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NYC schools to close again; 900 Mayo Clinic staffers infected; Pfizer to seek vaccine approval ‘within days’ – West Haven Observer
Posted: November 24, 2020 at 1:56 pm
The nations largest public school system will temporarily halt in-person learning again in an effort to stem the continued spread of COVID-19, according to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.
The city previously said school buildings would close if 3% of all the coronavirus tests performed citywide over a seven-day period came back positive. Amid a nationwide surge in cases, that that milestone has been passed, triggering the closure.
New York Citys school system previously halted in-person learning in mid-March as the virus tore through the city. Now, all of the citys more than 1 million public school students will now be taught entirely online.
Also in New York, nearly 9,400 of the Metropolitan Transportation Authoritys subway, bus and commuter rail workers could lose their jobs next year if the federal government fails to come through with the $12 billion the agency says it needs to keep operating.
The hardest hit area could be the New York City subways and buses, which could lose nearly 7,000 jobs amid service reductions of up to 40% as the COVID-19 pandemic causes unprecedented reductions in ridership the MTA says could linger into the mid-2020s.
Todays numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 11.3 million cases and more than 248,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 55.5 million cases and 1.33 million deaths.
Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
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Pfizer and BioNTech plan to submit a request within days to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use approval of a vaccine they say has shown to be 95% effective in mass testing.
The companies hope to provide 50 million doses by years end and 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
Our objective from the very beginning was to design and develop a vaccine that would generate rapid and potent protection against COVID-19 with a benign tolerability profile across all ages, said Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO of BioNTech. We believe we have achieved this.
The vaccine effort is one of many racing the clock amid a surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The Midwest continues to take a beating more than 900 staffers at the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic alone have contracted COVID-19 in the past two weeks, the Pioneer Press reports.
It shows you how easy it is to get COVID-19 in the Midwest, Dr. Amy Williams. We need everyone in the communities we serve to do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Thousands of people protesting German measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus rallied Wednesday outside barricades cordoning off Berlins government center as lawmakers debated a bill that would strengthen officials ability to impose restrictions. Police fired water cannons at demonstrators, saying the crowd refused to wear masks and keep their distance from one another. Police in riot gear moved through the crowd carrying away some protesters. Some demonstrators threw fireworks and flares in response. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reacted sharply to the accusation from some protesters that the measures were akin to the 1933 Enabling Act, which allowed the Nazis to enact laws without parliamentary approval.
Our democracy thrives through the exchange of different opinions, he wrote on Twitter. But whoever relativizes or trivializes the Holocaust has learned nothing from our history.
Delta Air Lines, hoping to nab a bigger share of wary travelers flying during the pandemic, is extending its policy of blocking middle seats to space out passengers on its planes. The airlines policy, previously set to expire on Jan. 6, will now be in place through March, a period that includes the usually busy spring break travel season. Delta is the lone U.S. airline to continue blocking middle seats well into 2021.
Bill Lentsch, Deltas chief customer experience officer, said in a statement Wednesday: We recognize some customers are still learning to live with this virus and desire extra space for their peace of mind. We are listening.
Chinas government on Wednesday defended anti-coronavirus controls that have disrupted imports of beef, poultry and fish from the United States, New Zealand and other trading partners. Customs officials who say the coronavirus has been found on frozen meat and on packaging have imposed temporary suspensions on suppliers. That prompted complaints by Chinas trading partners. In June, China temporarily suspended the import of chicken from U.S.-based Tyson Foods Inc. after the virus was found at one of its farms. China was home to the first outbreak and has battled to avoid surges such as those experienced in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The relevant measures China took are necessary following the spirit of putting peoples lives first and protecting peoples health, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging Americans to think twice about traveling and having indoor gatherings for the holidays. During a meeting with USA TODAYs Editorial Board Wednesday, the nations top infectious disease expert said seemingly innocent family and friend dinner gatherings at home are where many infection outbreaks start.
The almost intuitive instinct (is) that when youre with people you know and no one appears to be physically ill, that its OK to congregate 10, 12 people for drinks or a meal, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said. But its indoors because the weather is cold. Thats where were seeing these types of outbreaks.
Sara M. Moniuszko
Millennials, age 24 to 39, took on hundreds of billions of dollars in student debt only to graduate from college just as the Great Recession of 2007-09 was upending the economy. And now, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, theyre suddenly becoming the largest contingent of the sandwich generation, the cohort of adults providing financial and other support to both children and elderly parents. The pandemic has tipped more millennials into a juggling act of caregiving.
We think generally the situation with COVID has accelerated the trend, says Jeff Beligotti, vice president and head of long-term care solutions for New York Life. It has continued to financially squeeze the millennial generation.
Almost 1,000 staffers at the Mayo Clinic have contracted COVID-19 in the past two weeks, the systems dean of clinical practice says. Dr. Amy Williams said 93% of the infections took place away from work, and that most of the infections that took place at work involved eating in a break room with a mask off, according to the Pioneer Press. Williams also said the clinic is seeing more patients transferring in, an indication that hospitals elsewhere in Minnesota and surrounding states are overwhelmed because of this surge.
Everybody is getting very tired of wearing a mask and hearing about social distance, being told to wash their hands, but were doing this because we care about our communities, Williams said. We dont want families to lose loved ones.
Pfizer and BioNTech plan to submit a request within days to the FDA for emergency-use approval of their vaccine. The companies said their ongoing Phase 3 testing has found the vaccine to be 95% effective, up from a preliminary finding of 90%. The data also will be submitted to other regulatory agencies around the world, the companies said in a statement. The companies said they expect to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses globally by years end and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021. Experts say frontline healthcare workers are expected to be first in line for inoculation.
The Phase 3 clinical trial began on July 27 and has enrolled 43,661 participants to date, the companies said.
Pfizer, based in New York, appears to be just a step ahead of Moderna, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company. Moderna announced Monday that its candidate vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective against the disease. It was not immediately clear when Moderna would seek FDA approval.
In less than a week, six members of Congress announced they had tested positive for COVID-19. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the 87-year-old Iowa Republican who is third in line to the presidency, spent much of Monday casting votes and attending a meeting with Senate Republican leadership that included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Grassley announced his diagnosis the following day. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, 87, who is frequently seen without a mask, was hospitalized for three days.
Ive been shot, Ive been rolled over, Ive been hit in the head a hundred times, but Ive never felt as bad as I did with the virus, Young told The Washington Post. This is not good.
South Dakotas high rates of COVID-19 and low virus regulation have sparked criticism even as some dying of the virus there dont believe it poses a real threat. Thats according to Jodi Doering, a South Dakota nurse who has gained national attention for her account of working on the front lines in a state where leaders have long minimized the impact of the virus and refused to implement rules like mask mandates. South Dakota and neighboring North Dakota have the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 infection and death in the nation.
I have a night off from the hospital. As Im on my couch with my dog I cant help but think of the Covid patients the last few days, Doering wrote in a recent tweet. The ones that stick out are those who still dont believe the virus is real. Read more here.
Minus 112 is so cold it shatters rubber, stresses metals and can protect whats expected to be the first COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer and collaborator BioNTech have a vaccine they say is 95% effective and could be approved within a month, so the reality of moving and storing the life-saving vials is coming into sharp focus. Dry ice orders are spiking and the backlog to buy $15,000 medical-grade ultracold freezers is up to six weeks.
In the science world, its not that cold, said Tonya Kuhl, chair of the chemical engineering department at the University of California, Davis. But in the regular world, it certainly is. That temperature is really important in storage to keep things stable.
COVID-19 infections could result in immunity that could last for years, a new study indicates. The study, published online but not yet been peer reviewed, found that most participants in the study who had been infected with COVID-19 retained enough immune cells to fend off infection eight months later. That could indicate immunity may remain for years, the authors of immune memory study said.
That amount of memory would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years, Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology who co-led the new study, told The New York Times.
Hospitals are putting extra focus on preventing pressure injuries, known as bedsores or pressure ulcers, as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country and ICU beds fill with critically ill patients. The National Pressure Injury Advisory Panel (NPIAP) estimates pressure injuries affect more than 2.5 million patients each year and claim over 60,000 lives. Dr. William Padula, president-elect of NPIAP and professor at University of Southern California, worries that pressure injuries may increase this year amid estimates there could be up to 19,000 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per day by Dec. 7. Padula said pressure injuries can occur within hours of being in the ICU immobilized and on a ventilator.
The skin is the largest organ system, said Dr. Martine Sanone, associate professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. However, when we think of critical illness, we forget about that first barrier.
New coronavirus cases have surged to an all-time high at nursing homes across the country despite federal efforts to shield residents through aggressive testing and visitor restrictions, a new report shows. Federal data shows 10,279 COVID-19 cases during the week of Nov. 1, the most recent data available. The figures surpassed the previous high of 9,903 cases in late July, according to a report by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.
The surge in cases among the nations most vulnerable residents comes as cases, hospitalizations and deaths surge nationwide.
We have been begging people the last eight months to wear a mask, socially distance and to be careful, said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. Unfortunately, the public has not listened or complied.
Chicago Public Schools plans to welcome some students back into classrooms in January, officials announced Tuesday. Parents can decide whether they want to send their children to classrooms or continue remote learning. Students enrolled in moderate and intensive classrooms and pre-kindergarten are scheduled to return Jan. 11, 2021. Students in kindergarten through 8th grade will be back on Feb. 1. Officials have not announced a return date for high school students yet.
The Chicago Teachers Union strongly opposed the news, calling it arbitrary. But school officials believe children can safely return to classrooms, pointing to other states and some European countries that are keeping schools open despite a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Its our moral imperative to do everything in our power to safely open schools beginning with our youngest and highest-needs learners, said Chicago schools CEO Janice Jackson.
U.S. regulators on Tuesday allowed emergency use of the first rapid coronavirus test that can be performed and developed entirely at home. The FDA granted emergency authorization to the 30-minute test kit from Lucira Health, a California manufacturer. The companys test allows users to swab themselves to collect a nasal sample. The sample is then swirled in a vial that plugs into a portable device, that interprets the results and displays whether the person tested positive or negative for coronavirus.
A new American Alliance of Museums study released Tuesday showed that recent COVID-19 surges are doing a number on already-hurting museums. According to an October AAM survey of 850 respondents from across the USA about the continued impact of coronavirus on museums, millions of dollars are being lost with around a third of institutions facing permanent closure and job loss is mounting as nearly 30% of American museums remain closed since the March lockdown.
The financial state of U.S. museums is moving from bad to worse, Laura Lott, AAMs president and CEO, said in a statement. Those that have reopened are operating on an average of 35% of their regular attendance a reduction that is unsustainable long-term. Those that did safely serve their communities this summer do not have enough revenue to offset higher costs, especially during a potential winter lockdown. Without financial help, we could see thousands of museums shutter forever.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced a new round of directives Tuesday, which will limit crowd size and close bars, restaurants and casinos at 10 p.m., in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The new directives go into effect 5 a.m. Friday.
The situation is serious in Montana, and it is serious across the nation, Bullock said. We need to turn things around over the next few months while we wait on a widely distributed vaccine or else we risk hospitals that turn patients away and risk any further ability to control the spread.
Montana is among the 36 states with a mask mandate. What are the rules in your state? Check the list.
