The main bioactive compound in catnip seems to protect cats from mosquitoes. It might protect humans, too.
- For centuries, humans have observed that cats exhibit strange behaviors when exposed to catnip and silver vine.
- A new study examined how the main bioactive compound in these plants affects cats' opioid systems and protects them against mosquito bites.
- The findings suggest that the compound nepetalactol could be used to develop new mosquito repellents for humans.
Nepeta cataria, commonly known as catnip
Johann Georg Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm) via WikiPedia/Public Domain<p>In the study, researchers from Iwate University in Japan exposed nepetalactol-laced paper to different types of felids, including domestic and feral cats, a leopard, two jaguars and two lynx. The team also exposed nepetalactol to dogs and mice, but only the cats elicited the expected behavioral response.</p><p>To find out why cats react uniquely to nepetalactol, the researchers measured the animals' endorphin levels before and after they were exposed to the substance. The results showed that nepetalactol raised endorphin levels in cats.</p><p>But when cats were given drugs that blocked opioid receptors, their endorphin levels didn't rise, and their behavior didn't change. This suggests that cats' "μ-opioid system is stimulated by an increase in endogenous β-endorphin secretion when olfactory neurons are activated by these iridoids," the team wrote.</p>
Nepetalactol as a mosquito repellent<p>To test the efficacy of nepetalactol as a mosquito repellant, the researchers anesthetized two groups of cats. For one group, the researchers applied nepetalactol to the cats' heads. The other group was left untreated to serve as a control. The researchers then exposed the cats to Asian tiger mosquitos and counted the number of times the insects bit each group.</p><p>The results showed that the group treated with nepetalactol was much less likely to get bitten, sometimes by as much as 50 percent. The same proved true in a "more natural" experiment, in which cats were allowed to rub their faces on the plants themselves.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This is convincing evidence that the characteristic rubbing and rolling response functions to transfer plant chemicals that provide mosquito repellency to cats," the team wrote.</p>
The world's deadliest animal<p>While the researchers don't fully understand why nepetalactol activates the μ-opioid system in cats, they think the compound could help humans avoid mosquito bites. After all, some of the study contributors have applied for a patent covering the use of nepetalactol as an insect repellent. Gizmodo <a href="https://gizmodo.com/cats-love-catnip-because-it-protects-them-from-mosquito-1846092518" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reports</a> that the researchers even tried applying the compound to their arms, which seemed to prevent mosquito bites.</p><p>For thousands of years, humans have aimed to protect themselves from mosquitos. The Egyptian queen Cleopatra was said to sleep surrounded by a mosquito net. The Romans used vinegar mixtures. And Mississippians turned to the American beautyberry plant. </p><p>Today, DEET is the most widely used mosquito repellent, but it's slightly toxic and can cause side effects, including seizures, though rarely. Developing better mosquito repellents could save many lives. The World Mosquito Program <a href="https://www.worldmosquitoprogram.org/en/learn/mosquito-borne-diseases#:~:text=Nearly%20700%20million%20people%20contract,more%20than%20one%20million%20deaths." target="_blank">reports</a> that mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria and yellow fever affect more than 700 million annually and kill approximately one million. </p>
We look back at a year ravaged by a global pandemic, economic downturn, political turmoil and the ever-worsening climate crisis.
Billions are at risk of missing out on the digital leap forward, as growing disparities challenge the social fabric.
Image: Global Risks Report 2021<h3>Widespread effects</h3><p>"The immediate human and economic costs of COVID-19 are severe," the report says. "They threaten to scale back years of progress on reducing global poverty and inequality and further damage social cohesion and global cooperation."</p><p>For those reasons, the pandemic demonstrates why infectious diseases hits the top of the impact list. Not only has COVID-19 led to widespread loss of life, it is holding back economic development in some of the poorest parts of the world, while amplifying wealth inequalities across the globe.</p><p>At the same time, there are concerns the fight against the pandemic is taking resources away from other critical health challenges - including a <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/charts-covid19-malnutrition-educaion-mental-health-children-world/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">disruption to measles vaccination programmes</a>.</p>
A new study on mice showed that ginger may counter certain autoimmune disorders such as lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome.
- A new Michigan Medicine study on mice suggests that the primary bioactive compound of ginger root, 6-gingerol, could help counter the autoimmune disorders lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome.
- The researchers found that the mice had lower levels of NETs (which play a role in the pathogenesis of lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome by stimulating autoantibody formation) after being giving 6-gingerol.
