An enzyme inhibitor developed in the UC Davis laboratory of Bruce Hammock and tested in mice by a team of international researchers shows promise that it could lead to a drug to prevent or reduce the disabilities associated with the neurodevelopmental disorders of autism and schizophrenia.
“We discovered that soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) plays a key role in inflammation associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. Inhibiting that enzyme stops the inflammation and the development of autism-like and schizophrenia-like symptoms in animal models,” said collaborator Kenji Hashimoto, a professor with the Chiba University Center for Forensic Mental Health, Japan. The scientists found higher levels of sEH in a key region of the brain—the prefrontal cortex of juvenile offspring-- after maternal immune activation (MIA).
“Mothers who have MIA, which results from severe stress in that region of the brain, have an increased occurrence of neurodevelopment disorders in their offspring,” Hashimoto explained. “In our study, the sEH enzyme increased dramatically in a key brain region of mice pups from mothers with MIA.”
The research, published today (March 18) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is the work of 14 researchers from Chiba University Center for Forensic Mental Health; the Laboratory for Molecular Psychiatry, RIKEN Center for Brain Science, in Wako, Saitama, Japan; and the Hammock laboratory.
Research in Mice Pups
By inhibiting sEH, the researchers reversed cognitive and social interaction deficiencies in the mice pups. They hypothesize that this is due to increasing natural chemicals, which prevent brain inflammation. In people, this could reduce the disabilities associated with autism, such as anxiety, gastrointestinal disturbances and epilepsy.
“The same chemical and biochemical markers behaved as predicted in human stem cells,” said Hammock, a distinguished professor who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Earlier studies have indicated a genetic disposition to the disorders. The team also studied postmortem brain samples from autism patients that confirmed the alterations.
“In the case of both autism and schizophrenia, the epidemiology suggests that both genetics and environment are contributing factors,” said neuroscientist and associate professor Amy Ramsey of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Toronto, who was not involved in the study. “In both cases, maternal infection is a risk factor that might tip the scales for a fetus with a genetic vulnerability. This study is important because it shows that their drug can effectively prevent some of the negative outcomes that occur with prenatal infections. While there are many studies that must be done to ensure its safe use in pregnant women, it could mitigate the neurological impacts of infection during pregnancy.”
Neuroscientist Lawrence David, professor and chair of the School of Public Health, University of Albany, N.Y., who was not involved in the research, said that the study might lead to “an important therapeutic intervention for neurodevelopment disorders.”
Might Be Important Therapeutic Invervention
“There is increasing evidence that maternal immune activation activities (MIA) during fetal development can lead to aberrant neurobehaviors, including autistic-like activities,” said Lawrence, who studies neuroimmunology and immunotoxicology. The study “suggests that enzymatic control of fatty acid metabolism is implicated in neuroinflammation associated with schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. The expression of Ephx2 giving rise to soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) influences production of fatty acid metabolites, which elevate inflammation in the experimental model of mice after MIA; the sEH inhibitor TPPU (N-[1-(1-oxopropyl)-4-piperidinyl]-N'-[4-(trifluoromethoxy)phenyl)-urea) was postnatally used to improved behaviors. Analysis of cadaver brains from individuals with ASD also expressed increased sEH. Fatty acid metabolites have been known to affect fetal development, especially that of the brain; therefore, TPPU might be an important therapeutic intervention for neurodevelopmental disorders.”
Molecular bioscientist Isaac Pessah of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, distinguished professor and associate dean of research and graduate education in the Department of Molecular Biosciences, described the findings as “significant” and called for more detailed and expanded studies.
“There is mounting evidence that inappropriate maternal immune responses during pregnancy to infection contributes elevated risk to autism spectrum disorder, at least in a fraction of cases,” Pessah said. “The most significant findings reported here is that a commonly used mouse model of immune-triggered behavioral deficits mimicking some of the core symptoms in autistic children can be suppressed by inhibiting a novel biochemical target, soluble epoxide hydrolase; a target not previously explored as a target for therapeutic intervention to treat ASDs. These findings provide a rational basis for more detailed and expanded studies in mice carrying mutations implicated in ASDs to determine whether the therapeutic benefits of soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitor(s) observed in this study are more generalizable.”
