Jun 6, 2019
Summer is here. The pool is finally warm enough, and the
barbecue grill is doing its magic. Time for some grillin’ and
Plug in your earpods as you flip those shrimp on the barbecue,
drink that ice cold beer, and listen to this awesome episode of
Blue Streak Science!
On This Week’s Show
- Lessons learned from the mole rat
- We’re talking about fungus again
- Also, some interesting news on the Ebola front
- A report on eastern European universities…from an eastern
Science News with Dr. Amrita Sule, and Nevena
A type of African mole rat is immune to the pain of
- Almost all animals including mice, flies, flatworms will try
and naturally avoid allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), the compound
responsible for wasabi’s pungent taste.
- Study published in Science last week reported that a species of
mole rat, the highveld mole rat, a native of South Africa were
completely insensitive to AITC.
- Numerous species have evolved from the naked mole rat species
in various parts of Africa. The environment around them could
possibly have given them theses qualities
- With a goal of finding out the differences in sensitivity to
pain among the species, the research team used 8 kinds of mole rats
and two other rodent species to assess their sensitivity towards
acid, capsaicin and AITC.
- When the substance was injected in the animals paw, the animal
sensitive to the substance would flinch or lick the paw. The naked
mole rats including most of the others in the group did not react
well to AITC.
- However, the Highveld mole rat did not even flinch. Even after
being administered a range of dose from 0.75% to 100%, these rats
were just simply impervious to AITC.
- Dr. Lewin and colleagues found that the neurons in Highveld
rats had anl ion channel NALCN, whose activity was 6 times higher
compared to other species.This ion channel acts like a short
circuit that leaks currents and prevents neurons from firing even
when they receive a pain signal.When you block this ion a channel
or the short circuit with drugs, the Highveld rats DID respond to
New Scientist, New
York Times, Scientific
GM fungus rapidly kills 99% of malaria mosquitoes,
- We’ve been fighting malaria for really long time and with only
- One of the most efficient barriers to infection yet is an
insecticide covered bed nets deployed first in Burkina Faso in the
- Problem is, as with every type of chemical for disease
prevention, the pests develop resistance sooner or later and in
most cases – sooner rather than later.
- Now scientists have returned to Burkina Faso to conduct another
controlled trial to eradicate the origin of the disease by using
- The work of collaborators from the USA and Burkina Faso is
published in the journal Science
- Many attempts have been made before to breed a fungal species
which would be specifically active against malaria carrying
mosquitoes, but none proved good enough.
- So scientists decided to engineer one by giving it a gene from
a venomous spider which gets activated only when the fungus gets in
contact with the mosquito equivalent of blood – it’s
- The lab experiments with those showed the new super-fungus to
be very efficient in killing malaria mosquitoes
- Researchers together with the local authorities have created a
testing ground in Burkina Faso for antimalarial products called the
MosquitoSphere – it’s a huge area of the countryside, covered with
mosquito nets so population-wide experiments on the mosquitoes can
be done without releasing anything that hasn’t been shown safe to
the outside environment.
- In the experiment described in the paper by Brian Lovett and
collaborators, the super-fungus eradicated 99% of all mosquitoes
compared to the control insecticide groups.
- Burkina Faso has adopted “approval on proof of safety”
legislation for genetically modified organisms.
An experimental cure may also protect against Nipah
- Nipah virus emerged in around 1999 and is primarily found in
Bangladesh and India. The virus can cause severe respiratory
distress as wells neurological diseases leading to pneumonia and
- It is lethal in about 70% of cases. The World Health
Organization has listed Nipah as an emerging pathogen, which has a
potential to cause major epidemics or even Pandemics.
- It is transmitted to humans via bats. Fruit bats are natural
hosts of the virus and pigs are intermediate host. The virus can
also be transmitted from person to person.
- The recent Nipah outbreak in Kerala, India resulted in 23 cases
and 21 deaths. Resurfaced this week – 1 case reported so far.
- An experimental monoclonal antibody is the only current
treatment, which was tested during the outbreak in India last
- In a new study an experimental drug, which was mainly studied
to treat Ebola, might be effective against Nipah virus too.
- This antiviral drug- Remdesivir is currently underway to the
Democratic Republic of Congo to treat Ebola.
- This drug has completely protected African green monkeys
against infection with a lethal dose of Nipah virus as reported by
a collaborative study published by CDC and NIH’s National Institute
of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
- For this trial, eight green African monkeys were infected with
Lethal dose of Nipah Virus. Half of them received intravenous
Remdesivir 24 hour post infection and then a daily intravenous dose
for a total of 12 consecutive days. The four that did not, died
within eight days.
- The NIAD team observed the animal for 92 days and studies
clinical samples intermittently during this time. Two monkeys
developed respiratory illness- which was resolved in 2 week but the
other two showed no signs of the illness
- The drug has shown effectiveness against two other diseases
with potential pandemic threat- Lassa Fever and MERS. These are
preliminary studies in cells and mice.
