August 13, 2014

If bee venom doesn't kill you…     Photo: David Salter/Flickr

Bee Venom Can Fight Cancer

Specific proteins and peptides block tumor growth

Researchers at the 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) presented findings showing that the venom from bees, snakes, and scorpions could potentially be used to fight certain types of cancer.

You don't have to be a master biologist to know that injecting pure venom into the bloodstream can have fatal consequences, but the scientists presenting at the ACS meeting in San Francisco made the case for isolating specific proteins and peptides contained within venoms, which blocked tumor growth in lab tests.

As Time reports, a substance found in bee venom called melittin was effective in keeping malignant cancer cells from spreading. The study was conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

“We have safely used venom toxins in tiny nanometer-sized particles to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells in the laboratory,” said lead researcher Dipanjan Pan. “These particles, which are camouflaged from the immune system, take the toxin directly to the cancer cells, sparing normal tissue.”

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Alpine mountaineers and doctors climbed thousands of feet to rescue a woman in premature delivery and deliver the baby.     Photo: Gitte Herden/Flickr

Rescue Team Climbs Alps to Deliver Baby

Premie arrives in an alpine meadow

A team of mountain rescuers in Austria's Tyrol region got word at 7 a.m. Tuesday that a woman was in premature labor at an Alpine hut 8,200 feet above sea level. Unable to send a hospital-bound helicopter through the morning's thick fog and rain, 15 mountaineers, a doctor, and a gynecologist took the more labor-intensive route: They climbed 7,700 feet to deliver the baby themselves.

The rescue team managed to reach the woman and help her descend 800 feet in altitude to a meadow—after 11 hours in labor—before the 30-year-old gave birth to a boy. She was reportedly 24 weeks pregnant.

Moving to higher altitudes (above 8,000 feet) has been associated with premature birth. High-altitude deliveries often result in lighter babies, and some research connects them with birth defects such as cleft lips and issues with heart function. Nonnative mothers at altitude face significant complications as well, among them preeclampsia.

Weather conditions improved soon after the delivery, and a helicopter crew took mother and child to a clinic in Lienz. The baby was then taken to a neonatal clinic in Villach, where a clinic spokesperson reports he is in stable condition.

A total of 25 rescuers, four doctors, and two helicopters were involved in the delivery.

"We are all physically exhausted," rescue leader Gerhard Figl told Kronen Zeitung. "We have achieved something incredible, and luckily there was a happy ending. We have saved two people's lives."

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Sam Jones helps train rescue horses in her spare time at home in Australia.     Photo: The Adventurists/Flickr

Sam Jones Wins Mongol Derby

Second woman to win "world's toughest horse race"

Australian mining operator Sam Jones has won the 2014 Mongol Derby, the world’s longest and toughest horse race.

The Mongol Derby requires equestrians to trek 1,000 kilometers across the Mongolian steppe, retracing the route of Genghis Khan’s ancient postal system on semiwild local horses. After eight days of riding, with no more than a Google map printed on paper, Jones found and crossed the finish line. She finished 90 minutes ahead of the next rider. “I feel I could do another 1,000 kilometers,” Jones, 40, said.

Riders switch horses three times a day at stations 40 kilometers apart and manned by nomadic Mongolian herders. This year’s event was more challenging than usual thanks to heavy rainfall. “I compare it to the equine equivalent of climbing Everest,” said Jones, who has been riding horses since she was 14. “It’s a challenge. It’s an adventure.”

As with any physical challenge, riders train in the months prior to the race. “You would be unwise not to physically train for this,” says Outside contributor Will Grant, who finished the 2012 race and wrote about it in the May 2013 issue of the magazine.

Forty-eight riders started this year’s race. So far, 10 have withdrawn as a result of injury, illness, or dehydration. Those who do finish will do so over the next few days. “This race is absolutely no joke,” Grant says. “It is physically the most taxing thing I have ever done. But you just have to put a leg on each side, your mind in the middle, and ride like hell. ”

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Six French climbers had been ascending the Aiguille d'Argentière on Tuesday evening when they were caught in bad weather.     Photo: Jean-Paul Lesage/Flickr

Mont Blanc Massif Claims 6 More Lives

For a total of 14 in less than a month

Bad weather and avalanches continue to take a devastating toll on the climbing world this year. Officials have announced that they found the bodies of six French climbers who died Tuesday in the Alps near Mont Blanc*.

Five climbers and a guide had been climbing the Aiguille d'Argentière Tuesday evening when bad weather struck. They had been completing a two-week mountaineering course. Officials were notified when the climbers did not arrive at a mountain refuge. On Wednesday morning, a rescue helicopter found the bodies of the five climbers; later that morning, French papers report, their guide's body was also found.

This adds up to 14 deaths around Mont Blanc in less than a month. Between July 15 and August 2, eight other climbers perished on the French mountain, Europe's highest. Many guides and local officials feel some climbers have become too reckless. "Mont Blanc is not the New York Marathon," Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of St-Gervais-les-Bains, told a French radio station in July. "It's not a trek. It's mountaineering." (It should be noted that this statement does not apply in any way to the climbers who died on Tuesday, as they were with a well-known French climbing organization.)

Closer to home, the National Park Service has announced that three bodies were found on Mount Rainier last week. The remains have not yet been removed from the mountain, as a foot search is still not safe, but the individuals, whose sexes and ages have not been identified, might have been among the six climbers killed in a May avalanche, considered one of the worst accidents in Rainier's history. "We're trying to figure out if there's a safe way to get in there," NPS spokesperson Patti Wold told the Los Angeles Times, "so we can remove the remains and try to give their family some closure."

*An earlier version of this article said that the six climbers had died on Mont Blanc. They had actually been climbing a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif, not the Mont Blanc summit itself. We regret the inaccuracy.

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