The newest optical techniques are making cell biology a little clearer, but it’s still a murky business, watching cells work. A new technique that illuminates RNA — the builder of proteins, making copies according to DNA’s blueprint — is one way to shine a light on that process.
In reconstructive surgery, if a doctor needs a bone he or she can turn to a range of plastics, ceramics, or metals as suitable replacements. But when it comes to soft tissues--like the kind found in that most cosmetically important area, the face--replacements are scarce, and the ones that do exist aren’t very good, especially when it comes to fixing large-scale deformities.
Should we find alien life elsewhere in the universe, what would it look like? Biologists on Earth don’t even agree on how life arose here--or what the definition of life really is--but one thing biologists do seem to agree on is that it would be really useful to have a second example of life to compare with our own version. But that second example most likely won’t come from some faraway planet, says the NYT's Dennis Overbye. Scientists will more likely create it right here on Earth.
Just yesterday we learned that Caltech researchers can use pulses of light to toggle aggressive behaviors in the mouse brain. Today we learn that elsewhere on the West Coast scientists are turning social behaviors in mice on and off using the same method, and that could have big implications for social disorders like autism and schizophrenia in humans.
Cancer patients may feel like they have alien creatures or parasites growing inside their bodies, robbing them of health and vigor. According to one cell biologist, that’s exactly right. The formation of cancers is really the evolution of a new parasitic species.
Researchers in Cleveland have built an artificial lung that is so efficient it can breathe regular air rather than the pure oxygen required by current artificial lungs. The technology makes possible the idea of a man-made lung that is far more portable--and possibly implantable--for the nearly 200 million people suffering from some degree of lung disease.
When it comes to studying human consciousness, techniques can range from the objectively scientific to the pseudo-scientific to the very abstract. After all, the complex processes happening inside the human brain are very hard to observe and define.
A lot of the debate about when modern humans became modern humans has to do with the head--when our brains evolved into the functional equivalent of that of modern mankind. But while that particular argument continues, a team of UK researchers using a new kind of statistical technique have analyzed ancient footprints at a site in Tanzania and found that if our feet are allowed to tell the tale, our early ancestors were becoming human-like as much as two million years earlier than we previously thought.
Big time news on the fight against AIDS out of Rome today, and it essentially boils down to this: antiretrovirals work (at least, an astoundingly high percentage of the time when they are used correctly). At the biggest forum on HIV and AIDS in the 30-year battle against the deadly epidemic (it still kills 5,000 people a day, FYI), two breakthrough findings show that antiretrovirals (ARVs) not only battle HIV in infected persons, but can stop the disease from spreading in two important ways: it helps prevent HIV-positive folk from transmitting the disease, and also helps prevent non-infected people from contracting it.