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Bugs are a big problem. They spread diseases, and people also can develop allergies to them. And, of course, they’re icky.


They often are a really huge problem in densely populated, urban, low-income public housing dwellings, where there’s lots of food, clutter, moisture build-up, and cracks and crevices for bugs to crawl through and hide.


Families in Boston public housing developments, for instance, rank pest infestation, pesticide use and pest allergies second only to crime as matters of concern.


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the world spends about $40 billion a year on pesticides to get rid of the creepy-crawlies. But is this really the answer? Some pesticides contain substances that can be harmful to humans at high levels, not just bugs.


Chensheng Lu and colleagues wondered about that. So they studied exposure to 19 pesticides among children in 20 families in Boston’s public housing. They wanted to see whether these children might be exposed to large amounts of pesticides in their everyday lives.


They found pesticides in all of the homes, along with indications — such as sighting of live pests or pest debris — that traditional pesticides were not effective. “The results from the current study, as well as other recent studies, conducted in low-income public housing, child care centers and randomly selected homes in the U.S. should accentuate the need for alternative pest management programs,” the report states.


So called “integrated pest management” (IPM) measures include less reliance on pesticides and more emphasis on neatness and blocking cracks where insects can enter. It also focuses on minimizing bugs’ access to food and water.


What do you think? Could IPM methods really replace pesticides?



“Household Pesticide Contamination from Indoor Pest Control Applications in Urban Low-Income Public Housing Dwellings: A Community-Based Participatory Research”




*Journalists can request a PDF of the journal article by emailing



Credit: Hemera/Thinkstock


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Sunflower seeds. Sesame seeds. Caraway seeds. Rye seeds. Pumpkin seeds. Surely, there must be an edible seed for everyone’s taste. Un-hulled sunflower seeds are a baseball player’s delight. Rye, caraway and sesame seeds dress up a variety of breads, including bagels. And roasted pumpkin seeds are a Halloween treat for many.

And now we can add another one to the list that will, no doubt, surprise you: canary seeds. Yes, canary seeds for human beings.

With 3 million celiac disease patients in the United States suffering from gastrointestinal and other symptoms from eating grains, including rye, barley and wheat, researchers went on a quest to find new gluten-free options. They discovered that special canary seeds could be added to the existing gluten-free diet of rice, teff, corn, buckwheat sorghum and quinoa.

Writing in the ACS journal Agricultural & Food Chemistry, Joyce Irene Boye and colleagues explain that the new variety of canary seed, minus the tiny hairs of the seed, works as a gluten-free cereal for people. Previously, the hairs –– included when used as food for birds –– had made canary seed inedible for humans.

The team said that the new canary seeds can be used to make flour that can be used in cookies, cakes breads and other products, as well as for cereal. And this new product, which has more protein than most other grain, also is loaded with other nutrients.

If you allergic to gluten, would you try this new canary seed “grain” or bake breads with a canary-seed flour? Would you “Tweet” about this?

“Analysis of Glabrous Canary Seeds by ELISA, Mass Spectrometry and Western Blotting for the Absence of Cross-reactivity with Major Plant Food Allergens”

*Journalists can request a PDF of the journal article by emailing


Credit: Credit: Steve Hurst, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

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Before I rammed my knee into the sharp edge of my desk a few weeks ago, I hadn’t had a scab in years — decades, even. Scabs are unsightly, but they are really important in protecting an open wound against infection, and they stop the wound from bleeding. They also recruit new cells that help it heal quickly.


Ordinary bandages that you can buy at the grocery store are just barriers, keeping out dirt and microbes, while also stopping the blood from getting on your clothes. Sure, they sometimes have antibiotics on the white cotton pad, but they don’t really make the wound heal faster or attract new cells from the body to do so.


Now, researchers have built a better material for wound dressing that does just that. Shutao Wang and colleagues used human scabs as inspiration to make this material.


I bet this new dressing doesn’t have superheroes on it, as some bandages on the market do, but it does have a rather interesting texture. Their “cytophilic” wound dressing mimics the underside of scabs, where tiny fibers are arranged in the same direction like velvet or a cat’s fur. To make it, the team spun fibers of polyurethane — the common durable and flexible plastic — into the same pattern.


In laboratory experiments, the human cells involved in healing quickly attached to the material and lined up like those in actual scabs. The scientists conclude that this membrane “is of great potential in fabricating dressing materials for rapid wound healing, as well as other biomaterials, such as membrane for capturing circulating tumor cells, bone growth and constructing neural networks.”


Will we soon see this dressing on supermarket shelves? Do we need a new type of bandage? What do you think of this new material?

“Scab-Inspired Cytophilic Membrane of Anisotropic Nanofibers for Rapid Wound Healing”



*Journalists can request a PDF of the journal article by emailing



Credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock 


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