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Sunday, 16 July 2017

6 Amazing Things Before Breakfast #1

This is the first post of my new weekly series where you will find 6 amazing new stories from the previous week - and hopefully read about them before breakfast. So grab that coffee and get comfy.

I gather so many news stories throughout the week that I think are interesting and need to be shared, however, most of them never get turned into full blog posts because frankly I just don’t have enough time at the moment.

So, inspired by #6AmazingThingsBeforeBreakfast, here are my top science news stories for the week…

  1. It’s SpongeBob SquarePants as you’ve never seen him - in the rainforests of Borneo

Read @GrrlScientist’s new article about the discovery of a new fungus called  Spongiforma squarepantsii. Found in the rainforests of Borneo by Professor Dennis Desjardin, Assistant Professor Kabir Peay and Professor Thomas Bruns, the formal description of the fungus was originally rejected by editors. Apparently, squarepantsii, which is the Latin for SpongeBob’s SquarePants was “too frivolous” but the team argued their case and the paper was published in the journal Mycologia this week (10th July 2017).

2)  Anti-aging research got skin-deep this week...

The outer part of the skin, the epidermis, is our bodies barrier to the outside world. In mouse models, older mice have a thicker epidermis than younger mice. A new paper by Wantanabe et al., published in eLife this week (11th July 2017) found that in the the distribution of COL17, a key collagen protein, changes dramatically in aged mice and human epidermis suggesting that this could be a promising new target for future anti-aging strategies.

3) A little early in the year BUT defrosting your car just got a whole lot easier!

Ever found yourself late for a meeting because your car took so long to defrost? Well, Professor Jonathan Boreyko at Virginia Technology College was fed up with waiting for his car to defrost so developed a “simple chemical recipe” which defrosts surfaces 10 times faster than normal! Metal plates were treated with the special recipe which made them super water repelling, so frost literally slides off when heat is applied. Check out these videos including an interview with Professor Boreyko…

4) Lord of the Flies, Cancer Edition

It is common for cancer cells to surround, kill and then eat another cell, called cell cannibalism, although it is not a well-studied part of cancer biology. However, new research has found a mechanism that drives this process - it is triggered when a cell divides.

One of the markers of cancer is uncontrolled cell division and this research has shown that cells which divide more (like cancer cells) are more likely to be eaten by healthy normal cells in the process of cell cannibalism. The relationship is very complicated and scientists aren’t sure whether cell cannibalism helps or hinders tumour growth, but this is a very exciting new avenue of research in the fight against cancer.

5) Measuring how “good” your good cholesterol is

Most people understand that we have good cholesterol and bad cholesterol in our bodies. High levels of bad cholesterol block blood vessels and is a main contributor to heart disease, with good cholesterol (called HDL) being the stuff which takes excess cholesterol away to the liver to be destroyed, lowering the chance for arteries to be blocked and hence, lowering the risk of heart disease.

Most doctors measure the amount of cholesterol collected by HDL however, a new test has been developed which instead measures how good HDL is at picking up excess cholesterol - basically, the test looks at how good HDL is at doing its job, rather than the end result of how much it's collected.

This simpler and faster way to measure how well HDL is doing its job is a better way to monitor and potentially prevent heart disease.

6) Reducing square-eyes from looking at your phone at night!

All our digital screens emit a high-energy blue light which can reach deep into the eye and cause damage if someone is exposed to it for a long time - which is increasingly the case nowadays.

In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists looked at if certain nutritional supplements which deposit in the eye could improve visual performance and protection for the eye when someone has a high screen-use lifestyle. The results showed that the supplement Lutemax 2020 significantly improved the symptoms associated with prolonged screen-time.

Apart from showing a nutritional-based therapy for prolonged screen exposure, the study also highlights the need for more research to be done on older and younger people, as the study was carried out on college-age students and showed a uniformed response.

I hope you’ve found these stories as interesting as I have. You can read more about them by clicking on the links.

See you next week!

Follow @ALifeinBioMed on Twitter for daily updates, news stories and opinions

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Moth Eyes and Antireflective Phones

Summer is here! So that also means squinting really hard to try and read things on your phone screen outside – an annoyance I know all too well.
However, scientists at the College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL), University of Central Florida have developed a new antireflection film that could stop this problem happening. Currently, an iPhone has a surface reflection of 4.4% but this new material has only 0.23% surface reflection meaning that a lot less light will reflect off the surface making it easier to read in bright sunshine.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Seafood Poisoning, Shrimp Economies and Bacteria

Food poisoning caused by eating raw or undercooked seafood is very common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are around 80,000 cases of seafood poisoning in the U.S. every year. What actually causes this is a bacteria called Vibrio parahaemolyticus - which sounds a bit like a Roman Gladiators name in my opinion.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Biofilms - An Update

You may remember some of my early posts about microbial biofilms (The Science Behind Cocowhite (and Product Review) and Bacteria – The Next Frontier). A biofilm is a sticky coating, made by a group of bacteria, which protects them from being killed by your immune system or by antibiotics. They are one of the biggest threats to patients when they are in hospital because they can form quickly on medical devices like artificial hips or knees and are very hard to remove – or so we thought...

Monday, 29 May 2017

The State of HIV Care in Europe

There are currently 36.7 million people living with HIV and is an important priority for all countries to address. The continuum of HIV care is a framework which helps countries to monitor how effectively they are dealing with the HIV epidemic and is part of the Dublin Declaration on Partnership to Fight HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia (signed in 2004).

The continuum of HIV care has four key stages (see below). Each stage follows on from the previous one to help indicate to countries where resources and activities need to be focused on, or improved, to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Future of Transportation

A new study, launched by MIT, will explore the future of transportation and what might affect it.

As part of the MIT Energy Initiative (http://energy.mit.edu/), a new study called "Mobility of the Future" has been launched to model the consequences of how technology, infrastructure, policy and consumer choices will affect the future of transportation. The study will mostly focus on ground transport and will have an emphasis on the movement of people. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Forget Life on Mars - It's Life on Enceladus

Scientists have found hydrogen gas on the Saturn moon Enceladus, coming from its subsurface ocean. This shows similarity to our planet's hydrothermal ocean vents which support life on the seafloor, indicating that Enceladus could be habitable for microbes.