These photos of bees sleeping in flowers will melt your heart

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These photos of bees sleeping in flowers will melt your heart

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If someone told me that I would go “awww” at photos of insects, I would call them crazy. But what about photos of fluffy, pollen-covered bees sleeping inside of flowers? Well, I gotta admit that’s something else, and it’s as cute as it sounds. Photographer Joe Neely recently captured two bees sleeping in a flower, and it’s definitely not something you see every day. He was kind enough to share his images with DIYP, so take a look and prepare to get all mushy.

In an interview with Bored Panda, Joe explained that he and his fiancée Niccole went out to find some poppy flowers. A patch of pink flowers just off the highway captured their attention, so they stopped to take some photos of those as well. Among the pink flowers, there was an orange Globe Mallow plant hidden. Joe explains that Niccole heard the bees buzzing, but then she noticed that some flower had bees inside – but they weren’t moving.

I would have probably thought that they were dead or something like that, and I would got worried and panicky. But Joe came closer and studied the bees’ behavior, revealing something interesting:

“I came over and study it for a while and more bees showed up. Soon, all the vacant flowers were occupied and this one bee was left out.  She crawled over to this open flower and got inside with the other one. I was watching as he stumbled around almost drunk-like and then got settled in.”

Here’s a cropped version:

The bees Joe photographed belong to the species Diadasia diminuta and they sleep inside Globe Mallows flowers. You can learn more about them on United States Departments of Agriculture’s website.

Honestly, I had no idea how bees sleep, or if they sleep at all. I especially had no idea that they can look this cute and cuddly even (although I still wouldn’t dare cuddle one). An article on University Communications Network explains that bees don’t have eyelids, so you won’t figure out that they’re sleeping by their eyes being closed. Instead, honey bees stop moving their antennae and in some cases fall over sideways, according to the article.

Joe was lucky to be on the spot and study their behavior, as well as capture it in these wonderful images. They are adorable, aren’t they? Check out more of Joe’s splendid work on his website and follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

[via Bored Panda]

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As researchers pursue links between the bacteria and human health, startups stand to benefit

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In 2009, the National Institutes of Health launched a five-year, $150 million project to stimulate research into a new field of medicine examining the connections between the millions of bacteria living in the human gut and overall human health.

Spurred by the advancements in genetics from a decade earlier, this new field of research would map not just the human genome, but the genetic sequences of the microbes living in the body to ascertain their function and the role they played in ensuring the health of the humans they inhabited.

A decade later, investors are encouraging the commercialization of these tools with hundreds of millions in financing for startup companies with names like uBiome, Viome, Finch Therapeutics, Kallyope, Second Genome, Human Longevity, Maat Pharma, Seed and many, many more.

In all, these companies have raised well over half a billion dollars.

Some of these companies, like Finch Therapeutics, Second Genome, and Maat Pharma are squarely in the clinical world of big pharma — developing treatments for disease through standard research techniques and clinical trials.

Others, like uBiome and Viome, have gone directly to consumers first. Looking to build up a body of knowledge about the microbiome through consumer microbiome analysis kits that will give customers a snapshot of the microbes living in their gut ,and offer basic recommendations on how changes in diet could improve their overall health.

Viome chief executive and co-founder, Naveen Jain

These companies are operating in the regulatory gray area that governs supplements and nutraceuticals, which means they aren’t subject to regulatory approval.

But as they look for validation and acceptance in retail stores and scientific journals, they’re beginning to focus on clinically validated trials to prove that the science behind their recommendations is sound — and so that they can move further up the value chain into drug development. It’s like the strategy that 23andMe used to collect a body of genetic knowledge that the company is now offering up to drug companies so they can collaborate on developing new treatments for diseases.

Earlier this year, uBiome, which has raised over $100 million from investors for its microbiome testing kits since its launch in 2012, laid off over 50 employees in a move the company said was designed to refocus its efforts on drug development.

Now, Viome has raised $25 million as it pursues roughly 15 clinical research trials and looks to move into developing treatments of its own.

