Bruce Hammock a distinguished entomology professor at the University of California, Davis, began his career trying to figure out how to control pests. Now he's making news with his potent enzyme inhibitor that dramatically reduces inflammation, inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain.
He couldn't have been more pleased or proud when a colleague in Spain published ground-breaking research on diabetes using the Hammock-discovered soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) inhibitor.
Researchers in the Joan Clària laboratory at the University of Barcelona, Spain, discovered that diabetes can be prevented and reversed, at least in genetically obese mice.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that when the sEH inhibitor was used in mice with a high level of omega-3 fats, the treatment both prevented the onset of diabetes and reversed the effects of diabetes in obese mice. Clària is an associate professor at the Barcelona University School of Medicine and a senior consultant at the Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics Service of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona.
“Our previous studies show the drug we are working on will reduce the symptoms of diabetes in mice by itself,” Hammock said, “but the excitement about Joan Clària's work is that if the mice have a genetically increased level of omega-3 fatty acids--the drug offers prevention or cure in mice.”
This is breaking news that we hope will lead to targeting diabetes in humans. Worldwide, some 347 million people have diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 29.1 million Americans or 9.3 percent of the population have diabetes, either diagnosed or undiagnosed.
Hammock explained that the epoxide metabolites of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA are stabilized by inhibiting sEH, "and these metabolites contribute a great deal to the beneficial effects of an omega-3 diet." Previous UC Davis research in the laboratories of Bruce Hammock, Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, Robert Weiss, Anne Knowlton and Fawaz Haj showed that the enzyme reduces or reverses such diabetes-linked medical issues as renal failure, hypertension, diabetic pain, hardening of the arteries, and heart failure.
In the paper, titled “Inhibition of Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Modulates Inflammation and Autophagy in Obese Adipose Tissue and Liver: Role for Omega-3 Epoxides,” Clària described the administration of the sEH inhibitor as “a promising strategy to prevent obesity-related co-morbidities.” Technically, the study “demonstrates that stabilization of cytochrome P-450 epoxides derived from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids through inhibition of the inactivating enzyme soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) exerts beneficial actions in counteracting metabolic disorders associated with obesity, including insulin resistance and fatty liver disease,” Clària said.
Clària said the study also “sheds more light on the role of sEH in cellular homeostasis by providing evidence that omega-3 epoxides and sEH inhibition regulate autophagy and endoplasmic reticulum stress in insulin-sensitive tissues, especially the liver.”
Cristina López-Vicario was the first-author of the research paper. In addition to Clària and Hammock, other co-authors were José Alcaraz-Quiles, Verónica García-Alonso, Bibiana Rius, Aritz Lopategi, Ester Titos and Vicente Arroyo, all of the Clària lab or associates; and Sung Hee Hwang of the Hammock Lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center
Hammock has worked on the mechanism of hydrolytic enzymes and their effect on human health for more than 35 years. He is developing both enzyme inhibitors and natural products as drugs for use in the United States and developing countries. His work has helped identify new targets for the action of drugs and other compounds to improve health and predict risk from various environmental chemicals.
Hammock is the founder and CEO of EicOsis, and through EicOsis, the compounds are in clinical trials for companion animals and the Pre-Investigational New Drug Application (Pre-IND) Consultation Program for neuropathic pain in human diabetics.
Hammock was recently selected a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program and National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program.
If there's one thing that entomologists hate, it's journalists who mistake a fly for a bee.
To entomologists, it's like mistaking a referee for a football player (well, they are on the same playing field) or a model airplane for a Lear jet (well, they do share the same sky) or a Volkswagen for a Ferrari (well, they do share the same road).
No. No. No.
Fact is, some journalists are so busy meeting deadlines that they don't stop and smell the flowers--or see what's foraging on them.
It's not just the news media. Lately we've been seeing dozens of drone flies (Eristalis tenax) masquerading as honey bees (Apis mellifera) in stock photo catalogs, on Facebook and Flickr pages, and on honey bee websites. Last week an environmental friendly organization attacked a pesticide company for killing bees but posted a photo of a fly instead of a bee on its website. Another faux pas: a fly showed up on the cover of the celebrated book, Bees of the World.
Gee, if it visits flowers, it must be a bee, right? Wrong. Not all floral visitors are bees.
If it's a pollinator, it must be a bee, right? Wrong. Flies can be pollinators, too.
If it visits flowers, pollinates flowers, and is about the size of a honey bee, it's a honey bee, right? Wrong. Those three descriptions fit drone flies, too.
Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:
- A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
- A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
- A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does.
Bottom line: if you're not sure if it's a fly or a bee, contact an entomologist near you.
Say you're a caterpillar or an aphid and a wasp comes along and lays her eggs inside you. Her eggs will hatch and then her offspring will eat their way out. You, the host, are no more. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
If you visit the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Sunday, Jan. 11 on the University of California, Davis, campus, you'll learn all about parasitoids.
