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The Alchemist this week learns about tests on relatively new pesticides that might be employed instead of "neonics", about the hidden meaning underlying written over ancient medical texts, the not so sweet side of sucralose, a twisted approach to nano, resisting resistance, and finally a clutch of biochemical awards.

In the wake of the controversy that has surrounded the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and their alleged link to colony collapse disorder in bees, the industry is attempting to find alternatives. One fairly novel substance, flupyradifurone from the class of butenolides is being discussed as a useful new product. It goes by the name of Sivanto and is manufactured by Bayer AG it was approved and has been available in the USA since 2015, it is approved but not available in the EU. Scientists from the University of Würzburg, Germany, have now investigated the effect of flupyradifurone on honeybee behavior. Ricarda Scheiner and her team report in the journal Scientific Reports that a non-lethal dose of flupyradifurone in just one application on collecting honeybees has a negative impact on the bees' taste, learning and memory capability. However, they add that honeybees are unlikely to come into contact with the pesticide in this way on farmland and that if used properly it will not have a detrimental impact on bees. Further research into the effects of this pesticide in combination with other agrochemicals is now needed.

In the Middle Ages papyrus was scarce and old writing was often scrubbed and painted over to give authors and scribes space to put their words. Some of those old texts were more important than others, such as the writings of Galen of Pergamon. Now, an X-ray fluorescence study has been used by researchers at the University of Manchester, UK, and their colleagues to reveal the (almost) lost writing in one of his medical texts: "On the Mixtures and Powers of Simple Drugs". All of the pages now being scanned will be converted to high-resolution digital images that will be added to those already made freely available online by the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

Avoiding sugary foods is often touted as a means to losing weight and avoiding diabetes. As such, many consumers opt for food and drink made with artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose, because these offer a lower-calorie alternative, at least in terms of sugar calories. Unfortunately, there may well be good health reasons not to choose products containing sucralose, after all. According to Nabanita Kundu of George Washington University in Washington, DC, USA, and colleagues, sucralose may predispose people to metabolic syndrome. At the cellular level, people consuming sucralose showed signs of increased glucose uptake, inflammation, and fat formation, these were most obvious in people with obesity. Rather than leading to weight loss and avoiding the development of diabetes, the research suggests that this artificial sweetener may have the reverse of the desired effects.

Twisted laser light aimed at a nanoscale gold grating offers a novel way to probe molecular structure, according to a team from the University of Bath, the University of Cambridge, and University College London, UK. The team uses circular dichroism with a higher-order diffraction beam to interact with chiral quasiplanar structures. The chosen sample geometry demonstrates spectrally tunable polarization conversion and extremely large circular dichroism, the team reports.

Rarely a week goes by when there is some pronouncement regarding our doom sealed in antibiotic resistance. As the focus sharpens on novel molecular structures, new classes emerge but only rarely do they seem to be on target. Now, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, USA and Nosopharm, a biotechnology company based in Lyon, France, have discovered the odilorhabdins. These compounds have a peculiar origin - they are made by symbiotic bacteria found in soil-dwelling nematode worms that colonize insects for food. The bacteria synthesize these compounds to ward off an invasion by bacteria that would be pathogenic to their fellow symbiont, the nematode worms. The compounds target the pathogenic bacterial ribosome, offering hope of it being almost impossible for bacteria to evolve resistance. Much work now needs to be done to study these compounds and their activity against bacteria pathogenic to humans before clinical tests can be initiated.

The UK's Biochemical Society recently announced the recipients of its annual awards. Eleven eminent scientists and exceptional early career researchers will be honoured, with each recipient exemplifying the very best of the bioscience community in fields ranging from cell and developmental biology to endocrinology. Professor Colin Bingle, Chair of the Awards Committee, said: “The Biochemical Society Awards are the perfect way to honour exceptional scientists within the bioscience community. As ever, the entry criteria are tough and the standards high and the awards are a real tribute to the talent within our community."