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Scientists Find New Ways of Tracking Objects by Combining DNA of Dust Particles

Clothing, medicine and other items in one’s environment all have genetic markers, or fingerprints, that provide clues to where they came from, according to scientists

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dust particles, DNA
Scientists say they have new ways of tracking where clothing, medicines and other items are made, making it harder for unscrupulous businesses to sell items that don't work or violate laws. VOA

Clothing, medicine and other items in one’s environment all have genetic markers, or fingerprints, that provide clues to where they came from, according to scientists.

Researchers are analyzing the microorganisms in dust particles that land on surfaces and are using artificial intelligence to read and classify the unique genetic codes of the microbes that vary from place to place.

“It is the collection of bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa that are present in any environment,” said Jessica Green, microbial systems expert and co-founder of Phylagen, a company that is building a microbial map of the world. Phylagen is collecting dust from different places and turning it into data by studying the DNA of the microscopic organisms in the particles.

DNA, dust particles
This digitally colorized microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) shows Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in yellow. Bacteria are part of the collection of microorganisms that tell scientists where an object has been. VOA

Exposing labor abuses

Phylagen says its findings will provide real world applications. The California-based company says one application involves companies that outsource the manufacturing of products, such as clothing.

According to Human Rights Watch, unauthorized subcontracting of facilities in the apparel industry occurs often, and it is in these places that some of the worse labor abuses happen.

Phylagen is digitizing the genome of different locations by working in more than 40 countries and sampling the dust in hundreds of factories. The goal is to create a database so the microbes on each product can be traced.

“We sample the DNA of the products, and then, we use machine learning algorithms to map what is on the product with the factory, and can therefore verify for brands that their goods are made by their trusted suppliers in factories where you have good labor conditions, good environmental conditions versus unauthorized facilities which can be really detrimental,” Green said.

Tracking diseases, ships

With a database of distinct microbial DNA, Green said other possible future uses could include predicting the outbreak of disease and helping law enforcement track the movement of ships, since shipping logs can be falsified. Even counterfeit medicines could be traced as the database of microbial information grows, she said.

ALSO READ: Electric Cars Can Help You Live Longer: Study

“We can sequence the DNA of seized counterfeit pills, cluster together pills that have similar microbial signatures and then use that to help both pharmaceutical companies and the government, the U.S. government, gain some intelligence about how many different sources of these manufacturing facilities are there,” Green said. (VOA)

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Amazon Alexa Powered Mi Band 5 to Check Blood Oxygen Saturation

The band will come with NFC support feature in China

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Mi Band 5
A picture of Mi Band 4, prequal to the upcoming Mi Band 5. Wikimedia Commons

Xiaomi is reportedly working on next-generation fitness tracker Mi Band 5 with features like SpO2 detection that checks the blood oxygen saturation along with Amazon Alexa support.

The latest fitness band will also come with NFC support though the feature would be limited to China.

The fitness tracker is likely to feature 1.2-inch OLED display which is bigger than the one on the Mi Band 4 and is expected to come with a bigger battery.

According to Tizen Help, the Mi Band 5 will have a “Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI)”.
This feature will essentially show users how much activity is required to stay healthy and the band will make such suggestions based on the user’s heart rate data.

 Mi Band 5
The fitness tracker in Mi Band 5 is likely to feature 1.2-inch OLED display. Wikimedia Commons

Also Read: WhatsApp Beta to Add New QR Code Feature for Easy Contact Sharing

The band may also come with a Women menstrual cycle feature (the one available in Apple Watch). This will allow female users to keep a track on their menstrual cycle.

The smart band will be launched in China first and will be available in other countries later. (IANS)

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Know About the Harmful Metals in E-Cigarettes That Can Damage DNA

Harmful metals in e-cigarettes linked to DNA damage

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DNA e-cigarette
E-cigarette users are exposed to increased concentrations of potentially harmful levels of metals that are linked to elevated oxidative DNA damage. Pixabay

E-cigarette users are exposed to increased concentrations of potentially harmful levels of metals that are linked to elevated oxidative DNA damage, a new study has found.

For the study, published in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research, researchers found that the biomarkers, which reflect exposure, effect, and potential harm, are both elevated in e-cigarette users compared to the other groups and linked to metal exposure and oxidative DNA damage.

“Our study found e-cigarette users are exposed to increased concentrations of potentially harmful levels of metals — especially zinc — that are correlated to elevated oxidative DNA damage,” said the study’s lead researcher Prue Talbot from University of California in the US.