Phil Drake, Great Falls Tribune
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: New York City schools to close again; Home test okd
Posted: March 20, 2020 at 8:42 am
President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that the US is working to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, as quickly as possible. But one of his own administrations policies appears to be standing in the way of at least one scientist.
According to a report by the Washington Posts Amy Goldstein, Kim Hasenkrug, an immunologist at the National Institutes of Healths Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, wants to test potential treatments for Covid-19 in mice with humanized lungs. But as the Post first reported, the work is being held up by officials at the Department of Health and Human Services due to a 2019 ban on NIH scientists using donated fetal tissue from abortions in their research.
While fetal tissue isnt typically used to develop actual therapies or treatments, it has one particularly key use for researchers: the ability to create mice with human tissue suitable for medical testing. Mice, generally, have similar immune systems to humans, making them particularly useful for early medical testing.
Humanized mice have been key to developing several important medical treatments for diseases like the Zika virus or HIV/AIDS, which was Hasenkrugs previous research focus. The calculation is simple. You cant test certain treatments without humanized mice, and you cant get humanized mice without fetal tissue.
There are, of course, many avenues of research using other kinds of tissue, but fetal cells can rapidly divide, grow, and adapt to new environments in ways that make them the gold standard for some disease research. And in other research areas, we dont yet know if there is anything that could substitute, R. Alta Charo, professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015.
And as the Posts Goldstein noted, scientists have already shown that humanized mice could make good test subjects for coronavirus treatments specifically:
Just months ago, before the new coronavirus began to infect people around the world, other U.S. scientists made two highly relevant discoveries. They found that specialized mice could be transplanted with human fetal tissue that develops into lungs the part of the body the new coronavirus invades. These humanized mice, they also found, could then be infected with coronaviruses to which ordinary mice are not susceptible closely related to the one that causes the new disease, Covid-19.
Outside researchers have offered the mice to Hasenkrug for coronavirus research. But so far, Hasenkrug and other government researchers havent been allowed to obtain the mice they need to perform testing, the Post reported, thanks to a June 2019 HHS directive banning fetal tissue research for those employed by the government.
Caitlin Oakley, a HHS spokesperson, told the Post that no decision has been made about Hasenkrugs request. A separate HHS spokesperson confirmed that in a statement to Vox.
The spokesperson also pointed to an HHS statement from last June detailing the administrations policy on fetal tissue research. Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trumps administration, reads the statement.
Hasenkrug, and the potentially millions of Americans who may benefit from his research, now find themselves caught in a deeply divisive political issue thats been years in the making.
The US government had funded fetal tissue research efforts since the 1950s and for nearly as long, anti-abortion activists have opposed the practice.
In the Trump era, they finally found an administration ready to listen.
In 2018, the US government spent $115 million on about 173 research projects utilizing fetal tissue, a third of which were devoted to developing therapies for HIV/AIDS.
Research using fetal tissue has led to the development of vaccines such as those for polio, rubella, and measles, the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) said in a statement last September. Fetal tissue is still helping advance science, with research underway using cells from fetal tissue to evaluate conditions including Parkinsons disease, ALS, and spinal cord injury. Fetal tissue is also necessary for the development of potential treatments for Zika virus and HIV/AIDS.
But anti-abortion activists argue it incentivizes abortion providers to perform more abortions in order to procure more tissue they could sell to third-party companies, which then provide the tissue directly to researchers. Fetal tissue procurement has been heavily regulated since enactment of the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, which states that profits cannot be made in the transfer or acceptance of fetal tissue for research purposes.
That hasnt stopped anti-abortion activists from continuing to call into question the ethics of abortion providers or procurement companies. In 2000, the anti-abortion rights group Life Dynamics seemingly began the practice of releasing false or deceptively edited videos targeting the fetal tissue sales process. The main source in their videos was found to be not credible.
The George W. Bush administration did not take action against fetal tissue research, instead enacting restrictions on stem cell research derived from embryos in an August 2001 executive order. Those restrictions were later rolled back by an executive order from President Barack Obama in 2009.
More recently, the anti-abortion rights group Center for Medical Progress, run by activist David Daleiden, infamously released heavily edited videos appearing to show a Planned Parenthood employee negotiating prices for fetal tissue, and CMP accused the abortion care provider of illegally profiting from sales.
The videos caught the attention of Republican lawmakers. Investigations by the House Energy and Commerce, House Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform committees found no wrongdoing. Further investigations into Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue transfer proceeded with the creation of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives in October 2015, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), leading to $1.59 million in spending and a 471-page final report making numerable anti-abortion recommendations.
Among those requests was a call for the government to ban fetal tissue research by government scientists, which Barack Obamas administration, which favored the practice, ultimately ignored.
Democrats on the committee released their own report, disputing the conclusions of their Republican colleagues. At the end of their crusade, the conclusion was undeniable: There was no wrongdoing on behalf of fetal tissue researchers, including Advanced Bioscience Resources, or anyone else in the fetal tissue research space, said Rep. Jan Schakowksy (D-IL), who served as the ranking Democrat on the select committee, in a statement to Rewire.News in October 2018.
Anti-abortion activists saw an opportunity to advance their agenda on fetal tissue research when President Donald Trump won election in 2016, but it took a conservative media freakout in 2018 to enact new restrictions.
Over the summer of 2018, conservative media focused on several transactions by Advanced Bioscience Resources, a company that procured fetal tissue from abortion providers and shipped it to researchers for use. ABR was also one of the subjects of the 2015 select committee investigation.
HHS decided to cancel the governments contract with ABR in late September 2018 and began a review of the agencys rules and processes for procuring fetal tissue for research. That review concluded last summer, with HHS announcing in June that it would ban any fetal tissue studies by in-house NIH scientists, like Hasenkrug. It also introduced strict paperwork requirements for any outside scientists conducting research funded by the government.
The decision came as welcome news to anti-abortion activists. The language is trying to hold an ethical standard for the research proposals and the research that might be done. The policy is not just about science. Its also about ethics, David Prentice, vice president and research director at the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute, told Science magazine last July.
For his part, Hasenkrug has reportedly asked the Trump administration several times for permission to begin working with UNCs humanized mice for a coronavirus cure, but is still waiting on permission. Per the Post:
On Feb. 19, two people said, Hasenkrug wrote to a senior NIH official, asking for permission to use those mice and run experiments related to covid-19. He eventually was told that his request had been passed on to senior HHS officials.
Since then, he has written repeatedly to NIH, laying out in greater detail the experiments he wants to undertake and why several alternatives to the fetal tissue-implanted mice would not be as useful. In one appeal to NIH, Hasenkrug wrote that the mice he was offered are more than a year old and have a relatively short time remaining to live, so they should be used quickly, according to Kerry Lavender, a Canadian researcher familiar with the correspondence.
Hasenkrugs request has reportedly been forwarded to the White House Domestic Policy Council, which is chaired by Trump himself, but the government has not made a decision on the research as of yet.
Posted: March 16, 2020 at 6:50 am
The contagious coronavirus can survive on a cardboard delivery box for at least a day and lives even longer on steel and plastic.
A big question in the outbreak of Covid-19, which has already infected more than 110,000, is how the germ that causes it moves so easily between people. Although many viruses and germs can survive on ordinary objects, zeroing in on precisely how the new coronavirus does it could help stem the epidemic.
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To help find an answer, US researchers tried spritzing the virus on seven materials commonly found in homes and hospitals, to see how long it remained infectious.
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The germ survived longest on plastic and stainless steel, where it clung for as long as three days, according to Vincent Munster and a team at the National Institutes of Health virology laboratory in Hamilton, Montana, who describe their experiments in a new preprint.
That suggests hospital equipment is a potential vector for disease, as are strap-hanger poles on subways.
So far, however, there is no definitive proof the virus is actually spread via inanimate objects. We dont know if you can pick up Covid-19 from contaminated surfaces or inanimate objects at this point. Thats the bottom line, says Marilyn Roberts, a microbiologist at the University of Washington School of Public Health.
Doctors testing patients know that the virus is present in large amounts in peoples upper respiratory tract, making it likely that it gets spread when they cough or sneeze, spraying tiny droplets and aerosols into the air and onto surfaces.
Virus stability in air and on surfaces may directly affect virus transmission, as virus particles need to remain viable long enough after being expelled from the host to be taken up by a novel host, Munster and his team write.
Munster and his coworkers say spreading via the air likely explains super spreader events like one that appears to have occurred in Boston, where more than 70 people are believed to have been infected at a conference held by the biotechnology company Biogen.
The scientists looked at how long the virus lived on different materials, and also as it swirled in an air chamber. After waiting a few hours or days, they wiped the surfaces and checked to see if they could still infect cells in a petri dish.
Materials the virus liked best were stainless steel and plastic, where infectious germs could still be collected after three days and might endure quite a bit longer. It liked copper least: the virus was gone after just four hours. Swished around in the air chamber, the germs remained for about three hours.
It will take detailed epidemiological studies to find out for sure exactly how the virus spreads, but the new lab findings indicate it can at least cling to cardboard boxes such as Amazon packages, or plastic cell-phone cases.
With some viruses, like influenza, touching a surface can sweep up millions of viral particles in just a few seconds. Other studies show that people touch their faces more than 20 times every hour. Cold temperature and low humidity let viruses live even longer.
Health authorities are recommending that people wash their hands frequently and use alcohol-based cleansers to disinfect surfaces. Its known that coronaviruses are fairly easy to kill; rubbing alcohol and diluted hydrogen peroxide are among the effective weapons.
In a February review of whats already known about this type of virus, German researchers said that within a minute of cleaning a surface, a million viral particles can be reduced to 100, likely reducing the risk of infection.
The NIH researchers compared the new virus with SARS and found that the two germs stuck around for similar lengths of time. SARS caused an outbreak in 2003 but was not so easily transmitted, which means other factors play a role in why Covid-19 is spreading faster.
While those reasons arent fully understood, the NIH researchers speculate that people with the new coronavirus could be shedding it even if they dont have symptoms or that that it takes less of the virus for a person to become infected, a metric known as the infectious dose.
The researchers say they are now looking at how long the virus lasts in snot, spit, and fecal matter, and under what temperatures and humidity levels.
with reporting by Mike Orcutt
Posted: January 13, 2020 at 8:46 pm
About forty-five hundred years ago, not long after the completion of the Great Pyramid at Giza, a seed of Pinus longaeva, the Great Basin bristlecone pine, landed on a steep slope in what are now known as the White Mountains, in eastern California. The seed may have travelled there on a gust of wind, its flight aided by a winglike attachment to the nut. Or it could have been planted by a bird known as the Clarks nutcracker, which likes to hide pine seeds in caches; nutcrackers have phenomenal spatial memory and can recall thousands of such caches. This seed, however, lay undisturbed. On a moist day in fall, or in the wake of melting snows in spring, a seedling appeared above grounda stubby one-inch stem with a tuft of bright-green shoots.
Most seedlings die within a year; the mortality rate is more than ninety-nine per cent. The survivors are sometimes seen growing in the shadow of a fallen tree. The landscape of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, as this area of the White Mountains is called, is littered with fragments of dead treestrunks, limbs, roots, and smaller chunks. Pinus longaeva grows exclusively in subalpine regions of the Great Basin, which stretches from the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada to the Wasatch Range, in Utah. Conditions are generally too arid for the dead wood to rot; instead, it erodes, sanded down like rock. The remnants may harbor nutrients and fungi that help new trees grow. Bristlecones rise from the bones of their ancestorsa city within a cemetery.