Autism in the United States
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children in the United States have autism, commonly diagnosed around age 3. It is four times more common in boys than girls. CDC defines autism spectrum disorder as a “developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” The disorder impairs the ability to communicate and interact.
Approximately 3.5 million people or 1.2 percent of the population in the United States are diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the leading causes of disability, according to the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA). Scores more go unreported. Approximately three-quarters of persons with schizophrenia develop the illness between 16 and 25 years of age. Statistics also show that between one-third and one half of all homeless adults have schizophrenia, and 50 percent of people diagnosed have received no treatment. Among the symptoms: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior, and obsessive-compulsive disorders, such as hoarding, according to SARDAA.
Promising Prophylactic or Theraputic Target
In their research paper, titled “Key Role of Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase in the Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Offspring After Maternal Immune Activation,” the scientists described sEH as “a promising prophylactic or therapeutic target for neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring after MIA.”
First author Min Ma and second Qian Ren of the Hashimoto lab conducted the animal and biochemical work, while chemists Jun Yang and Sung Hee Hwang of the Hammock lab performed the chemistry and analytical chemistry. Takeo Yoshikawa, a team leader with the RIKEN's Molecular Psychiatry Laboratory, performed measurements of gene expression in the neurospheres from iPSC (induced pluripotent stem cells) from schizophrenia patients and postmortem brain samples from autism patients.
Hashimoto described the international collaboration as “exciting and productive.” This is their third PNAS paper in a series leading to endoplasmic reticulum stress. “We report discovery of a biochemical axis that leads to multiple neurological disorders, including depression, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders and similar diseases,” he said.
First Human Trials
William Schmidt, vice president of clinical development at EicOsis, a Davis-based company developing inhibitors to sEH to treat unmet medical needs in humans and companion animals, said the company is developing a first-in-class therapy for neuropathic and inflammatory pain. “EicOsis is in the process of finalizing our first human trials on the inhibitors of the soluble epoxide hydrolase, originally reported from UC Davis,” Schmidt said. “We are targeting the compounds as opioid replacements to treat peripheral neuropathic pain. It is exciting that the same compound series may be used to prevent or treat diseases of the central nervous system.”
Several grants from the National Institutes of Health, awarded to Hammock, supported the research. Hammock praised the many collaborators and students he has worked with on the project. “This work illustrates the value of research universities in bringing together the diverse talent needed to address complex problems,” Hammock said. “It also illustrates the value of fundamental science. This autism research can be traced directly to the fundamental question of how caterpillars turn into butterflies.”
Now working solely on research to benefit humankind, Hammock began his career in insect science at UC Berkeley where he investigated how epoxide hydrolase degrades a caterpillar's juvenile hormone. The process leads to metamorphosis from the larval stage to the adult insect. Hammock then wondered "Does the enzyme occur in plants? Does it occur in mammals?"
It does, and particularly as a soluble epoxide hydrolase in mammals.
"Science is full of surprises," said Hammock, who founded EicOsis to help human patients conquer pain without opioids. "We need to remember that the concept, the clinical target, and even the chemical structure, came from asking how caterpillars turn into butterflies."
ABSTRACT, PNAS Paper, "Key Role of Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase in the Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Offspring After Maternal Immune Activation"
“Maternal infection during pregnancy increases the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in offspring. In rodents, maternal immune activation (MIA) yields offspring with schizophrenia- and ASD-like behavioral abnormalities. Soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) plays a key role in inflammation associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. Here we found higher levels of sEH in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of juvenile offspring after MIA. Oxylipin analysis showed decreased levels of epoxy-fatty acids in the PFC of juvenile offspring after MIA, supporting increased activity of sEH in the PFC of juvenile offspring. Furthermore, the expression of sEH (or EPHX2) mRNA in iPSC-derived neurospheres from schizophrenia patients with the 22q11.2 deletion was higher than that of healthy controls. Moreover, the expression of EPHX2 mRNA in the postmortem brain samples (Brodmann area 9 and 40) from ASD patients was higher than that of controls. Treatment of TPPU (a potent sEH inhibitor) into juvenile offspring from P28 to P56 could prevent cognitive deficits and loss of parvalbumin (PV)-immunoreactivity in the medial PFC of adult offspring after MIA. In addition, dosing of TPPU to pregnant mothers from E5 to P21 could prevent cognitive deficits, and social interaction deficits and PV-immunoreactivity in the mPFC of juvenile offspring after MIA. These findings suggest that increased activity of sEH in the PFC plays a key role in the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring after MIA. Therefore, sEH would represent a promising prophylactic or therapeutic target for neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring after MIA.”
