Our news bulletins are released for Spring, Summer and Autumn each year. Some items from the January 2019 bulletin are given below.
2019 Summer Show
A date for your diaries: our Summer Show takes place on Saturday 3 August, in Nailsea School, with exhibits being staged in the morning.
Chestnuts are traditional Christmas fare, but for centuries countryfolk in southern Italy have also used an infusion of the leaves to treat inflamed and infected skin. Around 2000, this attracted the attention of scientists at Emory University in Atlanta USA, who found the infusion to be effective against MRSA infections. But puzzlingly, it has no antibiotic effect and kills no bacteria. Eventually they discovered that it stops the signalling molecules that trigger toxin production by the staphylococci. This keeps infections benign, and incidentally means that there is no evolutionary pressure to develop resistance to sweet chestnut! The moral of this story is: respect southern Italians (and not just the Mafiosi).
(With acknowledgements to Chemistry World, September 2018)
The Wonderful Mistletoe
All life needs energy, and uses it in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). All eukaryotes (fungi, plants and animals including us) have mitochondria within their cells to make ATP efficiently: except for a very few, single celled species such as some yeasts.
It has now been discovered that mistletoe (viscum album) also has largely disabled mitochondria and cannot make ATP the efficient way. So how does it survive? Potentially it can make ATP by an inefficient process called glycolysis. Also, it may save energy in the long run by stealing its sugars from its host. Even something as familiar as Christmas mistletoe still has secrets!
(With acknowledgements to New Scientist, 12/05/18)