Hundreds of new viruses present in insect bodies have been identified

Hundreds of previously unknown new viruses present in the body of insects have been identified following research published in PLOS Pathogens and carried out by a team of scientists at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin.

“Every new virus we find could be a cause of previously unknown diseases, both in humans and livestock,” says Christian Drosten, director of the Institute of Virology and one of the authors of the study for which it is important to identify and replenish our database of known viruses because then it may be easier to recognize the cause of new or even unusual diseases that may happen to us.

To carry out this study, the researchers used the largest international database of transcriptomes on insects. The researchers considered all types of insects, not just mosquitoes and other insects that come into contact with blood, i.e. those most dangerous in terms of virus transmission.

In total, they considered 1283 species of insects and discovered hundreds of new viruses that can be included in at least 20 new genera.

These new identifications may perhaps prove useful in solving some of those cases of viral infections where the virus could not be identified.

Heating is causing animals to shrink according to a new study

One of the effects of climate change is the bodily reduction of animals according to a new interesting study conducted by researchers from the University of Cape Town (UCT). The researchers analyzed data for a period of 23 years between 1976 and 1999 and found this change with regard to the average body size of a group of birds.

Among other things, as specified by the statement on the University website, in the past, as we discovered from the fossil record, cases of global warming have led to similar effects with marine and terrestrial animals that have tended to become smaller. To support this theory, the researchers analyzed the size of a genus of passerine birds called Motacilla. Specifically, they analyzed various groups of Motacilla Clara that live along the Palmiet, a river in South Africa.

The researchers, by the voice of Res Altwegg, one of the authors of the research, declare themselves astonished by these results: they did not expect such effects to be deducible even in a quarter of a century. The results instead clearly indicate not only the average shrinkage of the body of these birds but also the fact that climate change was the reason.

The researchers also used data from a nearby meteorological station and discovered an average temperature increase of 0.18 ° in the period examined. This has led, due to the evolutionary adaptation to the environment, a slow replacement of the heavier individuals in favor of the lighter ones.

Furthermore, according to Altwegg, there are other studies that show that animals are reducing their body size in many places around the world. However, these are deductions that concern the average of the animal world and there are certainly no exceptions: some species could, for example, increase the size of their bodies while others may not modify this morphological aspect at all.

New light and strong magnesium alloy developed by researchers

A method to create stronger and lighter magnesium alloys was developed by a group of researchers from Monash University, Australia.

Currently magnesium alloys cannot be used in certain fields, in particular those that require a thermomechanical application, because they are often subject to deformation. Precisely for this reason, this material cannot be used in place of steel despite being resistant and light.

The new technique developed by the engineers of the Australian university keeps the typical characteristics of magnesium intact, while improving the structural integrity and thus ensuring that it can be used, for example, also in the aerospace industry or in the automotive industry.

The study, published in Nature Communications, describes the method used by researchers which involves the use of an X-ray mapping.

According to Jian-Feng Nie, lead author of the study, this light magnesium has a huge potential especially for those applications with low energy consumption and environmentally friendly.

The alloy, in addition to magnesium, involves the use of neodymium and silver.

New device collects energy from the knee

The sector of devices that are powered by energy collected from body movement is always active and new research, this time published in Applied Physics Letters, proves it.

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong have developed a device that can be attached to the knee and can collect up to 1.6 microwatts of power simply by using the movement of the knee itself while walking. It is a light device (it weighs only 307 grams) and therefore the user does not have to make any effort but simply perform the walk. According to the researchers themselves, the energy collected is sufficient to supply small-scale electronic devices such as health monitoring devices or GPS trackers.

The first thought goes to all those people who have to cross dangerous areas that lack phone coverage, for example explorers, mountaineers, trekkers and the like.

The researchers used a “smart” macrofibre material that basically generates some energy from any movement, even a bend, to which it is subjected.

Every time the knee flexes, so at every step, the device uses the biomechanical energy to feed itself.

The area of ​​the knee chosen by the researchers is no coincidence: this ligament is one of those that develops the most articulatory movement ever and that can therefore be better exploited in this sense.

Grasshoppers, crickets and silkworms are excellent sources of antioxidants for humans

After testing various commercial edible insects and invertebrates, a group of researchers came to the conclusion that crickets can boast 75% of the antioxidant power of fresh orange juice while the fat in the silkworm boasts a comparable antioxidant power to twice that of olive oil.

This is the comforting data that emphasizes even more how edible insects and arthropods can represent a solution to world hunger or can still lead to a lower level of exploitation of fields for cultivation. According to Mauro Serafini, who is the main author of the study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, there are already 2 billion people in the world who regularly eat insects but “the rest of us will need more encouragement.”

The researcher naturally refers in particular to western populations, substantially those in Europe and North America, for which insects and other “strange” arthropods do not represent a habit in the diet. The researchers found that the highest values ​​of antioxidant capacity were present in the water-soluble extracts of grasshoppers, silkworms and crickets. Negligible values ​​were instead represented by extracts of cicadas, aquatic insects, black tarantulas and black scorpions.

However, the antioxidant capacities of insects also depend on compounds that are still unknown, as Serafini himself underlines, since the quantity of polyphenols present in the body of insects is in any case much smaller than that present in orange juice. And the scientist predicts that, in the future, we can also modify the dietary regimes of the insects raised to increase or in any case change the level and quality of antioxidants for human beings for the better.