A short summary of news from the science world
New Study regarding the Barents Sea: Cracks beneath giant, methane gushing craters
Source: CAGE – Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment
ScienceDaily Summary: „250-million-year-old cracks in the seafloor feed greenhouse gas methane into giant craters in the Barents Sea. More than 100 craters, presently expelling enormous amounts of the greenhouse gas into the ocean, are found in the area.“
Method of Research
The discovery of the origin of craters and mounds was made possible through cutting edge 3D seismic technology which is able to penetrate deep into the ocean floor. Thus helping scientists to visualize the structures in the hard bedrock underneath.
Elaboration on the Origin of the Craters
Malin Waage, the first author of the study and a postdoc at CAGE, Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate, explains it as following:
„This study, however, ads several layers to that picture, as we now see that there has been a structural weakness beneath these giant craters, for much longer than the last 20,000 years. Deep below the seafloor, the expansion of gas and release of water build up a muddy slurry which eventually erupted through the fractures and caused seafloor collapses and craters in the hard bedrock. Think of it as a building: A roof of a building can cave in if the ground structure is weak. We believe that this is what happened in the crater area after the last glaciation.„
Previous studies, according to Waage, have hyopthized that climate warming and the retreat of the ice „some 20,000 years ago“ caused the gas hydrates (a solid form of methane that is stable in cold temperatures and immense pressure, which the ice sheets provides) beneath the ice to melt which led to abrupt methane release and created the craters.
The Barenth Sea – Still Not Well-Understood
There are still many questions regarding the area’s geological system, because it is poorly understood. Some of the questions to which scientists, society and the industry do not know the answers to:
- Will these weak structures lead to unpredictable and explosive methane release?
- Can such release and related geohazards be triggered by drilling?
- And can the gas reach the atmosphere in case of abrupt blow-outs, adding to the greenhouse gas budget?
However, Waage added at the end: „There is still very much that we don’t know about this system. But we are currently collecting and analyzing new data in the Barents Sea, dominated by similar crater structures. This can help us map in bigger detail the fault systems and associated weakness. „
Study regarding sustainable behaviour – Increasing the Opportunities
Source: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
ScienceDaily Summary: „To mitigate climate change and safeguard ecosystems, we need to make drastic changes in our consumption and transport behaviors. A new study shows how even minor changes to available infrastructure can trigger tipping points in the collective adoption of sustainable behaviors.„
Method of Research
The IIASA-researchers used an agent based model – a computational method for simulating interactions between individuals and environments – for the study which was published in the journal One Earth.
The study illustrates how personal aspects likte attitude and habits, social networks, and available structure shape the way sustainable behaviours are collectively adopted.
Copenhagen was used by the researchers as a case study due to the city’s well-developed cycling culture.
- Even a linear increase in opportunities for pro-environmental behaviour – such as adding more bicycle friendly infrastructure, in Copenhagen’s case – can have much larger effects on the adoption of sustainable behaviour than often assumed
When the environment makes it easier for an individual to adopt a certain behaviour, this not only has an affect on the person’s own habits, but the behaviour can also be copied and learned by others.
Copenhagen, for instance, experienced a rapid increase in the proportion of cyclists in the city since the 1990s that has been attributed not only to the emergence of a cycling culture, but also to heavy investment into cycling infrastructure.
The authors point out that, for large-scale behaviour to occur, simply relying on changing people’s attitudes or increasing environmental awareness isn’t enough.
„We need to understand how behavior patterns emerge from a systems perspective, and learn to locate the leverage points in these systems. The importance of infrastructure that make pro-environmental behaviors easy and the „path of least resistance“ is crucial in this regard and must form part of governments‘ action plans in terms of sustainable future urban planning and development,“ says study supervisor and coauthor Nikita Strelkovskii — a researcher in the IIASA Advanced Systems Analysis Program.
Severe Covid-19: Potential Approach to Treat Patients
Caution: These findings should not be considered clinical advice but are being shared to assist the public health response to COVID-19. While BTK inhibitors are approved to treat certain cancers, they are not approved as a treatment for COVID-19. This strategy must be tested in a randomized, controlled clinical trial in order to understand the best and safest treatment options for patients with severe COVID-19.
Source: NIH/National Cancer Institute
ScienceDaily Summary: „Early data from a clinical study suggest that blocking the Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) protein with the cancer drug acalabrutinib provided clinical benefit to a small group of patients with severe COVID-19.„
BTK-Protein – Explanation
The BTK protein plays an important role in the normal immune system, including in macrophages, a type of innate immune cell that can cause inflammation by producing proteins known as cytokines.
Cytokines (a broad and loose category of small proteins which are important in cell signaling) act in the human body as chemical messengers that help to stimulate and direct the immune response. In some patients who suffer from severe Covid-19, a large amount of cytokines are released into the body at once, this causes the immune system to damage the function of organs such as the lungs, in addition to attacking the infection. This hyperinflammatory state is dangerous and known as „cytokine storm“.
Currently, there are no proven treatment strategies for this phase of the illness.
Execution of the Study
The study aimed to test whether blocking the BTK-protein with acalabrutinib (a medication used to treat a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma known as mantle cell lymphona) would reduce inflammation and improve the clinical outcome for hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19.
- 19 Patients with a confirmed severe Covid-19 diagnosis which required hospitalization
- And: low-blood oxygen levels and evidence of inflammation
11 Had been receiving supplemental oxygen for more than two days.
8 others had been on ventilators for a median of 1.5 (range: 1-22) days.
Within 1 of 3 Days after starting to receive acalabrutinib…
The majority of the patients in the supplemental oxygen group had experienced a substantial drop in inflammation; their breathing improved.
8 out of these 11 came off the supplemental oxygen and were discharged from the hospital.
4 out of 8 came off from the ventilators, two of whom were eventually discharged.
However, the benefit of acalabrutinib was less „dramatic“ in this group.
2 out of 8 patients in the group died. (Note: some in the group have been on ventilators for prolonged periods of time and had major organ dysfunction).
Result as explained in the article:
„Blood samples from patients in the study showed that levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a major cytokine associated with hyperinflammation in severe COVID-19, decreased after treatment with acalabrutinib. Counts of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, also rapidly improved in most patients. A low lymphocyte count has been associated with worse outcome for patients with severe COVID-19. The researchers also tested blood cells from patients with severe COVID-19 who were not in the study. In comparison with samples from healthy volunteers, they found that these patients with severe COVID-19 had higher activity of the BTK protein and greater production of IL-6. These findings suggest that acalabrutinib may have been effective because its target, BTK, is hyperactive in severe COVID-19 immune cells.„
The last article was quite difficult for me to re-formulate, that’s why it is very similar to the original. I didn’t want important information to get lost, and hope that I was successful in doing so.
Kind regards, Baroque.