Coast redwoods and giant sequoias, Californias gargantuan world-record-holding trees, can grow fifty feet or more in their first twenty years. Bristlecones rise agonizingly slowly. After four or five years, the seedling on the steep slope would have been just a few inches higher, sprouting needles in place of the embryonic shoots. The needles are a deep green, tough, resinous, and closely bunched, in groups of five. On a mature tree, they live for fifty years or more. Decades may have passed before the tree was human height, and decades more before it resembled a conventional pine. Bristlecone saplings grow straight up, with relatively sparse foliage, looking like undernourished Christmas trees. After a few hundred yearsby which time the Old Kingdom of Egypt had fallenit was probably forty or fifty feet in height.
Many tree species live for hundreds of years. A smaller but not inconsiderable number, including the sequoias and certain yews, oaks, cypresses, and junipers, survive for thousands. Once a bristlecone has established itself in the unforgiving conditions of the White Mountains, it can last almost indefinitely. The trees tend to grow some distance from one another, so fires almost never destroy an entire stand. Because only a few other plant species can handle the dry, cold climate, the bristlecones face little competition. Unlike most plants, they tolerate dolomite soil, which is composed of a chalky type of limestone that is heavily alkaline and low in nutrients. As for insect threats, bristlecone wood is so dense that mountain-pine beetles and other pests can rarely burrow their way into it.
Empires rose and fell; wars raged; people were enslaved and freed; and the tree from 2500 B.C. continued its implacable slow-motion existence, adding about two-hundredths of an inch to the diameter of its trunk each year. Minute changes in the tree-ring record make bristlecones an exceptionally useful source of data about changing conditions on earth. When rains are heavier than normal, the rings widen. When volcanic eruptions cause global cooling, frost rings make the anomaly visible. The precision of these records means that bristlecones have periodically butted into other disciplines: geology, archeology, climatology. In the nineteen-sixties and seventies, the trees contributed to the upending of the canonical theory that Bronze Age civilization had spread westward from Egypt and the Near East. Bristlecones have also affected modern political discourse: the famous hockey stick graph, which two decades ago raised awareness of human-driven global warming, relied on bristlecone data.
As the millennia go by, bristlecones become contorted and wraithlike. The main stem, or leader, dies back. Entire branches, even the trunk itself, become fossils. At first glance, the tree may look dead. Such is the case of the forty-five-hundred-year-old tree that clings to life near the tourist path that now runs through the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Spears of dead wood jut into the air. The trunk is a marbled hulk stripped of bark, like driftwood thrown from a vanished ocean. A ribbon of live bark runs up one side, funnelling water and nutrients to clumps of green needles high above. All told, the tree is an unprepossessing specimen; most people march past it without giving it a second glance. When I sat by the tree for an hour last July, the only visitor who took any notice of it was a dog named Dougie, who briefly sniffed the trunk and then darted away.
In 1957, Edmund Schulman, a researcher from the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, in Tucson, determined that this eccentric senior was older than any other tree on earth which had been dated. He named it Methuselah. The next year, when the United States Forest Service established the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Methuselah bore an identifying marker. The sign was soon removed, however, because tourists were extracting souvenirs. The trees location is now known only to scientists, forest rangers, and a few enthusiasts. This anonymity is just as well, since there are almost certainly Great Basin bristlecones that are yet older. A nearby tree appears to have been born about three hundred years earlier. Even more ancient trees are rumored to exist elsewhere in the Whites.
What is most astonishing about Pinus longaeva is not the age of any single organism but the collective oldness and otherness of its entire community. No two super-elderly trees look alike, to the point where they have acquired the characteristics of individuals. Trees are prone to anthropomorphism; we project our dreams and our anxieties onto them. Bristlecones have been called elders, sentinels, sages. The possibility that climate change will cause their extinction has inspired a spate of alarmed news stories, although tree scientists tend to discount the idea that the bristlecones are in immediate danger. They have survived any number of catastrophes in the past; they may survive humanity.
Hope youve read up on the curse of the bristlecone, Andy Bunn told me, with mock concern, over breakfast at a diner in Bishop, California. We were joined by Matt Salzer, a veteran researcher from the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. Bunn, who teaches environmental science at Western Washington University, in Bellingham, has been working with bristlecones since 2006. People who get too close to these trees die young, he explained. Edmund Schulman, the man who discovered Methuselah, died, of a stroke, at the age of forty-nine. Bunn went on, Matt here has a slab of the Currey Treeanother well-known specimenin his office. He handles it with abandon, as if it wont kill him.
Bristlecone pines thrive at high elevations and live for thousands of years.
Salzer sighed. Yeah, the curse, he said. Always thought it was stupid. Had second thoughts when I had to get that stent put in.
They laughed and dug into their breakfast. Both come from academic families on the East Coast: Bunn, who is forty-eight, is the son of a distinguished hematologist at Harvard Medical School; Salzer, who is fifty-eight, grew up in Buffalo, the son of an education professor. Bunn and Salzer now affect the outdoorsy aesthetic of eastern California: flannel shirts, vests, cargo pants.
It was mid-September, California fire season, and the diner was crowded with firefighters on call. Bishop is the largest town in Owens Valley, which lies between the Sierra Nevada and the White Mountains. The Sierras loom dramatically over the plain, their gray granite peaks etched in the sun. The Whites present a less impressive appearance from afar. Although they rise more than fourteen thousand feet, almost as high as the Sierras, they are smoother and more rounded, their slopes an unphotogenic beige. The bristlecone zone lies at an elevation of between nine and eleven thousand feet.
Bunn and Salzer had come to the Whites to lay the groundwork for a study of very old bristlecone wood. Bunn is keenly interested in tracking climate change through bristlecone data. Salzer has long wanted to fill out a comprehensive chronology of bristlecone tree rings, carrying on work that began at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research in the mid-twentieth century. After breakfast, we drove up a narrow, twisting road leading into the Whites. Upon picking a camping spot, we headed to the chief attraction of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest: the Schulman Grove. It includes Methuselah, and was named for Edmund Schulman.
Bunn, the more loquacious of the pair, said, What is the oldest tree? Its trivia. Matt and I dont find it that interesting. Its unanswerable. A lot of these trees have been dated; a whole lot havent. He paused. Of course, I get a chill from standing next to something thats been living in the same place for five thousand years. We cant begin to comprehend the mechanisms of birth and death on that scale.
Salzer grunted assent: Yeah, theres a lot thats unknown. Soft-spoken and laconic, he tends to wait several long seconds before answering questions, and then says something on the order of Possibly, Not necessarily, or Unclear.
At the Schulman Grove, Bunn and Salzer met up with a group of European researchers. Tom De Mil, of Ghent University, was experimenting with making CT scans of tree-ring samples. He hoped that mapping differences in the density of the wood would yield an even more precise record of moisture and temperature variations from year to year. Jesper Bjrklund and Kristina Seftigen, who work in the Forest Dynamics department of the Swiss Federal Research Institute, had developed sophisticated new models for extracting historical climate data from tree-ring cells.
We all began walking the tourist path, and the slope rising to our left presented a typical bristlecone habitat: trees more or less evenly spaced, with the bright-tan hulks of dead trees intervening. It looked less like a forest than like a poorly managed orchard. But dark-green junior bristlecones, on all sides of us, confirmed the general health of the population.
Bunn stepped over an exposed root and said, You see the roots going all over the placeabove ground, below ground. Theyll often go uphill. They find the cracks in the substrate, work their way into it.
Salzer added, Therell be a period of time in spring when snow will melt during the day, giving all the trees a drink, then freeze up at night and melt again the next day. Its like a watering system, until the snow is gone.
De Mil picked up a remnant and pointed out a thin crack running through it. Frost ring, he said. Is this one of the major events?
Salzer looked, pondered, and said, Could be.
When a significant volcanic eruption occurs, the volume of matter and dust ejected into the atmosphere can obscure the sun and cause a worldwide cooling; at such times, freezing temperatures arrive unseasonably early, when cells in a new layer of wood are still forming. The resulting damage to the cells causes a break in the usual succession of ringsa frost ring.
A few events are so severe that they show up in every tree, Salzer said. 2036 B.C., 43 B.C., 627 A.D. He went on, 2036 B.C. is maybe my favorite. Its also my bane, because there is hardly any wood left that has intact rings on either side of that date. The wood fractures, and erosion sets in.
Bunn noted, These volcanic events have been linked to disruptions of early civilizations, like Akkad, the worlds first empire. The poem The Curse of Akkad tells of how the harvests failed and the population starved. People were flailing at themselves from hungerthat kind of thing.
And 43 B.C., after the assassination of Caesar, Salzer said. People thought that the darkening of the skies was a message from the gods. Julius Caesar died in 44 B.C. According to Plutarch, the sun was obscured for an entire yearits orb rose pale and without radianceand fruits withered. Records of the Han dynasty, in China, indicate that in the same period the sun was bluish white and cast no shadows. The most commonly cited cause is a volcanic cloud emanating from Mt. Etna, in Sicily, although other eruptions have been proposed.
We stood for a moment looking at the trees. They did seem sentinel-like. Bunn touched a neighboring branch, which fell into an easy, swinging motion.
Andy likes to feel the energy from the trees, Salzer said, gently snickering. He was a bit of a bristlecone himself: deliberate, diffident, bemused.
We continued following the path, which traces a four-mile route through the forest. Bunn, equipped with a G.P.S. device, searched for a site, off the path, where five- or six-thousand-year-old remnants could be found. Salzer was on the lookout for Methuselah. After a brief search, he identified the tree, giving it a friendly pat.
Two husky, weathered Welshmen happened alongone dressed all in black, including a black leather cap, and the other wearing a red flannel shirt. You lot look like experts, one of them said. Do you know which is Methuselah?
Turn around, Bunn said.
The Welshmen looked and laughed.
This? they said.
The University of Arizonas Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, where secrets of the bristlecone reside, was founded in 1937. For decades, it occupied a warren of rooms and corridors beneath a football stadium. Since 2013, the lab has been housed in a handsome building with an exterior of hanging metal columns, giving it the look of an abstract forest. Inside, researchers have access to a kind of arboreal Library of Congress: a vast collection of tree fragments from around the world, including cross-sections of giant sequoias. The lab is affixing each with a bar code, so that researchers can check out samples.
The lab was the brainchild of Andrew Ellicott Douglass, an astronomer who, in 1904, began collecting tree samples in the West, convinced that variations in ring width could reveal cycles of solar activity. His research remained inconclusive, but along the way he essentially founded dendrochronology, the science of tree-ring dating. His greatest insight was to recognize patterns among the hundreds of samples he gathered in Arizona: rings on the trees were wider in 1884 and 1885, narrower in 1851, and so on. Using a giant-sequoia stump as a reference, Douglass meticulously built up a tree-ring chronology, reaching back to around 1300 B.C. Stray fragments of wood could be matched to the master index. Douglass employed this system to develop fairly exact dates for Aztec and Ancestral Puebloan ruins in the American Southwest.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the giant sequoias, which grow only on the western slopes of the Sierras, were widely assumed to be the worlds oldest trees. They were certainly the biggest: the General Sherman Tree, in Sequoia National Park, is the most voluminous on earth. (In the late nineteenth century, it was known as the Karl Marx Tree, because a leftist commune occupied the area.) Bristlecones, by comparison, seemed to be mere oddities. John Muir, the pioneering naturalist, described them as irrepressibly and extravagantly picturesque. Then, in the nineteen-forties, a Forest Service ranger named Al Noren counted the rings on bristlecones and began to suspect their true age. Word reached Edmund Schulman, Douglasss second-in-command.
