Bee Venom Could Prevent HIV Infection

J.K. Trotter

Discovered: Bee venom can be used to neutralize HIV; gambling sites seduce people with free trials; dating in middle school is tied to truancy; a 'dirty blizzard' compounded Deepwater Horizon disaster.

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Bee venom can be used to neutralize HIV. Put away your vintage copy of The Swarm. It turns out bees — on top of making delicious honey —  produce an enzyme component, located in their venom, which scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have used to target and kill HIV virions, thus preventing them from infecting cells they come into contact with. The scientists focused on particular toxin called melittin, which can be used to break down cell walls. "The particles preferentially locked onto HIV and delivered their cargo: The venom component [melittin] poked holes in HIV’s protective protein coat, leading to sharply reduced amounts of virus." The odd origin of the key enzyme means pharmaceutical applications are still a way off, though. [Science News]

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Gambling sites seduce people with free rounds. There's a reason why certain states want to make online gambling illegal. Flashy sites where you can try gambling for free often lure in users into wasting (and losing) a lot of money, researchers at the University of Adelaide, in Australia, discovered. The sites make early, free rounds easier to play — and more lucrative — in order to deceive users into thinking they possess, and can improve, their gambling skills. "It seems that the practice modes on internet gaming sites provide the illusion that 'practice makes perfect', but in fact, no amount of practice can make you better at chance games like poker machines — their sole purpose is to create profits, to take the players' money," one researcher noted. [University of Adelaide]

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Dating in middle school is tied to truancy. Trying to establish a serious relationship with a middle school classmate correlates to higher rates of dropping out and using drugs, a study at the University of Georgia indicated. The professor who conducted the study suggested that an early history of dating, arguably a risky activity at young ages, indicates a propensity for other high-risk activities, even at an older age. Why truancy, though? One possibility: if a couple breaks up, they still have to see each other at school — not unlike a messy falling out with a co-worker. "When the couple splits, they have to continue to see each other in class and perhaps witness the ex-partner dating someone else. It is reasonable to think this scenario could be linked to depression and divert attention from studying," the professor said. [Journal of Research on Adolescence]

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A 'dirty blizzard' compounded environmental damage after Gulf of Mexico oil spill. New research could help explain the aftermath of the oil spill which followed the 2010 explosion and submersion of Deepwater Horizon, an offshore oil rig stationed in the Gulf of Mexico 40 miled off the coast of Louisiana. Why, in particular, did parts of the water surrounding the rig look so clean as the oil continued to gush from the rig's wellhead? Two scientists at Florida State University think oil particles attached to plankton and quickly sunk to the bottom of the ocean. This "dirty blizzard" theory "explains why layers of water that would normally be cloudy with suspended plankton instead appeared transparent during the spill, except for strings of particles falling to the bottom." [Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative]

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