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Rajini Rao has been at 32 events

HostFollowersTitleDateGuestsLinks
Larry Fournillier1,382,391She's back!  Yes folks, my favorite Trini @111497953683520662054 will be joining me on Sunday, 24 at 3:00PM(EDT) 12:00PM(PDT).  On this HOA, Sonja will be making a delightful vegetarian dish, *Beetroot Hummus*.  So join us, won't you? :)   *Don't forget to bring your favorite beverage*!! #hoa   #foodstories   #hangoutsonair   #beetroothummus  Food Stories | Beet Hummus - S02E092015-05-24 21:00:0032  
Science on Google+597,379Please join us on 5/5 for a @105917944266111687812 HOA with Dr.@101190098041697372043, Professor of Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering, Psychology, and Neuroscience at @116716695368502903076, and founder of Duke's Center for Neuroengineering. Dr. Nicolelis is a pioneer in neuronal population coding (simultaneously recording from hundreds to thousands of neurons), Brain Machine Interface (controlling robotic or avatar limbs with thoughts), neuroprosthetics (prosthetic limbs that directly communicate with sensory and motor cortices), and Brain to Brain Interface (tactile or visual information encoded by rat 1 is decoded by rat 2). Dr. Nicolelis has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, with many of these publications appearing in high impact journals such as _Nature_, _Science_, and _Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences_ (see below for a short list of publications). More recently, Dr. Nicolelis’ research made it possible for a quadriplegic child to use his mind to control a bionic exoskeleton and kickoff the opening game at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. RSVP “yes” to add this event to your calendar. We will open up the Q & A app so feel free to post your questions on this event post or by using the app during the hangout. *Relevant Links:* Faculty page: http://goo.gl/qs8NfM  Lab page: http://www.nicolelislab.net  2012 Ted Talk: http://goo.gl/kxCxT8  2014 Ted Talk: http://goo.gl/23OqmV  Book: http://goo.gl/x7Kg5J  *Relevant Readings (see http://goo.gl/nQadag for a more exhaustive list):* Schwarz D, Lebedev MA, Tate A, Hanson T, Lehew G, Melloy J, Dimitrov D, Nicolelis MAL. Chronic, Wireless Recordings of Large Scale Brain Activity in Freely Moving Rhesus Monkeys. Nat. Methods doi:10.1038/nmeth.2936, 2014. Thomson EE, Carra R, Nicolelis MAL. Perceiving Invisible Light through a Somatosensory Cortical Prosthesis. Nat. Commun.10.1038/ncomms2497, 2013. Ifft P, Shokur S, Li Z, Lebedev MA, Nicolelis MAL. A Brain-Machine Interface Enables Bimanual Arm Movements in Monkeys. Sci. Transl. Med. 5: 210, DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.3006159, 2013. Shokur S, O’Doherty J.E., Winans J.A., Bleuler H., Lebedev M.A., Nicolelis M.A.L. Expanding the primate body schema in sensorimotor cortex by virtual touches of an avatar. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 110: 15121-6, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1308459110, 2013. O’Doherty JE, Lebedev MA, Ifft PJ, Zhuang KZ, Shokur S, Bleuler H, Nicolelis MAL. Active tactile exploration enabled by a brain-machine-brain interface. Nature 479: 228-231, 2011. Fuentes R, Petersson P, Siesser WB, Caron MG, Nicolelis MAL. Spinal Cord Stimulation Restores Locomotion in Animal Models of Parkinson’s disease. Science 323: 1578-82, 2009. Pereira A, Ribeiro S, Wiest M, Moore LC, Pantoja J, Lin S-C, Nicolelis MAL. Processing of tactile information by the  hippocampus. PNAS 104: 18286-18291 (Epub) November 2007. Krupa DJ, Wiest, MC, Laubach M, Nicolelis MAL Layer specific somatosensory cortical activation during active tactile discrimination   ScieScience HOAs2015-05-05 21:30:00135  
STEM Women on G+166,911Join us for a STEM Women HOA as we speak to Professor @108612046527316778941 from the University of Sri Jayawardenapura, Sri Lanka. Siromi lectures in organic chemistry and her research interests include the chemistry of tea compounds. She will talk to us about her research and career path, and also share her experiences of studying abroad and mentoring students.  You can read more about Siromi here: http://www.stemwomen.net/science-helped-me-to-overcome-challenges-in-life/ This HOA will be hosted by Dr @110756968351492254645  and Professor @114601143134471609087. You can tune in on Sunday 5th October at 1.30 PM Pacific or 9.30PM UK/ Monday 6th 7.30 AM AUS. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel after the event: http://www.youtube.com/stemwomenIn the Spotlight with Siromi Samarasinghe, Professor of Chemistry2014-10-05 22:30:0037  
STEM Women on G+166,911Join us for a STEM Women HOA as we speak to @116099150038090270824 about working as an Engineer in the early space shuttle programs and her current efforts to inspire girls in STEM! Candy worked at @102371865054310418159's  @100042160885780461928 on software for the Space Shuttle in the late 1970s and 1980s, and later for the International Space Station. Candy will tell us what it was like being a woman of Puerto Rico background trying to get into engineering. We'll also discuss what we can do to encourage young Latina girls to become involved in engineering and, more broadly, how we can support minority women to contribute to space programs. This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229 and Dr @110756968351492254645 and you can tune in on Sunday 20th July at 2.30 PM Pacific or 10.30PM UK/ Monday 21st 7.30 AM AUS. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/stemwomen) after the event. #engineering   #softwareengineering   #stemwomen   #computerscience   #nasa   #ISS   #space   #hoa   #stem  In the Spotlight with Candy Torres: Engineer for the Space Program2014-07-20 23:30:0025  
Science on Google+597,379The American Arachnological Society Conference is right around the corner and this year’s conference is being hosted by @116139679307670875382 at @112087710053841939824. The conference sponsors a great lineup of speakers (see details below) for their annual public event, “Casual Night with Arachnids”, and @105917944266111687812 will stream these presentations on Google+ in a Hangout On Air. Each talk will be approximately 10 – 12 minutes and there will be time to ask each presenter questions. Google+ members can submit questions using the Q & A app or by posting questions on the event post (http://goo.gl/knJbyX). RSVP “yes” if you want to add this event to your Google calendar. Anyone can view this event live or watch the archived youtube video; however, individuals not using Google+ will have to submit questions to @spiderprofessor on twitter. Please use the hashtag #arachnids14 . *Sharing on other social networks* Please use this link (http://goo.gl/knJbyX) if you want to share this event via email or on other social networks. *Do you live in the Columbus area?* The event is open to the public and will be in the Reese Center at 1209 University Dr, Newark, OH 43055. See more details about the event here: https://u.osu.edu/arachnids/ *List of Presentations*  Times below are in EST. 7:00 – 7:20pm, Doug Gaffin, *Mind-melding a scorpion*. 7:20 – 7:40pm, Cara Shillington, *Male versus wild: Radio-tracking tarantulas*. 7:40 – 8:00pm, Bob Suter, *Messing with time—see the invisible, hear the inaudible*. 8:00 – 8:20pm, George Uetz & Dave Clark, *Avatar 2.0: Digital imaging and (virtual) spider communication*. 8:20 – 8:40pm, Rick Vetter, *Mythconceptions of the brown recluse spider in Ohio*. 8:40 – 9:00pm, Joe Warfel, *Getting together with family: Spiders and their Relatives*. *Abstracts* _Douglas Gaffin, PhD (Department of Biology, University of Oklahoma)_ *Mind-melding a scorpion*. Scorpions are secretive, mysterious, and patient animals. What are they thinking as they wait for hours in their burrows? Although we can’t answer that yet, we can use a trick called electrophysiology to listen in to their nerve cells and to get a sense of what they perceive. It looks like mad science, but I will lead you through the maze of equipment we use, demystifying the process and explaining how easy and useful it actually is. _Cara Shillington, PhD (Department of Biology, Eastern Michigan University)_ *Male versus wild: Radio-tracking tarantulas*. Despite their notoriety and popularity in the pet trade, surprisingly little is known about tarantulas in their natural environment.  Where do they go and what do they do when they’re free of the glassy confines of your home aquarium? I will discuss many aspects of their life history and behavior both in captivity and in the wild.  Compared to most other arthropods, these animals are exceedingly long-lived (surviving 15 years or more in some cases).  Females remain in burrows for much of their lives, but matuScience HOAs2014-06-23 01:00:0077  
STEM Women on G+166,911Join us for a STEM Women HOA panel discussion as we speak to @103499800132840025436 and @102427914709882798650 about Google's Information Technology Residency Program (ITRP). ITRP is an opportunity for new graduates to jumpstart their careers in IT, and the program is making tremendous strides for women in IT (http://www.google.com/jobs/students/ITRP). We will discuss how the ITRP creates opportunities for women in Tech, and hear first-hand how being a part of ITRP has benefited our panellists.  This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229  and Dr @110756968351492254645   and you can tune in on Sunday June 8th at 2.30 PM PDT/ 10.30 PM BST (UK). The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/stemwomen) after the event.Finding Solutions: Google's IT Residency Program2014-06-08 23:30:0091  
STEM Women on G+166,911Join us for a STEM Women HOA as we speak to  @112565301103246592411 on her career as a primatologist. Erin is a graduate student in physical anthropology who recently returned to Ohio after an extended field trip. She will talk to us about her recent experiences in the field working with Diana monkeys, her exciting career path as a woman in STEM, what inspires her, and why supporting women in STEM is important.  This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229  and Dr @110756968351492254645   and you can tune in on Sunday May 25th at 4.30 PM Central/ 10.30PM UK. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/stemwomen) after the event.In The Spotlight, With Erin Kane2014-05-25 23:30:0053  
Science on Google+597,379Join our latest +Science On Google+ HOA this Sunday the 18th of May at 2.30 pm Pacific time, as we chat with two of our Community members, scientists @113151517166814371827  and Dr @103054542906066129325. They are co-founders of Paleo Quest, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes research and educational projects in Paleontology for the public (http://paleoquest.org). Jason and Aaron also founded SharkFinder, a STEM education program that studies fossil remains of elasmobranch (shark, skates and ray) along the USA Atlantic coastal plain of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina. SharkFinder provides kits and learning modules for citizens and classrooms to participate in data collection (http://www.sharkfinder.org/).  Jason and Aaron will talk about their efforts to expand citizen science, with a special focus on how students can be better guided into STEM careers through these hands-on citizen science programs. We will also discuss their upcoming publications that will incorporate data collected by students and the public, as reported by Scientific American (http://goo.gl/4drR1Z). We'll then chat about how we can better support children from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in STEM. This HOA will be hosted by two Moderators from SoG+, Dr @108510686109338749229  and Dr @110756968351492254645. You can join in the discussion by posting your questions on our Google+ Event page or on Twitter @scienceongoogle using #scienceongoogle . The video will be available afterwards on our YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts Citizen Science: Getting Students into STEM with Jason Osborne & Dr Aaron Alford2014-05-18 23:30:0097  
STEM Women on G+166,911Join us for a STEM Women HOA as we speak to @114480095884024488890  on her career as a roboticist. Annika is an engineer who works on robotics and also a passionate STEM educator, teaching kids how to program and build robots through @101828427997295401901. She will talk to us about her exciting career path as a woman in STEM, what inspires her, and why supporting women in STEM is important.  This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229 and Dr @110756968351492254645   and you can tune in on Sunday April 27th at 4.30 PM Central/ 10.30PM UK. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/stemwomen) after the event.In The Spotlight, With Annika O'Brien2014-04-27 23:30:0057  
STEM Women on G+166,911Join us for a STEM Women HOA as we speak to @114480095884024488890 on her career as a roboticist. Annika is an engineer who works on robotics and also a passionate STEM educator, teaching kids how to program and build robots through @101828427997295401901. She will talk to us about her exciting career path as a woman in STEM, what inspires her, and why supporting women in STEM is important.  This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229 and Dr @110756968351492254645  and you can tune in on Sunday April 13th at 4.30 PM Central/ 10.30PM UK. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/stemwomen) after the event.In The Spotlight, With Annika O'Brien2014-04-13 23:30:0055  
foodies+0*DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!* Join us as we roll out the red carpet for *Foodies+ Live &  Cookin’* Yep, the top foodies community on G+ now brings you its very own show! Join us, every fortnight for 30 minutes of food, fun & frivolity!  Here at Foodies+ we are serious about our food but we _never_ take ourselves too seriously! Every show will feature a different chef in the kitchen. We kick off with the *Italian-Kiwi*, @103650126795079272505, who lives in France. You can find all of Lisa’s recipes on her blog: http://www.italiankiwi.com What's Lisa cooking? *ARANCINI* of course! Recipe can be found here: http://www.italiankiwi.com/arancini/ *YOUTUBE LINK:* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWTPrOoFySIFoodies+ Live & Cookin'2014-04-06 21:00:00124  
STEM Women on G+166,911Join us for a STEM Women HOA panel discussion as we speak to Professor @114601143134471609087, Dr @111479647230213565874 and Dr @115510485336217794615 about the impact of everyday sexism in academia.  We will discuss the sometimes subtle role that gender plays in academia, and discuss situations that might not be obviously sexist, but can in fact be damaging to female academics. This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229 and Dr @110756968351492254645  and you can tune in on Sunday March 30th at 1 PM Pacific/ 9 PM BST (UK). The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/stemwomen) after the event.Everyday Sexism: A STEM Women Conversation2014-03-30 22:00:0047  
Science on Google+597,379Join us for a Science on Google+ HOA as we speak to @103606144980849672198 and Dr @106260309299618873309 about their recently published research on cancer signalling (http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/6/225/225ra28). We will discuss the basics of cancer signalling, explain the link between inflammation and cancer, and how their research identifies a novel role for immune cells in the development of colon cancer. This Pub Talks HOA will be part of a series in which we explain published research in a jargon-free manner that is understandable to the public. This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229 and you can tune in on Sunday March 23rd at 2 PM CDT/ 12PM PDT/ 7 PM GMT. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.Pub Talks: Cancer Signalling2014-03-23 20:00:0085  
STEM Women on G+166,911Join us for a STEM Women HOA as we speak to @106279635800132388713 on her career as a behavioral scientist. Clarissa is a clinician with sixteen years of experience in public health. Clarissa has worked at the Harvard University Global Health Institute and the Columbia University Medical Center. She will talk to us about her career path as a woman in STEM, what inspires her, and why supporting women in STEM is important.  This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229   and Dr @110756968351492254645 and you can tune in on Sunday March 16th at 1.30 PM Pacific/ 8.30PM GMT. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/stemwomen) after the event.In the Spotlight, with Clarissa Silva2014-03-16 21:30:0065  
STEM Women on G+166,911Join us for a STEM Women HOA as we speak to Dr.  @103389452828130864950 on how men can help with the issues of gender inequality in STEM fields. Yonatan is the Chief Architect of Google+ and also has a PhD in Physics with a strong engineering background. He is a passionate advocate of gender equality in STEM, and will talk to us about what we can do to encourage women in STEM. This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229   and Dr @110756968351492254645  , and you can tune in on Sunday March 2nd at 12.30 PM Pacific/ 8.30PM GMT. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel(http://www.youtube.com/stemwomen) after the event. Follow us on Twitter @stemwomen and on www.stemwomen.netSTEM Women: How Men Can Help with Dr Yonatan Zunger2014-03-02 21:30:0096  
Larry Fournillier1,382,391Make this Valentine's Day a special one on Google Plus, by joining me in welcoming foodie extraordinaire,@104466367393245909954 to a special edition of *Food Stories*.  Azlin, will treat us to her sinfully decadent, *Bailey’s Mocha Cheesecake*, a perfect dessert for you and yours this Valentine’s Day.   Azlin and I will be *_spreading the love_* on *Friday,14th, February (Valentine’s Day) at 1:00PM(EST), 2:00PM(AST) and 6PM(GMT)*.  Do you want to make her temptingly delicious featured cake?  Go here for the recipe: http://goo.gl/swEOC6  You can also visit her website to see more of her other mouthwatering dishes : www.linsfood.com I would also like to thank my sponsor @114035095761571532708. To get *15%* off  your next purchase OF their healthy and delicious food bars visit www.twodegreesfood.com and use the *_promo code_* *FOODSTORIES15* #hoa   #foodstories   #cheesecake  Food Stories | Valentine's Day Special featuring - Azlin Bloor2014-02-14 19:00:0081  
Science on Google+597,379Can you believe it! The +Science on Google+ community is approaching 200k members! We'll have reached that number by this weekend, so we're going to have a huge community celebration! Join your hosts +Scott Lewis and +Buddhini Samarasinghe as they start the celebration of being the #1 science community and the #10 community in *all of Google+*!!  During our Hangout On Air, you'll get a chance to meet the moderators  who dedicate so much time and energy into making sure that good, high quality science content is showcased in the community.  After we hear from the moderators on *who* they are, we'll have a discussion on what the curator team looks at for community posts to get put on the *Curator's Choice*.  We are all extremely excited to be celebrating with all 200,000 of you! Let's stay curious and find new and better ways to understand this amazing Universe we all live in! #ScienceSunday   #STEM   #ScienceEveryday   #SoGp200k  200,000 member community celebration!2014-01-12 22:00:00182  
Science on Google+597,379Please join us for a collaborative Hangout On Air with Autism Brainstorm (http://goo.gl/HO5LZL). We will be discussing current research in Autism and Autism Education, as well as the protein biomarkers associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Topics:  1) Lead by Dr. +Stephen Shore:   *Research in Comparative Approaches to Autism Education with special emphasis on the Miller Method®.* Dr. Shore will be joined by Ethan Miller and Amir Naimov for discussion and Q&A. 2) Lead by +John Elder Robison:   *Current research topic(s) being considered by IACC* (The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee  is a Federal advisory committee charged with coordinating all activities concerning autism spectrum disorder within the U.S. 3) Lead by Dr. +Alisa Woods:  *Protein Biomarkers and Autism Spectrum Disorders* *PDF LINKS:* Dr. Stephen Shore Dissertation: Comparative Approaches to Autism Education: http://goo.gl/lnqpxb Dr. Stephen Shore: ICDL The Miller Method: http://goo.gl/X6XQoq John Elder Robison: Scholar in Residence at William And Mary: http://goo.gl/QPxtLH  John Elder Robison: IACC Government Strategic Plan for Autism Research: http://goo.gl/reBc9a Dr. Alisa G Woods: Treating Clients with AS and ASD: http://goo.gl/175424 Dr. Alisa G Woods: Proteomics and Cholesterol in Autism: http://goo.gl/SklhcL *Dr. Stephen Shore:* Diagnosed with "Atypical Development and strong autistic tendencies" and "too sick" for outpatient treatment Dr. Shore was recommended for institutionalization. Nonverbal until four, and with much support from his parents, teachers, wife, and others, Stephen is now a professor at Adelphi University where his research focuses on matching best practice to the needs of people with autism. In addition to working with children and talking about life on the autism spectrum, Stephen presents and consults internationally on adult issues pertinent to education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure as discussed in his books Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Ask and Tell: Self-advocacy and Disclosure for People on the Autism Spectrum, the critically acclaimed Understanding Autism for Dummies., and the newly released DVD Living along the Autism Spectrum: What it means to have Autism or Asperger Syndrome. President emeritus of the Asperger’s Association of New England and former board member of the Autism Society, Dr. Shore serves in the Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association, United States Autism and Asperger Association, and other autism related organizations.  Dr. Shore is on the advisory board of AUTISM BRAINSTORM and is the primary autism education advisor. He frequently participates in Google Hangout events hosted by AUTISM BRAINSTORM. education.adelphi.edu/profile/steven-shore www.autismasperger.net  *John Elder Robison:* Self Advocate, Parent and Author, Mr. John Elder Robison joined the IACC as a public member in 2012. Mr. Robison is an Aspergian who grAutism Brainstorm and Science On Google+ Collaborative Hangout On Air2013-12-10 04:00:0088  
Larry Fournillier1,382,391Everyone has a story, they want to tell it and I want to share it. This is the second installment in my new series of food/cooking HOAs where I will introduce you to some great folks who, like me, have a passion for fun, food and cooking. Allow me to introduce you to G+er +Sheedia Jansen   a Curacaoan who loves her country so much, she is considered the unofficial Cultural Ambassador of Curacao.  Sheedia has a great blog, *Curacao Vacation Blog*( http://curacaovacationblog.com) and an awesome G+ Page +Curacao 411   Sheedia is no stranger to the kitchen, she began cooking at age 18 and on Sunday's show she will be telling us her story, while preparing a local dish of *Arepa di Pampuna*, or *Pumpkin Pancakes*. So, join us on *Sunday 24th, at 4:00PM(AST) 3:00PM(EST), 12:00PM(PST) and 2:00PM(CST)* to hear Sheedia's fascinating story and watch her make one of her favorite snacks. *Here is the recipe* : http://curacaovacationblog.com/post/pumpkin-pancakes/ #foodstories   #pumpkinpancakes   #hoa   #hangoutsonair  Food Stories Episode 2 - featuring Sheedia Jansen2013-11-24 21:00:0084  
Science on Google+597,379Data blitz is a new hangout (not Hangout On Air), which is hosted by the Science on Google+ Community (http://goo.gl/uhJCN). This monthly hangout will start at 10:00 PM (EDT) on the second Wednesday of each month, and the main goal is to create a platform so researchers can get feedback on their _hot off the press_ research findings and discuss other issues in research, funding, and publishing. There are only two rules. First, to keep things moving, presentations cannot exceed one slide! Second, due to the 10 person limit of hangouts, all individuals who join the hangout will be expected to contribute to the discussion by presenting research or research related issues. RSVP “yes” if you want an invite for the next Science on Google+ Data Blitz.Science on Google+ Data Blitz2013-10-10 04:00:0052  
Amy Robinson28,504On June 13 the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark decision, unanimously ruling that human genes may not be patented.  What does that mean for you and me? Join geneticist +Ian Bosdet  and the +Science on Google+: A Public Database  Community for a 30 minute conversation to discuss what this ruling may mean for the future of health and genetic research. This event will be hosted by +Amy Robinson and +Nic Hammond . Ask questions for Ian to answer On Air and share your thoughts on the event page. Ian and the Science on Google+ team will invite a few insightful guests to ask their questions live in the hangout. Gene Patenting: A Google+ Science Conversation2013-07-09 21:00:0063  
STEM on Google+ Community22,787*Share your story - Week 01-02* *_"How I became interested in STEM"_*  (any one of the fields) Make a video or other visual format of yourself answering the question, and *post it either to your public stream, or in the Share Your Story section in the STEM on Google+ Community* (or both).  http://goo.gl/EoDWd   Then it will be added here. Videos should be in the 1 to 2 minute range, and can be easily made directly on G+ or on Youtube, or you could upload one that you create offline. Make sure to +tag +STEM on Google+ Community, and use the #shareyourstory hash-tag in your post. Every other week will have a different question posed.  This is to help promote STEM awareness, encourage students, and generally advance the complete realm of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. *Guests can invite other people, so please do!*  Any shares of this Event would be greatly appreciated too!Share Your Story - How I became interested in STEM2013-06-19 13:30:0036  
Scott Lewis326,761Have you ever wondered what it's like to give a TEDx talk? How about working at M.I.T.? What sort of excitement comes with working on a project that allows people from across the globe to map neurons through a video game? Come find out when +Buddhini Samarasinghe and +Scott Lewis interview +Amy Robinson! Buddhini and Scott will be together in San Diego hosting this special Google+ Hangout On Air interview with Amy from +Sebastian Seung's computational neuroscience lab at MIT.  This Hangout On Air will be broadcast live and recorded to YouTube. If you have any questions or comments for Amy or the hosts, please feel free to leave them here on the event page, through the live Google+ shares, via YouTube or on Twitter using the hashtag #ktcHangout .  Buddhini's Twitter:@DrHalfPintBuddy Scott's Twitter:@BaldAstronomer Amy's Twitter:@AmyLeeRobinson #HangoutsOnAir   #ScienceSunday   #ScienceEveryday   #CitizenScience   #TEDx   #OpenScience   #WomenInSTEM   #ktc20130616   #Science   #STEM   #Neuroscience   #MIT  Interview with Amy Robinson | ktc2013-06-16 23:00:0056  
The White House2,929,904This Friday at 2pm ET, the White House will host a "We The Geeks" Google+ Hangout on asteroids with experts including NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, former astronaut Ed Lu, and Bill Nye the Science Guy: http://at.wh.gov/lvjzd Tune in to find out how experts are working to find asteroids before they find us—and other potential opportunities these space rocks present. Ask your questions using #WeTheGeeks and we'll answer some during the hangout.We the Geeks: Asteroids2013-05-31 20:00:00726  
ScienceSunday85,167Join hosts +Buddhini Samarasinghe and +Scott Lewis  for another “SciSunHOA”, a live Google+ Hangout On Air broadcast, brought to you by +ScienceSunday. This episode, Professor +Vincent Racaniello joins Buddhini and Scott to discuss his work in virology. Vincent is a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University. His research includes the study of poliovirus (Polio), rhinovirus (Common Cold), and other RNA viruses. His work focuses on how our immune systems interact with these viruses, how they cause disease, while also discovering new viruses in wild animals. Outside of the lab, Vincent is involved in many science outreach efforts, including hosting the excellent podcast series This Week in Virology (TWiV). You can read more on his website here (http://www.virology.ws/) We’re all very excited for this episode of “SciSunHOA” as Vincent is not only a brilliant scientist, but also an outstanding science communicator! Questions for Vincent, Buddhini and Scott can be left here in the event page, as well as during the live show through the shares of the HOA, including on Twitter using the hash tag: #SciSunHOA  Going Viral: #SciSun Hangout on Air featuring Vincent Racaniello2013-04-29 00:00:0058  
Jeanne Garbarino140,224This purpose of this hangout is to help promote Brain Awareness Week (BAW), as well as breakdown neuroscience research for public consumption.  BAW is spearheaded by the Dana Foundation and the Society for Neuroscience.Be BraiNY: A conversation with neuroscientists Carol Mason and Moses Chao2013-03-06 20:00:0037  
Chef Dennis Littley780,727Join us and our guest speaker Ronnie Bincer (aka The Hangout Helper)  as he guides you through the world of Hangouts , Hangouts on Air and Events.  Learn how to use Events to promote your Hangout on Air. Leave any questions you may have in the comment section below and we will do our best to answer them in our Hangout. If you can't watch it live, it will be recorded and can be viewed at your convenience. #CommunityEducation2   #googleplusfoodbloggercommunity  Community Education Hangout - Hangouts on Air, Hangouts and Events2013-01-23 03:00:00222  
Shinae Choi Robinson892,901Join me in making five quick, easy, and delicious dressings to encourage you to eat more rabbit food before the holiday gluttony is upon us again! :) New to Cookalongs? Read this: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/HRH4cuMrgwW *Q&A Session will be from 11AM to 12PM Pacific* *MENU* 1) Miso Ginger Dressing *Recipe:* https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/jSEtH61sUDT 2) Honey Mustard *Recipe:* https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/3aNowFdUcKw 3) Maddi's Favorite Ranch Dip *Recipe:* https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/VAxMt1K5FCz 4) Yogurt Feta Dressing *Recipe:* https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ShinaeChoiRobinson/posts/Zkemw79B7wV 5) Lime Shallot Dressing *Recipe:* https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/DiCDw22quLX *EQUIPMENT & INGREDIENT LIST (PRINT)* https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/eugMLL8PHvMSalad Dressing Cookalong2012-12-02 20:00:0031  
Shinae Choi Robinson892,901Watch along or cook along as we create a delicious Indian meal with recipes and guidance provided by G+'s First Lady of Science and Indian home cook extraordinaire, @114601143134471609087. :) *How Cookalongs Work:* http://goo.gl/Psz8r *Intro:*  https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/E74XQ22VL3L *The Menu:*  https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/E2efQoeWsFk *Equipment & Ingredients List (PRINT)* https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/fh6BhdCDpLd *Rajini's Practically Perfect Pulao Recipe (PRINT)* https://plus.google.com/u/0/114601143134471609087/posts/AiQAPB2xSHu *Rajini's _Channa Masala_ Recipe (PRINT)* https://plus.google.com/u/0/114601143134471609087/posts/XNy7GgjH8WD *Trying New Spices Without Going Broke* https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/ggFrknEKqHc *Game Plan For Efficient Cooking (PRINT)* https://plus.google.com/u/0/105466596306740968847/posts/5pE2YBbZ8Ve *To see how our last Cookalong went:* https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/c66aprm3qvjttf7nb6g438e07h4 Stay tuned as we add more details and info. I'll notify you in this event stream when we do! :)Indian Food Cookalong With Special Guest Cook Rajini Rao2012-11-11 19:00:0086  
Larry Fournillier1,382,391With keeping inline with my *Healthy Eating Program*, I've invited Team member and good friend, @108413597447248376486 to make his famous *_Vegan Burger and Guacamole side_*.  Here is a link to Daniel's recipe: http://bit.ly/T1XqZg So, join us today LIVE from his Massachusetts kitchen where he will be showing us how it's done. It will be a blast!! You can watch us LIVE on this Event page, from my Profile page @100948891249021511115 or on www.hangoutnetworks.com #healthyeatingprogram   #healthyeating   #healthyrecipes  Learning How To Cook Caribbean with Larry Fournillier featuring Daniel Fontaine2012-10-14 15:30:0040  
Chef Dennis Littley780,727Stop by for my class on pesto, and we're not just talking about Basil!  From the classic Genovese, to Sun Dried Tomato, join me as I show you how easy it is to make pesto at home and my favorite way to serve it!ChefHangout- Let's Make Pesto2012-10-12 01:00:00111  
Billy Wilson1,546,176Come watch another episode of my fun weekly on air G+ variety show @108595299975404341987, that brings together the best of everything on G+ in a hangout! This week I'll have joining me Photographer @107073852799630124249; Guinness World Record Holder @105350396156550184511; @104723167398398004122 who's looking at making a documentary of his travels back across Canada; Community Builder & Psychology Lecturer @102370347732140106252; and Special Musical Guest @114974169019892621930 ! You can talk with us and other people watching the show by commenting on this event once the show is live! The episode will be live on this event and the recording will be available immediately afterwards. You can watch previous episodes here: http://goo.gl/ceHtHTSBW #26: Photography, World Record Holder, Live Music and More (On Air Hangout)2012-09-29 04:00:0088  

