The Chicago Journal

Whale sharks studied with new method that could open up to more research

Whale sharksScience and technology are fascinating because they enable us to learn more about topics in which we were previously interested.

Ultrasound was not used for pregnancy testing until the 1950s and 1970s.

Because of comparable breakthroughs, humans can also track the pregnancy of animals, notably cats and dogs.

Recent studies, on the other hand, may have discovered a mechanism to better comprehend whale shark reproduction.

Initial thoughts

Scientists formerly thought that larger spots on the undersides of female whale sharks indicated pregnancy.

However, for the first time, a method for free-swimming animals was used, indicating that it was all skin and muscle.

The humps, like breasts in humans, may constitute a secondary sex feature in adult females, according to researchers in the March 23 edition of Endangered Species Research.

Scientists are looking for new ways to learn more about whale shark reproduction, including underwater “jet packs” and blood testing.

The animal

Whale sharks, or Rhincodon typus, are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Only an estimated 100,000 to 238,000 ocean inhabitants remain, a reduction of more than 50% in the previous 75 years.

Whale sharks have an average length of 12 meters and may attain speeds of up to five kilometers per hour.

Due to the paucity of whale sharks, scientists are perplexed about their reproductive biology.

Biologists gained experience by evaluating the catch of a pregnant female by a commercial fishing boat in 1995.

“Protecting organisms without knowing about their biology is like trying to catch a fly with our eyes closed,” said Okinawa Churashima Foundation fishers biologist Rui Matsumoto.

Okinawa Churashima Foundation conducts research on subtropical animals and plants in order to develop and preserve natural resources in protected areas.

Read also: Apple aware of thieves eyeing iPhone passcodes


Matsumoto worked with Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium shark expert Kiyomi Murakumo to learn more about whale sharks and how to keep up with them.

The researchers swam alongside the whale sharks, which had scuba tanks with propellers, using underwater jet packs.

The scientists utilized a 17-kilogram suitcase with a waterproof ultrasonography wand to collect blood from the undersides of 22 female whale sharks cruising near the Galápagos Islands.

Prior to the study, the ultrasound wand has never been used on free-swimming animals outside of an aquarium.

The two investigations were difficult, according to Simon Pierce, a whale shark biologist with the Marine Megafauna Foundation.

The Marine Megafauna Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to marine conservation via research.

According to Pierce, the whale shark possesses some of the thickest skin of any animal, measuring more than 30 centimeters thick.

Another problem was that the blood samples may have been contaminated by seawater.

To address this issue, researchers devised a two-syringe method in which the first syringe creates a vacuum while the second syringe draws blood.

Lab tests

The Marine Megafauna Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to marine conservation via research.

According to Pierce, the whale shark possesses some of the thickest skin of any animal, measuring more than 30 centimeters thick.

Another problem was that the blood samples may have been contaminated by seawater.

To address this issue, researchers devised a two-syringe method in which the first syringe creates a vacuum while the second syringe draws blood.

Tech innovations

Researchers have learned more about other vulnerable marine creatures thanks to noninvasive technologies used on whale sharks.

Waterproof ultrasonography wands attached to poles are being used on tiger sharks in places where the predators are drawn in with bait, according to Simon Pierce.

The underwater sample procedure was revolutionary, according to Rachel Graham, the MarAlliance’s creator and a marine conservation specialist.

She is skeptical that wild sea species like faster-swimming sharks or other marine animals will agree to such studies.

“What makes whale sharks fairly unique… is that they move relatively slowly at times, have the ability to remain stationary,” Graham pointed out.

“They tolerate the presence of other animals – such as us – nearby.”

Graham has traveled the world studying sharks.

Using satellite monitoring, the new technique, according to Pierce, may reveal where whale sharks give birth.

Little is known about whale shark pups, such as whether they are born in shallow or deep water, if they are delivered one at a time, and whether moms cluster to give birth.

“Assuming they do have some sort of breeding or pelagic nursery area we can identify… then that obviously goes quite a long way towards conserving the population,” said Pierce.

Estrogen has potential to go lower, according to studies

EstrogenEstrogen is a female hormone that is produced mostly in the ovaries and is necessary for the creation and function of reproductive organs.

