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Articles in Category: UNIVERSITY RESEARCH

Honey bees self-medicate using plants


Bees have been known to produce one of the best natural products against ever known, honey. But honey is not the only natural product that bees produce, propolis, a mixture of resinous products collected by bees from tree buds is also produced by bees.

Propolis was already used by Greeks, Egyptians and others to treat different diseases and actually the source of Caffeic Acid Phenethyl Ester (CAPE), a substance derived from Propolis found in honeybee products

Propolis has been found able to inhibit the growth of breast cancer stem cells. What we didn't know yet is that bees also used plants, and more exactly plant resins as propolis to treat fungal infections in their colony [1].

The findings have been published in a press release by the North Carolina State University, and only confirms something that Socrates advocated since a long time ago, "Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food". Image: See ref. [7] below.

Caffeine enhances honeybees memory


Coffee has been used since ages ago and became part of our lives ever since we can recall. My farthest memory of coffee goes back to my childhood when I used to see my father enjoying it at home after every meal. It wasn't until later on that I tried it and to be honest, at the beginning I didn't even like it. It's bitter taste and long-lasting flavor didn't attract me at all.

Later on I discovered that it wasn't its taste what I'd be looking for but its potential to enhance my general quality of life, or even my physical and mental performance, keeping me awake during the long nights in which I had to study or work, something for which caffeine, one of the active constituents of coffee is responsible for. Image: Honeybee by Otota Dana under Creative Common license (CC BY 2.0).


Family: Rubiaceae

Genus: Coffea

Common name: Coffee


Will plants replace petrol as new source for plastics?

University research shows how plants could become the new source for plastics, paints and bio engineered medicines


Only in the US about 1,500 plastic bottles are consumed every second, using 17 million petrol barrels each year to produce plastic bottles! [1].

With these figures in mind it is not a surprise to hear that Dutch scientists from Utrecht University, looking for other more ecological sources to produce plastics, have managed to create the basic chemical blocks from which plastic is made, lower olefins, but this time not from petrol but from plants.

Lower olefins are the basic "Lego" building blocks present in plastics, cosmetics and drugs, and are made of two or four carbons produced by steam cracking of crude oil-derived naphtha, however, oil reserves are not eternal and other sources for lower olefins were since long ago being investigated.

Utrecht University scientists are closely working with Dow Benelux, a chemical company that has already showed interest in the discovery and who'll probably be able to use such an innovative new technology for the production of organically developed bioplastics, bio-paints and bio-medicines Image: See credits under ref. [3] below. 


How plants defend against herbivory

Plants respond to leaf vibrations caused by insects


As we know, plants evolved and adapted to improve their survival and reproduction mechanisms in different ways, trying to escape from their biggest threat, herbivores.

Plants have avoided herbivores in many ways, from growing in remote locations, areas where herbivores had difficulties to reach, to letting herbivores eat non-essential parts of the plant, recovering later on from that loss.

The way plants defend from herbivores can be divided into two main types, constitutive (always present in the plant) or induced (produced as a reaction to damage or stress caused by herbivores) [1].

Within the second type of line defense, the University of Missouri has now found how plants can chemically defend against herbivores. 


Family: Brassicaceae

Genus: Arabidopsis

Common name: Rockcress.


More antioxidants and less pesticides in organic crops


Organic farming aims to preserve soil and ecosystem health by forgoing the heavy use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides [4], so far so good but what does this bring to consumers? Why would consumers pay more for organic food if there was no difference between that one and non-organic food?

Consumers believe that organic food is healthier and more nutritious, presumably due to the absence of pesticides and artificial hormones [4], however, there is not much information regarding these potential health benefits of organically grown food, or, at least, it wasn't much until now.

In a study performed by an international team of experts led by Newcastle University, it has been found that organic crops contain much higher quantities of antioxidants and much lower incidence of pesticide residues [1].