Author Archives: Cath

World Bee Day 2016

05 Jul 16
Cath
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Portable apiary in Slovenia. (Photo by David Miksa)

May 20: World Bee Day 2016

There’s a small country in Central Europe, a very beautiful alpine country, called Slovenia.  Slovenia has only about two million people, but this tiny country is very big in beekeeping.  Tucked between Italy and Austria, it has both mountains and Mediterranean sea coast, creating enticing niches for bees.

 

Every Slovene family has at least one beekeeper. I think beekeeping might be enshrined in their constitution.  I visited before they adopted the Euro and paid for a Laško with coins that had images of bees, not presidents or queens. Beekeeping is taken so seriously that the nation’s unofficial motto is “Land of the Good Beekeepers“. The country produces gourmet honey, offers beekeeping tourism, and likes to point out that the Slovenes – the wealthiest Slavic nation in the world – takes its work ethic from the honey bee.  Now Slovenia is trying to convince the world to recognize World Bee Day, a day for the bees, which we would celebrate on the presumed birthday of their most famous beekeeper, Anton Janša.

 

Janša (pronounced YAN-shah)  is a Slovenian national hero and a beekeeper. We don’t really know his birth date –  his parents were illiterate farmers and probably wouldn’t have even known (or cared) what year it was. But their church kept track. He was baptized on  May 20 in 1734.

 

Beehive entrance plate, painted by Jansa.

The Janša family was impoverished, but three Janša brothers built an art studio in a barn, got noticed by the village priest, and were whisked off to Vienna, the capital of the Hapsburg Empire, which controlled Slovenia at the time. One of the brothers became an arts professor. Another became a beekeeper. The royal beekeeper.

 

Anton Janša was the beekeeper. Empress Maria Theresa recognized his skill and appointed him as the queen’s own bee man.  Janša created the world’s first beekeeping school, wrote a couple of important beekeeping books, and introduced modern apiary management. He championed expanding hive boxes to hold extra honey and he encouraged migratory beekeeping, moving hives toward the foothills in the spring to collect acacia (black locust) honey, the Alps in the summer for honeydew from the pines, and into lower pastures in the fall. He was among the first to realize that drones are not water-carriers, but instead mated in the air with queen bees. This latter discovery pre-dates

 

Francois Huber’s similar observation by a few decades but was not generally known when Huber rediscovered it. Janša did all this before he turned 40 – he was only 39 when he died suddenly from a fever.

An image from the Slovene World Bee Day promotional video.

 

Here’s a lovely, short video of what the Slovenes want you to know about World Bee Day:

 

World Bee Day is a great idea. The exhibition “Save the Bees” will be opening at the historic Ljubljana castle, on May 20. The Slovene embassy in Washington DC had a big party. Elsewhere, awareness and round tables on “Bees and Sustainable Development” and bee memorials abound. World Bee Day is intended as a day to reflect upon the much maligned and threatened bees. A delegation of the European Union is also meeting May 20 with luminaries of the American bee world at a World Bee Initiative, which you can read about here.

 

WBDWorld Bee Day is immensely important. Maybe that’s why there are two world bee days.  A group of Americans petitioned the USDA to create a World Bee Day of their own – on August 20th. While the Americans worked their idea through the US Congress, the Slovenes have been asking the United Nations to recognize May 20th as World Bee Day. I’m not sure how all this will play out, maybe the two world bee days will merge and be observed sometime in July.  But I suppose both world bee days will continue, one on a world-scale, the other in the USA.  As they say back at the bee lodge, “You can’t have too many World Bee Days, eh?”

Bee Venom Cures HIV!

21 Nov 15
Cath
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Bee Venom Cures HIV!

Scientists have recently found that a key ingredient in bee venom destroys HIV without harming other cells. The researchers loaded the toxin, called mellitin, onto nanoparticles fashioned with “bumpers” that normal, larger cells bounced off of unharmed. HIV is small enough that it fits between the bumpers and makes contact with the surface of the nanoparticles, where the bee toxin awaits. Melittin on the nanoparticle fuses with the viral envelope and ruptures it, stripping the virus’s shell.

