Science Scanner – A Fish for Your Wounds? US Megadroughts; Help for MRI Stress

Posted February 13th, 2015 at 8:20 pm (UTC-4)
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Soil moisture 30 cm below ground projected through 2095 for high emissions scenario RCP 8.5. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

Soil moisture 30 cm below ground projected through 2095 for high emissions scenario RCP 8.5. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

“Megadroughts” May Impact Parts of US in the Late 21st Century

California has been contending with one of the most severe droughts on record.  Now a new study is predicting that in the second-half of our current century, the U.S. Great Plains and the Southwest, including California, will face what could be considered “mega-drought” conditions that will be worse than anytime over the past 1,000 years.

The study, written by the Earth Institute at New York’s Columbia University, suggests that the drying conditions leading to the severe drought will be primarily driven by human-generated global warming.

While there already have been numerous past studies that predicted that global warming could dry the Southwest, this new paper is the first to say that the severe drying conditions could be way beyond the driest conditions since ancient time.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which has been produced by a number of U.S. government agencies, eleven out of the past 14 years have been considered drought years in much of the Western U.S., which includes California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as Texas and Oklahoma in the U.S. Southern Plains.

NASA said the current drought is directly affecting more than 64 million people in parts of the U.S. that include Southwest and Southern Plains. Many more people in the agricultural regions of those areas are indirectly affected by the dry spell as well.

 

Scientists believe that the popular food fish Tilapia could produce an ideal dressing to treat wounds. (Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikipedia Commons)

Scientists believe that the popular food fish Tilapia could produce an ideal dressing to treat wounds. (Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikipedia Commons)

Dress That Wound With a Fish, You Say?

I’m sorry if this story seems fishy.  But, scientists, writing in the American Chemical Society’s journal, “Applied Materials and Interfaces”, suggest that tilapia, a popular dinner fish, can be used to create effective wound dressings.

Experimenting on rats, the researchers found that the fish’s collagen — a major structural protein — when incorporated into a wound dressing, can help repair damaged skin without incurring an immune reaction.

The scientists also found that similar protein dressings created from the collagen of mammals such as cows and pigs could possibly transfer conditions such as foot-and-mouth disease.

After their successful experiments on rats, researchers now believe that their fish protein dressing could be used to effectively treat humans in the future.

 

A technician watches as patient enters a Magnetic Resonance Imaging, (MRI) machine at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (U.S.Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

A technician watches a patient enter a Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (U.S.Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

New DVD Helps MRI Patients Reduce Stress

Anyone who has undergone a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) examination knows that the procedure, especially when performed with units where the patient is placed inside a tight tube, can often induce varied levels of stress, claustrophobia, or outright panic.

The patient must remain absolutely still throughout most of the procedure in order to ensure a successful MRI exam. This can be quite difficult given the loud noises produced by some MRI machines and confinement in such tight quarters.

But in the future, those undergoing MRI scans could have a less stressful experience, thanks to a new instructional DVD developed by an international team of scientists.

The DVD is in two sections. The first section, called ‘Preparation for MRI’, includes various information about the exam, such as what to expect in an MRI scan and what the scan would feel like. This portion also features a demonstration of a patient undergoing a scan, as well as others who talked about their MRI scan experience.

The second section of the DVD provides some detailed relaxation techniques that can be performed by examinees before and during their scan.

Those given the DVD were asked to watch it at least once before their scan appointment.

To test its effectiveness, the researchers provided the DVD to 41 people who had an appointment for an MRI scan. Of those 41 people, scientists found that 35 wound up having satisfactory exams. They were able to remain in the scanner for the entire procedure while keeping still enough for the machine to produce high quality images.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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