News Round-up October 19th-25th

Bioscience news 1

 

 

 

 

Hello, and welcome to the #bioscinews round-up! This is the place where you can find all the important biosci new stories from the past week, in a short, digestible paragraph.

This week’s news

Ever wondered why cats have vertical pupils? A new publication suggests that animals’ pupil shapes really help them fit into their ecological niche. For example, grazing animals have horizontal pupils to allow them to see around them better, and the most interesting part is that even when they tilt their head, their pupils stay mostly horizontal!

Verticle pupils

New evidence suggests that life may have originated on Earth much earlier than we previously thought. If this is true, then life may develop much easier in the right conditions than we currently believe possible, so this raises questions about the probability of the prescence of life elsewhere in the universe.

Some geneticists from Johns Hopkins University got the chance to test a few things in zero-gravity. It seems that molecular biology is possible in these conditions, with the right equipment. A small sequencing run with a MinION was even completed!

Genetics in space

Hope you enjoyed this week’s news round-up, thanks for reading!

Devon Smith, The University of Sheffield, @devoncaira

Julie Blommaert, The University of Innsbruck, @jblommaert92

News Round-up October 12th-18th

Bioscience news 1

 

 

 

 

Hello, and welcome to the #bioscinews round-up! This is the place where you can find all the important biosci new stories from the past week, in a short, digestible paragraph.

This week’s news

The hygiene hypothesis has been around for a while now. In order to develop a well-functioning immune system, children should be exposed to parasites, bacteria and viruses (both harmless and infectious) as they grow up. A recent study has discovered some evidence supporting this idea in mice. When young mice grew up in a sterile environment their gut microflora was less diverse, and their innate immunity (that is, their ability to fight off pathogens) was reduced in comparison to mice who were exposed to unsterile environments while growing up.

Credit: Wikipedia Commons Rama.

It is the belief (and hope) of many scientists that gene therapy will be the ‘gold standard’ of disease treatment. This week, it was announced that the world’s first trial of stem cell therapy will commence in the womb to alter the effects of brittle bone disease. Initial results have shown promise in fixing mutations in the gene required for producing collagen, with patients receiving follow-up boosters for 2 years after birth. Foetus at 20 weeks of age will be injected with stroll cells (connective tissue cells) containing the corrected, normal collagen-producing gene.

Stem Cell Therapy

Credit: New Scientist.

After analysis of many functional MRI images, researchers were able to identify individual participants in a study due to differences in their ‘neuronal fingerprint’. They also discovered that these patterns are associated with cognitive ability.

Neuronal fingerprint

There have been many studies in the past few years about how bad sitting is. Even if you exercise a lot, it is believed that extended periods of sitting can increase the risks of all kinds of (primarily) metabolic diseases. However, a comprehensive cohort study has now found no association between sitting behaviour and these disease outcomes. In health and epidemiology, cohort studies are seen as the gold standard, so it will be interesting to see if any more studies are conducted in this area…

Sitting

Lately, there has been a bit of excitement in the hominid evolution field, and this article just adds to the interesting storybook of our origins. Scientists have presented new evidence of modern humans in China that predates any evidence of Homo sapiens in Europe. This potentially changes the human migration narrative and gives interesting insights into our past.

Credit: Nature.

Credit: Nature.

Gene therapy has long been discussed and explored as an avenue to cure certain diseases. A new paper brings hope to those suffering from glioma, a cancer that targets the protective cells of the nervous system. This paper focuses on using adenoviruses to specifically target glial cells, and to only express the desired gene(s) in those cells. This means these treatment vectors have two strict regulation points to prevent the therapy from wrecking havoc in healthy cells that do not need gene therapy.

Adenoviral therapies

For years scientists have wondered why bowel cancer is so hard to treat. This week it has become clear that bowel cancer is actually four separate cancers, with a mixture of similar genes that have influence on the behaviour of the cancer. With the variance of the genes, however, this has led to resistance towards certain treatments. It is now hoped that with these new findings will lead to the development of more precise and targeted treatments, which can be trialled to help treat bowel cancer.

Credit: Science Photo Library.

