Science fiction has long promised an age of interplanetary human existence. Scenes of spaceships hopping from one galaxy to the next are so common, it seems almost inevitable that future generations will one day vacation on Mars. But, if we are ever going to achieve life on other planets, we first have to figure out if the human body can tolerate it.
Some of the best data we have on the subject comes from American astronaut Scott Kelly. Kelly spent a year living on the International Space Station while his twin brother Mark, also an astronaut, was on Earth. Scientists from all over the country studied the impact life in space had on Scott Kelly, and compared changes in his body to his brother.
One of those scientists was UC San Diego Professor of Medicine, Michael G. Ziegler, MD. In a recent talk at UC San Diego Extension’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Ziegler detailed some of the more interesting findings from the study. Scott Kelly lost weight. There were significant changes to his gene expression. He lost collagen. His carotid artery thickened. His bones became less dense. His eye shape changed, forcing him to wear glasses. While he was in space, his performance on cognitive tests improved. But, his performance plummeted after returning to Earth, and never quite returned to pre-launch levels.
Despite all of this, Ziegler has reason to be hopeful about long-term space travel. He says the year in space study illuminated many of the challenges, and gave researchers some ideas of how to overcome them. Still, it’s probably a little early to start planning your trip to the red planet.
Mosquitos are the deadliest animal on Earth. They spread diseases like yellow fever, chikungunya, West Nile virus and malaria. Malaria alone killed 435,000 people and infected another 219 million in 2017 according to the World Health Organization. There are widespread efforts to combat mosquito-borne illnesses, including revolutionary new gene editing techniques.
Ethan Bier and Valentino Gantz, biologists at UC San Diego, have been researching gene drives – systems that allow scientists to quickly push genes through entire populations. Typically, genetic information from each parent is combined and passed down to their children. Think back to Punnett squares from high school biology. If one parent has blonde hair and the other has brown hair, the brunette would have to carry a recessive blonde gene for any of their children to be blonde. But, gene drives change that. Gantz and Bier came up with a way to use the CRISPR gene-editing technique to insert self-editing genes into mosquitos, so preferred traits are always passed down. Their research shows these traits can take over entire populations within 10 generations, one to two years for mosquitos.
In a recent talk at UC San Diego Extension’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Bier dove into the details of exactly how gene drives work, and their many potential applications.
Income inequality refers to the unequal distribution of income among a population. In the United States, income inequality, or the gap between the rich and everyone else, has been growing for the last several decades.
Economist Valerie Ramey of UC San Diego gives an insightful talk charting the rise, fall and rise again of income inequality in America over the last century. She highlights the special circumstances that created a “Golden Age” for the average worker in the 1950s and 1960s and then follows with the economic changes that led to today’s extreme disparity where the top 1 percent of US households earn nearly 20 percent of the nation’s income.
Ten years have passed since the United States and allies invaded Iraq. Get an eye-opening look at how those ten years have shaped Iraq’s history, presented by Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC San Diego.
Hamid Al-Bayati, Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations, gives an insider’s perspective on life in Iraq through Saddam Hussein’s reign. Hear Al-Bayati explain what it was like to live amongst the shocking violence and war crimes while in opposition of the dictatorship. He describes the consequences of war that Iraqis faced and warns against the reality of war.
As a Distinguished Professor in Integrative Medicine and Director of UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Dr. Margaret Chesney knows a lot about stress. At least, how to cope with it so that it doesn’t take a physical toll on your body and quality of life.
The holidays are a time when even the most placid souls can get frazzled by all the hustling and bustling about, preparing for time with family and friends. Judging by the phone calls Dr. Chesney receives this time of year from journalists looking for stress reduction tips for their readers, it seems to be a pretty universal problem.
Lucky for our viewers, Dr. Chesney and her colleagues at UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine are regular guests on UCTV, always willing to share some of their well-researched tips, tactics and techniques for mindfulness-based stress reduction that can get you through the holidays, and keep you calm all year long.
Here are some programs featuring Dr. Chesney to get you started: