonies of carbonate-secreting cyanobacteria, abounded in Precambrian seasand thrive at Cuatro Cinegas.

With two children in tow, the couple met Minckley and Elser at Cuatro Cinegas. Next to the turquoise-blue waters of La Becerrapoza, Minckley told them he believed the ecosystem was a glimpse of deep time. Do you see these miniature snails in my hand? Souza Saldvar recalls him saying. I just scooped them from the springhead, but their direct ancestors were eating sulfur bacteria in hydrothermal vents 220 million years ago in the bottom of the ancient Pacific.

Based on the water chemistrylow in phosphorus, iron, and nitrogenand the presence of living stromatolites, Minckley believed Cuatro Cinegas re-created the marine conditions found worldwide millions of years ago. He challenged the two researchers to explore its mysteriesand to protect itspozas. Only you, as Mexicans, can save them from the extinction caused by humans, Souza Saldvar recalls him saying.

Minckleydied2 years later, in 2001.

To inventory the full diversityof microbes at Cuatro Cinegas and trace their relationships, Souza Saldvar needed to study their DNA. To do so, scientists normally take microbial samples from a site and grow them in a lab. But many bacteria and archaea are difficult to culture, and only a few groups at the time had successfully analyzed DNA isolated directly from the environment. High magnesium levels in the water and slime from the microbes made isolating DNA from thepozasespecially difficult.

But Souza Saldvar and her students Ana Escalante and Laura Espinosa Asuar made a start. In 2006, they reported in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesthat they had found 38 distinct groups of microbesfour times as many as in a typical salt marshcorresponding to 10 major lineages of bacteria and one of archaea. Half the bacterial groupswere most closely related to marine microbes. Almost 10% of the groups resembled ones that live on hydrothermal ventsfissures deep in the ocean where microbes thrive despite extreme heat and mineral concentrations.

As Minckley had suspected, Cuatro Cinegas had somehow preserved ancient marine life forms deep in the desert, more than 500 kilometers from the Gulf of Mexico, at a site where the last seas retreated some 20 million years ago.

Valeria Souza Saldvar and Luis Eguiarte Fruns (top) have spent 20 years studying biodiversity at Cuatro Cinegas, where they have found thousands of new species in living structures like a bacterial mat (bottom).

The deep time aspect [of Cuatro Cinegas] is very surprising, Travisano says. It is a true lost world, preserved by the hostile water chemistry, he and the Mexican team argued in a 2018 paper ineLife. Millions of years ago, they proposed, ancient marine ancestors found their way to the place,adapted to the extreme environment, and didnt change much.

Thepozasthemselves are not particularly ancient. The springs that nurture them are fed by deep aquifers in Sierra San Marcos y Pinos, filled with water accumulated during the last ice ages, Eguiarte Fruns says. Now, the water seeps to the surface because of an active fault beneath the basin. It rises through ancient marine sediments, picking up its unusual chemistry along the way. Somehow, the ancient microbespersisted and diversifiedin a succession of springs that must have appeared and vanished throughout geologic time. As in an ancient clock, Souza Saldvar says, all the original mechanisms are still working together to sustain unusual life.

To Frederick Cohan, a microbial ecologist at Wesleyan University who is not part of the Cuatro Cinegas project, the fact that many of the microbes are related to marine species and not species found inland is compelling. I think its saying those organisms are anciently there.

When the researcherslooked at the stromatolites, theyfound even more diversity. Samples from one site, Pozas Azules II, yielded more than 58,000 distinct microbial sequences, predominantly from bacterianot a direct count of species, but an indicator of biodiversity. In the Ro Mezquites, a stream that flows through the northern part of the basin and recharges several pools, they identified 30,000 sequences, mostly from cyanobacteria. More than 1000 sequences from Pozas Azules II appeared to be from archaea, the researchers reported inEnvironmental Microbiologyin 2009. The stromatolites also teemed with bacteria-infecting virusesstrains that wereunique to each pooland resembled marine viruses.

Studying the microbes hasnt been easy. There are thousands and thousands of new bacteria that we cant grow in culture, Souza Saldvar says. They could, however, identify some startling adaptations to the extreme conditions. In one bacterium found only in El Churince, a system of lagoons andpozason the western part of the basin, researchers sequenced the smallest genome ever found in its genus,Bacillus. The work, led by Gabriela Olmedo lvarez, a genetic engineer at Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute, Irapuato, also showed that the microbeB. coahuilensiscould synthesize membrane sulfolipids. This meant that, like some plants and cyanobacteria, it could use sulfur from the environmentinstead of phosphorusto form its cell membranes.

Shallow, mineral-rich pools and lagoons, with conditions like those in ancient oceans, are hot spots of microbial diversity. Floating mats at Cuatro Cinegas teem with the primordial microbes known as archaea, leading researchers to call them archaean domes.


It likely stole these genes from a cyanobacterium, Olmedo lvarez says, enabling it to cope with scarce phosphorus, a condition thought to have prevailed in Earths earliest oceans. The microbes small genome may also have helped it thrive, as it required less phosphorus to build its DNA. Olmedo lvarez thinks the organism may offer a glimpse of the stratagems used by early microbes to adapt to their new environment.

