SciBites: Week of December 16th

SciBites: Week of December 16th

Scientists characterize New Zealand glowworms’ “fishing lines”

Animals use adhesive secretions in many ways. For example, spiders secrete silk to spin webs. Larvae of the glowworm group Arachnocampa are known to secrete threads spaced with adhesive droplets, forming a sticky curtain that traps insects attracted to a larva’s glowing tail light. In a recent study, Janek von Byern from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Experimental and Clinical Traumatology, Austria, and colleagues investigated the molecular characteristics of fishing lines spun by glowworms in New Zealand caves. While spiders can live in dry habitats and spin dry silk from abdominal glands, glowworms live in humid caves and forests. The authors suggest that this may be why their fishing lines feature moist urea-containing absorbent droplets, possibly produced in the midgut, which could help keep them from drying out.

 

Immunotherapy could treat new triple-negative breast cancer subtype

Triple-negative breast cancer is notoriously resistant to treatment, but Christos Hatzis of Yale University, USA, and colleagues have used whole exome sequencing to identify a new “BRCA deficient” subtype that may be more amenable to treatment. These tumors respond better to chemotherapy and have more mutations and new antigens, which could be targeted by the immune system. The authors therefore suggest that immunotherapies, which harness patients’ immune systems to treat their cancer, might be tested in patients with the BRCA-deficient subtype of triple negative breast cancer.

 

Blocking mosquitoes’ hormones could reduce malaria spread

While insecticides are available to kill malaria-spreading mosquitoes, resistance is a growing problem. Lauren Childs, Francisco Cai, Evdoxia Kakani and colleagues from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, USA, examined the effect on malaria transmission of exposing mosquitoes to DBH, a chemical that blocks the mosquito steroid hormone 20-hydroxyecdysone. They found that DBH shortens mosquito lifespan, reduces the number of mosquito eggs produced and laid, prevents successful mosquito mating, and blocks development of the malaria parasite. Modelling suggests that DBH could potentially be as effective as insecticides at reducing malaria transmission.

Image Credit: Janek von Byern

Author

Beth works at PLOS as Journal Media Manager. She read Natural Sciences, specializing in Pathology, at the University of Cambridge before joining PLOS in 2013. She feels fortunate to be able to read and write about the exciting new research published by PLOS.

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