Tag Archives: science

Cure for diabetes imminent- scientists

Scientists near cure for diabetes
By Chukwuma Muanya

Scientists claim they are closer than ever to cures for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
According to researchers beginning a world-first trial in the south of England, type 1 diabetes could be prevented by feeding babies powdered insulin.

Pregnant women are being asked to sign up to the National Health Service (NHS) trial in the Thames Valley in a bid to protect at-risk babies from type 1 diabetes for the rest of their lives.

People with the condition do not produce the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar, and scientists suggest feeding it to babies who show signs of diabetes.

This could train the immune system not to stop the body producing vital insulin, and prevent type 1 diabetes from ever developing, the researchers say.

Researchers from Oxford University say the trial is ‘an enormous breakthrough’ and hope they can stop the potentially deadly condition from developing.

And scientists at the University of Alabama have revealed a cheap drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure could improve diabetics’ symptoms and reduce the amount of insulin they need to take.

Pregnant women in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire are being invited to take part in the NHS’s world-first trial.

It is the first to ever look into preventing type 1 diabetes, the researchers say, and will involve screening all babies for diabetes risk at birth.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Experts expect one per cent of the children to have a high risk – a greater than 10 per cent chance of developing type 1 diabetes – because of their genes.

Parents of those children will then be offered powdered insulin to give their child until they are three years old, with the aim of giving them protection for life.

Insulin is a hormone, which controls the levels of sugar in people’s blood, and those with type 1 diabetes do not produce any, so their sugar levels get dangerously high.

People with the condition have to regularly check their blood sugar levels and inject themselves with insulin to keep steady levels of glucose in their body.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, and can lead to complications such as blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation because of nerve damage.

It also makes people much more like to have a stroke or heart attack.

The Primary Oral Insulin Trial, called POInT, aims to prevent the condition ever developing in people who have a high risk when they are born.

In people with type 1 diabetes, a faulty immune system causes the body to attack its own insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and destroys them.

By feeding babies insulin, scientists hope the immune system will become used to the hormone and not attack pancreatic cells in the future.

Also, new research suggests a single injection could cure both obesity and type 2 diabetes without any side effects.

A study found injecting a hormone, known as FGF21, into obese mice causes weight loss and greater insulin sensitivity for more than a year.

Insulin resistance is the reduced ability of cells to respond to the hormone, which transports glucose out of the bloodstream and is associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes.

FGF21 is thought to lead to weight loss by boosting animals’ energy levels, making them more active.

The hormone also raises their body temperatures, which causes rodents to burn calories.

The study was published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition, which causes a person’s blood sugar to get too high.

Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight and you may be more likely to get it if it’s in the family.

The condition means the body does not react properly to insulin – the hormone that controls absorption of sugar into the blood – and cannot properly regulate sugar glucose levels in the blood.

Excess fat in the liver increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as the buildup makes it harder to control glucose levels, and also makes the body more resistant to insulin.

Weight loss is the key to reducing liver fat and getting symptoms under control.

Symptoms include tiredness, feeling thirsty, and frequent urination.

It can lead to more serious problems with nerves, vision and the heart.

Treatment usually involves changing your diet and lifestyle, but more serious cases may require medication.

How was the research was carried out? The researchers, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, fed adult mice either a standard or high-fat diet for 10 weeks.

The weight of the animals fed the standard diet increased by 27 per cent, while the other rodents’ increased by 72 per cent, making them obese.

The obese mice were then injected with FGF21. Those of a healthy weight were given a placebo-style jab.

All of the rodents were then fed their respective diets for around one year, with their body weights being monitored throughout.

Results suggest the weight of the mice injected with FGF21 normalised within a few weeks of the jab, making them a similar size to the rodents given a standard diet.

The obese animals, which were suffering from insulin resistance, also had normal levels of the hormone after being given the jab.

FGF21, which has been associated with bone loss, did not cause any change to the mice’s bone density or volume.

When the researchers fed a high-fat diet to older adult mice and then injected them with FGF21, the rodents initially lost 10 per cent of their body weight, with them continuing to shed the pounds until they were the same size as healthy animals.

The scientists carried out this second experiment due to the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes increasing with age.

Although the findings, published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, are promising, the researchers add larger, longer studies in animals are required before FGF21 can be considered for treatment in humans.

