Archive for July, 2012

Could Colony Collapse Disorder Be Caused By A Common Pesticide?

July 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Bees are probably the single most important pollinator for our agricultural practices. Unfortunately in the past 7-8 years colonies have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Here is a quick explanation from the EPA website:

During the winter of 2006-2007, some beekeepers began to report unusually high losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. As many as 50 percent of all affected colonies demonstrated symptoms inconsistent with any known causes of honeybee death: sudden loss of a colony’s worker bee population with very few dead bees found near the colony. The queen and brood (young) remained, and the colonies had relatively abundant honey and pollen reserves. But hives cannot sustain themselves without worker bees and would eventually die. This combination of events resulting in the loss of a bee colony has been called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Though agricultural records from more than a century ago note occasional bee “disappearances” and “dwindling” colonies in some years, it is uncertain whether the colonies had the same combination of factors associated with CCD. What we do know from the data from beekeepers for 2010/2011 is that CCD is still a concern.

There have been many theories about the cause of CCD, but the researchers who are leading the effort to find out why are now focused on these factors:

  • increased losses due to the invasive varroa mite (a pest of honeybees);
  • new or emerging diseases such as Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema;
  • pesticide poisoning through exposure to pesticides applied to crops or for in-hive insect or mite control;
  • bee management stress;
  • foraging habitat modification
  • inadequate forage/poor nutrition and
  • potential immune-suppressing stress on bees caused by one or a combination of factors identified above.

Additional factors may include poor nutrition, drought, and migratory stress brought about by the increased need to move bee colonies long distances to provide pollination services.


Here is another slightly older article on Colony Collapse Disorder


In a recent paper published in Science, Henry, Béguin, et al., show that a common Bayer pesticide impair bee’s navigational systems, and could be in part to blame for CCD.

A Common Pesticide Decreases Foraging Success and Survival in Honey Bees

Nonlethal exposure of honey bees to thiamethoxam (neonicotinoid systemic pesticide) causes high mortality due to homing failure at levels that could put a colony at risk of collapse. Simulated exposure events on free-ranging foragers labeled with a radio-frequency identification tag suggest that homing is impaired by thiamethoxam intoxication. These experiments offer new insights into the consequences of common neonicotinoid pesticides used worldwide.





Benefit Screening of “Mission to Lars” on Wedneday August 8th 6PM @ MIND Institute Auditorium

July 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Hello Everyone,

Please join us for a special benefit at UC Davis MIND Institute on Wednesday, August 8th from 6:00-8:30pm for a special screening of a documentary film featuring one of our very own researchers, the MIND Institute’s Dr. Randi Hagerman.  The film revolves around the journey of Tom, a genteman who has a type of autism, Fragile X, and his family’s quest to make his one burning desire to come true, to meet his favorite musician, Lars Ulrich the drummer from Metallica.  This special screening is ostensibly free, but donations will be accepted at the door.  Prior to the start of the film there will be two guest speakers, Dr. Randi Hagerman the Director of UC Davis MIND Institute’s Fragile X Program, and Kate Spicer who is Tom’s brother, co-star and the film’s producer.

This should be a fun night as we view this documentary film before it’s release in American theaters.  Space is limited.  ***Please RSVP with the number of desired seats***.  Donations accepted at the door; checks can be made payable to “UC Regents” and under Memo make sure to put “MIND Fragile X Program”.   To view a trailer for the film please visit:

What: Benefit Screening of “Mission to Lars”, donations taken at the door  –>
When: Wednesday August 8th from 6:00-8:30p
Where: MIND Institute Auditorium, 2825 50th Street  Sacramento, CA 95817   –>
Guest Speakers:  Dr. Randi Hagerman and Kate Spicer

This is an event put together by one of UC Davis’ Genetics graduate students, Johnathon D. Anderson, to benefit research at the MIND Institute’s Fragile X Program;  all proceeds will go directly to this program for research.
Johnathon David Anderson

PhD Student
Nolta Lab
Genetics Graduate Group


Tour de Cluck

July 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Those of us who have lived in Davis for a few years know all about its quirkiness.  As a recent NYTimes article highlights, that extends to chicken coops and bicycles.  Your humble blogger donated a chicken costume for one of participants to wear last year.  By all reports it was a grand tour.

For prospective students out there: what other graduate programs can advertise world-class science and the opportunity to have raise chickens for fresh eggs in the morning?

In the boiler room of the Titanic

July 26, 2012 Leave a comment

In today’s Science Dr. Henry Bourne and Dr. Mark Lively write an editorial arguing that the current state of biomedical research funding is like the Titanic heading for a collision with an iceberg.  If the biomedical enterprise is the Titanic, then current graduate students are like workers in the boiler room.  We have a repetitive job to do in a windowless room that smells funny and is full of toxins.  Putting the metaphor aside, graduate students should pay special attention to the issues in the editorial- what is the state of future funding? who will provide funding? for what will funding agencies pay?  I find it easy to focus on the immediate goals- what controls do I need to run? will this get published? will I ever graduate?  However, the issues facing the field are important because graduate school should be training for the next step, and the best way to train is to know what that next step will look like.  Some might point out- if we are in the boiler room of the Titanic our job is to make sure that the engines are powered enough that the ship can turn when needed to avoid the next iceberg.