The goal of the trials is “to show that our intervention that we’re recommending actually produces results,” says Jain.

Recent scientific research has shown that focusing on microbiome health can reduce the disease burden or slow progression for a variety of illnesses including depression, osteoarthritis, functional bowel diseases, and multiple sclerosis.

Photo: Andrew Brookes/Getty Images

For its part, Viome is focusing on colorectal cancer, breast cancer, depression and anxiety, diabetes and obesity, Crohn’s disease, colitis and digestive disorders.

While Viome has lagged behind other companies in filing patents and publishing papers, the new $25 million in funding from new and existing investors including Khosla Ventures, Bold Capital, Marc Benioff, Physician Partners, Hambrecht Healthcare Growth Venture Fund, and Matthew Harris of Global Infrastructure Partners will likely change that.

What separates Viome from other companies in the direct-to-consumer microbiome space is its testing technology, according to Jain. The company is the first spinout from Jain’s BlueDot venture, which was founded to commercialize orphaned technology coming from various national research laboratories around the country.

Viome’s tests have their origins in tech that BlueDot pulled from Los Alamos National Laboratory which is a variant on sequencing ribonucleic acid, the messenger mechanism which provides instructions to cells on what they should be producing.

Jain and his team of scientists argue that by sequencing RNA they can see the signaling pathway and metabolic pathway for how bacteria are producing chemicals in the body that can benefit or harm human health.

Viome and uBiome both benefited from their embrace by the “quantified self,” biohacking, and wellness communities that are looking for ways to optimize health using homeopathic or natural remedies for many diseases.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

“Three years ago the microbiome was a very niche market and now the market is more mainstream. Now that it is mainstream it has to work for people,” says Jain. “It can’t simply be a research tool for the self-quantified people. It has to deliver value.”

That’s why the company is beginning to develop its clinical trials — a process that Jain said came with some growing pains.

A brief scan of customer reviews for the company’s product on consumer reporting websites reveals that not everyone has embraced Viome’s products and services and Jain attributed those reviews to the company’s decision to receive CLIA certification — something Jain said was necessary to proceed with the clinical trial research.

“We had growing pains last November and December. We were growing fast and we wanted to become a clinically certified lab…. That certification took a month [then] once we got the federal certification and we needed to get the state certification,” Jain says. “In those three months we got a lot of unhappy customers.”

Some industry observers ascribe the struggles of microbiome-focused startups less to their movement into clinical trials and more to the simple fact that these companies tackled the market too early, while much of the science remains unproven.

“The microbiome space is incredibly important too. But there is both on the scientific side a wealth of information that is still to be uncovered and the collection and understanding of that data needs to be moving that field forward,” said one entrepreneur in the consumer health market. “But the process [for] consumers is still too early.”

That’s likely one reason why both Viome and uBiome are looking to develop treatments.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

“We are going to break even or lose money on selling the kits,” says Jain. “Once we understand why people have insomnia, diabetes and depression, then we can come up with a personalized set of nutrients that each person needs… Some could be new types of probiotics or prebiotics.”

Meanwhile, uBiome is touting its own patent portfolio as indicative of the real science behind its services (although most of the patents are around the technology it uses to sequence and analyze microbiome health, not any treatment protocols based on its analysis).

The company’s chief officers and researchers hold the first, second, and third spots as top microbiome inventors in terms of portfolio size and they hold the second, third, and fourth spots in terms of patent quality. This study provides a case study of how in-depth patent analyses can identify early indicators of technology and investment trends from large patent databases, according to a statement from uBiome last month.

The patents cover the method and analysis of their microbiome test kits, as well as the diagnostics and therapeutics of conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease, endocrine conditions, autoimmune disorders, neurological disorders, and more, the company said.

Both Jain and uBiome chief executive Jessica Richman are unlikely standard bearers for the potential of microbiome treatments. Neither have a background in science, but both believe strongly in the need to give consumers access to the potential benefits of the science quickly.