Source: The Guardian

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​Invest in Science Education, Parents charged as Welkinpedia 2017 holds 

Invest in Science Education, Parents charged as Welkinpedia 2017 holds 

From left Mother of 2nd runner up, Mrs. Odunsi; chairman, Welkin Schools, Beckley Adebayo; 2nd runner up, Odunsi Ayokanmi; Representative, Zonal Education Officer, Ado-Odo, Ota Ogun state, Mrs Oladipupo and Proprietress, Welkin School, Olubunmi Beckley 

 

Parents have been implored to invest in their childrens science education.
This piece of advice was given by the zonal education officer, Ado-Odo/ Ota, Ogun state, Mrs. Oloko Oluwatosin while addressing the Welkinpedia 2017, annual science competition, prize giving and award ceremony held at Welkin School, Ado-Odo/Ota.
She noted that with the advancement in science and technology and importance of science in the 21st century, there is need for pupils to be curious about their environment and application of scientific principles and technological advancement in the real world which Welkinpedia aims to achieve.
She noted that education provides knowledge  on which science is built and helps with knowledge of what is going on around us.

Oloko further explained that science is attained through studying and practices that can be done in the classroom and at home, stressing that science helps students to understand better and will make them relevant later in life.

She commended the authorities of Welkin schools for their interest in science.

In his address, the chairman, Welkin Schools, Beckley Adebayo, reiterated that science remains one of the ways we can make impact in life which is one of the goals of the school.

He congratulated the contestants for their commitment during the competition, while urging them not to relent on their effort as lots of achievements await them in future.

Adebayo, also charged the parents to always endeavour to supports their children academically, noting that whatever isgiven to them in terms of academic cannot be taken away from them.

​Teaching sciences in local languages

​Teaching sciences in local languages

By Editorial Board

Research has consistently shown that learners benefit from using their home language in education in early grade years.

A Federal Government which is yet to reverse falling standards in education at all levels in the country is on the march again: It has announced plans to teach science subjects in local languages.

Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu who disclosed the policy thrust while presenting mobile science kits to the pupils of Ekulu Primary School, in Enugu, explained that research had shown that the use of foreign language in teaching the sciences was responsible for the low interest in the subjects. According to the minister, the research carried out by his ministry indicated that a child who lives with his or her parents in the first five years was not likely to understand science and technology subjects taught in foreign languages. His words: “Teaching our children in foreign languages would create a serious challenge, especially when they had become familiar with the indigenous languages while living with their parents.”

Onu had then hinted that it might be necessary to review the curriculum and that would deal with the challenge of low interest. The new plan has received an instant support from many who have noted that advanced countries got their priority right in this connection, and developed because they had a sustainable policy on science and technology education. This is time.

This newspaper has consistently supported any policy that would enhance education quality at all levels but there should be proper planning and execution of the new plan on science and technology education. Germany, China and Japan are global economic powers that science and technology have propelled and their education up to university level is codified in their local languages. They only have some tertiary institutions where courses are taught in English within their jurisdictions.

Specifically, research has consistently shown that learners benefit from using their home language in education in early grade years. In most African countries, the language of instruction is English or French, and some learners in urban and some cosmopolitan settings speak and understand some English or French by the time they enroll in school. But learners in the rural areas enroll with only their home language. For these learners, using the mother tongue in early education leads to a better understanding of the curriculum content and to a more positive attitude towards school.

First, learning does not begin in school. Learning starts at home in the learners’ home language. On starting school, children find themselves in a new physical environment. The classroom is new, most of the classmates are strangers, and the centre of authority (the teacher) is a stranger too. The structured way of learning is also new. If, in addition to these things, there is an abrupt change in the language of interaction, then the situation can get quite complicated. Indeed, it can negatively affect a child’s progress. However, by using the learners’ home language, schools can help children navigate the new environment and bridge their learning at school with the experience they bring from home.

Second, by using his or her home language, a learner is more likely to engage in the process. The interactive learner-centred approach – recommended by all educationists – thrives in an environment where learners are sufficiently proficient in the language of instruction.

But when learners start school in a language that is still new to them, it leads to a teacher-centred approach and reinforces passiveness in classrooms. This in turn suppresses young learners’ potential and liberty to express themselves freely.

A crucial learning aim in the early years of education is the development of basic literacy skills: reading, writing and arithmetic. Introducing reading and writing to learners in a language they speak and understand leads to great excitement when they discover that they can make sense of written texts and can write the names of people and things in their environment. Research in Early Grade Reading (EGRA) has shown that pupils who develop reading skills early have a head-start in education.

