Tag Archives: protection

New coating could improve medical gear by making the coronavirus slide right off

New research at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering has created a textile material that can repel liquids such as blood or saliva and prevent viruses from adhering, to boot.

An illustration of the new coating in action textile’s ability to repel fluids. Credit: University of Pittsburgh

The team hopes that their work can lead the way to improved personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks or gowns to keep both doctors and patients safe.

Keeping the bugs out

“Recently there’s been focus on blood-repellent surfaces, and we were interested in achieving this with mechanical durability,” said Anthony Galante, a Ph.D. student in industrial engineering at Pitt and lead author of the paper. “We want to push the boundary on what is possible with these types of surfaces, and especially given the current pandemic, we knew it’d be important to test against viruses.”

PPE is at a premium throughout the world right now, but our current gear isn’t the best it could be. The textiles used in gowns and other similar material does eventually soak up viruses and bacteria, and spreads them as medical personnel go about their work.

The material created at the LAMP Lab should provide better viral insulation than currently-available textiles, while also allowing for medical equipment to be used for longer because it doesn’t soak up pathogens — which will also help with shortages.

The coating they developed is resistant to ultrasonic washing, scrubbing, and scraping, so it doesn’t lose efficiency when worn or cleaned. Other similar coatings that are available today aren’t resistant in the same way, which limits their lifetime.

“The durability is very important because there are other surface treatments out there, but they’re limited to disposable textiles. You can only use a gown or mask once before disposing of it,” said Paul Leu, co-author and associate professor of industrial engineering, who leads the LAMP Lab.

“Given the PPE shortage, there is a need for coatings that can be applied to reusable medical textiles that can be properly washed and sanitized.”

The team tested their coating through tens of ultrasonic washing cycles, thousands of rotations with a scrubbing pad, and scrapings with a razor blade, and reported that the material remained just as effective after every test.

Then they examined how efficiently it can repel human adenoviruses 4 and 7, which cause acute respiratory disease and conjunctivitis — and it successfully prevented these from adhering to the textile, as well.

“Adenovirus can be inadvertently picked up in hospital waiting rooms and from contaminated surfaces in general. It is rapidly spread in schools and homes and has an enormous impact on quality of life—keeping kids out of school and parents out of work,” said Robert Shanks, the Director of Basic Research at the Charles T. Campbell Microbiology Laboratory, who collaborated on the research.

“This coating on waiting room furniture, for example, could be a major step towards reducing this problem.”

Although the findings so far are encouraging, the team has yet to test their coating against the coronavirus, but they say that this is the next step in their research.

The coating is applied using drop-casting, a method that saturates the material with a solution from a syringe and applies a heat treatment to increase stability. The team is also working on adapting it for use through spraying or dipping to enable its use for mass-production of larger items such as gowns.

The paper “Superhemophobic and Antivirofouling Coating for Mechanically Durable and Wash-Stable Medical Textiles,” has been published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

New areas will need conservation due to climate change

Climate change will force species to migrate in search of ideal living conditions, and a new paper estimates where they’ll go in order to inform conservation efforts.

Image via Pixabay.

Each species has a set of conditions it likes to live in — a certain amount of light, a temperature that’s just right, certain habitats to act as shelters, and a preferred menu. With shifting climates, however, the traditional ranges species inhabit, which correspond to the areas that satisfy their requirements, will also shift. Under these conditions, species will likely migrate to find greener pastures.

But where to?

“We are going to need to protect different places if we want to protect biodiversity in the future,” said lead author Joshua Lawler, a UW professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

“We need to think about where species will go as the climate changes, and then plan for that. The business-as-usual planning process isn’t going to work.”

Efforts to protect plant and animal species hinge on knowing which areas these species inhabit. For example, habitat conservation efforts around the snowy plover focus on specific locations along the Washington coast, because that’s where the animals live.

A new paper authored by researchers from the University of Washington and The Evergreen State College aims to understand how species migration as a result of climate change will impact future conservation efforts. For the study, the team analyzed whether accounting for climate change can improve our current biodiversity conservation practices, and how expensive it would be to implement. They report that most species are expected to migrate due to climate change, and that we’ll need to shift the areas we focus on to keep adequately protecting them.

The team looked at 1,460 different species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians across the continental US. For each, they considered which current and potential future protected habitats are suitable for their needs. All in all, if impacts from climate change aren’t specifically considered, the team found that 14% of the species won’t have a viable habitat in the future. Current protection efforts focus exclusively on the areas where the species are living today, the team explains, not where they need to be in a warmer future.

“Our findings show that species are going to shift around, and we are going to have to put some of our conservation efforts in different places — and that will come at a cost,” Lawler said.

“Climate change effects that were originally projected to be decades in the future are starting to become apparent in the present day. This is not an abstract concept anymore,” said co-author John Withey, a professor at Evergreen. “We need to take action as soon as possible, thinking about where species may need to go under climate change, and providing corridors through which they can move.”

