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Your daily roundup of research news

Science News Staff

Science Ticker


Science Ticker

Here’s the key ingredient that lets a centipede’s bite take down prey

The good news is an epilepsy drug helps counteract the insect’s newly identified ‘spooky toxin’

centipede attacking lab mouse

RECIPE FOR DISASTER  Despite the lab mouse’s much greater weight, chemistry gives this centipede the decisive advantage.

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Knocking out an animal 15 times your size — no problem. A newly identified toxin in the venom of a tropical centipede helps the insect overpower giant prey in about 30 seconds.

Insight into how this venom overwhelms lab mice could lead to an antidote for people who suffer excruciatingly painful, reportedly even fatal, centipede bites, an international research team reports the week of January 22 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In Hawaii, centipede bites account for about 400 emergency room visits a year, according to data from 2004 to 2008. The main threat there is Scolopendra subspinipes, an agile species almost as long as a human hand.

The subspecies S. subspinipes mutilans starred in studies at the Kunming Institute of Zoology in China and collaborating labs. Researchers there found a small peptide, now named “spooky toxin,” largely responsible for venom misery.

This toxin blocks a molecular channel that normally lets potassium flow through cell membranes. A huge amount of the biochemistry of staying alive involves potassium, so clogging some of what are called KCNQ channels caused mayhem in mice: slow and gasping breath, high blood pressure, frizzling nerve dysfunctions and so on. Administering the epilepsy drug retigabine opened the potassium channels and counteracted much of the toxin’s effects, raising hopes of a treatment for these bites.

Biophysics,, Technology

A robotic arm made of DNA moves at dizzying speed

By Maria Temming 2:00pm, January 18, 2018
A DNA machine with a high-speed arm could pave the way for nanoscale factories.
Astronomy

See a 360-degree visualization of the center of the Milky Way

By Emily Conover 6:00am, January 12, 2018
A 360-degree simulation, made with data from several telescopes, shows the center of the Milky Way as seen from the galaxy’s supermassive black hole.
Numbers

The largest known prime number has 23 million-plus digits

By Laurel Hamers 7:00am, January 5, 2018
A newly found prime number smashes the previous record for largest prime.
Planetary Science,, Earth

NASA is headed to Earth’s outermost edge

By Carolyn Gramling 6:03pm, January 4, 2018
NASA’s upcoming GOLD mission will study the charged border between Earth and space.
Health

U.S. life expectancy drops for the second year in a row

By Aimee Cunningham 12:05am, December 21, 2017
Life expectancy for the U.S. population decreased in 2016, the second year in a row this measure has dropped.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science

NASA’s next stop will be Titan or a comet

By Lisa Grossman 4:56pm, December 20, 2017
The finalists for NASA’s next solar system mission aim to send a drone to Saturn’s largest moon or to return samples from a comet.
Astronomy,, Cosmology

The most distant quasar ever spotted hails from the universe’s infancy

By Lisa Grossman 1:00pm, December 6, 2017
The new record-holder for faraway quasars comes from a period of rapid change in the universe.
Animals,, Paleontology

Here’s yet more evidence that the mythical yeti was probably a bear

By Laurel Hamers 7:06pm, November 28, 2017
A more complete genetic analysis amps up the evidence that the legendary creatures known as yetis are actually bears.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science

Here is Cassini’s last broad look at the Saturn system

By Lisa Grossman 6:00am, November 22, 2017
Two days before plunging into Saturn, Cassini took a mosaic image of the gas giant, its rings and its moons.
Astronomy

The Arecibo Observatory will remain open, NSF says

By Lisa Grossman 3:15pm, November 17, 2017
The iconic Arecibo radio telescope has survived Hurricane Maria and dodged deep funding cuts.
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