Micro Files

<strong>Ponies versus the environment</strong>

There has long been debate regarding the wild horses living on Sable Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia. These horses were introduced to the island in the 18th century, and are revered by Maritimers. According to scientists, these horses pose a problem due to the damage they are causing to the island&rsquo;s ecosystem, <em>National Post</em> reported.

Recent studies have shown that the horses are affecting the environment through the loss of grasses and the compaction of soils, leading to desert-like conditions.

Near the beginning of the 1960s, the idea of relocating the horses was discussed. However, the plan was never put into action due to the widespread disapproval from the public. Now, even among scientists, this issue is widely debated.

&nbsp;Some scientists think that removing the horses will give the island the best chance at a healthy ecosystem; others think removing them will cause the island to suffer, as the flora and fauna have become adapted to the presence of the horses. No decisions regarding the future of the Sable Island ponies have been made.

<strong>PrintAlive Bioprinter: New hope for new skin</strong>

The James Dyson Foundation awarded $3,500 to the research of the top team in a Canadian contest for innovative ideas that solve a problem, reports <em>CBC</em>. The winning Canadian team, Arianna McAllister and Lian Leng, with help from Boyang Zhang and Axel Guenther, was from the University of Toronto built a bioprinter.

The team, who created the PrintAlive Bioprinter, and four other Canadian contestants will be given the chance to compete for the international award, valued at $50,000. Top runners-up, also competing for the international award, include two teams from the University of Waterloo.

ThePrintAlive Bioprinter helps burn victims recover. When skin is badly burnt, the wounds need to be addressed as quickly as possible. The current technique is the use of a skin graft, in which skin is surgically transplanted to the wound. The added cells promote growth in the burned area. However, developing a skin graft from the patient&rsquo;s own cells can take upwards of two weeks, more time than a burn victim can afford to wait.

The PrintAlive Bioprinter offers a solution to this dilemma; it takes the patient&rsquo;s cells and prints them in a scattered manner, which is effective because it uses fewer cells in less time. The studies thus far have shown to be effective in mice, and human trials are estimated to be about three years away.

<strong>Scientists screen for depression via blood</strong>

A recently published research paper shows promise at diagnosing depression via blood, <em>CTV </em>reports. In the study, markers in the blood were compared between two groups: one was diagnosed with depression; the other was the control group with no depression.

Specifically, the nine markers studied were on molecules of ribonucleic acid (RNA), which is involved in gene expression.&nbsp; It was found that there were significant differences in nine RNA markers between the two groups.

Depression is typically diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist after an assessment involving tests, questionnaires, family history, and an interview. So far, no biological tests have been developed to screen for a diagnosis of depression. The researchers plan to further this study by conducting the experiment with a larger sample of people.