Livin' on the MDedge

Wasp-stung lung bugs, fat clay, Botoxed Vulcans, and ‘GOT’ mortality risk


The wonderful world of wasps

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Never thought you’d be thankful for wasps, did you? Neither did we. Using mice as test subjects, scientists at MIT found that a tiny peptide in the venom was able to completely eliminate Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes respiratory infections and is often resistant to antibiotics. Now if you’re sick, all you have to do is go outside and get stung by a bunch of wasps!

Wait, no, that’s not right. The researchers at MIT engineered a molecule that can be used to create an antibiotic that’s safe for humans. While most insect venom is chock full of compounds that are toxic to humans, the scientists were able to transform their tiny peptide into a bacteria-defeating machine. This is a big victory in the war against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Go, wasps!

Live long and Botox

Talk about highly illogical! Botox patients sometimes return for follow-up visits with dermatologist Kelly Stankiewicz, MD, and haven’t noticed they’ve “Spocked,” even though it may be obvious to just about everyone else.

Doctor with patient during botox procedure. ©DenGuy/

But other Botox patients are most certainly aware that their eyebrows have arched up on the right and left sides – just like those of a certain Vulcan character on “Star Trek.” And they want to be beamed out of that uncomfortable situation pronto.

Dr. Stankiewicz, who works in Park City, Utah, explained the “Spocking” phenomenon in a presentation about facial treatments at the recent Las Vegas Dermatology Symposium. Spocking can occur in patents who get Botox treatment to eliminate the “11 line” – two vertical wrinkles – between the eyebrows, Dr. Stankiewicz said. It occurs “when the middle of the forehead doesn’t move but the outside does,” she said, causing an unsightly outwardly arched eyebrow look.

The solution to Spocking is easy, she said: “Put a tiny bit of Botox in the forehead muscle right where the eyebrow is peaking the most.”

Leonard Nimoy, the original Mr. Spock, is not available for comment, given that he died in 2015. But Dr. Stankiewicz does have a perspective on Mr. Spock’s trademark look: “It’s like the people who drew his brow knew that Botox was on the horizon.”

Add the dirt, lose the fat

Lots of things are supposed to be stronger than dirt, but it looks like obesity might not be one of them. Investigators who were trying to improve drug delivery using a type of clay – spray-dried smectite clay particles, to be exact – discovered that it has “a unique ability to ‘soak up’ fat droplets in the gut,” according to a statement from the University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Grasping a fat belly ©imagedepotpro/

“Not only were the clay materials trapping the fats within their particle structure, but they were also preventing them from being absorbed by the body, ensuring that fat simply passed through the digestive system,” researcher Tahnee J. Dening said.

In the study, the smectite outperformed the weight-loss drug orlistat in rats fed a high-fat diet for 2 weeks (Pharm Res. 2019;36:21 doi: 10.1007/s11095-018-2552-9). Even better, smectite is already widely used in foods and nutraceuticals and is considered to be safe. Even even better, smectite is a really fun word to say. And with the prevalence of obesity such as it is, we’re sure that physicians will prescribe smectite just so they can say “smectite” to their patients. Smectite.

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