It has also been shown that skills and concepts taught in the learners’ home language do not have to be re-taught when they transfer to a second language. A learner who knows how to read and write in one language will develop reading and writing skills in a new language faster.

In other words, use of the learners’ home language at the start of school also lessens the burden on teachers, especially where the teacher speaks the local language well (which is the case in the majority of the rural schools in multilingual settings). Research has shown that in learning situations where both the teacher and the learner are non-native users of the language of instruction, the teacher struggles as much as the learners, particularly at the start of education. But when teaching starts in the teachers’ and learners’ home language, the experience is more natural and less stressful for all. As a result, the teacher can be more creative and innovative in designing teaching/learning materials and approaches, leading to improved learning outcomes.

In the main, the use of learners’ home language in the classroom promotes a smooth transition between home and school. It means learners get more involved in the learning process and speeds up the development of basic literacy skills. It also enables more flexibility, innovation and creativity in teacher preparation. Using learners’ home language is also more likely to get the support of the general community in the teaching/learning process and creates an emotional stability, which translates to cognitive stability. In short, it leads to a better educational outcome.

Certainly, language is deeply connected to notions of culture and identity, and the language children are taught in can often reflect broader societal inequalities. Being taught in a known language is a key component of quality education for all learners – from the very early stages right through to adulthood. Early education in the mother tongue can prepare children for school and foster foundational skills, such as literacy and critical thinking, which are proven to significantly increase learning later on.

All told, governments at all levels need to set about enacting policies that recognise mother tongue learning, and – crucially – finance the implementation. This task will be costly and complex. There’s a need for more trained teachers from linguistic minority groups, teachers who can teach in more than one language, and textbooks in a language students can understand. While this may take time and gulp huge resources, the social, political and economic cost of maintaining the status quo should not be ignored.
Culled from The Guardian

​Lunar eclipse expected tomorrow, solar episode on Friday Feb 26

​Lunar eclipse expected tomorrow, solar episode on Friday Feb 26

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor

•Month’s skies promise more stunning astronomical events

Nigerian would tomorrow, Friday February 10, join the rest of the world to witness series of spectacular displays including a lunar eclipse and comet 45P, also known as the New Year comet.

This month features meteor showers, eclipses of the sun and moon, and lunar satellite posing with planets.A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth into its umbra (shadow). This can occur only when the sun, Earth, and moon are aligned (in “syzygy”) exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. Hence, a lunar eclipse can occur only the night of a full moon.45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdušáková is a short-period comet discovered by Minoru Honda December 3, 1948. It is named after Minoru Honda, Antonín Mrkos, and Ľudmila Pajdušáková. The object revolves around the Sun on an elliptical orbit with a period of 5.25 years. The nucleus is estimated to be 0.5-1.6 kilometers in diameter. On August 19 and 20, 2011, it became the fifteenth comet detected by ground radar telescope.

Want to see the spectacular displays? Astronomers say it can be difficult to spot with the naked eye, and you may need to use binoculars, as this week looks set to offer some stunning astronomical events to viewers around the world.

On Friday, a lunar eclipse is forecast to appear on a snow moon – a full moon that occurs in February – casting a mysterious shadow across the lunar surface. And just a few hours later, Comet 45P – also known as the New Year comet – will make its closest approach to the Earth.

According to a report by DailyMailUK Online, in Europe, Africa and western Asia, the event will be seen as the moon is in the southern sky late at night, while for those in North, Central and South America, the best views will be from the east.

Comet 45P will then be visible in the morning sky in the constellation Hercules, before passing through the constellations Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown), Boötes (the Herdsman), Canes Venatici (Boötes’ hunting dogs) and Ursa Major.

The February calendar of astronomical events published in Astronomy noted: February 5 – Moon hides Aldebaran; February 8 – Alpha Centaurid meteor shower; February 10 – Lunar eclipse; February 15 – Moon joins Jupiter; February 20/21 – Moon meets Saturn; and February 26 – Solar eclipse.

In a blog on its website, the United States National Aeronautic Space Agency (NASA) noted: “Comet 45P, visible after sunset over the last two months – through both binoculars and telescopes – makes its closest approach to Earth on February 11, when it will be 0.08 Astronomical Units (7.4 million miles) from Earth.

“It’ll be visible in the morning sky in the constellation Hercules. The comet then passes through the constellations Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown), Boötes (the Herdsman), Canes Venatici (Boötes’ hunting dogs) and Ursa Major. Then on to Leo; by the end of February. It moves swiftly – 9 degrees each day! It will return again in 2022.”

