Posts Tagged ‘urine’

by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Hennig Brand discovered the element of phosphorus in 1669. That sounds like quite an achievement, but Brand’s life wasn’t one that should, necessarily, be emulated. His steps to discovering this element were undignified, to say the least. His first step was marrying well; he was an officer in the army, but his wife had enough money for him to leave. She didn’t have enough money overall — at least not according to Brand — and so he used what money she had to try to make more money.

Sadly, his chosen path for this increase in wealth was alchemy. He wanted to come up with the philosopher’s stone, which turned everyday elements into gold. At that stage, the science generally meant doing weird and dangerous things to any substance scientists could get their hands on. It wasn’t cheap, and Brand burned through all of his wife’s money. She didn’t have to live in poverty only because she was born in the 1600s, and so died young. Brand mourned for a time, and then went in search of another financially secure wife. Surprisingly, he got one.

As soon as he got his hands on her money, he started his experiments again. Alchemists tried anything, but they generally fixated on certain substances. Terribly rare and precious elements were popular, but so were human fluids. Humans were alchemical factories, turning ordinary substances like meat and grain into all kinds of things. The easiest thing to be got from the body was urine, and Brand, somehow, acquired a lot of it. About 1500 gallons of urine went into his experiment, but it paid off. After a complicated process of boiling and separating and recombining, he utterly failed to come up with gold. He did, however, come up with something he called “cold fire.” It glowed, perpetually, in the dark. It was what we now call phosphorus.

Although no direct use was found for cold fire in Brand’s life, people were fascinated with it. Brand capitalized on that — probably to his wife’s great relief. He sold the secret to anyone who would pay enough, including Wilhelm Leibniz, the inventor of calculus. The buyers sold the secret to others, but it remained valuable and well-kept until 1737, when someone sold it to the Academy of Science in Paris and it was published.

How do you get phosphorus from urine? Boil the urine until it’s a “syrup.” Heat the syrup until a red oil comes out of it. Grab that oil! Let the rest cool. The substance will cool into two parts, a black upper part and a grainy lower part. Scrape off the lower part and throw it away. Mix the oil back into the black upper part. Heat that for about 16 hours. The oil will come back out, followed by phosphorus fumes. Channel the phosphorus into water to cool it down. Voila.


New findings indicate that phosphorylated LRRK2 (leucine-rich repeat kinase 2) protein levels in urine are elevated in patients diagnosed with idiopathic Parkinson Disease (PD), and that urinary phosphorylated LRRK2 levels correlate with the presence and severity of symptoms such as cognitive impairment in individuals with PD. Researchers affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham published their findings in Neurology and in Movement Disorders (1,2).

The etiology of PD is currently unknown and mechanisms of action are still not completely clarified. It is well established, however, that aging is the single most important risk factor. PD is the second most frequent age-related neurodegenerative disorder, and one of the key pathogenic features is slow and progressive neuronal death that is concomitant with cognitive dysfunction. Current therapeutic modalities are inadequate and clinical need is significant. More than 6 million individuals worldwide are diagnosed with PD.

To date, several common genetic variants, or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), have been identified that influence the risk for disease. For example, polymorphic variants in LRRK2 gene have previously been validated as genetic factors that confer susceptibility to PD.

Although the gene remains poorly characterized, five different mutations in the gene encoding LRRK2 are considered a common cause of inherited PD (3). One of the five mutations that are causal is the G2019S mutation in the LRRK2 kinase domain, a mutation that significantly increases phosphorylation activity (1,3).

“There are currently no known ways to predict which G2019S mutation carriers will develop PD,” the authors wrote in the Neurology publication. Investigators purified LRRK2 protein from urinary exosomes collected from a total of 76 men. (Exosomes are membrane vesicles of endosomal origin that are secreted by most cells in culture, and are present in most biological fluids such as urine, blood, and saliva.) Then, they compared the ratio of phosphorylated LRRK2 to total LRRK2 in urine exosomes. Results show that “elevated … phosphorylated LRRK2 predicted the risk” for onset of PD in LRRK2 G2019S mutation carriers (1).

In their follow-up study, which was published in Movement Disorders, investigators compared phosphorylated LRRK2 levels in urine samples of 79 individuals diagnosed with PD to those of 79 healthy control participants. Results show that phosphorylated LRRK2 levels were significantly elevated in patients with PD when compared to those of controls. Also, phosphorylated LRRK2 levels correlated with the severity of cognitive impairment in patients with PD (2).

“Because few viable biomarkers for PD exist … phosphorylated LRRK2 levels may be a promising candidate for further exploration,” the authors concluded in their publication.