It regulates menstruation, encourages endometrial growth, and is in charge of the development of female secondary sex characteristics.

Estrogen is combined with other hormones in birth control pills to prevent pregnancy.

It suppresses ovulation and thickens cervical mucus, making sperm more difficult to reach an egg.

Estrogen also aids in the control of the menstrual cycle, decreases the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer, and may provide other health benefits such as acne reduction and bone density enhancement.

Side effects

The inclusion of estrogen in birth control pills raises the risk of blood clots and stroke, especially in women who smoke or have other cardiovascular risk factors.

Although estrogen may increase the chance of developing breast cancer, the absolute risk is low.

Nausea and breast soreness are the minor estrogen side effects of birth control pills.

These negative effects are usually transitory and disappear within a few weeks.

Headaches, mood changes, and libido variations are among the other minor adverse effects.

The benefits of estrogen-containing birth control pills outweigh the risks for the vast majority of women, but any concerns or potential adverse effects should be explored with a healthcare provider.

New findings

There is ongoing research to create birth control that is both effective and low in estrogen.

Researchers revealed, using a mathematical model, that decreasing the estrogen level in traditional contraceptives by 92% still has the power to prevent pregnancy.

The research was published in the April 13 edition of PLOS Computational Biology.

They claimed that a low dose of progesterone, another contraceptive hormone, or a combination of the two hormones might prevent ovulation.

However, the drugs would have to be given at a critical point in the menstrual cycle.

Many highly successful contraceptives include enough estrogen to render them useless for some people, particularly those with a family history of hypertension or breast cancer.

Furthermore, establishing in clinical trials that lower doses of the hormones prevent ovulation may enable individuals at high risk of severe side effects with access to estrogen-based contraception.

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The mathematical model

Brenda Lyn Gavina and Aurelio de los Reyes of the University of the Philippines Diliman in the Philippines expanded on an existing menstrual cycle mathematical model.

They looked at real-world data from 23 women ages 20 to 34.

The model takes into account the intricacies of blood hormone levels from three major sources:

  • The pituitary glands
  • The ovaries
  • Hormonal birth control

Throughout a menstrual cycle, the researchers duplicated progesterone or estrogen levels that inhibited ovulation.

They used the same dose levels as standard methods of birth control.

The researchers then utilized optimum control theory, a mathematical approach, to determine the least amount of estrogen or progesterone that may prevent ovulation.

They observed that administering 8% estrogen 11 days after the start of the menstrual cycle inhibited the ovary from producing an egg.

Gavina and de los Reyes also observed that utilizing less estrogen and progesterone during that time period caused ovulation to be disturbed.

According to the researchers, the dose might be delivered by injections or implants.

“We did not only lower the dosage, but we also identified when to administer the contraceptive,” said de los Reyes.

According to Alison Edelman, a gynecologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, a modest amount of estrogen would probably ease some of the negative effects.

The new discoveries, according to Edelman, will not be utilized to produce better contraception anytime soon.

The model assumes that estrogen from birth control remains constant throughout time and does not take into account how the hormone is absorbed by the body.

It is likely to change, impacting the medicine’s effectiveness.

“I want to assure people that [low-dose estrogen in birth control] is already being looked at,” said Edelman.

She emphasized that people may now use hormone-based birth control that is both safe and effective.

Gavina and de los Reyes expressed a wish to cooperate with doctors like Edelman to make their models more relevant to researchers working on low-dose birth control medicines.

Insomnia linked to heart attacks in new studies

Insomnia Although sleep is an essential component of one’s day, some people struggle with falling asleep in bed at times.

Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling, staying, or gaining adequate sleep, and a recent study suggests that insomniacs may be at danger.

Sleep deprivation may have an influence on people’s hearts, in addition to interfering with daily functioning.

The news

Insomnia has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack in studies.

The most prevalent sleep issue, according to their research, affects 10% to 15% of all Americans.

According to the report’s findings, which were published in the journal Clinical Cardiology, the possible association between sleeplessness and heart attack is more likely to impact women.

