The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories are wildebeest feast, ditch the flu shot and chocolate brain boosts.
Article written by Jake Howden
The Wildebeest migration is the biggest terrestrial migration on Earth. The wildebeest follow the rains leading them on a migration from Tanzania to Kenya and back again across the Mara river. The animals provide a feast for crocodiles and other animals in the river and it has been documented that around 0.5% of the herd drown or are killed each year, that’s 6000 animals! Obviously, the direct result of this is that many organisms in the river have a buffet, however, Ecologist Amanda Subalusky of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y. has found that the effects of the death last for many seasons.
The nutrients that are released enable the growth of river plants and animals which in turn support a wider ecosystem, not just the river but on the surrounding land. Additionally, the bones collect on the river bed and take years to decompose, providing a home for algae and bacteria that in turn feed fish and higher animals. The researchers argue that the effect of migration disruption by humans should be taken into account when quantifying the health of a river and surrounding ecosystem. They also suggest that other rivers around the world may already be damaged by the loss of migratory animals, such as the bison that used to roam North America but were almost wiped out.
Flu shots, be gone!
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have developed a type of plaster that administers the flu vaccine without the need for an injection. The plaster works by using 100 dissolving microneedles to administer a dose of the vaccine. The application is described as being ‘like velcro applied to the skin’. The study administered flu shots or flu plasters to 100 healthy volunteers who all reported similar post-vaccination symptoms, those with the shot described pain near the injection and those with the plaster describing an itchy sensation.
The plaster raises the possibility of a much cheaper and easier way to administer vaccines in the future. They could be used in developing countries as an alternative to cumbersome vaccine shots, but also in developed countries to increase the uptake of vaccines.
Looks scarier than it is
Chocolate makes your smarter
Alright, not quite. But research published in Frontiers of Nutrition based on literature reviews of previous studies suggests that eating chocolate boosts memory and image processing ability. In women, chocolate could counteract some of the negative effects of sleep deprivation. The positive effect was more pronounced in elderly people who were showing signs of cognitive loss.
Cocoa flavanols are known to help boost the cardiovascular system and promote cognitive blood flow, particularly in areas known to degrade with age. The researchers also looked at long-term effects and found that the positive effect continues with prolonged chocolate ingestion. Needless to say, eating too much chocolate is bad for you, so don’t use this as an excuse to chow down a load of Mars Bars. Having a small amount of dark chocolate every day is what the researchers recommend. A Lindt a day keeps the doctor away.