Have you ever eaten a single potato chip or French fry that sent you spiraling into nearly uncontrollable gluttony? Scientists are now saying that these sober binges are actually quite similar to pot smokers’ notorious bouts of the munchies: fatty foods cause your body to release marijuana-like chemicals called endocannabinoids, and this likely compels you to continue stuffing your face.
The condoms, developed by UK biotech company Futura Medical, are lined with a gel that increases blood flow. The gel’s active ingredient, glyceryl nitrate, has been used for as a vasodilator for over a century. The tricky part was getting the gel to stay in the condom without degrading the latex, but the company found a way (and quickly patented it).
If one London art gallery is correct in predicting the future of police surveillance, we may have to redefine the meaning of ‘sting’ operation: one artist’s mock-interview with a (fake) beekeeping police officer describes how bees can be used to track down growers of illegal plants–and the scary thing is that this art video is only a hop and a skip from reality.
An exhibition called “High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture” at London’s Wellcome Collection features a short film by artist Thomas Thwaites, entitled “Policing Genes,” in which a mock police officer explains the latest in surveillance trickery. Essentially, the police officers tend bee hives, and when the bees return from their daily pollen-hunt, the officers not only check the bees for pollen from such plants as marijuana, but can also use software to decode the dance of the honeybee. And since pollen-laden bees dance to tell the other bees where they found the pollen, decoding the dance would tell the police the exact location of the illegal plants.
Though archaeologists have known about the ship since the 1980s, this is the first time researchers have had a crack at analyzing the drugs found onboard. Using the GenBank genetic database as their guide, they have found that the pills appear to contain carrot, parsley, radish, alfalfa, chestnut, celery, wild onion, yarrow, oak, and cabbage.
Geneticist Robert Fleischer of the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park says that many of the ingredients match those described in ancient texts, New Scientist reports. Yarrow was meant to slow blood coming from a wound, and carrot–as described by Pedanius Dioscorides, a pharmacologist in Rome–was thought to ward off reptiles and aid in conception.
Fleischer and colleagues presented these first results yesterday at the Fourth International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology in Denmark, and Nature’s blog The Great Beyond reports that the pills also contained some surprises. For one, researchers found sunflower or helianthus believed to be a New World plant unknown to the Europeans until the 1400s. Now researchers must determine if the ancient Greeks really prescribed sunflower concoctions or if the some modern, ancient drug handlers contaminated the find. They also hope to find “theriaca,” a medicine described in ancient texts as containing 80 different plants–a pill to put the modern health drink V8 to shame.
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Image: Wikimedia Commons / Dioscorides: Materia Medica.
The CIA’s experiments with mind-control and hallucinogenic drugs are well documented. It’s hard to forget about programs like Operation Midnight Climax, in which the agency studied the effects of LSD by dosing unsuspecting clients at brothels. But did the agency go so far as to send an entire French village on an acid trip that killed a few people and institutionalized a bunch more? According to The Telegraph, the CIA did just that in 1951.
For years, people familiar with “the incident of the cursed bread” (or le pain maudit) have subscribed to the theory that villagers in Saint-Pont-Esprit in Southern France suffered massive delusions because they all ate bread contaminated by ergot, a hallucinogenic fungus. After eating bread from a local baker, the villagers reported such delusions as the conviction that they were missing body parts or had animals in their stomachs.
Now, The Telegraph reports that the incident was not “ergotism” caused by the fungus, as previously believed, but was actually a bad trip caused by the CIA, which had spiked the village bread with LSD, or maybe just sprayed LSD into the air. Quite a story, huh? Too bad it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.
Flying high, NASA style!
One of the space agency’s employees seems to have been inspired by the space shuttle’s soaring trajectory. A baggie containing a small amount of white powder residue, later found to be cocaine, was found at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Way to go, NASA-employee-doing-coke-on-premises. You have forever altered our image of clean-cut astronauts standing around in space suits, chatting with diligent rocket scientists. But NASA is not so amused.
