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Archive - May 26, 2011

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Reindeer Can See UV Light

Researchers have discovered that the ultraviolet (UV) light that causes the temporary but painful condition of snow blindness in humans is life-saving for reindeer in the arctic. A Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded team at University College London and other institutions published a paper in the June 15, 2011 issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology that shows that this remarkable visual ability is part of the reindeer's unique adaptation to the extreme arctic environment where they live. It allows them to take in live-saving information in conditions where normal mammalian vision would make them vulnerable to starvation, predators, and territorial conflict. It also raises the question of how reindeer protect their eyes from being damaged by UV, which is thought to be harmful to human vision. The paper served as the cover story for the Journal of Experimental Biology issue. Lead researcher Professor Glen Jeffery said "We discovered that reindeer can not only see ultraviolet light, but they can also make sense of the image to find food and stay safe. Humans and almost all other mammals could never do this as our lenses just don't let UV through into the eye. "In conditions where there is a lot of UV – when surrounded by snow, for example – it can be damaging to our eyes. In the process of blocking UV light from reaching the retina, our cornea and lens absorb its damaging energy and can be temporarily burned. The front of the eye becomes cloudy and so we call this snow blindness.

Researchers Study Red Wine Component in Treatment of Concussions

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers are engaging the help of professional boxers and trainers to study whether a component in red wine and grapes could help reduce the short- and long-term effects of concussions. Researchers plan to recruit about two dozen professional boxers to take the neuroprotective compound resveratrol after a fight to see if it reduces damage to the brain after impact and helps restore subtle brain functions and connections via its antioxidant effects. If successful, researchers hope the results may be applicable not only to concussions in other sports such as football and hockey, but also to everyday incidents such as falls, auto accidents, and other blows to the head. "We know from animal studies that if we give the drug immediately after or soon after a brain injury, it can dramatically and significantly reduce the damage you see long term," said Dr. Joshua Gatson, assistant professor of surgery in Burn/Trauma/Critical Care and principal investigator for the study. "There haven't been any completed human studies yet, so this is really the first look at resveratrol's effect on traumatic brain injury." Resveratrol is already being studied as an agent to lower blood sugar levels, for use against cancer, to protect cardiovascular health, and in stroke and Alzheimer's disease treatments. "Even though resveratrol is found in red wine, you would need 50 glasses of wine to get the required dose to get the protection you would need," said Dr. Gatson. He came up with the idea for the trial, called the REPAIR study, while watching ESPN. Being a sports fan, he saw frequent concussion issues in football.