“The NIH-funded Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was a five-year, $173 million endeavor to better understand the human microbiome that ran from 2007 to August 2012. We started our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in November 2012– right after it ended,” Richman said in an interview published on the Y Combinator site. “We wanted to take the results of the HMP and bring them directly to the public, enabling all of us to learn about our microbiomes and participate in science as soon as possible– without waiting years and years for the results to trickle down into products and services that people could use.”

For Jain, Viome represents an opportunity to give back and a chance to develop a cure for the disease that killed his father.

It is more than a company to me it is a mission to me it is my promise to my dad to making it right,” Jain says. “It’s also part of paying it forward.”

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A story about Schema, structured data and robots

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Once upon a time, a little robot came to a site to figure out what it was about. The robot read some words and followed some links and said: “Well, there are a lot of mentions of this particular word, so this page must be about that!” She sent out orders to the mothership to file the page in a giant register so the page could be retrieved for this particular term. The robot worked long hours to get all the pages she could find in that register.

After a couple of years, the robot was very experienced and smart. Her programmers trained her to read better so she could figure out what a piece of text was about. She could even distinguish in what cases it would make the most sense to show it. She even started to use context to judge a piece of text instead of just finding mentions of that particular term.

But, smart as the robot was, her makers needed outside help to get her to fully understand the world. The robot did not have the capacity to grasp all the knowledge and she needed help connecting what she knew.

Luckily, some smart humans built something incredible called SCHEMA: a giant thesaurus for robots just like our little hero.

In it, she found everything she needed. It told her what she could look for to determine a particular page was about a product, an event or a person. She learned about movies, books, authors. About recipes, ingredients and cooking instructions. She found out how people relate to each other, to past events and to abstract concepts that were always a mystery to her. Everything she read was instantly clear to her — she was so happy!

Websites using this SCHEMA thesaurus well, helped robots like her to make sense of the world. She finally knew everything. In return, she could reward those sites with spectacular shiny stuff in the search results. But she could only reward those sites that implemented it well and that was a problem.

She soon found out that there was much to be desired. Many sites offered only small pieces of magical SCHEMA and none of it was interconnected to sources that could help her do her job better. She tried asking for help — pleading for site owners to improve their use of SCHEMA, but to no avail. Until, years later, a massively popular plugin for the biggest content management system in the solar system offered to help the little robot.

Nervously, she looked at the internals of the SCHEMA implementation of the plugin codenamed Yoast SEO 11.0. “Wow, this is just what I need!”, she said. “I’ve never seen this before. This is SCHEMA that I can read and understand. It is complete, it shows me where pages reside and how people and organizations connect. Most importantly, it is interconnected! No longer do I have to guess where everything goes. It’s all in a graph — a neat little package —, ready for me to gobble up!”

And all was well in the world.

(Yes, your author has read Marieke’s posts on storytelling)

Results of using Schema structured data

Schema-powered structured data is one of the hardest, most abstract pieces of web technologies to describe, while also being one of the most important ones. I hope the story above has made the concept a lot clearer for you. Now that you’ve formed a mental image of what we’re talking about here, let me show you what adding structured data to your site can lead to.

A better understanding of your site

We always say you should do everything in your power to help both search engines and searchers to find out what your site is about. Using structured data gives you superpowers in the eyes of the search engine. Since you are labeling the most important parts of your content or site elements and connecting them to other parts, you are making sure that search engines truly understand your site. No longer do they have to guess about what everything means — you can just tell them.

Getting stuff into Google’s Knowledge graph gets a lot easier once you add relevant Schema to your site. Not only that, other platforms like Pinterest love this kind of data as well.

Rich results

Another reason for implementing structured data is the spectacular shiny stuff our robot heroine promised: rich results. Rich results are enhanced search results and they come in many forms, from star ratings to fully enhanced recipe snippets. Many are powered by structured data, but sometimes, you get them without doing anything — besides having an awesome site, of course.

