Yes they do, just look at the Royal parasites from England…Hehehe
“The parasite grows in a rodent, but it needs to get into a cat somehow to reproduce,” says Shelley Adamo, a biologist who studies neuroparasitology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. “When a rat becomes infected, the parasite somehow makes rats become attracted to cat urine, when it would normally avoid it.”
Estimates from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that more than 60 million Americans carry the single-celled parasite, most often obtained through ingesting undercooked meat or interacting with cats. The CDC claims that “of those who are infected very few have symptoms because a healthy person’s immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness.” This new information may force scientists to reconsider that statement, however.
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology by Jaroslav Flegr, a scientist at Charles University in Prague, suggests that people who are infected with this parasite have slower reaction times and are often “less altruistic” than uninfected people.
Researchers determined that women who were infected with Toxoplasma “more often report that diplomacy is not their strong point” and that “some people have the power to impose their will on others with hypnosis.” They also described women having “a weak instinct for self-preservation: in situations where somebody else might be afraid, for example being alone in a forest or in an empty house at night, they remain calm.”
Flegr acknowledges that they “cannot distinguish whether the observed changes are manifestations of the manipulative activity or only symptoms of the chronic disease” often caused by Toxoplasma, but Toxoplasma infection’s prevalence, nevertheless, makes it an ideal “model for studying manipulative activity in humans.” There are a “large number of parasitic organisms … that may influence the human host even more than the Taxoplasma,” he continues.
With permission from
July 26, 2017
An analysis of research into male fertility suggests that there has been a steep decline in sperm counts for men living in richer nations.
The review pooled data from 185 different studies, and found a 59.3 per cent drop between 1973 and 2011 in the average amount of sperm produced by men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. No similar pattern was seen in South America, Asia and Africa, although fewer studies had been conducted in these countries.
Dietary and environmental exposures as well as pharmaceuticals are all linked to the quality of male sperm, revealing that toxins in many substances we interact with affect sperm maturation and membrane function in men. This means that men who are at increased risk of sperm DNA damage because of advancing age can do something about it.
“Given the importance of sperm counts for male fertility and human health, this study is an urgent wake-up call for researchers and health authorities around the world to investigate the causes of the sharp, ongoing drop in sperm count,” says Hagai Levine, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who worked on the analysis.
“The fact that the decline is seen in Western countries strongly suggests that chemicals in commerce are playing a causal role in this trend,” says team-member Shanna Swan, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.
Exposure to chemicals in the womb, adult exposure to pesticides, smoking, stress and obesity have all previously been linked to lower sperm counts. But previous studies reporting falling sperm counts have been challenged by some for being unreliable.
“Previous smaller studies have suffered from confounding factors, including the fact that methods of counting sperm in the laboratory might have changed over the years, or that the populations of men being studied might have changed,” says Daniel Brison, at the University of Manchester, UK.
“This new analysis overcomes those problems by including a large number of studies of varying design and location around the world, to confirm that the decline in sperm counts is likely to be real,” says Brison.
Allan Pacey, of the University of Sheffield, UK, says that, despite the decline found in the study, average sperm counts still remain in the normal range.
It helped them conquer the world, three billion years ago.
Senior Lecturer in Biology, Brunel University London
Aug 7, 2017
Creating a huge global network connecting billions of individuals might be one of humanity’s greatest achievements to date, but microbes beat us to it by more than three billion years. These tiny single-celled organisms aren’t just responsible for all life on Earth. They also have their own versions of the World Wide Web and the Internet of Things. Here’s how they work.
Much like our own cells, microbes treat pieces of DNA as coded messages. These messages contain information for assembling proteins into molecular machines that can solve specific problems, such as repairing the cell. But microbes don’t just get these messages from their own DNA. They also swallow pieces of DNA from their dead relatives or exchange them with living mates.
These DNA pieces are then incorporated into their genomes, which are like computers overseeing the work of the entire protein machinery. In this way, the tiny microbe is a flexible learning machine that intelligently searches for resources in its environment. If one protein machine doesn’t work, the microbe tries another one. Trial and error solve all the problems.
