SciCombinator

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There are mean differences in complex traits among global human populations. We hypothesize that part of the phenotypic differentiation is due to natural selection. To address this hypothesis, we assess the differentiation in allele frequencies of trait-associated SNPs among African, Eastern Asian, and European populations for ten complex traits using data of large sample size (up to ~405,000). We show that SNPs associated with height ([Formula: see text]), waist-to-hip ratio ([Formula: see text]), and schizophrenia ([Formula: see text]) are significantly more differentiated among populations than matched “control” SNPs, suggesting that these trait-associated SNPs have undergone natural selection. We further find that SNPs associated with height ([Formula: see text]) and schizophrenia ([Formula: see text]) show significantly higher variance in linkage disequilibrium (LD) scores across populations than control SNPs. Our results support the hypothesis that natural selection has shaped the genetic differentiation of complex traits, such as height and schizophrenia, among worldwide populations.

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Economic globalization and concomitant growth in international trade since the late 1990s have profoundly reorganized global production activities and related CO2 emissions. Here we show trade among developing nations (i.e., South-South trade) has more than doubled between 2004 and 2011, which reflects a new phase of globalization. Some production activities are relocating from China and India to other developing countries, particularly raw materials and intermediate goods production in energy-intensive sectors. In turn, the growth of CO2 emissions embodied in Chinese exports has slowed or reversed, while the emissions embodied in exports from less-developed regions such as Vietnam and Bangladesh have surged. Although China’s emissions may be peaking, ever more complex supply chains are distributing energy-intensive industries and their CO2 emissions throughout the global South. This trend may seriously undermine international efforts to reduce global emissions that increasingly rely on rallying voluntary contributions of more, smaller, and less-developed nations.

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Malaria remains among the world’s deadliest diseases, and control efforts depend critically on the availability of effective diagnostic tools, particularly for the identification of asymptomatic infections, which play a key role in disease persistence and may account for most instances of transmission but often evade detection by current screening methods. Research on humans and in animal models has shown that infection by malaria parasites elicits changes in host odors that influence vector attraction, suggesting that such changes might yield robust biomarkers of infection status. Here we present findings based on extensive collections of skin volatiles from human populations with high rates of malaria infection in Kenya. We report broad and consistent effects of malaria infection on human volatile profiles, as well as significant divergence in the effects of symptomatic and asymptomatic infections. Furthermore, predictive models based on machine learning algorithms reliably determined infection status based on volatile biomarkers. Critically, our models identified asymptomatic infections with 100% sensitivity, even in the case of low-level infections not detectable by microscopy, far exceeding the performance of currently available rapid diagnostic tests in this regard. We also identified a set of individual compounds that emerged as consistently important predictors of infection status. These findings suggest that volatile biomarkers may have significant potential for the development of a robust, noninvasive screening method for detecting malaria infections under field conditions.

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Intermittent fasting (IF) improves cardiometabolic health; however, it is unknown whether these effects are due solely to weight loss. We conducted the first supervised controlled feeding trial to test whether IF has benefits independent of weight loss by feeding participants enough food to maintain their weight. Our proof-of-concept study also constitutes the first trial of early time-restricted feeding (eTRF), a form of IF that involves eating early in the day to be in alignment with circadian rhythms in metabolism. Men with prediabetes were randomized to eTRF (6-hr feeding period, with dinner before 3 p.m.) or a control schedule (12-hr feeding period) for 5 weeks and later crossed over to the other schedule. eTRF improved insulin sensitivity, β cell responsiveness, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and appetite. We demonstrate for the first time in humans that eTRF improves some aspects of cardiometabolic health and that IF’s effects are not solely due to weight loss.

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Freshwater availability is changing worldwide. Here we quantify 34 trends in terrestrial water storage observed by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites during 2002-2016 and categorize their drivers as natural interannual variability, unsustainable groundwater consumption, climate change or combinations thereof. Several of these trends had been lacking thorough investigation and attribution, including massive changes in northwestern China and the Okavango Delta. Others are consistent with climate model predictions. This observation-based assessment of how the world’s water landscape is responding to human impacts and climate variations provides a blueprint for evaluating and predicting emerging threats to water and food security.

