from the world's big
Scorpion venom drug may reverse alcohol damage in babies
A new drug derived from scorpion venom reversed developmental damage in mice exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.
- Scientists tested a drug derived of scorpion venom on mice exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.
- The drug was able to reverse specific developmental damage caused by alcohol and will next be tested on humans.
- Researchers pinpointed specific molecular mechanisms causing developmental problems.
Scorpions, sporting eight legs and a venomous stinger, can be quite dangerous for humans to encounter. They also may hold the key to treating developmental issues in kids whose moms drank alcohol during pregnancy. A new study found that a novel drug made from scorpion venom was able to reverse motor deficits in mice with the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
FASD is caused by alcohol consumption of pregnant mothers and is characterized by learning disabilities, causing cognitive, intellectual and motor skills deficits. Among humans, 119,000 kids are born with this condition around the world every year. Undeveloped motor skills, in particular, are among the first signs of trouble noticed by parents and caregivers.
The research was carried out by a team from Children's National Hospital, led by Kazue Hashimoto-Torii, Ph.D., who is the principal investigator at the Center for Neuroscience Research and has been studying this topic for years over a series of studies. Her team was able to pinpoint the molecular changes responsible for the developmental delays by focusing on gestating mouse fetuses that had exposure to alcohol on their embryonic days 16 and 17. As the press release from the Children's National Hospital explains, that's when brain cells grow mainly in the upper cortex – the part of the brain responsible for motor abilities.
Per two exams taken 30 days after birth, these baby mice exhibited strong deficits in both large and small-muscle motor skills. Looking for differences at the molecular level, the scientists were able to figure out that the fetus's exposure to alcohol activated a signaling pathway known as "heat shock." This, in turn made cells produce protective proteins, doing so randomly just in some cells rather than consistently throughout all the cells.
The researchers tracked the diving neurons precisely, spotting differences in 93 genes. One, specifically, known as Kcnn2, was clearly over-expressed in the cells that made heat shock proteins. These cells also showed firing patterns that were out of the ordinary. What's notable about that is that this gene encodes a potassium channel activated by calcium and has been linked to learning and memory.
To remedy this, the scientists tested Tamapin, a drug that blocked this channel. It is derived from the venom of Indian red scorpions.
The drug was successful in returning the firing patterns of the cells back to normal. The baby mice, you'd be happy to hear, also showed clear improvement in their muscle motor skills.
Dan Massey, a 2010 PharmD graduate of the University of Arizona's College of Pharmacy, shows how he milked scorpions. Don't try this at your home!
To see how this drug can help human babies, Hashimoto-Torii and her colleagues now set up a biotech company.
"Usually investigators looking for the molecular mechanisms behind disease stop there, but we want to move forward to have a real impact on public health," she said. "We really want to give patients the hope of having a better life through treating the neurodevelopmental problems caused by FASD."
Other scientists working on the study included Shahid Mohammad, Stephen J. Page, Li Wang, Seiji Ishii, Peijun Li, Toru Sasaki, Aiesha Basha, Zenaide Quezado, Joshua Corbin, and Masaaki Torii of the Children's National Hospital.
You can read the new study published in Nature Neuroscience.
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.