The contentious debate about why insects evolved to put the interests of the colony over the individual has been reignited by new research from the University of Leeds, showing that they do so to increase the chances that their genes will be passed on.
A team led by Dr Bill Hughes of the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences studied 'kin selection' – the theory that an animal may pass on its genes by helping relatives to reproduce, because they share common genes, rather than by reproducing itself.
The concept of ‘kin selection’ was developed in 1964 by the evolutionary biologist Bill Hamilton, first proposed by Charles Darwin to explain, for example, why sterile workers evolved in social insect groups and why a honeybee would sacrifice its life to defend the colony. Charles Darwin recognized that such altruistic behaviour in highly social insect groups was at odds with his theory of natural selection, and Bill Hamilton’s theory of kin selection showed that this behaviour can evolve because it still fulfills the drive to pass on genes - but through relatives instead.
The actor Sir Peter Ustinov once famously said "Contrary to general belief, I do not believe that friends are necessarily the people you like best, they are merely the people who get there first." Psychologists now believe there is some truth to this argument.
Rather than picking our friends based on intentional choice like common values and interests, our friendships may be based on more superficial factors like proximity or group assignments, like a department where you work or even an entirely new job.
Mitja Back, Stefan Schmukle, and Boris Egloff of the University of Leipzig sought to test the notion that random proximity and random group assignment at zero acquaintance would foster friendship in the long run. The researchers investigated 54 college freshmen upon encountering one another for the first time at the beginning of a one-off introductory session and randomly assigned them a seat number in a group of chairs organized in rows.
When people hear about elder abuse in nursing homes, they usually think of staff members victimizing residents. However, research by Cornell University faculty members suggests that a more prevalent and serious problem may be aggression and violence that occurs between residents themselves.
Although such aggression can have serious consequences for both aggressors and victims, the issue has received little attention from researchers, and few proven solutions exist to prevent resident altercations, says Karl Pillemer, director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging at the College of Human Ecology. He has co-authored two articles -- in Aggression and Violent Behavior and in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society -- on "resident-to-resident mistreatment" this spring with Weill Cornell Medical College professor of medicine Mark S. Lachs, M.D., and medical student Tony Rosen. Both studies report that verbal and physical aggression between residents is common and problematic, and that more research is necessary to identify risk factors and preventative measures.
"Anyone who spends much time in a nursing home will observe arguments, threats and shouting matches among residents, as well as behaviors like pushing, shoving and hitting," Pillemer said.
Researchers have demonstrated the possibility of preventing the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which is responsible for more than a million malaria deaths a year, from becoming sexually mature.
The discovery could have implications for controlling the spread of drug resistance, which is a major public health problem and which hinders the control of malaria.
The life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum is complex, and it is not yet known what triggers the production of parasite gametes or sex cells. These sexual forms of the parasite do not contribute to malaria symptoms, but are essential for transmission of malaria between humans via the bite of a mosquito.
In 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which was subsequently developed into a medicine by Florey and Chain in the 1940s. The antibiotic was hailed as a 'miracle cure' and a golden age of drug discovery followed. However, frequent rediscovery of known natural products and technical challenges forced pharmaceutical companies to retreat and stop looking for new molecules.
Big pharmacy companies gave up on soil bacteria as a source of antibiotics too soon, according to research published in the June issue of Microbiology. Scientists have been mining microbial genomes for new natural products that may have applications in the treatment of MRSA and cancer and have made some exciting discoveries.
"Over the last eight years we have been looking for new natural products in the DNA sequence of the antibiotic-producing bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor," said Professor Gregory Challis from the University of Warwick. "In the last 15 years it became accepted that no new natural products remained to be discovered from these bacteria. Our work shows this widely-held view to be incorrect."
A major contribution to the long-term storage and access of data on mutation for genes and disease has been established with the launch of Human Genomics and Proteomics, the first database journal affiliated with a database, FINDbase: the National/Ethnic Mutation Database documenting frequencies of causative mutations leading to inherited disorders in various populations worldwide.
The first title to be launched through SAGE-Hindawi – the joint collaboration between SAGE and Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Human Genomics and Proteomics (HGP) is a peer-reviewed international open access journal that will provide a unique forum for the discussion of research on human genomics and proteomics, systems biology and various aspects of personalized medicine.