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Lack of sunlight increases MS risk

MELBOURNE, April 30 (UPI) — Babies whose mothers don’t get enough sunlight during the early part of pregnancy are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis, scientists in Australia said.

A lack of sunlight — the main source of Vitamin D — during the first three to four months of pregnancy can affect how a baby’s central nervous and immune system develops, said scientists from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and Australian National University in Acton.

Babies born in November and December, during the Australian summer, had their early months in the winter and so were 32 percent more likely to develop MS than babies whose early months were in the summer and were born in May and June, during the Australian winter, the scientists said. Their results from studying 1,524 patients with MS born between 1920 and 1950 appeared recently in an online edition of the British Medical Journal.

“These results add to the weight of existing evidence suggesting vitamin D plays a role in the development of MS,” Doug Brown, an MS researcher, told The Times of London in a story published Friday.

Bee colonies experience winter drop

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) — A dramatic loss in domestic bee colonies is being blamed on starvation, pesticides, poor weather and weak colonies, U.S. apiary experts said.

Losses of domestic, managed colonies totaled 33.8 percent from October 2009 to April, said a survey released Thursday by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There was a 35.8 percent overall colony loss in the winter of 2007-2008.

The losses threaten the future of U.S. crop pollination and the domestic honey industry, said Jerry Hayes, a hive inspector with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The loss of hives, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, likely was caused by a combination of factors, including environmental stresses, nutrition problems, pathogens and parasites, the survey said.

The survey reported only winter losses and not the number of colonies that fail during the summer, which can be significant, Hayes told The Miami Herald in a story reported Friday.

Genome tests offer crystal ball to future

PALO ALTO, Calif., April 30 (UPI) — A genome report soon will cost no more than $1,000, enabling more people to learn about the health risks encoded in their genes, U.S. researchers said.

The price of a full genome report has dropped to below $10,000 and will continue to drop, WebMD reported Friday.

Stephen Quake, 40, a bioengineer at Stanford University, said he underwent genome testing to learn whether he had any of the risk factors that caused a 19-year-old relative to die suddenly in his sleep.

Stanford researchers determined Quake carries three gene variants linked to sudden cardiac death and is at increased risk for clogged arteries, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

“It is all bad news,” Quake told WebMD, saying every person who examines their genome will find they carry risk genes for more than one serious or deadly disease.

The helpful news is that genome analysis can guide doctors in prescribing preventative treatments, WebMD reported. In Quake’s case he learned he’s genetically more likely to respond to low doses of cholesterol-lowering drugs with a lower risk of side effects.

Pokeberry valuable in solar production

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., April 30 (UPI) — A purple berry used by U.S. Civil War soldiers to write letters home could be used to advance solar power in poor rural areas, scientists said.

Pokeberries proliferate even during drought and in rocky, infertile soil, said David Carroll, director of Wake Forest University’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials.

When applied to fiber-based solar cells, the berry’s dye acts as an absorber, helping the cell’s fibers capture more sunlight to convert into power, Carroll said in a release from the university Thursday.

“They’re weeds. They grow on every continent but Antarctica,” Carroll said.

Newly developed fiber-based solar cells can produce twice as much power as current flat-cell technology and are less expensive to produce, he said.

“It’s a low-cost solar cell that can be made to work with local, low-cost agricultural crops like pokeberries and with a means of production that emerging economies can afford,” Carroll said.

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Categorized | Drought, Other, Solar
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