- 6-gingerol won't be able to be the primary therapy for individuals with lupus or active antiphospholipid syndrome, but the research team is eager to see if the natural supplement offers help to those at high risk for developing the diseases.
Treating lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome<p>Specifically, the researchers looked at lupus, which attacks the body's own immune system, along with antiphospholipid syndrome (often associated with lupus), which causes blood clots. Both the diseases cause widespread inflammation and ravage organs overtime. In mice with either of the disease, 6-gingerol stopped the neutrophil extracellular trap release caused by the diseases' production of autoantibodies.<br><br>"Neutrophil extracellular traps, or NETs, come from <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/white+blood+cells/" target="_blank">white blood cells</a> called neutrophils," explained lead author Ramadan Ali, Ph.D <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-01-ginger-counters-autoimmune-diseases-mice.html" target="_blank">in a press release</a>. "These sticky spider-web like structures are formed when autoantibodies interact with receptors on the neutrophil's surface."</p><p>The webs, according to Ali, play a fundamental role in the pathogenesis of lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome in which they set off autoantibody formation and contribute to clots in blood vessels and other damage. </p>
Ginger's anti-inflammatory properties<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQzNDczMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MzQwMjk3Nn0.-sJTlsLQ9_0lz9nIjjx9zL2HzsBBPyiv-B48GOlTfzQ/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C312%2C0%2C312&height=700" id="9cfd3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee0f26f2d0aa12551b6cf2fab0ab71f7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
What's next?<p>The study was done on rodent models. However, the authors think that the promising preclinical data, which showed that 6-gingerol has surprising anti-neutrophil properties that may guard against the progression of certain autoimmune diseases, encourages the clinical trial development. </p><p>"As for basically all treatments in our field, one size does not fit all. But, I wonder if there is a subgroup of autoimmune patients with hyperactive neutrophils who might benefit from increased intake of 6-gingerol," Knight said, noting that it will be important to look and analyze neutrophils before and after treatment so to determine the subgroup most likely to see benefit. </p><p>While 6-gingerol won't be able to be the primary therapy for individuals with lupus or active antiphospholipid syndrome, the research team is eager to see if the natural supplement offers help to those at high risk for developing the diseases. </p><p>"Those that have autoantibodies, but don't have activated disease, may benefit from this treatment if 6-gingerol proves to be a protective agent in humans as it does in mice," Ali said.</p><p>"Patients with active disease take blood thinners, but what if there was also a natural supplement that helped reduce the amount of clots they produce? And what if we could decrease their autoantibodies?"</p>
Giving herbal medicine a deeper look<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQzNDcyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzk0ODAxMX0.WSI8bt0eK1tb3_C59TWbm_VBjzEmr8qZMe9sjydAR8A/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C703%2C0%2C703&height=700" id="8750f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ac0e4587ed052bcf45be609ac47fa628" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
bulbs of garlics
A new study suggests that maintaining gut health to avoid diabetes may be little simpler than previously believed.
- Four out of trillions of gut microbes have been identified as being especially important for health.
- The microbes may play a role in obesity that can result in type 2 diabetes.
- Understanding the microbes' roles may lead to new probiotics for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2MTQ5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDM2NDgwNn0.vSyl1bcAidqmGMS8RMM6Hye5VliMpC9AltPMI7PdDS4/img.jpg?width=980" id="649fd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="48097d5e9638b775b46ca579b7cd160d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
The problematic Western diet
Credit: Vasiliy/Adobe Stock<p><span style="background-color: initial;"><a href="https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-1-diabetes/what-insulin" target="_blank">Insulin</a></span> is a hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates the level of glucose—a sugar found in many carbohydrates—by controlling its absorption into liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells. If there's too much glucose in the blood, insulin stores away the extra sugar in the liver for later use when your blood sugar is low, or if you need a jolt of energy.</p><p>With <a href="https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/type-2" target="_blank">type 2 diabetes</a>, the body no longer responds sufficiently to insulin. As a result, in an attempt to compensate and keep blood sugar at acceptable levels, the body increases its production of insulin, and this, over time, wears out the pancreas' ability to produce the hormone. At that point, the person requires injections of supplemental insulin to maintain blood sugar levels.</p><p>The most significant risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes is being overweight, which is typically a product of insufficient exercise and diet. "Type 2 diabetes is in fact a global pandemic and the number of diagnoses is expected to keep rising over the next decade," study co-leader Andrey Morgun of OSU tells the university's <a href="https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/research-shows-few-beneficial-organisms-could-play-key-role-treating-type-2-diabetes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Newsroom</a>. Driving this is the rising percentage of people who are <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight" target="_blank">overweight</a>. "The so-called 'western diet' — high in saturated fats and refined sugars," says Morgun, "is one of the primary factors. But gut bacteria have an important role to play in modulating the effects of diet."</p>