Schulman first visited the Whites in 1953 and discovered Methuselah four years later. He dated the trees with a time-tested method: using a coring device to bore in and extract a very thin sample. The process causes mature trees no harm. The naked eye can glean little from a core; you need a microscope to see the rings clearly and pinpoint differences. Schulman wrote an overview of his work for National Geographic, titling it Bristlecone Pine, Oldest Known Living Thing. He died just before the issue was published.
Chatter about a bristlecone curse started after the tragic demise of the so-called Prometheus Tree, which Salzer prefers to call the Currey Tree. In 1964, a graduate student named Donald Currey was attempting to date a huge bristlecone on Wheeler Peak, in the Snake Range, in Nevada. Currey first tried to take a core, but he had trouble getting a good sample. With the permission of the Forest Service, he decided to cut down the entire tree. A crew showed up with a chain saw, but when the foreman touched Prometheus he reportedly said, Im not cutting this tree. The next day, another crew did the deed. Currey concluded that the tree was forty-nine hundred years oldslightly older than the bristlecones Schulman had studied in the Whites. Currey had to live with the reputation of having, in the words of one writer-activist, casually killed (yes, murdered!) the worlds oldest tree. A year after Prometheus was felled, a young Forest Service employee suffered a fatal heart attack while attempting to remove a slab.
Five years ago, the Los Angeles-based artist Jeff Weiss organized a memorial service for Prometheus, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of its death. Matt Salzer, despite his resistance to mythologizing bristlecones, recorded a speech for the gathering. He spoke of how remnants of bristlecones, including the detritus of Prometheus, reveal how climate has changed in the past and how it might change in the future. He said, It is almost as if the trees are speaking the words of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who once wrote, I have heard many years of telling, / And many years should see some change.
Some of the bones of Prometheus are squirrelled away in Salzers office in Tucson. When I stopped by, not long after our trip to the White Mountains, several slabs were resting next to a filing cabinet. Salzer arranged them end to end, forming a six-foot radius. He rummaged around for more bristlecone relics, and found a remnant with a ring marked 43 B.C.the frost ring that followed Caesars death.
We also looked at three cores from Methuselah and four from a tree that Salzer calls Harlans Secret Tree, for Tom Harlan, a dendrochronologist who began working at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research in 1957. Some years after Schulmans death, Harlan examined his predecessors stock of cores and realized that one tree was even older than Methuselah. Salzer provisionally estimates, based on Harlans core samples, that the tree is 4,817 years old. He would like to verify that figure, but hes not sure precisely where Harlans Secret Tree is. Harlan died in 2013, and did not record its location. There is a clue, though, in the form of a page from Edmund Schulmans original 1957 notes.
Salzer hopes to resolve the matter, if only to satisfy periodic calls from Guinness World Records. But he is more excited by the possibility of filling in the remaining gaps in the master bristlecone chronology, which extends back ten thousand years. In addition, he is exploring the complex relationship between bristlecone rings and radiocarbon dating. His partner on the project is Charlotte Pearson, a forty-three-year-old British archeologist, who took up dendrochronology because she was fascinated by its potential implications for the history of ancient civilizations.
Pearson stopped by Salzers office to discuss their collaboration. What we want to do is get the best possible calibration, she said. Make it high-resolution. Many people tend to think that a radiocarbon curve is set in stonethat once you get a date you can trust in it completely. But the curve has been revised many times, and the bristlecones have been crucial to that process.
Radiocarbon is an isotope of carbon that is generated in the earths atmosphere by cosmic radiation. All living things consume small quantities of the isotope as they take in carbon dioxide. When they die, the radiocarbon in their remains steadily decays. In 1949, the chemist Willard Libby announced a remarkable discovery: the age of any organic remnant can be determined by measuring the level of radiocarbon against what a living thing typically maintains. In a stroke, radiocarbon allowed for a comprehensive dating of relics from human civilization and biological history.
A typical bristlecone habitat features trees that are more or less evenly spaced, with the hulks of dead trees intervening. It looks less like a forest than like a poorly managed orchard.
Libby, who won a Nobel Prize for his work, was aware that his model relied on an untested assumptionthat the level of radiocarbon in the atmosphere remains constant. In the sixties, the Austrian-born geophysicist Hans Suess took radiocarbon data from some very old bristlecone samples, knowing that ring-counting had established their age precisely. The radiocarbon-dating estimate was way off, giving the impression that the samples were many hundreds of years younger than they were. Suess concluded that levels of radiocarbon had been considerably higher five or six thousand years ago, perhaps because of increased solar activity or shifts in the earths magnetic field. As a result, archeological dates in the period between 4000 and 2000 B.C. had to be drastically revised. The recalibration was especially dramatic in the case of Neolithic ruins in remote parts of Western Europe, for which no other historical documentation existed. These sites were assumed to have postdated the Bronze Age architecture of Mesopotamia and Egypt; instead, they came first.
The bristlecones werent done with their meddling. In 2018, Pearson, Salzer, and others published a paper in which they tried out a new approach. Prior research had calibrated the curve on a decade-to-decade basis; Pearson and Salzer broke it down year by year. It was time-consuming work, and they limited their study to the period from 1700 to 1500 B.C. These dates were not chosen at random: Pearson had long been obsessed with the giant volcanic eruption that took place on the island of Thera, in the Santorini archipelago. It was initially thought, on the basis of historical records, that the Thera event had contributed to the fall of the Minoan civilization, but radiocarbon dating of an olive branch placed the eruption several decades earlier, at a time when the Minoans were thriving. Pearson and Salzer believe that the date of the eruption should be moved forward. A bristlecone frost ring from 1560 B.C. is now considered to be a strong candidate for the temporal marker of the Thera cataclysm.
Pearson said of the Thera revision, This is from only two hundred years of our proposed ten-thousand-year annual chronology. We expect more surprises. For example, theres the business of Miyake Events. In 2012, a solar scientist named Fusa Miyake used tree rings to pinpoint an enormous jump in radiocarbon, from 774 to 775 A.D. It appears to have been a huge solar event.
Salzer fingered one of the cores of Methuselah, which were still on his desk. The event didnt do any apparent harm to the trees or anything else, he said. No frost rings or anything like that. But people are very interested in the mechanics of such events today, because if one happened tomorrow He made a Kablooey! gesture in the direction of his computer.
I asked Salzer how scientists in other disciplines had reacted to periodic disruptions from the bristlecone community.
Well, in the sixties one Old World archeologist said something like: Why should we be concerned with whats happening with some shrub in California? But with our Thera paper the archeologists seemed pretty happy. These new dates were a better fit with what theyd suspected all along.
Like the Ents, in The Lord of the Rings, the bristlecones seem to be imparting information slowly, on their own time.
Something that began growing at the time of the Pyramids has a right to say stuff, Pearson said. It gets to comment.
The oldest bristlecones in the White Mountains live in a lower-altitude ravine on a north-facing slope. At higher altitudes, the trees thin out as they get near an exposed ridge. A few lone trees, usually younger, stand ahead of the pack, like scouts. They make you wonder about the bristlecones future. Are they creeping up the slopes, in reaction to a warming earth?
The matter of whether the trees record anthropogenic change was once the subject of furious debate. In 1998, the climatologist Michael E.Mann published the hockey stick graph, showing a steep rise in global mean temperature from about 1850 onward. Manns paper was co-authored by Malcolm Hughes, a senior researcher at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, and depended heavily on bristlecone chronologies. Scientists, however, knew that bristlecones at lower altitudes were a less reliable index of temperature fluctuation: it was only on the exposed upper edge of the tree line that the trees were highly sensitive to a blast of cold, and more likely to develop frost rings and other markers of extremity. Climate-change deniers claimed fraud and spoke darkly of a bristlecones addiction. Subsequent papers by Hughes, Salzer, and others refined the models, focussing on the upper-tree-line samples. The new models, together with an avalanche of data from other sources, confirm the hockey-stick upswing.
Bristlecones have been through hot spells before. Circa 4000 B.C., during the mid-Holocene period, the earth was about one degree Celsius warmer than it is today. But it is on track to get hotter than that. What happens when the bristlecones move up so far that they run out of space? A 2007 paper by the geologist Christopher Van de Ven paints a bleak picture. If the earth were to warm by two degrees, the Schulman Grove would die off. At six degrees, bristlecones would be confined to the highest slopes of White Mountain Peak. In such a scenario, that would be the least of our problems: a six-degree warming would be catastrophic in countless other ways.
On a midsummer trip to the Whites, I met up with Brian Smithers, a forty-three-year-old ecologist from Montana State University, in Bozeman. He is a rising star of bristlecone studies, and not uncontroversial. He grew up in a small town in the Sierras and turned to the natural sciences after abandoning plans of becoming an astronaut. A trim athlete who competes in triathlons, he was accepted into the U.S.Air Force Academy, but decided not to go when he realized that he might have to kill people. Instead, he served in the Peace Corps in Fiji. When he returned home, he became an ornithologist; in the past decade, he has shifted to tree science.
I met Smithers while he was organizing a summertime survey by an organization known as GLORIA Great Basin. It is part of a worldwide network of GLORIA groupsGlobal Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environmentswhich study how alpine species respond to climate change. Several dozen volunteersecologists, botanists, amateur enthusiastsscoured high-elevation sites in the Whites, counting small alpine plants in gridded-off areas. I tagged along, though I could barely follow the conversation, which was conducted largely in Latin: Is this Trisetum spicatum? That Oxytropis is a real cutie.
Smithers took part of a day off to show me a site where he had done a study comparing bristlecone populations with those of the limber pine, another hardy species that grows at high altitudes. He and other researchers had noted that in this area the limber pines appeared to be outpacing the bristlecones in moving to higher elevationsleap-frogging over them. His paper, published in 2017, attracted media attention, resulting in headlines like: ANCIENT BRISTLECONE PINE FORESTS ARE BEING OVERWHELMED BY CLIMATE CHANGE (the Los Angeles Times) and CLIMATE CHANGE COULD KILL THE WORLDS OLDEST TREES (Live Science).
It got away from me a little bit, Smithers said, as we trudged across a rock-strewn meadow toward a distant ridge. Its hard to make a complex point in limited space. I was talking about some local populations where bristlecones were in trouble. The problem is that we cant begin to observe change at the rate these trees are accustomed to. At the moment, these limber pines appear to be charging up the slope. But maybe they will all die in fifty years, and maybe thats when bristlecones will move in.
We reached a ridge where dead bristlecones were scattered about in large numbersa relict grove. Trunks and branches protruded into the air, their surfaces polished and smooth to the touch. Small fragments with grayish, scoured wood lay in the low brush. Something happened here, Smithers said. These were really old trees that lived through a lot of really crappy conditions. Theres no sign of a fire. No sign of insects. So what killed them?