According to CNN, Bob Cabana, the director of Kennedy Space Center, issued a terse statement that read in part:
“This is a rare and isolated incident, and I’m disappointed that it happened, but it should not detract from the outstanding work that is being done by a dedicated team on a daily basis.”
Researchers want to find out if LSD could help medical research, but first they first need to examine the inside of a brain under the influence of the drug to see exactly what’s happening. National Geographic takes an inside look at their Explorer program:
Using enhanced brain imaging, non-hallucinogenic versions of the drug and information from an underground network of test subjects who suffer from an agonizing condition for which there is no cure, researchers are finding that this “trippy” drug could become the pharmaceutical of the future. Can it enhance our brain power, expand our creativity and cure disease? To find out, Explorer puts LSD under the microscope.
Want to see for yourself? Take a look inside a tripper’s brain:
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Video: YouTube / NationalGeographic
Lost amid all the talk about the swine flu vaccine is another vaccine that is under study—a vaccine against cocaine addiciton.
In a 7-week study of 55 cocaine and opiate addicts, those who received the vaccine and attained a high level of antibodies from it were 45 percent more likely to have a cocaine-free urine test afterwards, as opposed to 35 percent for those who either had lower antibodies or received a placebo instead. According to BBC News:
The proportion of participants who reduced their cocaine use by half was significantly greater among those treated with the active vaccine – 53% compared to 23% in the placebo group.
The researchers said about 40% of the participants achieved antibody levels of 20 micrograms per millilitre.
They said this was enough to combat one to two doses of cocaine which should be enough to prevent relapses in many patients.
Here are details on how the vaccine works from PopSci:
The vaccine works similar to vaccines for microorganisms, training your body to view cocaine as a bad invader. The shots, which include a cocainelike substance (succinylnorcocaine), encourage the body to pump out antibodies against cocaine. The antibodies bind to the coke, which prevents it from getting into the brain, and theoretically prevents people from getting high. Right now, only about 38 percent of the subjects who got the vaccine produced high levels of antibodies, so there’s room for improvement.
There are no FDA approved vaccines against narcotics, but the research could certainly help the 2.5 million Americans that are hooked on cocaine. The researchers told Popsci.com that they plan to confirm their results in a larger study and hope to have the vaccine available withing a few years if all goes well. The study was published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.
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More than a year after his first appearance, The Today Show revisited Paul Karason, who suffered an extremely rare side effect when he took colloidal silver to treat a skin condition: His skin turned blue. Not a light shade of azure or a sky blue—we’re talking full-on Smurf. While the 58-year-old isn’t exactly the picture of health—he was recently treated for a blocked artery and prostate cancer—a recent physical indicated that his heart, lungs, kidney and liver were all healthy. Watch the full interview here:
Could all those furry lab rodents soon be replaced with insects? Possibly, as Irish scientists discovered while testing how the immune systems of insects fights off a bacterial or fungal infection. It turns out insect cells respond to infections the same way mammals’ cells do, producing similarly structured enzymes to kill off intruding microbes.
When National University of Ireland’s biologist Kevin Kavanagh looked at immune cells in insects, and compared them to the white blood cells in mammals, he found that they both fought the invading pathogen through a similar chemical attack—which makes sense given that mammals and insects have immune systems that are 90 percent identical.
The researchers believe that substituting moths in the initial testing of new antimicrobial drugs could reduce the demand for mice by 80 percent. Reuters reports:
“It is now routine practice to use insect larvae to perform initial testing of new drugs and then to use mice for confirmation tests,” said Kevin Kavanagh, a biologist from the National University of Ireland, who presented his research at a Society for General Microbiology meeting in Edinburgh.
“This method of testing is quicker, as tests with insects yield results in 48 hours whereas tests with mice usually take 4 to 6 weeks. And it is much cheaper too.”
The cost savings of switching to bugs would be enormous: A caterpillar costs 16 to 32 cents, while a mouse chews up between $80 to $130 per experiment. Kavanagh tested 700 new drugs using a relatively small number of insects—the same research would have needed 14,000 mice.
Image: flickr/ CameraShyMom