As I’ve mentioned before, living in a large densely-packed social group, like a city or an ant colony, comes with some drawbacks – perhaps worst of which is the risk of catching a contagious diseases. Earlier this year I wrote about research showing that raider ants treat injured workers’ wounds, helping them to heal. Now, a new study shows that the queen can pass on resistance to diseases she’s encountered, arming her workers against pathogens.
Can bees only sting me once?
Honeybees are generally killed by stinging you, but most other stinging insects can survive to sting you again.
It’s a common urban myth that bees can only sting once, but it’s partially based in truth. Honeybees have a barbed stinger, and if they sting a thick-skinned mammal like a human, the barbed hook gets stuck as they try to pull away, ripping their insides out and killing the bee within a few minutes. But if they were to sting another insect, or a vertebrate with thinner skin, they’d probably live to tell the tale.
A fatty diet could change your genetic make-up, priming the immune system and causing clogged arteries.
Epigenetic changes – which often involve adding methyl to particular DNA sequences in a process known as DNA Methylation – can alter gene expression in response to environmental stimuli. The field of epigenetics has excited biologists because it allows animals to adapt their genetics to fit the environment, while also passing some of that experience on to the next generation.
How do you make a parasite less harmful? It might be as simple as forcing them to stick around.
Amanda Gibson from Indiana University performed experimental evolution with the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans and a parasitic bacteria (Serratia marcescens), comparing different scenarios for how the parasite was passed on. Under most circumstances, parasites continued to cause their hosts harm throughout the 20-generation experiment. Only when each strain of parasite was allowed to infect the same host strain, generation after generation, did the parasite evolve to become less harmful.
Probably one of the most widely used and trusted of the alternative medicines are manipulative therapies such as osteopathic and chiropractic interventions. More than 30,000 people visit an osteopath every day, with complaints ranging from back and neck pain to headaches and even asthma. Both practices come with an expensive qualification and official licensing, and many people I have spoken to have simply assumed that these treatments are part of the scientifically proven body of treatments we know as ‘modern medicine’. But both chiropractors and osteopaths in fact practise alternative medicine.
A Guest Post for Curious Meerkat by Leon Vanstone.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Comp-Sci.
Imagine you were alive thousands of years ago. Technology is primitive. Food is scarce. Life is tough. Wi-Fi signal is terrible. You spend most of your time foraging for food and what little spare time you have when the sun goes down is spent essentially doing science. Now this isn’t very advanced science, I’m talking about bashing rocks together, discovering fire, making spears, but nonetheless this is science and progress is slow.
Does Tofu Contain Female Hormones? (asked by Anonymous)
No. But they do contain some compounds that sometimes mimic female hormones such as oestrogen.
Homeopathy. One of the most popular alternative medicines in the Western world, and perhaps the most widely misunderstood. The science against homeopathy, like the skeptics, is unequivocal. The British Homeopathic association list homeopathy as a possible treatment for long-term chronic problems such as eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma, migraine, IBS and depression, but numerous healthcare bodies agree there is no evidence that homeopathy is effective in treating any health condition.
Alternative medicine: a phrase that is heavy with connotations, emotions and frankly, a great deal of confusion. Whichever side of the debate you find yourself on, the opinions are usually strong, stubbornly held, and generally backed up with too few facts for any kind of meaningful discussion. It is for these reasons that I usually try to avoid the topic entirely. But avoiding the issue gets us nowhere. So lets do it properly, if we’re going to do it at all. Over the last year I have read no less than 144 scientific papers on seven different so-called “alternative medicines”, in search of the truth behind the hype. From acupuncture to homeopathy, from reiki to hypnotism, I’ve searched high and low to find out what really works, what doesn’t work, what is helpful and what is potentially harmful. This series will explain what I’ve found in a fair and scientific way. It is not meant to offend anybody, merely to arm us all with the facts, so that we can make our own informed decisions.
Modern medicine can boast a number of triumphs against infectious disease over the past century; Smallpox killed around 500 million people in the 20th Century before its eradication in 1979 as a result of vaccination. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative began in 1988 and has achieved considerable success, with eradication complete in the Americas, Europe, the Indo-West Pacific and China. Last year, only 223 cases of Polio were reported globally. It comes as no surprise that those diseases against which we have had the greatest success are those that affect developed nations. Increasing attention is now being paid to the many debilitating and often deadly infectious diseases, which continue to affect billions of people in developing nations; a category of diseases known as NTDS (neglected tropical diseases).