Shared Circles including Rajini Rao

Shared Circles are not available on Google+ anymore, but you can find them still here.

Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 155

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2014-04-11 21:45:27 (155 comments, 466 reshares, 671 +1s)Open 

On The Shoulders of Giants

♀ A sepia print of an Indian woman, a Japanese woman and a woman from Syria, dated 1885. What do they have in common? Extraordinarily, each was the first licensed female medical doctor in their country of origin. They were trained at the Women's Medical College in Pennsylvania, the first of its kind in the country. This was a time before women had the right to vote. If they did attend college at all, it was at the risk of contracting "neuralgia, uterine disease, hysteria, and other derangements of the nervous system” (according to Harvard gynecologist Edward H. Clarke). 

An all-woman medical school was first proposed in 1846, supported by the Quakers and the feminist movement. Dr. Ellwood Harvey, one of the early teaching faculty, daringly smuggled out a slave, Ann Maria Weems, dressed as a male buggy driver, from rightoutsid... more »

Most reshares: 466

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2014-04-11 21:45:27 (155 comments, 466 reshares, 671 +1s)Open 

On The Shoulders of Giants

♀ A sepia print of an Indian woman, a Japanese woman and a woman from Syria, dated 1885. What do they have in common? Extraordinarily, each was the first licensed female medical doctor in their country of origin. They were trained at the Women's Medical College in Pennsylvania, the first of its kind in the country. This was a time before women had the right to vote. If they did attend college at all, it was at the risk of contracting "neuralgia, uterine disease, hysteria, and other derangements of the nervous system” (according to Harvard gynecologist Edward H. Clarke). 

An all-woman medical school was first proposed in 1846, supported by the Quakers and the feminist movement. Dr. Ellwood Harvey, one of the early teaching faculty, daringly smuggled out a slave, Ann Maria Weems, dressed as a male buggy driver, from rightoutsid... more »

Most plusones: 689

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2015-05-31 12:09:07 (128 comments, 171 reshares, 689 +1s)Open 

The Peacock Problem

‘The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!’ So wrote Charles Darwin in a letter to his friend, expressing his frustration at not being able to explain how natural selection could drive the evolution of this extravagantly ornamental display. Not only was there an obvious lack of survival advantage to an awkwardly heavy appendage, it came with an energy cost and added vulnerability to predators. How then, did the peacock's tail evolve?

Once again, it was Darwin who came up with the idea of sexual selection, that depends, "not on a struggle for existence, but on a struggle between the males for possession of the females; the result is not death to the unsuccessful competitor, but few or no offspring". 
  
By flaunting his "handicap", the peacock signals to hispotentia... more »

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2015-05-31 12:09:07 (128 comments, 171 reshares, 689 +1s)Open 

The Peacock Problem

‘The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!’ So wrote Charles Darwin in a letter to his friend, expressing his frustration at not being able to explain how natural selection could drive the evolution of this extravagantly ornamental display. Not only was there an obvious lack of survival advantage to an awkwardly heavy appendage, it came with an energy cost and added vulnerability to predators. How then, did the peacock's tail evolve?

Once again, it was Darwin who came up with the idea of sexual selection, that depends, "not on a struggle for existence, but on a struggle between the males for possession of the females; the result is not death to the unsuccessful competitor, but few or no offspring". 
  
By flaunting his "handicap", the peacock signals to hispotentia... more »

The Peacock Problem

‘The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!’ So wrote Charles Darwin in a letter to his friend, expressing his frustration at not being able to explain how natural selection could drive the evolution of this extravagantly ornamental display. Not only was there an obvious lack of survival advantage to an awkwardly heavy appendage, it came with an energy cost and added vulnerability to predators. How then, did the peacock's tail evolve?

Once again, it was Darwin who came up with the idea of sexual selection, that depends, "not on a struggle for existence, but on a struggle between the males for possession of the females; the result is not death to the unsuccessful competitor, but few or no offspring". 
  