The difference between this technique and existing anti-HIV drugs is that most drugs attempt to inhibit the virus’s ability to replicate, which the virus is able to evolve to evade. These drugs also don’t arrest the initial infection. But melittin attacks the virus’s inherent structure. There’s theoretically no way to develop adaptive evasion responses to that.

The antiviral therapy has implications for areas rampant with HIV, to be used by women in a vaginal preventative gel that prevents the initial infection. Treatments could also be developed for drug-resistant HIV infections, to be delivered intravenously and potentially clear the blood of the infection. There is also the possibility for this treatment being useful for couples in which one member is HIV-positive but who want to have a baby together.

The nanoparticle itself was developed years ago for an artificial blood experiment, but it was lousy at carrying oxygen. It’s proving its worth now as a promising drug-delivery system instead: the particle can be loaded to target all kinds of infections.

Mellitin attacks double-layered membranes, like the kind many viruses use, indiscriminately, which also means that other viruses like Hepatitis B and C, which rely on a protective envelope to evade the body’s immune system, could be slayed by this potent little toxin. Researchers say the nanoparticles are easy enough to make that they can be reproduced for clinical trials soon. Bee Venom Destroys HIV And Spares Surrounding Cells

New research shows that nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom are capable of destroying HIV cells while leaving others intact.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis (WU) say they’ve found a way to effectively destroy the HIV virus using a toxin found in bee venom.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Antiviral Therapy, states that the technique not only destroys the virus that causes AIDS, but also leaves surrounding cells intact.

Researchers say they hope the nanoparticle technology could be incorporated into a vaginal gel to prevent the spread of HIV in areas with high rates of infection.

-align: justify;”>How Nanoparticles & Bee Venom Destroy HIV

Microscopic nanoparticles have unique and exciting properties. In biomedicine, they are used to transport important proteins throughout the body. Bee venom’s principle toxin is melittin, a small protein. Researchers used nanoparticles to distribute melittin in laboratory studies.

Similar to the way a bee injects its venom into your skin using its stinger, the toxin melittin is able to poke holes in the protective coating of HIV and other viruses.

“We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV,” Dr. Joshua L. Hood, a research instructor in medicine at WU, said in a press release. “Theoretically, there isn’t any way for the virus to adapt to that. The virus has to have a protective coat, a double-layered membrane that covers the virus.”

When researchers loaded the toxin into nanoparticles, they found that it didn’t harm normal cells because of a protective bumper added to the nanoparticle’s surface. Because HIV cells are smaller than regular cells, they slide between the bumpers while leaving healthy, normal cells intact.

Most current HIV treatments focus on inhibiting HIV’s ability to replicate, but do nothing to stop the initial infection. However, researchers say that because the venom-laced nanoparticles attack a crucial part of HIV’s structure, they can kill before the virus has a chance to infect a person. How Bee Venom Nanoparticles Can Help Stop the Spread of HIV.

Researchers say these bee venom nanoparticles could be used in a vaginal gel to help prevent the spread of HIV in developing countries, such as parts of Africa with a high HIV rate. They could also be used by people who want HIV protection, but not contraception.

“We also are looking at this for couples where only one of the partners has HIV, and they want to have a baby,” Hood said. “These particles by themselves are actually very safe for sperm, for the same reason they are safe for vaginal cells.”

Beyond preventive measures, Hood sees the potential for treating existing HIV infections. He theorizes that the nanoparticles could be injected into a person’s blood in order to clear HIV cells from the bloodstream.

The technology could also be used to combat other infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B and C, because the viruses share a similar protective membrane to the HIV virus.

Dr. George Krucik, Healthline’s director of clinical content, said that while nanoparticle research is not new, much more research will be required before these results can be put to use in people.