Related Research Published in PNAS
- Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Plays a Key Role in the Pathogenesis of Parkinson's Disease
- Gene Deficiency and Pharmacological Inhibition of Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Confers Resilience to Repeated Social Defeat Stress
Co-chairing the event are Will Crites (email@example.com) and Arnold Menke (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will keynote the banquet on Tuesday, April 2 in the Odd Fellows Hall. He is known as "The Fly Man of Alcatraz" for his entomological research on the island. (See news story.) Tours of several campus facilities are planned.
Reservations must be made by Sunday, March 24 with Carrie Cloud, director of programs and events, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, at email@example.com or (530) 752-2120.
Sunday, March 31
Noon-5 p.m.: Meet-and-Greet Room open at Odd Fellows Hall open for refreshments and snacks
5 to 6 p.m.: Cocktail hour
6 p.m.: Dinner on your own; dining suggestions provided
Monday, April 1
6 a.m.: Breakfast included with room reservation (except Palm Court Hotel)
8:45 a.m.: Load bus for campus tour with Aggie Ambassadors, including West Village and Honda House
9 a.m.: Campus tour; bus departs
Noon: Lunch break
1 to 2:45 p.m.: Tour of Shrem Museum of Art and Robert Mondavi Center
2:45 p.m.: Honey and Pollination Center at Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science (RMI), with presentation by Clare Hasler-Lewis, founding executive director of RMI
9:45 to 10:30: Program ends; bus back to hotels
2:30 to 5:30: Meet-and-Greet Room at Odd Fellows Hall open for refreshments, rest prior to banquet
5:30 p.m.: Banquet dinner served, Odd Fellows Hall
6:30 p.m.: Dinner talk from forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey on the Alcatraz project
8:30 p.m.: Bus return to hotels
Tuesday, April 2
6 a.m.: Breakfast at hotels
8:15 a.m.: Load bus
8:30 a.m.: Bus departs
8:45 to 9:45 a.m.: Tour Bohart Museum of Entomology with director Lynn Kimsey, senior museum scientist Steve Heydon and education and outreach coordinator Tabatha Yang
9:45 a.m.: Load bus
10 a.m.: Arrive at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility; food and beverages available
10:15 to 11 a.m.: Undergraduate Alcatraz Island Project by forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey and students
11 to 11:45 a.m.: Presentation on Africanized Honey Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder by bee scientist Brian Johnson, associate professor
11:45-12:30 p.m: Tour adjacent Honey Bee Haven with Chris Casey, manager
12:30-1 p.m.: Box lunches, picnic tables available
1 p.m.: Load bus
1:30 p.m.: Arrive back at hotels
4 to 5 p.m.: Cocktail hour
Wednesday, April 3, Departure
The seminars, coordinated by medical entomologist/assistant professor Geoffrey Attardo, will all take place at 4 p.m. every Wednesday in Room 122 of Briggs Hall, starting April 3 and ending June 5.
Wednesday, April 3
Topic: "Differences in Tartan Underlie the Evolution of Male Genital Morphology Between Drosophila species"
Host: Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Wednesday, April 10
Monique Rivera, UC Riverside
Topic: "How Agriculture Influences the Structure of Belowground Communities
Host: Elvira de Lange, postdoctoral fellow, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology"
Wednesday, April 17
Bert Hölldobler, Arizona State University
Topic: "The Superorganism: Communication, Cooperation and Conflict in Ants Societies"
Host: Robert Page, distinguished emeritus professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and provost emeritus, Arizona State University
Wednesday, April 24
Sarah Stellwagen, University of Maryland
Topic: "Towards Spider Glue: From Material Properties to Sequencing the Longest Silk Family Gene" (Link)
Hosts: Hanna Kahl, doctoral student in entomology, and Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Wednesday, May 1
Andrew Nuss, University of Nevada, Reno
Topic: "Breaking Insecticide Resistance: Novel Strategies for Insect Pest Management"
Host: Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Wednesday, May 8
Colin Orians, Tuffs University, Massachussetts
Topic: "Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change on Tea Agroecosystems in China"
Host: Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Wednesday, May 15
Erin Wilson-Rankin, UC Riverside
Topic: "Ecological Factors Underlying Dieet Shifts in California Pollinators"
Host: Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Wednesday, May 22
James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Topic: African Odyssey: Wildlife Adventures, Indigenous Cultures and Natural Wonders"
Wednesday, May 29
Laurence Packer, York University, Canada
Topic: "Extreme Bees in Extreme Environments: Bee Biogeography in the Atacama Desert"
Hosts: Leslie Saul-Gershenz, associate director of research, Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis, and Steve Nadler, professor and chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Wednesday, June 5
Immo Hansen, New Mexico State University
Topic: "Toward Implementation of Mosquito Sterile Insect Technique"
Host: Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
More information is available from Attardo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UC Davis recipients, as announced today:
Molecular geneticist/physiologist Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the department, associate professor and Chancellor's Fellow, won the Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award. The annual award is presented to an individual who has an outstanding record of accomplishment in at least one of the entomological sub-disciplines of physiology, biochemistry, and toxicology.
Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, professor, won the Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award. The annual award is given to an individual with outstanding accomplishments in the study of insect interrelationships with plants.
Doctoral candidate and ant specialist Brendon Boudinot who studies with Professor Phil Ward, won the 2019 John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award, the top graduate student award. This award is based on academic record, leadership, public service activities, participation in professional activities, and publications.
They will be honored at PBESA's 103rd annual meeting, to take place March 31 - April 3 in San Diego, California.
The University of California accounted for eight of the 12 PBESA awards, with UC Davis winning four, UC Riverside, three, and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), one.
Joanna Chiu, Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award
"Dr. Chiu not only excels in unique and cutting-edge research, both basic and applied, but has distinguished herself in mentoring, teaching and service contributions,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who nominated her for the award.
She studies how genes and proteins regulate animal physiology and behavior in response to changes in environment and resources. Her research involves molecular genetics of animal behavior, circadian rhythm biology, and posttranslational regulation of proteins. Major grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation fund her research.
Chiu investigates the regulation of animal circadian rhythms in her laboratory by using a combination of molecular genetics, biochemical, genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic approaches. Her overall research goal: to dissect the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control the circadian clock in animals, and to investigate how this endogenous timer interacts with the environment and cellular metabolism to drive rhythms of physiology and behavior.
Neal Williams, Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award
"Dr. Williams is widely known and respected for his excellence in research, extension, outreach, teaching, leadership and mentoring," said Nadler. “He is a leading voice in the development of collaborative research on insect ecology. He has organized national and international conferences, leads scores of working groups, and guides reviews of impacts of land use and other global change drivers on insects and the services they provide.”
Williams focuses his research on the ecology and evolution of bees and other pollinator insects and their interactions with flowering plants. His work is particularly timely given concern over the global decline in bees and other pollinators.
In July, Williams will co-chair the Fourth International Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health and Policy at UC Davis. The four-day conference, themed “Multidimensional Solutions to Current and Future Threats to Pollinator Health,” will highlight recent research advances in the biology and health of pollinators, and link to policy implications.
Brendon Boudinot, John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award
Brendon Boudinot was praised for his academic record, leadership, public service activities, participation in professional activities, and his publications. “A highly respected scientist, teacher and leader with a keen intellect, unbridled enthusiasm, and an incredible penchant for public service, Brendon maintains a 4.00 grade point average; has published 12 outstanding publications on insect systematics (some are landmarks or ground-breaking publications); and engages in exceptional academic, student and professional activities,” Nadler wrote.
Active in PBESA and ESA, Boudinot received multiple “President's Prize” awards for his research presentations at national ESA meetings. He organized the ESA symposium, “Evolutionary and Phylogenetic Morphology,” at the 2018 meeting in Vancouver, B.C. , and delivered a presentation on “Male Ants: Past, Present and Prospects” at the 2016 International Congress of Entomology meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Boudinot served on—and anchored—three of the UC Davis Linnaean Games teams that won national or international ESA championships. The Linnaean Games are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
Boudinot has served as president of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association since 2006, and is active in the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day; he has co-chaired the department's Picnic Day Committee since 2017.
