As the number of bacteria in mosquitoes’ guts (x axis) went up,
the malaria parasite levels dropped faster than a cartoon anvil.
What’s the News: We know the bacteria living in our guts are important to our health—but the bacteria in mosquitoes’ guts could be too. Researchers have discovered a species of mosquito gut bacteria that destroys the malaria parasite, keeping the disease from spreading to humans. This explains why some Anopheles mosquitoes (the only genus that transmits malaria) don’t spread it, and it spurs the imagination towards possible ways of tamping down the disease.
In recent years, antioxidants have been touted as a secret to healthy living: The molecules bind to reactive oxygen compounds called “free radicals” that are known to damage the body’s tissues. The amount of oxidative damage increases with age, and according to one theory of aging it is a major cause of the body’s decline [The New York Times]. But a new study examined the effects of the antioxidant vitamins C and E when combined with an exercise regimen, and found a considerably more complicated story. The researchers found that free radicals may be beneficial in small doses, and may even help protect against diabetes. And mopping them up with antioxidants may do more harm than good [BBC News].
During a workout, the muscles metabolize glucose to create energy, but in the process some free radicals are released. The body has a natural defense mechanism to combat these free radicals, but many researchers had theorized that the body can’t catch all of the harmful compounds, which makes antioxidant supplements sound like a logical solution.
An experimental drug has shown promise in preventing emphysema in mice exposed to cigarette smoke, giving researchers new hope that they’ll soon find a way to combat one of the most stubborn, untreatable, and common killers of humans. Even though the study focuses on emphysema in mice, the researchers suggest the drug could work in people by delaying or preventing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which encompasses emphysema and chronic bronchitis and is the fourth most common cause of death in the United States [Science News].
The drug, called CDDO-imidazole, or CDDO-Im, works by activating a gene called Nrf2, explains study coauthor Shyam Biswal. In prior research, Biswal and colleagues found that Nrf2 works as a “master gene,” turning on genes involved in protecting the lungs from pollution and cigarette smoke. “The Nrf2 pathway is the major antioxidant and detoxifying response in the lungs. Therapies targeting this pathway need to be developed and tested in patients,” said Biswal [Reuters].
Using a gene from a snapdragon flower, researchers have created a purple tomato rich in antioxidants, and a new study has shown that cancer-prone mice that were fed the altered tomatoes had significantly longer lifespans than those that dined on regular tomatoes. The tomatoes’ purple hue was a side effect of the type of antioxidants produced, called anthocyanins.
The tomatoes produce levels of anthocyanins about on par with blackberries, blueberries and currants, which recent research has touted as miracle fruits. But because of the high cost and infrequent availability of such berries, tomatoes might be a better source, says [lead researcher Cathie] Martin [USA Today].
Go ahead, order that latte with a double shot of espresso. Then do it again and again. A new study shows that drinking up to six cups of coffee a day won’t shorten your life span, and for women that daily coffee habit may even protect against heart disease.
The Spanish researchers who conducted the study are excited about their findings, but they stop short of prescribing coffee jolts to all. “Our results suggest that long-term, regular coffee consumption does not increase the risk of death and probably has several beneficial effects on health,” said lead researcher Dr. Esther Lopez-Garcia…. Lopez-Garcia stressed that the findings may only hold true only for healthy folk. “People with any disease or condition should ask their doctor about their risk, because caffeine still has an acute effect on short-term increase of blood pressure,” she said [HealthDay News].