In this edition of Science Mitten, we look at three studies from Michigan researchers. Read below for more on metabolic syndrome, the tepary bean, and bees.
Syndrome predicts COVID outcome
We’ve known since the pandemic’s early days that people with “underlying conditions” were at risk of more severe cases and death, but the term was so broad as to be useless. Now, Wayne State University researchers have zeroed in on one cluster of ailments known as metabolic syndrome that can predict coronavirus outcomes, according to a paper published in the Journal of Diabetes. Studying 1,871 patients beset by COVID-19 in Detroit-area hospitals at the outset of the crisis, WSU School of Medicine professor Prateek Lohia, an internist, found patients who had a combination of diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high triglycerides, and high cholesterol suffered “significantly higher mortality, increased ICU admissions, and need for mechanical ventilation” than COVID-19 patients with any of those conditions alone.
Cool beans, literally
With climate change creating new challenges for agriculture, Michigan State University researchers are gleaning genetic information from a heat-resistant legume, the tepary bean, to re-engineer common beans that currently struggle to grow in warmer locales. The tepary is a relative of the kidney, pinto, and navy bean, all of which are critical to providing nutrition in far-flung parts of the world where the air and land are getting increasingly drier and hotter. The genes that make tepary beans thrive in desert conditions could be transferred to more common legumes, according to MSU plant biologist Robin Buell’s report in the journal Nature Communications. Michigan, MSU says, is the No. 2 bean producing state, just behind North Dakota.
Why did the bee cross the road? It DIDN’T.
It makes sense that turtles, rodents, and even large predators might be deterred from crossing areas of paved asphalt, but now University of Michigan researchers have observed that bees try their best to remain on one side of a road, too. That has significant consequences for pollination and the proliferation of various plant species, according to Gordon Fitch, a U-M biology doctoral candidate who co-published the research in the Journal of Applied Ecology. With bee populations dwindling for various other reasons, and road construction continuing to increase around the world, the findings portend increasing threats to plant life.
This story is featured in the July 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.