DNA e-cigarette
Metals found in e-cigarettes are correlated to elevated oxidative DNA damage. Pixabay

Zinc, a dietary nutrient, plays key roles in growth, immune function, and wound healing. Too little of this essential trace element can cause death; too much of it can cause disease. Its deficiency, as well as its excess, cause cellular oxidative stress, which, if unchecked, can lead to diseases such as atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, pulmonary fibrosis, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and lung cancer.

Electronic cigarettes consist of a battery, atomizing unit, and refill fluid. Metals in e-cigarette aerosols come mainly from the metal components in the atomizer– nichrome wire, tin solder joints, brass clamps, insulating sheaths, and wicks — as well as the e-fluids that the atomizers heat.

For the study, researchers have examined and quantified urinary biomarkers of effect and potential harm in relation to metals in e-cigarette users.

According to the study, a biomarker is a quantifiable characteristic of a biological process. Biomarkers allow researchers and physicians to measure a biological or chemical substance that is indicative of a person’s physiological state.

DNA e-cigarette
Given the recent deaths and pulmonary illnesses related to e-cigarette usage, everyone should be made aware of the potential health risks linked to e-cigarette usage. Pixabay

Previous e-cigarette studies with humans have examined biomarkers of exposure — for example, nicotine or nicotine metabolites — but none have studied biomarkers of potential harm or shown how this harm correlates with metal exposure.

The biomarkers studied by the researchers were 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG), a biomarker of oxidative DNA damage; 8-isoprostane, an indicator of the oxidative degradation of lipids; and metallothionein, a metal response protein.

All three biomarkers were significantly elevated in e-cigarette users compared to the concentrations in cigarette smokers, the researchers said.

Also Read- Higher Intake of Fruits and Dairy Products Reduces Risk of Stroke: Study

“Pregnant women, especially, should not be encouraged to use e-cigarettes,” Talbot said.

“Excess of zinc in their bodies can lead to nausea and diarrhea. Given the recent deaths and pulmonary illnesses related to e-cigarette usage, everyone should be made aware of the potential health risks linked to e-cigarette usage,” Talbot added. (IANS)

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Males Have Higher Risk of Suffering from Cancer: Study

Researchers explain why cancer risk is higher in males

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Cancer
DNA differences between men and women may explain why cancer risk is higher in males. Pixabay

DNA differences between men and women may explain why cancer risk is higher in males, according to a new study.

In findings published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers have reported that loss of function in certain genes of the sex-determining Y chromosome, which is present only in men, may cause them to have an elevated risk for cancer.

Using data from 9,000 individuals, the researchers studied Y-chromosome gene function in patients with various types of cancer. The findings showed that cancer risk increases with loss of function of six key Y-chromosome genes in various types of cells.

“Recent studies have shown that complete loss of the Y chromosome, which is essential to foetal sex differentiation, occurs, with aging, in the cells of some men,” said study author Juan Ramon Gonzalez from Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain.

Cancer DNA
Suppression of the Y chromosome can occur as a result of loss of function in the chromosome. Pixabay

“Although the loss of the Y chromosome has previously been associated with higher incidence of cancer, the causes of this association are poorly understood,” Gonzalez added.

These six Y-chromosome genes are involved in cell-cycle regulation, the failure of which can lead to tumour development.

According to the study, understanding the biological differences between men and women in cancer is crucial for the development of personalised lines of treatment and prevention.

“Men are not only at higher risk of cancer than women, they also face a worse prognosis. In fact, these differences partially account for the lower life expectancy of men,” Gonzalez added.

According to the researchers, although men may be more exposed to carcinogens due to the type of work they do and at higher risk because they are less likely to consult a doctor, the study has shown that there are also biological factors that increase cancer risk among men.

“In fact, it seems that one of these factors can be found in the Y chromosome, the very essence of maleness,” said study lead author Alejandro Caceres.

Also Read- Know About the Health Benefits of Green Tea

Suppression of the Y chromosome can occur as a result of loss of function in the chromosome, which would explain previous findings, or as a result of other mechanisms mediated by the chemical (epigenetic) inactivation of the same regions, the research said.

“Certain environmental exposures, for example to tobacco or other harmful substances, could affect chromosome function and lead to epigenetic modifications,” Gonzalez said. (IANS)

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