Weekly News Bites: Parasitic borrowers, chicken feather fuel cells, and a long journey for a seabird

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are parasites that borrow their hosts genes, how waste feathers can be used in hydrogen fuel cells, and a poor bird that was caught up in a powerful typhoon.

It's spooky season and what sends shivers down our spines more than parasites? Horsehair worms are parasites that make their hosts drown themselves in water to continue their lifecycle. The worms have hundreds of genes to help hijack their prey’s brain, but a study Kyushu University, the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research and Kyoto University showed that they also potentially "borrow" their host’s genes.

Long periods of screen time in children may be a sign of autism or ADHD rather than a causal factor says research from Nagoya University. Children with a genetic predisposition to autism spectrum disorders used screens for longer than their peers, with screen time increasing as they grow older.

Scientists at Kyushu University have succeeded in turning immune cells in the brain into neurons in mice. These new neurons appear to help recovery after a stroke-like injury. Over the weeks after inducing the “stroke” and inserting DNA to change the immune cells to neurons, the mice showed improved motor function.

Practicing tai chi could help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease says a study by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The researchers followed patients with Parkinson’s who practiced the gentle martial art frequently and those who did not. The group that practiced were seen to have less disease complications than those that didn’t.

During meat processing, millions of tons of chicken feathers have to be disposed of. Nanyang Technological University and ETH Zurich have offered an alternative use for these waste feathers as part of hydrogen fuel cells. By creating a membrane from the protein found in the feathers, keratin, the researchers hope they can replace the more expensive and less environmentally friendly synthetic membranes.

A normally low-flying seabird was caught in a powerful typhoon for 11 hours and traveled over 1,000 kilometers according to Tohoku University. Luckily, the bird was blown away by the storm but managed to escape and have a rest. Climate change is causing more intense storms which may pose a danger to the survival of seabirds, meaning stories like this one may become more frequent.