Bacteria Fight Obesity

Gut microbes may be another way to tackle  obesity, new research suggests.

Could a transplant of gut bacteria be the key to tackling obesity?


Scientists found that by altering the levels  of gastric bugs in mice, they were able to induce rapid and significant weight  loss.

The change occurred after bacteria from obese  mice that had undergone gastric bypass surgery were transplanted into ordinary  animals.

Surgery had the effect of altering the  make-up of the gut flora, introducing a different balance which promoted  slimming.

Surgery to transplant different bacteria into the gut - altering the make-up of the gut flora - promoted slimming, say researchers
Surgery to transplant different bacteria into the gut –  altering the make-up of the gut flora – promoted slimming, say researchers

When this new mix of microbes was transferred  to non-obese mice, the weight loss benefits were transferred too.

The U.S. research shows that gastric bypasses  do more than prevent food being digested. Much of their impact is due to altered  ecology in the gut.

‘It may not be that we will have a magic pill  that will work for everyone who’s slightly overweight,’ said study leader Dr  Peter Turnbaugh, from Harvard University, Boston.

‘But if we can, at a minimum, provide some  alternative to gastric bypass surgery that produces similar effects, it would be  a major advance.’

Gastric bypasses work by rearranging the gut  so that it accommodates less food.

The research showed that after surgery  different kinds of microbe began to take over. In particular, the gut became  dominated by verrucomicrobia and gammaproteobacteria. In contrast levels of the  Firmicutes family of bugs fell.

It took less than a week for the rebalancing  to occur, and the effect continued for months afterwards.

The new population of bugs appeared to drive  weight loss, and continued to do so when transferred to a non-obese group of  mice that had not undergone a gastric bypass.

An altered balance of microbes in the gut can lead to weight loss
An altered balance of microbes in the gut can lead to  weight loss

‘Simply by colonizing mice with the altered  microbial community, the mice were able to maintain a lower body fat and lose  weight – about 20 per cent as much as they would if they underwent surgery,’  said Dr Turnbaugh.

He suspected an even more dramatic result  would have been seen if the mice receiving the bugs had been fattened up  beforehand.

How particular populations of microbes induce  weight loss remains unclear.

The answer may be linked to waste products  the bugs excrete, according to the research published in the journal Science  Translational Medicine.

Along with the altered microbes, the  scientists found changes in the concentration of certain short-chain fatty  acids. Previous studies have suggested the molecules may trigger signals that  cause the body to speed up metabolism, or store fewer calories as  fat.

‘A major gap in our knowledge is the  underlying mechanism linking microbes to weight loss,’ said Dr Turnbaugh. ‘There  were certain microbes that we found at higher abundance after surgery, so we  think those are good targets for beginning to understand what is taking  place.’

Co-author Dr Lee Kaplan, from Massachusetts  General Hospital in Boston, said: ‘We need to learn a good deal more about the  mechanisms by which a microbial population changed by gastric bypass exert its  effects, and then we need to learn if we can produce these effects – either the  microbial changes or the associated metabolic changes – without  surgery.

‘The ability to achieve even some of these  effects without surgery would give us an entirely new way to treat the critical  problem of obesity, one that could help patients unable or unwilling to have

Attribution: Anna Hodgekiss, Mail Online

Some Wild, and not so Wild, Photos

Felix the polar bear chews on a $2,000 camera lens dropped into his enclosure at Nuremberg Zoo, Germany. .

A white-tailed eagle catches an eel at the wildlife park Feldberger Seenlandschaft (‘Feldberg Lake District’) in Feldberg, Germany

A baby pygmy hippopotamus keeps close to her mom in their enclosure in Wroclaw Zoo, Wroclaw, Poland

Nile Croc tries to steal dinner fron Lioness and her cubs

An otter shows of his catch, Shetland Islands, Scotland

An adult bonobo stares into the camera at Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary at Petites Chutes De La Lukaya, in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Emperor penguins, Ross Sea, Antarctica

A European brown bear relaxes at the Bavarian Forest National Park in Eastern Bavaria, Germany

A monkey rests inside in a bowl, Kamakhya temple in Gauhati, India

Eighteen pound giant Tasmanian king crab, Sea Life Center in Birmingham.

Attribution: UK Telegraph

Power of Kawaii

One thing the internet has  shown us, it is that few  people can resist looking at images of cute animals.

Now new research has  revealed that looking at cute images of baby animals doesn’t just make you feel  warm and fuzzy inside, but can actually improve your work performance and help  you concentrate.

The study comes from  researchers at Hiroshima University. In Japanese, the word ‘kawaii’ means cute,  and so the report is rather appropriately entitled ‘Power of Kawaii’.

The subjects were told the  pictures, which they viewed during a ‘break’ in the tasks, were for a separate  experiment.

In the Operation  experiment, the participants who were shown images of puppies and kittens  performed their tasks better after the break than those who looked at cats and  dogs. Performance scores improved by 44%. They also took their time. The time it  took to complete the task increased by 12%.

‘This finding suggests that  viewing cute images makes participants behave more deliberately and perform  tasks with greater time and care,’ said the researchers, according to the  published paper.

Similar jumps in  performance were seen in the numbers experiment, suggesting that looking at cute  images increases attentiveness even when the task at hand is unlikely to raise  feelings of empathy.

The group that saw kitten  and puppies were more accurate, improving their scores by about 16%. They were  also faster, increasing the number of random numerical sequences they got  through by about 13%. There was no change among groups that saw cats and dogs,  and food images.

‘Kawaii things not only  make us happier, but also affect our behavior,’ wrote the researchers, led by  cognitive psychologist Hiroshi Nittono. ‘This study shows that viewing cute  things improves subsequent performance in tasks that require behavioral  carefulness, possibly by narrowing the breadth of attentional  focus.’

The study’s authors write  that in the future cute objects could be used as a way to trigger emotions ‘to  induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and  office work.’

Joke of the Day

Actual Children’s quotes:

1. Never trust a dog to watch your food. – Patrick, age 10

2. When your dad is mad and asks you, ‘Do I look stupid?’ don’t answer him. – Michael, 14

3. Never tell your mom her diet’s not working. – Michael, 14

4. Stay away from prunes. – Randy, 9

5. Never pee on an electric fence. – Robert, 13

6. Don’t squat with your spurs on. – Noronha, 13

7. Don’t pull dad’s finger when he tells you to. – Emily, 10

8. When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair. – Taylia, 11

9. Never allow your three-year old brother in the same room as your school assignment. – Traci, 14

10. Never hold a dust buster and a cat at the same time. – Kyoyo, 9

11. You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. – Armir, 9

12. Felt markers are not good to use as lipstick. – Lauren, 9

13. Don’t pick on your sister when she’s holding a baseball bat. – Joel, 10

14. When you get a bad grade in school, show it to your mom when she’s on the phone. – Alyesha, 13

15. Never try to baptize a cat. – Eileen, 8


Divers often resort to metal armour, harpoons or simply staying in a cage to protect themselves from sharks, but researchers have shown that magnets could be the way to ensure ‘safety beneath the waves.’

Chemist Eric Stroud runs a research company called SharkDefense, and he’s proved that some sharks cannot bear to be near magnets.

He first discovered this in 2005 when he accidentally dropped one into his shark research tanks in Oak Ridge, New Jersey.

The resident lemon and nurse sharks inside raced away from the magnets as fast as they could.

He demonstrates just how effective magnets are at repelling sharks in a video (below) in the Bahamas.

The footage shows one of his collegues coaxing a small lemon shark into a sleep-like state by holding it gently upside down.

Mr Stroud then holds a piece of card next to the shark to make sure it can’t see what’s coming and moves a magnet right next to its head.

The shark instantly bends away from it, unable to stand being close by. Mr Stroud believes the process that’s taking place, is the magnet interfering with the shark’s electrical sensors, called the ampullae of Lorenzini.

These are used by the creatures to find their way around, because they tune in to the electric fields of ocean currents.

Mr Stroud said, ‘It’s probably something like a bright flashlight across your eyes. It’s just temporarily blinding, and you’re startled. And it’s not pleasant.’

Mr Stroud believes his work can not only help to keep swimmers and divers safe, but protect shark populations, too, which often get caught in nets and on fishing hooks.

To this end already sells magnetic fish hooks developed by SharkDefense, while Stroud suggests that rows of underground magnets would be a far better way of keeping swimmers safe, while at the same time ensuring the sharks come to no harm.

However, not everyone is convinced of the effectiveness of magnets at keeping sharks at bay. Popular TV show Mythbusters conducted a series of experiments to test the theory and found that magnets only work with some species of shark, and not in every circumstance. It showed that lemon sharks ignored the magnets when there was food attached to them.

Attribution: The World

Joke of the Day

A cocky State Highway inspector stopped at a farm and talked with an old farmer. He told the farmer, “I need to inspect your farm for a possible new road.”

The old farmer said, “OK, but don’t go in that field.” The arrogant Highway employee said, “I have the authority of the State Government to go where I want. See this card? I am allowed to go wherever I wish.”

So the old farmer went about his farm chores.

Later, he heard loud screams and saw the State Highway employee running for the fence and close behind was the farmer’s prize bull. The bull was madder than a nest full of hornets and the was gaining on the employee at every step!!

The Inspector, running at break-neck speed, shouted to the farmer, “Help, what do I do?”.
The old farmer shouted back, “Show him your card!!”

For the Person who has Everything!

Bet you don’t have one of these? Bet you’ll want one? I know I do. How cool is this?

Could this be the best ever use for a deceased jellyfish? A bright spark has found an ingenious use for the corpses of the sea creatures: making them into glow-in-the-dark lamps.

In Tennesee, ‘The Amazing Jellyfish (’ take the bioluminescent bodies of creatures that have died of natural causes and encase them in resin, thus preserving not just their bodies, but also their incredible glow-in-the-dark properties.

Thanks to the phosphur proteins in their bodies – part of the defence mechanism that they use to frighten predators – jellyfish absorb light naturally, and emit it with an ethereal blueish glow when under darkened conditions.

How it Works

After a jellyfish dies, the firm freeze its body using liquid nitrogen, which they then set in crystalline resin – a special sort of epoxy that can withstand working at ultra low temperatures – creating a cast of the body, which is set in an ovoid mould shaped like the resulting lamp.

No extra light is needed – the natural radiance the jellyfish emit in a darkened room has been absorbed during the daylight hours.

However, some of the lamps come with a special base that can add an eerie glow to the jellyfish so that it can also be used as a more traditional light.

For the squeamish, it is worth pointing out that the transparent resin, crystalline epoxy, is strong and shatterproof, so will not break if dropped.