Thursday, January 31, 2013

3 Facts You May Not Know About Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder

We need bees for our future. They are essential for 130 crops and command 16 billion dollars of industry value. Yet bees are disappearing from the bizarre phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder without signs of an obvious disease. Several of my colleagues in the insect and microbiome fields are working hard to better understand and solve this major problem, including Jay EvansNancy Moran and Irene Newton. It seems as if not just one infectious agent causes colony collapse disorder but rather it arises as a tragedy of diverse reasons.

I came across the talk below and received a major upgrade in my knowledge on Colony Collapse Disorder. Noah Wilson-Rich's Tedx Boston talk raises several counter-intuitive facts about urban beekeeping and its impact on the colony collapse mystery. The 3 most salient facts he describes are below, followed by his full Ted talk.

  • Colony Collapse Disorder is not a new problem. Say what... that's not what Ive been aware of.   Yet Noah shows at 6:03 in his talk that bee die offs have occurred periodically over the last 1000 years.
  • Survival of bees is greater in urban beekeeping (62.5%) than the more traditional rural beekeeping (40%). Can we get some microbiome folks working on this please? Do bees reared on city roof tops have a better microbial community than those reared rurally? Noah's Best Bees Company uses a probiotic nutritious blend (Apivax) to inhibit fungal infections and upregulate the bee immune system.
  • Honey yield is greater in urban beekeeping (26.25%) versus rural beekeeping (16.75%). Here honey yield is measured as average pounds for first year.

I like Noah's approach. He is trying to figure out ways to increase bee health as a complement to others focussed on figuring out how Colony Collapse Disorders arise. The merger of these two paths will undoubtedly be fruitful when it occurs in the future.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Diet Cures Multiple Sclerosis

I am fascinated by how changes in the gut microbiome can alter the course and even reverse human disease. Take the recent surge of fecal transplants for instance to treat chronic diseases such as IBD, Clostridium difficile, Crohn's, and multiple sclerosis (blog post). I am also intrigued by how plant strong and paleo diets seem to be increasingly beneficial for health.

Here is an inspirational TEDx talk by Dr. Terry Wahls (@TerryWahls) on how she used to research and develop a hunter gatherer diet rich in phytonutrients that cured her multiple sclerosis - an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. Note that her approach focussed on the beneficial vitamins and phytonutrients from these foods. She did not mention the changes in the gut bacteria that are also occurring on this diet and that can have positive repercussions on the body's metabolites. I hope her message helps others.

Diet changes the gut microbiome, which in turn changes the metabolic, neuronal, and inflammatory networks that may cause or cure many chronic 'Western' diseases. Nothing short of awesome. The regenerative power of the gut microbiome is akin to stem cells and here to stay.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Robogut: Bring Your Insides Out [video]

This state-of-the-art Robogut at the University of Guelph is used to simulate the inner workings of the human gut with bottles, gas chambers, and tubes. Amazing research. The goal is to mine the liquid gold products of the human microbiome and use them for applications to human health. Who would have thought to turn the complexity of the intestine into an in vitro culturing system. Im inspired by the creativity and applications here. I imagine some of you out there might have some fresh ideas for what you'd like to do with such an apparatus. Leave your comments below.

Apparently, this same lab just used the apparatus to grow a cocktail of good bacteria to treat patients with Clostridium difficile. Link to cbcnews story from today.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Superorganism - Vlog 3

In this video blog, I use the analogy of Superman to describe the Superorganism - a collection of organisms that together gives powers (i.e., fitness) to a single animal or plant. Other similar terms such as Bosch & McFall-Ngai's metaorganism and Rosenbergs' hologenome are pulled together to discuss what it will take to know if these terms are real evolutionary units of Life, real entities that the frontier of Biology must confront. As mentioned previously, I view these vlogs so far as experiments that will only survive or not with your feedback. I look forward to your criticisms or support on the video blogging vs. text blogging and the concepts in the videos. Thanks a bunch, Seth

Related vlog or blog posts:

1. Phylosymbiotic Vlog 1
2. The Large Immune Effect Vlog 2
3. Science of the Superorganism
4. The Story Behind Speciation By Symbiosis