NOMIS researcher Jesús Crespo publishes “Climate, conflict and forced migration” in Global Environmental Change

Jesús Crespo (Photo: Stanislav Jenis)

Abstract

Despite the lack of robust empirical evidence, a growing number of media reports attempt to link climate change to the ongoing violent conflicts in Syria and other parts of the world, as well as to the migration crisis in Europe. Exploiting bilateral data on asylum seeking applications for 157 countries over the period 2006–2015, we assess the determinants of refugee flows using a gravity model which accounts for endogenous selection in order to examine the causal link between climate, conflict and forced migration. Our results indicate that climatic conditions, by affecting drought severity and the likelihood of armed conflict, played a significant role as an explanatory factor for asylum seeking in the period 2011–2015. The effect of climate on conflict occurrence is particularly relevant for countries in Western Asia in the period 2010–2012 during when many countries were undergoing political transformation. This finding suggests that the impact of climate on conflict and asylum seeking flows is limited to specific time period and contexts.

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NOMIS researcher Wolfgang Fengler pens Brookings Institution blog, “Can higher mortality be a sign of progress?”

On January 1, 2019, as we entered the last year of the decade, over 395,000 babies were born, more than half in Asia and around a third in Africa. What will their life look like? How long will they live?

In many ways, these children can consider themselves lucky. While global news headlines can make us believe that everything is getting worse, the opposite is true, especially if you project these children’s lives forward. They will be healthier, wealthier, and better educated than their peers in previous generations. They will also live longer. A girl born today can expect to live 80 years (the world average for girls). In South Korea or Japan, the expectation is 97 years, which means a girl born there today will most likely make it comfortably into the next century (see population.io where you can also check out your own life expectancy).

Never has life expectancy been so high, which means more and older people. The increase in life expectancy is mostly because of a sharp decline in child mortality, but also thanks to improvements in longevity. That means more people alive at any point in time: Even though the number of children has stabilized at around 2 billion, the world’s population is still growing rapidly thanks to a swelling number of adults and elderly.

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Wolfgang Fengler is lead economist in Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation at the World Bank in Vienna, and volunteer at the World Data Lab.

Yale News: “New Yale-led project looks at the microbiome-social network connection”

Nicholas Christakis (Photo: Yale University)

Nicholas Christakis, Yale’s Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science, will lead a new project that explores the relationship between face-to-face social networks and the human microbiome.

The Microbiome Biology and Social Networks in the Developing World project, which began Jan. 1 and will continue through December 2022, is funded by a $3.54 million grant from the Zurich-based NOMIS Foundation. Collaborators on the project include Edo Airoldi of Temple University and Ilana Brito of Cornell University.

The project will merge human genomic, microbiome, and social network data to examine important relationships among our own genes, the organisms living in our bodies, and our social connections to one another. In addition, conducting this study within an existing research project will enable further inquiry into how these phenomena are related to the socioeconomic and health data of thousands of people within a social network in rural Honduras.

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Christian Haass’ research, “Loss of TREM2 function increases amyloid seeding but reduces plaque-associated ApoE,” appears in Nature Neuroscience

NOMIS board member Christian Haass

Abstract

Coding variants in the triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) are associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We demonstrate that amyloid plaque seeding is increased in the absence of functional Trem2. Increased seeding is accompanied by decreased microglial clustering around newly seeded plaques and reduced plaque-associated apolipoprotein E (ApoE). Reduced ApoE deposition in plaques is also observed in brains of AD patients carrying TREM2 coding variants. Proteomic analyses and microglia depletion experiments revealed microglia as one origin of plaque-associated ApoE. Longitudinal amyloid small animal positron emission tomography demonstrates accelerated amyloidogenesis in Trem2 loss-of-function mutants at early stages, which progressed at a lower rate with aging. These findings suggest that in the absence of functional Trem2, early amyloidogenesis is accelerated due to reduced phagocytic clearance of amyloid seeds despite reduced plaque-associated ApoE.

Tony Wyss-Coray’s research highlighted in New Scientist article “Young people’s blood is being tested as a treatment for Parkinson’s”

Tony Wyss-Coray (Photo: Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts)

Blood from young adults is being trialled as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease by a firm that wants to use the therapy to target neurodegenerative conditions.

Alkahest, a firm co-founded by Tony Wyss-Coray of Stanford University, California, has already tested blood-based treatments in people with Alzheimer’s disease. In the latest trial, 90 people with Parkinson’s – mostly in their 70s and 80s – will receive injections five days in a row, and then again three months later.

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Svante Pääbo cited in Forbes’ “Four Biggest New Things We Learned About Human Evolution In 2018”

2018 was a banner year for discoveries about our species’s evolution and extinct relatives like the Neanderthals. Here are the biggest finds, sorted according to how they fit into our evolutionary story.

The Little Foot skeleton may be an unrecognised species

Little Foot is a near-complete skeleton of an Australopithecus, a kind of hominin that lived in Africa between 2 and 4 million years ago. Ronald Clarke of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa found the skeleton in Sterkfontein cave in the 1990s and has spent 20 years meticulously excavating it. The first detailed analyses finally came out in late November. Little Foot was an elderly female who seems to have sustained an arm injury in her youth. She ate an almost entirely vegetarian diet.

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