But microbes are too small to act on their own. Instead, they form societies. Microbes have been living as giant colonies, containing trillions of members, from the dawn of life. These colonies have even left behind mineral structures known as stromatolites. These are microbial metropolises, frozen in time like Pompeii, that provide evidence of life from billions of years ago.
Microbial colonies are constantly learning and adapting. They emerged in the oceans and gradually conquered the land – and at the heart of their exploration strategy was information exchange. As we’ve seen, individual members communicate by exchanging chemical messages in a highly coordinated fashion. In this way, microbial society effectively constructs a collective “mind”.
This collective mind directs pieces of software, written in DNA code, back and forth between trillions of microbes with a single aim: to fully explore the local environment for resources using protein machines.
When resources are exhausted in one place, microbial expedition forces advance to find new lands of plenty. They transmit their discoveries back to base using different kinds of chemical signals, calling for microbial society to transform from settlers to colonisers.
In this way, microbes eventually conquered the entire planet, creating a global microbial network that resembles our own World Wide Web but using biocehmical signals instead of electronic digital ones. In theory, a signal emitted in waters around the South Pole could effectively travel fast to waters around the North Pole.
The similarities with human technology don’t stop there. Scientists and engineers are now working on expanding our own information network into the Internet of Things, integrating all manner of devices by equipping them with microchips to sense and communicate. Your fridge will be able to alert you when it is out of milk. Your house will be able to tell you when it is being burgled.
Microbes built their version of the Internet of Things a long time ago. We can call it the “Internet of Living Things”, although it’s more often known as the biosphere. Every organism on the planet is linked in this complex network that depends on microbes for its survival.
More than a billion years ago, one microbe found its way inside another microbe that became its host. These two microbes became a symbiotic hybrid known as the eukaryotic cell, the basis for most of the lifeforms we are commonly familiar with today. All plants and animals are descended from this microbial merger and so they contain the biological “plug-in” software that connects them to the Internet of Living Things.
For example, humans are designed in a way that means we cannot function without the trillions of microbes inside our bodies (our microbiome) that help us do things like digest food and develop immunity to germs. We are so overwhelmed by microbes that we imprint personal microbial signatures on every surface we touch.
The Internet of Living Things is a neat and beautifully functioning system. Plants and animals live on the ecological waste created by microbes. While to microbes, all plants and animals are, as author Howard Bloom puts it, “mere cattle on whose flesh they dine”, whose bodies will be digested and recycled one day.
Microbes are even potential cosmic tourists. If humans travel into deep space, our microbes will travel with us. The Internet of Living Things may have a long cosmic reach.
The paradox is that we still perceive microbes as inferior organisms. The reality is that microbes are the invisible and intelligent rulers of the biosphere. Their global biomass exceeds our own. They are the original inventors of the information-based society. Our internet is merely a by-product of the microbial information game initiated three billion years ago.
Differences in modern saliva genes suggest a “ghost” species of ancient humans interbred with others—and that it may not have been unusual.
Researchers studying saliva have found suggestions that a “ghost” species of archaic humans contributed genetic material to ancestors of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa today.
The research adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting sexual rendezvous between different archaic human species may not have been unusual.
“It seems that interbreeding between different early hominin species is not the exception—it’s the norm…”
Past studies have concluded that the forebears of modern humans in Asia and Europe interbred with other early hominin species, including Neanderthals and Denisovans. The new research is among more recent genetic analyses indicating that ancient Africans also had trysts with other early hominins.
“It seems that interbreeding between different early hominin species is not the exception—it’s the norm,” says Omer Gokcumen, an assistant professor of biological sciences in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.
“Our research traced the evolution of an important mucin protein called MUC7 that is found in saliva,” Gokcumen says. “When we looked at the history of the gene that codes for the protein, we see the signature of archaic admixture in modern day Sub-Saharan African populations.”
Scientists made the discovery while researching the purpose and origins of the MUC7 protein, which helps give spit its slimy consistency and binds to microbes—potentially helping to rid the body of disease-causing bacteria.
