Tag Archives: enzyme

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).

Microbiology Science Quickies: Coral Herpes, Dangerous Grilling, & Bacterial Communications

2 Apr

Ahhhh! So much science and health stuff to share! My poor web browser is drowning again!

You may have heard that the world’s coral reefs are collapsing, and while there are many theories, we have yet to fully explain why. It’s often assumed that climate change and pollution are the main culprits, and there is probably truth to that.
But now scientists are examining another culprit: a virus.
Particularly, a herpes virus.
From microbiologist Rebecca Vega-Thurber: “We were shocked to find that so many coral viruses were in the herpes family. But corals are one of the oldest animal life forms, evolving around 500 million years ago, and herpes is a very old family of viruses that can infect almost every kind of animal. Herpes and corals may have evolved together.”

That being said, I do not recommend you try to pick up chicks by telling them your penis can vanquish marine ecosystems.

As the days get longer and summer approaches, many people are firing up their grills to participate in the American tradition of consuming charred meat. However, grilling is not without it’s health risks. Along with E.coli and carcinogen formation, the traditional wire grill brush may also make you sick, NPR reports. SOme good news though: the use of antioxidant spices may reduce the negative effects of those delicious fatty meats, especially rosemary.  Additionally, proper grilling technique will typically kill the deadly E.coli o157:H7 strain.

Bacteria are pretty interesting critters that can not only talk to each other, they play prisoner’s dilemma to decide their fate.
“When faced with life-or-death situations, bacteria use an extremely sophisticated version of “game theory” to consider their options and decide upon the best course of action.” Of all the microbiology-related articles I’ve read lately, this is one of the most interesting.

According to Yale University, just the mere presence of a person in the room can cause bacterial levels to spike. When a person enters the room, they stir up bacteria. Says the article: “Many previous studies have surveyed the variety of germs present in everyday spaces. But this is the first study that quantifies how much a lone human presence affects the level of indoor biological aerosols.”

In biochemical news, researchers have captured the first images of vitamin B12 in action. In 3D, no less! Scientists from the University of Michigan Health System and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report they have created the first full 3-D images of B12 and its partner molecules twisting and contorting as part of a crucial reaction called “methyltransfer.” This reaction is vital both human cells and in bacteria that consume carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Such bacteria live in the guts of humans, cows, and other animals, and aid with digestion.