By flaunting his "handicap", the peacock signals to his potential mate that he has survived despite the negative consequences! The good gene hypothesis suggests that the ornament is a proxy for a healthy immune system and metabolic fitness. The peahen's preference for gaudy displays drives the evolution of the tail by positive feedback: when she mates with the most fashionable male, she passes his traits on to her sons who in turn, are assured of reproductive success! Choosy mothers produce sexy sons and over many generations, runaway evolution results in strange and beautiful ornamentations like the lion's mane, the antlers of a stag and the blue-footed booby. In the 20th century, Ronald Fisher, who is considered the greatest evolutionary biologist after Darwin, argued that the female's preference and the male's development of the ornament must advance together until practical or physical limits halt any further exaggeration (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisherian_runaway). 

We've seen how sexual selection gives rise to the difference in appearance between male and female (sexual dimorphism). Animals that are monogamous show less sexual dimorphism. Interestingly, our pre-Homo ancestors may have been more dimorphic compared to modern humans suggesting that we have become more monogamous over time! 

REF:The sight of the peacock's tail makes me sick: the early arguments on sexual selection. (2000) Hiraiwa-Hasegawa M. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10824193

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-05-24 16:44:40 (39 comments, 60 reshares, 316 +1s)Open 

Affairs of the Heart: Dr. Helen Taussig 

❤  On a late November day in 1944, bright sunlight streamed upon the blue-tinged body of 18 month old Eileen Saxon, who was hovering near death. Born with a congenital heart defect that prevented her blood from being oxygenated by her lungs, she now weighed little more than 9 pounds. Across the ocean, World War II raged on, but at the +Johns Hopkins University hospital in Baltimore, another type of history was being made. Under the gaze of 706 doctors gathered around, Dr. Alfred Blalock meticulously rerouted an artery heading to the child's arm, back to the lungs giving the oxygen-starved blood a second chance of rejuvenation. The anesthesiologist cried out in astonishment as Eileen's lips turned from blue to a healthy red. That was the start of a successful procedure that would cure thousands of "blue babies" inthe ... more »

Affairs of the Heart: Dr. Helen Taussig 

❤  On a late November day in 1944, bright sunlight streamed upon the blue-tinged body of 18 month old Eileen Saxon, who was hovering near death. Born with a congenital heart defect that prevented her blood from being oxygenated by her lungs, she now weighed little more than 9 pounds. Across the ocean, World War II raged on, but at the +Johns Hopkins University hospital in Baltimore, another type of history was being made. Under the gaze of 706 doctors gathered around, Dr. Alfred Blalock meticulously rerouted an artery heading to the child's arm, back to the lungs giving the oxygen-starved blood a second chance of rejuvenation. The anesthesiologist cried out in astonishment as Eileen's lips turned from blue to a healthy red. That was the start of a successful procedure that would cure thousands of "blue babies" in the brand new era of heart surgery that followed. Today, we remember Dr. Helen Taussig, whose brilliant idea it was that set the stage.

❤ Born on this day, May 24, in 1898, Helen took medical classes at both Harvard and Boston Universities although neither would award her a degree because of her gender. Worse, she was forbidden to speak to her male colleagues in histology class because of fears that she would "contaminate" them. She completed her MD degree at Johns Hopkins and there, as a pediatric cardiologist did extensive work with anoxemia, or blue baby syndrome. She noticed that blue babies with an additional heart defect (called PDA) fared better, and that a shunt that mimicked PDA could be the solution. She pitched the idea of getting more blood to the lungs much "as a plumber changes pipes around" to surgeon Alfred Blalock and his technician Vivien Thomas. Thomas, a black man whose education did not go beyond high school, practiced the surgery in the animal lab and after modifying instruments for use in humans, coached Dr. Blalock through the first hundred surgeries in infants. In 1976, Hopkins awarded him an honorary doctorate. Sadly, little Eileen became cyanotic again in a few months and did not survive past 2 years even though other babies would go on to live healthy lives. Today, a modified version of the shunt is performed using a synthetic Gore-Tex graft (lower right image). 

¸¸.•*¨*•♫ Happy Birthday, Dr. Taussig!  

Image Note: Helen Taussig became deaf in later years, and actually used her fingers rather than a stethoscope to feel the rhythm of heartbeats.

More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_B._Taussig_
#ScienceSunday   #STEMWomen  ___

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2015-05-23 13:00:12 (53 comments, 52 reshares, 329 +1s)Open 

Coral Cohabiters: Time for a Status Update?

● Symbiosis derives from the terms sym for together, and biosis for life. The coral reef appears to be a poster child for a lifetime of togetherness. The soft tissues of coral polyps are embedded with hundreds of single-celled, free-swimming dinoflagellates, captured from nutrient poor, crystal clear tropical waters. Photosynthesis by dinoflagellates provides 95% of the organic food used by the polyps. In return, the dinoflagellates are housed in a safe environment where their hosts supply them with carbon dioxide and minerals needed for photosynthesis. 

Friends with Benefits: Like a Facebook status, the relationship of coral symbionts is complicated. Clearly, the coral benefits: oxygen and sugars produced by trapped dinoflagellates enable these corals to grow as much as three times faster as those withoutsymb... more »

Coral Cohabiters: Time for a Status Update?

● Symbiosis derives from the terms sym for together, and biosis for life. The coral reef appears to be a poster child for a lifetime of togetherness. The soft tissues of coral polyps are embedded with hundreds of single-celled, free-swimming dinoflagellates, captured from nutrient poor, crystal clear tropical waters. Photosynthesis by dinoflagellates provides 95% of the organic food used by the polyps. In return, the dinoflagellates are housed in a safe environment where their hosts supply them with carbon dioxide and minerals needed for photosynthesis. 

Friends with Benefits: Like a Facebook status, the relationship of coral symbionts is complicated. Clearly, the coral benefits: oxygen and sugars produced by trapped dinoflagellates enable these corals to grow as much as three times faster as those without symbionts. But the converse is not true: in the symbiotic relationship, it takes ~70 days for the dinoflagellates to double, in contrast to a mere 3 days outside the coral. So symbiosis has a fitness cost for the algae. In reality, the coral host is more like an active farmer, who lures and engulfs the free-living dinoflagellates into captive domestication. When the coral is stressed, it loses control of the delicate energy balance in this relationship and expels its colorful guests en masse. Coral bleaching devastates the entire reef ecology and is a symptom of climate change which brings warmer, more acidic, nitrogen rich waters.

● All relationships lie along a continuum: from truly mutualistic, where both partners benefit and the success of one is tied to the success of the other, to commensalism, where one partner benefits but the other is neither harmed nor helped, and the extreme cases of parasitism, in which one organism exploits and harms the other. Isn't there a parallel with human relationships as well? 

● The more we learn about the diversity of life and the structure of genomes, the more it appears that much of the evolution of biodiversity is about the manipulation of other species—to gain resources and, in turn, to avoid being manipulated (John Thompson, 1999). True mutualism may be rare in nature. Evolutionary selection tends to maximize individual fitness and conflict of interests are inevitable!

REF: Is the coral-algae symbiosis really ‘mutually beneficial’ for the partners? S.A. Wooldridge (2010) Bioessays 32: 615-625

IMAGES: Check out more stunning coral photographs by +Daniel Stoupin at http://www.microworldsphotography.com/

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-05-16 15:26:28 (95 comments, 97 reshares, 392 +1s)Open 

Screws with a Twist

Secrets of the Silkworm: Did you know that the silkworm was domesticated in China over 5,000 years ago? Legend has it that the Empress Lei Zhu was drinking tea under a tree when a cocoon fell into the hot beverage, unraveling silken threads to reveal the Bombyx caterpillar within. Silk making was a deeply guarded secret until 550 AD, until Christian monks successfully smuggled silkworms out of China in a hollow stick and introduced them to the rest of the world. Today, there are thousands of genetically inbred and engineered strains, all completely dependent on humans for survival! 

From Steel to Silk: Fractured bones are often held in place by metal screws and plates until they heal. Removing the metal carries unnecessary risks, which can be averted using biocompatible materials that are naturally absorbed into the body over time. Silkis s... more »

Screws with a Twist

Secrets of the Silkworm: Did you know that the silkworm was domesticated in China over 5,000 years ago? Legend has it that the Empress Lei Zhu was drinking tea under a tree when a cocoon fell into the hot beverage, unraveling silken threads to reveal the Bombyx caterpillar within. Silk making was a deeply guarded secret until 550 AD, until Christian monks successfully smuggled silkworms out of China in a hollow stick and introduced them to the rest of the world. Today, there are thousands of genetically inbred and engineered strains, all completely dependent on humans for survival! 

From Steel to Silk: Fractured bones are often held in place by metal screws and plates until they heal. Removing the metal carries unnecessary risks, which can be averted using biocompatible materials that are naturally absorbed into the body over time. Silk is strong, stable to high heat of sterilization and can be fashioned into “self-tapping” surgical screws that have been successfully tested in rats. The silk screws are "radiolucent” or invisible to x-rays, allowing the fracture to be monitored post-operation, without the impedance of metal. Best of all, silk protein is digested by natural enzymes and resorbed into the body within 4-8 weeks. Researchers hope to use silk screws in facial fractures, which number in several hundred thousand each year. 

Bench to Body: (1) Fill test tube with silk solution then freeze dry. (2) Use scissors or a blender to cut into small pieces. (3) Dissolve pieces in 1,1,1,3,3,3 hexafluoro-2-propanol (HFIP) in a syringe. (4) Inject dissolved silk into bone plate or screw blank moulds. (5) Place molds in methanol for 3–4 days (to convert silk protein into β-sheets). (6) Remove and allow to dry (fume hood for 1 week then 60 °C oven for 5 days), then autoclave for stability. (8) Machine using a mill, lathe or die to obtain desired geometry. Almost DIY, right? :)

REF: Perrone et al., 2014 Nature Communications http://goo.gl/uYKM3N

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_silk

● +Gary Ray R describes a different kind of biodegradable screw made of an iron alloy-ceramic composite. This material could be used for shoulder surgeries and degrades at a slower rate over 1-2 years. http://goo.gl/eWmcDV

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-05-03 13:56:16 (39 comments, 192 reshares, 527 +1s)Open 

Cancer or Canvas?

★ Do you see cancer cells run amok or a beautiful rendition of Van Gogh's "Starry Night"?  In this addition to my Art or Science? collection, it's hard to pick out the microscope image from the artwork it inspired. The tiny biological details revealed by researchers at the University of Michigan Center for Organogenesis are captured in larger than life quilts by Fiber Artists @ Loose Ends who raise public awareness about the importance of the arts in healthcare settings.

★ On the Left is a cross-section of mouse skin with basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of human skin cancer. The top layer of skin is stained red, collagen fibers are stained blue and the deadly tumor cells appear in the red at the bottom. On the Right, artist Carole Nicholas renders the image with fabric and stitching to simulate the VanGogh... more »

Cancer or Canvas?

★ Do you see cancer cells run amok or a beautiful rendition of Van Gogh's "Starry Night"?  In this addition to my Art or Science? collection, it's hard to pick out the microscope image from the artwork it inspired. The tiny biological details revealed by researchers at the University of Michigan Center for Organogenesis are captured in larger than life quilts by Fiber Artists @ Loose Ends who raise public awareness about the importance of the arts in healthcare settings.

★ On the Left is a cross-section of mouse skin with basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of human skin cancer. The top layer of skin is stained red, collagen fibers are stained blue and the deadly tumor cells appear in the red at the bottom. On the Right, artist Carole Nicholas renders the image with fabric and stitching to simulate the Van Gogh's brushwork in a quilt.

★ This type of common skin cancer arises exclusively from the base of the hair follicle, where a niche of stem cells reside. When the hair follicle is in its growth phase, these cells are temporarily activated by the hedgehog signaling pathway. In cancer, this pathway is permanently on overdrive, due to mutations in genes known as Patched (PTCH) or Smoothened (SMO). If you're curious about the origin of these amusing gene names, especially Sonic Hedgehog, Indian Hedgehog and Tiggywinkle Hedgehog, check out +Buddhini Samarasinghe's entertaining and informative post (http://goo.gl/bhlKie)! 

REF: Hutchin et al. Sustained Hedgehog signaling is required for basal cell carcinoma proliferation and survival: conditional skin tumorigenesis recapitulates the hair growth cycle.
http://genesdev.cshlp.org/content/19/2/214.long

Image Credits: Mark Hutchin, University of Michigan
Art Quilt by Carole Nicholas, Fiber Artists@Loose Ends

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-04-26 13:42:18 (116 comments, 92 reshares, 666 +1s)Open 

Daffodils and Dementia

✿ It's spring time in Maryland, and in the words of the poet Wordsworth, my heart dances with the daffodils. Through the long winter, I conjured up memories of these cheerful blooms in my mind:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

✿ But an estimated 44 million people world wide who suffer from Alzheimer's disease are robbed of their memories by a progressive dementia. As the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., Alzheimer's cannot be cured or prevented. One of the handful of drugs available to improve memory loss in patients is galantamine, which is extracted from the leaves and bulbs of daffodils (Narcissus) and snowdrops(Ga... more »

Daffodils and Dementia

✿ It's spring time in Maryland, and in the words of the poet Wordsworth, my heart dances with the daffodils. Through the long winter, I conjured up memories of these cheerful blooms in my mind:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

✿ But an estimated 44 million people world wide who suffer from Alzheimer's disease are robbed of their memories by a progressive dementia. As the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., Alzheimer's cannot be cured or prevented. One of the handful of drugs available to improve memory loss in patients is galantamine, which is extracted from the leaves and bulbs of daffodils (Narcissus) and snowdrops (Galanthus). These extracts have been in use since ancient times. In Homer's Greek epic, Odysseus is said to have used snowdrops to clear his mind bewitched by Circe. In the 1950s, a pharmacologist observed inhabitants of a remote Bulgarian village rubbing the extracts on their forehead and shortly after, the drug was approved for medical use. Galantamine increases the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in some parts of the brain, both by making the receptor more sensitive to its action and by slowing down its removal. The drug has other interesting properties: it is said to promote lucid dreaming, improve sleep quality, memory loss in brain damage, and some autistic symptoms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galantamine).  

✿ No drug has yet stopped the inexorable progress of Alzheimer's. Early intervention is key to effective treatment: in my lab, for example, we are studying endosomal pathology which is the earliest sign of problems at the cellular level (http://goo.gl/DtVUFT). Yet lack of funding stifles productive research. As Newt Gingrich points out in his recent Op-Ed for New York Times, we spend only 0.8% of the estimated 154 billion dollars of annual medical costs related to Alzheimer's disease on research to cure or prevent it

News Story: Newt Gingrich: Double the NIH Budget. April 22, 2015 http://goo.gl/Fq4PAS 

Daffodil GIF: http://headlikeanorange.tumblr.com/

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-04-19 16:30:14 (84 comments, 102 reshares, 658 +1s)Open 

Dotting the I 

Colorful bindis are being handed out to tribal women in India by a philanthropic organization. When worn on the forehead, each dot delivers a daily dose of 100-150 micrograms of iodine (chemical symbol: I) which is absorbed by the skin. At least 70 million Indians suffer from iodine deficiency disorders. Sure, oral supplements or iodized salts are more efficient, but the tribal women won't take them. The bindis are a socially more acceptable, and creative, approach to dietary compliance! 

Bad Air: Iodine deficiencies were described by ancient Roman writers and medieval travelers, who would encounter entire villages in the Alps or southern Europe struck by cretinism.  Thought to be due to "bad air" or "stagnant water" in the mountains, we now know that dwarfism, deformed bones and intellectual disability are due to lack ofio... more »

Dotting the I 

Colorful bindis are being handed out to tribal women in India by a philanthropic organization. When worn on the forehead, each dot delivers a daily dose of 100-150 micrograms of iodine (chemical symbol: I) which is absorbed by the skin. At least 70 million Indians suffer from iodine deficiency disorders. Sure, oral supplements or iodized salts are more efficient, but the tribal women won't take them. The bindis are a socially more acceptable, and creative, approach to dietary compliance! 

Bad Air: Iodine deficiencies were described by ancient Roman writers and medieval travelers, who would encounter entire villages in the Alps or southern Europe struck by cretinism.  Thought to be due to "bad air" or "stagnant water" in the mountains, we now know that dwarfism, deformed bones and intellectual disability are due to lack of iodine-rich thyroid hormone. Goiter belts characterized the more mildly afflicted inland regions of Europe and N. America, where populations were marked by enlarged thyroids and grossly swollen throats. Along the coast, however, wave action disperses natural iodine salts from sea water into the air, from where it enters our ecosystem. No wonder, sea air was recommended for recuperating invalids. 

The Rise and Fall of I: After the discovery of iodine in 1811, Lugol's solution (mostly potassium iodide, or KI) became the universal panacea of western medicine. Medical students were advised:

If ye don’t know where, what, and why 
Prescribe ye then K and I

But too much of a good thing led to the discovery that excess iodine actually blocked thyroid hormone production (known as Wolff-Chaikoff effect). Today, the Reference Daily Intake or RDI has decreased from 1 gram, to 150 micrograms, which many practitioners believe is too little. Proponents of iodine therapy point out the benefits in preventing breast cancer, skin disorders and more. For a fascinating history of the controversies and facts see the article in the reference. 