1. Fraser KB, Moehle MS, Alcalay RN, et al. Urinary LRRK2 phosphorylation predicts parkinsonian phenotypes in G2019S LRRK2 carriers. Neurology. 2016;86:994-999.
2. Fraser KB, Rawlins AB, Clar RG, et al. Ser(P)-1292 LRRK2 in urinary exosomes is elevated in idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. Mov Disord. 2016. doi: 10.1002/mds.26686.
3. Greggio E, Cookson MR. Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 mutations and Parkinson’s disease: three questions. ASN Neuro. 2009;1:e00002.,psych_all&hmSubId=&hmEmail=5JIkN8Id_eWz7RlW__D9F5p_RUD7HzdI0&NID=1710903786&dl=0&spMailingID=14919209&spUserID=MTQ4MTYyNjcyNzk2S0&spJobID=820575619&spReportId=ODIwNTc1NjE5S0

Through vegetables and fruits, the drugs that we flush down the drain are returning to us.

In a randomized, single-blind pilot study, researchers found that anticonvulsive epilepsy drug carbamazepine, which is released in urine, can accumulate in crops irrigated with recycled water—treated sewage—and end up in the urine of produce-eaters not on the drugs. The study, published Tuesday in Environmental Science & Technology, is the first to validate the long-held suspicion that pharmaceuticals may get trapped in infinite pee-to-food-to-pee loops, exposing consumers to drug doses with unknown health effects.

While the amounts of the drug in produce-eater’s pee were four orders of magnitude lower than what is seen in the pee of patients purposefully taking the drugs, researchers speculate that the trace amounts could still have health effects in some people, such as those with a genetic sensitivity to the drugs, pregnant women, children, and those who eat a lot of produce, such as vegetarians. And with the growing practice of reclaiming wastewater for crop irrigation—particularly in places that face water shortages such as California, Israel, and Spain—the produce contamination could become more common and more potent, the authors argue.

“The potential for unwitting exposure of consumers to contaminants via this route is real,” the authors wrote, adding that their study provides real world data that proves exposure occurs.

For the study, researchers recruited 34 healthy adults—excluding vegetarians, vegans, and people who take carbamazepine. The participants were all from Israel, where farmers use reclaimed water for 50 percent of the country’s irrigation needs. California, which grows a large portion of US produce, currently uses reclaimed water for six percent of its irrigation needs, but is looking to increase its usage.

First, the researchers measured what was in each participant’s pee, then randomly assigned them to one of two groups. While each participant got a big basket of produce to eat over one week and another basket for a second week, the contents varied depending on their group. Those in group one unknowingly started off with produce irrigated with reclaimed water and then got a batch irrigated with fresh water for the second week. Group two started with produce irrigated with fresh water, then were switched to crops bought at a local grocery store. (The authors admit that they meant to switch the second group to produce grown with reclaimed water for that second week, but they ran out.) The researchers weren’t sure what type of water was used to grow the grocery store produce, but they assumed it was a mix.

Throughout the two weeks, researchers sampled each participant’s urine, looking for carbamazepine and its metabolites—forms of the drug that have been modified in the human body.

At the start, the participants had mixed levels of carbamazepine in their urine, with ~38 percent having undetectable amounts, ~35 percent having detectable amounts that were too little to quantify, and ~26 having low but quantifiable amounts. After the first week, all of the participants in the first group, which noshed on produce irrigated with reclaimed water, had quantifiable amounts of the drug and its metabolites in their urine—some of the amounts hiked up by more than ten-fold from the start. Those in group two, however, didn’t change from their initial measurements.

In the second week, after the veggie swap, the levels of carbamazepine dropped back down to baseline levels in group one participants. Drug levels in participants in group two stayed about the same in the second week, despite some of the grocery store produce testing positive for carbamazepine.

Both of those findings—that drug levels can quickly drop after exposure and the mixed supermarket food didn’t alter levels—is relatively good news for public health, the authors note. Still, the unintentional drug doses in food are a concern worth more attention by the public health community, the authors conclude. Previous studies have found a variety of drugs in crops, including cholesterol medications, caffeine, and triclosan.

Environmental Science & Technology, 2015. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b06256 (About DOIs).

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

David Cameron’s full-bladder technique really does work – but perhaps not in a way that the UK prime minister intends. Before important speeches or negotiations, Cameron keeps his mind focused by refraining from micturating. The technique may be effective – but it also appears to help people to lie more convincingly.