Credit: Science Photo Library.

Global climate change will likely result in a decrease in ocean biodiversity. This will impact the food-web, from small marine plankton to humans.

Credit: Julie Blommaert.

Credit: Julie Blommaert.

Who knew that bees also need a morning caffeine buzz? Well they do! Scientists have recently discovered that plants that provide bees with a dose of caffeine actually do it for their own benefit. Instead of delivering caffeine as a reward for spreading their pollen, as was once thought, the caffeine hit actually makes the bees honey production inefficient. Instead of producing honey, the bees go on the hunt for a caffeine fix, going back to the same plant in the hope of more caffeine. Instead they end up spreading more pollen, benefiting only the plant.

That morning buzzzzzz

Hope you enjoyed this week’s news round-up, thanks for reading!

Devon Smith, The University of Sheffield, @devoncaira

Julie Blommaert, The University of Innsbruck, @jblommaert92

News Round-Up October 5th-11th

Bioscience news 1

Hello, and welcome to the #bioscisews round-up! This is the place where you can find all the important biosci new stories from the past week, in a short, digestible paragraph.

This week’s news

Pitcher plants’ ant trap. Until recently, carnivorous plants fell into two classes, active and passive, based on how they ‘receive’ their prey. Venus fly traps are an example of ‘active’ carnivorous plants, while all pitcher plants were thought to be ‘passive’. However a species of pitcher plant has now been classified as a ‘free energy’ species, as it uses the force of raindrops hitting its unique lid, to fling ants into its pitcher for digestion.

ants crawling on a pitcher plant leaf

Image Source

Mammals flourish at Chernobyl. The human exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor is acting as the perfect method of creating a virtually human free nature reserve, and a long-term study has found that mammals appear to be flourishing under these conditions.

Roe deer near Chernobyl nuclear power plant (c) Tatyana Deryabina

Image Source

Decline of the cactus? A global study has concluded that almost one third of cactus species are under threat, due to over harvesting, slow growth and small distribution range.

Carnegiea gigantea (Image: Craig Hilton-Taylor)

Image Source

Hope you enjoyed this week’s news round-up, thanks for reading!

Stewart Barker                                                                                                                   The University of Sheffield                                                                                                     @Stewart_Barker

News Round-Up September 14th-20th

Bioscience news 1

Hello, and welcome to the #bioscisews round-up! This is the place where you can find all the important biosci new stories from the past week, in a short, digestible paragraph.

This week’s news

Controlling nerve cells. Scientists have developed a new method for controlling nerve cells – by using sound waves. Named ‘sonogenetics’ this is an important development that hopefully will be able to be applied the brain cells in humans to treat diseases.

Image Source

Cure for sickle cell disease. By using a combination of stem cell transplant and low dose radiation therapy, doctors have been able to significantly improve the quality of life and cure patients with sickle cell disease. The previous alternative involved dangerous chemotherapy.

Image Source

Hope you enjoyed this week’s news round-up, thanks for reading!

Stewart Barker                                                                                                                   The University of Sheffield                                                                                                     @Stewart_Barker

News Round-Up August 31st – September 13th

Bioscience news 1

Hello, and welcome to the #bioscisews round-up! This is the place where you can find all the important biosci new stories from the past week, in a short, digestible paragraph.

This week’s news

A cure for jetlag? Researchers in Austria have found that, if you can stomach it, a blood transfusion could alleviate symptoms of jet lag. It appears that a lack of sleep has a severe effect on red blood cells, so replenishing them should help reverse the effects of jet lag! On a serious note, this could potentially be very useful for shift workers, where incidences of heart disease are higher.

Image Source

Meningitis and starting university. If you are starting university or even returning, it is important you know about meningitis, and how to recognise the symptoms – it could save a life. Common symptoms can include:

  • Fever with cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe headache
  • Sensitive to bright lights
  • A distinctive rash
  • Drowsiness and difficulty waking up

Meningitis bacteria, SEM

Image Source

The importance of iron-oxidising bacteria. A new study has indicated that iron-oxidising bacteria probably sustained the global carbon cycle prior to oxygen dependent species arising.

