Here’s the good news for today: around 90% of the plastic in our oceans could be gone by 2040 thanks to new technology from The Ocean Cleanup project; hibernating bears may hold clue to better diabetes treatment; there was a “historic moment” in the fight against Alzheimer’s, after the success of an experimental drug; the Ecuadorian team fighting food waste and the maiden flight of an all-electric aircraft.
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1. About 90% of the plastic in our oceans could be gone by 2040
Pioneering technology from The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch project developing systems to clean floating plastic from the oceans, could eliminate 90% of this plastic by 2040, according to the company.
The project was founded by Boyan Slate when he was just 16 years old.
The team’s latest generation of technology, System 03, will allow them to clean up the entire Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific that is three times the size of France and contains up to 100 million kilos of plastic waste. . They have already removed more than 100,000 kg.
“Our projections show that deploying ten systems based on System 03 will allow us to permanently clean up the entire Great Pacific Garbage Patch – bringing us closer to completing our mission to rid the oceans of plastic,” said the team in a statement.
The Ocean Cleanup has also developed a smart solution to the problem at the source of marine plastic.
A thousand rivers are responsible for around 80% of the world’s plastic pollution, so they developed the world’s first scalable river plastic collector, a transportable, solar-powered, fully self-contained vessel that can collect around 50,000 kg of plastic per day in the world. most polluting rivers before the debris has a chance to reach the ocean.
2. Hibernating bears may hold a clue to diabetes treatment
Just before hibernation season, brown bears eat a lot, consuming up to 20,000 calories a day, enough to put on about four pounds. And then they barely move, for months.
If we humans did the same, we would gain dangerous amounts of weight, and then we might get diabetes.
But brown bears are smart enough to avoid this, and scientists have figured out how.
“We thought, wow, if we can figure out how bears are able to do this naturally every year without negative consequences, then maybe this will give us some insight into how to potentially develop new therapies for humans: let’s draw take advantage of the amazing natural biology and learn more about bears. And that’s exactly what we did,” Professor Joanna L Kelley, one of the researchers at the University of State of Washington.
The study identified eight key proteins – also found in humans – that help bears control their insulin levels.
“These are known proteins, they are shared between bears and humans. I think a really important point is that these are not proteins unique to bears, which means they are much more likely to be able to be used as therapeutics.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates the concentration of glucose – sugar – in the blood, and it does this, for example, by sending signals to the muscles, liver and fat cells to absorb sugar.
The fact is, if too much sugar enters the body, our cells stop responding to our friend insulin and become insulin resistant, leading to excess sugar in our blood. It is one of the main causes of type 2 diabetes, a disease that can lead to heart attacks, strokes and blindness.
But scientists have found that even when brown bears binge, insulin resistance doesn’t kick in until after, during hibernation, not during preparation, keeping them diabetes-free.
“We haven’t looked at metabolites yet, which can also play a very important role,” Prof Kelley said, adding that it’s more complicated than just an on-off switch.
“It’s so exciting to think about it, we have this much clearer picture of activity and hibernation, but these transition periods are going to tell us a lot about how this process is going.”
“We are very interested in how this relates to humans? And the truth is, it’s all about us, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what type of organism we’re looking at or what ecosystem or whatever, we’re all connected.
This discovery, published in iScience, may hold the key to treating diabetes in humans.
The phenomenon of insulin management in bears gives scientists a unique opportunity to better understand the disease and perhaps ultimately figure out how to slow down insulin resistance in humans.
3. There was a “historic moment” in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease
An experimental drug has dramatically slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in a major trial. And US regulators are already evaluating it under a special “fast-track approval” pathway.
It is the very first drug to bring a marked improvement in the treatment of degenerative disease, which is the most common type of dementia.
The drug, called Lecanemab, reduced the rate of cognitive decline in people with early disease by 27% over 18 months compared to a placebo, meeting the primary endpoint of the trial.
This is a major milestone for researchers who have been trying for decades to tackle the severe mental decline of Alzheimer’s patients.
The Alzheimer’s Association says the trial results are the most encouraging findings in treating the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease to date.
4. Idónea, the Ecuadorian team fighting against food waste
In Quito, Ecuador, a socio-gastronomic project called Idónea – led by Santiago Rosero, a journalist and cook with a passion for gastronomy, and Estefanía Gómez, a development specialist – aims to combat food waste and channel unwanted food to the vulnerable populations.
The Idónea team collects discarded vegetables and fruit from markets and farms in Quito and other cities in Ecuador, then prepares plant-based menus. These are then offered to the general public at reasonable prices and free of charge to those in need.
Idoneá’s roots go back to Paris, where Rosero once volunteered at the Freegan Pony, a nonprofit restaurant that fights food waste. He was there in his double capacity of journalist and cook.
“I started building a story from the inside, but also getting interested in the big issue that shaped the whole experience, which was food waste, something I didn’t know about. I became very interested and I easily jumped in. It seemed to me crucial not only for the world of gastronomy, but for the social world in general, and for the whole practice of environmental regeneration.
When Rosero returned to Ecuador in 2017, he says he already knew how to set up a project based on these principles. At that time, he was told about a fellow Ecuadorian who was studying in the Netherlands, Estefanía Gómez, who was also studying development issues.
“She quickly became my partner in the creation of the project, and by the end of 2018, the project was set up.”
Idónea’s locations change regularly; sometimes they settle in friends’ restaurants or in atypical places such as churches or schools, where they organize events combining gastronomy and training.
“Thirty percent or a third of all the food produced in the world is wasted every day. If three apples are produced, one ends up wasted, and that 30% is equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of food,” Rosero explained, as an example of what they teach in the classes.
“What we’re doing is pretty easy to replicate. It is a question of will and determination, of commitment; and that commitment isn’t too hard to gain once you understand the problem.
Ingredient picking, cooking, serving and cleaning tasks are possible thanks to a team of volunteers, while the gastronomic vision is left to the chefs of the host restaurants, who contribute with their styles and concepts.
One of the core tenets is that the project “…isn’t far-fetched,” Rosero says. “If we save food and there are people who lack food, we will share the food with them. Basic, isn’t it? Then we invite them to take what is fresh, so they can cook it at home.
Idónea is also preparing to scale up the project: “We are requesting new funds to tackle the serious problem of chronic child malnutrition. We’re trying to put together a multidisciplinary project that involves nutritionists, people who are building portable and accessible water systems in remote communities and also building systems that can help achieve these things,” says Rosero.
5. The maiden flight of an all-electric aircraft.
Alice, an all-electric aircraft, has just made its maiden flight in the United States.
After years of development on the ground, the American company Eviation was able to keep the plane in the air for eight minutes, before landing it safely.
“It was a wonderful experience for everyone who was here. We got to witness history in the making,” said Gregory Davis, CEO of Eviation.
“The flight lasted eight minutes. We flew at 3,500 feet and were able to complete our test plan exactly as planned.”
The Arlington-based company aims to deliver electric passenger and cargo planes by 2027.
It says the promise will depend on the advancement of battery technology, but the company already has orders for its planes from regional airlines.
Eviation is part of a growing list of companies that have taken on the challenge of changing the way we fly: making aviation more efficient, sustainable and cheaper through greener propulsion technologies.
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