Iris Blandón-Gitlin of California State University in Fullerton and her colleagues asked 22 students to complete a questionnaire on controversial social or moral issues. They were then interviewed by a panel, but instructed to lie about their opinions on two issues they felt strongly about. After completing the questionnaire, and 45 minutes before the interview, in what they were told was an unrelated task, half drank 700 ml of water and the other half 50 ml.

The interviewers detected lies less accurately among those with a full bladder. Subjects who needed to urinate showed fewer signs that they were lying and gave longer, more detailed answers than those who drank less.

The findings build on work by Mirjam Tuk of Imperial College London, whose study in 2011 found that people with full bladders were better able to resist short-term impulses and make decisions that led to bigger rewards in the long run. These findings hinted that different activities requiring self-control share common mechanisms in the brain, and engaging in one type of control could enhance another.

Other research has suggested that we have a natural instinct to tell the truth which must be inhibited when we lie. Blandón-Gitlin was therefore interested to see whether the “inhibitory spillover effect” identified by Tuk would apply to deception.

Although we think of bladder control and other forms of impulse control as different, they involve common neural resources, says Blandón-Gitlin. “They’re subjectively different but in the brain they’re not. They’re not domain-specific. When you activate the inhibitory control network in one domain, the benefits spill over to other tasks.”

Blandón-Gitlin stresses that her study does not suggest that David Cameron would be more deceitful as a consequence of his full bladder technique. But she says that deception might be made easier using the approach – as long as the desire to urinate isn’t overwhelming. “If it’s just enough to keep you on edge, you might be able to focus and be a better liar,” she says.

Ein Weißfuß-Wieselmaki (Lepilemur leucopus) in seinem Schlafbaum.

Emily loves Justin – Stop global warming – Two more weeks till I graduate!: The exchange of information in public toilets is widespread. It also occurs in the world of white-footed sportive lemurs. Only instead of writing on the walls, they use scent-marks in order to communicate with their own kind.. In a study published online in Springer’s journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Iris Dröscher and Peter Kappeler from the German Primate Center (DPZ) have found that the urine left on latrine trees serves as a method to maintain contact with family members. It also serves as a means to inform an intruder that there is a male that will defend his partner. Latrines thus serve as information exchange centers and promote social bonding in territorial nocturnal animals that do not live in closely-knit groups.

In the animal kingdom, the use of latrines, which serve as specific locations for urination and defecation, is a common occurrence. Because little is known about why primates, in particular, use the same latrines over and over, the researchers set out to investigate this phenomenon among white-footed sportive lemurs (Lepilemur leucopus) in southern Madagascar. Do they hint to others that they want to defend their mate or territory? Or, do they indicate the fertility of the female? Or do they promote exchange of information within a group and support social bonding? To answer these questions, the researchers wanted to establish where such latrines were found, and if they were used differently between seasons and between individuals of different ages and sexes. In the process, Dröscher and Kappeler spent over 1,000 hours watching the toilet habits of 14 radio-collared adult sportive lemurs.

White-footed sportive lemurs are nocturnal tree-dwellers that are found exclusively in southern Madagascar. They live together in families consisting of parents and their offspring. Even though the family members share a common territory, the individuals do not interact much. Neither do pair-partners sleep in the same tree nor do they associate while foraging. But what they have in common are latrines that are located in the core of their territory. All members of the family visit the same latrines for defecation and urination. Dröscher and Kappeler believe the latrines are a way in which to maintain familiarity and social bonding among members of a social unit, who otherwise have very little contact with each other. Such scent signals are picked up from urine that stains the tree trunks rather than feces that accumulate on the ground under the trees.

Males visited the latrines more often during nights when an intruder invaded the territory. In addition, the males placed scent marks from their specialized anogenital glands preferentially in latrines. “This indicates that latrine use in this primate species should also be connected to mate defense,” says Iris Dröscher, a PhD student at the German Primate Center.

“Scent marks transmit a variety of information such as sexual and individual identity and may function to signal an individual’s presence and identity to others,” continues Dröscher. “Latrines therefore serve as information exchange centers of individual-specific information.”

“Especially nocturnal species with limited habitat visibility and low inter-individual cohesion profit from predictable areas for information exchange to facilitate communication,” says Peter Kappeler, head of the Department for Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology at the DPZ. “The white-footed sportive lemur has found these information centers by means of latrine use.”

More information: Dröscher I, Kappeler PM (2014): “Maintenance of familiarity and social bonding via communal latrine use in a solitary primate (Lepilemur leucopus).” Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, DOI: 10.1007/s00265-014-1810-z