REF: http://www.westonaprice.org/modern-diseases/the-great-iodine-debate/

Video: Jeevan Bindi- The Life Saving Dot (1 min long)
https://youtu.be/Sclg_AfGzcE

Photo: Subir Basak 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/subirbasak/

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-04-12 13:33:51 (64 comments, 69 reshares, 525 +1s)Open 

Art or Science?

Are these pastel fractals the creation of an avant garde artist from some postmodern cubism movement?  You may be surprised to learn that these are high resolution images of bacterial populations growing on a petri dish!

Bacterial Art: First, the familiar E. coli bacteria were genetically marked with differently colored fluorescent proteins before mixing together on an agar plate. Each rod-shaped bacterium grows by division to give a single file of cells that is sensitive to small mechanical forces from neighboring cells pushing and jostling against each other. The line of cells buckles in a way that is predicted by fractal mathematics.  As the bacteria grow to form a confluent film, jagged boundaries emerge between differently colored clonal lines. Zooming in, the patterns are self-similar, repeating at scales from millimeters to micrometers!Mut... more »

Art or Science?

Are these pastel fractals the creation of an avant garde artist from some postmodern cubism movement?  You may be surprised to learn that these are high resolution images of bacterial populations growing on a petri dish!

Bacterial Art: First, the familiar E. coli bacteria were genetically marked with differently colored fluorescent proteins before mixing together on an agar plate. Each rod-shaped bacterium grows by division to give a single file of cells that is sensitive to small mechanical forces from neighboring cells pushing and jostling against each other. The line of cells buckles in a way that is predicted by fractal mathematics.  As the bacteria grow to form a confluent film, jagged boundaries emerge between differently colored clonal lines. Zooming in, the patterns are self-similar, repeating at scales from millimeters to micrometers! Mutant bacteria that form spherical cells don't produce these fractal patterns. 

Form and Function: What do these beautiful images teach us? They help us understand how patterning happens on a nanoscale. In synthetic biology the goal is to engineer populations of cells to produce spatial patterns, synchronized signals and predictable behavior that can be simulated using simple, mathematically coded rules.  

Life Imitates Art? Oscar Wilde reversed the conventional when he claimed that life imitates art far more than art imitates life. What do you think he meant by this? It seems to me that this bacterial fractal "art" perfectly illustrates John Berger's definition of Cubism: "The metaphorical model of Cubism is the diagram: The diagram being a visible symbolic representation of invisible processes, forces, structures."

Reference (and more beautiful images): http://data.plantsci.cam.ac.uk/Haseloff/resources/LabPapers/Rudge2013.pdf

  #ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-04-05 14:50:56 (43 comments, 54 reshares, 390 +1s)Open 

Fixing a Hole: Better (Spider) Web Design

⎈ From tiny webs like the one "repairing" a hole in a leaf seen in the image, to giant orbs spanning 25 meters across rivers and lakes, the architecture of spider webs can teach us a thing or two about engineering. After all, spiders have been spinning silk for 400 milion years and now number at least 41,000 species spread out over every continent, including Antarctica. Each spider produces many different types of silk covering a range of mechanical properties: from the steely dragline silk in the radial strands to sticky capture silk that forms concentric circles in the web. Yet, only few spider silks have been studied, mostly at random, sometimes simply from the researcher's own backyard! 

Bioprospecting: By combining fields as diverse as natural history, ecology, taxonomy,beha... more »

Fixing a Hole: Better (Spider) Web Design

⎈ From tiny webs like the one "repairing" a hole in a leaf seen in the image, to giant orbs spanning 25 meters across rivers and lakes, the architecture of spider webs can teach us a thing or two about engineering. After all, spiders have been spinning silk for 400 milion years and now number at least 41,000 species spread out over every continent, including Antarctica. Each spider produces many different types of silk covering a range of mechanical properties: from the steely dragline silk in the radial strands to sticky capture silk that forms concentric circles in the web. Yet, only few spider silks have been studied, mostly at random, sometimes simply from the researcher's own backyard! 

Bioprospecting: By combining fields as diverse as natural history, ecology, taxonomy, behavior and biomaterial science, researchers found that the Darwin's Bark Spider (Caerostris darwini), a giant Malagasy riverine orb-weaving spider, produces the toughest silk discovered to date. Outperforming steel and Kevlar, the radial web threads of this spider have unusual elasticity, absorbing more kinetic energy upon prey impact so that they stretch, instead of fracturing. This allows the spiders to occupy a new ecological niche- the flyways above rivers where they can catch unsuspecting insects and even small birds and bats. Don't you agree that scientists should get out of their labs and explore new habitats as well?!

Biomimicry: In nature, tiny amounts of metals penetrate protein structures to change their properties. These "impurities" are found in jaws, claws and cuticles where they impart additional toughness to biological material. Inspired by nature, scientists purposefully introduced zinc, titanium or aluminum into spider dragline silks by using a multiple pulsed vapor-phase infiltration method. The resulting material was tougher and more stable to environmental damage. Now this is the stuff of Spider Man!    

Free Reads: New Opportunities for an Ancient Material (2010) Ometto and Kaplan. Science. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136811/

Bioprospecting Finds the Toughest Biological Material: Extraordinary Silk from a Giant Riverine Orb Spider (2010). Agnarsson et al. PLOS ONE http://goo.gl/CcSMTd

The Beatles-Fixing a Hole: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0I2ZrBuFdQ

Photo Credit: Bertrand Kulik 

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-03-29 13:16:48 (98 comments, 103 reshares, 343 +1s)Open 

How to Boil Water

❉ In breaking news, scientists have figured out how to boil water - at least 3 times more efficiently and producing twice as much steam. Before you shake your fist at "wasteful research spending", this isn't really about your whistling tea kettle! 

❉ Phase change heat transfer processes (boiling, condensation) are a big part of everyday technology from water purification and HVAC units, power plants and cooling electronics.   When water boils, a thin layer of steam can coat the heated surface, insulating it and drastically cutting down on the efficient transfer of heat to liquid. This can lead to surface burnout and a destructive condition known as critical heat flux. What is needed is a surface that discourages the vapor from sticking and wicks in water to quickly re-wet the heated surface. To create a superhydrophilicwicki... more »

How to Boil Water

❉ In breaking news, scientists have figured out how to boil water - at least 3 times more efficiently and producing twice as much steam. Before you shake your fist at "wasteful research spending", this isn't really about your whistling tea kettle! 

❉ Phase change heat transfer processes (boiling, condensation) are a big part of everyday technology from water purification and HVAC units, power plants and cooling electronics.   When water boils, a thin layer of steam can coat the heated surface, insulating it and drastically cutting down on the efficient transfer of heat to liquid. This can lead to surface burnout and a destructive condition known as critical heat flux. What is needed is a surface that discourages the vapor from sticking and wicks in water to quickly re-wet the heated surface. To create a superhydrophilic wicking surface, Drexel University scientist Matthew McCarthy turned to biotemplating with....viruses! 

❉ The tobacco mosaic virus causes mottling of tobacco leaves, as its name implies, but is harmless to humans. It was the first virus ever to be discovered (in the late 1880's) and is constructed simply of repeating units of a coat protein, wrapped around a single, helical strand of genetic material (RNA). A few tobacco plants can produce billions of virus particles, so it's cheap to make. Dr. McCarthy tweaked the coat protein so it sticks to any engineered surface- from silicon to steel. After dunking the surface in a viral broth, nickel and palladium are added to grow a metallic grass

❉ The viral tendrils work like a wicking surface, drawing down water to replace what's boiled away.  It's the same idea behind thermal fabrics designed for athletes which draws moisture away from the body. They say a watched pot never boils. I'd volunteer to test a virally coated tea kettle, how about you? 

Waterproofin' with Hydrophobin: This old post shows how a fungal spore protein can do the opposite, creating a superhydrophobic surface that repels water but allows gases to exchange. 
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RajiniRao/posts/bf9gVFkaTxQ

News Story and Short Video: http://drexel.edu/now/archive/2015/March/TMV-heat-transfer/

Ref: M.M. Rahman, E. Ölçeroğlu, and M. McCarthy, "The Role of Wickability on the Critical Heat Flux of Structured Superhydrophilic Surfaces", Langmuir 2014, 30 (37), pp 11225–11234.

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-03-27 22:06:47 (72 comments, 43 reshares, 363 +1s)Open 

Cleo Gets a Coat!

⎈ Cleopatra is a teenager who seems pretty happy with her bright, new red coat. What's unusual is that Cleo is a leopard tortoise! Also, her coat was 3D printed from a corn-based polylactate polymer by student designers at Colorado Technical University. No, this isn't a new challenge on Project Runway, although the coat does stylishly drape over Cleo's shell. It's actually a 600 hour labor of love that will hopefully let Cleo enjoy a long (80+ years), tortoise life. 

⎈ Tortoises in the wild have smooth and convex shells. Unfortunately, when bred in captivity, tortoise shells grow in raised bumps known as pyramiding. When Cleo horsed around with her tortoise friends, the deformed shell wore through in spots, making her susceptible to bacteria and other infections. Fortunately, her red coat is temporary and her shell isexpe... more »

Cleo Gets a Coat!

⎈ Cleopatra is a teenager who seems pretty happy with her bright, new red coat. What's unusual is that Cleo is a leopard tortoise! Also, her coat was 3D printed from a corn-based polylactate polymer by student designers at Colorado Technical University. No, this isn't a new challenge on Project Runway, although the coat does stylishly drape over Cleo's shell. It's actually a 600 hour labor of love that will hopefully let Cleo enjoy a long (80+ years), tortoise life. 

⎈ Tortoises in the wild have smooth and convex shells. Unfortunately, when bred in captivity, tortoise shells grow in raised bumps known as pyramiding. When Cleo horsed around with her tortoise friends, the deformed shell wore through in spots, making her susceptible to bacteria and other infections. Fortunately, her red coat is temporary and her shell is expected to heal in a few years. 

⎈ Scientists are not sure what causes pyramiding. Too much dietary protein (Cleo is a herbivore) is one culprit. Not enough bone calcium is another. One study showed that raising the humidity helped. Until we solve the problem or stop breeding tortoises in captivity, we have prosthetics -not just for humans, but for our four legged friends too. 

News Story: http://goo.gl/qtZw7V

Ref: Influence of environmental humidity and dietary protein on pyramidal growth of carapaces in African spurred tortoises (Geochelone sulcata) (2003). C. S. Wiesner andC. Iben. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. Volume 87, pages 66–74___

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2015-03-22 14:15:30 (33 comments, 75 reshares, 242 +1s)Open 

What Autism can Teach us about Brain Cancer

Glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM, is a deadly cancer with median survival of only 12-15 months. Recently, we found a gene that had been previously implicated in autism to also contribute to GBM. The gene NHE9 makes a protein that exchanges sodium ions for hydrogen ions (also called protons) across the boundaries of endosomes, hence it's moniker "sodium-hydrogen exchanger". But what are endosomes and why is the function of NHE9 important?

Highway Traffic: All cells contain many “cargo packages” surrounded by membranes, depicted in the expanded view as a blue compartment in the figure below. These so-called endosomes carry newly minted proteins to specific destinations throughout the cell and haul away old proteins for destruction. Key to their “shipping speed” is the level of acidity inside theendosom... more »

What Autism can Teach us about Brain Cancer

Glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM, is a deadly cancer with median survival of only 12-15 months. Recently, we found a gene that had been previously implicated in autism to also contribute to GBM. The gene NHE9 makes a protein that exchanges sodium ions for hydrogen ions (also called protons) across the boundaries of endosomes, hence it's moniker "sodium-hydrogen exchanger". But what are endosomes and why is the function of NHE9 important?

Highway Traffic: All cells contain many “cargo packages” surrounded by membranes, depicted in the expanded view as a blue compartment in the figure below. These so-called endosomes carry newly minted proteins to specific destinations throughout the cell and haul away old proteins for destruction. Key to their “shipping speed” is the level of acidity inside the endosomes. Acidity relates to the number of protons, which are controlled by balancing the activity of “pumps” that push protons into endosomes to increase their acidity with that of “leaks,” like the protein NHE9, that remove protons. 

There's a Hole in the Bucket: You can think of endosomes as leaky buckets of water. Altering either the faucet or the leak rate can dramatically change the water level in the bucket. In autism, NHE9 is mutated and non-functional. In the absence of proton leak, the endosomes become too acidic and prematurely clear away important proteins on nerve ends, leading to neurological dysfunction. Helper cells called astrocytes cannot clear away neurotransmitter signals fast enough, and this leads to hyperexcitability or seizures associated with autism.

Too Much of a Good Thing: in contrast to autism, NHE9 is overactive in brain cancer, causing endosomes to leak too many protons and become too alkaline. This slows down the “shipping rate” of cancer-promoting cargo and leaves them on the cell surface for too long where they inappropriately prolong signals of growth and migration, the two main characteristics of invasive cancer cells. Fortunately, when the leak is plugged by inhibiting NHE9 with drugs, tumor growth is blocked. Currently, the drugs are not good enough to use on patients, so an important step going forward will be to discover better drugs that target NHE9. These could be used in combination with other drugs for treatment of this deadly disease. 

Paper: A leak pathway for luminal protons in endosomes drives oncogenic signalling in glioblastoma. Kondapalli et al. (2015) Nature Communications http://goo.gl/dAa5NG

Johns Hopkins News Story: http://goo.gl/XAsGDb

A Part of the Puzzle: NHE9 and Autism https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RajiniRao/posts/fsNzo1yKsQG

  #ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-03-21 19:19:27 (103 comments, 19 reshares, 211 +1s)Open 

Ooh, Lab Bench Cake!

Who can guess what all the items are? Bonus points if you tell us what they are used for. #showoffyournerdyside  

Via http://www.cakecentral.com/gallery/i/1929656/lab-bench-cake

#ScienceEveryday  

Ooh, Lab Bench Cake!

Who can guess what all the items are? Bonus points if you tell us what they are used for. #showoffyournerdyside  

Via http://www.cakecentral.com/gallery/i/1929656/lab-bench-cake

#ScienceEveryday  ___

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2015-01-11 16:54:12 (97 comments, 117 reshares, 417 +1s)Open 

Souring on Sweeteners: Why Diet Sugars Don't Work

Sweet Serendipity: It was 1878, when a beaker of coal tar compounds boiled over in the chemistry laboratory of Ira Remsen at the newly founded Johns Hopkins University. Researcher Constantine Fahlberg cleaned up the mess, but later at dinner, his hands tasted surprisingly sweet as he put a piece of bread in his mouth. And this is how the first artificial sweetener was discovered! Named saccharin, it was 300 times sweeter than sugar. Soon, it was being prescribed to President Theodore Roosevelt, to counter his corpulence. More low-calorie sweeteners followed: sucralose, stevia and neotame, the last one being 10,000 times sweeter than table sugar. Today, 30% of adults and 15% of children in the U.S. consume low calorie sweeteners. A sweet deal, right?

Caloric Contradictions: Unfortunately, counterintuitive... more »

Souring on Sweeteners: Why Diet Sugars Don't Work

Sweet Serendipity: It was 1878, when a beaker of coal tar compounds boiled over in the chemistry laboratory of Ira Remsen at the newly founded Johns Hopkins University. Researcher Constantine Fahlberg cleaned up the mess, but later at dinner, his hands tasted surprisingly sweet as he put a piece of bread in his mouth. And this is how the first artificial sweetener was discovered! Named saccharin, it was 300 times sweeter than sugar. Soon, it was being prescribed to President Theodore Roosevelt, to counter his corpulence. More low-calorie sweeteners followed: sucralose, stevia and neotame, the last one being 10,000 times sweeter than table sugar. Today, 30% of adults and 15% of children in the U.S. consume low calorie sweeteners. A sweet deal, right?

Caloric Contradictions: Unfortunately, counterintuitive to expectations, studies show that people who consume large amounts of artificially sweetened drinks gain more weight and body fat compared to those who don’t. Could this be a case of reverse causation? Perhaps, increased body weight encourages people to turn to non-caloric sweeteners. However, this has been ruled out by (i) controlling for baseline body weight at the start of the study and by (ii) looking at weight changes in people who are not overweight to begin with. Another possibility is cognitive distortion: because non-caloric sweeteners are perceived to be healthy, we take that as permission to consume more high-calorie foods. Imaging studies of the human brain reveal a metabolic cause: unlike ordinary sugar, non-caloric sweeteners do not trigger the reward circuits that initiate satiety and fail to activate normal pathways of insulin release needed to deal with caloric loads. 

Diet to Diabetes: New research in both mice and humans showed that artificial sweeteners also change our gut microbiome, leading to glucose intolerance, the first step to diabetes. Surprisingly, if the feces from saccharin-fed mice was transplanted into mice whose guts were first cleared of bacteria by antibiotics, the sugar handling defect could be induced in the healthy mice. Oh, expletive!

