What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Bat plant could be used to fight cancer

Bat plant, or Tacca chantrieri, could be used to fight cancer, according to researchers with
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

 The researchers have pinpointed the cancer-fighting potential in the plant.

 Susan Mooberry, Ph.D., leader of the Experimental Development Therapeutics Programme at the Cancer Therapy and Research Cent has been working to isolate substances in the plant, looking for a plant-derived cancer drug with the potential of Taxol.

 Taxol, the first microtubule stabilizer derived from the Yew family, has been an effective chemotherapy drug, but patients eventually develop problems with resistance over time and toxicity at higher doses. So, researchers have long been seeking alternatives.

 “We’ve been working with these for years with some good results, but never with the potency of Taxol,” said Dr. Mooberry, lead author of the study. “Now we have that potency, and we also show for the first time the taccalonolides’ cellular binding site,” she stated.

 The taccalonolides stabilize microtubules in cancer cells, but they do not attack healthy cells, Dr. Mooberry said.

Large-scale study deems acupuncture safe for children

The first large-scale systematic review on the safety of acupuncture for young people, the study found that one in 10 children experienced mild side effects, such as minor bruising at the puncture site. However, more serious reactions, such as infections or nerve damage, were found to be rare.

In the study, researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada examined data from 37 international studies. They found that out of 1,422 children and teenagers included in the data, 168 experienced mild side effects. The study only aimed to answer questions about safety, not effectiveness, of pediatric acupuncture treatments.

The New York Times reported that previous studies have mostly focused on adults being treating with acupuncture, with "serious side effects occurring in about five of every million treatment sessions."

A common alternative medicine, acupuncture is reportedly growing in popularity to treat children who suffer from pain or migraines.

The New York Times also cites a prior study from Harvard Medical School that examined the effects of acupuncture on 50 children seeking relief from migraines or endometriosis.
The authors concluded that despite initial anxieties about the needles, most families found acupuncture "pleasant and helpful."

Spiders use chemical weapons to ward off ants

Golden orb web spiders have an undisclosed weapon - a chemical repellent which they add to their web silk to fend off ants, a new study has suggested.

The finding adds a chemical defense to the impressive properties of spider silk, already known to be very strong, elastic and adhesive, and may provide new opportunities for pesticide design.

Associate Professor Daiqin Li, who led the team at the National University of Singapore, said that ants rarely occur on the web of orb web spiders, despite their abundance, so his team set out to discover why.

“We found that large Golden orb web spiders add a defensive alkaloid chemical onto the silk, which stops the ants from walking onto the web when they come into contact with it,” said Li.

Professor Mark Elgar from the University of Melbourne said the team was impressed by the strength of the ant repellent in the web silk.
 “The type of chemical deterrent found in the spider silk is known as a pyrrolidine alkaloid, which acts as a predator deterrent in many species of ants, moths and caterpillars,” Prof Elgar said.