Climate change projections more accurately
Since decades, scientists have been using supercomputers to predict the future temperature of the earth. These predictions are accurate, but how accurate? Modern climate models take into account complex interactions between millions variables. They do this by solving a system of equations that attempt to capture the effects of the atmosphere, ocean, ice, land surface and the sun on the Earth’s climate. The projections all agree that the Earth will soon reach dangerously high levels of warming. However, the details of how and when this will occur vary greatly depending on the model. Researchers from McGill University, including Professor Shaun LovejoyRoman Procyk, from the Department of Physics, hopes to change all of that. Based on the Nobel prize-winning Klaus Hasselmann’s method, they have developed a new method for measuring climate change with greater accuracy and precision. Their new projections are based on equations that combine the planet’s energy balance and slow and fast atmospheric processes called “scaling”. This breakthrough opens up new avenues of research into past and future climates, including ice ages. The new model can be used to produce precise regional temperature projections. The researchers compared their projections with the IPCC’s standard projections and found significant differences. The new model projects dangerous warming at a later date, but the timeframe for reaching it is much shorter. The researchers estimate that there is a 50% chance that the 1.5 will be exceeded.C threshold by 2040
“The Fractional Energy Balance Equation for Climate Projections Through 2100” by Roman Procyk et al. was published in Earth System Dynamics.
Herbicide Roundup disturbing freshwater biodiversity
As Health Canada Extended deadlineMcGill University research shows that higher herbicide levels in certain foods can be discussed with the public via a public consultation Roundup, a herbicide commonly used in agricultural runoff, can have a dramatic effect on natural bacterial communities. “Bacteria are the basis of freshwater ecosystems’ food chain. How the effects of Roundup cascade through freshwater ecosystems to affect their health in the long-term deserves much more study,” say the researchers.
“Resistance, resilience, as well as functional redundancy, of freshwater bacterioplankton community facing a gradient in agricultural stressors in a mesocosm experiment” was published in Molecular Ecology.
To ensure the survival of lake trout, we need to map their genome
A team of international researchers from Canada and the U.S., including McGill University researchers, has created a reference genome for lake-trout to aid U.S. federal agencies in reintroductions and conservation efforts. The once-predator fish of the Great Lakes, lake trout, was almost extinct between the 1940s to 1960s because of pollution, overfishing, predation by the invasive lamprey, and overfishing. Lake Superior and Lake Huron now have the only remaining lake trout populations. They once displayed remarkable levels of diversity in size, appearance, ability to adapt to diverse environments. The research team stated that genomes of salmonids (a family that includes lake trout) are more difficult to compile than many other animals. “Between 80-100 million years ago, the ancestor of all salmonid species that lake trout belong to went through a whole genome duplication event. As a result, salmonid genomes are difficult to assemble due to their highly repetitive nature and an abundance of duplicated genomic regions with similar sequences,” explains Ioannis RagoussisThe Head of Genome Sciences at McGill Genome Centre, where the sequencing was performed, was.
“A chromosome-anchored genome assembly of Lake Trout (Salvelinus Namaycush).” was published in Molecular Ecology Resources.
Why do some species live where others do not?
What factors will influence where species can survive and thrive as the climate changes? Scientists are trying to answer this question by looking at what influences where species live today. The environment is harsh and cold, especially towards the poles, as in Canada. But researchers are still trying to figure out how to mitigate this. Anna Hargreaves, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and Alexandra Paquette show that interactions with other species – like competition and predation – are also major driving factors in determining where species can live, especially in warmer conditions toward the equator.
“Biotic interactions are more often important at species’ warm versus cool range edges” was published in Ecology Letters.
Micro image of the aortic cross section. Credit: Marco Amabili et al
Imitating the human aorta
Researchers from McGill University are laying the foundation to develop artificial aortas, capable of mimicking the behaviour of the human body’s largest artery. Although the aorta transports oxygen rich blood from the heart to other parts of the body, scientists have not yet been able to determine the effects of smooth muscle activation on these tissues. Professor Michael A. Smith has led a new study. Marco AmabiliThe Department of Mechanical Engineering is first to map out the effects. Their findings will provide crucial information needed to design better aortic grafts, more compatible with the aortas’ natural movements, and improve the lives of patients recovering from aneurysms and cardiovascular diseases.
“Role of smooth muscle activation for static and dynamic mechanical characterizations of human aortas” by Marco Amabili et al. Publiée in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.