“This delivery technology holds out the promise of destroying circulating viruses that have not entered a cell, so in theory they could prevent a virus from infecting a cell,” he said. “These laboratory experiments are known as proof of concept studies, which demonstrate the feasibility of the technology. The use of this technology in humans has yet to be explored and will require years of study and clinical trials to see if they are effective in real live people.”

Bee venom is also being studied for use in pain relief medications and anti-aging creams.

Nanoparticles containing bee venom toxin melittin can destroy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while at the same time leaving surrounding cells unharmed, scientists from Washington University School of Medicine reported in the March 2013 issue of Antiviral Therapy.

The researchers said that their finding is a major step toward creating a vaginal gel that can prevent HIV spread. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD, a research instructor in medicine, said:”Our hope is that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this gel as a preventive measure to stop the initial infection.”

Melittin destroys some viruses and malignant tumor cells Melittin is a powerful toxin found in bee venom. It can poke holes in the protective viral envelope that surrounds the human immunodeficiency virus, as well as other viruses. Free melittin in large-enough quantities can cause considerable damage.

Senior author, Samuel A. Wickline, MD, the J. Russell Hornsby Professor of Biomedical Sciences, has demonstrated that nanoparticles loaded with melittin have anti-cancer properties and have the capacity to kill tumor cells. Linking bee venom with anticancer therapies is not new, in 2004 Croatian scientists reported in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture that honey-bee products, including venom, could well have applications in cancer treatment and prevention.

Normal cells remain intact – the scientists showed that nanoparticles loaded with melittin do not harm normal, healthy cells. Protective bumpers were added to the nanoparticles surface, so that when they come into contact with normal cells (which tend to be much larger), the nanoparticles bounce off rather than attach themselves.

Scientists have discovered a powerful toxin in bee venom that could end up playing a crucial role in preventing the spread of HIV. HIV is much smaller than the nanoparticles and fits in between the bumpers. When HIV comes across a nanoparticle it goes in between the bumpers and comes into direct contact with its surface, which is coated with the bee toxin, which destroys it.

Hood explained “Melittin on the nanoparticles fuses with the viral envelope. The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus.”

While most anti-HIV medications work on inhibiting the virus’ ability to replicate, this one attacks a vital part of its structure. The problem with attacking a pathogen’s ability to replicate is that it does not stop it from starting an infection. Some HIV strains have found ways to circumvent replication-inhibiting drugs, and reproduce regardless.

Hood said: “We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV. Theoretically, there isn’t any way for the virus to adapt to that. The virus has to have a protective coat, a double-layered membrane that covers the virus.”

Melittin nanoparticles may prevent and treat existing HIV infections Hood believes that the melittin-loaded nanoparticles have the potential for two types of therapies:

A vaginal gel to prevent the spread of HIV infection. Therapy for existing HIV infections, particularly drug-resistant ones. The gel also has the potential to target sperm, the researchers explained, making it a possible contraceptive medication. The study, however, did not look at contraception.

In theory, if the nanoparticles were injected into the patient’s bloodstream, they should be able to clear the blood of HIV.

Hood said “The basic particle that we are using in these experiments was developed many years ago as an artificial blood product. It didn’t work very well for delivering oxygen, but it circulates safely in the body and gives us a nice platform that we can adapt to fight different kinds of infections.” Melittin attacks double-layered membranes indiscriminately, making it a potential for drug therapies beyond HIV infections. The hepatitis B and C viruses, among several others, rely on the same type of protective envelope and could be targeted and destroyed by administering melittin-loaded nanoparticles.

The gel also has the potential to target sperm, the researchers explained, making it a possible contraceptive medication. The study, however, did not look at contraception.Hood said “We also are looking at this for couples where only one of the partners has HIV, and they want to have a baby. These particles by themselves are actually very safe for

sperm, for the same reason they are safe for vaginal cells.”

The gel also has the potential to target sperm, the researchers explained, making it a possible contraceptive medication. The study, however, did not look at contraception.This study was carried out in cells in a laboratory environment. However, the nanoparticles are easy to produce – enough of them could easily be supplied for future human studies.

