Sunday, December 23, 2012


This year, a study published in the journal PLoS found that looking at cute animal photos helps people to improve their concentration. With that in mind, we present some of the cutest baby animal photographs of 2012.

Taking a break to look at such photos may provide a beneficial boost. "For future applications, cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work," wrote Hiroshi Nittono of Hiroshima University and his colleagues.

Some of our favorite cute critter photographs this year came from the Chengdu Panda Base, which experienced a giant panda baby boom in 2012. Alejandro Grau, a spokesperson for the reserve, told Discovery News in November that "all the cubs are in good health and were photographed together for the first time."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Hibernating bats and HIV-AIDS patients face a similar risk.

A hyperactive immune system may cause dangerous tissue damage in both humans dealing with HIV-AIDS and bats suffering from white-nose syndrome (WNS). The immune system over-reaction, known as immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), occurs when the immune system becomes active after being dormant.
"We see strong similarities between human IRIS and the pathology associated with WNS , with potentially fatal outcome in bats," said Carol Meteyer of the U.S.
"We hope that these findings will stimulate more experimental studies that yield insight into the role of the immune response during IRIS in humans as well as hibernating bats."
In HIV-AIDS patients, IRIS can occur after treatment with antiretroviral drugs allow their immune systems to recover. HIV-AIDS patients sometimes develop infections while their immune system was weakened. Once the drug treatments allow the white blood cells of the immune system to recover, the cells can go into overdrive attacking the infection. The inflammation that follows can cause damage to healthy tissue.
In bats, IRIS may happen after the bats wake up from hibernation. To conserve energy, most of the bats biological functions, including the immune system, go dormant during hibernation. White-nose syndrome attacks the bats while their immune systems can't fight back. The fungus Geomyces destructans takes advantage of this and begins devouring the bats alive, coving them with a white fuzz that gives white-nose syndrome its name.
ANALYSIS: Billion Dollar Bats in Danger
The fungal infection alone can be enough to kill the bats. However, if they survive the winter, when their immune system comes back from its hibernation dormancy it can over-react to the white nose infection. The inflammation can damage tissues, just as in HIV-AIDS patients, and can prove especially deadly if it affects the wings.