Light Not Shock Restarts Heart; Bees Nest in Sandstone; 5 Second Rule

Posted September 14th, 2016 at 4:21 pm (UTC-4)
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(Graphic by Patrick M. Boyle/Johns Hopkins University)

(Graphic by Patrick M. Boyle/Johns Hopkins University)

Using Light Instead of Electric Shock to Restart a Heart

A defibrillator is a device used to restore the normal operation of a heart after a life-threatening cardiac episode such as dysrhythmias and ventricular fibrillation.

The machine delivers a powerful electric shock that stops the heart and allows it to reset itself to function normally again.

While defibrillation has a long history of saving lives, it can be extremely painful and it’s possible the electrical shock can damage heart tissue.

After experimenting on mice, a joint team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the US and Germany’s University of Bonn have successfully demonstrated a system that uses gentle beams of light instead of electric shocks to revive patients with deadly heart rhythm disorders.

To see if their system, called optogenetic defibrillation, can work on people, the researchers will continue their experimentation on a computer model of a human heart they created.

A close-up of a bee of the species Anthophora pueblo in its sandstone nest. (Michael Orr, Utah State University)

A close-up of a bee of the species Anthophora pueblo in its sandstone nest. (Michael Orr, Utah State University)

New Desert Bee Species Builds Nest in Sandstone

Entomologists – scientists who study insects – at Utah State University have confirmed the discovery of a rare species of bee that builds its nest in hard sandstone rather than in softer soils and environments.

A new study outlining the findings also examines why these little bees put in so much effort to dig through rocks to create their home structures.

Called the Anthophora pueblo, this species of bees make their homes in the harsh desert environment of the US Southwest.

Michael Orr, lead author of the study says that sandstone is more durable than most other nesting options and that these tough, elevated shelters protect bees from erosion and sudden flash floods.

He also points out that since sandstone doesn’t have as much organic material as regular soil, parasite build-up over the years is naturally controlled, preventing the growth of life threatening microbes inside the bee’s living quarters.

Scanning electron micrograph of the superbug Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. (CDC)

Scanning electron micrograph of the superbug Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. (CDC)

A New Way to Fight Superbugs

Scientists in Australia may have come up with a unique solution to fight antimicrobial resistant infections or superbugs, a growing worldwide health concern.

The researchers found that star-shaped objects they created with short chains of proteins called ‘peptide polymers might be able to replace traditional antibiotics.

Doctors have long prescribed antibiotics to fight various bacteria borne ailments from acne to pneumonia.

But using these drugs repeatedly over time can cause many of these microbes to mutate and build a resistance against medications made to fight them.

After testing their star-shaped peptide polymers on animal models, the researchers found them to be effective in killing superbugs.

They also discovered that antibiotic resistant microbes showed no signs of fighting this new treatment method, suggesting that it might be more difficult for microbes to mutate like they have to antibiotics.

Cartoon illustrating the five-second rule (Greg Williams via Wikimedia)

Cartoon illustrating the five-second rule (Greg Williams via Wikimedia)

Sorry, 5 Second Rule Doesn’t Work

Did you ever drop a tasty or expensive food item on the ground and then quickly retrieve and eat it, justifying consumption with what is called the ‘five second rule’?

According to the ‘five second rule’, food dropped on the ground will not be contaminated with bacteria if it is picked up within five seconds of being dropped, making it OK to eat.

While this notion has been debunked in the past, researchers at New Jersey’s Rutgers University are the latest to discover that it is not a good idea to scoop up dropped food and eat it within a five-second window.

The study shows that factors such as moisture, type of surface the food is dropped on, along with contact time all play a role in contamination.

The researchers found, in some instances, it took less than a second for food to be tainted after being dropped.

But the research also finds that the longer food touches an unclean surface, the greater the chance for contamination.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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