As part of this investigation, the team examined the MUC7 gene in more than 2,500 modern human genomes. The analysis yielded a surprise: a group of genomes from Sub-Saharan Africa had a version of the gene that was wildly different from versions found in other modern humans.
The Sub-Saharan variant was so distinctive that Neanderthal and Denisovan MUC7 genes matched more closely with those of other modern humans than the Sub-Saharan outlier did.
“Based on our analysis, the most plausible explanation for this extreme variation is archaic introgression—the introduction of genetic material from a ‘ghost’ species of ancient hominins,” Gokcumen says.
“This unknown human relative could be a species that has been discovered, such as a subspecies of Homo erectus, or an undiscovered hominin. We call it a ‘ghost’ species because we don’t have the fossils,” explains Gokcumen.
Given the rate that genes mutate during the course of evolution, the team calculated that the ancestors of people who carry the Sub-Saharan MUC7 variant interbred with another ancient human species as recently as 150,000 years ago, after the two species’ evolutionary path diverged from each other some 1.5 to 2 million years ago.
The scientists are interested in MUC7 because a previous study showed that the protein likely evolved to serve an important purpose in humans.
In some people, the gene that codes for MUC7 holds six copies of genetic instructions that direct the body to build parts of the corresponding protein. In other people, the gene harbors only five sets of these instructions (known as tandem repeats).
Prior studies by other researchers found that the five-copy version of the gene protected against asthma, but Gokcumen and colleagues did not see this association when they ran a more detailed analysis.
The new study did conclude, however, that MUC7 appears to influence the makeup of the oral microbiome, the collection of bacteria within the mouth. The evidence for this came from an analysis of biological samples from 130 people, which found that different versions of the MUC7 gene were strongly associated with different oral microbiome compositions.
“From what we know of MUC7, it makes sense that people with different versions of the MUC7 gene could have different oral microbiomes,” says Stefan Ruhl, co-lead of the study and a professor of oral biology in University of Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine.
“The MUC7 protein is thought to enhance the ability of saliva to bind to microbes, an important task that may help prevent disease by clearing unwanted bacteria or other pathogens from the mouth,” Ruhl says.
The research appears in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. Additional researchers who contributed to the work are from Penn State; the Foundation for Research and Technology—Hellas in Greece; and the University of Minnesota.
The University at Buffalo Research Foundation, InnovCrete, and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research funded the work.
Source: University at Buffalo
With permission from
July 17, 2017
The human body is a very complex system, that is quite hard to understand. Scientists are still working on figuring out how and why things work like they do.
We still do not quite understand where feelings and emotions come from and why do are exactly like we are. Another thing that is still a mystery is the moment before dying.
Many doctors have reported that patients make similar comments before passing away. It seems, that the patients know that they are dying even before doctors do.
Their indicators might even improve and the doctor might think that there is still a change, but the patients already feel that the end is near.
People, who have a sixth sense, often say goodbye to their loved ones before they pass away. It is a strange thing that they kind of feel when it is time to go.
These people start to make up with their past enemies and fix relationships that need fixing so they can pass away without unfinished business.
This is not very common, but it is actually common to feel one’s death right before it happens. This is a bit scary, but at the same time, it is good, because then you have a chance to say goodbye to your loved ones.
Some people might argue that there is no such thing as knowing your death time and the cases, where people start to say goodbye before dying, are purely a coincidence.
A study was conducted at the University of Kent’s School of Psychology, which researched the possibility that people detect their death through scent.
Arnaud Wisman, who was the head of this study, analyzed the body during the dying process. It turns out that when a person dies, their body breaks down and many scents are released during this process.
One scent is putrescine, which is the result of the decomposing process. Humans do not consciously know the smell or notice it, but subconsciously the mind recognizes the smell and knows that the end is near.
Arnaud Wisman conducted different experiments using the smell of putrescine, ammonia, and water. The participants were exposed to different smells and then their reaction was examined.
