A new study has shown that bee venom can kill the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have demonstrated that a toxin called melittin found in bee venom can destroy HIV by poking holes in the envelope surrounding the virus, according to a news release sent out by Washington University.
Nanoparticles smaller than HIV were infused with the bee venom toxin, explains U.S. News & World Report. A “protective bumper” was added to the nanoparticle’s surface, allowing it to bounce off normal cells and leave them intact. Normal cells are larger than HIV, so the nanoparticles target HIV, which is so small it fits between the bumpers.
“Melittin on the nanoparticles fuses with the viral envelope,” said research instructor Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD, via the news release. “The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus.” Adding, “We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV. Theoretically, there isn’t any way for the virus to adapt to that. The virus has to have a protective coat, a double-layered membrane that covers the virus.”
This revelation can lead to the development of a vaginal gel to prevent the spread of HIV and, it seems, an intravenous treatment to help those already infected. “Our hope is that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this gel as a preventive measure to stop the initial infection,” said Hood.
The bee venom HIV study was published on Thursday in the journal Antiviral Therapy, according to U.S. News & World Report.
This study comes on the heels of news that a Mississippi baby with HIV has apparently been cured. The mother was diagnosed with HIV during labor and the baby received a three-drug treatment just 30 hours after birth, before tests confirmed the infant was infected. The child, now 2 years old, has been off medication for about a year and shows no sign of infection.
More than 34 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, according to amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. Of these, 3.3 million are under the age of 15 years old. Each day, almost 7,000 people contract HIV around the globe.
Losing Biodiversity Could Lead to “Extinction Cascades”
New research shows that a loss of biodiversity puts the entire ecosystem at risk of a domino effect, where a single extinction could cause countless others.
Human expansion, destruction of natural habitats, pollution, and climate change have all led to biodiversity levels that are considered below the “safe” threshold for global ecosystems. And the consequences of biodiversity loss aren’t just about the extinction of certain charismatic species.
A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that less biodiversity in an area increases the risk of a domino effect of extinctions, where one species’ disappearance can cause other species to follow suit.
The research, conducted by ecologists at the University of Exeter, shows that losing a species in an area is dangerous in that it makes the surrounding ecological community simpler, and therefore less robust to change.
It makes sense: the fewer species that exist in an area, the fewer that are available to “fill the gap” left by other extinctions. Other species in the ecosystem will have fewer alternatives to turn to. For example, if there are fewer insects left overall across a region, the bats and amphibians that eat them will feel the loss of just one species much more severely.
“Interactions between species are important for ecosystem stability,” said Dirk Sanders, lead author and professor in Exeter’s Center for Ecology and Conservation, in a news release. “And because species are interconnected through multiple interactions, an impact on one species can affect others as well.”
The Exeter team investigated this idea by removing a species of wasp from test ecosystems. In many of these systems, the wasp’s disappearance caused indirect extinctions of other species at the same level of the food web. In simple communities, the effect was even stronger. Sanders emphasized the biodiversity loss could cause “run-away extinction cascades.”
This research sounds yet another dire warning bell at a time of biodiversity crisis. Even if you don’t care for poster-child species like polar bears, the crisis could also have ramifications for species that everyone cares about, like the crops that are the foundation of our global food supply. Studies that show how broadly single extinctions reverberate across ecosystems might buoy further efforts to protect global biodiversity.
Microwaves Might Have Same Negative Affects on Environment as Cars, Suggests Research
Microwaves usage across the EU alone emits as much carbon dioxide as nearly seven million cars according to a new study by The University of Manchester.
Researchers at the University have carried out the first ever comprehensive study of the environmental impacts of microwaves, considering their whole life cycle, from ‘cradle to grave’.
The study found:
- Microwaves emit 7.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year in the EU. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of 6.8 million cars.
- Microwaves across the EU consume an estimated 9.4 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity every year. This is equivalent to the annual electricity generated by three large gas power plants.
- Efforts to reduce consumption should focus on improving consumer awareness and behaviour to use appliances more efficiently.
Microwaves account for the largest percentage of sales of all type of ovens in the European Union (EU), with numbers set to reach nearly 135 million by 2020. Despite this, the scale of their impacts on the environment was not known until now.
The study used life cycle assessment (LCA) to estimate the impacts of microwaves, taking into account their manufacture, use and end-of-life waste management. Altogether, the research team investigated 12 different environmental factors, including climate change, depletion of natural resources and ecological toxicity. They found, for example, that the microwaves used across the EU emit 7.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. This is equivalent to the annual emission of 6.8 million cars.
The research shows that the main environmental ‘hotspots’ are materials used to manufacture the microwaves, the manufacturing process and end-of-life waste management. For example, the manufacturing process alone contributes more than 20% to depletion of natural resources and to climate change.
However, it is electricity consumption by microwaves that has the biggest impact on the environment, taking into account its whole life cycle, from production of fuels to generation of electricity. In total, microwaves across the EU consume an estimated 9.4 terawatts per hour (TWh) of electricity every year. This is equivalent to the annual electricity generation by three large gas power plants.