On the other side of the ridge, bristlecones reappeared. Check out this one, Smithers said, pointing to an apparently long-dead hunk of a tree. It looked as though it had been blown over in a storm, but tufts of green needles emerged from a branch on one side. A vein of live bark snaked around the dead trunk and disappeared into the ground. It was like a vine growing on a ruin, except that the ruin was itself.
We headed back to the Crooked Creek Station, a handsome, spartan pine-log facility where the GLORIA group was based for the week. Part of the complex had once stood in downtown Los Angeles, housing the Starlight Bar and Grill. In the late eighties, the University of California at Davis dismantled the structures and hauled them up into the Whites. Before Crooked Creek became a research station, in 1978, it had been a U.S.Navy outpost, where research was conducted into the physiological effects of high-altitude exposure. Reportedly, harbor seals were brought to a pond near the siteto what end one dare not imagine.
Dinner was served in the high-ceilinged common room at Crooked Creek. In the group was Connie Millar, a revered ecologist who has long worked for the Forest Service and who is responsible for launching GLORIA in North America. She has been studying the effects of climate change for decades, with the Great Basin as her favorite site of observation. She worked on bristlecones for years but has added other subjects of study, including the pika, an adorable rabbit-like mammal that thrives in mountain zones.
Im actually not too worried about the bristlecones, Millar told me. Schulman talked about longevity through adversity, and theres something to that. You cant look only at the upper tree line. Contrary to what the Van de Ven model suggests, trees are still growing at lower elevations, sometimes even below the current tree lines. You have to be aware of all these microclimates where temperature and moisture can vary in unexpected ways. All through the Great Basin you see this kind of endurance. I see it in the pikas, too. They make their habitats in the talusthe pile of rocky debris at the base of a slope or cliffand they find a mode of circulation almost decoupled from the outside. They hole up in their little air-conditioned homes.
Yet Millar is hardly sanguine about environmental threats to the trees. She told me that a colleague, Barbara Bentz, had recently found worrisome evidence of mountain-pine beetles killing bristlecones on Telescope Peak, in Death Valley. Such an invasion was previously thought to be impossible, because of the toughness of the trees wood. Whatever the fate of the bristlecones, she noted, the general global trends are catastrophic. The bristlecones live in their own world, she said. Their longevity seems to be related in mysterious ways to the length of time dead wood stays in the environment. Its hard to generalize from that.
Humans tend to make a cult of trees. Many ancient traditions posit the existence of a primal tree that embodies eternal life. Reverence surrounds the Bodhi Tree, in Bodh Gaya, India; the Cypress of Abarkuh, in Iran; the Hibakujumoku trees, in Hiroshima, which withstood the atomic blast. There are trees of life, and trees of death. In Schuberts song Der Lindenbaum, from the death-haunted cycle Winterreise, a linden tree calls to a disconsolate wanderer, Come to me, friend, / Here you will find rest. Thomas Mann makes much of that song in The Magic Mountain, finding it symbolic of a civilization hurtling toward its own destruction.
The bristlecone cult is varied and intense. Artists tease ghostlike figures from their writhing shapes. Creationists have tried to reconcile the bristlecones with a putative cosmological starting date of 4004 B.C. (Methuselah fits their chronology, but the older remnants have to be discarded.) The Long Now Foundation, a futuristic organization based in San Francisco, bought land in the area of Mount Washington, Nevada, in large part because it contained bristlecone pines. Jeff Bezos, a member, is funding the construction of a clock, in a mountain in Texas, that will tick for ten thousand years. Long Now hopes to erect a similar clock on Mt. Washington.
Tree worship can fall prey to political exploitation, especially when a national or ethnic group claims an immemorial attachment to a patch of land. Jared Farmer, in his 2013 book, Trees in Paradise: A California History, notes that Californias sequoias and redwoods were long lauded as emblems of American greatness. Madison Grant, one of the founders of the Save the Redwoods League, was a racist and a eugenicist, notorious for the best-selling 1916 tract The Passing of the Great Race. Grant extolled the giant trees in much the same terms that he applied to sturdy specimens of Nordic supremacy. The age of the trees allowed for a kind of backdating of Manifest Destiny, into the mists of prehistory.
Bristlecones cant be monumentalized in the same way. They have the look of survivors, not conquerors. Fittingly, they found fame during the Cold War, when atomic tests were taking place not far off, in the Nevada desert. Bristlecones are post-apocalyptic trees, sci-fi trees. They can be seen as symbols of our own precarious future. Michael P.Cohen, in his 1998 book, A Garden of Bristlecones, deftly anatomizes this latter-day bristlecone mythology, writing that the trees always reveal the motives of their observers.
My own bristlecone obsession is probably rooted in a fixation on extremely old people and things. Some of my favorite music was written centuries ago. When I was a teen-ager, I spent a summer wandering the Highlands and islands of Scotland, looking at Neolithic ruins as old as Methuselah. Meeting people with long memories gives me an elemental thrill. In 1990, when I was in college, I spoke on the phone to the Russian-born musical polymath Nicolas Slonimsky, who recalled walking the streets of Petrograd on the first day of the Bolshevik Revolution. I saw nothing, and went back to practicing the piano, he said.
In November, just before the first snows shut down access to the Whites, I made a final trip to the Schulman Grove. The question of the oldest tree nagged at me. Salzer had shown me the notebook page in which the location of Harlans Secret Tree is indicatedsomewhat opaquely. As on a treasure map, one is told to walk a certain distance and in a certain direction. Salzer and Bunn had followed the instructions and texted me a picture of a likely candidate. Next summer, Salzer plans to take a core sample and resolve the issue.
When I reached the site, I became convinced that a neighboring tree was a better match for Schulmans vague description. I basked for a while in the aura of this nameless ancient. Then I found a metal I.D. plate affixed to one of its roots. Checking the number against documentation in my notes, I was disappointed to find that the tree was only three thousand years old. I went back to Salzers tree, which had no visible tag. It was a heftier, healthier-looking specimen than Methuselah. The boughs were a vivid green and soft to the touch. Red-purple pollen cores were forming at many of the tips.
Was this it? Did it matter? I remembered a conversation that Id had with Tim Forsell, who manages the Crooked Creek Station in the summers. He said, Its so arrogant to think that we stumbled in there and happened to find the worlds oldest tree. Harlan always said there were older ones. I once asked him, If these trees can be five thousand years old, could there be six-thousand-year-old trees? And he answered, Absolutely.
By the time I headed back, night was falling. Light fades fast in the mountains, and I walked the last mile to the parking lot in near-darkness. But then a full moon rose, and the dolomite on neighboring slopes began to glow eerily bright, like phantom drifts of snow. The wind picked up and elicited a low, full whoosh from bristlecone branches, which swung to and fro without creaking or rustling. When the wind stopped, the forest felt like a cavernous but soundproofed spacea silent concert hall, an empty cathedral. The moon lit up the mountains as I drove to the valley below.
A Doctor Plumbs The Depths Of Ivan Doig’s Illness And Asks: ‘Did He Have An Epiphany?’ – Mountain Journal
Posted: October 8, 2019 at 11:41 am
I grew up in Ohio and met my first real Westerner at age 27. Kate was from Durango, Colorado and lived next door to me for two months during a rural primary care rotation in medical school. They rolled up the sidewalks at night in Twin Falls, Idaho and so we had plenty of time to talk. Books always figured prominently in the conversation and she recommended her favorite book about the West
Reading that first iconic chapter, Time Spent, led to a 25-year Doig odyssey that eventually landed me in a Montana State University archive reading the final draft of that same chapter, marked up with Ivans own red pen.
It begins, That start of memorys gather: June 27, 1945. I have become 6 years old, my mothers life has drained out at 31 years. And in the first grey daylight, dully heading our horses around from that cabin of the past, my father and I rein away toward all that would come next.
The Doig archive at Montana State is a treasure trove for fans. Its extensively indexed and entirely on line and filled with pictures, original manuscripts and the collection of 3 x 5 and 5 x 8 cards on which Doig kept quotes and observations from his extensive research travels in Montana.
Ivan kept box after box of these cards, many of them with only a single type written sentence, sometimes annotated in longhand. He shuffled and reshuffled these bits of memory assembling them into temporary collections as material to flesh out a particular character or story line and then returned them to their boxes only to be reshuffled and reassembled for the next novel.
In summer 2019, Carol Doig met with a group of visitors and discussed her husband's journey in his last years. Joining them was her close friend, Betty Mayfield, who helped assemble Doig's edited manuscripts, diaries, correspondence and other documents that today are part of the MSU Doig collection. Those joining Carol in her living are, left to right, Betty Mayfield, Dr. Rob Patrick, Justin Shanks a post-doctoral fellow working on the Doig material to make it digitally accessible, and writer Todd Wilkinson of Mountain Journal. Photo by Kenning Arlitsch, dean of MSU Libraries
Sometimes this shuffling was frozen into a more permanent form when he collected them into 2-to-3 page novellas with titles like Scotchisms and Curses.Most assumptions arent conscious until they are shattered. Without realizing it, I had cast my favorite writer in his own movie that ran only in my head.
He woke up in the morning, hunted big game, slept with the world's most beautiful women, cavorted at the Algonquin round table, drank his weight in scotch and then, late at night, great work flowed forth from his pen in a tortured and inspired torrent. He threw himself down exhausted, only to arise and repeat the performance with the dawn. The truth that emerged from touching the physical remnants of his process was far different.
Ivan Doig was . . . a nerd . . .just like me. I clipped articles and collected them in folders, wrote down random thoughts and observations on cards, restacked, hoarded and recombined information. My stories were just about thrombocytopenia and clonal proliferation instead of resilient ranchers scraping out an existence under the Big Sky.
The champion of the lariat proletariat was a closet geek. How disappointing.But my biggest disappointment was yet to come.The archive contained an odd and alluring folder title medical journey that was irresistible to me as a physician. I hadnt realized that Ivan suffered from multiple myeloma for the last eight years of his life and had written four books after being diagnosed with a terminal disease.
Myeloma is a strange form of cancer as cancers go, it is both painstakingly slow to progress and inexorably fatal. Patients rack up complications from the treatment, not because treatment is so toxic, but because they live long enough to suffer from the cure as well as the disease.
The core of the pathology is something called a plasma cell which under normal circumstances produces the antibodies that help fight off invading viruses and bacteria. In myeloma, a single plasma cell mutates and grows uncontrollably crowding out everything else in a patients bone marrow and gumming up their organs with immunoglobulin. The mutant cells eventually cant be contained inside the bone marrow and invade the surrounding solid bone causing painful fractures in the spine and long bones of the skeleton.
As if that was not bad enough, the core of chemotherapy is high dose steroids, usually dexamethasone or prednisone. Steroids are the poster child for double edged swords in medicine. They are simultaneously incredibly useful for suppressing the immune system in autoimmune diseases, cancer and anything that involves inflammation, while at the same time having the most broad ranging side effect profile of almost any medication.
It was a love for wildlands in the West that led Rob Patrick, at right, down the trail of Ivan Doig's books and when he had an opportunity to dive deeper into Doig's final years he jumped at the chance. Another thing that brought him to Bozeman and Greater Yellowstone is his close friendship with Kenning Arlitsch, Dean of MSU Libraries. Here they are on an autumn trip into the Yellowstone backcountry.
