Sea trash spiraling out of control, study finds
Fungus straight out of science fiction.
Just in case you’re too lazy or unable to watch the YouTube video, the fungus spreads through the insect and compels it to go somewhere high up to attach itself and die. Then the fungus sprouts from the corpse and spreads its spores upon the insect populations below. Badass! (Watch the clip.)
After doing a little research, I discovered that the genus Cordyceps includes one kind called Cordyceps sinensis (AKA caterpillar fungus), which is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Apprently according to Wiki (Which is not academically accepted)
In Tibetan it is known as Yartsa Gunbu [Wylie: dbyar rtswa dgun ‘bu], source of Nepali: यार्सागुम्बा, Yarshagumba, Yarchagumba. It is also known as “keera jhar” in India. Its name in Chinese “dong chong xia cao” (冬虫夏草) means “winter worm, summer grass” (meaning “worm in the winter, (turns to) plant in the summer”). The Chinese name is a literal translation of the original Tibetan name, which was first recorded in the 15th Century by the Tibetan doctor Zurkhar Namnyi Dorje….
Here are some pictures via Flickr of 冬虫夏草 as it may look in a TCM store (click through the second one for more info):
It is very interesting to finding a fungus reminiscent of Giger’s Alien, only to learn that its used as a traditional medicine and foodstuff by the Chinese many other peoples for hundreds of years.
It does make me think of the different medical methods the old traditional medicine vs the modern western medicine.
The old traditional remedy:
- Normally has Thousands of years of use.
- Works in synergy with many other secondary metabolites.
- more often then not can take years (more than the clinical trial period) to discover and decipher the many ways it works.
- Sometimes difficult to ascertain the effectiveness.
The modern medicine:
- Generally only has 20 years of clinical trial research into its effectiveness
- Mechanisms are generally well known
- sometimes they have really bad side effects as there has only been 20 years of research.
Please bear in mind this is not a definitive our wholly accurate comparison it is just what I’ve seen whilst doing research.
Bacteria turn toxins into gold
What do bacteria and metal have in common? In fact they may share a complex relationship. Recent exciting research findings by microbiologists at the MLU show evidence of this. News that, for example, copper door handles in hospitals help reduce the spread of bacteria or that bacteria allow gold to “grow” is making headlines in the media (see scientia halensis 3/09) and was published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.
Prof. Dietrich Nies at work in his lab, photo: Maike Glöckner Research groups led by Prof. Dietrich Nies at the Institute of Biology discovered a while ago how “clever” bacteria are able to deactivate the toxins that are directed at them. Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics even possess various ways of making an antibiotic ineffective. Either they transport it right out of their cells, alter it or don’t even absorb it in the first place. Bacteria work in the same way when it comes to tackling heavy metals. Many of these metals, for example zinc, are important trace elements in small amounts, however large quantities of them are toxic. Bacteria that are resistant to heavy metals survive in highly contaminated locations where the heavy metals have denatured all other organisms. These bacteria easily dispose of the heavy metal cations by ejecting them from their cells or by transforming them into base metals.
EuWHO: WHO Simulation Youth Initiative
My weekend at the royal society of medicine as a delegate for the EuWHO where we simulated the world health assembly.
We are in desperate need of new medicines for the major diseases facing us in the 21st century such as Alzheimer’s and obesity. And we are running out of antibiotics that are effective against bacteria that are now resistant to many old varieties. As bringing new and improved drugs to patients becomes more difficult and more expensive - it can take 20 years and around $1 billion to bring a medicine to market.
In the second programme looking at the problem with drug discovery, Geoff Watts asks what can be done to get new pharmaceutical treatments to patients.
He discovers that the industry is risk averse and regulations to ensure that drugs are safe and effective are burdensome. But there are pilot projects to speed up the process.
Geoff finds out that the experts believe that there needs to be a fundamental change in the drug development process, and the key ingredient is collaboration - between industry and academia and between different drug companies. He also discovers that the medical charity, the Wellcome Trust, is putting money into the development of antibiotics, a field not of interest to many pharmaceutical companies.
The NCI schema of Bioprospecting Process (from Newman and Cragg 2005)
Biological gold in the hills (Luke Henderson, Contributor)
A microbiologist and instructor at TRU has discovered bacteria new to science while exploring caves in Wells Grey Provincial Park.
Dr. Naowarat Cheeptham discovered these bacteria while bioprospecting, a term used to describe searching for new life forms for practical use and commercialization. She hopes to discover microbes that could be used in the pharmaceutical industry to benefit humans.
“Can we use their compounds they produce to our benefit? Such as anti-cancer agents or anti-microbial agents?” Cheeptham said.
Cheeptham chose the caves because of their extreme ecological nature.
