The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories are you vs food, brain plasticity, and flavoured cannabis.

Article written by Gintare Bucaite

I love you more than food.

Despite a common belief that cats are anti-social animals, secretly plotting to kill you, there is now evidence that domestic cats would choose social interaction with humans over food or toys. A team of scientists devised an experiment where cats were given a choice between various stimuli, such a human interaction, food, toys and scent. Quite surprisingly, social interaction with humans was the most preferred stimulus category overall, followed by food for both pet and shelter cats. Although performed with a small number of cats, and individual preferences were observed, this study offers suggestions for appropriate rewards when training your cat (good luck). The next time you complain that cats are selfish gods and all they want from you is food, it could be because you have nothing better to offer. Full article here.

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PICTURE: Your cat is plotting to kill you by Oatmeal

I see you.

Blind tadpoles can process visual information from eyes grafted onto their tails when treated with neurotransmitter drug called Zolmitriptan. This drug is already approved for uses in human, although preferably to treat migraines rather than open your posterior eye.

Eye-grafted tadpoles responded in tests using colour cues and reacted to moving patterns, perceived as predators or siblings. The fact that tadpoles can see via ectopic eyes demonstrates remarkable brain plasticity while dealing with altered body structures. Grafted eyes connected to the brain indirectly through other nerves in the spinal cord, which is great news for regenerative medicine. In the long run, these findings could be used to understand the mutual plasticity between the brain and body to improve the nerve supply and functional integration of transplanted cells or even organs in human patients. Full article here.

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IMAGE:  Blind tadpoles with eyes grafted onto their tails. Credit: Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University.

“Something with an earthy flavour, please”

Budding legal cannabis industry in Canada has attracted scientists as well. Researchers at the University of British Columbia have scanned the genome of Cannabis sativa to identify genes giving various cannabis strains their distinct flavours.

Cannabis resin contains pharmacologically active cannabinoids and a variety of other compounds that give scent and flavour to cannabis.

Transcriptome analysis of the cannabis hemp variety ‘Finola’ trichomes helped identify nine novel cannabis terpene synthases (CsTPs), whose products myrcene, ocimene, limonene, pinene, caryophyllene, and humulene comprise most of the terpenes of the said cannabis strain. While the limonene compound has a lemon-like flavour and myrcene, also found in basil, hops and mangoes give an earthy scent. Along with other active ingredients, this signature terpene of cannabis interacts with our receptors, thus being of potential medicinal value.

These findings could help to produce well-defined cannabis varieties for regulated industry, allowing customers to pick their favourite strain easier, in a way similar how wine drinkers can choose from different varieties, like chardonnay or merlot. Full article here.

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PICTURE: Components in cannabis resin.

Article written by Gintare Bucaite