Scientific discoveries this week: 3/25/13

South Bend, Indiana
In 2011, researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture found a crabapple tree that had been infested by a fruit fly they could not identify. Many feared that the fruit fly was the invasive apple maggot fly, known as Rhagoletis pomonella. If this was the case, it could trigger a quarantine process affecting three counties in the state of Washington. The larvae were sent to a team of researchers from Notre Dame that identified the fly as Rhagoletis indifferens, which is not known to infest apples. The group demonstrated that it was possible to genetically identify the correct fly species within two days, compared to the four months required to raise and visually identify the fly. According to Wee Yee, a researcher at the USDA’s Yakima agricultural research laboratory in Washington, “The correct identification of the larvae infesting crabapple trees saved the local, state, and federal agencies thousands of dollars in monitoring, inspection, and control costs.” “The cost to growers if the apple maggot had been found to be established in the region would have been very substantial (easily over half a million dollars), but the rapid diagnostic test developed at Notre Dame suspended the need to proceed with the rulemaking process, saving staff and administrative costs.”

Malmo, Sweden
By regularly exercising, people may be preventing fractured bones when they are older. Researchers from Skåne University Hospital in Malmo, Sweden, conducted a population-based study of 362 girls and 446 boys who received 40 minutes of daily physical education at school. The control group of 780 girls and 807 boys received 60 minutes of physical education per week. Researchers followed skeletal development annually and registered fractures in all participants. Over the course of the study, there were 72 fractures in the group that exercised daily and 143 in the control group. According to the study, the group that exercised daily had higher spine bone mineral density. Lead researcher Bjorn Rosengren said, “Increased activity in the younger ages helped induce higher bone mass and improved skeletal size in girls without increasing the fracture risk. Our study highlights yet another reason why kids need to get regular daily exercise to improve their health both now and in the future.”

Stockton, California
According to a study by researchers from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, energy drinks may increase blood pressure and disturb the heart’s natural rhythm. The team examined the QT interval of 93 people who had just consumed one to three cans of energy drinks. The QT interval is a segment of the heart’s rhythm on an electrocardiogram and if elongated, it may cause serious irregular heartbeats or cardiac arrest. The findings indicated that energy drinks could prolong the QT interval. They also found that the systolic blood pressure, the highest number in a blood pressure reading, increased by an average of 3.5 points in a pool of 132 participants. According to lead author Sachin Shah, “The correlation between energy drinks and increased systolic blood pressure is convincing and concerning.” The study included healthy patients 18 to 45 years old.

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