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Tiny C. elegan worms feed on weed and cannabis, study finds



In 2016, Sean Lockery was finishing up a week of studying worm eating habits when he decided to do a fun experiment on a Friday afternoon.

Oregon legalized recreational marijuana last year, so Lockery and fellow researchers at the University of Oregon wanted to see how the drug worked on hookworms. They showered microscopic worms with a cannabinoid molecule and placed high-calorie and low-calorie foods next to them.

The worms swarmed toward the high-calorie, bacterial food—Lockery’s decision was tantamount to choosing pizza over oatmeal. V study published on Thursday — the unofficial marijuana holiday on April 20 — Oregon researchers have determined that worms, like humans, become hungry and begin to chew when exposed to cannabis.

“It helps us place ourselves in the animal universe in a new way, enhancing the commonality between humans, with their huge and wonderful brains, and the tiny microscopic worm,” Lockery, professor of biology and neuroscience, told The Washington Post.

Around 1990, Lockery began studying decision-making processes in Caenorhabditis eleganstranslucent nematodes with a simple brain and no circulatory or respiratory systems.

In June 2016, Lockery was researching how C. elegans decides which bacteria to eat when he and his team began planning their weekly fun experiment. When they thought about the possible impact marijuana, the researchers thought, “Well, let’s see what happens,” Lockery said.

“We try to keep a sense of humor about what we do and that keeps us light and creative,” Lockery said. “And this research came in part from that spirit.”

Marijuana, which contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has long been known to induce hunger in humans by raising hunger hormones, activating parts of the brain that control hunger, and raising dopamine levels. Research has also found that rodents crave high-calorie foods after consuming THC.

In their lab in Oregon, the researchers poured a cannabinoid called anandamide about 50 C. elegans. The scientists moved the worms into a T-maze and placed high-calorie food on one side and low-calorie food on the other.

Although C. elegans generally prefer high-calorie foods, they ate more of them after exposure to anandamide and avoided low-calorie foods more than usual. In subsequent experiments, the researchers found that anandamide made neurons more sensitive to odors of high-calorie foods.

“This is the first time chewing gum has been demonstrated in an invertebrate,” Lockery said. “So it’s a big step up from what we currently think of as sort of the limit of the Munch.”

While the Oregon researchers’ study was due to be published last month, Lockery said Current Biology has delayed it until April 20.

Lockery hopes this research will inspire further research into how cannabis affects animals, insects and other organisms. He believes more drugs can be tested on C. elegans to predict how they will affect people.

Lockery is now studying how psychedelics affect the behavior of worms.

“My project from the very beginning was to try to figure out how the whole – albeit tiny – brain works,” Lockery said. “I didn’t really care much about drugs. I never expected this. But I’m grateful for it; it was really fun.”


NASA Researchers Create 3D Printable Superalloy for Extreme Conditions: GRX-810



Using a model-based alloy design approach and laser-based additive manufacturing, materials scientists at NASA have developed a new NiCoCr-based alloy strengthened by oxide dispersion.

NASA researchers create 3D-printable superalloy for extreme environments: GRX-810 first appeared on Sci.News: Breaking Science News.

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Pennsylvania students will hear from a NASA astronaut aboard the space station



Students from the North Allegheny School District in McCandless, Pennsylvania this week will have the opportunity to listen to a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station.

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Access to abortion pills is limited; SCOTUS freezes lower court ruling



Increase / The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S. Wednesday, April 19, 2023. Democrats oppose a Republican Congressional revision resolution disapproving of the Department of Veterans Affairs interim reproductive health rule. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday issued an order that would keep the status quo of access to mifepristone, the abortion and miscarriage drug, as the FDA’s legal battle over the drug’s approval and regulation continues. The court did not explain its reasoning, but noted that Judges Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito disagreed.

The decision overturns a New Orleans 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that would have restricted access to the drug as the federal government considers an appeal of the district court’s decision. That decision, handed down on April 7 by Conservative District Judge Matthew Kaczmarik, should have denied access to the drug entirely, as the FDA’s approval of mifepristone in 2000 was illegal, as was the agency’s subsequent actions.

However, a three-judge panel of the appeals court determined that the plaintiff in the case — a group of anti-abortion organizations and individuals led by the Hippocratic Medicine Alliance — had exceeded the statute of limitations in which they could legally challenge the FDA approval in 2000. But the judges ruled 2-1 to allow the rest of Kaczmarik’s ruling, overturning FDA actions in 2016 and 2021 that eased restrictions and access to the drug.

If restrictions were reinstated, this would mean that mifepristone would only be available during seven weeks of pregnancy, not 10; that women would have to visit the doctor three times, and not just once, perhaps with the help of telemedicine; the medicine will not be allowed to be sold by mail; and that doctors again had to report all non-fatal side effects.

In an appeal to the Supreme Court, Danco Laboratories, the maker of mifepristone (brand name Mifeprex), said the appeals court’s decision created “debilitating uncertainty” and “regulatory turmoil.” In his address, he wrote:

To distribute Mifeprex under something other than REMS 2023. [the FDA’s latest regulations], Danco should: review labels, packaging and promotional materials; re-certify suppliers; and amend their contracts with suppliers and distributors and policies (among other things). All are currently based on the 2023 REMS. This is Danco’s current distribution model. However, before Danco can make any changes, it must have a new REMS in place that will require Danco to submit and approve an additional non-disclosure agreement (sNDA) from the FDA. This process usually takes months. It is not clear if Danco can continue to distribute mifeprex while this sNDA is pending with the FDA, even if it is technically misbranded, or if it could expose Danco to civil and criminal penalties. And then Danco may need to go through all those hoops again if the injunction is eventually changed or sent in response to an appeal.

Further complicating matters is a ruling by a district judge in Washington blocking the FDA from changing access to mifepristone in 17 states and the District of Columbia. And on Wednesday, GenBioPro, the maker of a generic mifepristone that was approved by the FDA in 2019, sued the FDA to prevent the agency from complying with any order to remove the generic from the market.

Overall, this case is the first time that an inexperienced district judge has ruled to revoke an FDA approval, based in part on the argument that the FDA was wrong in its expert scientific analysis. If anti-abortion groups ultimately win on appeal, it would set a dangerous precedent, opening the floodgates for litigation to override the FDA’s authority in regulatory actions and approvals and plunge drug development into chaos, according to legal experts, the former federal officials and numerous representatives of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

The Court of Appeal moved the case to an accelerated timetable and plans to hear the first oral presentations on May 17.

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