Gut bacteria that protect against food allergies identified

The presence of Clostridia, a common class of gut bacteria, protects against food allergies, a new study in mice finds. By inducing immune responses that prevent food allergens from entering the bloodstream, Clostridia minimize allergen exposure and prevent sensitization -- a key step in the development of food allergies. The discovery points toward probiotic therapies for this so-far untreatable condition, report scientists from the University of Chicago, Aug 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although the causes of food allergy -- a sometimes deadly immune response to certain foods -- are unknown, studies have hinted that modern hygienic or dietary practices may play a role by disturbing the body's natural bacterial composition. In recent years, food allergy rates among children have risen sharply -- increasing approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011 -- and studies have shown a correlation to antibiotic and antimicrobial use.

"Environmental stimuli such as antibiotic overuse, high fat diets, caesarean birth, removal of common pathogens and even formula feeding have affected the microbiota with which we've co-evolved," said study senior author Cathryn Nagler, PhD, Bunning Food Allergy Professor at the University of Chicago. "Our results suggest this could contribute to the increasing susceptibility to food allergies."

To test how gut bacteria affect food allergies, Nagler and her team investigated the response to food allergens in mice. They exposed germ-free mice (born and raised in sterile conditions to have no resident microorganisms) and mice treated with antibiotics as newborns (which significantly reduces gut bacteria) to peanut allergens. Both groups of mice displayed a strong immunological response, producing significantly higher levels of antibodies against peanut allergens than mice with normal gut bacteria.

This sensitization to food allergens could be reversed, however, by reintroducing a mix of Clostridia bacteria back into the mice. Reintroduction of another major group of intestinal bacteria, Bacteroides, failed to alleviate sensitization, indicating that Clostridia have a unique, protective role against food allergens.

Closing the door

To identify this protective mechanism, Nagler and her team studied cellular and molecular immune responses to bacteria in the gut. Genetic analysis revealed that Clostridia caused innate immune cells to produce high levels of interleukin-22 (IL-22), a signaling molecule known to decrease the permeability of the intestinal lining.

Antibiotic-treated mice were either given IL-22 or were colonized with Clostridia. When exposed to peanut allergens, mice in both conditions showed reduced allergen levels in their blood, compared to controls. Allergen levels significantly increased, however, after the mice were given antibodies that neutralized IL-22, indicating that Clostridia-induced IL-22 prevents allergens from entering the bloodstream.

"We've identified a bacterial population that protects against food allergen sensitization," Nagler said. "The first step in getting sensitized to a food allergen is for it to get into your blood and be presented to your immune system. The presence of these bacteria regulates that process." She cautions, however, that these findings likely apply at a population level, and that the cause-and-effect relationship in individuals requires further study.

While complex and largely undetermined factors such as genetics greatly affect whether individuals develop food allergies and how they manifest, the identification of a bacteria-induced barrier-protective response represents a new paradigm for preventing sensitization to food. Clostridia bacteria are common in humans and represent a clear target for potential therapeutics that prevent or treat food allergies. Nagler and her team are working to develop and test compositions that could be used for probiotic therapy and have filed a provisional patent.

"It's exciting because we know what the bacteria are; we have a way to intervene," Nagler said. "There are of course no guarantees, but this is absolutely testable as a therapeutic against a disease for which there's nothing. As a mom, I can imagine how frightening it must be to worry every time your child takes a bite of food."

"Food allergies affect 15 million Americans, including one in 13 children, who live with this potentially life-threatening disease that currently has no cure," said Mary Jane Marchisotto, senior vice president of research at Food Allergy Research & Education. "We have been pleased to support the research that has been conducted by Dr. Nagler and her colleagues at the University of Chicago."

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The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Medical Center . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Removing odor from wastewater using bacteria

The company EcoVerde, by Mexican Humberto Uribe Luis Lobo, designed a new filtration system that removes odor and other pollutants from wastewater through a biological process based on bacteria that feed on hydrogen sulfide, a substance characterized for a rotten egg-like stench. This technology is more environmentally friendly than the ones already on the market, because it uses no chemicals or consumables such as activated carbon.

Uribe Lobo created the company EcoVerde in the USA, which has become one of the expert companies in odor removal. The entrepreneur also chairs the Network of Mexican Talents Abroad, Chapter Arizona.

Air is extracted from sewage or industrial wastewater and sent to system called bioscrubber EG. There a mechanism evaporates it and directs contaminants (ammonia, mercaptan and hydrogen sulfide) that cause odor to the filter were bacteria eliminate them, designers report.