Probably the most serious side effects for myeloma patients are immunosuppression leading to increased risk for infection, a softening of the bones accelerating the tendency of the disease to cause fractures and emotional lability. The last of these sounds trivial, but isnt.
My first patient who suffered from this particular side effect literally started a sentence laughing and ended it crying. The cognitive effects can be especially debilitating, because at its peak, the drug lulls one into a false sense of security. It can make patients feel super human and I had one multiple sclerosis patient tell me it was the most powerful antidepressant she had ever taken and she almost looked forward to her next flare so she could get it again. However, on the way up and the way down it can cause confusion and a loss of emotional control that is profoundly disturbing, especially to someone who depends on their brain to make a living. Truly a blessing and a curse of modern medicine.
One of my biggest losses of innocence after medical school was realizing that professors had pulled the wool over my eyes concerning one of the fundamental diagnostic tools in medicinethe patient history. During the pre-clinical years you seldom get to talk to an actual patient and instead hone your skills using case presentations which I later came to understand were carefully curated stories masquerading as actual patients in which the non-salient details were conveniently expunged and the salient ones amplified for teaching purposes.
My teachers smugly told me, If you dont know whats wrong by the time you finish taking the history, take the history again." This illusion is perpetuated during third year clerkships when cases are cherry picked for medical students so as not to dispel the myth. The gloves come off during internship when it is too late to turn back and you realize that most patients have a hard time telling you how they feel no matter how many creative ways you come up with to ask the same question. Its not their fault, they usually just have never felt like this before and dont have the words to describe it.
When you add intoxication, mental illness, dementia, etc. to the mix, taking a history often becomes an exercise in communication breakdown and frustration. So imagine my joy at finding a history written by a professional communicator whose livelihood depended on his ability to observe the world and record it. It was like winning the internal medicine lottery.
Doig observed of myeloma: The waiting room of hell, furnished with side effects.
Of those side effects, he observed, The dex makes me longitudinal - - concentrated on a single line of endeavor at a time, no latitude to speak of and I would go to blow my nose and find there was not a handkerchief within 50 of me. Pill bottle caps leapt for the floor. My ordinary thought process resembles a homesteader digging out a stump, when loaded with dex I plodded right past nuances of life in temporary fixations on getting to my desk and writing things down. Which, amazingly, produced pages of a novel faster than when I wasnt taking the stuff. Dex gave me a mental pop, off-the-chart energy upstairs while it played games with the rest of me. Writing proved to be therapy for therapy.
On the topic of mortality, he explained in a written passage, I am now in remission, that terra incognita but better than being off the map(oblivion). He would add, I have not come out of this as any cheerleader for Nietzche: thera are countless preferable ways to strengthen in life without having something trying to kill you.
Facing the reality, he noted, Invariably fatal. Damn. But then, so is life. Its probably not polite to laugh out loud at the writings of a dying man, but I couldnt help myself and I also couldnt help wondering what a pleasure it would have been to take care of him. There was plenty of correspondence in the archive between Ivan and his doctors, but the most striking examples would probably have been overlooked by the uninitiated. The age of electronic medical records and e-mail allow patients unprecedented access to providers.
Like most technology, this chart messaging is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it doesnt take three phone calls to catch a patient at home and tell them about their lab results.
The curse is the dozens of chart messages to return at the end of a busy day. Consequently, as Doig chronicled, brevity is the rule: Everything normal on your labs today, see you in 6 months."
Doig, when in his prime, trying to instill the lessons of history into his work. Here he absorbs the vibe in an abandoned farm house where heart-felt dreams rose, fell part like a heartache and drifted away. Photo by Carol Doig, courtesy MSU Library Doig Archives
The messages from Ivans providers went on for paragraphs, like post cards from your grandmother, and often came close to open displays of affection. All patients are equal, but some are more equal than others.
My day in the Doig archive was followed by an evening at the annual trout lecture hosted by the MSU library and I happened to find the only other Doig nerd who had spent any time with the medical journey files. Todd Wilkinson, the editor of Mountain Journal, shared my fascination with this little known part of Ivan Doigs life and suggested we pursue an event centered around his medical journey.
I couldnt imagine who else would show up to hear about such a niche topic, but didnt want to spoil the glow of our mutual fandom and encouraged him to pursue it. Three months later I found myself sitting in Carol Doigs living room in Seattle.This would be a good time to disclose that I am not a casual Doig fan. Im not a religious person, but I have made two literary pilgrimages in my life. The first was to Arches National Park to find the location of Edward Abbeys trailer from Desert Solitaire and the second was to White Sulfur Springs, Montana to see the place that had figured so prominently in Doig'sThis House of Sky.
Something still haunted me about the archives. Aside from the few pithy quotes above, there wasnt much mention of how Ivan faced his own mortality. How does an author get up every day and write four more novels when he knows hes dying? More importantly, why does he do it?
My practice over the last 20 years was working as a hospitalist. All of my patients were sick enough to be in the hospital and these days you have to be pretty sick to make it through those doors. I had seen hundreds of patients die and typically had end of life conversations with patients and families several times a week. Indeed, I had been on a personal crusade in the last few years to get doctors to talk with their terminally ill patients about their goals for the end of life and had coached other providers about how to do it.
So here was my chance to salvage something of my shattered romantic ideal about writers. Ivan must have had some big epiphany, I thought, that just wasnt there in his writing and my task was to extract it from his widow. I was as if a literary anthropologist on a mission.
It led to having a wonderful day in Seattle, sunny and warm; the Doig living room had a commanding view of Puget Sound. The house was spare and elegant and warm and inviting all at the same time and I got to see Ivans personal desk with his typewriter and his book collection.
Carol was charming and intelligent and well educated and everything you would expect from the spouse of your literary hero. Todd Wilkinson was there and Kenning Arlitsch, Dean of Libraries at MSU, too, and the person responsible for securing the Doig archive. Our conversation flowed easily.
Todd had a flurry of journalistic questions for Carol about Ivan and his writing. I was the final interviewer and my experience told me that it was almost always the wife that was the keeper of the medical history. So I started with some easy logistical questions.
Doig's desk, where he completed five books in eight years, battling through pain, the effects of medicines and a bone marrow transplant. All this and yet critics say these final works contain passages that are among the most incisive and moving of his four-decade long career. Photo by Todd Wilkinson
No, she did not go to all of his medical appointments with him and she didnt even know about the folder where he had kept all of the materials about his illness until after his death. There goes my first assumption.
We walked through the chronology of his illness, his initial diagnosis, the stem cell transplant, chemotherapy, remission, relapse, second line chemotherapy. What was daily life like? How did they deal with telling friends and family since he was not obviously ill until the end? How long was he on hospice? What was it like at the end? I probed, I rephrased, I asked the same question a different way. But there was no profound epiphany.
What she described instead was a guy who got up every day, made breakfast, went to his study and pounded out his words for the day. If he finished a novel on Friday, he started the next on Monday. A literary proletarian if there ever was one.
I have watched plenty of people die in my career, some face it with grace and dignity and resolve and some fight it and raise their fist against the sky until the last breath. What separated those who faced their end well from those who didnt?
Regret. Regret for things they hadnt done or relationships that had soured, but it boiled down to not living life the way they wanted to. My epiphany was that there was no epiphany. Epiphanies are extraneous when you are already living your best life. Ivan Doig was a wonderful writer, husband, friend, and colleague. If it isnt broken, dont fix it.
Posted: September 7, 2019 at 4:27 pm
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Biocellular Regenerative Medicine - About Us
Posted: May 18, 2019 at 8:49 am
S.D. Phelps and James Bauder
Graduate Research Assistant and Professor, respectively
AbstractCoal bed methane (CBM exploration and development has increased substantially over the past ten years, with the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana emerging as one of the most active new locations for exploration. Today, almost 6% of total United States production of methane occurs in this area. Methane extraction co-produces an excess of water, which can be saline-sodic. The water that is co-produced is spread onto the land or impounded in ephemeral draws. This water has the potential to elevate the saline-sodic conditions of the soil, causing decreases in land productivity. It is hypothesized that specific species of plants can function to uptake excess salts and remediate the saline-sodic conditions associated with CBM discharge water. Early research has pointed towards possible successes in this approach. Studies in Europe, Egypt, and the United States suggest that species called halophytes, defined as "salt tolerant accumulators", have successfully achieved excess salt uptake by their roots. These species can accumulate high concentrations of sodium and other salts in their above ground tissue and, in some cases, can excrete these salts through nodes or on leaf surfaces. Synthesis of this research suggests that phytoremediation, or remediation by plants, functions best in rotation or in combination with similar functioning plant species. Field crops, particularly barley, wheat, sorghum, cotton, and sugar beets, have been used extensively in phytoremediation of saline-sodic sites worldwide.
CBM BackgroundExploration, development, and production within the CBM industry have increased dramatically over the past ten years. Since 1997, the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana has emerged as one of the most active new areas of CBM production in the U.S., comprising nearly 6% of U.S. total production (Rice et al., 2001).
Product Water VolumeAs a part of CBM extraction , water is also brought to the land surface. Water extraction reduces hydrostatic pressure within the coal seam, thereby stimulating desorption of methane from coal particle surfaces. During CBM production, this water is continuously pumped into containment areas, discharged to nearby stream channels, or spread onto the land and into ephemeral stream depressions. As with gas production, water production has increased significantly as CBM development has advanced. The possibility of millions of gallons of water discharged per day has become a realistic statistic in recent literature (Rice et al., 2001).
Product Water SodicityChemistry of CBM product water has been the focus of much research lately. Samples with relatively high concentrations of salinity and sodicity have been recorded from wells in the Powder River Basin, as well as the adjacent Tongue River Drainage (Rice et al., 2001). Sodium adsorption ratios (SAR) and electrical conductivity (EC) levels of some CBM product water have exceeded published standards for all land uses, with the exception of domestic and livestock uses. According to the USDA and the University of California Extension Service, most discharge water is sodic (USDA, 1979). In sodic soil systems, exchangeable sodium ions are so concentrated in the soil that they may adversely affect plant growth and often have an adverse effect on soil physical properties. An SAR of 10 or greater indicates a sodic soil (USDA, 1979).
Sodicity frequently affects soil physical characteristics. The chemical characteristics and hydration status of sodium provide it with properties of a dispersing agent. Excessive sodium, when not balanced with divalent cations, causes soil aggregate structure to disintegrate or disperse. An excess of sodium on the cation exchange sites of fine-textured soils forms a condition in which irrigation water entering the soil is attracted to small pores with a great amount of force, resulting in soil swelling, particle slaking from aggregates, and dispersion, thus precluding drainage. Upon drying, dispersed soil particles undergo a reorientation, resulting in lost soil structure, lower hydraulic conductivity, and surface crusting that can break plant stems, inhibit germination and emergence, and slow infiltration (Dollhopf, 2000).
Adverse impacts of sodicity on dispersion of fine-earth soils are exacerbated by arid and semi-arid zone environments where rainfall conditions of significance seldom occur during the irrigation season. This is the period when CBM discharge is likely to contact surface soils (Rengasamy and Sumner, 1998).
