Modern Biology
Muscle Disease Gene Identified in Fish
Bird Flu Mutation Risk
Platelets Help Tackle Bacteria
Untangling The Model Muddle
Cloning - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Unpacking the Human Genome Project
Does a Hot Mint Still Taste Cold?
Do Bald Men get all the Girls?
Why Plants Make Caffeine
Turning your Brain into Blood - How Stem Cells Work
The Microchimera Mixture
Forgetful Flies - A tale of two halves (of the brain)
The Smelly World of Mice and Men!
How animals develop from an embryo
Ricin : The Secret Assassin
Why drink Wine ?
Genetically Modified (GM) Plants
Big Fish, Little Sea
Something in the Air
What's On The Menu ?
What is the purpose of sexual reproduction?
Therapeutic Cloning, and Stem Cell Research
What is Living in my Mouth?
Genes for Bigger Brains
  Muscle Disease Gene Identified in Fish
If you prod a zebrafish embryo, it will normally twitch its tail and try to escape. By watching embryos that wouldn’t twitch properly, a team of scientists has discovered that a gene called STAC3 is the cause of a rare inherited muscle disorder called Native American myopathy (NAM). The team also showed that STAC3 plays an important and previously unrecognized role in muscle contractions.
  Bird Flu Mutation Risk
Two types of bird flu—H5N1 and H7N9—have sparked concerns about a potential pandemic. Both viruses can cause severe illness and death in people, but mercifully, neither can spread easily from person to person. That might soon change, however. According to a study today (June 6) in Cell, some strains of both viruses are just one mutation away from getting a better grip on the cells in our upper airways. If wild viruses accrue those mutations, they may find it far easier to spread from infected to uninfected people, increasing the risk of a pandemic.
  Platelets Help Tackle Bacteria
Platelets may contribute to protection against bacterial infection, according to new research published today (June 16) in Nature Immunology. Scientists found that in the livers of mice, platelets collaborated with specialized white blood cells to capture and engulf blood-borne bacteria, and this interaction helped protect the animals from bacterial infection.
  Untangling The Model Muddle
But it isn't feasible to study every single species on the planet in depth- there are hundreds and thousands of types of insects alone! Fortunately, it has become clear that there are often many parallels between the biological systems at work in many types of creature, from yeast to humans. This had led to the establishment of a number of so-called "model organisms", which are studied consistently by investigators the world over. The consistent use of these particular critters allows us to make and test ideas about biology in a rapid and reproducible way. In the case of some very important mechanisms, the use of very simple animals has managed to tell us a great deal about humans. To do the same experiments with people would be very time-consuming (not to mention unethical).
  Cloning - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Good news! Cloning can cure genetic diseases! Bad News! You die younger. The scientific press has recently thrown up both good news and bad news for those of us interested in the field of cloning. Work from America has shown that a genetic deficiency can be cured by using cloning techniques, while Japanese scientists tell us that cloned animals tend to die young. So what exactly do these papers say? And what do they mean for the future of cloning research?
  Unpacking the Human Genome Project
Hold the front page! Some white-coated genius somewhere has found a gene for violence: suddenly our streets will be a safer place. Or how about genes for obesity and ageing, so we can look forward to becoming a nation of pert young things? On a more sinister note, what could be done with genes for child abuse, homosexuality, or immortality? With regard to our looks, brains and even personalities, there seems to be no end of scientists telling us what's in the genes.
  Does a Hot Mint Still Taste Cold?
If you eat a chilled chilli pepper, will it: a) Burn your mouth until you beg for mercy from unknown gods ? b) Punish you with a brief case of freezer head (ice-cream headache) ? c) Feel neither hot nor a cold as the cool temperature might balance out the natural 'heat' of the pepper? If you aren't brave enough to undertake the research this question might entail, try a more delicious one instead - pop a mint in the microwave for a few seconds, then pop it in your mouth. The mint normally feels 'cool'. Will it still do so if the mint is warm?
  Do Bald Men get all the Girls?
