27 June 2019: Callused feet, and protein-based archaeology
The nature podcast is brought to you by benching the life sciences are indeed. Cloud tide of hunting, down research data scattered across papers emails, and spreadsheets Benchley is a data management and collaboration platform pan research on bio therapeutics biofuels and bio materials and it's free. Frac emmett's. Get started for free Benchley dot com forward slash nature. Lightsaber sound so simple no idea. But now the data's finally not only refreshing, but, but some little stone. Nature. Welcome back to the nature podcast this week. We'll be learning about ancient proteins and hearing about the feelings in your feet. I'm Benjamin Thompson and I'm Shamanee bundle. I up reports Nick how has been looking into how being shoeless may affect our souls, many years ago on the podcast, the name of which I've long forgotten. I heard that wearing shoes, maybe but few which time medico sense to me after all, humans haven't really been wearing shoes for that loan humans and Dr dancers have been walking onto it for about six maybe seven years, and dominantly, modern humans, Dave been around for maybe one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand years. So in the grand scheme of things we have developed into who we are today without shoes at all. It's only much later that we decided for whatever reason we wanted to use that was Christa a researcher, who studies the evolution of how humans move in fact, according to the article. Evidence, humans may have only been wearing shoes for about forty thousand years, uneven, then these was simple foot wrappings, not the cushion shoes were so used to today. So if these ancient humans could go out shoes like couldn't I being the signs interested in suggests the Bill person that I am I decided to do an experiment with a sample size of one myself and shouldn't my shoes. After several mums, I had discovered a couple of things. One is the no-shows, no service is definitely store thing and to that not wearing shoes easier with time. I spent more time hopping in pain than walking eventually, I could easily stride across all manner of materials without discomfort from being a sensitive soul become quite thick skinned. I developed heavy calluses which protected my feet from the prevalent pavement Powell's, this is also something that Dan Lieberman. Who studies the evolution of human activity noticed after his own adventures being shoeless after publishing a paper on Beth ruining, and as part of studying that paper, I got interested in trying out being barefoot myself, and what happened is that every spring, I would take off my shoes and start running barefoot and my calluses would develop and I noticed. That as Iran, the calloused started, you know, of course, protected my feet, but I, I kind of felt that I wasn't losing sensory perception, the way you would with the shoe done wins about trying to test his theory, do think calluses stope feet feeling things beneath them this week in nature, he publishes his answer to this question. Firstly done about trying to determine if people's calluses do indeed. They when they don't wish shoes to do this. He studied the feet of a population of people in Kenya. Some of whom never wear shoes. Some that wear them infrequently and some that weather all the time. But using an ultrasound device done could image, the insight of a foot these images allowed him to see the size of people's calluses, perhaps unsurprisingly by doing this. He was able to show the people who usually tend to have thicker, calluses, nobody would actually tested. That before. So, so that's nice to know. Once he had shown that this was the case, the next question was do these thick calluses mean the people feel less for their souls to test this. He and his colleagues vibrating probe. The could be placed on the Soza people's feet by changing how fast, the probe vibrated and seeing when people could feel it. He can measure the sensitivity of nerves on the feet called mcanally centers, no matter how thick your calluses where there was no loss of sensory perception, so that people with thick calluses more or less had the same sensory, perceptions as people who had thin, calluses calluses, then can give the protection without compromising on that perception. But how does this work logically? It might seem that having a thick Callus would block the nervous centers in the sole of foot. Krista, we heard from earlier has written news. Views article on this new research. He explains that the reason this isn't the case is likely downs the structure of the calluses themselves. They are like very hard layer. What would be like very rigid, thin footsoldiers you will, and their assumption, is that because the food slowly so hard, it just transmits Steelite through DeKalb, Texas into the deeper layers of the skin. These McKenna receptors are located search solid souls will transmit the forces from the ground directly. They won't cushion the forces like shoe while it may sound unintuitive Chris wasn't too surprised by these findings. So as an biologist, I would say, devolutionary pressure on having a system that combines both functions protection and station to pressure will be so high that eve, Lucien would come up with fairly good solution, which it has wearing shoes is a pretty new thing for humans who have evolved. With all the sensory information of bath feet shoes blocking some of this data could have cost. So if we don't feel, what happens during impact or revealed less than our body of neural system. It doesn't have the same amount of information to work with, and it will find it more hard to adjust gate to adjust how unroll our foot, exactly what's required given the impact we have I would compare it a little bit like wearing sunglasses when it's already dark. So if humans have volt system to protect their feet while providing the maximum amount of information on what that walking on, what is the impact of wearing shoes to find out, Dan, look to how energies transmitted food feet when they collide with the ground June a step he was able to show these forces change when people wear shoes, compared to when that Baffert's, it's not clear what the consequences