The study found that, on average, an individual microwave uses 573 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity over its lifetime of eight years. That is equivalent to the electricity consumed by a 7 watt LED light bulb, left on continuously for almost nine years. This is despite the fact that microwaves spend more than 90% of their lifetime being idle, in the stand-by mode.
The study’s authors suggest that efforts to reduce consumption should focus on improving consumer awareness and behaviour to use appliances more efficiently. For example, electricity consumption by microwaves can be reduced by adjusting the time of cooking to the type of food.
Waste is another major problem. Due to their relative low cost and ease of manufacture, consumers are throwing more electrical and electronic (EE) equipment away than ever before, including microwaves.
In 2005, across the EU, 184,000 tonnes of EE waste was generated from discarded microwaves. By 2025 this is estimated to rise to 195,000 tonnes, or 16 million individual units being sent for disposal.
Dr Alejandro Gallego-Schmid, from the School of Chemical Engineering & Analytical Science, explains: ‘Rapid technological developments and falling prices are driving the purchase of electrical and electronic appliances in Europe.
‘Consumers now tend to buy new appliances before the existing ones reach the end of their useful life as electronic goods have become fashionable and ‘status’ items.
‘As a result, discarded electrical equipment, such as microwaves, is one of the fastest growing waste streams worldwide.’
Another major contributing factor to the waste is a reduced lifespan of microwaves. It is now nearly seven years shorter than it was almost 20 years ago. Research shows that a microwave’s life cycle has decreased from around 10 to 15 years in the late 90s to between six to eight years today.
Dr Gallego-Schmid added: ‘Given that microwaves account for the largest percentage of sales of all type of ovens in the EU, it is increasingly important to start addressing their impact on resource use and end-of-life waste.’
The study also shows that existing regulation will not be sufficient to reduce the environmental impacts of microwaves. It recommends that it will be necessary to develop specific regulations for these devices targeting their design. This will help to reduce the amount of resources used to make microwaves and waste generated at the end of their lifetime.
Asteroid That Killed Off The Dinosaurs Also Triggered Huge Volcanoes Under The Oceans
When an asteroid hit Earth some 66 million years ago, it triggered devastation around the world.
There were at least three nearly simultaneous events involved in the global catastrophe that ended what we now call the Mesozoic era.
An asteroid between 10 and 15 kilometres in diameter slammed into Earth, creating the Chicxulub Crater near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
The Deccan Traps, a massive volcanic province in what’s now India, erupted, spewing lava and smoke that filled the skies.
And 75 percent of Earth’s plant and animal life went extinct, which scientists have linked to those other disasters that filled the skies with soot and smoke and transformed the world’s climate.
But when it comes to world-shaking devastation, that wasn’t all that was going on at the time, scientists report in a study recently published in the journal Science Advances.
The asteroid also appears to have sent ripples through Earth’s tectonic plates, which spread out through the oceans and caused tens of thousands of miles of underwater volcanic ridges to spew magma.
The authors describe those eruptions as “on par with the largest eruptive events in Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history, including the Deccan Traps”.
Looking for past volcanic activity
Part of the debate about what really killed the dinosaurs has to do with the interplay between the asteroid impact and the Deccan Traps eruptions. The most up-to-date understanding suggests the Deccan Traps eruptions began before the Chicxulub impact.
But they also seem to have gotten much more active in the time after the asteroid hit.
Yet if the asteroid was able to influence volcanic activity on the other side of the globe, it should have affected volcanoes elsewhere, too. That’s why the authors of this study decided to trace what was happening in the oceans.
To uncover evidence of underwater volcanic activity, the researchers used existing data to examine how the seafloor’s structure changed over the past 100 million years.
They were able to find evidence of massive transformations in the amount of rock on the seafloor, a change caused by volcanic activity.
Eruptions left 650-foot-high piles of rock in the Indian and Pacific oceans, the study authors write in The Conversation. They dated those eruptions to within a million years of the impact, close enough to link the events.
A better picture of the dinosaur apocalypse
These new findings give us a better timeline of what happened to trigger the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.
Although the Deccan Traps were probably erupting for 250,000 years before the Chicxulub asteroid slammed into the planet, the impact transformed the world.
The atmosphere filled with soot, causing global cooling that was strong and sudden enough to have played a strong role in the end of the dinosaurs.
At the same time, the asteroid shook the world and led to earthquakes that released even more magma.
The already flowing Deccan Traps erupted in a whole new way, essentially covering the Indian subcontinent with lava and further filling the skies with particles that reflected the sun’s heat back into space and cooled the planet.
An eruption that was equally strong occurred underwater.
Small mammals and flying dinosaurs – which we now know as birds – survived, but the majority of plant and animal life did not.
We still don’t know exactly which components of these global catastrophes were most responsible for the extinctions, or whether other volcanic systems elsewhere in the world were triggered, too.
“What is clear is that this new research points to global-scale connections between catastrophes, a good reminder that events happening on the other side of the planet can have effects felt everywhere,” the study authors write.
What is very clear is that this was an unpleasant time to be anywhere on Earth.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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