This is science, not science fiction. Research has shown that bald males command a larger harem of females than their hairier counterparts...that is, if the bald male is a maneless Tsavo lion from Kenya. In humans, male pattern baldness (or androgenic alopecia) has been linked to a number of biological pathways. I will only focus on the best publicised cause, an over-responsiveness to DHT, or dihydrotestosterone for those who enjoy long words. This hypersensitivity may be due to a number of factors. For instance, high levels of the receptor for DHT on hair follicles, or a characteristic and more sensitive structure of the receptor in predisposed people, can cause the hair follicle to detect more DHT than is good for it.
  Why Plants Make Caffeine
It's Monday again, and somehow I have managed to convince myself over the weekend that waking at 11 is justice, and the natural human way. But here it is, Monday 10:30 am, and I've been up for 5 hours already....
  Turning your Brain into Blood - How Stem Cells Work
Imagine if you could turn your muscles into blood cells, or turning your bone marrow into muscle. How about changing your blood to brain cells, then back again, or making a spare liver from your bone marrow? Or, best of all, mutating your fat into muscle cells! These events are not the fanciful dreams of futuristic sci-fi film directors, but are real changes that have been brought about in laboratories over the past five years. Scientists have been investigating the properties of certain cells in many adult organs, and found that these so-called stem cells have the remarkable property of "plasticity". This means that they can change from being one sort of cell (such as a nerve cell) to being another type (such as an immunological blood cell) after being treated in special ways.
  The Microchimera Mixture
There are some very odd things that happen occasionally and are contrary to what we humans would like to believe is the natural order of things. One of the strangest notions I have come across in the biological world is the formation of microchimeras (pronounced 'micro-ky-meras'), meaning quite literally 'an animal with parts made from many animals'. During pregnancy, cells can roam between bodies. Fetal cells can transplant themselves into the mother, maternal cells can be found in the fetus, and cells from twins can swap places with each other. This doesn't happen all the time, but it seems to happen sufficiently often to warrant investigation into the clinical significance of this very bizarre, "Frankenstein-ish" phenomenon.

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Bigfoot: The Nitrogen Problem
A Traveller's Guide to Bed Bugs
A spider web's strength lies in more than its silk
Thai police bust Bangkok rare wildlife 'butchers'
Castaway lizards provide insight into elusive evolutionary process
Bouquet bargains trade off for life
18 endangered dolphins spotted off Borneo: WWF
Tiny primate 'talks' in ultrasound
Steroids control gas exchange in plants
Fossil cricket reveals Jurassic love song
Rhino dies after anti-poaching treatment in S.Africa
Lions adapt to winter at Canada safari park
Invasive alien predator causes rapid declines of European ladybirds
Not the black sheep of domestic animals
Coaxing a Shy Microbe to Stand Out in a Crowd
How the zebra got its stripes
Fruit flies drawn to the sweet smell of youth
FLORA AND FAUNA Genetic Rosetta Stone unveiled in Nature
Ultraviolet protection molecule in plants yields its secrets
Indian village relocated to protect tigers
Explosive evolution need not follow mass extinctions
Plants use circadian rhythms to prepare for battle with insects
Armenia culls wolves after cold snap attacks
The Developing Genome?
Tempur-Pedic Mattress Comparison
Chromosome analyses of prickly pear cacti reveal southern glacial refugia
Poachers slaughter hundreds of elephants in Cameroon
'Founder effect' observed for first time
A Blue Future For Global Warming
Hitchhikers guide to Science
The Art of The Barbecue
Lost your bottle?
A Crossword a Day keeps the Doctor at Bay
Bio-plastics: Turning Wheat And Potatoes into Plastics
Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Brain Damage?
Protein Origami: Pop-up Books & Nature's Polymers
The Science of Parasites
Synthetic Biology: Making Life from Scratch
Flies are creatures of habit
What is Love?
How do plants develop?
What IQ Tests Can't Tell You
What is the Weirdest Experiment Ever?
Humble Honey Bee Helping National Security
Southern Right Whales
The Ocean's Cleaners
Barnacles "mussel" in
Food Date Coding Decoded
Photorhabdus luminescens: The Angel's Glow
Evolution Through the Looking Glass
I'm a Civet: Get me out of here!
No Smoke Detectors in the Sea