of these differences all on over parts of the body, but. Dan believes even subtle changes across many years could have it facts. Think about how many steps person takes a day, multiply that by sixty five days a year, and then multiply that by how many years, you're walking around, that's millions and millions and millions of these collisions, and those collisions today are fundamentally different in terms of the energy that our bodies are experiencing than the collisions that we have to cope with for me. Not weighing shoes was a bittersweet endeavor. There was swing awfully freeing about being Beth walking became a whole new experience on the other hand many people were petard by my shoeless stroz, including my poll MOVA in the end the world, wasn't quite ready on Chris thinks is not quite time to for our shoes, just yet. Calluses are quite amazing evolutionary solutions to a problem, and we can be fired by discusses in footwear design because what's not to like about it. We have good sensation. If we can keep that whilst protecting our feet that would be ideal. And I think we can make shoot that do that. Maybe as good as, as a natural callous, maybe even better, that was Christo from the university of Liverpool in the UK. You also heard from Dan Lieberman from Harvard University in the US you can read dance paper over NATO come, along with Chris news and views article later in the show. We'll be hearing a special report about the ongoing bowl outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That's coming up in the news chant. Now it's time for the research highlights read this week, but Anna Nagel. New measurements of Magma's movements may mean that methods of modelling, eruptions need a bit of a rethink. The time it takes the magma to rise from deep within the earth to erupt as love on the surface isn't well understood to get a better idea, a team of researchers from the UK studied some lava flows, that erupted from a now dormant Icelandic volcano around ten thousand years ago by looking at the chemistry of crystals within the lava the research is estimated that the magma moved to the surface from twenty four kilometers below in just ten days, making it the most rapid rise for this type of magma yet, recorded as the magma rose, so quickly that wasn't time for it to lose much of the carbon dioxide, trumped within it. This suggests that measuring CO two emissions, a common strategy for monitoring active volcanoes might only provide days warning for certain types of up Shen head over to nature geosciences to read more. You've likely heard of three D printing. But what about forty printing? This technology adds a whole new dimension to otherwise static objects and allowing them to transform in response to a stimulus. While many forty materials are only able to perform a single transformation, perhaps, folding up in response to an electrical current recess from China and the UK have developed a new printing method that produces multi transforming materials that can change both shape and color similar Tena, the team achieved this by mixing shape changing polymer with heat responsive pigments, which they used to print a blooming flower that changed from orange to yellow and a miniature octopus with arms that shifted Hugh, and stretched out at different rates when warmed up. The researchers say that these are just proof of concept examples, but suggest that the technology could be used in camouflage and softer botox shift over to advance materials technologies to read more. In recent decades. Acuity has been transformed, by the study if ancient DNA, which has been recovered from skeletons that hundreds of thousands of years old now research is also turning to ancient proteins, which could survive even longer. And undigested Tia takes up the story. Around nine thousand years ago in modern day Turkey, a population of early humans began to settle down from their hunter gatherer lifestyle laying down roots and taking foaming. They built one of the most well preserved earlier been settlements known as chatter her, Luke, we have houses mudbrick houses, which are all join together and the way that people enter the house is not through the front door, but it's actually from descending from about from letters that go into the houses from above, and it seems like maybe people will walking on top of the houses to has this really unusual architecture feature. This is Jessica Hendy, an archaeological scientists from the university of York, but Jessica wasn't at to her Luke to study architecture. My interest really is in the study of ancient proteins understanding diet in the past, and the kinds of foods that people have eaten through time. The study of ancient proteins known as H inputs yo mix has many applications understanding the past, including prehistoric cuisine charter her Luke Jess. Cica was looking for proteins on some eight thousand year old fragments of pottery, basically had this white residue on the inside and we performed an experiment using protein analysis to try and understand what these residues might be what they might contain and what we found was incredible protein preservation, we found evidence of dairy products if found evidence of plants that we found peas and also we're able to see what kind of tissues would being used in terms of the food. So we could see, for example, that when we were identifying weight and Bali we could see that we were identifying protein. So actually from the grain of the, of the weight in the Bali is, so we can get Mitch rich understanding about not only what species being used. But what kind of part of that plateau animal was being used just like the study of ancient DNA, which came before it ancient proteome eggs could revolutionize archaeology in some ways proteins, less informative than DNA, because wanna genetic sequence is unique down to the individual? Protein sequences, maybe almost identical across many different species, but the major advantage of proteins is that they can survive in the fossil record for much longer at the moment are gases that for anywhere that you can find ancient DNA you can probably find ancient proteins about ten times further back in time. This is Matthew Colin's professor