Tracing dysbiosis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2MTUxNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDEzOTY2OX0.eXAjxosnEPKz0GKys-LJPS7exEl7Bj52bgafUHAC9SI/img.png?width=980" id="7e7cf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8ccfc6c33b2cf5285b3601915601cc56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="810" />
Credit: Kathryn Cross/Ohio State University<p>The OSU study explores the microbial mechanism behind "dysbiosis," or microbiome imbalance, and its role in type 2 diabetes.</p><p>Co-author OSU's Natalia Shulzhenko says, "Some studies suggest dysbiosis is caused by complex changes resulting from interactions of hundreds of different microbes. However, our study and other studies suggest that individual members of the microbial community, altered by diet, might have a significant impact on the host."</p><p>The researchers used <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557635/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">transkingdom network analysis</a>, a recently developed data-driven, systems-biology methodology, to examine host-microbe interactions, looking for specific microbe species that might be involved in dysbiosis.</p><p>In fact, they found some. "The analysis pointed to specific microbes that potentially would affect the way a person metabolizes glucose and lipids," explains Morgun. "Even more importantly, it allowed us to make inferences about whether those effects are harmful or beneficial to the host. And we found links between those microbes and obesity." The first step was identifying four groups of closely related species, or operational taxonomical units (OTUs), that appeared to be associated with glucose management, and that may play a role in obesity as a precursor of type 2 diabetes.</p><p>The OTUs pointed to four microbial species in particular: <em>Lactobacillus johnsonii</em>, <em>Lactobacillus gasseri</em>, <em>Romboutsia ilealis</em>, and <em>Ruminococcus gnavus</em>. As Shulzhenko explains, "The first two microbes are considered potential 'improvers' to glucose metabolism, the other two potential 'worseners.' The overall indication is that individual types of microbes and/or their interactions, and not community-level dysbiosis, are key players in type 2 diabetes." (Previous research has also associated <em>Romboutsia ilealis</em>, or "<em>R. ilealis</em>", with obesity.)</p><p>That <em>Lactobacillus</em> is an improver is encouraging, as it's a species often found in existing probiotic supplements, yogurts, fermented foods, and some dairy products. Shulzhenko says that in "looking at all of the metabolites, we found a few that explain a big part of probiotic effects caused by Lactobacilli treatments."</p>
Of mice and men. And women.<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2MTU3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjUzODQ0Nn0.ng4zjkYhIX8qdERs5pBRnB-6A3omKxFR9026dT19-Sw/img.jpg?width=980" id="21fd2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3e9717ab4bd27bc26626b966d12d0ca2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="792" />
Credit: Christoph Burgstedt/Adobe Stock<p>To confirm their suspicions, the researchers performed an experiment with mice, putting them on the mouse equivalent of the Western diet, and then feeding them improver and worsener microbe species for eight weeks.</p><p>Mice that were fed the two<em> Lactobacilli</em> improvers proved healthier in two ways. Their liver health—specifically, the efficiency with which they metabolized lipids and glucose—was improved, and they wound up with a lower <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7140880/" target="_blank">fat mass index</a> rating.</p><p>Comparing the results of their mice experiment with data from previous research on humans, the pattern held. The presence of more improver microbes was correlated with a lower BMI, and a stronger presence of worsens was associated with a higher <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/index.html" target="_blank">BMI</a>. Says Shulzhenko, "We found <em>R. ilealis</em> to be present in more than 80% of obese patients, suggesting the microbe could be a prevalent <a href="https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pathobiont" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pathobiont</a> in overweight people."</p><p>The researchers hope that their findings can help lead to new prevention and treatment approaches for type 2 diabetes. Summarizes Morgun:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Our study reveals potential probiotic strains for treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity as well as insights into the mechanisms of their action. That means an opportunity to develop targeted therapies rather than attempting to restore 'healthy' microbiota in general."</p>
A new antibiotic hits germs with a two pronged attack.
- Antibiotic resistance is a big problem, but not many new drugs are currently under development.
- A recent discovery may give us a new antibiotic that is effective against a wide range of germs, including those resistant to other drugs.
- The new drug's mechanism also appears to signal the immune system, helping to amplify its response.