In Today’s Science News, we learn about the discovery of a new orchid in Japan, a new substance in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacterium and how predictable renewable energy could lower costs.
Article 1: An elegant new orchid hiding in plain sight
SD-Date: 17th March, 2023
Et-Date: 18th March, 2023
ScienceDaily-Summary: „It is extremely rare for a new plant species to be discovered in Japan, a nation where flora has been extensively studied and documented. Nevertheless, botanists recently uncovered a stunning new species of orchid whose rosy pink petals bear a striking resemblance to glasswork. Interestingly, it can be found in familiar environments such as lawns and parks, and even in private gardens and on balconies. This research suggests that other new species may be hiding in common places.“
Open Access Study: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10265-023-01448-6
Japan’s flora has been extensively studied and documented, hence the discovery of a new taxon is an extraordinary event. The discovery happened during extensive field surveys on the Japanese Spiranthes, when Professor Suetsugu Kenji came across several populations of an uknown Spiranthes species with hairless flower stems, on the mainland of Japan. Until then, it was believed that the Spiranthes australis was the only species of its kind.
While the unknown taxon often grows alongside the Spirathes australis, it blooms about a month earlier. This gap leads to reproductive isolation between the two taxa.
|Flora and Fauna|
source: https://web-japan.org/factsheet/en/pdf/e03_flora.pdf (4 pages)
|In Japan, there grow about 5,560 plant species (4,720 angiosperms, 40 gymnosperms, 800 ferns). Indigenous to Japan are 1,950 angiosperms and gymnosperms (35%), thus having more endemic species than other countries.|
Method of Research
In a 10-year multi-institutional study, a team of researchers including Professor Suetsugu (Graduate School of Science, Kobe University), Professor SUYAMA Yoshihisa (Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Tohoku University), and Dr. Tian-Chuan Hsu (Taiwan Forestry Research Institute) set out to determine precisely how these two plants differed. The specimens were collected from various locations in Japan, Taiwan and Laos.
Suetsugu and his associates discovered that the now-called Spirathes hachijoensis* is a cryptic species which exhibits a high level of molecular divergence by integrating results from DNA analysis, morphology, field observations, and reproductive biology.
Morphologically, there are only minimal differences.
*It was first spotted near Hachijo Island in Tokyo Prefecture, thus receiving the name hachijoensis. It can also be found in lawns, parks, on private gardens and on balconies.
Both for the scientific community and the general public, this discovery of a new species in common locales emphasizes the importance of further exploration and species conservation (which is also enviromental protection). Who knows how many unknown taxa are out there? Whether they are in the own garden, the nearby forest or growing next to known algaes in coastal areas.
The article also mentions the Manyoshu, ‚Japan’s oldest extant anthology of poetry‘, in case you are interested in the poems I may have found the right website.
|Man’yōshū 万葉集 |
|Excerpt: „Nevertheless, the Man’yōshū is probably the collection held in the highest esteem and regarded with the greatest affection in Japan today. Its poetry is felt to be fresh, direct and free of the complex word-play, allusions and restrictive rules which came to dominate later waka.“|
Article 2: Resistant bacteria are a global problem. Now researchers may have found the solution
SD-Date: 17th March, 2023
Et-Date: 19th March, 2023
ScienceDaily-Summary: „A new substance has proven useful for treating staphylococcus infections in people with skin lymphoma. This is good news for the patients, but also for the global threat of antibiotics resistance.“
Open Access Study: https://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(23)00175-6/fulltext#secsectitle0010
Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infection.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria adapts in response to the use of these medicine.
It becomes a major problem when it can be bought for human and animal use without prescription. A similar problem exists in countries without standard treatment guidelines due to health workers and veterinarians overprescribing antibiotics and public over-use.
Staphylococcus aureus infections are usually not dangerous, but it can cause serious infections such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia, or bone and joint infections.
Multi resistant staphylococcus aureus or MRSA are often resistant to several antibiotics and, therefore, are difficult to control. This resistance against antibiotics is a global trend as other infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis adapt as well. As a result, the treatment becomes harder and the situation can sometimes turn life-threatening. For the healthcare system that means higher medical costs, longer hospital stays and increased mortality.