Were just starting to understand the depth of diversity, says Olmedo lvarez, who found thatB. coahuilensisis itself starting tosplit into strainswith variations in phosphorus metabolism.

The low phosphorus conditions found in Cuatro Cinegas not only promoted local adaptations, but alsoaccelerated microbial diversification, Souza Saldvar and Elser argued in a perspective published in 2008 inNature Reviews Microbiology. Bacteria normally share bits of DNA with their neighbors in a process called horizontal gene transfer, which blurs the divisions between strains. But in Cuatro Cinegas, the microbeshungry for phosphorusessentially consume free DNA rather than incorporating it into their genomes. They will eat the DNA to get the phosphorus, Elser says.

Besides offering insights into evolution, Cuatro Cinegass microbial diversity may hold practical payoffs. Cuatro Cinegas is one of the richest places on the planet for genetic resources, Souza Saldvar says. For example, most modern antibiotics are derived from actinobacteria, which are abundant in thepozas. Susana De la Torre Zavala, a biotechnologist at the Autonomous University of Nuevo Len (UANL), University City, is searching for potential antibiotics in a library of 350 actinobacteria from the basin. Her team has also found that an extract from a microalga living in the poolsshows anticancer activity.

Agriculture, too, could benefit, Olmedo lvarez says. By 2050, the reservoirs of phosphorus that help sustain global harvests could become scarce, and the microbesability to concentrate the element from different sourcescould hold solutions. Were understanding Cuatro Cinegas, but were also understanding basic principles of ecological interactions that have an application in medicine and agriculture, she says.

As the scientific storyof Cuatro Cinegas unfolded, its fate has hung in the balance, with Souza Saldvar fighting a long series of battles over its water with local farmers and landowners, dairy companies, and politicians. Her weapons have been her rising scientific profile and a tireless outreach to the public, especially young people.

Souza Saldvar has drawn fireduring a 2013 microbiology congress, police had to protect her from protesting localsbut she has won a series of victories. In 2007, the daughter of the CEO of LALA, a giant dairy consortium with roots in the state of Coahuila, told her father she wouldnt speak to him because he was killing Cuatro Cinegas, Souza Saldvar says. The executive promptly scheduled a meeting with the scientist. You need to change your cows diet, Souza Saldvar says she told him, refusing to accept a courtesy yogurt he offered. Ill accept your yogurt when you do so. He promised not only to stop buying the regions alfalfa, but also to invest in environmental education projects for local children.

Two years later, she won an unusual ally, the powerful Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. His foundation collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to buy the land surrounding El Churince in the western basin, and to provide researchers with a 5-year, 18 million Mexican peso ($1.4 million) grant to study Souza Saldvars favoritepoza. This allowed them to set up the infrastructure to perform long-term experiments. But it did not save the water.

Endemic fishes and turtles first drew scientists to Cuatro Cinegas, where they stumbled on its less visible microbial riches.

In 2010, Mexicos National Water Commission (CONAGUA) set out to replace the open, leaky canals, which lose 75% of the drained water, with less wasteful enclosed conduits. But the project was abandoned midwaymost likely because of corruptionand the old canals were never closed. As Cuatro Cinegas continued to dry up, the researchers raced to study El Churince, finding 5167 distinct species of bacteria and archaea in the last remaining pool. A close inspection of the genomes ofBacillusbacteria from one single square kilometer increased the known diversity of the group by more than 20%. By comparing DNA sequences, the team traced theBacillusdiversity to two ancient ancestors, one dating back 680 million years, the other 160 million years. Those dates coincide with the breakup of the supercontinents Rodinia and Pangaea, respectively, and the team thinks theoceans that formed during those convulsions carried the ancestral microbesto what is now the Cuatro Cinegas Basin, where they have persisted ever since.

Cohan says thats plausible.Bacillusfrom elsewhere fail to thrive in Cuatro Cinegas, most likely because they are outcompeted by the local microbes and cant adapt to the extreme conditions. And theBacillusspecies from Cuatro Cinegas are not found anywhere else in the world. Its just bizarre, Cohan says, but it makes thepozasso much more valuable and worth saving. Its kind of a paleontological microbial park.

In 2016, El Churince dried up just after the funding from the WWFCarlos Slim Foundation ended. The researchers felt devastated. Souza Saldvar says it was painful to see turtle shells lying on the now-barren soil. Its really sad, Olmedo lvarez says. Its gone.

On the eastern sideof the basin, things are looking brighter. In 2000, the conservation nongovernmental organization Pronatura Noreste acquired the Pozas Azules ranch: 2721 hectares hosting about 100pozas. Pronatura eventually gained rights to the water as well, enabling it to close canals draining thepozasin the ranch. Farmers are now encouraged to adopt water-sparing drip irrigation, and some are growing nopalan edible cactus popular in Mexican cuisinewhich requires much less water than alfalfa.

