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Research Briefs — Sept. 30

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Face the truth: Mites found on human skin

Microscopic eight-legged creatures make their homes in the faces of all people, a study recently published in PLOS ONE has shown. The Demodex mites are a group of hair follicle and sweat gland-dwelling species. Two different species of these mites reside on the face. The first, Demodex brevis, burrows into the sweat gland. The second, Demodex folliculorum, resides on the follicle above the gland.

Thought to have been present in only a small portion of the population, the mites have now been shown to be almost completely ubiquitous. Researcher Megan Thoemmes, from North Carolina State University, found that 100 per cent of 253 people over the age of 18 had Demodex DNA on their faces. By using DNA collected from the sweat of facial samples, the team was able to get a more accurate reading of mite presence, as opposed to that of classical mite-counting techniques.

These mites can be used as a way to trace the migration of humans. The team used the 18 rRNA gene as a marker for differing gene structure, to trace the evolution of the mite. Using its phylogeny to find common ancestors, the researchers can see when the mites were transmitted to humans, and when certain species where introduced to differing demographics.

Study on over 100 billion animals show GMOS are safe

Heard over the noise of alarming headlines from anti-GMO crusaders was a study conducted by geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam and her assistant Amy E. Young from the University of California-Davis Department of Animal Science. The two reviewed 29 years of livestock productivity and health data to show that overall, there is no difference in genetically-modified feed versus regular.

Globally, food-producing animals consume 70 to 90 per cent of genetically engineered (GE) crop. Starting from 1983—before the introduction of GE crops in 1996—through 2011, the data shows that trends in livestock health never fluctuated. While no previous studies have shown any real correlation between GE food consumption and overall well-being, it is the sheer magnitude of the study that is so impressive.

Because the body digests DNA and protein, which are the components that are usually modified in GE foods, there are never any detectable traces of GE components in milk, meat, and eggs after the consumption of the GE food. The same concept applies to humans—there are no risks involved in the consumption of GM food.

Chinese scientists are designing  a collider so massive it could encircle Manhattan

When thinking of atoms, particles, and physics, most people think of the LHC-CERN— the Large Hadron Collider located outside Geneva. However, Chinese scientists based out of Beijing are planning on changing that. The new laboratory, which will focus on cutting-edge particle physics, will be so large that it could encircle the island of Manhattan.

The project, called the Circular Electron Positron Collider (CEPC), is the shining symbol of China’s growth as a scientific hub. The collider’s purpose is easily discernible from the name. Electrons are collided with their anti-matter counterparts at higher and higher speeds. The experiment hopes to recreate the Big Bang—the start of the universe.

The group will be addressing questions regarding matter, energy, the Higgs Boson, and the space-time continuum. The larger size of this new collider allows for higher energy levels to be attained.

This centre will also act as a campus, attracting scientists to China from various specializations abroad. This will increase competition with the U.S., which has so far released very few plans for furthering research in fundamental physics.

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