The team considered three approaches to including climate change migration predictions into our current conservation efforts. The first involved selecting certain species and then extending protection beyond the areas they inhabit now to include their estimated future range. The team used the Townsend’s chipmunk, western rattlesnake, and yellow-billed magpie as models for this step — they found it would cost about 60% more than solely protecting their current habitats. More general approaches, such as installing “climate corridors” or protecting landscapes with rare or disappearing climatic conditions wouldn’t lead to many increased costs — likely because many of these landscapes are already protected.

“It was encouraging to see that there were some climate-based solutions that didn’t increase the cost substantially,” said co-author Julia Michalak, a UW research scientist in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

The team hopes that their findings will help policy-makers identify which areas are a high priority for conservation in general — they caution that the paper isn’t intended to help pinpoint specific new parks to protect. Still, having a general idea of what will work in the future should help us save money now and cut down on hassle down the road. And it will help keep as many plants and critters alive as possible.

The paper “Planning for climate change through additions to a national protected area network: implications for cost and configuration” has been published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Research suggests turtle shells evolved for digging, not protection

Although it might seem obvious to say that the function of the turtle shell is protection – and for modern turtles it is – new research suggests that these shells did not originally evolve for the purpose of vital organ protection.

Image credit Luke Norton

Image credit Luke Norton

The function of any specific biological trait can change as evolution progresses. Take a look at birds – feathers are believed to have originally evolved for the purpose of keeping warm and attracting the opposite sex. Now, modern birds use them for flying.

In the new study, the team examined a fossil specimen of Eunotosaurus africanus, the oldest known turtle ancestor. This extinct species comes from South Africa and represents the evolutionary point where turtles began to develop early shell characteristics.

Examination of the E. africanus’s wide, flat ribs – believed to be the first step towards the evolution of the turtle shell – revealed that they would have posed numerous problems, including a stiffened torso and interference with breathing.

“The integral role of ribs in both locomotion and breathing is likely why we don’t see much variation in the shape of ribs,” said Tyler Lyson, of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and lead author of the study. “Ribs are generally pretty boring bones. The ribs of whales, snakes, dinosaurs, humans, and pretty much all other animals look the same. Turtles are the one exception, where they are highly modified to form the majority of the shell.”

Further examination of the E. africanus specimen shed more light on the specimen’s notable features, including its unique skull shape, hands larger than its feet and shoulder blades and forearm with large muscle attachment points, indicating that it was a digger.

Considering the presence of all of these features, the team believes that the broad ribs likely served as a “stable base on which to operate a powerful forelimb digging mechanism,” suggesting that the early stages of the turtle shell were an adaptation for digging before they evolved to serve protective purposes.

Journal Reference: Fossorial Origin of the Turtle Shell. 14 July 2016. 10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.020

A new species of chameleon discovered

Dr Andrew Marshall, from the Environment Department at the University of York is the first who spotted a member of the species (and reported it) while surveying monkeys. The meeting however was extremely unfortunate for the chameleon, which was shortly after eaten by a snake.

chameleon-1544

A random chameleon, not from the recently discovered species

The specimen was collected (I really have no idea how), and compared to two other specimens found in the same area. After it was concluded that it was in fact a new species, it was named Kinyongia magomberae (the Magombera chameleon).

Dr. Marshall:

“Discovering a new species is a rare event so to be involved in the identification and naming of this animal is very exciting. Chameleon species tend to be focused in small areas and, unfortunately, the habitat this one depends on, the Magombera Forest, is under threat. Hopefully this discovery will support efforts to provide this area and others like it with greater protection.”

The project in which the doctor is involved is extremely interesting and important, because aside from studying the wildlife, he also teaches the local population how to manage and protect the forest, which is a valuable resource for them, but also the only thing that keeps numerous species alive.

Pushing Species To The Brink

We don’t usually want to face it, but the fact is that mankind is pushing virtually ever other species to the very brink of their existance, in our quest for resources of every kind. Just a few days aco, IUCN published a study which concluded that thirty-five percent of the world’s birds, 52 percent of amphibians and 71 of warm water corals are threatened by the climate change.

But it’s not really all bad; by analyzing some biological traits which makes species susceptible to climate change they were able to find that albatross, penguin, petrel and shearwater families are very vulnerable to such changes, but kite, hawk and eagle families are really resistant, which makes scientists refuse the possibility of an extinction similar to that at the end of the Permian.

“This is the first time that a systematic assessments of species’ susceptibility to climate change has been attempted,” says Wendy Foden, of IUCN’s Species Programme. “Climate change is already happening, but conservation decision makers currently have very little guidance on which species are going to be the worst affected.”

But the most disturbing thing is the fact that the corals are really vulnerable to this. Their sensitivity to high temperature is definitely something worth worrying about, and a possible destruction of corals would lead to more severe problems in time. This study aims to show exactly which species need protection and conservation more, because it’s obvious that we really aren’t capable of protecting every species, the way we should.

Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Head of IUCN Species Programme. “Climate change may cause a sharp rise in the risk and rate of extinction of currently threatened species. But we also want to highlight species which are currently not threatened but are likely to become so as climate change impacts intensify. By doing this we hope to promote preemptive and more effective conservation action.”