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Allergies To Bee Stings Are A Defense Mechanism – On Science

October 25, 2013

The evolution of an allergy.

NASA’s A-team joins forces.

How does space shape the eyes?

And you can be part of NASA development…today On Science!

Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.

(Bee buzzes and stings) Owwww! Ugh! I don’t want them to be extinct but boy do they hurt! Good thing I’m not allergic! But if I was, it would actually be a defense mechanism. Researchers at the University of Stanford Medical Center found that potentially deadly allergic reaction responses to bee venom may have evolved from the body’s attempt to fight off poisons. Though mostly thought of as negative in nature, the researchers suspected that having an allergic reaction had to serve a purpose as well, otherwise they would have been eliminated through evolution. Tests showed that pre-immunizing mice with small doses of bee venom allowed more mice to survive a fatal dose given later. So I guess everything does serve a purpose, even I’ve it does seem bad to start with.

NASA’s going deeper and deeper into the Universe. NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra space telescopes will work together for the agency’s new mission called “The Frontier Fields.” Each telescope will be using its own talents in conjunction with the universe’s naturally occurring phenomenon known as gravitational lensing to locate galaxies up to 100 times fainter than could be detected by any one telescope on its own. The trio will first to attempt to unlock Pandora’s box, or well actually the giant galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora’s Cluster, where astronomers expect to find never before seen galaxies that existed in the universe’s younger days. Hubble and Spitzer will collectively measure distance and masses of galaxies while Chandra images clusters at X-ray wavelengths to determine their mass, gravitational lensing ability and any background galaxies with supermassive black holes. NASA said each “great observatory gives us a different piece of the puzzle.”

Looking into another space topic—emphasis on the looking. A new study is looking at the effects of space travel on the eyes. Mice sent into orbit aboard the Discovery mission in 2010 showed immediate evidence of oxidative stress to their retinas upon return to Earth. But they returned to normal after 7 days on Earth. These observations suggest that oxidative stress in the retina and lens from space travel is at least partially reversible. But they said it’s a short study, so they still aren’t sure what an extended mission to Mars or an asteroid could mean for the human eye. They say that the study does indicate that better technology be developed to protect astronauts eyes. Poor mice always getting the short end of the stick!

This story will bring you back down to Earth. A group of scientists from the University of St. Andrews along with the Wildlife Conservation Society say that Uganda’s African lions are on the verge of disappearing. Usually climate change is to blame. Not in this case, it’s a story of vengeance. Local cattle herders poison the lions as payback for livestock predation among other human-lion conflicts. The team estimated that the population is down 30% in their study by luring lions to a vehicle to count them. The lion is not only vital to the local ecosystem to ensure the proper balance of predator vs. prey, but also to Ugandan tourism as most visitors shell out dough to see the king of the jungle.

And to close today’s show, how about a little space meets Earth? NASA has joined forces with product developer Marblar for a program that encourages the development of Earth applications for technologies originally designed for space. NASA will release a total of 40 technology patents, for which the public can propose product ideas. Like what, you ask? Here are some products you might not have known had NASA beginnings – memory foam, artificial limbs, cell-phone cameras, and even ski boats. Anyone can pitch product ideas based on the patents and collect royalties from the developed products. In that case, I better get my thinking cap on!

And that’s what’s happening today On Science. See ya next week!



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