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The advent of advanced reproductive technologies has sparked a number of ethical concerns regarding the practices of reproductive tourism and commercial gestational surrogacy. In the past few decades, reproductive tourism has become a global industry in which individuals or couples travel, usually across borders, to gain access to reproductive services. This marketable field has expanded commercial gestational surrogacy--defined by a contractual relationship between an intending couple and gestational surrogate in which the surrogate has no genetic tie to fetus--to take on transnational complexities. India has experienced extreme growth due to a preferable combination of western educated doctors and extremely low medical costs. However, a slew of ethical issues have been brought to the forefront: the big ones manifesting as concern for reduction of a woman's worth to her reproductive capabilities along with concern for exploitation of third world women. This project will be based exclusively on literature review and serves primarily as a call for cultural competency and understanding the circumstances that gestational surrogates are faced with before implementing policy regulating commercial gestational surrogacy. The paper argues that issues of exploitation and commodification hinge on constructions of motherhood. It is critical to define and understand definitions of motherhood and how these definitions affect a woman's approach to reproduction within the cultural context of a gestational surrogate. This paper follows the case study of the Akanksha Infertility Clinic in northern India, a surrogacy clinic housing around 50 Indian surrogates. The findings of the project invokes the critical significance of narrative ethics, which help Indian surrogates construct the practice of surrogacy so that it fits into cultural comprehensions of Indian motherhood--in which motherhood is selfless, significant, and shared.
Studies have demonstrated that anthocyanins can function as antioxidants, reduce inflammation, and improve dyslipidemia. Tart cherries are anthocyanin-rich, making them particularly attractive as a functional food to improve cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. There have been few published studies to date examining the impact of tart cherries on biomarkers of dyslipidemia and inflammation, particularly in overweight and obese individuals at high risk for these conditions. This study evaluated the effect of consuming 100% tart cherry juice daily on blood lipids including total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), calculated very low density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C), triglycerides (TG), high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and the CVD risk ratios, as well as the inflammatory biomarkers interleukin 6 (IL-6), interleukin 10 (IL-10), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), C-reactive protein (CRP), monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) following a 4-week period. Based on the high anthocyanin content of tart cherries, it was hypothesized that the lipid and inflammatory profiles would be significantly improved following the intervention. A total of 26 men and women completed this 4-week randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Participants were randomized to drink either 8 ounces of placebo beverage or tart cherry juice daily for 4 weeks. Following a 4-week washout period, the alternate beverage was consumed. Ultimately, this investigation demonstrated no statistically significant alterations in any of the lipid or inflammatory biomarkers when analyzed across time and between interventions (p > 0.05). As expected, glucose and insulin parameters remained stable over the duration of the study, as well as self-reported physical activity level, total calorie consumption, and macronutrient intake. However, trans-fat was reported to be significantly higher during the cherry arm of the study as compared to the placebo arm (p < 0.05), potentially confounding other results. Although the results of this study were equivocal, it is feasible that a higher dose, longer treatment duration, or more susceptible target population may be required to elicit significant effects. Consequently, further investigation is necessary to clarify this research.
African Swine Fever (ASF), endemic in many African countries, is now spreading to other continents. Though ASF is capable of incurring serious economic losses in affected countries, no vaccine exists to provide immunity to animals. Disease control relies largely on rapid diagnosis and the implementation of movement restrictions and strict eradication programs. Developing a scalable, accurate and low cost diagnostic for ASF will be of great help for the current situation. CIM's 10K random peptide microarray is a new high-throughput platform that allows systematic investigations of immune responses associated with disease and shows promise as a diagnostic tool. In this study, this new technology was applied to characterize the immune responses of ASF virus (ASFV) infections and immunizations. Six sets of sera from ASFV antigen immunized pigs, 6 sera from infected pigs and 20 sera samples from unexposed pigs were tested and analyzed statistically. Results show that both ASFV antigen immunized pigs and ASFV viral infected pigs can be distinguished from unexposed pigs. Since it appears that immune responses to other viral infections are also distinguishable on this platform, it holds the potential of being useful in developing a new ASF diagnostic. The ability of this platform to identify specific ASFV antibody epitopes was also explored. A subtle motif was found to be shared among a set of peptides displaying the highest reactivity for an antigen specific antibody. However, this motif does not seem to match with any antibody epitopes predicted by a linear antibody epitope prediction.
Rhodoferax antarcticus strain ANT.BR, a purple nonsulfur bacterium isolated from a microbial mat in Ross Island, Antarctica, is the first described anoxygenic phototrophic bacterium that is adapted to cold habitats and is the first beta-proteobacterium to undergo complete genome sequencing. R. antarcticus has unique absorption spectra and there are no obvious intracytoplasmic membranes in cells grown phototrophically, even under low light intensity. Analysis of the finished genome sequence reveals a single chromosome (3,809,266 bp) and a large plasmid (198,615 bp) that together harbor 4,262 putative genes. The genome contains two types of Rubiscos, Form IAq and Form II, which are known to exhibit quite different kinetic properties in other bacteria. The presence of multiple Rubisco forms could give R. antarcticus high metabolic flexibility in diverse environments. Annotation of the complete genome sequence along with previous experimental results predict the presence of structural genes for three types of light-harvesting (LH) complexes, LH I (B875), LH II (B800/850), and LH III (B800/820). There is evidence that expression of genes for the LH II complex might be inhibited when R. antarcticus is under low temperature and/or low light intensity. These interesting condition-dependent light-harvesting apparatuses and the control of their expression are very valuable for the further understanding of photosynthesis in cold environments. Finally, R. antarcticus exhibits a highly motile lifestyle. The genome content and organization of all putative polar flagella genes are characterized and discussed.
