New research is helping to unravel the machinery that allows a mosquito to sniff out its human quarry, which could lead to more and better ways of foiling the disease-spreading insects. A report published today in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes four genes that appear to produce odor-sensing molecules in Africas Anopheles gambiae, a carrier of malaria, the number two killer in the developing world. Understanding how such genes operate could enable scientists to develop new compounds that will repel mosquitoes or lure them to poisons. Such chemicals are needed, senior author Laurence J. Zwiebel of Vanderbilt University explains, because "current levels of malaria and other insect-borne diseases suggest that were not controlling these insects very well."
Zwiebel and colleagues scanned the mosquito genome looking for genes similar to those that generate fruit fly odorant receptors, proteins that project from nerve cells and initiate a biochemical cascade when they encounter certain molecules in the air. The four candidates the team found were all active in the antennae and mouthparts of the mosquito, where its sense of smell resides. Significantly, one of the genes the team isolated was active only in females—the mosquito gender that bites—and its activity dropped off sharply 12 hours after a blood meal. Previous studies have found that a females sense of smell is dulled after feeding on human blood. Zwiebel says he and co-workers have now isolated a total of 30 possible receptors, and he expects to find anywhere from 60 to 100 in the end.
"Understanding the switch in the mosquito nose is just step one," he notes. Individual receptors generally bind to a range of molecules with varying strengths. A longer and more difficult task, he says, will be to figure out how a mosquitos brain processes the signals that various receptors send. Controlling malaria will require an international effort, Zwiebel stresses, and "we hope that by identifying these sorts of genes… well be able to help."
JR Minkel | Scientific American
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At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
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Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
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