Participants associated putrescine with negative emotions although none of them was familiar with the smell. But no participant associated the smell of putrescine with death or fear. That’s because our conscious mind does not see the connection, but the subconscious mind does.
The study, which conducted at the University of Kent’s School of Psychology, is part of a much larger question that many scientists are dealing with.
There have been studies that show a connection between emotions and scent. For example, some kind smells can make us feel scared or stressed.
So when someone you truly care for is in a hospital or just ill and wants to see you, then definitely find time to go and visit them.
Maybe they know that the end is near and they just want to say one last goodbye to you. If you miss this opportunity, you are going to regret it for the rest of your life.
Mothers Will Risk Their Life For Their Children Because Of This One Hormone
June 14, 2017
From birds to mammals, from fish to reptiles, the immediate reaction to an impending threat to the animal itself is usually to flee or to stop moving in an attempt to go unnoticed. However, when parents feel threatened in the presence of their young, their reaction is completely different: they seek to protect them. What happens in the brains of the parents for them to to be willing to sacrifice their own life in the interest of their offspring’s safety?
A team lead by neuroscientists from the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, in Lisbon, Portugal, has discovered that this radical change in the parents’ behavior (from self-defense to defending their young) depends on the action of the so-called “love hormone“, oxytocin, on the neurons of the amygdala, a specific brain structure known for its crucial role in the processing of emotional reactions. Their results have been published in the journal eLife.
Oxytocin is responsible for the bonding between mothers and their young, and within couples. Its effects are not well understood; oxytocin probably has many functions, therefore making its difficult.
Experts do know, however, that its release into the amygdala is able to inhibit that basic self-defense reaction they call freezing, when the animal ceases to move.
Nonetheless, the potential usefulness of this inhibition had not been elucidated. The new study, which was done on female rats that had recently given birth, solves this mystery by bridging the gap between these two phenomena.
“We put both things together”, says Marta Moita, who led the study. “We developed a new experiment that allows us to study the mother’s defensive behavior either in the presence or the absence of her pups, while at the same time testing whether oxytocin’s action in the amygdala is required for the regulation of this behavior.”
Since oxytocin acts on many parts of the brain, affecting many behaviors, it is usually difficult to interpret the results when manipulating this hormone. But in the new experiments, says Marta Moita, “we manipulated a circuit where we know precisely how oxytocin leads to inhibition of freezing. So we are very sure of our interpretation of the behavioral results.”
The experiments consisted in conditioning the mother rats, in the absence of their pups, to associate a peppermint scent with the imminence of an innocuous electric shock. After training, these female rats perceived the odor as a threat and froze accordingly.
Once the training was over, the team started by showing that, in the pups’ presence, the mothers didn’t freeze, as they had when they were alone. On the contrary, they now tried to protect their offspring from the peppermint odor by attacking the tube where the odor was coming from, or piling up bits of material from the nest to block the tube â€“ or, if the pups were a little older, by nursing them, grooming them and generally keeping them in close contact with themselves.
However, when the scientists then blocked oxytocin activity in the mothers’ amygdalas, the mothers started to freeze as soon as they perceived the threat, independently of the age of the pups â€“ forgetting, so to speak, their maternal “duties”.
This work provides a new experimental framework “to study the signals transmitted by the pups that make their mother’s brain release oxytocin into the amygdala in the face of danger”, triggering the defensive strategy to protect their offspring, says Marta Moita. “We know that chemical communication is very important, but we still haven’t identified the sensory stimuli that activate oxytocin”, she adds.
Another result worthy of note was the fact that the older pups whose mother, instead of tending to them, had responded to the threat by freezing (because oxytocin in her amygdala was inhibited), did not learn to recognize the peppermint odor as a threat. More specifically, when these pups were later placed by themselves in a box, and exposed to the same odor, they did not freeze. On the other hand, the pups whose mothers had duly cuddled them did freeze when confronted with the same situation. A pheromone emitted by the caring mother might be at the root of this type of learning by the older pups, Marta Moita speculates.
“In all likelihood”, she concludes, “similar mechanisms may be at play in us humans.”