What's the buzz

Disinfecting nests, blue tits use aromatherapy

A new study has revealed that birds called blue tits use ‘aromatherapy’ to disinfect their nests.

These birds have been found to line their nests with aromatic plants like mint or lavender, which kill bacteria. The study suggests that doing so helps the birds create more sterile environment for chicks, which, in turn, grow faster and have a better chance of survival.

However, individual blue tits are quite picky about which plants they use, and the study has yet not explained how they pass their knowledge on to other birds.

On Corsica, according to a report describing the study, blue tits also incorporate fresh fragments of aromatic plants, including lavender, mint and curry plants, into their nests.

“We hypothesised that aromatic plants used by blue tits had some anti-parasite properties, because most of these plants, or close species of the same genus, are traditional Mediterranean plants with well-known medicinal properties,” said Adele Mennerat, University of Bergen, Norway.

Chemical that selectively kills breast cancer cells

An Indian-origin researcher in Boston has announced the discovery of a chemical that works in mice to kill the rare, but aggressive, cells within breast that have the ability to seed new tumours.

Piyush Gupta, Broad Institute, points out that these cells, known as cancer stem cells, are thought to enable cancers to spread and to re-emerge after seemingly successful treatment. He said that it might be possible to find chemicals that selectively kill cancer stem cells.

Robert Weinberg, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, who jointly wrote the report with Gupta, said: “Evidence is accumulating rapidly that cancer stem cells are responsible for the aggressive powers of many tumours. The ability to generate such cells in the laboratory, together with the powerful techniques made it possible to identify this chemical.”

Cognitive behavioural therapy improves sleep

Cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) may prove an effective treatment for older patients with osteoarthritis and comorbid insomnia, according to a study.

The study has shown that the treatment improves both immediate and long-term self-reported sleep and pain in older patients with osteoarthritis and comorbid insomnia without directly addressing pain control.

The study report said that the participant who received CBT-I reported significantly decreased sleep latency and wake after sleep onset, significantly reduced pain, and increased sleep efficiency.

The improvements persisted in CBT-I patients (19 of 23) who were further assessed for sleep quality and perceived pain at a one-year follow-up visit.

Lead author Dr Michael V Vitiello, University of Washington, Seattle, said that the findings indicated that insomnia is not merely a symptom of osteoarthritis but rather a co-existing illness.

Temporary jobs contribute to psychological distress

People who work on temporary basis face an increased risk of mental health problems, according to a new research.

“Temporary workers — those lacking long-term, stable employment — seem to be susceptible to declining mental health for as long as they continue to work in these so-called ‘disposable’ or ‘second class’ jobs,” said Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, McGill University.

“This research shows that temporary work strains employee mental health, as contingent workers report more symptoms of depression and psychological distress than similarly employed workers who are not in these fixed-term positions,” the expert added.

To reach the conclusion, the research team analysed a sample of longitudinal records collected biennially between 1992 and 2002 from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979.

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