Jessica Gillung, Early Career Award
Jessica Gillung studied for her doctorate with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology. “Dr. Gillung has made outstanding contributions to entomology, shown commitment to extension or outreach, and excelled in entomological education,” Kimsey wrote in her letter of nomination. “In one word: she is ‘phenomenal.' Gillung most recently won the “Best Student Presentation Award” at the ninth annual International Congress of Dipterology, held in Windhoek, Namibia, and the 2018 PBESA Student Leadership Award. Her dissertation was titled: “Systematics and Phylogenomics of Spider Flies (Diptera, Acroceridae).”
Kimsey praised her phenomenal leadership activities, her nearly straight-A academic record (3.91 grade point average), her excellence as an entomologist and teacher, and her incredible publication record. “Note that she has 11 refereed publications on her thesis organisms in very strong journals,” Kimsey wrote. “Most entomologists do not publish nearly that much, even as a postdoctoral scholar or a junior faculty member!”
As a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University in the Bryan Danforth lab, Gillung is researching Apoidea (stinging wasps and bees) phylogenomics, evolution and diversification.
PBESA Award Recipients
The complete list of PBESA recipients:
- CW Woodworth: Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Riverside.
- PBESA Award for Excellence in Teaching: Allan Felsot, Washington State University
- PBESA Award for Excellence in Extension: Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension
- PBESA Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management: Silvia Rondon, Oregon State University
- PBESA Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Award: Christiane Weirauch, UC Riverside
- PBESA Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award: Joanna Chiu, UC Davis
- PBESA Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology Award: Rebecca Maguire, Washington State University
- PBESA Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award: Neal Williams, UC Davis
- PBESA Distinction in Student Mentoring Award: Gerhard Gries, Simon Frazier University, British Columbia
- PBESA Excellence in Early Career Award: Jessica Gillung, UC Davis
- John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award: Brendon Boudinot, UC Davis
- PBESA Student Leadership Award: Kelsey McCalla, UC Riverside
PBESA is one of six branches of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). Founded in 1889, ESA is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. It is comprised of more than 7000 members, who are affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.
Bond will showcase spiders and other arachnids at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, “Eight-Legged Wonders,” from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 9, a free and family friendly event. He will present a slide show at 1, and then visitors can participate in interactive activities, including “How to Eat Like a Spider” and “How to Assemble an Arachnid.”
The five good reasons to like spiders?
- “ Spiders consume 400-800 million tons of prey, mostly insects, each year. Humans consume somewhere around 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.
- Spider silk is one of the strongest naturally occurring materials. Spider silk is stronger than steel, stronger and more stretchy than Kevlar; a pencil thick strand of spider silk could be used to stop a Boeing 747 in flight.
- Some spiders are incredibly fast – able to run up to 70 body lengths per second (10X faster than Usain Bolt).
- Athough nearly all 47,000-plus spider species have venom used to kill their insect prey, very few actually have venom that is harmful to humans.
- Some spiders are really good parents –wolf spider moms carry their young on their backs until they are ready to strike out on their own; female trapdoor spiders keep their broods safe inside their burrows often longer than one year, and some female jumping spiders even nurse their spiderlings with a protein rich substance comparable to milk.
Bond, who is the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will present a 10-minute slide show at 1 p.m. in the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology classroom, located on the first floor of the Academic Surge Building, next to the Bohart Museum.
Following his presentation, activity stations will be open in the Bohart Museum where visitors can “Assemble an Arachnid,” “Create a Chelicerate,” “Cribellate vs. Ecribellate Silk,” “Catch a Moth,” “Eat Like a Spider,” and learn about "Spider Senses" and “Trapdoor Specifics.”
Visitors will see live specimens and specimens in alcohol. They'll learn the differences between woolly silk and sticky silk. They'll see the Bohart arachnids--tarantulas--and hold some of the non-arachnids, including walking sticks and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
“Spiders are an incredibly diverse group with more than 50,000 species described with probably another 200,000 remaining to yet be discovered,” says Bond, who joined the department last July from Auburn University, Alabama. “They are quite ancient, with fossils dating back well over 300 million years and are known to be exclusively predatory.”
Bond joined the UC Davis faculty after a seven-year academic career at Auburn University, Ala. He served as professor of biology and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences from January 2016 to July 2018, and as curator of arachnids and myriapods (centipedes, millipedes, and related animals) at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, from August 2011 to July 2018.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses nearly eight million insect specimens collected from all over the world. It also includes a gift shop and a live “petting zoo,” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.