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Scientists to Detect and Count Stranded Whales from Space

It is hoped that in the future the technique will lead to real-time information as stranding events happen

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Scientists, Whales, Space
Now we have a higher resolution 'window' on our planet, satellite imagery may be a fast and cost-effective alternative to aerial surveys allowing us to assess the extent of mass whale stranding events, especially in remote and inaccessible areas. Pixabay

Analysing satellite images may help scientists detect and count stranded whales from space, new research has found.

In a study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers tested a new detection method using Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite images from space tech compnay Maxar Technologies.

“This is an exciting development in monitoring whales from space,” said lead author Peter Fretwell at British Antarctic Survey.

“Now we have a higher resolution ‘window’ on our planet, satellite imagery may be a fast and cost-effective alternative to aerial surveys allowing us to assess the extent of mass whale stranding events, especially in remote and inaccessible areas.”

Scientists, Whales, Space
In a study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers tested a new detection method using Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite images from space tech compnay Maxar Technologies. Pixabay

It is hoped that in the future the technique will lead to real-time information as stranding events happen.

The study by scientists from British Antarctic Survey and four Chilean research institutes, could revolutionise how stranded whales, that are dead in the water or beached, are detected in remote places.

In 2015, over 340 whales, most of them sea whales, were involved in a mass-stranding in a remote region of Chilean Patagonia.

The stranding was not discovered for several weeks owing to the remoteness of the region. Aerial and boat surveys assessed the extent of the mortality several months after discovery.

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The researchers studied satellite images covering thousands of kilometres of coastline, which provided an early insight into the extent of the mortality.

They could identify the shape, size and colour of the whales, especially after several weeks when the animals turned pink and orange as they decomposed.

A greater number of whales were counted in the images captured soon after the stranding event than from the local surveys.

Scientists, Whales, Space
“This is an exciting development in monitoring whales from space,” said lead author Peter Fretwell at British Antarctic Survey. Pixabay

“The causes of marine mammal strandings are poorly understood and therefore information gathered helps understand how these events may be influenced by overall health, diet, environmental pollution, regional oceanography, social structures and climate change,” said study co-author and whale biologist Jennifer Jackson at British Antarctic Survey.

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“As this new technology develops, we hope it will become a useful tool for obtaining real-time information. This will allow local authorities to intervene earlier and possibly help with conservation efforts,” Jackson said. (IANS)

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Heart Rate Gets Altered in Space But Returns to Normal on Earth

Upon return to Earth, space-flown heart cells show normal structure and morphology

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Heart Rate
Relatively little is known about the role of microgravity in influencing human Heart Rate at the cellular level. Pixabay

Heart Rate gets altered in space but return to normal within 10 days on Earth, say researchers who examined cell-level cardiac function and gene expression in human heart cells cultured aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for 5.5 weeks.

Exposure to microgravity altered the expression of thousands of genes, but largely normal patterns of gene expression reappeared within 10 days after returning to Earth, according to the study published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

“We’re surprised about how quickly human heart muscle cells are able to adapt to the environment in which they are placed, including microgravity,” said senior study author Joseph C. Wu from Stanford University.

These studies may provide insight into cellular mechanisms that could benefit astronaut health during long-duration spaceflight, or potentially lay the foundation for new insights into improving heart health on Earth.

Past studies have shown that spaceflight induces physiological changes in cardiac function, including reduced heart rate, lowered arterial pressure, and increased cardiac output.

But to date, most cardiovascular microgravity physiology studies have been conducted either in non-human models or at tissue, organ, or systemic levels.

Relatively little is known about the role of microgravity in influencing human cardiac function at the cellular level.

Heart Rate
Heart Rate gets altered in space but return to normal within 10 days on Earth, say researchers who examined cell-level cardiac function and gene expression in human heart cells cultured aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for 5.5 weeks. Pixabay

To address this question, the research team studied human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs). They generated hiPSC lines from three individuals by reprogramming blood cells, and then differentiated them into heart cells.

Beating heart cells were then sent to the ISS aboard a SpaceX spacecraft as part of a commercial resupply service mission.

Simultaneously, ground control heart cells were cultured on Earth for comparison purposes.

Upon return to Earth, space-flown heart cells showed normal structure and morphology. However, they did adapt by modifying their beating pattern and calcium recycling patterns.

In addition, the researchers performed RNA sequencing of heart cells harvested at 4.5 weeks aboard the ISS, and 10 days after returning to Earth.

These results showed that 2,635 genes were differentially expressed among flight, post-flight, and ground control samples.

Most notably, gene pathways related to mitochondrial function were expressed more in space-flown heart cells.

A comparison of the samples revealed that heart cells adopt a unique gene expression pattern during spaceflight, which reverts to one that is similar to groundside controls upon return to normal gravity, the study noted.

Heart Rate
Past studies have shown that spaceflight induces physiological changes in cardiac function, including reduced Heart Rate, lowered arterial pressure, and increased cardiac output. Pixabay

According to Wu, limitations of the study include its short duration and the use of 2D cell culture.

In future studies, the researchers plan to examine the effects of spaceflight and microgravity using more physiologically relevant hiPSC-derived 3D heart tissues with various cell types, including blood vessel cells.

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“We also plan to test different treatments on the human heart cells to determine if we can prevent some of the changes the heart cells undergo during spaceflight,” Wu said. (IANS)