News Round-up November 8th-14th

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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

Farmers living near big cats may not need to worry about loss of livestock, so long as the local ecosystem is balanced. Wild big cats seem to prefer wild animals to farm animals, and will only hunt the latter if food is otherwise in short supply.

Big Cats

Researchers have been trialling the use of antibodies to treat Alzheimer’s in humans, but recent studies in mice question whether this is a feasible treatment. The author’s found that the antibodies break up the amyloid-beta plaques, the protein build-up that causes Alzheimer’s, but the release of this protein can over-stimulate neurons until they die.

Alzheimer's drug causing more harm than good-

Nanoparticles hold some hope for cancer treatments in the future, especially for individually tailored treatments, but these can be difficult and expensive to produce. Algae can be genetically modified to produce nanoparticles, and this can help reduce the production cost for potential future cancer treatments.

Credit: Wikipedia user Wipeter

Credit: Wikipedia user Wipeter

 

We 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

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News Round-up October 12th-18th

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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 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!

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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

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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