The fun, educational and family-friendly event is themed, "Parasitoid Palooza!" Free and open to the public, it takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane,
"Most everyone knows that mantids eat other insects or that ladybird beetles (lady bugs) consume lots of aphids, but there is another way insects eat other insects," commented Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
"An insect parasitoid is a species whose immatures live off of one insect host, usually eating it from the inside out," she said. "It is part of their life cycle and the host dies. This sounds like a weird way to make a living, but there are more species of parasitoids than there are insects with any other single kind of life history. The movie Alien with Sigourney Weaver co-opts this phenomenon, but in reality there are no parasitoids on humans or other vertebrates."
The Bohart open house will spotlight this unusual life cycle. Wasps, flies and beetles are parasitoids to many different insect groups.
Senior museum scientist and collections manager Steve Heydon, is a world authority on Pteromalids, or jewel wasps, a group of tiny parasitoids, and will be on hand to talk about them.
Live parasitoids from the lab of Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomolology and Nematology will be showcased. They include Encarsa, Eretmocerus, Diglyphus and Aphidius.
"Parasitoid Palooza" promises to be a fun and wacky celebration of the diversity of life, Yang said. A family-friendly craft activity with balloons inside of balloons (representing parasitoids) is planned.
Before you go, be sure to check out Wired.Com's piece on a wasp from the genus Glyptapantele laying eggs in a caterpillar. Tachinid flies also provide biological control services, laying their eggs in a number of insects, including beetles, moths, sawflies, earwigs and grasshoppers.
Along with parasitoids, visitors will see some "teddy bear" bees or male Valley carpenter bees, to be shown by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Allan Jones of Davis, a noted insect photographer, delivered some to Thorp's office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility last week. Their origin? A friend's felled apple tree in Davis. The tree had rotted and male and female Valley carpenter bees were wintering inside.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects and photograph them. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Open houses, focusing on specific themes, are held on weekends throughout the academic year.
The remaining schedule of open houses:
- Sunday, Feb. 8: “Biodiversity Museum Day,” noon to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, March 14: “Pollination Nation,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, April 18: UC Davis Picnic Day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Sunday, May 17: “Name That Bug! How About Bob?” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, July 18: “Moth Night,” 8 to 11 p.m.
More information is available by contacting Tabatha Yang, education and public outreach coordinator at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493.
It's a cold spell.
As temperatures dip throughout much of California, and honey bees snuggle inside their hives, it's "bees-ness" in southern California this week.
Everything's abuzz as two national bee organizations host their annual conventions: The American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) is meeting for its 46th annual convention Jan. 6-10 in Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County. And the North American Beekeeping Conference and Trade Show is underway Jan. 6-10 in the Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, Orange County.
The topics will encompass bee health, including pests, pesticides, parasites, diseases, malnutrition and stress. Everything about the bee-leagured bees.
Meanwhile, a few almond trees are blooming (one in the Benicia State Recreation Area burst into bloom before Christmas Day) and more and more bees are venturing out as the temperatures hit 55.
If you have winter blossoms, odds are you're getting bee visits during the sun breaks. In our yard, the bees love the Bacopa, a groundcover that fought--and won--the battle with Jack Frost. Strong winds and rain storms hammered and stripped some of the blossoms, but the bees don't care. The pollen is there.
When a rotten apple tree was cut down last week on private property in Davis, scores of eyes peered from the drilled holes. Soon, adult male Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta)--those green-eyed golden bees known as "teddy bears"--emerged with their female counterparts. The males and females look nothing alike; the females are solid black.
As entomologists know, the females drill holes in wood to lay their eggs. When the adult females and males emerge from their cells, they "wait it out" until spring or when the weather warms enough for them to take flight. It gets pretty cold in Davis.
Talented insect photographer Allan Jones of Davis got the carpenter-bee call. "My good friend's son, a football player up from Claremont, cut down the rotten apple tree," Jones said. Surprise! Insects began crawling from the drilled holes.
Jones knew immediately what they were. He's photographed hundreds of them. He picked up the golden bees, knowing that "boy bees can't sting" and delivered them to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
"The golden boys were all clinging together in a little ball when I left (the Laidlaw facility)," Jones said.
Thorp plans to keep them chilled to see if they survive the winter. They also will be part of "show and tell" at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 11 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
The male Valley carpenter bees are often mistaken for a new species of bumble bee. In fact, some refer to them as "golden bumble bees."
The Valley carpenter bees are the largest carpenter bee in California. They are included in the newly published California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, co-authored by entomologist Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley, Thorp, entomologist-photographer Rollin Coville and UC Berkeley botanist and curator Barbara Ertter.
Xylocopa varipuncta inhabits the Central Valley, Santa Clara Valley, and Southern California. At many garden events, visitors are surprised when Thorp picks up a male Valley carpenter bee and lets them hold it and feel the vibrating buzz.
"Boy bees can't sting," he tells them. "They're bluffing."