Michigan Findings and Facts for March 2024

Explore some of the most interesting discoveries related to Michigan for March 2024 and fun facts, too.
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Stock photograph by Andrea Piacquadio via pexels.com

In our March 2024 issue, we shared some of the most interesting recent findings from Michigan researchers. Here, check out some of those findings, and get some fun facts that pertain to our state.

Study Breaks

Intriguing findings from researchers across Michigan. 

Gut Check

Often-overlooked nervous system cells could hold the key to understanding — and treating — visceral pain, a common occurrence in those with irritable bowel syndrome and previous inflammation in the gut, according to researchers at Michigan State University.

When exposed to inflammation, these cells, called glia, alter gut chemistry and sensitize nearby nerve fibers, lowering their threshold for sending pain signals. The research team measured nociception, the nervous system’s processing of harmful stimuli, as a proxy for pain in mice.

“The major thing here is that it suggests a new mechanism contributing to pain in the gut,” says MSU physiology professor Brian Gulbransen. “And visceral pain is the most common gastrointestinal issue.”

This insight could help scientists develop ways to reduce or stop visceral pain by targeting the glia.

Case Closed! Mineral Mystery Sheds Light on Technology

Dolomite, a type of limestone, has long been a mystery to scientists. While it’s abundant in rock formations over 100 million years old, it’s very rare in younger rocks, and scientists have continually failed to grow it in a lab.

Now, researchers from the University of Michigan and Japan’s Hokkaido University have cracked the code. They discovered that dolomite would grow if defects were removed as the mineral structure built up. Defects — in which atoms attach in the wrong places — are common in dolomite and prevent new layers from forming. These out-of-place atoms can be dissolved by repeatedly washing the dolomite crystal with water, allowing it to grow.

“If we understand how dolomite grows in nature, we might learn new strategies to promote the crystal growth of modern technological materials,” such as materials for batteries and semiconductors, says U-M professor Wenhao Sun.

Taking Out the (Space) Trash

Up to 170 million pieces of space junk orbit our planet. It’s more than just litter: Even small pieces of space debris can destroy or damage satellites and spacecraft, and our current tracking methods can detect less than 1% of the objects.

“Right now, we detect space debris by looking for objects that reflect light or radar signals,” says Nilton Renno, professor of climate and space sciences at U-M. “The smaller the objects get, the harder it becomes to get sunlight or radar signals strong enough to detect them.”

However, Renno and his team have developed a new method that can track debris smaller than 1 millimeter in diameter, through electrical signals created by collisions between small pieces of space debris. The team plans to refine the approach using simulation, real signals, and experiments.

Women’s History Month Digits

Michigan women’s history facts for March 2024. 

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The number of women who’ve held office as the governor of Michigan. The first was Jennifer Granholm, who became the 47th governor in 2003 and held office until 2011, serving two terms — the maximum permitted. The current governor, Gretchen Whitmer, became the second woman to hold the title in 2019 and was reelected in 2022.

$5,000

The low end of Magdelaine La Framboise’s annual income as Michigan’s first female business owner. She took over her husband’s fur trading company in 1806 following his murder. Each year, she made anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 — much more than the average annual income of a fur trade business owner at the time of $1,000.

Today, her annual income would have been between $120,000 and $243,000. As of 2023, women in Michigan now make up 43.5% of all small-business owners in the state.

35

The number of female students enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1871, following the enrollment of Madelon Stockwell, who had become the first woman to attend the university a semester prior. The number of women enrolled full time at U-M in fall 2023 surpassed the number of their male counterparts by 2,629, with 25,398 female students.


This story is from the March 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.