Parkinson’s pain and dopamine
Millions of people worldwide suffer from chronic pain associated with Parkinson’s Disease, yet treating it with opiates comes with serious side effects. A new study has revealed a possible alternative. The lab of Philippe SéguélaThe Neuro and McGill University have shown that dopamine affects pain perception in rodents. Researchers have shown dopamine can reduce neuron activity via a particular receptor, D1. It is located in an area of brain that is important for chronic pain, the anterior cortex cortex. This discovery may allow for better analgesics without the side effects associated with opiates. The novel mechanism may also explain why people with Parkinson’s often experience chronic pain, as this neurodegenerative disease destroys cells critical to the production of cortical dopamine.
“Reduced dopaminergic inhibition by pyramidal neurons in anterior cortex keeps chronic neuropathic discomfort at bay” by Kevin Lançon et al. Published In Cell Reports
Quebec’s rare disease is being treated
Jean Groleau (Sonia Gobeil) and Jean Groleau discovered that their oldest son, aged three, had an extremely rare condition called autosomal recessive-spastic ataxia Charlevoix–Saguenay. The disease, which affects coordination from childhood, was not well researched at the time. After their 40s, most patients will require a wheelchair. The current treatments offer only limited relief and no cure.
Although the disease was first discovered in Quebec, it is now seen in patients all over the world. Over the past 15 years, thanks to Gobeil and Groleau’s determined efforts, the Montreal-based Ataxia Charlevoix–Saguenay Foundationhas raised funds to support ARSACS research as well as the growing pool of experts working in the field at McGill and the Montreal Neurological Institute. Two McGill researchers are making important progress in our understanding of the disease. Anne McKinney, Alanna Watt and others led the research. It provides insight into brain cell vulnerability patterns in ARSACS patients. It also suggests that there may be disease pathways that are similar to ARSACS and other forms ataxias. The researchers believe it is crucial to recognize commonalities in mechanisms across multiple diseases, especially when dealing with rare disorders. This allows researchers to examine the possibility of repurposing drugs or testing pharmaceutical libraries to determine if a particular mechanism is helpful in all these disorders.
“Location and Molecular Identity Influence Purkinje cell Vulnerability in Autosomal Recessive Spastic Ataxia (Charlevoix-Saguenay Mice)” by Brenda Toscano Márquez et al. was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience.
Music and heartbeats: Rhythms of music
You might notice that your body moves along with the music when you listen or perform music. You might also be synchronizing to music in other ways than you realize, such as your heartbeats. McGill scientists led by Caroline Palmer, the Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Performance, investigated how musicians’ heart rhythms change when they perform familiar and unfamiliar piano melodies at different times of day. Contrary to some predictions, they found that musicians’ heart rhythms were more predictable and rigidly patterned when they performed unfamiliar melodies, and when they performed early in the morning. These findings suggest that musicians’ heart rhythms may be influenced by time of day as well as by how novel or how difficult a performance is. This research can help us to determine how music can be used in therapeutic settings, such as interventions that target abnormal heart rhythms.
“Physiological and behavioural factors in musicians’ performance tempo” was published inFrontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Our motivation to accomplish difficult tasks can be affected by stress
Stress increases people’s tendency to avoid cognitively demanding tasks, without necessarily altering their ability to perform those tasks according to new research from McGill University. “People are demand-averse,” says Ross OttoAssistant Professor in Psychology. “We found that stress increases that aversion.” Study participants had to choose between repeating a single task over and over, or the more cognitively demanding process of frequently switching from one kind of task to another. Then, they compared the choices made under acute stress to those made by a control group. “The interesting thing is – the stress effects didn’t come out in performance,” Otto explains. “So, it’s not that the study participants were worse at either the more demanding or the less demanding task – their performance was no different; it’s just that when you give them the choice of whether they want to do one or the other, stress increases their unwillingness to invest effort.”
“Acute Psychosocial Stress Increases Cognitive-Effort Avoidance” was published in Psychological Science.
COVID-19 vaccinations are more cost-effective and more accessible
A McGill-led research team led by Dr. John McGill may have opened up new possibilities for developing more efficient, accessible globally, and ready for pandemics-ready vaccines. Amine A. KamenProfessor in the Department of Bioengineering. The Vero cell line has been considered to be one of the most efficient viral vaccine manufacturing platforms for infectious diseases like MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and more recently SARS-CoV-2. It has become an important screening and discovery tool to support SARS-2 replication, isolation, and production of vaccines, and identify potential drug targets. The lack of a reference genome has limited the productivity of Vero cell lines. With restricted understanding of host–virus interactions, the full characterization of the Vero cell line has remained incomplete until now. Researchers believe it might be possible to accelerate the production and distribution of new vaccines against emerging infectious diseases. de novoSequencing and further decoding previously published genomic data highlights the mechanisms at work during virus growth inside the cells.
“Haplotype-resolved De Novo Assembly of the Vero Cell Line Genome” was published in npj Vaccines.