Image Source

New human ancestor discovered The announcement of the discovery of ancient hominid fossils in South Africa got evolutionary biologists really excited. The original paper is open access, and there is some wonderful coverage by National Geographic.

Hand and foot

Image Source

Hope you enjoyed this week’s news round-up, thanks for reading!

Stewart Barker                                                                                                                   The University of Sheffield                                                                                                     @Stewart_Barker

News Round-Up August 23rd-30th

Bioscience news 1

Hello, and welcome to the #bioscisews round-up! This is the place where you can find all the important biosci new stories from the past week, in a short, digestible paragraph.

This week’s news

Hypothesised fat-burning regulatory genes. Researchers have proposed a genetic pathway that is involved in adipocyte thermogenesis – in lamens terms – genes that regulate heat generation from fat in fat cells in the human body.

Image Source

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis. Some people are genetically prone to have low vitamin D levels (as Vit D is produced by the body when sunlight hits the skin), and this has now been associated with a higher risk of developing MS.

Image Source

Novel antibiotic from chestnut leaves. Working on historical botanical cures for infections, a novel antibiotic has been discovered in chestnut leaves, which is active against super bugs – such as ones with high levels of antibiotic resistance.

Image Source

Ants self-medicating. Despite being poisonous, for the first time, ants have been shown to consume foods rich in hydrogen peroxide, if they have a dangerous fungal disease, as a method to treat themselves.

Image Source

Hope you enjoyed this week’s news round-up, thanks for reading!

Stewart Barker                                                                                                                   The University of Sheffield                                                                                                     @Stewart_Barker

News Round-Up August 16th-22nd

Bioscience news 1

Hello, and welcome to the #bioscisews round-up! This is the place where you can find all the important biosci new stories from the past week, in a short, digestible paragraph.

This week’s news

Publication of the California two-spot octopus genome. This was an investigation into the unique neural and morphological features of cephalopods, and has lead to some speculation of the evolution of brains in non-mammals.

Image source

Novel regenerative cell line discovered in mouse livers. After the previous discovery that cells are thought to differentiate into new hepatocytes (therefore having the ability to repair the liver), they actually differentiated into a different cell type. And the hunt was on for the progenitor cells. This study suggests they have been found in the liver of mice!

hybrid hepatocyets

Image Source

Ancient cats outcompeted ancient dogs. Actually, it’s not as simple as that. The diversification of ancient carnivores in North America was heavily affected by other carnivorous families. At least two families of canids (dogs), were outcompeted by other canids, and felids (Cats), which then proliferated further in their absence, affecting the canid species present today. So it’s not a case of cats versus dogs, it’s more of a carnivorous free-for-all!

Image Source

Book pages that clean water. The ‘Drinkable Book’ contains both a guide on why water should be filtered, with pages that can be removed and used to purify a reported 100 L of water. The paper contains nanoparticles of copper and silver, commonly used in hospitals for their antibacterial properties.

A man leafing through the book

Image Source

20 year old frozen sperm helps to save a critically endangered ferret species. In a remarkable effort to save the critically endangered black-footed ferret, conservationists have produced highly important, genetically variable offspring from artificial insemination using sperm frozen 20 years ago. This is impressive from a technological perspective, as it shows that artificial insemination with 20 year old sperm is possible, raising hopes for other endangered species. Additionally, not relying on the current small pool of genetic diversity but instead mixing in some diversity from several generations back, can offer some increased diversity and prevent potential deadly genetic bottlenecks commonly seen in species brought back from the brink of extinction.

Image Source

Hope you enjoyed this week’s news round-up, thanks for reading!

Stewart Barker                                                                                                                   The University of Sheffield                                                                                                     @Stewart_Barker

Julie Blommaert                                                                                                             @Julie_B92

What exactly is Rabies?

This is a little belated, but for those who didn’t know, Monday September 28th was World Rabies Day. But what exactly is Rabies? I’m sure, for many, it conjures up images of dogs with foaming mouths and a manic disposition. And for lovers of the work of Stephen King, it probably makes you think of this guy:

Image: Wikipedia

Continue reading