"The bioscrubber EG is based on a non-degradable filter (patent pending) where we place and adhere various types of bacteria which are selected depending on the application and contaminants. The removal of pollutants occurs through a natural process of oxidation. Odors are consumed by microorganisms, so that the more polluted the air, there will be more food for the bacteria without incurring any cost," said Uribe Lobo.

Some autotrophic bacteria are used by EcoVerde (including Theobacilus) to remove hydrogen sulfide and methane; heterotrophic bacteria remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

As a part of the bioscrubber installation, the filter is inoculated with a mixture of bacteria during the first three days. When contaminated air passes through the extractor, it reaches the filter where the odor removing bacteria are, said the president of the Network of Mexican Talents Abroad, Chapter Arizona.

EcoVerde originally started in the USA, where it managed to position itself as a provider of odor removal services in sewage according to the regulations of that country.

Luis Uribe said that the purpose of taking this technology to Mexico was to benefit the communities surrounding sewage plants and meet the "Official Mexican Standard NOM-010-STPS-1999" which states that health and safety conditions in workplaces where chemical pollutants are processed.

Although EcoVerde's matrix is in the United States, it has managed to expand services into Mexico, where it already has customers.

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The above story is based on materials provided by Investigación y Desarrollo . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Why Amazon’s $1B Twitch Buy Makes More Sense Than Its Fire Phone


Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Amazon wants to own all your screens. That’s why it sells Kindle tablets, the Fire phone, and the Fire TV set top box. And it’s why the company just inked a nearly $1 billion deal to Twitch, a company that lets people broadcast their videogame play over the net.

As random as the Twitch buy may sound to the uninitiated, it makes at least as much sense—and probably a lot more—than Amazon building and selling its own phone. Apple and Google have already won the battle for the small screen. The same can be said for tablets, with the exception of the Kindle for e-reading. But the screen that gamers use—the original TV—is still contested territory. The battle for the living room is very much up for grabs. And that’s where Twitch comes in.

In recent months, games have become an increasingly important part of Amazon’s business. Beyond selling game titles on its site, Amazon has been staffing up its own game studio with A-list talent, and its Fire TV doubles as a game console. If Amazon then beefs up its roster with the world’s top site for watching other people play videogames, it can become a formidable force in the gaming world.

Commanding Attention

Why does that matter to Amazon? As non-gamers must be constantly reminded, the gaming industry is bigger than Hollywood. Fans of games are often more passionately engaged than the biggest devotees of movies and TV, and they may well spend even more time sitting in front of the big screen. Twitch gives Amazon the power to command their attention even when they’re not playing games themselves.

Apparently, Google saw the same opportunity. The deal with Amazon comes after what seemed to be a lengthy courtship between Twitch and Google, which is battling Amazon on every front to own a greater share of the world’s screen time. But there are a few differences here. Google’s play for Twitch would seem to have been an attempt to expand its ad business into yet another platform. For Amazon, the rationale is a little more complicated.

A Natural Fit

Amazon does have an ad business, but it’s a small sideline compared to its main role as a retailer. Recently, shareholders have punished the company amid claims that it’s not focusing enough on this core function. It’s hard to imagine that $970 million spent on game broadcasting will assuage that concern. But a captive audience is a great way to build a constituency of potential customers. However Amazon plans to leverage that attention, you have to own that attention first. And if you doubt the port of game-play videos to do that, you’ve never watched a little kid discover Minecraft clips on YouTube.

Twitch has built an audience of 55 million viewers at last count, viewers who have turned top gamers into celebrities and video-game spectating into big business. And its reach is global. Owning Twitch puts Amazon in the living rooms of young people around the world, extending the reach it already enjoys through it’s Prime Instant Video.

Amazon may be far behind on mobile devices beyond the e-reader, but buying Twitch shows it’s not willing to cede the screen that fits most naturally with its original business of selling media. Games are another way Amazon can cement its place in the living room before Google or Apple find a way to dominate the big screen too.

The World’s Most Expensive Superman Comic Just Sold for $3.2 Million on eBay

Darren Adams with the Action Comics No. 1 that he just sold on eBay for $3.2 million.

Darren Adams with the Action Comics No. 1 that he just sold on eBay for $3.2 million.

courtesy eBay

A nearly perfect copy of Action Comics No. 1—aka the debut of Superman—sold for a record-setting $3.2 million on eBay, another example of iconic comics selling for house-in-the-Hamptons amounts of cash.

The sale of the 1938 book, by Federal Way, Wash. comic book shop owner Darren Adams, handily topped the 2011 sale of an equally pristine copy of the volume for $2.16 million. The price sets a new benchmark for a comic book sale on eBay, and suggests stratospheric prices for the most coveted comics like Action Comics No. 1 and Detective Comics No. 27 (which marked Batman’s debut) aren’t returning to Earth anytime soon.