One hypothesis for the small size of insects relative to vertebrates, and the existence of giant fossil insects, is that atmospheric oxygen levels have constrained body sizes because oxygen delivery would be unable to match the needs of metabolically active tissues in larger insects. This study tested whether oxygen delivery becomes more challenging for larger insects by measuring the oxygen-sensitivity of flight metabolic rates and behavior during hovering for 11 different species of dragonflies that range in mass by an order of magnitude. Animals were flown in 7 different oxygen concentrations ranging from 30% to 2.5% to assess the sensitivity of their behavior and flight metabolic rates to oxygen. I also assessed the oxygen-sensitivity of flight in low-density air (nitrogen replaced with helium), to increase the metabolic demands of hovering flight. Lowered atmosphere densities did induce higher metabolic rates. Flight behaviors but not flight metabolic rates were highly oxygen-sensitive. A significant interaction between oxygen and mass was found for total flight time, with larger dragonflies varying flight time more in response to atmospheric oxygen. This study provides some support for the hypothesis that larger insects are more challenged in oxygen delivery, as predicted by the oxygen limitation hypothesis for insect gigantism in the Paleozoic.
Cognitive function is multidimensional and complex, and research indicates that it is impacted by age, lifetime experience, and ovarian hormone milieu. One particular domain of cognitive function that is susceptible to age-related decrements is spatial memory. Cognitive practice can affect spatial memory when aged in both males and females, and in females alone ovarian hormones have been found to alter spatial memory via modulating brain microstructure and function in many of the same brain areas affected by aging. The research in this dissertation has implications that promote an understanding of the effects of cognitive practice on aging memory, why males and females respond differently to cognitive practice, and the parameters and mechanisms underlying estrogen's effects on memory. This body of work suggests that cognitive practice can enhance memory when aged and that estrogen is a probable candidate facilitating the observed differences in the effects of cognitive practice depending on sex. This enhancement in cognitive practice effects via estrogen is supported by data demonstrating that estrogen enhances spatial memory and hippocampal synaptic plasticity. The estrogen-facilitated memory enhancements and alterations in hippocampal synaptic plasticity are at least partially facilitated via enhancements in cholinergic signaling from the basal forebrain. Finally, age, dose, and type of estrogen utilized are important factors to consider when evaluating estrogen's effects on memory and its underlying mechanisms, since age alters the responsiveness to estrogen treatment and the dose of estrogen needed, and small alterations in the molecular structure of estrogen can have a profound impact on estrogen's efficacy on memory. Collectively, this dissertation elucidates many parameters that dictate the outcome, and even the direction, of the effects that cognitive practice and estrogens have on cognition during aging. Indeed, many parameters including the ones described here are important considerations when designing future putative behavioral interventions, behavioral therapies, and hormone therapies. Ideally, the parameters described here will be used to help design the next generation of interventions, therapies, and nootropic agents that will allow individuals to maintain their cognitive capacity when aged, above and beyond what is currently possible, thus enacting lasting improvement in women's health and public health in general.
Infectious diseases have emerged as a significant threat to wildlife. Environmental change is often implicated as an underlying factor driving this emergence. With this recent rise in disease emergence and the acceleration of environmental change, it is important to identify the environmental factors that alter host-pathogen dynamics and their underlying mechanisms. The emerging pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a clear example of the negative effects infectious diseases can have on wildlife. Bd is linked to global declines in amphibian diversity and abundance. However, there is considerable variation in population-level responses to Bd, with some hosts experiencing marked declines while others persist. Environmental factors may play a role in this variation. This research used populations of pond-breeding chorus frogs (Pseudacris maculata) in Arizona to test if three rapidly changing environmental factors nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and temperature influence the presence, prevalence, and severity of Bd infections. I evaluated the reliability of a new technique for detecting Bd in water samples and combined this technique with animal sampling to monitor Bd in wild chorus frogs. Monitoring from 20 frog populations found high Bd presence and prevalence during breeding. A laboratory experiment found 85% adult mortality as a result of Bd infection; however, estimated chorus frog densities in wild populations increased significantly over two years of sampling despite high Bd prevalence. Presence, prevalence, and severity of Bd infections were not correlated with aqueous concentrations of N or P. There was, however, support for an annual temperature-induced reduction in Bd prevalence in newly metamorphosed larvae. A simple mathematical model suggests that this annual temperature-induced reduction of Bd infections in larvae in combination with rapid host maturation may help chorus frog populations persist despite high adult mortality. These results demonstrate that Bd can persist across a wide range of environmental conditions, providing little support for the influence of N and P on Bd dynamics, and show that water temperature may play an important role in altering Bd dynamics, enabling chorus frogs to persist with this pathogen. These findings demonstrate the importance of environmental context and host life history for the outcome of host-pathogen interactions.