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The Montreal Protocol was designed to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by enabling reductions in the abundance of ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the atmosphere1-3. The reduction in the atmospheric concentration of trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11) has made the second-largest contribution to the decline in the total atmospheric concentration of ozone-depleting chlorine since the 1990s 1 . However, CFC-11 still contributes one-quarter of all chlorine reaching the stratosphere, and a timely recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer depends on a sustained decline in CFC-11 concentrations 1 . Here we show that the rate of decline of atmospheric CFC-11 concentrations observed at remote measurement sites was constant from 2002 to 2012, and then slowed by about 50 per cent after 2012. The observed slowdown in the decline of CFC-11 concentration was concurrent with a 50 per cent increase in the mean concentration difference observed between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and also with the emergence of strong correlations at the Mauna Loa Observatory between concentrations of CFC-11 and other chemicals associated with anthropogenic emissions. A simple model analysis of our findings suggests an increase in CFC-11 emissions of 13 ± 5 gigagrams per year (25 ± 13 per cent) since 2012, despite reported production being close to zero 4 since 2006. Our three-dimensional model simulations confirm the increase in CFC-11 emissions, but indicate that this increase may have been as much as 50 per cent smaller as a result of changes in stratospheric processes or dynamics. The increase in emission of CFC-11 appears unrelated to past production; this suggests unreported new production, which is inconsistent with the Montreal Protocol agreement to phase out global CFC production by 2010.

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The bright ultrafast pulses of X-ray Free-Electron Lasers allow investigation into the structure of matter under extreme conditions. We have used single pulses to ionize and probe water as it undergoes a phase transition from liquid to plasma. We report changes in the structure of liquid water on a femtosecond time scale when irradiated by single 6.86 keV X-ray pulses of more than 106 J/cm2 These observations are supported by simulations based on molecular dynamics and plasma dynamics of a water system that is rapidly ionized and driven out of equilibrium. This exotic ionic and disordered state with the density of a liquid is suggested to be structurally different from a neutral thermally disordered state.

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An individual’s environmental surroundings interact with the development and maturation of their brain. An important aspect of an individual’s environment is his or her socioeconomic status (SES), which estimates access to material resources and social prestige. Previous characterizations of the relation between SES and the brain have primarily focused on earlier or later epochs of the lifespan (i.e., childhood, older age). We broaden this work to examine the relationship between SES and the brain across a wide range of human adulthood (20-89 years), including individuals from the less studied middle-age range. SES, defined by education attainment and occupational socioeconomic characteristics, moderates previously reported age-related differences in the brain’s functional network organization and whole-brain cortical structure. Across middle age (35-64 years), lower SES is associated with reduced resting-state system segregation (a measure of effective functional network organization). A similar but less robust relationship exists between SES and age with respect to brain anatomy: Lower SES is associated with reduced cortical gray matter thickness in middle age. Conversely, younger and older adulthood do not exhibit consistent SES-related difference in the brain measures. The SES-brain relationships persist after controlling for measures of physical and mental health, cognitive ability, and participant demographics. Critically, an individual’s childhood SES cannot account for the relationship between their current SES and functional network organization. These findings provide evidence that SES relates to the brain’s functional network organization and anatomy across adult middle age, and that higher SES may be a protective factor against age-related brain decline.

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Calories from any food have the potential to increase risk for obesity and cardiometabolic disease because all calories can directly contribute to positive energy balance and fat gain. However, various dietary components or patterns may promote obesity and cardiometabolic disease by additional mechanisms that are not mediated solely by caloric content. Researchers explored this topic at the 2017 CrossFit Foundation Academic Conference ‘Diet and Cardiometabolic Health - Beyond Calories’, and this paper summarizes the presentations and follow-up discussions. Regarding the health effects of dietary fat, sugar and non-nutritive sweeteners, it is concluded that food-specific saturated fatty acids and sugar-sweetened beverages promote cardiometabolic diseases by mechanisms that are additional to their contribution of calories to positive energy balance and that aspartame does not promote weight gain. The challenges involved in conducting and interpreting clinical nutritional research, which preclude more extensive conclusions, are detailed. Emerging research is presented exploring the possibility that responses to certain dietary components/patterns are influenced by the metabolic status, developmental period or genotype of the individual; by the responsiveness of brain regions associated with reward to food cues; or by the microbiome. More research regarding these potential ‘beyond calories’ mechanisms may lead to new strategies for attenuating the obesity crisis.

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Previous research has demonstrated that individuals with higher intelligence are more likely to have larger gray matter volume in brain areas predominantly located in parieto-frontal regions. These findings were usually interpreted to mean that individuals with more cortical brain volume possess more neurons and thus exhibit more computational capacity during reasoning. In addition, neuroimaging studies have shown that intelligent individuals, despite their larger brains, tend to exhibit lower rates of brain activity during reasoning. However, the microstructural architecture underlying both observations remains unclear. By combining advanced multi-shell diffusion tensor imaging with a culture-fair matrix-reasoning test, we found that higher intelligence in healthy individuals is related to lower values of dendritic density and arborization. These results suggest that the neuronal circuitry associated with higher intelligence is organized in a sparse and efficient manner, fostering more directed information processing and less cortical activity during reasoning.