Product Water SalinityCBM discharge water is characterized by modest saline levels and may pose an environmental constraint on plant production in affected soils. A saline soil is one containing sufficient salts to interfere with growth of most plant species and is defined as having a saturated extract EC greater than 4 mmhos/cm (ds/m) (USDA, 1979), at which the growth rate of some plant species may decrease. Salinity has the potential to have significant impacts on plant communities, plant community sustainability, and livestock and wild life forage capabilities. In the absence of a well drained soil matrix or adequate irrigation or precipitation, salt leaching may not occur and over time the soil may become saline.
According to Maas (1993), the most common effect of salinity is a general stunting of growth. They (plants) may have darker green leaves that, in some cases, are thicker and more succulent. Visual symptoms, such as leaf burn, necrosis, and defoliation occur in some species, particularly woody crops. This loss in plant productivity is not solely a phytotoxic response, but is also related to osmotic stress (Bauder et al., 1992).
Increased salt concentration in irrigation water can directly affect pH of the soil environment. Research by Bohn et al. (1985) asserts that increasing salt concentrations usually decrease pH by displacement of hydrogen and aluminum with cations in solution, allowing the aluminum ion to hydrolyze and further lower pH. The lowering of pH can lead to phytotoxic soil characteristics. By decreasing solubility of trace metals in the soil and immobilizing nutrients, plant species production may be limited.
Saline-sodic conditions potentially created by CBM discharge water will require mitigation in order to return the soil system to past land use capabilities. The notion of reclaiming salt affected soils was conceived of long before the science of CBM reclamation was considered. In 1981 Francois (1981) claimed that an efficient, economically feasible soil reclamation strategy was necessary to reverse deteriorating soil conditions associated with long-term irrigation with water of relatively high total dissolved solid (TDS) concentration and SAR.
The Role of BioremediationNumerous suggestions have been advanced to remediate the effects of salts in the soil. At the core of these saline-sodic remediation methods are: 1) amending affected soils with gypsum treatments, a reclamation technique that has been adopted by soil scientists throughout the world, 2) leaching, a method to dilute and transport salts by water inundation, and 3) plant community bioremediation, a function of plant species ability to mitigate salts in soil solution either by plant uptake or chemical alteration of the soil. Present research points to the third remediation method as the most environmentally sustainable method in dealing with the saline-sodic condition. Hoffman (1986), an agricultural scientist, hypothesized that beneficial effects of plants in reclamation are not well understood but appear to be related to the physical action of the plant roots, the addition of organic matter, the increase in dissolution of CaCO3, and crop uptake of salts.
In a publication entitled "Bioreclamation of saline-sodic soil by Amshot grass in Northern Egypt," Helalia et al. (1992) reported the effects of Amshot grass (Echinochloa stagnina) compared to ponding and gypsum on reducing alkalinity and salinity of highly saline-sodic soil in Northern Egypt. Their results indicated that Amshot grass reduced the exchangeable sodium percent (ESP) of the surface layer more than did either ponding or gypsum treatment. Reduction in exchangeable sodium was accompanied by a 42-45% decrease in SAR within the upper 45 cm (18 inches) of soil. In addition, Amshot grass significantly reduced soil salinity compared to either ponding or gypsum and produced higher fresh yield than clover (Melilotus officinalis) cultivated in such soils. Additional studies have led to similar findings. Thus, the role of plants in saline-sodic remediation has become accepted by many of the environmental sciences, and federal funding is increasing in these areas of research and development.
University of California-Riverside professor J. D. Oster (2001) identified four criteria needed to achieve sustainable soil quality and plant production: 1) salt tolerant plant species, 2) cropping strategies that maintain a year round cover to minimize the adverse impacts of rainfall, 3) periodic application of nonsaline-nonsodic irrigation waters, and 4) routine monitoring of soil solution chemistry and irrigation water quality. With this in mind, it can further be hypothesize that selected plant community types, functioning as salt tolerant halophytes, ion accumulators/excretors, and species that tend to promote soil permeability, combined with accurate water management strategies, can reduce some of the negative effects of elevated CBM product water salinity and sodicity.
The term phytoremediation applies to the above hypothesis. Phytoremediation, often referred to as bioremediation, botanical-bioremediation, or green remediation, is the use of plants to make contaminants non-toxic. Phytoremediation includes rhizofiltration (absorption, concentration, and precipitation of heavy metals by plant roots), phytoextraction (extraction and accumulation of contaminants in harvestable plant tissue such as roots and shoots), and phytostabilization (absorption and precipitation of contaminants by plants) (Miller, 1996).
HalophytesThe term halophyte, referring to salt tolerant plants (in Helalia et al., 1990), has been used in science for many years. Boyko (1966) was one of the first to suggest that halophytic plants could be used to desalinate soil and water. The hypothesis set forth by Boyko does not distinguish between sodium and other salts. However, it stands to reason that plants that are able to accumulate sodium salts could be used successfully to remove sodium from the substrates they are grown in (Helalia et al., 1990).
Ion AccumulatorsHalophytes have evolved different mechanisms to deal with excess sodium and other salts in their environments. Some vascular halophytes accumulate high levels of sodium and other salts in their above grounds tissue while others do not (Gorham et al., 1987). Two classes of functioning halophytes are ion accumulators and ion extractors. Both function to phytoremediate excess salinity and sodicity present within the soil profile. Ion accumulators, also called hyper-accumulators, have evolved to take up high concentrations of ions as an adaptation mechanism to saline environments. The accumulations of salts is thought to reduce the requirements for increased wall extensibility, leaf thickness, and water permeability that might otherwise be required to maintain positive growth and turgor at low soil water potentials (Rush and Epstein, 1981).
Holmes (2001) has conducted extensive laboratory and field investigations of the ecology of plants in extreme environments in an effort to select plants that are suitable for phytoremediation in saline sites. She has successfully used native halophyter plants to reclaim salt contaminated soils in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas. A joint project with Exxon biologists at a site near Houston, TX has met with great success. Holmes (2001) reports that content of sodium in the soil was decreased by 65% two years after planting with salt accumulating plants.
As early as 1964, ion-accumulating species were being used in saline site remediation. Chaudhri et al. (1964) reported on investigations examining the ability of Suaeda vera Forsk (Suaeda fruticosa) to accumulate sodium and other salts. The leaves of this plant were found to contain 9.06% salt on a fresh weight basis. A salt content of 4.29% fresh weight was measured in the stems. On average, a single plant was able to produce 935 g of fresh leaf tissue and 232 g of fresh stem tissue. Based on these values, it was determined that a single plant could accumulate 95 g of salt in its above ground biomass. Considering that a single S. fruticosa plant covers an area of 0.36 square meters, approximately 2,353 kg of salt could be removed from one hectare of soil within a period of one year. The investigator suggested that three times as much salt could be "harvested" if the plants were being more effectively cultivated (Chaudhri et al., 1964; Rengasamay and Sumner, 1998).
Two ion accumulators that have been repeatedly referenced in the scientific literature are rice (Oryza sitiva) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Rice cultivation has been recognized to improve saline soils. According to Iwasaki (1987), the salt content of the 5 to 10 cm soil depth was reduced to less than one-fifth the original salt content after a single year of rice cultivation. While improvement of the soil may have been caused primarily by the leaching effect of rice cultivation, the rice plant does contribute to soil improvement by accumulating salts in its shoots (George, 1967).
Bhatt and Indirakutty (1973) reported that 83 kg of sodium could be removed from one hectare of land via accumulation by sunflower plants. The investigators concluded that sunflower plants gradually reduce soil salinity with the harvest of the edible sunflower oil.
EC can also be mitigated by ion accumulating species. Sharp-leaved rush (J. acutus) and Samaar morr rush (J. rigidus), which have traditionally been used for weaving floor mats, are also considered as an alternative pulp material for paper production. Researchers attempting to reclaim poorly drained soils in Egypt recognized that these two species are cumulative halophytes (ion accumulators) which concentrate salts in the upper parts of their shoots. Horizontal rhizomes of these plants were transferred to a poorly drained, saline soil and allowed to grow. The amount of total soluble solids (TSS) in the soil was measured before planting and after harvest. On average, a single growth cycle of J. acutus reduced the TSS of the soil from 1.03% to 0.08% while a decrease from 1.07% to 0.65% was measured in the soil containing J. rigidus. For J. rigidus, this translated to a decrease in EC from 33 to 20 mmhos/cm (ds/m) in soil having a 50% saturation percentage (Zahran et al., 1982).
Ion ExcretorsExcretive halophytes make up the second component of this functioning class of phytoremediating plants. Excretive halophytes possess glandular cells or vesiculated trichomes (leaf hairs), which are able to excrete sodium and other salts from their leaf tissue. Tamarix species (salt cedar) and Atriplex species (saltbush) are examples of plants that possess salt excreting glanular cells and trichomes, respectively (Kelly et al, 1982).
Atriplex is from the family Chenopodiaceae, which contains about 20% of all halophyte species (Glenn et al., 2001) and is well known for having very high internal concentrations of sodium ions. Excretive halophytes commonly found in CBM production areas of Montana and Wyoming includes Chenopodium (goosefoot), Kochia (summer cypress), Salicornia (saltwort), Salsola (Russian thistle), and Suaeda (sea blite) (Dorn, 1984). The potential use of Atriplex as a forage or animal feed makes its use for soil salt and sodium removal attractive. A hectare (2.47 acres) of Atriplex has the potential to produce 16,000 kg (35,274 lbs) of dry forage matter per year (Goodin and Mckell, 1970).
Halophytes can further be classified according to the type of mineral ions (salts) they are able to accumulate or excrete. Chlorine halophytes exhibit an internal ion composition dominated by Na and Cl ions. This is in contrast to alkali halophytes, which exibit relatively high concentrations of K+, Mg2+, and Ca2+ (Redman and Fedec, 1987).
Rooting ActionWhile halophytic species can effectively phytoremediate a saline-sodic system by interacting with salts in the soil-water environment and reducing them through absorption, the physical characteristics of rooting can also increase soil permeability and result in leaching of salts beyond the root zone. Root decomposition frees channels for water movement, thereby increasing hydraulic conductivity of the soil. Yadav (1975) reported that the extensive root system of paddy rice loosened the soil, making it more permeable to leaching of salts.
Other studies have reported that sorghum (Sorghum spp.) increases soil pore sizes and water infiltration and leads to greater saturated hydraulic conductivity (Skidmore et al., 1986). Robbins (1986) reported that a sorghum-sudan grass (Sorghum- Sudanese spp.) hybrid crop produced high soil atmospheric CO2 concentrations and greater Na leaching efficiencies than several other crops and amendment treatments.
Assessments of this research, especially the work by Robbins, suggest that these plant functions work to phytoremediate best when used in rotation or combination with like plant species. As early as 1972, studies suggested that alternating or interseeding plants, in this case barley (Hordium spp.) or rice, would accelerate reclamation and the bioremediation process (Saraswat et al., 1972).
Cropping OptionsField crops, particularly barley, wheat (Triticum spp.), sorghum (Sorghum spp.), cotton (Gossypium spp.), and sugarbeet, have been used extensively in bioremediation of saline-sodic sites. By utilizing more water on these crops than actually needed, salts and sodium can be leached beyond the roots and the soil can be prepared for more sensitive crops (Oster, 2001). Yadav (1975) and later Bauder et al. (1992) and Bauder and Brock (1992) present a similar diagnosis to that given by Oster. They suggest that cropping can play a significant role in reclamation of saline and alkali soils and managed crop systems are essential for achieving continued improvement of such soils.