New type discovered for earthquakes
A new type injection-induced earthquake was discovered by a Canadian and German research team. They last longer and are slower than traditional earthquakes of similar magnitude. These seismic events are caused by hydraulic fracturing. This is a technique used in western Canada to extract oil and gas. The team of researchers – including Yajing Liu, an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences – recorded seismic data of nearly 350 earthquakes and found that around ten percent of the seismic events turned out to exhibit unique features suggesting that they rupture more slowly, similar to what has been mainly observed in volcanic areas. Their existence supports a scientific theory regarding the origins of injection induced earthquakes that has not been adequately supported by measurements.
“Fluid-injection-induced earthquakes characterized by hybrid-frequency waveforms manifest the transition from aseismic to seismic slip” was published in Nature Communications.
Uncovering the chemistry of bleach
Chlorine bleach has been used for almost 250 years since Claude-Louis Berthollet first discovered it in the 1780s. But until now, no one has ever described the structure of the active chemical component of liquid bleach – known to chemists as sodium hypochlorite. Research from McGill has now elucidated the structure of sodium hypochlorite, a very simple and a very unstable compound (making it difficult to isolate). This compound is also a member of the broader family of hypohalites, simple but also highly reactive compounds that are of fundamental importance in chemistry, and which have a dedicated spot in every textbook of general or inorganic chemistry. The recent paper, which is the first to provide a structural characterization of a hypochlorite and a hypobromite (also a well-known pool sanitizer) salt, fills an outstanding gap in structural chemistry.
“After 200 years: the structure of bleach and characterization of hypohalite ions by single-crystal X-ray diffraction” was published in Angewandte Chimie.
Smartphone addiction on the rise
Although the link between smartphones and mental illness is not clear, data from almost 34,000 participants in 24 countries shows that smartphone addiction has increased between 2014 and 2020, according to McGill researchers. China and Saudi Arabia had the highest levels of smartphone addiction, while Germany was the least addicted. Based on a McGill University sample, Canada was also very high. Researchers suspect that different cultural norms and expectations regarding the importance of keeping in touch via smartphones could explain the differences in smartphone addiction levels between countries. The team analyzed 81 studies of young adults and adolescents around the globe that used the Smartphone Addiction Scale, the most widely used measure for smartphone addiction. They asked about smartphone use in connection to daily-life disturbances and withdrawal symptoms. The team recently launched a smartphone addiction scale (SAS) to assess smartphone use in relation to daily-life disturbances, loss of control, and withdrawal symptoms. WebsiteIt allows the public to compare their smartphone addiction to other people around the globe. You can also find recommendations on how to reduce your screen time.
“Smartphone addiction is rising all over the globe: A meta-analysis involving 24 countries” by Jay Olson et al. Published in Computers and Human Behavior.
Space dining: microalgae and crickets
Deep space travel may soon become possible. But what will astronauts be eating on long-term missions that take them far from Earth for many years? Two McGill University student-led groups were selected as Semifinalists for the Deep Space Food Challenge, a joint venture of NASA, Canada’s Space Agency (CSA), Impact Canada.
The first-of-its kind technology to breed and harvest crickets suitable as human food is one of the projects. The team began with only a few hundred cricket eggs. They anticipate that the Cricket Rearing, Collection, and Transformation System can quickly support the growth and production of tens to thousands of crickets per month. The technology produces a finely ground powder that can be stored within the system. Cricket powder is a versatile ingredient that can be mixed with water to create a paste. It’s also rich in protein.
The InSpira Photobioreactor is the second project. It’s a highly automated system that can grow, harvest and package spirulina drinks. This blue-green algae is a nutritious supplement that is often sold at health food stores. The proposed technology consists of a unique cartridge-based photobioreactor and an in-house harvesting unit, dewatering unit, and processing unit that transforms the culture into edible forms.
Soon, the teams will begin building prototypes of their deep space food production solutions.
Read more from “Deep Space Dine” by Research and Innovation (R+I) at McGill University.
Can mobile phones promote gender equality in politics
Are people who use mobile phones more positive about gender equality in politics? A group of international researchers includes Luca Maria PesandoAn Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, he set out to investigate this question within 36 African countries. They found that regular use of mobile phones is associated with more positive attitudes towards women’s participation in politics; however, this was only observed among women and not men. The results strengthen the idea that technology adoption on the part of women – by improving connectivity, expanding access to information, and broadening one’s own physical and remote network – may be a promising lever to promote gender equality and societal well-being, and to address some of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The researchers also point out an important yet often neglected issue: policies aimed at changing gender attitudes are often targeted at women, but men’s attitudes can be harder to shift than women’s, requiring different approaches.
“Mobile Phones and Attitudes toward Women’s Participation in Politics: Evidence from Africa” was published in Sociology of Development.