Quick news updates:

July 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Sheep are selfish jerks. Upon the sight of a predator, sheep do not just move closer to each other, but try to be at the center of the herd, leaving those at the periphery the first to attacked.

Artificial jellyfish made from rat hearts. With some silicon and cells, a group at CalTech made an articifical jellyfish that resembled many features of jellyfish behavior. John Dabiri was also surprised that evolution had not produced all optimal solutions. This comment makes sense if you consider him a professor of aeronautics and bioengineering and not an evolutionary biologist.

Open Access journals similar scientific impact as Paywall Access journals. Comparing the impact factors of journals and papers in either Open Access journals or Paywall Access journals are almost the same. The questions for future authors remains: pay more to publish your own work, but everyone can read it, or pay less and have publishers grow rich on your work?

Categories: Recent News

2 neurosurgeons banned from human research after allegedly experimenting on people without permission

July 23, 2012 1 comment

Dealing with human subject in biomedical research is tricky, as the patient is to be the focus of the physicians, not the research. To guarantee that patients are no taken advantage off, any researcher who proposes to work with human subjects, has to go obtain consent forms and go through the IRB (Internal Review Board). Failing to do either or both is unacceptable.

Prof. Dr. J. Paul Muizelaar, a MD PhD trained at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and his co-worker for 13 years, Dr. Rudolph J. Schrot, did not obtain consent-form in three casses as reported in the SacBee:

• Patient No. 1 died six weeks later after the tumor progressed. The university later determined that the patient also had developed sepsis, a life-threatening illness in which the body responds severely to bacteria or germs.

• Patient No. 2, who also underwent the procedure in 2010, was still alive when Lewin wrote his October 2011 report to the FDA. The patient was described as having a reduction in the brain tumor but also suffered a wound infection and was given antibiotics 10 months after being intentionally infected. Muizelaar noted last week that the patient has since died.

• Patient No. 3, who underwent surgery in 2011, soon developed sepsis and meningitis and died.

To read the entire SacBee story, click here.

It also seems that some Dutch researcher are lapsing in scientific conduct, as the recent cases of Prof. Dr. Don Poldermans and Prof. Dr. Diederik Stapel exemplify. As it looks now, we can add the name of Paul Muizelaar to the list. Is the pressure to do high-impact research on short term grants (and thus frequently publish in high-impact journals) getting the better of some researchers?

Edit: For addition information read Jonathan Eisen’s blog here.

Categories: Recent News, UC Davis

Nanoparticle “robots” can be programmed to completely eradicates hepatitis C virus

July 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Excerpt from Nanoparticle Completely Eradicates Hepatitis C Virus by Dexter Johnson

Researchers at the University of Florida (UF) have developed a nanoparticle that has shown 100 percent effectiveness in eradicating the hepatitis C virus in laboratory testing.

The nanoparticle, dubbed a nanozyme, consists of a backbone made from gold nanoparticles and a surface with two biological components. One biological component is an enzyme that attacks and destroys the mRNA, which provides the recipe for duplicating the protein that causes the disease. The other biological part is the navigator, if you will. It is a DNA oligonucleotide that identifies the disease-related protein and sends the enzyme on course to destroy it.

Excerpts from UF researchers develop “nanorobot” that can be programmed to target different diseases

The research effort, led by Y. Charles Cao, a UF associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Chen Liu, a professor of pathology and endowed chair in gastrointestinal and liver research in the UF College of Medicine, is described online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Hepatitis C infection causes liver inflammation, which can eventually lead to scarring and cirrhosis. The disease is transmitted via contact with infected blood, most commonly through injection drug use, needlestick injuries in medical settings, and birth to an infected mother. More than 3 million people in the United States are infected and about 17,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients can go many years without symptoms, which can include nausea, fatigue and abdominal discomfort.

Current hepatitis C treatments involve the use of drugs that attack the replication machinery of the virus. But the therapies are only partially effective, on average helping less than 50 percent of patients, according to studies
published in The New England Journal of Medicine and other journals. Side effects vary widely from one medication to another, and can include flu-like symptoms, anemia and anxiety.

The particle they created can be tailored to match the genetic material of the desired target of attack, and to sneak into cells unnoticed by the body’s innate defense mechanisms.

Recognition of genetic material from potentially harmful sources is the basis of important treatments for a number of diseases, including cancer, that are linked to the production of detrimental proteins. It also has potential for use in detecting and destroying viruses used as bioweapons.

The new virus-destroyer, called a nanozyme, has a backbone of tiny gold particles and a surface with two main biological components. The first biological portion is a type of protein called an enzyme that can destroy the genetic recipe-carrier, called mRNA, for making the disease-related protein in question. The other component is a large molecule called a DNA oligonucleotide that recognizes the genetic material of the target to be destroyed and instructs its neighbor, the enzyme, to carry out the deed. By itself, the enzyme does not selectively attack hepatitis C, but the combo does the trick.