A notable feature of advanced eusocial insect groups is a division of labor within the sterile worker caste. However, the physiological aspects underlying the differentiation of behavioral phenotypes are poorly understood in one of the most successful social taxa, the ants. By starting to understand the foundations on which social behaviors are built, it also becomes possible to better evaluate hypothetical explanations regarding the mechanisms behind the evolution of insect eusociality, such as the argument that the reproductive regulatory infrastructure of solitary ancestors was co-opted and modified to produce distinct castes. This dissertation provides new information regarding the internal factors that could underlie the division of labor observed in both founding queens and workers of Pogonomyrmex californicus ants, and shows that changes in task performance are correlated with differences in reproductive physiology in both castes. In queens and workers, foraging behavior is linked to elevated levels of the reproductively-associated juvenile hormone (JH), and, in workers, this behavioral change is accompanied by depressed levels of ecdysteroid hormones. In both castes, the transition to foraging is also associated with reduced ovarian activity. Further investigation shows that queens remain behaviorally plastic, even after worker emergence, but the association between JH and behavioral bias remains the same, suggesting that this hormone is an important component of behavioral development in these ants. In addition to these reproductive factors, treatment with an inhibitor of the nutrient-sensing pathway Target of Rapamycin (TOR) also causes queens to become biased towards foraging, suggesting an additional sensory component that could play an important role in division of labor. Overall, this work provides novel identification of the possible regulators behind ant division of labor, and suggests how reproductive physiology could play an important role in the evolution and regulation of non-reproductive social behaviors.
Fundamental hypotheses about the life history, complex cognition and social dynamics of humans are rooted in feeding ecology - particularly in the experiences of young animals as they grow. However, the few existing primate developmental data are limited to only a handful of species of monkeys and apes. Without comparative data from more basal primates, such as lemurs, we are limited in the scope of our understanding of how feeding has shaped the evolution of these extraordinary aspects of primate biology. I present a developmental view of feeding ecology in the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) using a mixed longitudinal sample (infant through adult) collected at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve in southwestern Madagascar from May 2009 to March 2010. I document the development of feeding, including weaning, the transition to solid food, and how foods are included in infant diets. Early in juvenility ring-tailed lemurs efficiently process most foods, but that hard ripe fruits and insects require more time to master. Infants and juveniles do not use many of the social learning behaviors that are common in monkeys and apes, and instead likely rely both on their own trial and error and simple local enhancement to learn appropriate foods. Juvenile ring-tailed lemurs are competent and efficient foragers, and that mitigating ecological risks may not best predict the lemur juvenile period, and that increases in social complexity and brain size may be at the root of primate juvenility. Finally, from juvenility through adulthood, females have more diverse diets than males. The early emergence of sex differences in dietary diversity in juvenility that are maintained throughout adulthood indicate that, in addition to reproductive costs incurred by females, niche partitioning is an important aspect of sex differential feeding ecology, and that ontogenetic studies of feeding are particularly valuable to understanding how selection shapes adult, species-typical diets. Overall, lemur juvenility is a time to play, build social relationships, learn about food, and where the kernels of sex-typical feeding develop. This study of the ontogeny of feeding ecology contributes an important phylogenetic perspective on the relationship between juvenility and the emergent foraging behaviors of developing animals
Differences between males and females can evolve through a variety of mechanisms, including sexual and ecological selection. Because coloration is evolutionarily labile, sexually dichromatic species are good models for understanding the evolution of sex differences. While many jumping spiders exhibit diverse and brilliant coloration, they have been notably absent from such studies. In the genus Habronattus, females are drab and cryptic while males are brilliantly colored, displaying some of these colors to females during elaborate courtship dances. Here I test multiple hypotheses for the control and function of male color. In the field, I found that Habronattus males indiscriminately court any female they encounter (including other species), so I first examined the role that colors play in species recognition. I manipulated male colors in H. pyrrithrix and found that while they are not required for species recognition, the presence of red facial coloration improves courtship success, but only if males are courting in the sun. Because light environment affects transmission of color signals, the multi-colored displays of males may facilitate communication in variable and unpredictable environments. Because these colors can be costly to produce and maintain, they also have the potential to signal reliable information about male quality to potential female mates. I found that both red facial and green leg coloration is condition dependent in H. pyrrithrix and thus has the potential to signal quality. Yet, surprisingly, this variation in male color does not appear to be important to females. Males of many Habronattus species also exhibit conspicuous markings on the dorsal surface of their abdomens that are not present in females and are oriented away from females during courtship. In the field, I found that these markings are paired with increased leg-waving behavior in a way that resembles the pattern and behavior of wasps; this may provide protection by exploiting the aversions of predators. My data also suggest that different activity levels between the sexes have placed different selection pressures on their dorsal color patterns. Overall, these findings challenge some of the traditional ways that we think about color signaling and provide novel insights into the evolution of animal coloration.