According to Dr. Martha Gulati, chief of preventive services at Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Center, the majority of her patients are women, and sleeplessness is a risk factor for those with ischemic heart disease.

Although not being a participant in the study, Gulati shared her thoughts: “Insomnia is actually quite common.”

“We see it probably in 1 in 10 patients in the United States. It is my impression that almost everyone experiences insomnia at some point in their life.”

“The estimate is that 1 in 2 adults experience it at some point in their life, maybe in the short term because of stressful moments.”


The analysis of the study is based on more than 11 decades of information collected from 1,184,256 people in the following countries:

  • China
  • Germany
  • Norway
  • Taiwan
  • The United States
  • The United Kingdom

The study was undertaken by researchers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United States, and it classified insomnia as a sleep disorder with three major diagnoses:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking up early but restlessness that makes it hard to sleep again

There were 1,030,375 people who did not suffer from insomnia and 153,881 who did.

Sleep deprivation is 1.69 times more likely to cause a heart attack, according to research.

Despite this, the number of heart attacks was quite modest, occurring in around 1.6% of individuals who had insomnia and 1.2% of those who did not.

Hours of sleep

The researchers observed a link between a higher risk of heart attack and the amount of time participants spent sleeping at night.

Individuals who slept for five hours or less were 1.56 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who slept for seven or eight hours.

Getting more sleep, however, does not ensure safety.

According to the study, those who slept for six hours or more each night had a lower risk of having a heart attack.

“A lot of studies have pointed somewhere between seven and eight hours of sleep being the magic number for us,” said Gulati.

“There is obviously variability for everyone, but too much sleep is rarely the issue.”

The study discovered that insomniacs of any age or gender had the same risk of having a heart attack.

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How insomnia affects the body

A lack of sleep, according to Dr. Martha Gulati, increases the risk of a heart attack in a variety of ways, with a focus on cortisol control.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that regulates how the body reacts to stress.

The higher a person’s blood pressure, the more stressed he or she is.

People’s blood pressure drops when they receive enough sleep.

“What really happens when you’re not getting enough sleep is that your cortisol gets out of whack,” Gulati explained.

“If you are having sleep problems, we know that your blood pressure is more elevated at night.”

Gulati observed that having high nighttime blood pressure might be a risk factor for heart disease induced by cortisol imbalance.

Meanwhile, the study’s authors suggested that sleep deprivation be included as a risk factor in cardiovascular disease preventive recommendations.

Dr. Hani Aiash, a cardiologist and associate dean of interprofessional research at Upstate Medical University’s College of Health Professions, is one of the study’s senior authors.

Sleep, he argues, is more useful than most people realize: “Now we have evidence that sleep is medicine. So good sleep is prevention.”

“If you don’t sleep well… below five hours or six hours, you’re exposing yourself to a higher risk of myocardial infarction. The pattern of sleep is very important.”

Aiash also feels that nine hours is too long: “Above nine hours is harmful also.”


After the release of the report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States recommended five methods for minimizing insomnia:

  • Keep consistent sleeping and waking hours, including on weekends.
  • Make your bedroom a relaxing, dark, and comfortable retreat.
  • Remove any electrical devices from the room (smartphones, TVs, computers)
  • To enhance your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, avoid big meals, coffee, and alcohol.
  • Keep an active lifestyle throughout the day.

If your sleeplessness persists, the CDC advises you to contact a doctor.

Burnout: looking into the workplace phenomenon

Burnout Shortly before the 2020 pandemic, studies and media reports showed that burnout was occurring quite frequently among working people.

Work with the highest liability of burnout includes the health care, education and service sectors.

It got even more attention when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation earlier in 2023.

“I know what the job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice.”

Psychologist Christina Masrach, who has studied work-related stress for decades, found a term that pops up frequently in her investigation.

“She’s talking about an empty tank,” Maslach pointed out.

Maslach said the pandemic shows how crucial work is to a healthy and productive society, even when people are exasperated. 

Modern understanding

Some researchers argue that burnout is a modern phenomenon caused by our busy culture, while others argue that it is just another repetition of a long series of fatigue problems. tired. .