“It’s a historic moment that not only speaks to the greatness of Adams’ Action Comics No. 1, but also the overall health of the comic book market,” Harshen Patel, director of operations for the Certified Guaranty Company, which gave the comic a near-perfect grade of 9.0, said in a statement. “You see it with collectors enjoying record sales, with the performance of Guardians of the Galaxy at the box office, and with the attendance at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con this past week. It’s a dynamic time for the comic book industry and its future is very bright.”

Bidding on the comic, of which only 50 unrestored originals are known to exist, started at $1 million. Just 48 people placed bids. The name of the buyer has not yet been disclosed, but Adams said in a statement he is “proud to have owned the most valuable comic book in the world … working with eBay on this auction allowed me to share this rare treasure with their global community and ensure the next owner is just as passionate about its place in history.”

A portion of the proceeds from the auction are being donated to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

Cast Your Vote in Absurd Creature of the Week’s Tournament of Absurdity!

Most Badass Weaponry


GIF: Nurie Mohamed/WIRED. Source: BBC

The Pistol Shrimp : Using an enormous claw, this tiny crustacean can snap so hard that the water around it briefly superheats to the temperature of the surface of the sun. The resulting jet of exploding bubbles slam into its prey, knocking it out cold or even killing it.



Image: Andra Zommers

The Hagfish : It’s not winning any beauty contests, or popularity contests for that matter, but the hagfish can produce huge clouds of slime that clog the gills of its predators. That right there is an embarrassing way to die.

Fitness Trackers Show How Many People Woke Up During the Bay Area Quake

Screenshot 2014-08-25 09.13.38


The earthquake that struck Northern California early Sunday morning sent many local residents stumbling from their beds and scrambling for steady ground. How many? You can get good sense of all this nocturnal movement from an unexpected source: wearable fitness trackers that measure the sleeping patterns of the people who wear them.

The Jawbone UP can gauge nighttime tossing and turning in an effort to tell how well people sleep. On Sunday, Jawbone data scientists aggregated data from UP users based on location to visualize thousands of people waking up at once when the Napa quake hit. The spike, pictured in the chart above, doesn’t look that different from the jump on a seismograph when the shockwave from a temblor goes coursing through the ground.

Some have joked that a chart demonstrating that an earthquake wakes lots of people up isn’t exactly providing a major new insight. But Jawbone’s graph does offer an interesting means of thinking about an earthquake’s impact.

Did You Feel It?

The U.S. Geological Survey website offers a way for anyone to report that they felt a quake, data that scientists (and the media) use to track just how far a quake has traveled. But as a reporter who used to cover a lot of earthquakes for The Associated Press, some of that self-reported data can start to feel a little suspect.

The Napa quake was strong, but I’m skeptical of the claims that four people felt it in Portland, Oregon. The Jawbone data, meanwhile, shows that 93 percent of UP users within 15 miles of the quake’s epicenter woke up, while just a little more than half of users in San Francisco and Oakland, several more miles away, were awakened by the shaking.

Expanding the circle even further from the epicenter, a steadily shrinking percentage of people were startled awake, by the UP’s measurements at least. This data starts to feel like a more objective measure of who really felt the quake.

Yes, it’s limited to a self-selecting pool of people who wear an UP. But the more people who start using wearable tech, the more windows we’ll have on collective experiences that we didn’t have before. If only there was a way that the spread of all these sensors could help predict quakes before they woke everyone up in the first place.

LG’s 4K OLED TVs Are the New Astronomically Priced Sets to Lust After

LG's new curved Ultra HD OLED TVs: The 77-inch 77EG9700 (left) and 65-inch 65EC9700 (right).

LG’s new curved Ultra HD OLED TVs: The 77-inch 77EG9700 (left) and 65-inch 65EC9700 (right). LG

Now that 1080p OLED TVs are borderline affordable, it’s time to turn your lust to a new unattainably expensive type of set. For your consideration, LG has just unveiled two new big-screen Ultra HD (4K) TVs that are also OLED panels.

Although 4K OLEDs were practically everywhere at CES in January, these will be the first ones you can buy. It’s no surprise that they’re coming from LG, as the company is the only big-name manufacturer that is actively producing OLED TVs at the moment. Preorders for the two TVs begin in South Korea immediately, but there is no pricing or release information for the U.S. or Europe just yet. However, both sets will be on display at the IFA show in Berlin next week.

