The year is flying past, and July has been another month with several of our papers making the news. This month we’re covering sleeping flies, the tree shrew’s penchant for spice, how people can have their own ‘glucotype’, the gut’s role in cocaine addiction, and how mice dads imprint on their young. Check out our full range of research this month over at PLOS Biology.
Our first paper this month adds to the growing evidence that lack of sleep has negative health effects. Short-sleeping fly mutants were found to be less able to fight off oxidants, suggesting that sleeps supports antioxidant processes. The flip-side of this phenomenon was also found to be true; an excess of oxidants helps to induce sleep. Good news for fans of having a lie-in!
Most humans and almost all mammals try to avoid eating hot chilli peppers due to the pain they induce. However, a subtle mutation in the gene encoding the heat-sensing TRPV1 receptor of the Chinese tree shrew allows them eat hot chillies without consequence. Unlike mice, tree shrews didn’t reduce their food intake as the spice level increased, and researchers propose that this is an evolutionary adaptation to allow them to eat a local Asian pepper that contains chilli-like chemicals. This study has been featured in National Geographic.
High glucose spikes have been found to be common in healthy people despite their association with glucose dysregulation conditions such as diabetes. By measuring blood sugar levels using continuous glucose monitors researchers were able to identify daily variations, and foods that triggered glucose spikes. Three different glucose behaviours, or ‘glucotypes’, were identified: those who spike often, spike moderately, and spike rarely. By identifying who is a ‘spiker’ – and why – researchers hope to better understand diabetes. The Times has also featured this paper.
Our next paper argues that bile acids in the gut could reduce the feeling of reward from cocaine use. Treating mice with bile diversion surgery, an experimental treatment for weight loss in humans, increased the amount of bile acid in the brain and reduced the amount of dopamine release in response to cocaine. Mice were less likely to seek out cocaine, suggesting that the bile acid made it less rewarding. This research has been featured in Daily Mail and Discover Magazine.
Our final July paper suggests that the genes from mouse dads can affect the type of maternal care that the offspring receive. It was already known that parents’ genes use the placenta as an evolutionary battleground over their divergent interests in providing nutrients to the pups while they’re still in the uterus; however, here they report that so-called “imprinted genes” have been found to have an effect (via placental hormones) on how much the mother nurses and grooms their pups after birth. This research has been covered by Daily Mail and Smithsonian.
Join us next month for more PLOS Biology in the news!
Featured image credit: Thomas Foley on Unsplash.