The study at hand produced positive results among skin lymphoma patients thanks to a new substance called endolysins. Without the need for antibiotics, it proved capable of killing both resistant and non-resistant staphylococcus aureus.
|What Are Endolysins? |
Excerpt from The Advantages and Challenges of Using Endolysins in a Clinical Setting published in The National Library of Medicine.
|„Endolysins are bacteriophage-encoded peptidoglycan hydrolases that act to lyse (= breaking down a cells membrane) bacterial cells by targeting their cell’s wall, particularly in Gram-positive bacteria due to their naturally exposed peptidoglycan layer. These lytic enzymes have received much interest from the scientific community in recent years for their specificity, mode of action, potential for engineering, and lack of resistance mechanisms.“|
Method of Research
The research was conducted by Professor Niels Ødum, Emil M.H. Pallesen, Maria Gluud et al. at the University of Copenhagen – The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. The substance was tested on skin samples from patients which were obtained with written, informed consent after approval by the Committee on Health Research Ethics as regulated by the Declaration of Helsinki.
|The Declaration of Helsinki|
(source: World Medical Association)
(full text: https://www.wma.net/policies-post/wma-declaration-of-helsinki-ethical-principles-for-medical-research-involving-human-subjects/)
|First adopted in 1964, the Declaration of Helsinki has since been amended seven times and most recently in October 2013 at the General Assembly. It is a set of ethical principles regarding human experimentation. |
In the section Informed Consent you can read up on the requirements and regulation.
Since the research used samples, I think it is covered by paragraph 32: „For medical research using identifiable human material or data, such as research on material or data contained in biobanks or similar repositories, physicians must seek informed consent for its collection, storage and/or reuse. There may be exceptional situations where consent would be impossible or impracticable to obtain for such research. In such situations the research may be done only after consideration and approval of a research ethics committee.“
The lab research yields positive results. According to Professor Niels Ødum, the endolysins not only eradicate staphylococcus aureus, but they also inhibit their ability to promote cancer growth. Since endolysins are not antibiotics, they do not care whether a bacterium is resistant or non-resistant to antibiotics.
Article 3: More predictable renewable energy could lower costs
TechXplore Date: 24th March, 2023
Blog Entry Date: 25th March, 2023
Summary: „In a new study, researchers analyzed six existing solar farms in New South Wales, Australia and selected up to nine alternative sites. When they compared the data, the optimal location changed when the predictability of energy generation was considered which also led to a significant increase in potential revenue generated by the site.“
Open Access Study: https://www.cell.com/patterns/fulltext/S2666-3899(23)00045-4
Method of Research
The researchers Sahand Karimi-Arpanahi and Dr. Ali Pourmousavi Kani from the University’s School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering analyzed six existing solar farms located in New South Wales, Australia and selected up to nine alternative sites.
Physical materials were not used in this study, it is formula-heavy (as I interpret it from the ‚experimental procedures‘ section in the study) and for prediction methodology they used the ARIMA model among others.
|What is ARIMA? |
|Autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) is a model used in statistics and econometrics to measure events that happen over a period of time. The model is used to either understand past data or predict future data in a series. Used when „a metric is recorded in regular intervals, from fractions of a second to daily, weekly or monthly periods“.|
The authors of the study recommend the book Forecasting: Principles and Practice by Hyndman and Athanasopoulos for additional information on the model which you can find as an online version here: https://otexts.com/fpp2/index.html.
From August to October, the predictability of solar energy generation is the lowest in South Australia while it is the highest New South Wales around the same time.
By considering the predictability in renewable plant investments, it can lead to better decisions with higher profits. Moreover, by comparing the rooftop PV density and predictability data in SA, the authors showed how policymakers can benefit from considering renewable generation predictability in policy design.
Note: The predictability measure cannot be used for long-term predictability (months and years ahead), it works well for short-term predictability.
Lastly, the analysis may be applied to other applications in the energy industry as well.
„The average predictability of renewable generation in each state can also inform power system operators and market participants in determining the time frame for the annual maintenance of their assets, ensuring the availability of enough reserve requirements when renewable resources have lower predictability,“ said Dr. Pourmousavi Kani.