Last Week in Science (10th Dec 2023)


The Honey Hunters and their companions

Honey hunters in Africa, people who look for honey bee nests to extract honey use a special guide - the honey guide birds. What makes this cooperation interesting? The honey hunters use a special sounds to call the birds to lead them to honey bee nests. The birds get wax and bee larvae in return. And at times it is the bird that calls upon these humans to go honey hunting.

People in different regions of Africa use different sounds to call birds of that region. What makes it unique is that the birds are genetically same but have learnt to recognize different sounds. The study was carried out by researchers of Cambridge university. They say that that cultural practices of these birds and honey hunters are affecting each other. The sounds that are being used by the hunters are passed on from generation to generation. But if that is the same for the honey guide birds still needs to be studied.   

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Predicting disease by looking at your blood

We hear all the time that age is just a number and now we have scientific evidence to back that. 

There have been studies that predicted the biological age of a person by looking at the condition of the body using various tests, but they haven't looked at individual organs. The existing tests for various organs tell us about the status of a disease condition. What if we get to know in advance that one of our organs is at risk of developing a disease, would it not help us by taking timely precautions?

Researchers at Stanford University have taken a step in that direction. They found after looking at the blood samples of 5000 individuals that different organs age differently in an individual and amongst different individuals by identifying proteins - molecules that make an organ function, coming from different organs. They used machine learning to predict the age of an organ and found that 20 out of 100 individuals in those 5000 people that they studied, had an organ that was ageing faster than what it would have been like in most individuals of their age. This increases their chance of developing disease in that organ and increased the chances of early death. 
The blood tests need to be tested in more individuals before it will become available to know the age of your different organs. 

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A sense of relief

Do you remember feeling a sense of relief after that stressful interview was over or after coming out of the examination hall? Although, we still don't know why it happens but the researchers at Zhejiang University, China have found an important application for this behaviour. 

This feeling of relief is seen because the reward centres in the brain become activated as the stress ends.
The researchers show that this feeling of relief after stress helps in preventing depression. They tested depressed mice by giving them stress - a foot shock or by keeping them immobile - and then gave them a reward like a chocolate. They found that these mice showed less of depressed behaviour but this did not happen in mice that were not given the reward. 

The researchers suggest that providing reward within two hours after the stressful situation is over could help in alleviating symptoms of depression. 

We now know why that ice cream/chocolate or shopping after a stressful situation feels so good.

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