“When you talk of darkness, you don’t have primary producers for energy, they complete the food web,” she said. “If you don’t have photosynthesis where do you get the energy from?
“Caves are actually a near-starved environment.”
This was the first bioprospecting in volcanic caves to take place in Canada. Cheeptham expected the life forms to match the uniqueness of their environment.
“Wouldn’t they have unique metabolic pathways to be able to produce something new for us?” she said. “We can make use of their metabolic diversity.”
During her exploration, Cheeptham did discover a strain of Actinomycete bacteria that may be beneficial to the agricultural industry. The bacteria, at this time only known as E9, has shown anti-microbial properties against Paenibacillus larvae, a destructive honeybee killer that causes foulbrood disease.
Entering isolated environments, such as caves, is not a simple matter.
“You have to be aware that every action you do in the cave can change the native microbial community,” Cheeptham said.
This isn’t the first time Cheeptham has undergone an expedition in search of new life forms. She has also done research exploring ocean sediment from Tokyo Bay.
Cheeptham is not alone in her bioprospecting.
Soricimed Biopharma Inc. is a Canadian-based company in Sackville, N.B., that specializes in discovering and utilizing new microbes.
The company’s mission statement is: “To advance the health and wellness of humanity by developing globally applicable cancer and pain management platforms.”
Bioprospecting walks a fine line of serving human needs and financial gain.
“On the one hand, our mission is to discover and deliver medical innovation to treat unmet medical management needs in various disease conditions,” Biopharma’s website stated. “On the other, our target customer/collaborator is the traditional pharmaceutical industry.”
Recently a group of researchers discovered new microbes in some of the world’s deepest caves in Lechuguilla , N.M. The bacteria found have been in absolute isolation from the outside world, but have built-in antibodies, according to an article posted in http://www.sciencedaily.com.
The bacteria are resistant to nearly every antibiotic in use by medical doctors. These bacteria are challenging scientists’ understanding of bacteria.
“Maybe bacteria harbor more antibiotic producing genes that we haven’t discovered,” Cheeptham said. “The purpose of bioprospecting gives us info we didn’t have before.
“There is other knowledge to be gained from this.”
Fish skin may offer scientists tips on designing optical devices
THE skin of silvery fish such as sardines and herring acts as an “invisibility cloak” against predators and may offer scientists useful tips on designing optical devices, according to new research.
The fish produce a natural optical camouflage by reflecting light thanks to iridescent scales made out of a chemical called guanine found in DNA.
The crystals in the scales of the fish prevent light reflected from their surfaces from becoming polarised, which would ruin their camouflage.
Fish such as sardines and herring possess not one but two types of the “guanine” crystals, researchers have discovered.
Each crystal has different optical properties. By mixing them together, the fish ensure that light bouncing off their skin is not polarised and they remain highly reflective.
This helps them hide from predators by matching the background light flickering through the water.
Dr Nicholas Roberts, of the University of Bristol, said: “We have discovered a generic and novel optical mechanism in silvery fish like herring, sardine and sprat that seemingly breaks this basic law of reflection, enabling non-polarising reflections to occur.
“We believe these species of fish have evolved this particular multilayer structure to help conceal them from predators, such as dolphin and tuna.
“These fish have found a way to maximize their reflectivity over all angles they are viewed from. This helps the fish best match the light environment of the open ocean, making them less likely to be seen.
“What we have discovered in these species of fish is their mechanism of camouflage exhibits polarisation neutrality, thus maximising their reflectivity over all angles. This would help the fish best match the open-water background light field and aid their ability to camouflage themselves against predators.
“Our work suggests that by having a particular mixing ratio of these two types of guanine crystal, these species of fish have evolved a structure that enables near constant reflectivity over all angles of incidence. This creates an optimal solution for camouflage purposes.”
As a result of this ability, the skin of silvery fish could hold the key to better optical devices, such as light emitting diodes.
Researcher Tom Jordan, a PhD student in Dr Roberts’s lab, said: “Many modern day optical devices, such as LED lights and low-loss optical fibres, use these non-polarising types of reflectors to improve efficiency.
“However, these manmade reflectors currently require the use of materials with specific optical properties that are not always ideal.
“The mechanism that has evolved in fish overcomes this current design limitation and provides a new way to manufacture these non-polarizing reflectors,” Dr Roberts explained.
“Many aquatic animals, such as squid, cuttlefish and mantis shrimp, are sensitive to the polarisation of light and have well-developed polarisation vision.
“We are very interested in the polarisation properties of the reflectors that they use, and any novel optics that have evolved as a result of evolutionary adaptations.”
The findings of the University of Bristol team are published in the journal Nature Photonics.
Researchers hope estimates of conservation cost will spur government action.