The Archies sang, ♫ Oh honey, sugar, sugar..you are my candy girl and you've got me wanting you ♫
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MiQzAo6Cp8

REF: Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Susanne Swithers (2013) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3772345/

News Story & Link to Nature paper: http://www.nature.com/news/sugar-substitutes-linked-to-obesity-1.15938

  #ScienceSunday  ___

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2015-01-04 13:50:39 (103 comments, 113 reshares, 290 +1s)Open 

Cancer: What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

Grandfather smoked like a chimney, ate bacon everyday and lived to be 90. Yet, your best friend, a lifetime vegan who exercised regularly, succumbed to breast cancer in her thirties. We’ve all used these anecdotes to try to make sense of the deadly scourge that is cancer. So do this week’s headlines in the popular press, Biological bad luck blamed in two thirds of cancer cases give us license to bring on the bacon and booze? Not so fast, as the study just published in Science by Johns Hopkins researchers Cristian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein was much more nuanced than the headlines suggest.

♦ The premise of the study was the puzzling observation that some tissues give rise to cancers a million times more frequently than others: for example, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with cancer is 6.9% for lung, 1.08% for thyroid,0.6% fo... more »

Cancer: What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

Grandfather smoked like a chimney, ate bacon everyday and lived to be 90. Yet, your best friend, a lifetime vegan who exercised regularly, succumbed to breast cancer in her thirties. We’ve all used these anecdotes to try to make sense of the deadly scourge that is cancer. So do this week’s headlines in the popular press, Biological bad luck blamed in two thirds of cancer cases give us license to bring on the bacon and booze? Not so fast, as the study just published in Science by Johns Hopkins researchers Cristian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein was much more nuanced than the headlines suggest.

♦ The premise of the study was the puzzling observation that some tissues give rise to cancers a million times more frequently than others: for example, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with cancer is 6.9% for lung, 1.08% for thyroid, 0.6% for brain, 0.003% for pelvic bone and 0.00072% for laryngeal cartilage. Even within the digestive tract, cancers of the colon (4.8%) are much more common than stomach (0.86%) despite both tissues being exposed to the same carcinogens and dietary insults. To make sense of this, the researchers turned to cancer stem cell theory: that malignancy is caused by mutations in a small number of stem cells that retain a lifetime ability to divide. They then searched the literature to estimate the number of stem cells in each tissue. What they found was that tissues with higher populations of stem cells were more prone to cancer. This linear correlation (R=0.8; R^2=0.65) was pretty good, extended over 5 orders of magnitude (see graph), and makes sense since we already know that every time DNA replicates there is a finite chance of making errors and that the more mutations in DNA the greater the chance of some of them triggering cancer. In simple terms, a large part (estimated two-thirds; see R^2) of the variation in cancer risk between tissues is due to the difference in their stem cell population. This does not translate into “two-thirds of an individual’s risk of cancer is due to dumb luck”!   

Environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors pile on top of the basic risk of random mutations from stem cell divisions. To identify cancer types (red circles) in which the contribution of environmental and inherited factors was especially high relative to the random DNA replication-driven component, researchers used an unbiased clustering algorithm that used the product of the log values of the x- and y-axes in the graph below. What they found was consistent with what we already know about some cancers. Smoking greatly increases risk of lung cancer by ~18-fold for both sexes (23-times in men, 13-times in women), as seen by the higher risk incidence of lung cancer for smokers compared to non-smokers in the chart. People with familial mutation in the APC gene have a 100% rate of colorectal cancer unless the colon is removed. Infection with Hepatitis C increases risk of liver cancer by 10-fold. 

♦ This new analysis explains some puzzling facts: the same APC mutation has a much higher chance of giving rise to colon cancer instead of duodenal cancer because there are 150 times more stem cell divisions in the former compared to the latter. Another example is that basal epidermal cells and pigment cells of the skin (melanocytes) are exposed to the same carcinogen (UV radiation) at the identical dose. Yet, basal cell carcinomas are much more common than melanomas. The authors argue that this is explained by the underlying difference in rates of stem cell division. 

Why should we care about this analysis? Understanding the underlying risks contributing to each cancer type should determine the best public health strategy to tackle it. Early detection should be the main focus for prevention of cancer types largely driven by random errors in DNA replication, whereas vaccines against infectious agents or altered lifestyle will be key to reducing incidence in cancers with high environmental risk.  

REF: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6217/78.abstract

Inset image: http://www.sciencephoto.com/media/254142/view

#ScienceSunday   #cancer  ___

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2014-12-31 14:43:06 (120 comments, 77 reshares, 383 +1s)Open 

Champagne Science

If an estimated 360 million glasses of champagne will be toasted this New Year's Eve, how many bubbles would they release? To figure this fun fact, we've got to get back to basics. 

It's a Gas: In 1810, French chemist Joseph-Louis Gay Lussac determined that in fermentation, glucose is converted to equal parts of ethanol and carbon dioxide gas according to the equation: 

                   C6H12O6 --> 2C2H5OH + 2CO2

To make champagne, this basic wine is dosed again with glucose (typically 24 g/L) for a second round of fermentation, yielding 11.8 g/L of CO2. All that CO2 is dissolved, under pressure (as much as 90 psi), inside the champagne bottle. 

Don't Shoot Your Eye Out!: The American Assoc. of Ophthalmologists warn that a champagne cork can launch at 50 mph! Why is this?Henry'... more »

Champagne Science

If an estimated 360 million glasses of champagne will be toasted this New Year's Eve, how many bubbles would they release? To figure this fun fact, we've got to get back to basics. 

It's a Gas: In 1810, French chemist Joseph-Louis Gay Lussac determined that in fermentation, glucose is converted to equal parts of ethanol and carbon dioxide gas according to the equation: 

                   C6H12O6 --> 2C2H5OH + 2CO2

To make champagne, this basic wine is dosed again with glucose (typically 24 g/L) for a second round of fermentation, yielding 11.8 g/L of CO2. All that CO2 is dissolved, under pressure (as much as 90 psi), inside the champagne bottle. 

Don't Shoot Your Eye Out!: The American Assoc. of Ophthalmologists warn that a champagne cork can launch at 50 mph! Why is this? Henry's Law (1803), paraphrased, says that the amount of gas dissolved in a liquid is proportional to the pressure of that gas above the liquid. When a champagne bottle is uncorked, the CO2 in the space above the liquid escapes, forcing the dissolved gas to come to a new equilibrium. This results in release of about 5L CO2 per bottle. 

Fizzy Physics: Dr. Gérard Liger-Belair didn't care for the over-blown bubble estimates being bandied around the popular press. So, armed with plenty of free samples from Champagne Houses Pommery, and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, he buckled down for some serious science (it's a hard life for a noble cause, hic!). After considering such factors as the van't Hoff equation for temperature dependence,  the critical radius for bubble nucleation and ascending bubble dynamics, he published his findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry. The answer to our question? If 100 ml of champagne is poured straight down the center of a vertically oriented crystal flute, about one million bubbles will form, "if you resist drinking from your flute".  But, who's resisting? :)

With that, I raise my glass to yours along with approximately 360 trillion other bubbles world wide, to wish you a Happy New Year! 

REF: How many bubbles in your glass of bubbly? (2014) Gérard Liger-Belair http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jp500295e

Pop Sci: Back story on champagne research via +Chad Haney http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2012/05/raising-glass-champagne

      #ScienceEveryday   #HappyNewYear   ___

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2014-12-25 15:04:51 (60 comments, 29 reshares, 229 +1s)Open 

A Very Marine Xmas!

At the very bottom of the marine web of life, are tiny plankton that drift seemingly aimlessly with the ocean's currents. Phytoplankton are responsible for 50% of the earth's photosynthesis, and fix a 100 million tons of CO2 each day. Remarkably, every 2-6 days, the entire biomass of plankton is consumed by filter feeders, from barnacles to baleen whales. Did you know that the distinctive smell of "sea air" is from chemicals given off by decomposing phytoplankton? 

Micro Marvels: In homage to these remarkable creatures, scientist Dr. Richard Kirby made this composite Christmas card entirely from plankton: paddle worms, sea angels, protozoa and jellyfish (read more here: http://goo.gl/GAv5lG). 

Delightful Doggerel: My Christmas jingle is just for fun, inspired by Chemistry Carols from theW... more »

A Very Marine Xmas!

At the very bottom of the marine web of life, are tiny plankton that drift seemingly aimlessly with the ocean's currents. Phytoplankton are responsible for 50% of the earth's photosynthesis, and fix a 100 million tons of CO2 each day. Remarkably, every 2-6 days, the entire biomass of plankton is consumed by filter feeders, from barnacles to baleen whales. Did you know that the distinctive smell of "sea air" is from chemicals given off by decomposing phytoplankton? 

Micro Marvels: In homage to these remarkable creatures, scientist Dr. Richard Kirby made this composite Christmas card entirely from plankton: paddle worms, sea angels, protozoa and jellyfish (read more here: http://goo.gl/GAv5lG). 

Delightful Doggerel: My Christmas jingle is just for fun, inspired by Chemistry Carols from the Wesleyan University page (http://goo.gl/QKTjfX). More fun Lab Carols from the staff of +ASBMB can be found here: http://goo.gl/rkxW7s .

Over to You: Go ahead, be a sport. Share your science-y holiday verse here :)

#ScienceEveryday   #merrychristmas  

  ___

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2014-12-24 16:35:22 (53 comments, 60 reshares, 247 +1s)Open 

Heterophylly in Holly: Science and Season's Greetings!

⁕  From ancient tree-worshipping Druids to Romans celebrating Saturnalia, from the pagan rituals of Solstice to Hallmark cards of Christmas cheer, the prickly leaves of the Holly (Ilex aquifolium) are a familiar tradition of the season.

⁕  But not all holly leaves are picturesquely prickly. A botanist or gardener knows that the leaves can be smooth or variably serrated, even within a single bush. This is called heterophylly. Scientists took a trip to a forest in southeastern Spain where they noticed a correlation between the grazing pattern of herbivores and the location of prickly leaves- there were more prickly leaves at heights under 2.5 m, the average reach of an adult deer. They then compared the DNA in smooth and prickly leaves from the same plants. Genetically, they were identical, so what explainedthe d... more »

Heterophylly in Holly: Science and Season's Greetings!

⁕  From ancient tree-worshipping Druids to Romans celebrating Saturnalia, from the pagan rituals of Solstice to Hallmark cards of Christmas cheer, the prickly leaves of the Holly (Ilex aquifolium) are a familiar tradition of the season.

⁕  But not all holly leaves are picturesquely prickly. A botanist or gardener knows that the leaves can be smooth or variably serrated, even within a single bush. This is called heterophylly. Scientists took a trip to a forest in southeastern Spain where they noticed a correlation between the grazing pattern of herbivores and the location of prickly leaves- there were more prickly leaves at heights under 2.5 m, the average reach of an adult deer. They then compared the DNA in smooth and prickly leaves from the same plants. Genetically, they were identical, so what explained the difference in appearance? 

Epigenetics is the science that describes how DNA is chemically modified to turn on or off genes. Within the same branch, smooth leaves showed more DNA methylation compared to prickly leaves. These differences were not randomly distributed, but were confined to specific regions of the genome. This suggested that the Holly responded to hungry herbivores by changing which genes were turned on (a process known as transcription) to make more painfully prickly leaves. What's nice about this swift molecular tit-for-tat is that it does not depend on the slow process of natural selection to respond to immediate pressures in the environment. 

Here's wishing you Season's Greetings with this science-y sprig of Holiday Holly!

#ScienceEveryday  when it's not #ScienceSunday . 

⁕  REF: Epigenetic correlates of plant phenotypic plasticity: DNA methylation differs between prickly and nonprickly leaves in heterophyllous Ilex aquifolium (Aquifoliaceae) trees
Carlos M. Herrera and Pilar Bazaga 
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/boj.12007/abstract___

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2014-11-09 15:15:09 (84 comments, 44 reshares, 230 +1s)Open 

The Magical Maths of Magicicadas

Autumn leaves drift down, silently ushering the chilly advent of fall. Gone are the noisy days of summer, synonymous with the incessant, and insistent, chirp of the cicadas made by rapid vibration of abdominal tymbals and orchestrated by a frenzied mass of mating males. Did you know that the chirp of a cicada clocks in at 120 decibels, enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans?!

A Plague of Primes: Periodical cicadas, of the North American genus Magicada, have a bizarre life cycle, spending 13 or 17 years underground as immature nymphs, emerging briefly to live, love and die as adults.
 
Seventeen years of peaceful dreaming,
Followed by a week of screaming*.

Their coordinated emergence, triggered when the soil warms to precisely 64 degrees F, guarantees a plague of biblical proportions: the densest... more »

The Magical Maths of Magicicadas

Autumn leaves drift down, silently ushering the chilly advent of fall. Gone are the noisy days of summer, synonymous with the incessant, and insistent, chirp of the cicadas made by rapid vibration of abdominal tymbals and orchestrated by a frenzied mass of mating males. Did you know that the chirp of a cicada clocks in at 120 decibels, enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans?!

A Plague of Primes: Periodical cicadas, of the North American genus Magicada, have a bizarre life cycle, spending 13 or 17 years underground as immature nymphs, emerging briefly to live, love and die as adults.
 
Seventeen years of peaceful dreaming,
Followed by a week of screaming*.

Their coordinated emergence, triggered when the soil warms to precisely 64 degrees F, guarantees a plague of biblical proportions: the densest broods can number 1,000 cicadas per square meter! Is there a mathematical basis for 13 or 17 year life cycles? You may have noticed that both are prime numbers: divisible only by themselves and the number 1.

Mathemagics: In the computer simulation graphed below, notice that 13 and 17 year periods produce the most survivors. The cicadas only defense against predators is their sheer number, and their survival strategy is simple- predator satiation. The prime numbers work better because they decrease the chance that the life cycle of the cicada matches that of its predators. A 12 year life cycle, in contrast, is a particularly bad choice: predators that reproduce every 2, 4, or 6 years (all divisors of 12) would feast on the hapless cicadas. Hiding underground for long periods helps survival, but reproduction cycles that are too long may result in being out competed by other species. Shorter prime numbered cycles may be weeded out if co-emergence of different broods results in hybridization and altered life cycles in the offspring.

Allee Effect: Biologists refer to the penalty of small population size on individual fitness as Allee Effect, named after W.C. Allee who showed, in 1932, that goldfish survived better in larger populations. The Allee effect means that there is a critical population size, below which the population becomes extinct. If the Allee effect is applied to simulations of cicada populations, successful cycles are in the order 17> 13 >> 19 year cycles, all others become extinct. Without the Allee effect, all brood cycles survive (see Fig. 1 of Tanaka et al., cited below). 

So the next time you hear the chirp of the cicada, take a moment to appreciate the simple maths hidden within their lives! 

*“A Cicada’s Life” by Alan Rubin 

Graph and blog: http://arachnoid.com/is_math_a_science/

#OpenAccess Ref: Allee effect in the selection for prime-numbered cycles in periodical cicadas. Tanaka et al., 2009 PNAS.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2690011/

  #ScienceSunday  ___

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2014-10-23 22:50:40 (64 comments, 21 reshares, 275 +1s)Open 

Courgettes with Challah

Zucchinis stewed in a lemony, herb infused oil. Delicious hot or cold, especially mopped up with challah bread made by my daughter! I've tried this recipe twice, so I'm confident about sharing it with my fellow foodies. If you have too many courgettes/zucchinis lying around, this is a great way to use them up.

First, sprinkle cubed zukes (about 3-4 cups) generously with coarse salt and let drain an hour or overnight in a colander. I used some yellow squash as well. 

Bring to boil: 1.25 cups water, 0.5 cup olive oil, juice of one lemon, crushed garlic cloves, some dry thyme and a bay leaf. Coarsely crush some black pepper corns, whole coriander seeds and fennel. (The fennel seeds were harvested from my garden. I'm still puzzling over why I didn't get any fennel bulbs, though?). Add to the oil-water-lemony broth.

Add... more »

Courgettes with Challah

Zucchinis stewed in a lemony, herb infused oil. Delicious hot or cold, especially mopped up with challah bread made by my daughter! I've tried this recipe twice, so I'm confident about sharing it with my fellow foodies. If you have too many courgettes/zucchinis lying around, this is a great way to use them up.

First, sprinkle cubed zukes (about 3-4 cups) generously with coarse salt and let drain an hour or overnight in a colander. I used some yellow squash as well. 

Bring to boil: 1.25 cups water, 0.5 cup olive oil, juice of one lemon, crushed garlic cloves, some dry thyme and a bay leaf. Coarsely crush some black pepper corns, whole coriander seeds and fennel. (The fennel seeds were harvested from my garden. I'm still puzzling over why I didn't get any fennel bulbs, though?). Add to the oil-water-lemony broth.

Add the cubed zucchini and 2-3 chopped tomatoes. I added a small handful of black raisins for a touch of sweetness and contrasting color. Let boil briskly for 15-20 minutes. The liquid thickens into a lovely, fragrant broth with a glossy finish. Top it off with some olives..I used the green pimento-filled ones which were rather bland, so I think the black Kalamata olives would be a better match. 

You'll have to ask Anjana for the challah recipe :)

Bon Appetit! 

