Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock

December 29, 2017 by  
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Winter is here, and it appears even marine creatures are feeling the impact. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy responded to calls of two thresher sharks stranded on Massachusetts beaches, and said the sharks likely succumbed to cold shock. The north half of the United States is battling bitter cold with a mass of Arctic air, according to The New York Times , with meteorologists saying single-digit temperatures could be here to stay for at least another week. And even sharks are battling the frigid weather . The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy shared on their social media they were called to two thresher shark strandings near Cape Cod in Massachusetts, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries . The conservancy said the sharks were both male, and probably stranded because of cold shock. Related: 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries marine scientist Greg Skomal told The New York Times, “If you’ve got cold air, that’ll freeze their gills up very quickly. Those gill filaments are very sensitive and it wouldn’t take long for the shark to die.” Skomal said the thresher sharks may have been working their way south with the cooling of northerly waters, but could have gotten trapped by Cape Cod and stranded on the beach, where they may have died more rapidly because of the cold. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, which promotes Atlantic white shark conservation through scientific research and education, gathered morphometric data and organ and tissue samples for analyzing once they thaw. They called on people to report anything strange they might see on Cape beaches, with a picture and location. If you’d like to help out the conservancy, they put together a shark stranding response kit wishlist on GOODdler; you can donate here . Via the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Facebook and The New York Times Images via the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Twitter

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Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock

Universal DNA vaccine could make yearly flu shot a thing of the past

December 29, 2017 by  
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There were 7,000 confirmed cases of the flu in the United States by the end of November – double the amount from the same time the prior year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. University of Washington School of Medicine researchers are hoping to one day offer an alternative to the annual flu shot: a DNA vaccine . The vaccine could offer long-lasting protection from all flu virus strains – even as viruses genetically change. A DNA vaccine could instruct a person’s skin cells to generate antigens and induce antibodies and T cell responses to fight the flu, according to UW Medicine . A gene gun device could inject the vaccine right into skin cells. With the universal vaccine, people might not have to get a flu shot every year. Related: Experimental Zika vaccine to be tested on humans for the first time The DNA vaccine is able to get around genetic changes in flu strains by “using genetic components of influenza virus – the conserved areas – which do not change,” according to UW Medicine. The DNA vaccine doesn’t just repel a virus but finds infected cells and kills them. The research team tested the vaccine on primates , and found T cell responses were so fast the primates just did not get sick. Department of Microbiology professor Deborah Fuller, in whose laboratory this research took place, said in a statement, “With the immunized groups, we found that using this conserved component of the virus gave them 100 percent protection against a previous circulating influenza virus that didn’t match the vaccine.” This universal vaccine could be ready for rapid deployment in case of a deadly pandemic flu strain, and has a production time of around three months as opposed to the nine months required for the United States-approved vaccine for flu season. The DNA-based approach could also offer a mechanism for vaccines for other viruses like Zika . The vaccine could still be five to 10 years away – UW Medicine said that’s about as long as it takes from promising laboratory results to commercial viability. The journal PLOS One published the research this month. 17 researchers from institutions around the United States contributed to the paper. Via University of Washington School of Medicine Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Universal DNA vaccine could make yearly flu shot a thing of the past

Dutch utilityplans massive windfarm island

December 29, 2017 by  
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TenneT, the primary Dutch electric utility company, is planning to construct a “windfarm island” in the North Sea. This island would serve as an operational hub for a network of nearby offshore wind farms at a facility that would dwarf any current such centers. The plan, already in its advanced stages, proposes Dogger Bank, 125km (78 miles) off the East Yorkshire coast of England, as a potential location for the wind farm island. Once constructed, the hub would transmit electricity over a long-distance, underwater cable to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, with eventual connections possible to Belgium, Denmark, and Germany .   As more desirable spots closer to shore are claimed, the maturing wind energy industry is making some bold moves to continue its growth. “It’s crucial for industry to continue with the cost reduction path,” Rob van der Hage, offshore wind grid development program manager at TenneT, told  the Guardian . “It’s logical we are looking at areas further offshore.” Though the windfarm island plan is ambitious, the specific details of running such a facility are still in development and its profitability remains to be seen. “As the industry matures, you’d very much expect them to start thinking outside the box,” energy analyst Peter Atherton told the Guardian . “Whether the economics pan out, whether you really can sell North Sea wind out to the continent, is questionable.” Related: World’s first 3D-printed bridge opens in the Netherlands The windfarm island would act as a hub for nearby wind farms , which would send electricity generated to the island along short-distance, inexpensive cables. Once stored, the electricity will be converted from alternate current to direct current, which is more efficient when sending electric power across long distances, for its journey back to the mainland. This allows greater flexibility in the wind market and ensures that a much higher percentage of wind energy is distributed to where it is needed. The Dutch are not daunted by the challenge of building their own windfarm island. “Is it difficult?,” asked Van der Hage rhetorically. “In the Netherlands, when we see a piece of water we want to build islands or land. We’ve been doing that for centuries. That is not the biggest challenge.” Via the Guardian Images via TenneT and Depositphotos

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Dutch utilityplans massive windfarm island

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