Scientists Discover Plants Respond to Anesthetics — Which Could End Animal Testing

Anesthetic Testing

First used as an alternative to crude methods like alcohol in the 19th century, anesthetics have become a critical part of medical systems around the world. Currently, anesthetics are tested on animals, which is ethically questionable and can produce ineffective results. But one new study could forever change how we test these drugs. Researchers recently found that plants respond to anesthetics the same way to that humans and animals do.

This research explored these effects in Mimosa leaves, pea tendrils, Venus flytraps, and sundew traps. When Venus flytraps were exposed to anesthetics, they stopped generating electrical signals; even when trigger hairs were touched, their traps stayed open. Similarly, pea tendrils were stuck into a spiraled shape upon exposure, and they completely stopped all autonomous movement. In all of these plant species, the anesthetic caused the plant to lose both autonomous and touch-based movement.

This study has furthered our understanding of how exactly anesthetic affects living organisms and their functionality. Practically speaking, this could push scientists to test anesthetics in plants over animal models. This could be more cost-effective, easier to control, and more easily accessible.

Plant Feelings

To observe and measure the effects of anesthesia in the plants tested, researchers used three main tools: a single-lens reflex camera to capture plant organ movement throughout the anesthetic progression, confocal microscopy to analyze the movement of materials between cells, and a surface silver chrlodie electrode to record electrical signals. The results have been published in Annals of Botany.

Importantly, the anesthetics used in this study had no structural similarities, showing that the plants’ reactions were not coincidental or circumstantial. Rather, the study showed that anesthetics which work on humans and animals have the same effects in plants. The researchers themselves write that, because of this finding, “Plants emerge as ideal model objects to study general questions related to anaesthesia (sic), as well as to serve as a suitable test system for human anaesthesia.”

A researcher tests the effect of anesthetic on the plant Mimosa pudica, which normally closes its leaves when touched. (Video Credit: Yokawa et al)

This could make a huge difference in our understanding of anesthesia and testing methods going forward. While animal models have traditionally been seen as reliable and satisfactory for testing, there is a growing body of research which shows the glaring flaws in these experiments. Aside from any moral objections that some may have to the practice, animal models range from producing ineffective and inadequate data to being dangerously misleading. This is most obvious in looking at 20th-century smoking studies that, using animal models, misled the public about the true dangers of smoking cigarettes.

This new finding is at the very least fascinating and, at the most, a possible door opening to improved testing methods. Whether other plant-based testing will become possible is yet to be determined, but this study very concretely shows the parallel effects of anesthesia in animals, humans, and plants. It is even within the realm of possibility that because of these new testing models, improved anesthetics will be developed.

The post Scientists Discover Plants Respond to Anesthetics — Which Could End Animal Testing appeared first on Futurism.


The Loss of Arctic Sea Ice Cover Could Affect Millions Worldwide

Far from just being bad news for polar bears or vulnerable island chains, melting Arctic sea ice caps can affect areas a long way from the Arctic region, bringing not only higher sea levels, but also severe drought. This may be the case for California, which could see its already extreme lack of water getting worse in the coming decades, according to researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

In a study published today in Nature Communications, climatologist Ivana Cvijanovic and her team found that shrinking glaciers in the Arctic can modify atmospheric temperatures over the tropical Pacific. In turn, this heat imbalance can push rain-rich clouds away from California towards Alaska and Canada.

“On average, when considering the 20-year mean, we find a 10-15 percent decrease in California’s rainfall. However, some individual years could become much drier, and others wetter,” Cvijanovic said in a press release.

Technological Fixes for Climate Change
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The unprecedented drought that hit the region between 2012 and 2016 was attributed to a Pacific high pressure system known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. “It’s the main reason we’re in a drought,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California. “It’s the persistence of this ridge during the winter months.”

Although the study doesn’t attempt to explain the most recent drought, Cvijanovic said that examining past droughts illustrates what Californians should prepare for in the near future.

The researchers simulated an ice-free Arctic season and compared the model with the sea ice conditions at the end of the twentieth century, showing how the changes reverberated across the planet and diverted rainfall from drought stricken California.

