CLOSE
Original image
CDC/James Gathany via Wikipedia // Public Domain

Thousands of Portraits of Mosquitoes Could Lead to Better Malaria Protection

Original image
CDC/James Gathany via Wikipedia // Public Domain

How do mosquitoes zero in on their prey? A group of UK scientists is itching to solve the mystery—and they're starting by snapping thousands of photographs of the airborne pests.

Engineers and entomologists from the University of Warwick and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (both located in the UK) are using high-resolution cameras and infrared lighting to study how the small flies interact with mosquito netting. The effort is a part of a European research initiative fighting malaria in Africa called the AvecNet Project. 

In the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers reported tracking Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, one species in the only genus known to carry malaria, in a simulated bedroom environment. Volunteers in Tanzania lay in beds, hung with different types of mosquito netting, for an hour, serving as live bait for the bloodsuckers.

During the experiment, two different cameras took 50 images per second of the room. The high-res images, about 4 million pixels each, were so large that University of Warwick analysts had to develop new software just to process the data. 

The mosquito-watching setup designed by the researchers. Image Credit: Parker et al., Scientific Reports (2015)

The researchers found that 75 percent of all mosquito activity happened at the roof of the protective nets, directly above the person in bed. And while the mosquitoes made less overall contact with insecticide-treated nets than the untreated nets, they were not immediately repelled by the treated mesh. After 30 minutes of trying to reach the human inside the barrier, the insects’ activity subsided. But it was unclear whether the insecticide shields actually killed any mosquitoes or merely drove them to different hunting grounds.

Up next: The scientists plan to continue sifting through the images for more answers on netting that will prevent the spread of malaria. 

Original image
iStock
arrow
Medicine
Why Haven't We Cured Cancer Yet?
Original image
iStock

Walkathons, fundraisers, and ribbon-shaped bumper stickers raise research dollars and boost spirits, but cancer—the dreaded disease that affects more than 14 million people and their families at any given time—still remains bereft of a cure.

Why? For starters, cancer isn't just one disease—it's more than 100 of them, with different causes. This makes it impossible to treat each one using a one-size-fits-all method. Secondly, scientists use lab-grown cell lines cultivated from human tumors to develop cancer therapies. Living masses are far more complex, so potential treatments that show promise in lab experiments often don't work on cancer patients. As for the tumors themselves, they're prone to tiny genetic mutations, so just one growth might contain multiple types of cancer cells, and even unique sub-clones of tumors. These distinct entities might not respond the same way, or at all, to the same drug.

These are just a few of the challenges that cancer researchers face—but the good news is that they're working to beat all of them, as this TED-Ed video explains below.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Health
Skipping Breakfast Could Be Bad for Your Heart
Original image
iStock

There are mountains of evidence supporting the claim that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Getting something in your stomach in the first hours of the morning can regulate your glucose levels, improve your cognition, and keep your hunger in check. Now new research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology points to another reason not to wait until lunchtime to break last night’s fast. As TIME reports, people who skip breakfast are at an increased risk for atherosclerosis, a disease caused by plaque buildup in the arteries.

Researchers surveyed over 4000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 54 living in Spain. After looking at the dietary habits of each participant, they broke them into three groups: people who consumed more than 20 percent of their daily calories in the morning; those who got 5 to 20 percent; and those who ate less than 5 percent.

The subjects who ate very little in the a.m. hours or skipped breakfast all together were 2.5 more likely to have generalized atherosclerosis. This meant that plaque was starting to collect on the walls of their arteries, hardening and narrowing them and increasing the risk for heart attack or stroke. People who fell into the 5 to 20 percent calorie category were also more likely to show early signs of the disease, while those who ate the most calories in the morning were the healthiest.

These results aren’t entirely surprising. Previous studies have shown a connection between skipping breakfast and health problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and unwanted weight gain. A possible explanation for this trend could be that waiting several hours after waking up to eat your first meal of the day could trigger hormonal imbalances. The time between getting into and out of bed is the longest most of us go without eating, and our bodies expect us to consume some calories to help kickstart our energy for the day (drinking straight coffee doesn’t cut it). Another theory is that people who don’t eat in the morning are so hungry by the time lunch rolls around that they overcompensate for those missing calories, which is why skipping breakfast doesn’t make sense as a diet strategy.

But of course there are many breakfast skippers who aren’t motivated by health reasons either way: They just don’t think they have the time or energy to feed themselves in the morning before walking out the door. If this describes you, here are some simple, protein-packed meals you can prepare the night before.

[h/t TIME]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios