Teen brain more sensitive to addictive drugs

Researchers have found evidence in animals that the young, adolescent brain may be more sensitive to addictive drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines than either the adult or newborn. The work may help someday lead to a better understanding of how the adolescent human brain adapts to such drugs, and provide clues into changes in the brain that occur during drug addiction.

Bacterial protein kills tumors

The use of live bacteria to treat cancer goes back a hundred years. But while the therapy can sometimes shrink tumors, the treatment usually leads to toxicity, limiting its value in medicine. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have isolated a protein secreted by bacteria that kills cancer cells but appears to have no harmful side effects. Tested in mice injected with human melanomas, the protein shrank the malignancies, but, in contrast with other studies using whole bacteria, caused no deaths or adverse reactions in the laboratory animals.

Picky microbe could aid environmental cleanup

Michigan researchers have found an elusive microbe whose pickiness could be key to the cleanup of a common type of environmental toxin. The researchers report the discovery of a microbe dredged from the bottom of the Hudson River that has an insatiable appetite to break down the environmental pollutant TCA. That means the bacterium shows promise as the missing piece of the puzzle to clean up soil and groundwater contaminated by multiple chlorinated solvents.

Global Warming Has Uneven Effect on Coastal Animals

Although it is expected that populations of many organisms will move away from the equator and toward the poles to stay cool during global warming, researchers have found that the intertidal zone does not exactly fit this pattern. A study published in this week’s Science Magazine indicates that there may be “hot spots” at northern shoreline sites within the next three to five years. This is partly due to the timing of the tides.

‘Love those bee-stung lips’: Facial markings help wasps identify each other

Looking good, ladyPaper wasps all look the same, right? An animal behaviorist at Cornell University reports that the wasp’s black-and-yellow uniform is not uniform at all. One wasp, she has discovered, can recognize another through facial and abdominal markings, all but displacing the scientific dogma that insects carry out identification and communication only by employing chemicals called pheromones. “Their faces are far more beautiful and different than you’d expect,” says Elizabeth Tibbetts.

Health of Native Americans on decline before Columbus’ arrival

The health of indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere was on a downward trajectory long before Columbus set foot in the Americas, Ohio researchers say. The rise of agriculture is partly to blame as the demands of tending domestic crops encouraged people to settle in larger communities, where disease was more easily spread. The current research suggests that the overall health of the average person declined with the development of agriculture, government and urbanization.

Insect infestation models may shed light on bug, disease outbreaks

Models of Larch budmoth outbreaks in the European Alps may eventually show scientists how to model a variety of disease and insect eruptions that rely on a combination of enemy, host and spatial movement to decimate populations, according to a team of ecologists. The Larch budmoth feeds on larch trees, a common evergreen variety, consuming the needles and defoliating the branches. In the European Alps, the infestation moves as predictable waves from west to east completely defoliating forests beginning in the French and Italian Alps and moving across the continent through Switzerland and into Austria.

Scientists decipher tooth decay bug’s genome

Researchers in Oklahoma have deciphered the complete genome sequence of Streptococcus mutans, the main organism implicated in causing tooth decay. The work, supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, has been made freely available online. Said one of the team members involved in the four-year effort: “Building on this basic research may one day lead us to new approaches for preventing and treating tooth decay.” Added another: “By targeting the adherence genes, for example, we might be able to develop a way of preventing S. mutans from sticking to teeth.”