Credit: http://vegeyum.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/zucchini-in-oil/___

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2014-10-12 12:09:42 (46 comments, 39 reshares, 218 +1s)Open 

Hudhud Makes Landfall

Cyclone Hudhud is pounding the eastern seaboard of India today, with winds of up to 120 mph, heavy rains and flooding, especially in the city of Vizhakapatnam ("Vizag"), a major port and naval base. 400,000 people have been evacuated from coastal villages that are home to 14 million people. The Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot. Of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history, 27 have come through the Bay of Bengal — and have landed in either India or Bangladesh. Meanwhile, in Japan, Typhoon Vongfong is sweeping through Okinawa and is on its way to the island of Kyushu, with winds of 110 mph. 

What's in a Name?: Confused about the difference between a hurricane, cyclone and typhoon? They are the same weather phenomenon, differing only in location! We use the term hurricane in the Atlantic and N.E. Pacific,wh... more »

Hudhud Makes Landfall

Cyclone Hudhud is pounding the eastern seaboard of India today, with winds of up to 120 mph, heavy rains and flooding, especially in the city of Vizhakapatnam ("Vizag"), a major port and naval base. 400,000 people have been evacuated from coastal villages that are home to 14 million people. The Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot. Of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history, 27 have come through the Bay of Bengal — and have landed in either India or Bangladesh. Meanwhile, in Japan, Typhoon Vongfong is sweeping through Okinawa and is on its way to the island of Kyushu, with winds of 110 mph. 

What's in a Name?: Confused about the difference between a hurricane, cyclone and typhoon? They are the same weather phenomenon, differing only in location! We use the term hurricane in the Atlantic and N.E. Pacific, whereas in the N.W. Pacific the same disturbance is called a typhoon. Cyclones occur in S. Pacific and Indian Ocean (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/cyclone.html).

Hudhud is for the Birds: Curious about this cyclone's name? Named by the country Oman, hudhud is the colorful-crowned hoopoe bird (Upupa epops), found through Afro-Eurasia. While Americans have been naming hurricanes since 1953, cyclones have long been anonymous affairs. It was not until 2004 that eight countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives along with Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka and Thailand) came together with a list of 64 names for cyclones. Each country gets its turn, and the names are not in alphabetical order. Watch out Nilofar (Pakistan), Priya (Sri Lanka) and Komen (Thailand) in the coming months!

Staying Safe: India's disaster response is improving. Last year, a million people were evacuated out of the path of Phailin, the strongest cyclone in a decade, minimizing deaths to 25. Growing up in the coastal city of Calcutta, at the head of the Bay of Bengal, I recall being carried home from school through terrifying, swirling, waist-high waters. Here's wishing that the people of Andhra and Odisha stay safe! 

For news and photos of today's cyclone, check  on G+ or Twitter for #hudhudcyclone. 

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2014-09-27 23:51:13 (112 comments, 22 reshares, 370 +1s)Open 

What's for Dinner?

Homemade chappatis, puffed on an open flame. Make a pliant, soft dough with whole wheat (chappati) flour and water. Roll into circles and griddle-cook both sides before flipping directly on to the flame (I cheat, and use a metal grid. My mom uses her fingers, ouch). The chappatis should puff right up. Dab a small amount of clarified butter (ghee) on each, and store covered until ready to eat.

Coconut Curry with Potatoes and Peas: Grind together fresh coconut, roasted coriander seeds, roasted fenugreek seeds (just a few, or it will be too bitter), tamarind, dry red chilies. Bring to a boil with enough water to make a gravy; then, add precooked, diced potatoes and peas. Add salt and garam masala to taste and a small lump of jaggery to sweeten and balance the tartness of the tamarind. The final touch is tempering: in a tsp of oil,spl... more »

What's for Dinner?

Homemade chappatis, puffed on an open flame. Make a pliant, soft dough with whole wheat (chappati) flour and water. Roll into circles and griddle-cook both sides before flipping directly on to the flame (I cheat, and use a metal grid. My mom uses her fingers, ouch). The chappatis should puff right up. Dab a small amount of clarified butter (ghee) on each, and store covered until ready to eat.

Coconut Curry with Potatoes and Peas: Grind together fresh coconut, roasted coriander seeds, roasted fenugreek seeds (just a few, or it will be too bitter), tamarind, dry red chilies. Bring to a boil with enough water to make a gravy; then, add precooked, diced potatoes and peas. Add salt and garam masala to taste and a small lump of jaggery to sweeten and balance the tartness of the tamarind. The final touch is tempering: in a tsp of oil, splutter some mustard seeds and split white lentils (urad dal). When the oil turns aromatic and the mustard seeds turn gray, attempting to escape and redecorate your clean stove top, add the curry leaves and stand back..then pour it on the coconut curry for a satisfying sizzle. 

Homemade Yogurt: 2% fat milk, boiled and cooled, then inoculated with non-commercial (i.e., smuggled from India) culture. Use a yogurt thermometer if you want to be scientific. Or not. Incubate overnight in warm spot (I once saw a friend lovingly wrap it in a child's parka!). It is mild to taste, and moderately solid. 

Bon Appetit! What's your dinner? ___

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2014-09-19 20:44:45 (74 comments, 44 reshares, 267 +1s)Open 

Serendipity in Science: Golden Goose Awards

♦ Scientists are sometimes accused of doing 'wasteful' research-studying the obscure or possibly irrelevant. The late senator William Proxmire was famous for his monthly Golden Fleece award, where he called out seemingly silly research projects. One such study on the sex life of the screw worm, however, would go on to effectively cure cattle of a major parasite and save the industry over 20 billion dollars. The beauty of basic research is that one can never predict where and when the next breakthrough happens. The Golden Goose award counters this short sighted vision, and recognizes odd-sounding federally funded research which led to big dividends down the road. 

Federal tax dollars fund rat massage: In 1979, a team of researchers at Duke University were frustrated in their attempts to measure key growth markersin r... more »

Serendipity in Science: Golden Goose Awards

♦ Scientists are sometimes accused of doing 'wasteful' research-studying the obscure or possibly irrelevant. The late senator William Proxmire was famous for his monthly Golden Fleece award, where he called out seemingly silly research projects. One such study on the sex life of the screw worm, however, would go on to effectively cure cattle of a major parasite and save the industry over 20 billion dollars. The beauty of basic research is that one can never predict where and when the next breakthrough happens. The Golden Goose award counters this short sighted vision, and recognizes odd-sounding federally funded research which led to big dividends down the road. 

Federal tax dollars fund rat massage: In 1979, a team of researchers at Duke University were frustrated in their attempts to measure key growth markers in rat pups. When they separated the pups from their protective mothers, the markers mysteriously declined. Patiently, they ruled out nutrition, body temperature and pheromones until they noticed how vigorously the mothers groomed and licked the pups. Could tactile stimulation be important? "I couldn't get the lab technicians to actually lick the pups", Dr. Schanberg joked. But a stiff brush worked wonders and the pups thrived away from their mothers. A chance encounter with a psychologist led to testing the effect of infant massage on preterm babies. In controlled studies, massaged infants showed increased growth rates of up to ~50%, greater alertness and quicker hospital discharges, averaging differences of 6 days. A recent analysis estimates that these savings amount to about $10,000 per infant, resulting in a nationwide annual health care savings of $4.7 billion. Infant massage therapy is now used by nearly 40 percent of NICU’s in the US, and is on the rise. Do you have examples to share of seemingly wasteful research with unexpected benefits? 

News Story: http://www.goldengooseaward.org/portfolio-view/2014-rat-and-infant-massage/

Review on Preterm Infant Massage Therapy Research: http://goo.gl/yQgMs

From Lizard to Laboratory: my post on the 2013 Golden Goose Award http://goo.gl/Kx3bWI

#ScienceEveryday when it's not #ScienceSunday .___

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2014-09-07 19:29:22 (48 comments, 79 reshares, 199 +1s)Open 

The Art of Seurat: Science and Pointillism

After winding through the bucolic Dutch countryside, two bus loads of scientists were disgorged at the Kröller-Müller Art Museum in Otterlo, hoping for a dose of culture to leaven our week-long immersion in research (on ATP-driven pumps; http://p-atpases.org/). To our delight, the museum was hosting the work of Georges Seurat, the master of pointillism. Fittingly, Seurat once said, Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science. 

What's the Point?: In contrast to traditional methods that mix pigments, pointillism is a technique where dots of pure color are applied, allowing the eye and the mind to blend the colors to give a richer and brighter effect. Although the term was first used to ridicule the technique, pointillism (also called divisionalism) gained credibility by the end of the 19thce... more »

The Art of Seurat: Science and Pointillism

After winding through the bucolic Dutch countryside, two bus loads of scientists were disgorged at the Kröller-Müller Art Museum in Otterlo, hoping for a dose of culture to leaven our week-long immersion in research (on ATP-driven pumps; http://p-atpases.org/). To our delight, the museum was hosting the work of Georges Seurat, the master of pointillism. Fittingly, Seurat once said, Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science. 

What's the Point?: In contrast to traditional methods that mix pigments, pointillism is a technique where dots of pure color are applied, allowing the eye and the mind to blend the colors to give a richer and brighter effect. Although the term was first used to ridicule the technique, pointillism (also called divisionalism) gained credibility by the end of the 19th century, giving rise to neo-impressionism, cubism and modern art, and influencing other artists like van Gogh and Matisse.  Seurat's most famous work showcasing pointillism is A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – 1884 (http://goo.gl/WXcS48). Estimated to be made up of ~3.5 million dots, it took nearly 2 years to complete!

 A closer look reveals individual dots of blue, green, yellow and even red in the water, which give the impression of changing, shimmering color as the viewer moves towards the canvas. Our brains blend the dots into a color that is not actually there.  When pigments are mixed, they absorb light. By avoiding mixing, there is no subtractive effect and colors appear brighter. The white canvas between dots enhances this effect. 

The inner rings in the animated circles a and b appear to be different colors: pink or orange. But it's just an illusion - revealed when the surrounding circles are stripped away. Notice also that the color surrounding the inner circles in a and c, or b and d, is the same, but the frequency of concentric rings is different, altering our color perception.

Points to Pixels: Never could Seurat have guessed that the principles behind pointillism would be so widely used in modern technology- computer and television screens light up individual pixels colored in RGB (red, green, blue) and printers deposit CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and Key or black) dyes. We are all pointillists now!

Slide show pdf on Seurat: http://goo.gl/jSTsBA
  
Watch: Seurat. Master of pointillism, Kröller-Müller Museum. A must see!

For a related post, see, Was Matisse a Neuroscientist? http://goo.gl/0QHeeI . 

#ScienceSunday    ___

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2014-09-04 19:44:59 (87 comments, 31 reshares, 155 +1s)Open 

Nature vs. Nurture: Girls and STEM

Why is there a gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)? You may have heard the arguments that girls find science “boring,” that their brains are "wired differently", and that attempts to bridge the gender divide “deny human biology and nature”. Attributing the gender gap to biology misses the obvious contribution of societal and institutional biases. Co-authored by +Buddhini Samarasinghe, +Zuleyka Zevallos and me, our article in +nature.com blogs explains how stereotype threats, lack of role models, social conditioning, unconscious bias and institutional practices create an environment where girls feel unwelcome and insecure in STEM fields. We advocate active intervention and go on to discuss effective strategies and practical ways, both simple and sophisticated, to solve theproblem. <... more »

Nature vs. Nurture: Girls and STEM

Why is there a gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)? You may have heard the arguments that girls find science “boring,” that their brains are "wired differently", and that attempts to bridge the gender divide “deny human biology and nature”. Attributing the gender gap to biology misses the obvious contribution of societal and institutional biases. Co-authored by +Buddhini Samarasinghe, +Zuleyka Zevallos and me, our article in +nature.com blogs explains how stereotype threats, lack of role models, social conditioning, unconscious bias and institutional practices create an environment where girls feel unwelcome and insecure in STEM fields. We advocate active intervention and go on to discuss effective strategies and practical ways, both simple and sophisticated, to solve the problem. 

Why should we care if girls remain underrepresented in STEM? Apart from basic fairness, if we want our best and brightest working on innovative ideas and creative solutions, it makes little sense to potentially abandon half the population. We already face many hurdles; lack of funding, lack of jobs, and pushback from science denialists backed by populist politics. We need all hands on deck to forge ahead.

We must look to nurture, not nature, for change.

Read more: 
http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2014/09/04/nature-vs-nurture-girls-and-stem

#ScienceEveryday   #stemwomen  ___

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2014-08-24 12:44:21 (30 comments, 61 reshares, 306 +1s)Open 

Fungus Amongus: budding scientist helps solve medical mystery 

Hidden Spheres: A 7th grade science fair project has helped uncover the source of fungal infections that target patients with HIV/AIDS. One third of AIDS related deaths have been linked to infections by Cryptococcus. This fungus causes life-threatening infections in immune-compromised patients, and less commonly in healthy people, pets and animals, accounting for >1 million infections and >620,000 deaths worldwide. Named "hidden sphere" because of its tiny spores, Cryptococcus is a single-celled yeast that can propagate by budding, or it can mate in pairs to form spores that are released into the air. Fortunately, it only multiplies by budding in human hosts, and therefore cannot spread from person to person. So how do we acquire it, and what is its natural reservoir? 
◉... more »

Fungus Amongus: budding scientist helps solve medical mystery 

Hidden Spheres: A 7th grade science fair project has helped uncover the source of fungal infections that target patients with HIV/AIDS. One third of AIDS related deaths have been linked to infections by Cryptococcus. This fungus causes life-threatening infections in immune-compromised patients, and less commonly in healthy people, pets and animals, accounting for >1 million infections and >620,000 deaths worldwide. Named "hidden sphere" because of its tiny spores, Cryptococcus is a single-celled yeast that can propagate by budding, or it can mate in pairs to form spores that are released into the air. Fortunately, it only multiplies by budding in human hosts, and therefore cannot spread from person to person. So how do we acquire it, and what is its natural reservoir? 

Love is in the Air? : Cryptococcus gattii grows on the bark and leaves of the Australian Eucalyptus tree. Scientists speculate that the tropical fungus was inadvertently imported into the northwestern US along with the trees, and has spread to ten other tree species in the Vancouver/Oregon area including Coastal Douglas Fir and Coastal Western Hemlock. The fungus depends on chemical stimulants (myo-inositol and indole acetic acid) from plants for sexual reproduction, forming spores that are dispersed in the wind to be inhaled by unsuspecting people. Only mating allows fungal DNA to recombine, forming new, virulent strains that can survive in unfriendly environments such as the warm bodies of humans. After fatal outbreaks were reported in the Pacific Northwest area, patients with  AIDS and other immune illnesses have been advised to stay away from forests. Historically, C. gattii has been infecting people in California for years, although the fungus has not been found on eucalyptus trees and other usual suspects there. Tracking down the environmental hideout would help warn susceptible people of the danger in the hidden spheres. 

Nailing the Niche : Schoolgirl Elan Filler's father, a scientist, helped connect her with microbiologist Joseph Heitman of Duke University. For her science fair project, Elan collected fungal samples from local trees, cultured them on petri plates, and sent them to postdoc Deborah Springer who analyzed the DNA and compared it to samples found in patients in the area. They found a perfect genetic match with samples harvested from three species- Canary Island pine, New Zealand pohutukawa and American sweet gum, to patient samples collected in the past decade. With her science sleuthing recently reported in a publication in PLOS Pathogens, here's hoping that young Elan is inspired to find her niche in research and science!  

Science Trivia Challenge! What does V8 vegetable juice (Campbell Soups) have to do with Cryptococcus? 

#OpenAccess  paper with Elan Filler as co-author: http://www.plospathogens.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.ppat.1004285

NPR News Story: http://goo.gl/EQa9Pp

C. gatti infections: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptococcus_gattii

H/T +KQED SCIENCE for the news find! 
#ScienceSunday     #STEMWomen  ___

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2014-08-09 16:31:53 (45 comments, 72 reshares, 270 +1s)Open 

Algal Blooms and Microcystins: The Fouling of Lake Erie

A Colorful History : Often called blue-green algae, cyanobacteria are neither restricted to blue and green hues nor are they true algae. They bring a carmine tinge to the Red Sea and make the Spirulina-eating African flamingos blush pink. When these simple bacteria appeared some 3.5 billion years ago*, they produced oxygen by photosynthesis, changing the fate of the earth forever. Then in the Precambrian era, according to the theory of endosymbiosis, they were co-opted as chloroplasts into the cells of green plants. They also form nitrogen-fixing nodules in the roots of plants and partner with fungi to colonize barren new lands as lichen. Little wonder that scientists consider them the most successful group of microbes ever. But as Shakespeare mused: Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?
more »

Algal Blooms and Microcystins: The Fouling of Lake Erie

A Colorful History : Often called blue-green algae, cyanobacteria are neither restricted to blue and green hues nor are they true algae. They bring a carmine tinge to the Red Sea and make the Spirulina-eating African flamingos blush pink. When these simple bacteria appeared some 3.5 billion years ago*, they produced oxygen by photosynthesis, changing the fate of the earth forever. Then in the Precambrian era, according to the theory of endosymbiosis, they were co-opted as chloroplasts into the cells of green plants. They also form nitrogen-fixing nodules in the roots of plants and partner with fungi to colonize barren new lands as lichen. Little wonder that scientists consider them the most successful group of microbes ever. But as Shakespeare mused: Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?

