Emissions set to make extra 150 million protein deficient by 2050

Carbon dioxide emissions will result in millions of people facing the prospect of protein deficiency by 2050, according to a by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, which is published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that the populations of 47 countries will lose over 5% of their dietary protein if projected rises in carbon dioxide emissions come to pass, as increased CO₂ reduces the nutritional value of dietary staples such as wheat and rice.

Some of the affected countries already face significant protein deficiency problems, such as countries in Sub Saharan Africa, but the projected rise is set to bring to issue to an additional 150 million people. Protein deficiency can cause, among its symptoms, muscle wasting, infections and delayed wound healing, potentially leading to a host of additional health issues.

“This study highlights the need for countries that are most at risk to actively monitor their populations’ nutritional sufficiency, and, more fundamentally, the need for countries to curb human-caused CO₂ emissions,” said Samuel Myers, senior research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health.

82% of the population gets the majority of their protein from plants, making nutritional changes as a result of increases in atmospheric CO₂ a serious concern

It was already known that a greater quantity of atmospheric CO₂ results in plants producing less protein as they grow, however this study is the first to quantify the extent.

The researchers found that under the elevated CO₂ concentrations projected to occur in the atmosphere by 2050, rice, wheat, barley and potatoes would see a drop in protein content by 7.6%, 7.8%, 14.1% and 6.4% respectively.

An additional study by Myers, which is also published today in the journal GeoHealth, found that CO₂ are also set to cause a drop in iron found in nutritional staples, increasing the chances of iron deficiency.

Add the findings of a 2015 study where Myers and colleagues found that the same elevated emissions are set to put 200 million people at risk of a zinc deficiency, and it is clear that in many parts of the world there is a serious risk to people’s health as a result of atmospheric CO₂.

New technologies such as this air scrubber by Climeworks could help reduce the rise of atmospheric CO₂, however far more needs to be done. Image courtesy of Climeworks / Julia Dunlop

The obvious solution to this is to make increased efforts to limit CO₂ emissions, however with many countries remaining sluggish in acting on climate change-related issues, it is doubtful as to whether this will be achieved.

However, it will also be important to focus dietary strategies on the affected countries, meaning primarily focusing on South Asia, Sub Saharan Africa and India, where 53 million people will be affected.

“Strategies to maintain adequate diets need to focus on the most vulnerable countries and populations, and thought must be given to reducing vulnerability to nutrient deficiencies through supporting more diverse and nutritious diets, enriching the nutritional content of staple crops, and breeding crops less sensitive to these CO₂ effects,” Myers said. “And, of course, we need to dramatically reduce global CO₂ emissions as quickly as possible.”

Steve “Woz” Wozniak to advise hologram emoji company that he calls “groundbreaking”

Apple’s co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak has found himself a new gig; Woz has joined the hologram emoji company, Mojiit, as an adviser.

In his role as advisor to Mojiit, the legendary entrepreneur and engineer will help assemble a world-class engineering team in addition to bringing investors and partnerships to the newly launched startup. Wozniak will also serve as mentor to Mojiit founder, Jeremy Greene.

“I’m thrilled to join Mojiit as an advisor,” said Wozniak. “Jeremy is a natural leader, the company is groundbreaking, it’s going to change the ecommerce space, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Created in 2017, Mojiit is the latest startup technology venture from Greene. The company’s tech essentially enables users to project and share 3D hologram emojis via smartphones.

The platform turns users into emojis by scanning their face, which can then be sent to loved ones and friends. Once a Mojiit message is received, it will map the area where it is received and place the Mojiit hologram there in real time, so it works in a similar way to Pokemon Go.

“Steve is one of the best and brilliant engineers in the entire world. But outside of that, he’s a wonderful man,” said Greene. “There isn’t anyone I’d want to be in business with more than this guy. He’s a legend. Who better to learn from than the guy who created the computer?”

Image courtesy of Nichollas Harrison. Featured image courtesy of Mojiit

In addition to consumer use, businesses of all kinds can tap into hologram emojis with Mojiit’s technology.

Mojiit investors already  include NFL alum Ed Reed, and the company was able to raise a total of $1 million in its seed round of funding.

Alongside the appointment of Woz, Entourage and Ballers producer Rob Weiss recently joined the company as a creative director.

“It’s exciting to expand beyond television and film to digital platforms,” said Weiss. “Hologram technology brings incredible opportunity to entertainment and media. I’m thrilled to be leading creative at Mojiit.”

Nanoengineers send antibiotic-delivering micromotors into the body to treat cancer-causing infection

Nanoengineers have demonstrated for the first time how “micromotors” that measure half the width of a human hair can be used to transport antibiotics through the body.

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego tested the micromotors in mice with Helicobacter pylori infections, which can also be found in about two-thirds of the world’s population and while many people will never notice any signs of its presence it can cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.

The mice received the micromotors – packed with a clinical dose of the antibiotic clarithromycin – orally once a day for five consecutive days.

Afterwards, nanoengineers evaluated the bacterial count in each mouse stomach and found that treatment with the micromotors was slightly more effective than when the same dose of antibiotic was given in combination with proton pump inhibitors, which also suppress gastric acid production.

Micromotors administered to the mice swam rapidly throughout the stomach while neutralising gastric acid, which can be destructive to orally administered drugs such as antibiotics and protein-based pharmaceuticals.

Because gastric acid is so destructive to traditional antibiotics drugs used to treat bacterial infections, ulcers and other diseases in the stomach are normally taken with additional substances, called proton pump inhibitors.

But when taken over longer periods or in high doses, proton pump inhibitors can cause adverse side effects including headaches, diarrhea and fatigue. In more serious cases, they can cause anxiety or depression.

The micromotors, however, have a built-in mechanism that neutralises gastric acid and effectively deliver their drug payloads in the stomach without requiring the use of proton pump inhibitors.

“It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralisation with therapeutic action,” said Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a postdoctoral scholar in Wang’s research group at UC San Diego and a co-first author of the paper.

The nanoengineers say that while the present results are promising, this work is still at an early stage.

To test their work, the team is planning future studies to into the therapeutic performance of the micromotors in animals and humans, and will compare it with other standard therapies used to combat stomach diseases.

UC San Diego nanoengineers also plan to test different drug combinations with the micromotors to treat multiple diseases in the stomach or in different sections of the gastrointestinal tract.

Overall, the researchers say that this work opens the door to the use of synthetic motors as active delivery platforms in the treatment of diseases.

Image and video courtesy of the Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics at UC San Diego.