The comet makes its way back to the inner solar system roughly every five years, and has a bright bluish-green “head.” President of the Royal Astronomical Society, Prof. Martin Barstow, told DailyMailUK: “A good meteor shower is a spectacular sight.

“If you have clear skies, there are few better and easier ways to get an impression of the dynamism of the universe we live in, and how the Earth is directly connected to events in the rest of the Solar System.”

“For viewers in the UK, the shadow will first cast over the moon at 22:34GMT, and will end at 02:53 GMT. And for those in New York, the event will begin at 17:34 ET, and end at 21:53 ET. To check if the lunar eclipse will be visible in your area, you can check the Time and Date site.”

Jupiter’s prominence as the ‘morning star’ will be hard to overlook on February 15. The planet, which will appear as a bright star-like object, will align with the moon, as well as a blue-white star called Spica, which is part of the Virgo constellation.

As well as aligning with Jupiter this month, the moon will also meet with Saturn on February 20 and 21.The cosmic duo will be easy to view in the pre-dawn hours, with Saturn appearing as a golden object next to the moon.

From mid-northern latitudes, Saturn will rise in the east about three hours before the sun, while in southern-latitudes it will rise around four hours before the sun.

Through a telescope you may even be able to spot the distinctive rings that circle the planet.With a new moon appearing on February 26, people in South America and Africa will be lucky enough to see the lunar disc pass directly in front of the sun. The moon won’t completely cover the sun, and a small halo of light will remain visible.

The eclipse will begin in Chile, before moving through Argentina, and onto the south Atlantic. It will touch down on the coast of Angola, before ending near the border of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo at sunset.

Source: The Guardian

​Odds against teaching sciences in local languages

​Odds against teaching sciences in local languages

By Eno-Abasi Sunday and Ujunwa Atueyi

Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu

 

Days after the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, said plans were afoot to commence the teaching of science subjects in the three major Nigerian languages as a way of helping pupils learn better, stakeholders say that lack of adequate indigenous language teachers and science teachers who can speak their indigenous languages, as well as the presence of children from diverse ethnic backgrounds in classes are some of the factors that would guarantee the failure of the initiative, write ENO-ABASI SUNDAY and UJUNWA ATUEYI.

At several fora, the idea of teaching pupils in their mother tongues has kept on reverberating over the years. The most recent being last Sunday’s submission by the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, who hinted of plans to commence the use of indigenous languages in the teaching of mathematics and science subjects like physics and chemistry in schools in the country.

The minister while on a visit to Ekulu Primary School in Enugu, Enugu State, claimed that teaching students in Nigerian languages would arouse their interest in these subjects.

He said the ministry is worried about students’ loss of interest in science subjects, which it believes is due to the “foreign language” being used to teach.

“The Ministry of Science and Technology is worried over the low interest in mathematics and the science subjects, so, we are working on plans to teach mathematics and sciences in indigenous languages in primary schools. These pupils grow up with their indigenous languages at home before they start going to school, where they are now taught in foreign languages. So, we have observed that there is a challenge to understand the foreign languages first before they could even start understanding what they are being taught.

“We believe that this plan will help our students to understand mathematics and the science subjects, and also promote the application of science and technology for national development.

“No nation can become great without science and technology. If Nigeria is to be great, then Nigerians must embrace science and technology. You can’t produce anything without science and technology. We are exporting our jobs by importing everything we need, and that is why our graduates are no longer able to get jobs after their studies,” Onu said.

He added, “For us to build the country of our dreams, for us to make Nigeria a truly great nation, a nation that is able to feed and house its citizens, a nation with a stable currency, we must embrace science and technology. It is my duty as the minister of science and technology to make Nigerians to understand this,” Onu stated.

If this plan sees the light of day, Nigeria won’t be trailblazing in this regard on the continent. In April 2015, Tanzania became the first sub-Saharan country to revert to its indigenous language as the primary medium of communication in its educational system, when the government of President Jakaya Kikwete, announced that Kiswahili, better known as Swahili would henceforth be the primary language used in schools in that country.

That step was part of an ongoing plan by the country to upgrade its educational programmes, in an effort to better prepare Tanzanian youths for the future.

Since its independence from Britain in 1961, public education in Tanzania has been bilingual as elementary school pupils are taught in Kiswahili, and English language is included in the curriculum. At the secondary school level, and throughout the collegiate level, roles are reversed, with English becoming the primary format.

