Science Quickies: Cameron’s Descent, Ancient Cousins, Diabetes Cure, Neutrophil Enzymes, and Working As A Post-Doc

4 Apr

Still catching up on sharing and storing all the super-awesome science articles I’ve been finding.

Of course everyone has heard of James Cameron’s recent decent to the deepest point of the ocean. This is the second such descent, though the previous one was with two people, whereas he descended on a solo dive. National Geographic did a great article on his descent.

Researchers have discovered a treatment which may able to cure most, if not all, cancers.  The drug targets and blocks CD47, a cell protein which tells the immune system to not kill healthy blood cells. But cancers use the same protein to avoid being destroyed by the body. So by strategically blocking the protein, it’s possible to use one antibody to kill all types of cancer tumors.

In more medical news, there are finding indicating that weight-loss surgery may help cure type 2 diabetes in ways better than diet-based weight-loss. While I am a little skeptical of the study’s design, I haven’t had time to dig deeper into it. Regardless, it’s interesting and I’m sharing it now as a reminder to myself to explore it more when I have the time.
(Which is probably never. It will most likely end up on my list of “Things Which I Intend To Do, But Probably Will Never Get Around To Doing.)

Lucy, who is the earliest known bipedal human ancestor, may not have been the only bipedal gal in the neighborhood. My anthropology friends have been buzzing about the recent reports of foot bones from a primitive bipedal human ancestor who existed in the same time as Lucy. According to paleoanthropologist Jeremy DeSilva: “This foot, therefore, provides some of the best evidence that there were different experiments in bipedalism going on during this time in human evolution.” The search for early bipedal ancestors is difficult, as the foot bones are delicate and rarely preserved, so the discovery of these foot bones is exciting for my adorable anthropology nerds.

If you are considering pursuing a science-related Ph.D, currently working on one, or just graduated with a shiny new Ph.D, here’s a handy list of the best places for post-docs to work (as of 2012). One non-science friend was surprised about the middle-class wages. “Why would you spend so much time, effort, and money for a degree where you may only earn $40,000? Shouldn’t you be making six-figures?” I replied that they don’t do it for the money, they do it because we love it. Huzzah for pursuing passions!

new immune defense enzyme has been discovered in neutrophils. Neutrophils are the most common of the 5 main types of white blood cells. They are part of the primary immune defense, and phagocyte bacteria. The discovery of this enzyme, neutrophil serine protease 4 (“NSP4”), may change how we treat over-reactive autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

This is what a neutrophil looks like:

So cute!

And finally, in news of the laughably weird, there are mermaid sightings in Zimbabwe.
(Not science-related, just one of those things I had to share to remind us of what a delightfully odd world we live in).

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