MBL


A closeup of an Aedes aegypti mosquito biting its host. Photo credit: Alex Wild, alexanderwild.com

The yellow fever mosquito,  Aedes aegypti, biting its prey. Photo credit: Alex Wild, alexanderwild.com

By Laurel Hamers

It’s a question asked by many a summer stargazer: How do mosquitoes home in on their human prey, turning a relaxing evening into an itchy disaster?

Meg Younger, an MBL Grass Fellow and a postdoctoral scientist at Rockefeller University, is trying to find out by looking at mosquitoes’ neural responses to different combinations of odors.

Behavioral studies have identified several cues that are mildly attractive to mosquitoes: carbon dioxide, heat, and lactic acid, a component of sweat. Presented alone, none of these cues is particularly powerful; when paired together, however, their effects multiply.

“What we don’t know yet is how these stimuli that are ignored or only mildly attractive are transformed into very attractive stimuli in the brain when presented simultaneously,” Younger says.

Younger is using electrophysiology and calcium imaging to monitor olfactory neurons, looking for differences in brain activity when mosquitoes are presented with certain stimuli alone or in different combinations.

She is carrying out her research in the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which is found in tropical and subtropical areas and is the also the major vector for dengue fever and chikungunya.

“The more we know about how mosquitoes process different stimuli to find humans, the more potential we have to come up with creative ways to stop them from biting people and spreading diseases,” Younger says.

Male stolon (ventral view, anterior up) of the annelid, Proceraea sp., fluorescently stained for acetylated tubulin (green), serotonin (yellow), F-actin (red; phalloidin), and nuclei (blue; DAPI).  Confocal z-stacks were viewed as maximum  projections and tiled together to cover the entirety of the animal (body length approximately 7.5 mm).  By Eduardo Zattara (University of Maryland, College Park); Embryology Class of 2012.

Male stolon (ventral view, anterior up) of the annelid, Proceraea sp., fluorescently stained for acetylated tubulin (green), serotonin (yellow), F-actin (red; phalloidin), and nuclei (blue; DAPI). Confocal z-stacks were viewed as maximum projections and tiled together to cover the entirety of the animal (body length approximately 7.5 mm). By Eduardo Zattara (University of Maryland, College Park); Embryology class of 2012.

Angelo Iulianella, an assistant professor of medical neuroscience at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, has assisted with the MBL’s Embryology class for the past six summers. He recently shared his experiences with the course on The Node, an online community for developmental biologists. Check out his post here!

Angelo Iulianella takes a break from work in the Embryology lab. (Photo credit: Laurel Hamers)

Angelo Iulianella takes a break from work in the Embryology lab. (Photo credit: Laurel Hamers)

 

The breadth and mysteries of Julie Huber’s research—from exploring the dark, peaceful ocean depths to mining enormous data sets about the microbes that live there—are captured in this video profile by Geoff Wyman of Falmouth. Huber describes her background growing up in the Midwest, and how her love for the ocean eventually led to a fascination with marine microbes and how they power the planet’s elemental cycles. Today, Huber dives to deep-sea environments around the world to collect samples of fluids from underwater volcanoes, which she analyzes back at the MBL to discover the microbial communities that can thrive under such extreme environmental conditions.

Huber is associate director of the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center, and is also associate director of the National Science Foundation’s Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations at the University of Southern California.

Many thanks to Geoff Wyman for producing this video, the first in a series of profiles of MBL scientists.

Contact: Laurel Hamers

508-289-7652, mblnews@mbl.edu

WOODS HOLE, Mass.- In hospitals across the country, doctors guard against casual use of antibiotics: overuse of these powerful drugs encourages the emergence of drug-resistant bacterial strains that pose a public health threat. On our farms, however, it’s a different story. The discovery that antibiotics could improve yields in livestock production was made in 1948, at the start of the antibiotic era, and within a decade the drugs’ administration to farm animals for non-medical purposes had become routine.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Author and independent journalist Maryn McKenna, a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, will address the use of antibiotics in agriculture—and the tradeoff this practice sets up between public health and the economic benefits of increased farm productivity—in a lecture at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) on Saturday, July 26. McKenna’s talk, “Losing the Miracle: The FDA and the Controversy over Livestock Antibiotics,” will take place at 7:00 PM in the MBL’s Lillie Auditorium, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the MBL parking lots.

By 1969, the first alarms had been raised that antibiotic-resistant bacteria that developed on farms could spread to human populations through manure, runoff, meat and even farm workers themselves. Consequently, in 1977, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed withdrawing its approvals of penicillin and tetracycline for agricultural use. The agency was persistently stymied in its efforts, and 37 years later, it has finally succeeded in implementing only voluntary controls. While Europe has imposed outright bans on growth promoters and there are country-specific controls on other antibiotic uses, non-therapeutic use of antibiotics remains common in U.S. agriculture. Simultaneously, public health, medical, and even Congressional opposition have risen—and so has the rate of emergence of antibiotic resistance worldwide.

Maryn McKenna

Maryn McKenna

McKenna, winner of the 2013 Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences, primarily writes about public health, global health, and food policy. She was the 2013-2014 Knight Science Journalism Project Fellow at MIT and a finalist for a James Beard Foundation Award. She writes and blogs for numerous national publications, including Wired, Scientific American, and National Geographic’s The Plate, and is also the author of the award-winning popular science books SUPERBUG: The Fatal Menace of MRSA (2010) and Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (2004). McKenna is currently writing a book on antibiotic use in agriculture, to be published by National Geographic in 2015.

The Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences is awarded annually by the Waksman Foundation to an institution or individual who demonstrates excellence in the communication of some aspect of life sciences. McKenna’s lecture at the MBL is sponsored by the Waksman Foundation and the MBL’s Logan Science Journalism Program.

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The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.

Editorial writer Karin Klein reports in the Los Angeles Times on the exigencies–and irony—of climate change research at Toolik Field Station in arctic Alaska, where she is spending a week as an MBL Logan Science Journalism fellow. Read her article here or on the fellowship’s blog, A Toolik Field Journal.

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