Black widow spiders have earned a fearsome reputation for their venomous bite. But in parts of the southern United States these spiders have much to fear themselves—from spider relatives who really don’t like their company. In the past couple of decades, researchers have noticed black widow spiders commonly being displaced by the brown widow, a fellow species in the same genus, Latrodectus. But new research suggests this isn’t a just simple case of one species winning the competition for food or habitat. Instead, a study shows brown widow spiders have a striking propensity to seek out and kill nearby black widows.
Jewel Beetles Evolve to See New Colors by Duplicating Certain Genes; New Research Probes Vibrant Vision and Complex Evolutionary History of Jewel Beetles
Jewel beetles are striking insects, easily recognized by their vivid colors and metallic sheen. Possessing large, well-developed eyes, jewel beetles use vision and color for a range of different behaviors, including finding mates and host plants. Color vision in insects differs from our own. Special genes allow many insects to see ultraviolet (UV) light as …
Naturally Occurring Peptide May Tackle “Root Cause” of Obesity-Related Conditions; New Results Suggest PEPITEM Can Both Prevent and Reverse Impact Obesity Has on Metabolism
Research published on March 9, 2023 shows that a peptide called PEPITEM could provide a revolutionary approach to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related diseases such as hepatic steatosis (fatty liver). The researchers used an animal model of obesity to investigate whether PEPITEM, delivered by a slow-release pump, could prevent or reverse the effects that a high fat diet has on the pancreas. Excitingly, the results showed that administration of PEPITEM significantly reduced the enlargement of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and also significantly reduced immune cell migration into various tissues.
What “Chornobyl Dogs” Can Tell Us About Survival in Contaminated Environments
In a first step toward understanding how dogs–and perhaps humans–might adapt to intense environmental pressures such as exposure to radiation, heavy metals, or toxic chemicals, researchers at North Carolina State, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, and the National Institutes of Health found that two groups of dogs living within …
Modifying Messenger RNA May Provide New Target for Alzheimer’s Disease; Complex Path Promotes Immune Cell Migration and Clearance of Toxic Protein
Reducing the methylation of a key messenger RNA can promote migration of macrophages into the brain and ameliorate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in a mouse model, according to a new study published on March 7, 2023 in the open access journal PLOS Biology by Rui Zhang of Air Force Medical University in Xian, Shaanxi, China, and colleagues. The results illuminate one pathway for entrance of peripheral immune cells into the brain, and may provide a new target for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The article is titled “Loss of the m6A Methyltransferase METTL3 in Monocyte-Derived Macrophages Ameliorates Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology in Mice.”
Study Shows New York City Rats Carry SARS-CoV-2
A new study has demonstrated that rats are susceptible to infection with Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2 and wild rats in the New York City municipal sewer systems and elsewhere in the city have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. The study was published on March 9, 2023 in mBio, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The article is titled “SARS-CoV-2 Exposure in Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus) from New York City.”
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Develops Liquid Biopsy Test for Pediatric Solid Tumors
Pediatric solid tumors make up approximately 40% of all childhood cancers. While pediatric cancer is rare, children can develop a wide range of tumor types, located in different parts of the body, which can make the differential diagnosis challenging. Investigators at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) have developed a liquid biopsy for solid tumors that has the potential to aid in reaching a specific diagnosis when surgery or a tissue biopsy is not feasible. The open-access study findings were published on February 20, 2023 in the journal npj Precision Oncology. “This is one of the first clinically validated liquid biopsy tests to be launched at a pediatric academic medical center,” says Jaclyn Biegel (photo at left) PhD, Chief of Genomic Medicine and Director of the Center for Personalized Medicine at CHLA. “We created a test that may be helpful in making a diagnosis, determining prognosis, and potentially identifying an effective therapy for children with solid tumors,” says Fariba Navid (photo below), MD, Medical Director of Clinical Research in the Cancer and Blood Disease Institute at CHLA. Dr. Navid and Dr. Biegel are co-senior authors of this study. The open-access article is titled “Combined Low-Pass Whole Genome and Targeted Sequencing in Liquid Biopsies for Pediatric Solid Tumors.”
Cell Membrane “Blebs” Could Hold New Targets for Anti-Cancer Drugs; Results May Represent a “Fundamentally New Perspective of Cancer Development” and Point to Possibly Therapeutic Septin Inhibitor Drug FCF
Cell membrane protrusions called “blebs” that typically signify the end of life for healthy cells do the opposite for melanoma cells, activating processes in these cells that help them to survive and spread, a University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) study suggests. The findings, published on March 1, 2023 in Nature, could lead to new ways to fight melanoma and potentially a broad range of other cancers. The Nature article is titled “Blebs Promote Cell Survival by Assembling Oncogenic Signalling Hubs” and is accompanied by a Nature News and Views article titled “Bleb Protrusions Help Cancer Cells to Cheat Death.”
Nobel Laureate Carolyn R. Bertozzi, PhD, to Receive 2023 AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research
It has been announced that the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will honor Nobel Laureate Carolyn R. Bertozzi, PhD, with the 2023 AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research during the AACR Annual Meeting 2023, April 14-19 in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Bertozzi is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry in the School of Humanities and Sciences and a Professor (by courtesy) of Chemical and Systems Biology and of Radiology at Stanford University, an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Baker Family Director of Sarafan ChEM-H. Dr. Bertozzi is being recognized for advancing basic and translational cancer research through bio-orthogonal chemistry and chemical glycobiology.
Case Study of Rare, Endangered Tortoise Highlights Conservation Priorities for Present, Future World Wildlife Days
Though wildlife trafficking has been effectively disrupted since the first World Wildlife Day—established 50 years ago today (March 3, 2023) via the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora—a newly published case study on one of the world’s rarest tortoise species, the ploughshare tortoise, highlights how much room for improvement still exists. In a new paper published in PNAS, University of Maryland Associate Professor Meredith Gore and her coauthors—Babson College’s Emily Griffin, Bistra Dilkina and Aaron Ferber from the University of Southern California, Michigan State University’s Stanley E. Griffis, the University of Alabama’s Burcu B. Keskin, and John Macdonald from Colorado State University—detail a 2018 effort to map ploughshare tortoises’ location within and around Soalala, Madagascar; nearby villages; known trafficking pathways and transit routes; and the amount of trafficking risk associated with each of those areas. The group of approximately 50 stakeholders also shared more qualitative information that might play a role in poachers’ trafficking process, such as paths of cultural and spiritual significance, tides’ influence on decision-making; and where poachers met to plan their activities.