Mass seal deaths in Russia’s Lake Baikal

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A handout picture taken on Sept. 20, 2015 and provided by Oleg Timoshkin, biologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Limnological Institute in Irkutsk, shows Spirogyra algae in the waters of Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal is undergoing its gravest crisis in recent history, experts say, as the government bans the catching of a signature fish that has lived in the world’s deepest lake for centuries but is now under threat. (AFP photo Russian Academy of Sciences’ Limnological Institute in Irkutsk/Oleg Timoshkin)
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A handout picture taken on Sept. 20, 2015 and provided by Oleg Timoshkin, biologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Limnological Institute in Irkutsk, shows totting Spirogyra algae on the beach of Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal is undergoing its gravest crisis in recent history, experts say, as the government bans the catching of a signature fish that has lived in the world’s deepest lake for centuries but is now under threat. (AFP photo Russian Academy of Sciences’ Limnological Institute in Irkutsk/Oleg Timoshkin)
Updated 31 October 2017
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Mass seal deaths in Russia’s Lake Baikal

MOSCOW: Around 130 dead seals have washed up on the shores of Russia’s Lake Baikal, authorities said Tuesday, as they launched a probe into the latest problem to hit the world’s deepest lake.
The Baikal seal is the smallest in the world, and exactly how and when the species colonized the ancient Siberian lake is still a mystery.
“There were about 130 animals found dead” over the past few days, said environmental ministry spokesman Nikolai Gudkov.
“We took water samples to understand whether we can talk of water pollution as the reason,” he told AFP, though results have not yet been processed.
Scientists have also taken biopsies of the animals, he said.
The animal is not endangered and Gudkov said the species’ population has actually increased in recent years, growing to around 130,000.
Preliminary theories about the die-off did not suggest pollution is the reason, he added.
Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has thousands of endemic species, has been suffering from a string of detrimental phenomena over recent years.
These include depletion of fish stocks, death of endemic sponges and explosion of growth of Spirogyra algae unnatural to the lake which scientists say is caused by pollution.


Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

Updated 17 April 2018
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Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

  • Previous research has shown a new blood test has potential to detect eight different kinds of tumors before they spread
  • The research starts in April and will run until September

TOKYO: A Japanese firm is poised to carry out what it hailed as the world’s first experiment to test for cancer using urine samples, which would greatly facilitate screening for the deadly disease.
Engineering and IT conglomerate Hitachi developed the basic technology to detect breast or colon cancer from urine samples two years ago.
It will now begin testing the method using some 250 urine samples, to see if samples at room temperature are suitable for analysis, Hitachi spokesman Chiharu Odaira told AFP.
“If this method is put to practical use, it will be a lot easier for people to get a cancer test, as there will be no need to go to a medical organization for a blood test,” he said.
It is also intended to be used to detect paediatric cancers.
“That will be especially beneficial in testing for small children” who are often afraid of needles, added Odaira.
Research published earlier this year demonstrated that a new blood test has shown promise toward detecting eight different kinds of tumors before they spread elsewhere in the body.
Usual diagnostic methods for breast cancer consist of a mammogram followed by a biopsy if a risk is detected.
For colon cancer, screening is generally conducted via a stool test and a colonoscopy for patients at high risk.
The Hitachi technology centers around detecting waste materials inside urine samples that act as a “biomarker” — a naturally occurring substance by which a particular disease can be identified, the company said in a statement.
The procedure aims to improve the early detection of cancer, saving lives and reducing the medical and social cost to the country, Odaira explained.
The experiment will start this month until through September in cooperation with Nagoya University in central Japan.
“We aim to put the technology in use in the 2020s, although this depends on various things such as getting approval from the authorities,” Odaira said.