Bauder and Brock (1992) concluded that uncropped conditions, which maintain the soil at a relatively high water content and minimize repeated drying and rewetting of the soil, and crops such as sorghum-sudan grass, which cause rapid drying of the soil and create conditions conducive to leaching salts, may be the best combination of conditions to gain maximum efficiency of amendments applied to reclaim saline or sodic soil. They further suggest that a primary halophyte species or combination of like species can help to set the stage for complete restoration by amendments. In the Powder River Basin, this may be the best appraoch to reclamation after CBM production has ended.
In conclusion, product water quality associated with CBM extraction has the potential to significantly impacts soil chemistry, plant community production, and land class capabilities in discharge areas and affected regions. In general, it is hypothesized that plant species, including halophytes, can function to phytoremediate saline-sodic conditions through the intrinsic characteristics possessed by the specific species or community. In combination with scientific irrigation strategies, interseeding, crop rotation, and post discharge amendments, such as with gypsum, pre-development land capabilities can be achieved in these affected systems.
Suada vera Forsk
soil pore size enhancer
limited ion accumalator
limited ion accumulator
limited ion accumulator
limited ion accumulator
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Goodin, J. R. and C. M. Mckell, 1970. Wild land Shrubs-Their Biology and Utilization. International Shrubs Symposium. Atriplex spp. As a potential forage crop in marginal agricultural areas. Queensland Press. Brisbane. 11:158. Reprinted by Utah State Univ. p.494.
Gorham, J., C. Hardy, R. G. Wyn Jones, L. R. Joppa and C. N. Law. 1987. Chromosomal location of the K/Na discriminating character in the D genome of wheat. Theor. Appl.Genet. 74: 584-588.
Helalia, A. M., S. El-Amir, S. T. Abou-Zeid and K. F. Zagholoul. 1990. Bioremediation of saline-sodic soil by amshot grass in northern Egypt. Soil and Tillage Research. 22:109-116.
The Role of Plants in Bioremediation of Coal Bed Methane ...
Posted: March 5, 2019 at 9:45 pm
The wheres, whats and hows When you are having a baby, there are dozens of decisions to make. One of the most important things you will have to decide is whether to bank your babys cord blood. In order to make the decision, which is best for you and your family, it is essential to Continue Reading
The research If you are expecting a baby then no doubt youve heard the phrase cord blood banking quite often. Parents today are bombarded with choices practically from the moment of conception, most of which pertain to the babys birth and immediate care following. Cord blood banking is no exception and you may have several Continue Reading
Typical costs associated with cord blood banking and storage Most expectant couples want to do everything possible to protect the health of their newborn child. New developments in medicine have made it possible to use the stem cells found in a babys umbilical cord to develop new treatments to fight diseases like leukemia. The babys Continue Reading
Your babys own stem cells from the normally discarded umbilical cord Most pregnant women and expectant parents have heard about cord blood banking and its ability to store cord blood stem cells for later use. For those of you who havent, cord blood banking uses the latest in technology to extract and preserve all the Continue Reading
The options for cord blood banking in Montana are as good if not better than many states
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Helping You Decide | Montana Cord Blood Banking
Posted: August 5, 2018 at 6:54 am
Present and Future of Stem Cell Therapy in Montana
Cord blood banking near Montana is a significant and comparatively little-known means of getting stem cells to treat a broad range of ailments. This post looks at the possible gains and what it's, how it works. It's targeted at future parents who would like to find out more. Here is a post that is insightful into the current state of play and its possibility for the future.
Stem cell banking freezes the blood from the umbilical cords of your infant for possible future use against disorders grown by your family. This blood source can already successfully treats many serious medical conditions. It's really worth assessing the possible advantages if you live in the Montana area.
bone marrow remains the most common source for gathering stem cells in Montana to date. The downside to bone marrow transplants s that they can extremely invasive and complex and may even result in constant uncomfortableness for the donors. Embryos are also a solution for stem cells but tend to be a massively controversial issue in Montana , which leaves umbilical cord blood stem cell therapy. Its the safest and least invasive form of stem cell therapy.
Extensive studies near Montana have showed that stem cell therapy from umbilical cord blood stem cells has countless advantages over the genes of circulatory blood and marrow derived genes and bone marrow. Although currently bone marrow is ahead of umbilical cord blood for certain specific diseases and procedures, it is often agreed that favor is slowly weighing in more on the side of cord blood.
An example of blood stem cell therapy in the Montana area would be the use of stem cells for conditions such as leukemia, lymphomas, immune deficiencies, sickle cell anemia and certain cancers, all of which have proven to be deadly. On the other hand, the use of ones own stem cells to help with certain ailments may not be advisable. When ones own stem cells are used to treat something such as leukemia, it wont be effective because the stem cells will completely take over and replace the afflicted cells that caused the disease in the first place. However, if the patient has a sibling that donated stem cells then they may be a good enough match to hopefully offset the disease. It seems almost certain that the stem cell therapy industry will continue to grow in Montana.
The future looks bright for stem cell therapy by cord blood cells in Montana, despite the minority status of transfusions in the world. It is strongly believed by scientists that ones own individual cord blood will or could at some point be beneficial in the successful treatments of cancer. The reason behind this is because most adult-style cancers arent solely derived from genetics, whereas pediatric cancers are.
Researchers around Montana are also discovering ways to manipulate the gene that is leukemia so that in the future it may be a possibility that your own blood could cure your cancer, thus making umbilical cord blood banking for future stem cell therapy even more valuable than it already is. There are even animal stem cell therapy experiments that are pushing the boundaries of conventional stem cell therapy and could ultimately mean that stem cells could cure spinal problems, strokes, heart failure and even diabetes.
The possibilities of stem cell therapy in Montana are truly limitless just as all gene-related cures. Its even possible that neurological diseases and motor function disorders could tackled and cured with cord blood stem cell therapy. Other targeted possibilities on the list of stem cell therapy include Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease.
At this point in time public cord blood banks receive a small amount of umbilical cord blood for use in stem cell therapy and research. The reason for this is that many people are opting to store their umbilical cord blood privately which essentially insures their family against debilitating, deadly illnesses. Even though the amount of people storing cord blood for stem cell therapy, the more diseases that become treatable with stem cells, the amount of people that harvest theirs in Montana will skyrocket.
Whether you decide to store umbilical cord blood publically or privately there is usually a limited amount of stem cells in a unit of stored umbilical cord blood, which means that the amount of cord blood available is only really effective for treating someone up to a certain age. Processes to increase the amount of stem cells in a single unit of cord blood are being tested with clinical trials near Montana.
Montana Stem Cell Therapy - Cordblood Search Tools
Posted: August 16, 2017 at 1:45 am
(CNN) - Cardiac stem cells derived from young hearts helped reverse the signs of aging when directly injected into the old hearts of elderly rats, a study published Monday in the European Heart Journal demonstrated.
The old rats appeared newly invigorated after receiving their injections. As hoped, the cardiac stem cells improved heart function yet also provided additional benefits. The rats' fur fur, shaved for surgery, grew back more quickly than expected, and their chromosomal telomeres, which commonly shrink with age, lengthened.
The old rats receiving the cardiac stem cells also had increased stamina overall, exercising more than before the infusion.
"It's extremely exciting," said Dr. Eduardo Marbn, primary investigator on the research and director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. Witnessing "the systemic rejuvenating effects," he said, "it's kind of like an unexpected fountain of youth."
"We've been studying new forms of cell therapy for the heart for some 12 years now," Marbn said.
Some of this research has focused on cardiosphere-derived cells.
"They're progenitor cells from the heart itself," Marbn said. Progenitor cells are generated from stem cells and share some, but not all, of the same properties. For instance, they can differentiate into more than one kind of cell like stem cells, but unlike stem cells, progenitor cells cannot divide and reproduce indefinitely.
From his own previous research, Marbn discovered that cardiosphere-derived cells "promote the healing" of the heart after a condition known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, which affects more than 50% of all heart failure patients.
Since heart failure with preserved ejection fraction is similar to aging, Marbn decided to experiment on old rats, ones that suffered from a type of heart problem "that's very typical of what we find in older human beings: The heart's stiff, and it doesn't relax right, and it causes fluid to back up some," Marbn explained.
He and his team injected cardiosphere-derived cells from newborn rats into the hearts of 22-month-old rats -- that's elderly for a rat. Similar old rats received a placebo injection of saline solution. Then, Marbn and his team compared both groups to young rats that were 4 months old. After a month, they compared the rats again.
Even though the cells were injected into the heart, their effects were noticeable throughout the body, Marbn said
"The animals could exercise further than they could before by about 20%, and one of the most striking things, especially for me (because I'm kind of losing my hair) the animals ... regrew their fur a lot better after they'd gotten cells" compared with the placebo rats, Marbn said.
The rats that received cardiosphere-derived cells also experienced improved heart function and showed longer heart cell telomeres.
The working hypothesis is that the cells secrete exosomes, tiny vesicles that "contain a lot of nucleic acids, things like RNA, that can change patterns of the way the tissue responds to injury and the way genes are expressed in the tissue," Marbn said.
It is the exosomes that act on the heart and make it better as well as mediating long-distance effects on exercise capacity and hair regrowth, he explained.
Looking to the future, Marbn said he's begun to explore delivering the cardiac stem cells intravenously in a simple infusion -- instead of injecting them directly into the heart, which would be a complex procedure for a human patient -- and seeing whether the same beneficial effects occur.
Dr. Gary Gerstenblith, a professor of medicine in the cardiology division of Johns Hopkins Medicine, said the new study is "very comprehensive."
"Striking benefits are demonstrated not only from a cardiac perspective but across multiple organ systems," said Gerstenblith, who did not contribute to the new research. "The results suggest that stem cell therapies should be studied as an additional therapeutic option in the treatment of cardiac and other diseases common in the elderly."
Todd Herron, director of the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center's Cardiovascular Regeneration Core Laboratory, said Marbn, with his previous work with cardiac stem cells, has "led the field in this area."
"The novelty of this bit of work is, they started to look at more precise molecular mechanisms to explain the phenomenon they've seen in the past," said Herron, who played no role in the new research.
One strength of the approach here is that the researchers have taken cells "from the organ that they want to rejuvenate, so that makes it likely that the cells stay there in that tissue," Herron said.
He believes that more extensive study, beginning with larger animals and including long-term followup, is needed before this technique could be used in humans.
"We need to make sure there's no harm being done," Herron said, adding that extending the lifetime and improving quality of life amounts to "a tradeoff between the potential risk and the potential good that can be done."
Capicor, the company that grows these special cells, is focused solely on therapies for muscular dystrophy and heart failure with ongoing clinical trials involving human patients, Marbn said.
Capicor hasn't announced any plans to do studies in aging, but the possibility exists.
After all, the cells have been proven "completely safe" in "over 100 human patients," so it would be possible to fast-track them into the clinic, Marbn explained: "I can't tell you that there are any plans to do that, but it could easily be done from a safety viewpoint."
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Cardiac stem cells rejuvenate rats' aging hearts, study says - NBC Montana