Here is an example of a structured data powered rich result:

An example of a recipe rich result, powered by structured data
This is a recipe result (not currently supported by Yoast SEO)

With the new structured data implementation in Yoast SEO 11.0, you get a firm foundation to build on. While you’ll have a bigger chance of getting rich results by using Yoast SEO, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get them — in the end, the search engines decide who gets what.

Here’s a selection of what we do at the moment. You can find a complete overview of all Google’s current rich results in the Search Gallery:

Logo and social profiles in the Knowledge graph

If you have an Organization, you can get its logo to show up in the Knowledge panel. The same goes for social profiles. Simply add these in the settings of Yoast SEO and they’ll eventually show up.

The Yoast Knowledge panel
Your organization might get a Knowledge panel like the one above

Personal graphs

The personal Knowledge panel of Joost de Valk

If you have a site representing a person, you can add the necessary social accounts. Your image will be grabbed from Gravatar. You can set this in Yoast SEO. Not every person will get a Knowledge graph panel — there’s more at play here. Google combines this input with other sources to build a panel. Once you have one, you can claim it and suggest edits.

Articles

Search engines might do cool stuff with articles marked up with structured data. For news publishers, this is important because this might also mean a top spot in the news carousel. For this, you need NewsArticle Schema in your articles and our News SEO plugin provides this for you. Yoast SEO itself, automatically adds regular Article structured data to your articles, including information about the author and how the page connects to the main entity of the site.

An example of a Top Stories carousel result
For some outlets, working with structured data helps them get in the Top Stories carousel

Local business

An example of a local panel

Our Local SEO plugin takes care of everything you need to get your local business correctly visible in the search engines. You can add opening hours, geographical information, contact information, business locations — including multiple locations under one name, et cetera.

Breadcrumbs

A breadcrumb is a navigational tool that helps searchers and search engines figure out where they are on your site. If you activate this in Yoast SEO, you might get something like this in the search results:

An example of a breadcrumbs rich result
An example of a breadcrumbs rich result

Products

Our WooCommerce plugin adds a cool possibility for getting rich results for products. If you combine this with other structured data, you can get really expansive rich results in search results with ratings and everything. You can also be featured in image search and different product carousels. In addition, Pinterest will pick up the main product on your page more easily.

An example of a rich result with reviews, ratings and product information
An example of product, ratings and reviews schema in action

Structured data is hot

This article, including the adventures of our little robot, aims to show you a small sampling of structured data powered search results. Working with structured data was always hard, but we’re fixing that — and you don’t have to do much for it!

Yoast SEO 11.0 has a completely rebuilt structured data framework that adds more sensible, and more importantly, interconnected structured data to your site. Search engines can pick this up and do interesting things with. We’re not done yet, because we have a lot more cool stuff coming up!

Read more: Schema structured data is hard, but we’re making it easy

The post A story about Schema, structured data and robots appeared first on Yoast.

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CRISPR gene editing has been used on humans in the US

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The first human trials in the US for CRISPR gene editing are officially underway. A University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia spokesman has confirmed to NPR that two cancer patients, one with myeloma and one with sarcoma, have received CRISPR treatments after standard treatment didn’t hold. The trial removes, modifies and reinserts immune cells in hopes they’ll destroy cancerous cells.

It’s not certain how effective the treatment has been, and you won’t find out for a while when the trial has been cleared to treat a total of 18 patients. You won’t hear more about it until there’s been a presentation or a peer-reviewed paper, the university said. Other trials, such as ones for blood disorders in the Boston area, have yet to get underway.

No matter what, any practical uses could take a long time. There are widespread concerns that CRISPR editing could have unanticipated effects, and scientists have yet to try editing cells while they’re still in the body (a blindness trial in Cambridge, MA may be the first instance). There’s also the not-so-small matter of ethical questions. Chinese scientist He Jiankui raised alarm bells when he said he edited genes in human embryos — politicians and the scientific community will likely want to address practices like that before you can simply assume that CRISPR is an option.

Source: ClinicalTrials.gov, NPR

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