The new development, however, brought some semblance of clarity to a system that, for many years created a lot of confusion among many students, as they failed to excel in either language.

The Global Partnership for Education, which supports 65 developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritising the poorest, most vulnerable and those living in fragile and conflict affected countries, also support teaching kids in vernacular.

In an article on the issue titled: “Children Learn Better in Their Mother Tongue,” the body said, “Many linguistic groups are becoming vocal about the need to ensure that the youngest members of their communities keep their linguistic heritage. Some governments, such as in the Philippines, have recently established language-in-education policies that embrace children’s first languages. A compendium of examples produced by UNESCO (2008b) attests to growing interest in promoting mother tongue-based education, and to the wide variety of models, tools, and resources now being developed and piloted to promote learning programs in the mother tongue.”

For Professor of English at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Enugu State, Sam Onuigbo, teaching science and technology subjects in vernacular is a very lofty idea, but like all lofty ideas, the practical aspect and results are not as easy as envisaged for a number of reasons.

“It won’t be easy to implement what the ministry wants to because a number of scientific concepts cannot be captured in indigenous languages. Some mathematical equations have these formulas that cannot be translated easily into indigenous languages. And like these mathematics formulas, many of the scientific formulas are fixed, and because they are fixed it will take some time and effort to devise indigenous representations of these formulas. And any attempt to do a fast one will distort and destroy relevant information that are embedded in these scientific formulas.

“Again science is more or less a universal language, which computer has tried to amplify and place in different other languages, but if you notice, attempt to represent these science information in other languages, which are even more widespread than our indigenous languages have not been easy to achieve,” Onuigbo said.

He added that, “That is why computer language is more or less in English language, attempt to represent it in French, German, Chinese, or any of this other growing world languages have not yielded much fruits. And if we have not been able to capture this scientific movement and computer innovations in any of these well-known languages, I doubt how easy it will be for us to capture them in our own indigenous languages.

“My position therefore, is that while this is a very lofty idea, it needs sometimes, efforts, researches and of course a committee to devise these concepts in our indigenous languages and agree on the representations so that whenever such codes are used, teachers of indigenous languages will know that we are making reference to this or that, otherwise any movement without these landmark arrangement may not yield much fruit.”

Head of Department, Educational Foundations, University of Lagos, Prof. Ngozi Osarenren, is of the view that the initiative is going to be very difficult to get off the ground because we do not even have enough indigenous language teachers in our school system. “So who will do the translation of those scientific algorithms and formulas?

The major problem we have in the education sector is that everybody feels he/she is an expert in education without thinking things through. You need to think things through; you cannot use indigenous language to teach science because no matter the level, it is not going to work. For instance, I’m very fluent in Ibo and Efik languages, but I don’t know the equivalent of folic acid in these two languages that I speak.”

She regretted that it is only in the education sector that non-experts are always saddled with the task of running the show, while other less sensitive ministries still manage to get people that are conversant with those ministries.

Professor of Biochemistry, University of Benin, Prof. Jerry Orhue, is equally pessimistic about the workability of the idea. He questioned: “How are they going to teach science and technology subjects in indigenous languages when majority of those who are going to teach do not even understand their indigenous languages. It is laughable, and that is the truth.

“This is the same thing they did during the 6-3-3-4 system when Introductory Technology was introduced, and machineries worth millions of naira procured without training technologists or artisans that would use them. Those things were locked up in cartons and were never used. At the end of the day, those equipment were stolen.

“This is very much similar as they always wake up one morning and formulate policies that don’t have direction. For instance if they say they want to teach science subjects in Edo language, the person going to teach does he/she understand Edo language, the children you are going to teach do they all understand their indigenous languages?

Insisting that the government has not addressed the real issue, Orhue added, “Majority of our science teachers do not even understand their indigenous languages. When you come to a school were you have pupils of Ibo, Hausa, Yoruba and Edo origin in class, how are you going to teach in such a class? Are you going to teach basic science in Edo or Ibo? What happens to those who are non-Ibo and vice versa?

“So, for me it is a futile exercise. They should channel that energy into ensuring that it works best in the language that we all understand. Right now, even the teacher who teaches my children Edo language in school, does not even understand the language well enough because I end up doing a lot of corrections at home as an Edo man. So how do you now expect a teacher who teaches in English language to now translate what he taught in English to vernacular? It won’t work.”
Source: The Guardian