You’ll have two 3,840-x-2,160 panels to choose from, and they’re both curved displays. Despite the concave screens, LG says the 65-inch 65EC9700 and the 77-inch 77EG9700 will both be wall-mountable with the appropriate bracket.

Both sets will run LG’s latest WebOS-based smart platform that was announced earlier this year, but no full spec sheet for either set is available yet. It is safe to assume that they will be ridiculously expensive at launch; last year, LG’s first 55-inch OLED set was first priced at $15,000—and it had a smaller screen and a lower resolution than either of these new models.

Out in the Open: How Animated GIFs Can Turn You Into a Web Coder


Animated GIFs. Those endlessly looping online images are always good for a laugh. But that’s not all they’re good for. They can also turn you into a bona fide web developer.

Take a look at It’s a simple online engine for building animated GIFs and other wacky images. You upload an pic. You select a few visual effects that can twist, turn, and otherwise transform it. And out pops your very own weirdly mangled creation. Though some can be mesmerizing, others seem pointless. But this is more than just a way to waste your afternoon. It can teach you how to build web services, including the ins and outs of using open source software—which has become the bedrock of modern internet creations.

Basically, all the site’s image effects are stored by a community of developers, much like any other open source software. Anyone can not only use these effects, but build their own and share them with the community by way of the code hosting and collaboration site GitHub. “Since everyone likes glitch art and animated GIFs, it’s a creative outlet for developers to create something new that’s outside their usual field,” say Jen Fong-Adwent, the creator of “But it’s also a way for new people to learn basics.”

If you’re building a modern web service, you aren’t just creating a program that will run on one machine. You have to learn how to deploy code to online servers, and teach your programs to talk with other applications. is a good way to learn these skills, since the effects servers are simple and lightweight and can be written in any language. And once a server is built, the developer can learn how to use GitHub and how to make small changes to someone else’s code and submit those changes for review—all in a low-pressure environment with a very low barrier to entry.



This could be a boon to beginners, says software developer Angelina Fabbro, who teaches for the educational initiative Ladies Learning Code. “Looking back on it now I wish something like had been available to me,” she says. “Something like this helps you build a mental model of how the various services you use around the web work together.” Fabbro, who is building a tool for that will turn photos into music, says she’s thinking about using the site as a teaching aid.

Fong-Adwent created a predecessor to called Great Brain back in 2010 when she was learning Node.js, a platform for running the programming language JavaScript on servers instead of in web browsers. “It was a good way to help people who were shy about contributing to open source,” she says. “It just doing that made their confidence go up.”

But once she felt comfortable with Node.js, she gravitated away from the project. Then, last year, she built Meatspace, an oddball web-based chat system where every message includes a brief animated GIF captured from the sender’s web cam. A community of people building weird bots and other hacks for the chat room inspired her to build a more advanced version of Great Brain. Most of the people building effects are members of the Meatspace community. But Adwent-Fong says anyone can contribute. And because the code is open source, anyone can host their own revisit hub and create their own community.

How to Turn StarCraft II Into the Warcraft Blizzard Won’t Make

The Undead Scourge is one of Warcraft: Alliance and Horde's playable factions, featuring the zombie-making Necromancer unit.

The Undead Scourge is one of Warcraft: Alliance and Horde‘s playable factions, featuring the zombie-making Necromancer unit. ModDB user StevenLuo

It’s been more than a decade since the last proper Warcraft game—by which we mean an offline real-time strategy game, not the World of Warcraft MMO.

With Blizzard currently focusing all of its real-time strategy mojo on the StarCraft series, it may be a very long time before we see a real Warcraft IV. In the meantime, modders have us covered: Warcraft: Alliance and Horde takes the sci-fi StarCraft II and replaces everything with the characters, setting, and lore of the Warcraft series.

Originally launched in September of 2013, the mod’s creator recently launched version 2.0, adding two new playable factions as well as a slew of tweaks and improvements.

Created by modder StevenLuo, Alliance and Horde currently consists of six custom maps that are available via the StarCraft II Arcade—Blizzard’s official distribution platform for sanctioned mods. More than just a graphical overhaul, the mod features four playable races, new scenarios, custom units, and several heroes to control.

In addition to the Alliance and Horde, the recent update adds two new playable factions: The Undead Scourge features a necromancer unit that can temporarily transform ghouls into giant zombie monsters, while the Burning Legion can summon demonic units for free from a special “dark portal” structure.

After downloading it from the StarCraft II Arcade, Alliance and Horde‘s custom maps let players duke it out against the AI or each other, all for free. All the mod requires is the basic StarCraft II game, which itself can be downloaded for free from