“While more research should be done, we should be aware that an increasing number of studies, including this one, suggest that the loss of Arctic sea ice cover is not only a problem for remote Arctic communities, but could affect millions of people worldwide. Arctic sea ice loss could affect us, right here in California,” said Cvijanovic.

The post The Loss of Arctic Sea Ice Cover Could Affect Millions Worldwide appeared first on Futurism.


This Discovery Could Change the Way We Search for Alien Life

Antarctic Bacteria

For countless years, scientists and enthusiasts have wondered about the possibility of extraterrestrial life. From grey beings with large, haunting, humanoid eyes to microscopic space bacteria, theories about what might exist beyond our orbit have developed and changed drastically over the years and decades. But, while alien searching has evolved from conspiracy theories to advanced space imaging, there is still much we have to learn before extraterrestrial life could be confirmed. But one new discovery in Antarctica might change the way that we look for aliens, and it could be the key to ultimately finding them.

As described in the journal Nature, scientists have discovered a new bacterium that can survive solely off of chemicals in the air. Discovered in Antarctica, these microscopic organisms can survive off of just hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Taking the term “extremophile” to the next level, these microbes can survive in some of the most extreme conditions that exist on our planet. These organisms are so unique that they are opening up the potential for finding alien life because, now that we know organisms can exist off of only chemicals in the air, extraterrestrial life could exist in much wilder circumstances than previously thought.

Lead researcher Belinda Ferrari expanded, “Antarctica is one of the most extreme environments on Earth. Yet the cold, dark and dry desert regions are home to a surprisingly rich diversity of microbial communities. The big question has been how the microbes can survive when there is little water, the soils are very low in organic carbon and there is very little capacity to produce energy from the Sun via photosynthesis during the winter darkness.”

Advanced Alien Hunting

The conditions necessary for life to exist have evolved as we have grown and learned over time. One of the criteria in considering alien planets as hospitable to life is liquid water. But does the discovery of an organism that essentially survives off of only air change that?

This research team reconstructed the genomes of 23 microbes and was able to identify two species of previously-undiscovered bacteria known as WPS-2 and AD3. Living in the soil with other species, these bacteria survive with little sunlight, no geothermal energy, and extremely limited nutrients. As mostly dormant bacteria, these are the first lifeforms every discovered that survive by eating air.

The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence
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Ferrari explained that “This new understanding about how life can still exist in physically extreme and nutrient-starved environments like Antarctica opens up the possibility of atmospheric gases supporting life on other planets.”

While life on other planets might look and be nothing like life on Earth, understanding how life can exist in unusual and never-before-seen circumstances will push us forward to concretely discovering alien life and better understanding where and how aliens are most likely to exist. Exoplanets that once may not have even been candidates to hold life might be re-analyzed to find habitable regions and the potential to hold life. It is apparent that the better we understand life on Earth, the more equipped we are to search for alien life.

The post This Discovery Could Change the Way We Search for Alien Life appeared first on Futurism.


Apple could acquire music recognition app Shazam for about $400 million

Apple is on the verge of buying Shazam Entertainment Ltd. which would value the company at $ 404 Million according to the sources close to the matter and the official announcement could be made as soon as Monday, reports TechCrunch. Shazam recognition app is already integrated into Siri and was valued at about $ 1.02 billion in its last funding … Continue reading “Apple could acquire music recognition app Shazam for about $ 400 million”
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New Google music streaming service YouTube ‘Remix’ could launch in March 2018

It’s clear Google sees a benefit in owning a music service to rival Spotify and Apple Music, but making it happen is proving incredibly difficult. Google Play Music hasn’t exactly captured the imagination, in no small part due to its terrible app, and YouTube Red (previously YouTube Music Key) hasn’t fared much better. Fear not, another attempt is on its way.

We already knew that Play Music and YouTube Red would be merging in some form, but now we know an entirely new service will be created.

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New Google music streaming service YouTube ‘Remix’ could launch in March 2018 was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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