BEST OF 2015 // #82: A Boost to Bees

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Bee researchers have finally figured out how bees inherit their immunity, which is a key step in creating a vaccine for the pollinators in danger of extinction.

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It turns out honeybee’s have a few surprised up their immune system sleeve.  And scientists want to use those tricks to protect the already threatened bee populations around the world.

The trick is in a protein called Vitellogenin, that can transfer fat into egg yolk.  In the research, published in July’s PLOS Pathogens, Gro Amdam, a biologist from Arizona State University headed a team in Finland showed that vitellogenin is able to “pathogen patterns”.  These so-called patterns are like fingerprints for pathogens.  Vitellogenin shares the patterns through the female bee’s version of blood – something called hemolymph.  The pattern is passed down to developing embryo bees, giving the new bee’s immune system a way to recognize pathogens the mother bee has already dealt with.

This understanding of bee immune systems are giving researchers the ability to create an ingestible vaccine against American Foulbrood, the virus that is currently decimating honeybee colonies.  This could lead to other vaccinations, giving stressed colonies a shot in the arm to survive.

There’s 99 more stories from 2015.  Check out the Best of 2015 series here

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