of proteome makes the university of Cambridge and the university of Copenhagen, Matthew works on the development of technique could zooms or zoo archeology by mass spectrometry, which is now used by researchers around the world, we call it zooms because it's quick, and it's a very simple fingerprinting approach. And if you have a pure protein, what you can then do is digest that protein and the constituent fragments, which different masses will have a characteristic. Fingerprint? Zooms can be used on unidentified bone fragments to work out which species, they came from by fingerprinting Abon protein called collagen. Early this year. Zooms was used by team to study a piece of ancient human job bone in a cave on the plateau dating to a hundred sixty thousand years ago, they weren't able to recover any DNA, but thanks to the proteins. They were able to tell that the jaw belong to a Denisa von Denisa wtn's remiss steriods group of ancient humans until now all that we found of them as a few bits of bone and teeth from a cave in Siberia. This work represents the first time a Denisa van specimen has been found anywhere else. And the first time in ancient homonyn has been identified solely using proteins. But bones on the only place you can go hunting for proteome 's you could also fund in novel where they tend to stick around even longer as researchers discovered recently, the diminish site in Georgia, and they were able using enamel from ROY Mel ceres. To recover sufficiently detailed proteome at one point nine million years. So something like a bone where water might flow through the sample. We will not get such good preservation. But in now, very tight closed system they were able to recover sufficiently detailed proteome to place that in a follows Nettie trae. And in addition, one of the nice things about in novel is in some instances, they could discriminate proteins expressed from the x and the y chromosomes, so they could discriminate male and female animals that paper is currently uploaded as a preprinted on bio archive. And so it hasn't yet been peer reviewed, but the oldest bit of authenticated, ancient protein discovered so far is even older, and it was found in an ostrich egg show. So author child is a really, really nice system. Really tight closest them. So. So we have proteins, that have the function of initiating promoting and regulating the actual mineralisation of the show. So they become trapped in this huge crystals that compose, the ostrich egg show, this is bit treat show democracy from the university of two Rin her group was trying to see just how far back in time, ancient proteins might survive in warm environments where they usually break down much more quickly. They studied ostrich show, several important archeological sites, including in South Africa and tons NIA. So we found something that we couldn't quite believe we found that there were bits of proteins surviving up to three point eight million years ago in climate. There is really, really hot and so that in the future, if people want to find engine protein sequences, then the better off looking at things that contain, for example, culture. Which is a very stable mineral. Because these things will have a better potential for preserving proteins results like this suggests we might be able to pay much further back in time using proteins than ever before. But that being said, there are some teething problems in the field, for example, contamination of ancient samples with modern proteins is a big concern and another challenge is trying to reduce the amount of actual precious sample you need in order to do your analysis. But Matthew Collins is confident we can overcome these hurdles, and he has big hopes for the future really for me the sky's the limit. I mean we know these proteins surviving, that's evolving of a long periods of time. But more than that, so much of what humans have done is to work with proteins. They could be meat or blood or milk. But also many of those materials used to make gums and pain. Ants as well as all of the remain such as bones and teeth, and parchment, and leather all of which are made of protein. So the range of materials that we've used as humans, which contain proteins, and the technological ability to recover ever small samples with greater precision and built interpret these data in a more sophisticated manner. Leave me big strawberry optimistic as the future of this field. That was Matthew Collins from the university of Cambridge in the UK, and the university of Copenhagen in Denmark, you also heard from, Jessica Hendy, who's at the university of York in the UK and bid treated Marchi from the university of Turin in Italy, if you want to learn more about Incheon proteome aches in, you can head over to nature dot com forward slash news. We can read a feature all about the field listeners. We've got something a bit different for the news this week. Amy maximum. A senior reports a hero nature has been in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She's opposing on the ongoing bowl outbreak in the country would support from the Pulitzer center on crisis reporting, it's a complex situation as there have been multiple complex in the country. Unrelated to the outbreak. I spoke to Amy at the back end of last week on a slightly wobbly phone line, when she just returned from Benny as SAT in the east of DRC. The region where the outbreak is centered are started our by asking her about the current situation there. He'll ask. Adam June nineteenth. Now we're entering the tenth month of this outbreak. It's in north Keeble and Torri two provinces in eastern DRC, and there has been just over twenty two hundred cases of A Bola so far and almost fifteen hundred deaths. So this is the second biggest outbreak of A Bola on recold and the WHO to general has been in the country to assess the situation. Yes, you know. Right. When I arrived, I met the director, general of the. W. H. O tetris embrace. Yes, he likes to be called, Dr tetris. And when I first met up with him. He was Incan Shasta, and he spent the day meeting with big leaders, like the prime minister of the he actually met with position leaders because important to sort of make this a bipartisan effort he met with the minister of health. He was also warning them that later that day he was going to meet with an emergency committee of experts on the conference call. So he wanted to warn all of these different leaders that they might be the clearing what call. A public health agency of international concern. So after that morning of meeting, then went into a conference room for a couple of hours, just speak with this emergency committee. Now, I didn't get to sit inside that that was confidential. But I thought maybe it would declare this outbreak because there had been a couple of confirmed cases in Uganda. It's important to know that as far as anyone had seen. There was no spreading of the virus in Uganda. What had happened is a mother from Uganda had gone to of someone that died of A Bola in DRC, and then returned with her baby to Gonda in that where they noticed the case, the committee decide they decided to not declare it, this public health emergency of international concern that made some people I would say upset because the World Health Organization right now is lacking funds and other to fight Bulla. And so the, the thought is if they made this declaration, finally. Funders will start pumping money into the response. That's required. So the experts didn't announce a public health emergency of international concern. What does this mean then for the count outbreak on the response to it? No one knows if actually declaring it would impact, amplify funds and on the reverse what could have happened is people by that. I mean lawmakers could go against the advice of the World, Health Organization and shutdown borders completely now. So many supplies coming into the region. I wasn't Kibo injury near the border you've Uganda and all of the supply going out would be cut off. Plus right now, there's a lot of conflict in cherry, especially I think since June, there's been more than three hundred thousand people have fled, you know, murder rape violence, so that could put those people endanger as well, and they might just try and sneak through the forest at night. And then we really have no idea how the virus moves. So that was sort of the fears that I've heard from various people. About declining outbreak. So what the WHO did do and what also the governments of Uganda. D R E wanted us rounding places are doing is trying to make sure they're checking people's temperature vaccinating people along the border like health workers to be prepared as possible for the spread of the disease without declaring this emergency. You've been out in about India see with healthcare workers and officials where have you been and what sort of things if you've seen management quite a lot. I went with Dr tetris from the temple cat, what area where there has been lots of attacks against the bull responders. There's a bullet treatment center that had been shot out by Salan, and then it was later burned. So he went to go visit that since these attacks, they now have NYPD is behind a barricade outside, there's sort of sandbags within it for people to hide behind. These are things I've never seen before, and I should emphasize nobody likes that. These are really researchers health workers are not military people. They don't enjoy traveling with kind of rifles around them the same time, they want to guarantee the protection of patients and their own staff. You can kind of see both sides of it troubles, giving you a sense of why it's been so difficult to contain this Boehner outbreak. The shortest dancer is the conflict that has been going on there for twenty five years. There's dozens let's say of armed groups and whenever an attack happens people run and they don't exactly want to be followed. They're not going to put their lives at risk to kind of stay sitting in a bullet treatment center at the time of conflict. And when people run they might carry the virus with them somewhere else. The conflict also makes it really hard for Ebola responders to go and do their job already able to respond as I met there far braver than I would ever be just to be there. So you might train epidemiologists but you really weren't prepared to be on the other side of. Throwing rocks. So you've been writing up some dispatches for Niger news about the things that you've seen in what is clearly a very serious outbreak. That is a facing a lot of people. But in your appointing have you seen any bright supposedly? Yeah. So one thing that I found remarkable with the role of bullish survivors right now. So once they get the virus, there, sort of a new into a bolo everything on sort of data from the last outbreak. Everything we've seen so far. So I was really moved to see survivors going into the bullet treatment center, and sitting by the bedside of patients. And this includes children who are related who only see their nurses are doctors wearing the whole protective gear the kind of like this astronaut suit, so they have no one to comfort them. And yet survivors, are sitting by the bedside telling them, listen like I live, you can live, and that means a lot. The other things are doing. There's not a lot of ambulances for one. One. There were never there before second. There's often not rose. Ambulances can drive on and people are used to traveling by motorcycle taxis, so survivors, or in some cases, going out on their motorbikes and offering to take people who have symptoms of A Bola to the treatment centers, whereas normal motorcycle, taxi driver would be at risk. There's sort of like these powerful agents right now. That was reported to me, Mexican you can retire dispatches from DRC over NATO comb slash news. That's eight for this week show if you'd like to get in touch with us, you can do so on Twitter nature, put cussed all you can reach us on Email put cost at night. You don't come and say Hello. I'm Shami bundle on Benjamin Thompson an time. The nature podcast is brought to you by benching the life sciences are in the cloud tide of hunting down research take to scattered across papers. Emails, spreadsheets Benchley is data management and collaboration platform, Pam research on by therapeutics, biofuels bio materials, and it's free. 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