Recent research on HIV Over the last few years, scientists have made strides in improving HIV/AIDS treatments and prevention strategies.

Baby “functionally cured” of HIV infection – researchers from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the University of Massachusetts Medical School reported that a baby who was administered antiretroviral therapy thirty hours after being born was “functionally cured”. A functional cure means that there is no detectable viral replication after retroviral therapy has stopped.

Ramping up HIV antiretroviral treatments worth the extra cost – investigators from Harvard University, USA, reported that scaling up HIV antiretroviral treatment in a remote province of South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal) reduced the risk of transmitting HIV to sexual partners by 96%.

Written by Christian Nordqvist

Copyright: Medical News Today

Study: Bee Venom Kills HIV

Discovery could lead to topical gel to prevent HIV transmission. Bee venom, a traditional medical treatment in some parts of the world, may become crucial to halting HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Bees could hold the key to preventing HIV transmission. Researchers have discovered that bee venom kills the virus while leaving body cells unharmed, which could lead to an anti-HIV vaginal gel and other treatments.

Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that melittin, a toxin found in bee venom, physically destroys the HIV virus, a breakthrough that could potentially lead to drugs that are immune to HIV resistance. The study was published Thursday in the journal Antiviral Therapy.

“Our hope is that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this as a preventative measure to stop the initial infection,” Joshua Hood, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.

The researchers attached melittin to nanoparticles that are physically smaller than HIV, which is smaller than body cells. The toxin rips holes in the virus’ outer layer, destroying it, but the particles aren’t large enough to damage body cells.

“Based on this finding, we propose that melittin-loaded nanoparticles are well-suited for use as topical vaginal HIV virucidal agents,” they write.

Theoretically, the particles could also be injected into an HIV-positive person to eliminate the virus in the bloodstream.

Because the toxin attacks the virus’ outer layer, the virus is likely unable to develop a resistance to the substance, which could make it more effective than other HIV drugs.

“Theoretically, melittin nanoparticles are not susceptible to HIV mutational resistance seen with standard HIV therapies,” they write. “By disintegrating the [virus’] lipid envelope [it’s] less likely to develop resistance to the melittin nanoparticles.”

The group plans to soon test the gel in clinical trials.

Bee Flight Pattern Studied!

21 Sep 15
Cath
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Bee Flight Pattern Studied!

Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association - Bee flying toward nectar on a leaf of a flowerThere is a new study to suggest the flight patterns and maneuverability of honeybees is altered by the weight of their loads and type of food they carry.   Bees are very capable aviators and navigators but scientists wanted to see how their flying varies when carrying pollen and nectar.   The scientist developed a wind tunnel to study the bees flying with and without pollen and nectar.

Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association - Bee flying toward a purple flowerThey used a robotic flower as a moving landing pad for the bees so they studied the bees using high speed cameras  with changing wind factors.  They found when the bees were carrying pollen in their legs they maneuvered more like a jumbo jet rather than a fighter jet without food.  When weighed down by pollen, bees gain stability in the face of difficult wind conditions but for a steadier flight pattern, bees sacrifice maneuverability, which made locating an elusive moving flower more difficult.

Nectar on the other hand, stored in a centrally located pouch on the bee’s abdomen, had the opposite effect. The added central weight actually aided the bee’s maneuverability but the additional weight in the center of the body was more difficult for the bee’s stability.

The determination of the test according to Dr. Sridhar Ravi, an aerospace engineer, researcher at RMIT University in Australia  “It shows there’s a trade off between stability and maneuverability. So if something is stable it’s not going to be maneuverable and if something is maneuverable it’s probably not going to be stable.”  They did also determine although, there were trade offs involved, researchers say bees are adept flyers regardless of load and conditions.

They now want to study whether bees are fair weather bees, carrying pollen on windy/rainy days and nectar on calm days. I just think bees are just so AWESOME and WONDERFULLY made!!