They mentioned the ancient Greek concept of Asedia, which the fifth-century monk and theologian John Cassian described as physical lethargy and deprivation.

In the 1970s, Herbert Freudenberger, a psychological consultant for volunteers working with drug addicts, coined the term “burnout”.

Freudenberger used this phrase to describe the following characteristics of volunteers:   

  • A gradual loss of motivation
  • Emotional depletion
  • Reduced commitment

Christina Maslach noticed similar trends in interviews with social workers in California, which inspired her to develop a burnout detector, the Maslach Burnout Inventory.

They discovered three of the traits with Susan Jackson, a PhD student at the time.

Feelings of chronic fatigue, cynicism and inefficiency, or low personal achievement.

According to Renzo Bianchi, an occupational psychologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Maslach’s scale has elevated burnout to a legitimate research topic. 

“Before [the Maslach Burnout Inventory], burnout was pop psychology,” said Bianchi.


Since its conception, Maslach’s inventory has been the most extensively used instrument for investigating burnout, although its description of the disorder has been disputed.

Organizational psychologists Wilmar Schaufeli and Dirk Enzmann wrote The Burnout Companion to Study and Practice: A Critical Analysis in 1998.

They maintained that boxing burnout, described as a combination of tiredness, cynicism, and inefficiency, was “arbitrary.”

“What would have happened if other items had been included?” they proposed.

“Most likely, other dimensions would have appeared.”

The three causes, according to Evangelia Demerouti of Eindhoven University of Technology, are loosely defined.

Other factors such as health concerns and familial responsibilities can all contribute to fatigue.

Disagreements have arisen between opposing viewpoints, one of which is how to use Maslachi’s inventory.

There was no reference to a cutoff to define when people went from not burnt out to burnt out.

It was instead intended to help academics identify similarities in a work environment or profession.

Maslach had limited influence on how others used the method. 

A modified version of the Maslach Burnout Inventory was used in 86% of the medical burnout studies presented in JAMA 2018, some of which reduced the number of statements or reduced the assessment of burnout. 

Researchers used an unvalidated version of the scale that included cutoff value, but there was little agreement on its definition.

The JAMA researchers found 142 types of fatigue.

Researchers identified 11 different assessment instruments that did not use inventory variants in the study group. 

Concerns have led educators to rethink how burnout is defined and measured. 

“We don’t [have] a good conceptualization of diagnosis of burnout,” said Demerouti.

“We need to start from scratch.”

Read also: FGF21 shots in mice might be a solution to sobering up faster


According to Bianchi and his team in 2021, experts agree that fatigue is an important aspect. 

Research over the past two decades has focused on the idea that burnout causes cognitive changes such as memory loss and difficulty concentrating. 

This problem can lead to forgetfulness, says Charlie Renaud of the University of Rennes 

People’s problems can escalate into personal situations and make entertainment difficult. 

Renaud argued that as more information becomes available, questions about cognitive changes are added to writing scientific assessments. 

Connection to depression

Depression is often attributed to individuals, but theories appear to be conflicting as to which social factors cause burnout. 

The Researchers questioned whether the latter would arise as a diagnosis by itself. 

Research suggests that the concepts are not mutually exclusive. 

Prolonged stress at work can lead to depression, and mood burnout. 

Furthermore, according to Bianchi and colleagues, fatigue is related to depression, not cynicism or incompetence. 

If the symptoms are covered by fatigue, then fatigue and sadness appear to be a more durable combination than Maslach’s inventory. 

“The real problem is that we want to believe that burnout is not a depressive condition [or] as severe as a depressive condition,” said Bianchi, but he said it isn’t true.

Should it be diagnosed?

The diagnosis is controversial because not everyone thinks it’s a good idea. 

“Burnout was never, ever thought of as a clinical diagnosis,” Maslach explained.

However, Bianchi and his team disagreed with this statement. 

They developed a proprietary scale, the Occupational Depression Inventory, to measure nine core symptoms associated with work-related major depression, which including cognitive decline and increased risk of suicide death. 

If burnout is related to depression, it may need to be addressed. Bianchi says. 

