Biological science affects our day-to-day life in many ways. With each passing day, scientists delve deeper and deeper to understand the machinery of life. In fact, we are now in the most productive phase of biology with new discoveries for treatment of diseases, improved methods of growing food, and similar other advancements. Let's take a look at some of the interesting current events in biology.
Human Hair as Plant Food
We have often heard of leaf litter, farmyard compost, and animal waste used as plant food. However, recent research has shown that human hair, combined with compost can be used as a nutrient source for plants. In an experiment conducted with lettuce, yellow poppy, feverfew, and wormwood, the crop yield was more in plants treated with hair waste and compost. However, the yield was low in case of plants treated with only hair waste. So, the conclusion of the research is that hair waste is a potential source of nutrients for plants, provided that it is used along with other fertilizers. More research is ongoing to ascertain the health issues associated with the use of hair waste as fertilizer.
Ozone Pollution in Stunting Trees
We are aware of the effects of ozone layer depletion, but can you imagine about the effects of ozone pollution in plants. In a recent data, it is shown that the growth of trees (measured in biomass) is reduced to about 7 percent, in comparison to their growth rate in the early 1800s. However, surprisingly, the reason for tree growth reduction is mostly due to increase in the concentration of ground-level ozone. It is also found that ozone pollution affects trees with broad leaves more than those with small leaves such as pines. Hence, scientists opine that the density of conifer population is likely to be higher than the broadleaf trees.
Hydrogen in Reducing Fossil Fuel Usage
Conservation of non-renewable sources of energy, especially the fossil fuels has been a major concern for all of us. Nowadays, scientists are on the search for alternative sources of fossil fuels. Well! One way of reducing fossil fuel consumption is the use of hydrogen gas for electricity. In the University of Aberdeen, UK, a new method of hydrogen production has been discovered. In the experiment, ethanol produced from fermentation is converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This hydrogen is used as a power source in fuel cells. In case, this turns out to be successful, there will be less environmental issues regarding burning of fossil fuels.
Fish and Marine Carbon Cycle
Did you ever wonder what source of carbon is used by aquatic plants for photosynthesis? Well! Here is the answer. It is dissolved calcium carbonate. It was previously thought that calcium carbonate, which is responsible for balancing seawater acidity, comes from microscopic plankton. In a study conducted jointly by the scientists of UK, US, and Canada, it was found that 3 - 15 percent of marine calcium carbonate is excreted by fish alone. It is the bony fish that are responsible for calcium carbonate excretion, and not the sharks or other large fish. It is also estimated that in future, with the increase in the sea surface temperatures and rise in the carbon dioxide levels, the amount of calcium carbonate produced by fish will also increase.
Antimicrobial Copper in Hospitals
Ever heard of antimicrobial copper? Those working in the hospital sector might be aware about this wonderful intervention. For patients staying in clinics and alike treatment centers, a major risk is hospital-acquired infection (also referred to as nosocomial infection). With the help of antimicrobial copper, the chances of spreading infection in health care sectors can be reduced significantly. The use of antimicrobial copper surfaces in ICU (intensive care unit) rooms is found to cut down bacterial population by more than 95%, thereby minimizing nosocomial infection to about 41%. This finding is surely a breakthrough in medical science, considering the fact that it is a passive approach for infection control. With this new intervention, avoiding bacterial infection can be achieved without relying much on the hospital staffs.
Cure for AIDS
A major challenge for medical science researchers is to find a cure for AIDS. Scientists are trying to replace the normal immune cells of an HIV patient with HIV-resistant ones. Finally, it seems researchers have succeeded in solving the mystery of curing AIDS. Recently, German doctors cured an HIV patient by conducting a bone marrow transplant (natural gene-therapy). Along with AIDS, the patient was suffering from leukemia. For treatment of both the diseases, the doctors used a bone marrow transplant from a healthy person, having natural immunity to HIV. Genetic engineering research, especially on gene therapy, is ongoing to find a potential cure for AIDS.
These are some of the current events in life science. There are other biological findings such as the creation of synthetic mother of pearl, discovery of obesity gene, similarity of snail and human gene (the gene that controls handedness), effect of grape seed extract on leukemia cells, effect of cocaine in honey bee dancing, and the reason behind sugar addiction. Many more events will surely intervene in the near future, which will benefit us in some way or the other.