- Also, the viruses which cause these have a very different
outer shell, however, the DNA or gene copying enzyme known as
polymerase share similar characteristics. Remdesivir targets this
enzyme making effective against a more than once infectious
New York Times, The
Eastern European universities score highly in
university gender ranking
- Nowadays, when everything is metrics (whether that’s good or
bad is a whole different story), universities set their development
goals also by following internationally accredited rankings based
on specific metrics.
- Until recently, such metrics were overall or average impact
factor of the published articles, number of students, number of
collaborations, rate of open access publishing.
- Naturally, some of the biggest institute’s names were always on
top of those rankings – MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Johns
Hopkins etc. So said rankings were kind of boring after the fifth
time you’d see them.
- Now though, a new factor has been included which made things
suddenly much more interesting, but may be for the wrong reasons –
- The Leiden Ranking – out of the univ of Leiden in the
Netherlands, created an algorithm to assess the ratios of female vs
male authors of publications coming from respective universities
and research institutes.
- Out of nowhere really, the big names in global research were
ranking much much lower than some much less known
- The first American University ranked by this factor is the univ
of San Diego on 42nd place!!!!!
- Before that, almost without exceptions, universities are from
Eastern Europe, South America and Thailand.
The Climate Lounge
Don’t you, forget about me…the corporate
Tom Di Liberto
Ok folks, it’s time to stop being polite and start getting REAL.
For American listeners of a certain age, that reference was just
KILLER! For everyone else…sorry. It was a reference to the show
Real World on MTV, which ostensibly started as a show where young
people from diverse backgrounds were put into a house together to
see how they interacted and hopefully grew. But eventually it just
became a show that put a bunch of hot people from diverse
backgrounds in a house to fight drink and have sex. Basically it
started reality TV.
Today in the Lounge I want to touch on a more provocative topic
that riles people up. In reality it’s not that provocative, but
nuanced. However, in today’s world nuance is dead. And that topic
is well…let me read you the title of the op-ed, ”You can’t save the
climate by going vegan. Corporate polluters must be held
accountable” by Dr. Michael Mann and Jonathan Brockopp in USA
Yes, let’s discuss individual action versus collective action on
climate change. This is often treated as a battle between the two.
Folks on one side asking “How can we convince people that climate
change is a problem if we don’t advocate changes in how ourselves
live?” Folks on the other side saying, “Focusing on the individual
is a distraction from the things doing the ACTUAL pollution, the
fossil fuel industry and corporations”. The answer of course is
that BOTH ARE RIGHT. Everyone hear that before I get hate mail.
BOTH ARE RIGHT. WE NEED BOTH. I’M YELLING.
The problem this op-ed is talking about, and one in which I
agree, is when our efforts swing to one side too much. The op-ed
starts off with a famous example of marketing in the United states,
that of the crying Native American that first ran on Earth Day
1971. The advertisement was clear who was the cause of the
littering problem, the major corporations that massively increased
their plastic use damaging our environment, our pollution
generating corporate practices… just kidding. It was us, not the
corporations. A subtle difference that shifted the blame. And was
it solved. No, of course not! Those corporate practices continued,
and it wasn’t their fault. It was OUR fault. Looking back, it’s not
that the whole ad campaign was a disaster. However, the Native
American actor they used in that ad wasn’t even Native American! He
was an Italian American…sigh. And now the authors of the op-ed are
afraid this is happening again.
Of course, the authors are not saying that personal actions to
reduce climate impact are bad. On the contrary, they say they are
worth taking. They are just saying that if folks think the only way
to combat climate change is to go vegan, or stop flying or move
into a cave and berate anyone who isn’t doing what you’re doing,
well, we’re screwed. If we make a purity bar for those who want to
enter into the conversation on dealing with climate change, we
exclude a lot of people and make us all look bad.
Not everyone CAN take personal actions that others can. If
you’re poor, live in a food dessert, have medical issues etc, you
can’t simply go vegan. So why exclude. On the flip side, and I want
to re-emphasize this, if you CAN take personal actions, you should!
BUT you should also be holding the fossil fuel industry,
politicians and the whole damn system accountable too. We
need MASSIVE changes to fix climate change. MASSIVE changes to our
energy grid, food production, transportation uses. And it’s not
going to get fixed by debating whether we should all go vegan. (But
I mean we should eat less meat).
It’s not an “either/or”, people. IT’S BOTH. LET’S DO ALL OF
THESE THINGS! And let’s not forget who is the real problem here,
not us but the fossil fuel industry, corporate practices and a
political reality that makes it impossible to live as carbon-free
as we like. So listen to THIS crying Italian American, and let’s
get to work, talk with your family and friends about climate
change, call your politicians, and oh yeah, don’t drive or fly if
you don’t have to. We can do it all and we’ll need to because we’re
all in this together.
That concludes this episode of the Blue Streak Science
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This show is produced by the Blue Streak Science team, and
edited by Pro
Our hosts today were Amrita Sule, Nevena Hristozova, and Tom Di
I’m JD Goodwin.
Thank you for joining us.
And remember…follow the science!