Comments Off on Peruvian mummies had clogged arteries, improving biofuels in Argentina and supporting coffee research in Costa Rica.

21 March 2013

Peruvian mummies had clogged arteries, improving biofuels in Argentina and supporting coffee research in Costa Rica.

ARGENTINA

Scientists at the Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires have determined that the use of the herbicide glyphosate is unnecessary for stimulating grass growth in Argentina. Winter is a critical season for grass production on the plains outside Buenos Aires and the period also coincides with calving cows, meaning grass needs to be available. Through various studies, the researchers determined that controlled grazing in rangeland environments gives the same output as glyphosate fertilized pastures, especially if the former are fertilized with phosphorus and planted with legumes. When glyphosate is used repeatedly, it leads to a decrease in native plant seeds and a decrease in the prevalence of naturalized species.

Colombia’s rural provinces lack basic medical care, reports newspaper El Espectador. Credit: Cagatota via Flickr.

Researchers are engineering the plant Arabidopsis thaliana to have weaker cell walls in an effort increase the amount of easily-fermentable carbohydrates in biofuel production. The results from the Universidad Nacional de Rosario, have been promising: plants have been modified to contain double the amount of starch. It is Argentina’s government’s policy to use biofuels to cut fossil fuel dependency. The country has invested in studies to add value to the primary materials used in biofuel production.

Fifty-percent of Argentines—many asymptomatic—have toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The disease is acquired through blood transfusions, eating undercooked meat, or inadequate handling of cat litter, and is especially dangerous to pregnant women and immuno-compromised people. Argentina’s Institute of Biotechnology Research is looking at epigenetic mechanisms of the parasite, hoping that Toxoplasma’s histones could be a target for a drug. A histone-targeting drug has been developed in collaboration with the University of Vermont.

CHILE

Thousands of prawns and hundreds of crabs have washed up dead on the shores of Colonel, Chile, 330 miles south of Santiago. Local fishermen blame the thermoelectric plants that heat up ocean waters, according to the AP.

COLOMBIA

Medical care is scarce in Colombia’s rural southern border with Ecuador. A report in Colombia’s El Espectador highlights the risks, stating that in some areas of the country it’s better not to get sick.

COSTA RICA

With an investment of $70 million to open a research center, Starbucks is supporting coffee farming in Costa Rica. Since 2004, the company has been funding research in the country into treating diseases like ‘Rooster’s Eye‘ fungus and supporting coffee growers. Starbucks hopes to improve production and the quality of life of coffee producers.

PERU

4,000-year-old Peruvian mummies had clogged arteries, according to a new study published in the Lancet this month. Scientists from St Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City obtained whole body CT scans of 137 mummies from four populations: ancient Egypt, ancient Peru, Puebloans from North America and Unangan of the Aleutian Islands. Atherosclerosis  the build-up of plaque on artery walls, was found in 37% of all mummies (and 25% of the 51 ancient Peruvians).