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How Ethiopian highlanders adapted to breathe thin air

Ethiopian highlands

Over millenia, humans have adapted to the high altitude of Ethiopia's highlands. Researchers have now pinpointed one adaptation — lower levels of cardiac signaling protein — that may make the high life possible.

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At high altitudes, the reduced oxygen in the air makes some people develop a condition called hypoxia. But the thousands of people who live 3,500 meters above sea level in the Ethiopian highlands don’t seem to get sick. A key genetic adaptation may have helped them live for millenia at high altitudes, researchers report August 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Previously, a search for irregularities in highlanders’ genomes flagged mutations around a gene that builds a signaling protein called endothelin receptor type B, or ERTB. In the new study, mice with lower levels of ERTB still manage to get oxygen to vital organs with help from a trio of other genes that regulate blood pumping and circulation.

The findings could help provide better treatments for hypoxia — whether it’s down at sea level or high up in the hills of Ethiopia. 

Health

Kidney transplants may benefit from a slightly chilled donor

By Sarah Schwartz 11:35am, July 31, 2015
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Immune Science

Experimental MERS vaccine battles virus in mice and monkeys

By Sarah Schwartz 6:30am, July 30, 2015
Select viral proteins and DNA can combat the MERS virus in mice and monkeys.
Animals,, Physiology

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Materials

Stretchy fiber keeps electrons flowing

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Animals

Boas kill by cutting off blood flow, not airflow

By Ashley Yeager 6:00pm, July 22, 2015
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Oceans,, Climate

Blooming phytoplankton seed clouds in the Southern Ocean

By Beth Mole 2:00pm, July 17, 2015
Booming phytoplankton populations spark cloud formation in the Southern Ocean.
Health,, Microbes,, Microbiology

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Neuroscience,, Human Development

Bundles of cells hint at biological differences of autistic brains

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Neuroscience

How screams shatter the brain

By Laura Sanders 12:00pm, July 16, 2015
The acoustical properties of screams make them hard to ignore, a new study suggests.
Astronomy

Exploding star breaks record for brightest supernova

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A recent supernova shines with the light of 600 billion suns.
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