“Hopefully, the interventions, the treatments, the forms of support that exist for depressed people can be applied for occupational depression,” he said.

According to Kirsi Aloha of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, this treatment does not lessen the work-related stress that causes the condition. 

“[Imagine] the person is on sick leave, for example, for a few weeks and recuperates and rests,” she offered.

“And he comes back to the exactly same situation where the demands are too high and no support and whatever. Then he or she starts burning out again.”

Burnout is not current included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 

Maslak’s Bern theory was supported when the World Health Organization classified the syndrome in its 2019 International Classification of Diseases. 

However, the World Health Organization says it is a tool and not a health problem.  

FGF21 shots in mice might be a solution to sobering up faster

FGF21While some people can drink a few bottles of beer without becoming inebriated, others are not so lucky.

Intoxicated people are frequently advised to wait for sobriety to take effect.

Now, new studies have emerged that may lead to a speedier sobering up than before.

The study

In the March issue of 7 Cell Metabolism, researchers described injecting drunk mice with a natural hormone.

The treatment prompted the mice to awaken immediately.

According to the paper, the mice were given an injection of FGF21, a hormone generated by the liver.

The injection shook the mice out of their drunken coma twice as fast as the group that did not receive the shot.

The discoveries, according to molecular endocrinologist David Mangelsdorf, might be game changers in the treatment of alcohol toxicity.

Alcohol poisoning 

When there is too much alcohol in the bloodstream near the brain, it causes alcohol poisoning or overdose.

Multiple life-sustaining systems, such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature regulation, are frequently disabled.

The following are some of the symptoms of an alcohol overdose:

  • Mental confusion
  • Difficulty staying conscious
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Trouble breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled response leading to no gag reflexes that prevent choking
  • Extremely low body temperature

Alcohol poisoning has the possibility of triggering permanent brain damage or death.

The shot

FGF21’s sobering effect is not the first time the hormone has been linked to alcohol use.

Previously, scientists proved that when alcohol enters the bloodstream, the liver produces the hormone.

Despite the fact that FGF21 does not break down alcohol, researchers determined that the hormones play a vital function in protecting the liver from the harmful effects of alcohol.

It also dampens the urge to keep drinking in mice and monkeys.

Read also: Anxiety can come from the heart, a mice study found

The research

David Mangelsdorf of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and his colleagues were intrigued in how FGF21 affects alcohol recovery based on the findings.

Mangelsdorf and his colleagues injected mice with enough alcohol to knock them out and then timed how long it took them to wake up.

Animals that had been genetically engineered to be unable to produce FGF21 slept for an hour and a half longer than normal mice.

Meanwhile, the usual mice were provided with a second dosage of FGF21 to help them wake up even faster (twice as quickly) than the mice treated.

Inebriated mice injected with FGF31 were able to keep balanced longer than the others when placed on a gently spinning platform.


FGF21, according to the researchers, may help mice wake up by activating nerve cells in a brain area that promotes alertness.

If the hormone works similarly in people, Mangeldorf believes it may be used to revive persons who have been poisoned by alcohol.

With the possibility of unintentionally choking, the talent might be incredibly beneficial.

Furthermore, doctors often wait for those who have been poisoned by alcohol to awaken before addressing their symptoms.

“There is no drug for treating alcohol poisoning,” said Mangelsdorf.

He noted that having a drug to help people wake up would be a significant step forward in emergency room therapy.

He cited Narcan, a medication that aids patients in regaining consciousness following an opioid overdose.

Past attempts

Beforehand, researchers discovered strategies to sober up mice.

Despite its efficacy, the regimen did not have the same effect on everybody.

According to David Mangelsdorf, FGF21 may be a different tale.

He cited a prior study that focused on the hormone in monkeys, which are more human-like than mice.

Drugs derived from FGF21 would not need to be isolated to treat alcohol toxicity.

According to Lorenzo Leggio, a physical scientist at the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore, researchers seek to use the hormone to treat liver disease and alcohol addiction.

He feels, however, that the study is a critical step toward understanding FGF21 and developing innovative therapeutics for alcoholism and other illnesses.