Toxic Blooms: Ever opportunistic, cyanobacteria can rapidly increase in biomass to form thick green scum euphemistically known as blooms on the surface of shallow lakes. Over-fed with nutrient run-off from fertilized farmlands, sewage disposal or industrial waste, the blooms in turn feed bacteria, which then consume dissolved oxygen, killing off fish and creating dead zones. That’s not all: the blooms produce potent toxins that target the liver, brain and skin. The worst offenders are microcystins: cyclic compounds that fit snugly into the pocket of a class of enzymes known as protein phosphatases (image) and block their tumor-suppressing activity. In 1996, 76 dialysis patients at a clinic in Caruaru, Brazil, died from acute liver failure after water contaminated with microcystins was used in renal dialysis treatment. Their cyclic structure makes microcystins resistant to most water treatment processes, and boiling only concentrates the toxin. The building blocks that make up the toxin are unusual (non-protein amino acids) , and cannot be broken down by enzymes found in our cells. Recently, algal blooms in Lake Erie forced the shut-down of the entire water system in the city of Toledo, leaving half a million residents with no water. Given that this is becoming "the new normal" (http://goo.gl/dPyrtG) in many freshwater supplies around the world, what is the solution?

Bioremediation: There are no short term solutions to the blooming problem! We can cut back on fertilizer use, although faster acting, more efficiently utilized phosphate formulations actually encourage algal growth. Fortunately, we can exploit the chemical warfare in the battleground of the blooms themselves. It's thought that cyanoblooms produce these toxins to protect themselves from heat and oxidation stress. But competing bacteria like Sphingomonas secrete enzymes that can degrade microcystins. Research on natural bioremediation by culturing beneficial bacteria and studying their genetic and biochemical pathways could help nip future blooms in the bud.   

Ref (image inset): http://biolinks.co.jp/pdf/MOCT.pdf
Ref ( #openaccess ): Cyanobacterial Toxin Degrading Bacteria: Who Are They? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23841072

#ScienceEveryday  when it's not #ScienceSunday  

*Edit: Corrected from 3.5 mya , thanks +Martin Vogel ! It turns out that cyanobacteria are the oldest known fossils, from Archaean rocks of Western Australia. This is very cool, since the oldest rocks are only a little older: 3.8 billion years old!
 ___

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2014-07-20 17:50:12 (50 comments, 29 reshares, 307 +1s)Open 

Pottering Around Vermont

I spent the past week amidst the bucolic charms of Vermont debating the merits of mountains, molecules and membrane transport proteins (scientific program here: http://goo.gl/S6zHpC). The keynote talk was given by Ed Boyden (MIT; http://goo.gl/Lrgz9m) on the topic of optogenetics: light activated ion channels are cloned from corals, bacteria and fungi, delivered into neurons in a living animal, to precisely control and study behavior. We watched how activation of dopamine neurons by a blue light led pleasure seeking mice to return to the light spot again and again! 

Each summer, for the past 80 years, scientists having been making the pilgrimage to the Gordon Research Conferences that cover hundreds of topics in physics, chemistry and biology. Discussions are intense, "off the record" and feature unpublished work. Isolated from... more »

Pottering Around Vermont

I spent the past week amidst the bucolic charms of Vermont debating the merits of mountains, molecules and membrane transport proteins (scientific program here: http://goo.gl/S6zHpC). The keynote talk was given by Ed Boyden (MIT; http://goo.gl/Lrgz9m) on the topic of optogenetics: light activated ion channels are cloned from corals, bacteria and fungi, delivered into neurons in a living animal, to precisely control and study behavior. We watched how activation of dopamine neurons by a blue light led pleasure seeking mice to return to the light spot again and again! 

Each summer, for the past 80 years, scientists having been making the pilgrimage to the Gordon Research Conferences that cover hundreds of topics in physics, chemistry and biology. Discussions are intense, "off the record" and feature unpublished work. Isolated from the metropolitan hubbub, sites are typically in rural New England, Tuscany or the Swiss Alps (see my pix from Les Diablerets here: http://goo.gl/8qKpil). Afternoons are free, and we ventured into a charming old town where we explored a long-forgotten graveyard and discovered hand thrown pottery with colorful, crystalline glazes. They inspired me to make a pesto pasta with summer vegetables as soon as I returned home! I hope you enjoy these pictures in place of my usual #ScienceSunday  post.   

York Hill Pottery: http://yorkhillpottery.com/index.php?page=home
Flambeaux Art Pottery: http://www.campbellpottery.com/___

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2014-07-05 12:51:37 (70 comments, 91 reshares, 267 +1s)Open 

All Your Base Are Belong to Us*

Cutie with Long Q-T: A baby girl is born with an irregular heartbeat. Out of synchrony, her heart stops beating several times. By Day 2 doctors perform emergency surgery to implant a cardiac defibrillator. They cut off the sympathetic nerves to prevent further stimulation of this condition.  She is put on a slew of medications but it's too soon to know if they are the right ones for her condition. Her diagnosis? Long Q-T syndrome.

Choreographing a Ballet: Every heart beat is powered by a wave of electrical activity caused by carefully choreographed opening and closing of ion channels that move sodium, potassium and calcium ions into and out of cardiac cells on a millisecond time scale. This electrical activity is picked up in an ECG which parses out the events as a repeating waveform labeled P, Q, R, S, and T (image). Each... more »

All Your Base Are Belong to Us*

Cutie with Long Q-T: A baby girl is born with an irregular heartbeat. Out of synchrony, her heart stops beating several times. By Day 2 doctors perform emergency surgery to implant a cardiac defibrillator. They cut off the sympathetic nerves to prevent further stimulation of this condition.  She is put on a slew of medications but it's too soon to know if they are the right ones for her condition. Her diagnosis? Long Q-T syndrome.

Choreographing a Ballet: Every heart beat is powered by a wave of electrical activity caused by carefully choreographed opening and closing of ion channels that move sodium, potassium and calcium ions into and out of cardiac cells on a millisecond time scale. This electrical activity is picked up in an ECG which parses out the events as a repeating waveform labeled P, Q, R, S, and T (image). Each waveform triggers the cardiac muscles to contract rhythmically, pushing blood out of the chambers of the heart. In long Q-T syndrome, the lengthening of the Q-T interval reflects a delay in resetting the lower heart chambers ("repolarizing") so that the arrival of a new heart beat occurs before the conclusion of the last one. This can set off a confusion of waveforms which appear to twist around a point, resembling the ballet movement torsades des pointes (see http://goo.gl/ctSg2d) to trigger fainting, seizures or sudden cardiac death. 

Choosing a Channelopathy: Long Q-T syndrome occurs in 1 of every 2,000 persons. About 2/3 of the cases are due to mutations in two potassium channel genes which cause them to fail to open. Another 10% of mutations are found in sodium channels which make them fail to close. Either way, the Q-T interval is prolonged. But potassium and sodium channels have very different responses to drugs. Before treatment, it's important to know where the defect lies. With our baby girl, her condition was too serious to play around with different drugs. So the scientists at Stanford University took the unprecedented step of sending her DNA for whole genome sequencing. It took 13 years for the first human genome to be fully sequenced. This baby girl's DNA was sequenced before she was 10 days old. A mutation was found in the KCNH2 gene encoding a potassium channel known to be defective in long Q-T. She was taken off sodium channel blockers, put on more appropriate medication, and sent home. As one of the scientist's remarked, "This is the future of genetic testing and we hope, the future of medicine."

What's normal anyway?: It is somewhat stunning to note that sequencing revealed 3,711,590 single nucleotide variants and 754,196 insertions and deletions that would cause more than 900 protein variants in our baby girl! Some of these could potentially cause other disorders, possibly in the future. We may all have our genomes fully sequenced in the not too distant future and we must ponder what we would do with this information?

REF: Molecular Diagnosis of Long-QT syndrome at 10 Days of Life by Rapid Whole Genome Sequencing (2014) Priest et al.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24973560

News story: http://goo.gl/PZDPc6

*Know your meme: AYBABTU

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2014-06-29 13:46:16 (41 comments, 55 reshares, 247 +1s)Open 

Mining Social Networks ... Of Bacteria!

The Unseen War: In the intense, unseen competition for space and food, warring factions of bacteria produce antibiotics in a microscopic, internecine war. Actinomycetes, a filamentous type of bacteria found in soil, are arguably the deepest and richest natural source of drugs that we exploit as antibiotics, antifungals, chemotherapeutics and immunosuppressants. It was from an actinobacterium, Streptomyces that the first compound to be dubbed an antibiotic was isolated, in the lab of Ukrainian born microbiologist Selman Waksman. Streptomycin cured tuberculosis, winning Waksman a Nobel prize in 1952.  

Antibiotic Apocalypse: Since then, however, rampant antibiotic resistance has led the director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to issue a dire warning that we may be heading into apo... more »

Mining Social Networks ... Of Bacteria!

The Unseen War: In the intense, unseen competition for space and food, warring factions of bacteria produce antibiotics in a microscopic, internecine war. Actinomycetes, a filamentous type of bacteria found in soil, are arguably the deepest and richest natural source of drugs that we exploit as antibiotics, antifungals, chemotherapeutics and immunosuppressants. It was from an actinobacterium, Streptomyces that the first compound to be dubbed an antibiotic was isolated, in the lab of Ukrainian born microbiologist Selman Waksman. Streptomycin cured tuberculosis, winning Waksman a Nobel prize in 1952.  

Antibiotic Apocalypse: Since then, however, rampant antibiotic resistance has led the director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to issue a dire warning that we may be heading into a post-antibiotic era (for a scary read: http://goo.gl/LvFymj). A potential way to fight back is with phage therapy, a ploy that uses viruses to prey on their natural bacterial targets (see The Enemy of My Enemy: http://goo.gl/ks0qdv). 

Hold the Doom and Gloom:  Scientists may yet have other tricks up their lab coat sleeves. Recently, they have discovered that the vast majority of compounds manufactured by bacteria are coded by sleeping gene clusters that can be woken up only in response to specific environmental challenges or bacterial interactions. Grown under typical laboratory conditions, bacteria produce only a handful of their complex repertoire of chemicals. But when placed in intimate contact with competing species, co-cultures of Streptomyces coelicolor produce many new and specialized compounds. Specific communities of microbes yield distinctive "chemical signatures", revealing an untapped potential for the discovery of new antibiotics. This promising approach could be used not just with actinomycetes, but with all kinds of antibiotic-producing microbes. Forget Facebook, let's mine those social networks..of bacteria! 

REF: Imaging Mass Spectrometry Reveals Highly Specific Interactions between Actinomycetes To Activate Specialized Metabolic Gene Clusters (2013) David A. Hopwood http://mbio.asm.org/content/4/5/e00612-13.full

IMAGE: Streptomyces coelicolor via Microbe Wiki http://goo.gl/wfZnrI

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2014-06-07 19:20:17 (130 comments, 48 reshares, 342 +1s)Open 

Alien Cityscape?

Can you guess the identity of the tiny blue skyscrapers in today's Science Mystery Pix

Hint: We have ~20,000 of these. The shorter "skyscrapers" are arranged in front and longer ones in back of a certain body part. Proteins with funny names like Noggin, Bmp and Bambi cause these gradients to develop. 

If you google guess the answer, try not to give it away, but add some confusing helpful information in your comment!

Awesome Poetry Hint by +Rashmi Pahuja :
Like trees in a tunnel
Feeling the air funnel
Combed in waxy gel
Well dressed infantry
In Attention
Keeping all intruders out,
Record and decode
All the tremors, shakes and thunder.

#ScienceEveryday  when it's not #ScienceSunday  .

Alien Cityscape?

Can you guess the identity of the tiny blue skyscrapers in today's Science Mystery Pix

Hint: We have ~20,000 of these. The shorter "skyscrapers" are arranged in front and longer ones in back of a certain body part. Proteins with funny names like Noggin, Bmp and Bambi cause these gradients to develop. 

If you google guess the answer, try not to give it away, but add some confusing helpful information in your comment!

Awesome Poetry Hint by +Rashmi Pahuja :
Like trees in a tunnel
Feeling the air funnel
Combed in waxy gel
Well dressed infantry
In Attention
Keeping all intruders out,
Record and decode
All the tremors, shakes and thunder.

#ScienceEveryday  when it's not #ScienceSunday  .___

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2014-06-01 15:59:26 (120 comments, 272 reshares, 538 +1s)Open 

The Enemy of My Enemy

✇ Nearly 125 years ago, a British bacteriologist observed that the holy waters of the Ganges and Yamuna had curious bactericidal properties, limiting the spread of cholera. It took another 20 years before two microbiologists independently proposed the existence of viruses. Observing small clearings on a lawn of dysentery-causing bacillus on an agar plate, d'Herelle coined the term bacteriophage for the virus that devours bacteria; now affectionately abbreviated to "phage".  

A Voracious Appetite: Found everywhere bacteria exist- in the soil, deep inside the earth's crust, within the bodies of animals and plants, and densely packed in the oceans, there are an estimated 1×10^8 different types of phages, each infecting only a specific type of bacteria.  Almost comical in appearance, a phagehas it... more »

The Enemy of My Enemy

✇ Nearly 125 years ago, a British bacteriologist observed that the holy waters of the Ganges and Yamuna had curious bactericidal properties, limiting the spread of cholera. It took another 20 years before two microbiologists independently proposed the existence of viruses. Observing small clearings on a lawn of dysentery-causing bacillus on an agar plate, d'Herelle coined the term bacteriophage for the virus that devours bacteria; now affectionately abbreviated to "phage".  

A Voracious Appetite: Found everywhere bacteria exist- in the soil, deep inside the earth's crust, within the bodies of animals and plants, and densely packed in the oceans, there are an estimated 1×10^8 different types of phages, each infecting only a specific type of bacteria.  Almost comical in appearance, a phage has its genetic material tightly packed into the capsid head, that can be injected through the stalk-like tail into the bacterial cell. Once inside, it can stage a peaceful coup (lysogenic) or burst open the bacterium (lytic) when it multiplies. It is estimated that there are up to 10^32 phages in our biosphere, destroying half the bacterial population every 48 hours! 

Microbe Hunters: d'Herelle and his fellow scientists were quick to grasp the potential of phages as antibacterials. After consuming a preparation to confirm its safety, he administered the phage to a 12-year old boy with acute dysentery. The boy fully recovered. This set off a golden era in the commercial production and use of phages, centered largely in eastern Europe and Russia. In the 1940's, companies like L'Oreal and Eli Lilly marketed products with catchy names like Bacté-coli-phage and Staphylo-gel! There were set backs (d'Herelle's science partner in Tbilisi was executed by Stalin) and with the discovery of antibiotics in the 1940's, Western scientists lost interest in this line of medical research. Unfortunately, most published studies (written in Russian or Georgian) are not accessible to the western world and clinical trials did not follow current protocols of controls, making them difficult to assess retrospectively. 

Evolutionary Arms Race: With growing resistance to antibiotics, a resurgence in phage therapy may be warranted. One advantage to phage therapy is that when bacteria develop resistance to a phage, we should be able to rapidly select (in a few days or weeks) for mutant phage versions in a tit-for-tat evolutionary arms race! Phage therapy is already around us in some form:the USDA has approved a phage spray (ListShield) that can be used on cheese, chicken, and processed meat to prevent infection with Listeria. Is this the start of a new phage in the way we treat bacterial infections? :)

REF: (1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC90351/#B21
(2) http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/48/8/1096.full

Image: T-phage infecting E. coli , false-colored EM via http://goo.gl/fmDVCi

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2014-05-17 17:19:41 (63 comments, 25 reshares, 285 +1s)Open 

Cabbage Spiced Rice

A lazy weekend dish that will wait until the boys come back from their wanderings (they'd better hurry, I'm hungry!). 

Cook separately, 1.5 cups of basmati rice. Inhale the floral flagrance, ahhh!

Finely chop a head of cabbage and half an onion.

Add to hot oil: black mustard seeds, white split urad dal, yellow split channa dal, roasted peanuts, dash of asafoetida powder, curry leaves, a few grains of fenugreek. When the mustard seeds turn grey and pop, and the dals release a nutty aroma, add the chopped onions and cabbage in succession. I leave green chillies whole so the wimps boys can fish them out. Stir on high heat, season with salt, a pinch of turmeric and your favorite garam masala spice mix. I used one made my mom that I have stashed away in my refrigerator. 

Cover briefly until the cabbage just about cooks.A... more »

Cabbage Spiced Rice

A lazy weekend dish that will wait until the boys come back from their wanderings (they'd better hurry, I'm hungry!). 

Cook separately, 1.5 cups of basmati rice. Inhale the floral flagrance, ahhh!

Finely chop a head of cabbage and half an onion.

Add to hot oil: black mustard seeds, white split urad dal, yellow split channa dal, roasted peanuts, dash of asafoetida powder, curry leaves, a few grains of fenugreek. When the mustard seeds turn grey and pop, and the dals release a nutty aroma, add the chopped onions and cabbage in succession. I leave green chillies whole so the wimps boys can fish them out. Stir on high heat, season with salt, a pinch of turmeric and your favorite garam masala spice mix. I used one made my mom that I have stashed away in my refrigerator. 