The researchers have focused their recent studies on Pozas Azules. In 2019, after an unusual spring rain, the team noticed alien-looking structures in the shallow waters of a site near Pozas Azules II: white microbial mats buoyed by gas. The gas appeared to be largely methane, and a genetic analysis showed the mats were teeming with archaea230 distinct species,they report in a preprint. That makes the spot the most diverse place of archaea that we know of, De la Torre Zavala says.

Now, the team hopes to analyze samples from the structures, which it calls archaean domes, in search of the elusive Asgard archaea, organisms previously found only in the deep ocean and thought tohold clues to the evolution of simple microbesinto complex eukaryotes. Although some in her team are skeptical, Souza Saldvar is convinced they will find them. Valerias usually right, De la Torre Zavala says.

Shaped and seeded with life by ancient seas, the Cuatro Cinegas Basin lies at the foot of the distant Sierra San Marcos. The white dunes bordering the basin are made of gypsum, a legacy of a Jurassic ocean.

Such prospects have added to Souza Saldvars determination to preserve Cuatro Cinegas, and she is enlisting young people for support. In every field trip since 2004, her team has spent time with students from the local high school, showing them how to use a microscope and take simple environmental measurements, and teaching them about sustainable agriculture. In 2011, with funding from the LALA Foundation and the WWFCarlos Slim Foundation, the scientists set up a college-level molecular biology lab at the school, which is now ranked among the best rural high schools in Mexico.

Hctor Arocha Garza is one of its graduates. Inspired by the secrets of Cuatro Cinegas, he pursued a Ph.D. in biotechnology at UANL with De la Torre Zavala, then returned to his hometown. My heart was in Cuatro Cinegas, he says. Now, hes leading the scientific branch of a privately fundedmegaproject called Cuatro Cinegas 2040that aims to build a science museum and make Cuatro Cinegas a scientific tourism destination, while supporting education and medical care for the villages young people.

The effort comes at a critical moment. More than 90% of the marshes are gone, and somepozasand lagoons are dry. But this year, CONAGUA committed toregulating water usageand closing illegal wells, and Pronatura Noreste will close the Saca Salada Canal, which drains the Ro Mezquites, as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic permits.

Those developments, and stories like Arocha Garzas, give Souza Saldvar hope for the future of Cuatro Cinegas. It has been a very complicated, long, and difficult process, she says. But now, she wrote in a recent book, There is a revolution occurring in this oasis: Science is the tool and kids are the drivers.

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Pools in the Mexican desert are a window into Earth's early life - Science Magazine

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Im a Physical Therapist, and This Is the Longevity Exercise You Should Be Doing in Your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and Beyond – Well+Good

Posted: July 4, 2020 at 11:47 am

The human body changes over time: Certain muscles begin to lose their cells, bones diminish in density, and tissues no longer hold the same amount of water. No matter where you are in life, though, some workout moves prove perpetually beneficial for you and the muscles, bones, and joints youll call home from now until forever. When it comes to the best longevity exercise out there, physical therapist Joel Giffin, DPT, founder of Flex Physical Therapy, says one movesquatsare timeless.

An exercise thats good for all ages is a squat because there are infinite ways to modify, progress, change, and adjust it to accommodate the abilities of the individual, says Dr. Giffin. When done with optimal form, a squat is beneficial regardless of the level of difficulty because it is a functional exercise that represents a movement we need to do everyday: going from sitting to standing, or vice versa. If you can do this movement easily, researchers believe its a really good indication of longevity.

Thats not all squats have going for them, though. Additionally, squats activate the glutes. These muscles are relaxed and weakened when we are sitting, which most of us do way too much of. Squats strengthen the whole lower extremity, allow for the core to engage, and can be added to an upper-body workout at the same time, says Dr. Giffin. Their peachy reputation holds true, yesbut the exercise has a lot more to offer as well.

As Dr. Giffin mentioned, however, the classic squat wont be the best option for everyone. Some may experience knee or ankle pain when they stick with the hips width apart approach to the move. And if that sounds like you (or comesto sound like you in a decade or two), Dr. Giffin recommends grabbing onto a chair for assistance, bring your feet wide into a goblet squat to spare your lower back, or sitting back onto a box to limit your bodys range of motion. You could also add dumbbells or kettlebells to make the move harderif youre into that kind of thing.

2. Move downward like you are going to sit in a chair. Sit back into your glutes to allow them to lead the motion. Do not allow the knees to go in front of your toes.

3. Engage your glutes (along with your core). Think about the back of your legs working rather than the front of your legs.

4. Dont let your hips go below knee level. This should feel very comfortableoutside of some muscle burnand pain-free, says Dr. Giffin. There should not be sharp, shooting, or achy pain. You can move into a half or mini-squat if its not comfortable to go all the way down just yet.

5. On the way up push through the heels and work to activate the glutes.

6. Repetitions and sets will depend on your ability, but ost people can start with two sets of eight reps and work their way up.

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Im a Physical Therapist, and This Is the Longevity Exercise You Should Be Doing in Your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and Beyond - Well+Good

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

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