Last updated June 23, 2017 at 4:14 pm
The Check Up is a weekly feature highlighting some of the best, most fascinating, most important, or simply unmissable health, medical, and human stories from around the web. This week, guest contributor Jackson Reilly takes over!
Saviour fungi to fight mosquitoes
If there is one thing I love, it’s a great story about genetic-freak microbes, and this story goes well and truly beyond that! We’ve had a lot of advancements in the things we use to fight malaria but, in my opinion, none of these even remotely compare in levels of hype-generation to the new strain of fungus that has been designed to kill mosquitoes with a single spore. A genetically altered fungus – derived from Metarhizium pingshaensei, for those of you who love a microbial tongue twister – has been given the ability to produce toxins and venom from everyone’s favourite critters – spiders and scorpions! Though this sounds like some kind of apocalyptic strain that will be the downfall of humanity, these toxins are insect-specific, and further trials are being undertaken to ensure that this fungus will only target mosquitoes. Given that mosquitoes are responsible for the mass transmission of malaria (as well as dengue fever, yellow fever and Zika), a genetically altered strain of saviour fungi that is specific to mosquitoes and can help take down this horrific disease is great news for all!
If you’re like me, you groan with exacerbation every time a friend tells you how bad carbs are for you when you mention the two pieces of toast you had for breakfast. However, a story on new findings this week from the University of Lübeck in Germany have put a huge grin on my face. This study by Dr Sabrina Strang showed that a high carbohydrate to protein ratio in your breakfast increases the likelihood of you rejecting unfair offers by influencing your decision-making skills. Though it’s only a small initial study, I know I’ll be standing up to the carb-haters that suggest boiled eggs for breakfast with a traditional German soft-pretzel in hand tomorrow morning!
Alcohol and the brain, again
On the topic of nutrition, we’ve had yet another piece of news adding to the story of alcohol’s effects on our brain. We all know that, despite it being so heavily ingrained in our culture, alcohol has some pretty adverse side effects on our brains long term, with memory problems and dementia commonly highlighted. Unfortunately some old studies suggesting that a glass of red wine a day can help protect brains, this new story (focusing on a study analysing over 500 people) says otherwise – as always, the recommendation is to moderate alcohol intake. Even though one glass might help our heads, this definitely isn’t a case of “if one is good, more must be better”.
Related video: Brew Ha Ha – Cheers To Brain Health?
A real tan
This next story is for anyone with fair skin who has spent their life yearning for a real tan that doesn’t involve being blistered by the sun. In a new study, researchers have been able to increase production of melanin – the pigment that gives your skin colour – using a topical treatment. Though the treatment still needs to be tested for safety in humans, testing in mice has revealed that the darker skin resulting from this treatment protects subjects from UV damage. This suggests that the new treatment might offer some form of sun-protective tanning treatment for all of us pale skinned people in the near future!
Lastly, it’s pretty common nowadays for any “I wonder if you could” statement to be answered with “there’s an app for that”. As someone who spent two years working in male fertility research, it’s pretty exciting that soon we’ll be saying there’s an app to assess that too. Definitely check out this video to see what strange things the future holds for your smartphone.
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