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Tracking polar bears to help protect them

Queen’s University researchers in Canada have developed a new approach to tracking polar bears, which will shed more light on the potentially endangered Arctic animal and help boost the economy of Canada.

Integrating the traditional knowledge of Inuit hunters with state-of-the-art genetic DNA analysis, a three-part method developed by Peter V C de Groot and Peter Boag, is cheaper and much easier on the bears than the current tracking practice, in which they are spotted from helicopters, tranquilised and marked. “The data from current aerial monitoring methods may be becoming less accurate with increased sea ice changes caused by global warming, and we need a more sensitive tool to monitor Canada’s bear populations,” said Dr de Groot.

“This (new) method, along with others being evaluated, should allow us to annually survey all of the country’s polar bears, non-intrusively, with Inuit involvement, at a fraction of the current cost,” he added.

Clean mouth can help preserve memory

Keeping your teeth brushed and flossed can help preserve memory, say researchers. The study at West Virginia University has found a link between gum disease and memory loss.

“Older people might want to know there’s more reason to keep their mouths clean — to brush and floss — than ever,” said Richard Crout, WVU School of Dentistry.
“You’ll not only be more likely to keep your teeth, but you’ll also reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and memory loss.”

“This could have great implications for health of our aging populations,” Crout said.
“With rates of Alzheimer’s skyrocketing, imagine the benefits of knowing that keeping the mouth free of infection could cut down on cases of dementia,” he added.

Crab, shrimp shells help repair severed nerves

Researchers at the University of Washington have found that mixing chitosan, found in the shells of crabs and shrimp, with an industrial polyester creates a promising new material for the tiny tubes that support repair of a severed nerve, and could serve other medical uses.

The researchers say that the hybrid fibre combines the biologically favourable qualities of the natural material with the mechanical strength of the synthetic polymer.

“A nerve guide requires very strict conditions. It needs to be biocompatible, stable in solution, resistant to collapse and also pliable, so that surgeons can suture it to the nerve. This turns out to be very difficult,” said Miqin Zhang, a professor.

The researchers combined polycaprolactone — a strong, flexible, biodegradable polyester commonly used in sutures — with chitosan at the nanometre scale by first using a technique called electrospinning, and then weaved the fibres together.

Kids now grow taller than those 30 years ago did

Although German children have grown taller than 30 years ago, the height observed during the last century has become slower, say researchers.

Bettina Gohlke and Joachim Woelfle of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Bonn reviewed the current state of knowledge of changes in height and of the physical development of young people.

The found that 7- to 10-year olds are 1 to 1.5 cm taller than in the 1970s, whereas length at birth only slightly increased between 1984 and 1997, by 0.2 cm.
This implies that the rate of growth during childhood has increased. This trend is less marked after puberty.

There has also been little change in physical maturation.

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