Cover briefly until the cabbage just about cooks. Add fresh, grated coconut and a tablespoon of coconut oil for flavor. Toss in the cooked rice very gently, garnish with chopped cilantro and mint (mine are from the garden..the only herbs that are out and about this early in our spring). The mint is a variegated variety, isn't it pretty? :)

The boys are not home yet. So post pix on social media and hold off consuming until they return. Bon appetit foodies! ___

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2014-05-11 12:41:21 (31 comments, 47 reshares, 153 +1s)Open 

A Scientist's Mother's Day

To make one me you just add
Half of mom and half of dad
That is what I once believed
But I know now that I was wrong
I got so much more from you mom

♥ Stanford graduate student Adam Cole was taking a class in behavioral human biology when he was inspired to pen these whimsical, biologically explicit verses. To his surprise, the song became a hit! He explains that mitochondrial DNA is inherited exclusively from mom, also X has over a thousand genes, Y has less than 92 so that:

Just like two strands of DNA are spirally entwined
Your nature and your nurture are inspiringly combined
Scientists remind me and I find that it is true
Slightly more than half of everything I am is thanks to you

Making a cameo appearance in the video, the bushy-bearded man is Stanford biology professor RobertS... more »

A Scientist's Mother's Day

To make one me you just add
Half of mom and half of dad
That is what I once believed
But I know now that I was wrong
I got so much more from you mom

♥ Stanford graduate student Adam Cole was taking a class in behavioral human biology when he was inspired to pen these whimsical, biologically explicit verses. To his surprise, the song became a hit! He explains that mitochondrial DNA is inherited exclusively from mom, also X has over a thousand genes, Y has less than 92 so that:

Just like two strands of DNA are spirally entwined
Your nature and your nurture are inspiringly combined
Scientists remind me and I find that it is true
Slightly more than half of everything I am is thanks to you

Making a cameo appearance in the video, the bushy-bearded man is Stanford biology professor Robert Sapolsky, PhD. 

Cole is quick to reassure dad: "“He knows that my love for him is not proportional to the biological effect he had on my genetics and development.”

Roses are Red, Blood Cells Blue: For last year's Mother's Day post, see http://goo.gl/ptEPLD

#ScienceSunday   #happymothersday  ___

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2014-04-30 21:20:48 (92 comments, 44 reshares, 218 +1s)Open 

Men Trigger Stress in Mice

Of course I tweeted Hiring opportunities for #StemWomen when I saw the headlines. Jokes ensued. Could the gender of the researcher really have a noticeable effect on experimental outcomes with animals? This was a #journalclub worthy post, so here goes. 

Don’t Stress Me Bro: Experimenters from a Montreal-based lab noticed anecdotally, that pain response in mice was less in human presence. Blunting of pain happens not when one has warm and fuzzy feelings, it turns out, but under stress. So an experiment was set up to measure pain response using a highly sensitive measure known as “mouse grimace scale”. Mice were anesthetized and injected in the leg with some yeast cell wall extract (zymosan) known to cause inflammatory pain. Their expressions were recorded by video and scored by a “blinded” observer, either in an empty room, or in thepresence o... more »

Men Trigger Stress in Mice

Of course I tweeted Hiring opportunities for #StemWomen when I saw the headlines. Jokes ensued. Could the gender of the researcher really have a noticeable effect on experimental outcomes with animals? This was a #journalclub worthy post, so here goes. 

Don’t Stress Me Bro: Experimenters from a Montreal-based lab noticed anecdotally, that pain response in mice was less in human presence. Blunting of pain happens not when one has warm and fuzzy feelings, it turns out, but under stress. So an experiment was set up to measure pain response using a highly sensitive measure known as “mouse grimace scale”. Mice were anesthetized and injected in the leg with some yeast cell wall extract (zymosan) known to cause inflammatory pain. Their expressions were recorded by video and scored by a “blinded” observer, either in an empty room, or in the presence of a male or female lab person sitting quietly half a meter away. The grimace response was lower when a male was in the room. It didn’t matter if a female was present or not. Both male and female mice showed statistically significant response to guys, but the effect was larger in female mice! 

Bros and BO: Rodents have a keen sense of smell, so the researchers tested if a T-shirt worn overnight by a male and place 0.5 m away would have the same effect. Yep, male BO was stressful, but female smells were ignored (oddly, the female shirt also cancelled out the effect of the male shirt. Why?). Males produce androgens and these are conserved in other animals. Pure samples of these chemicals had the same effect. Male cats and dogs had the same effect. So the researchers were on to something real.

Stress induced analgesia is an evolutionary adaptation thought to protect us in times of fight or flight. In the figure shown, panel a shows a rise in rodent stress hormone (corticosterone) levels by the mere presence of males, or their T-shirts. The stress response was similar to other unpleasant experiences such as being confined in a closed space or forced to swim! Actually, the animals were sh** scared (to be more scientific, they deposited more fecal boli; panel b). They became hot and bothered, as seen by the rise in body temperature (panel c). 

What convinced me were the data in panel d. When triggered, pain-sensing neurons are known to produce a protein known as Fos. As you can see, Fos production after zymosan injection was significantly lowered by male presence. The rest of the paper showed that the effect could be blocked using drugs that reversed known opioid and non-opioid pain pathways. The study also examined other behavioral indicators of pain and stress and confirmed these findings.

Cause for Paws Pause: I can see that this gender-specific effect would add noise to data, but is it large enough to skew the overall conclusion? It is impressive that the effect could be mimicked by androgens, but they were used at very high, non-natural concentrations. Also, chemical effects ought to show a “dose response” and these were found to be weak. Still, I found the results in the attached figure to be convincing; how about you?  Also, it gave me an excuse to post the cute mouse image. 

REF: R.E. Sorge et al., “Olfactory exposure to males, including men, causes stress and related analgesia in rodents,” Nature Methods, doi:10.1038/nmeth.2935, 2014. http://goo.gl/9qpNh9

#ScienceEveryday   #AskMeQuestions  ___

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2014-04-26 14:23:12 (86 comments, 86 reshares, 328 +1s)Open 

Accidental Art: Wood Painting with Fungi

❖ Fungus-infested wood, or spalt was once dismissed as inferior, structurally unsound and consigned to the scrap heap. But since the 1950's,  the Lindquists, a father and son wood turning team from the New York Adirondacks, changed the way we look at spalted wood. Today, the intricate swirls of bold lines, unexpected splotches of color and random patterns are a sculptor's dream. Spalting has developed a niche market by adding economic value to a previously wasted resource.  

Science of Spalting: Oregon State University's Sara Robinson ("Dr. Spalting") has taken this accidental art and transformed it into science. By systematically testing different combinations of fungi, moisture, temperature and pH, Dr. Robinson creates beautiful wood specimen in the laboratory.

❖ The thick blacklines t... more »

Accidental Art: Wood Painting with Fungi

❖ Fungus-infested wood, or spalt was once dismissed as inferior, structurally unsound and consigned to the scrap heap. But since the 1950's,  the Lindquists, a father and son wood turning team from the New York Adirondacks, changed the way we look at spalted wood. Today, the intricate swirls of bold lines, unexpected splotches of color and random patterns are a sculptor's dream. Spalting has developed a niche market by adding economic value to a previously wasted resource.  

Science of Spalting: Oregon State University's Sara Robinson ("Dr. Spalting") has taken this accidental art and transformed it into science. By systematically testing different combinations of fungi, moisture, temperature and pH, Dr. Robinson creates beautiful wood specimen in the laboratory.

❖ The thick black lines that appear to artistically meander through the wood actually mark out fungal war zones! Formed by heavy deposits of black melanin pigment and hardened combinations of fungal filaments and wood, zone lines are used by antagonistic fungi of different species or even genetically distinct fungi of the same species to protect their own territory and resources. Bleached patches of wood that form a canvas for other colors are formed by white rot fungi that eat away at dark colored lignin leaving behind the lighter colored cellulose. Then there are the splotches of pigment: blues, greens and pinks, deposited by fungi that colonize wood in successive waves, each species leaving an environment that paves the way for another.

Ref: Developing fungal pigments for “painting” vascular plants. Sara C. Robinson Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2012) 93:1389–1394 

Article about Dr. Spalting at OSU ▶ http://goo.gl/hDeZmx

This   #ScienceEveryday post was inspired by +Brent Neal pointing to a blog post by +American Scientist  ▶ http://goo.gl/ot6wt5___

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2014-04-24 19:38:09 (46 comments, 53 reshares, 233 +1s)Open 

See It with Flowers: A BioSensor for Radiation

✿ The stamen hairs of the common spiderwort (Tradescantia) are made up of rows of cells in single file, like beads on a string. Fuzzy and blue, they emerge by the hundreds around the stamens that hold up the bright yellow, pollen-filled anthers in the flower center. In 1975, a scientist named Sparrow made a remarkable discovery: the stamen hairs were highly sensitive to nuclear radiation, mutating from blue to pink like the floral equivalent of the canary in the coal mine! The mutation frequency is linear down to very low doses and low exposure rates such that counting the number of pink cells as a percentage of blue ones gives an accurate reading of radiation exposure. Since the cells divide in sequence, the position of the pink cell tells when the radiation exposure occurred. The flowers have been used to monitor radiationl... more »

See It with Flowers: A BioSensor for Radiation

✿ The stamen hairs of the common spiderwort (Tradescantia) are made up of rows of cells in single file, like beads on a string. Fuzzy and blue, they emerge by the hundreds around the stamens that hold up the bright yellow, pollen-filled anthers in the flower center. In 1975, a scientist named Sparrow made a remarkable discovery: the stamen hairs were highly sensitive to nuclear radiation, mutating from blue to pink like the floral equivalent of the canary in the coal mine! The mutation frequency is linear down to very low doses and low exposure rates such that counting the number of pink cells as a percentage of blue ones gives an accurate reading of radiation exposure. Since the cells divide in sequence, the position of the pink cell tells when the radiation exposure occurred. The flowers have been used to monitor radiation leaks around nuclear plants in Japan or as a biosensor for chemical pollutants (http://goo.gl/GTMi9C).

✿ As if this biological oddity were not enough, the flower enjoys a romantic history dating to Captain John Smith, the legendary American settler who was plucked from the perils of death at the hands of the Powhotan tribe by the chief's daughter Pocohontas. When Smith left Virginia in 1609, he carried with him spiderwort seeds to his friend John Tradescant the Elder, a master gardener in England. The plant was named Tradescantia virginiana in the latter's honor (http://goo.gl/u9dwVM).

Image Credits: Tradescantia from the garden of +Chris Veerabadran whose question about the flower name inspired this post. Thanks, Chris! 

Staminal Hair from www.microscopy-uk.org.uk
Video: Cytoplasmic Streaming in Tradescantia Stamen Hair Cells

#ScienceEveryday  ___

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2014-04-11 21:45:27 (155 comments, 466 reshares, 671 +1s)Open 

On The Shoulders of Giants

♀ A sepia print of an Indian woman, a Japanese woman and a woman from Syria, dated 1885. What do they have in common? Extraordinarily, each was the first licensed female medical doctor in their country of origin. They were trained at the Women's Medical College in Pennsylvania, the first of its kind in the country. This was a time before women had the right to vote. If they did attend college at all, it was at the risk of contracting "neuralgia, uterine disease, hysteria, and other derangements of the nervous system” (according to Harvard gynecologist Edward H. Clarke). 

An all-woman medical school was first proposed in 1846, supported by the Quakers and the feminist movement. Dr. Ellwood Harvey, one of the early teaching faculty, daringly smuggled out a slave, Ann Maria Weems, dressed as a male buggy driver, from rightoutsid... more »

On The Shoulders of Giants

♀ A sepia print of an Indian woman, a Japanese woman and a woman from Syria, dated 1885. What do they have in common? Extraordinarily, each was the first licensed female medical doctor in their country of origin. They were trained at the Women's Medical College in Pennsylvania, the first of its kind in the country. This was a time before women had the right to vote. If they did attend college at all, it was at the risk of contracting "neuralgia, uterine disease, hysteria, and other derangements of the nervous system” (according to Harvard gynecologist Edward H. Clarke). 

An all-woman medical school was first proposed in 1846, supported by the Quakers and the feminist movement. Dr. Ellwood Harvey, one of the early teaching faculty, daringly smuggled out a slave, Ann Maria Weems, dressed as a male buggy driver, from right outside the White House. With his reward money, he bought his students a  papier maché dissection mannequin. Eventually, poverty forced him to quit teaching, but he still helped out with odd jobs. What a magnificent man!  

Fate and fortune were to buffet Ms. Joshi's life. Married at age 9 to a man 11 years older, her husband turned out to be surprisingly progressive. After she lost her first child at age 14, she vowed to render to her "poor suffering country women the true medical aid they so sadly stand in need of and which they would rather die than accept at the hands of a male physician". She was first offered a scholarship by a missionary on condition that she converted to Christianity. When she demurred, a wealthy socialite from New Jersey stepped in and financed her education. She is believed to be the first Hindu woman to set foot on American soil. I didn't arrive until 1983 ;)

Times were tough then. The fate of these three intrepid pioneers was a sad one. Joshi died of tuberculosis in India at the age of 21, without ever practicing. Fittingly, her husband sent her ashes back to America. Islambouli was not heard of again, likely because she was never allowed to practice in her home country. Although Okami rose to the position of head of gynecology at a Tokyo hospital, she resigned two years later when the Emperor of Japan refused to meet her because she was a woman. 

Times have changed. My own mother was married at the age of 13 to a man also 11 years her senior. My father recalls helping my mother with her geography homework in high school. She never did attend college, despite being a charismatic woman with quicksilver wit and efficiency. Little wonder then, when I was accepted into graduate school in the US, unmarried and 21 years young, my parents staunchly stood behind me against the dire predictions of friends and relatives ("She'll come back with a yellow haired American!" "Haven't you read Cosmopolitan magazine? They are all perverts there!"). Happily, I escaped perversion, earned my doctoral degree and even gained a supportive spouse of my own. In 2004, I became only the 103rd woman to be promoted to Professor in the 111-year history of the Johns Hopkins medical school, and the first in my department, the oldest Physiology department in the country. If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. 

#STEMwomen   #ScienceEveryday  

More reading: http://www.pri.org/stories/2013-07-15/historical-photos-circulating-depict-women-medical-pioneers___

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2014-03-22 21:41:23 (72 comments, 140 reshares, 382 +1s)Open 

Victorian Diatom Art

In the mid to late 19th century, people became increasingly fascinated with science. Rising literacy led to a demand for books, and an anonymous book titled Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation became the rage (http://goo.gl/fYMl0m). Darwin proposed his theory of natural selection. Microscopes became cheap and readily available. They were used not only for scientific discovery, but also as tools for popular entertainment. Microscope clubs popped up and amateurs made their own slides. Clever entrepreneurs took advantage of the public's interest to make microscopic art by arranging hundreds or even thousands of tiny diatoms, butterfly scales or even beard hair (!) to generate these astonishing works of beauty. One such artist, Henry Dalton, used a boar hair and his own breath to move particles into position under a microscope. A newspaper article... more »

Victorian Diatom Art

In the mid to late 19th century, people became increasingly fascinated with science. Rising literacy led to a demand for books, and an anonymous book titled Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation became the rage (http://goo.gl/fYMl0m). Darwin proposed his theory of natural selection. Microscopes became cheap and readily available. They were used not only for scientific discovery, but also as tools for popular entertainment. Microscope clubs popped up and amateurs made their own slides. Clever entrepreneurs took advantage of the public's interest to make microscopic art by arranging hundreds or even thousands of tiny diatoms, butterfly scales or even beard hair (!) to generate these astonishing works of beauty. One such artist, Henry Dalton, used a boar hair and his own breath to move particles into position under a microscope. A newspaper article described him thus: "Although Dalton was dissipated, he excelled most of his imitators in this peculiar line of art" (http://goo.gl/tYPIUq).

Source: Exhibition Mounts by Watson & Sons, London circa 1885. 
http://www.victorianmicroscopeslides.com/slideexb.htm

Reading: Antique microscopy slides reveal obsession with science http://goo.gl/c8a3d8

#ScienceEveryday when it's not  #ScienceSunday  ___

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2014-03-09 22:07:07 (87 comments, 12 reshares, 211 +1s)Open 

Of Onion Jam and Patriarchal Hegemony

◑ What, you may justifiably wonder, does onion jam have to do with the patriarchal hegemony? Nothing, of course. Unless, you count yourself a member of my mad menagerie. Still, if you're looking for some delicious comfort food that's out of the ordinary, and willing to pay a paltry remuneration by nodding sympathetically through my maternal musings, Read On!

◑ Like any self-respecting feminist, I yearned for my pragmatic teenage daughter to espouse the cause. More women in STEM! Independence! Equity! So when she won a merit scholarship at one of the Seven Sisters colleges, I exerted my not-inconsiderable persuasive powers to get her to go there. Four years later, she's back, with a degree in neuroscience but somewhat bruised around the edges. Well, the college website did say heady and nervy, and that's what we got. Afterloo... more »

Of Onion Jam and Patriarchal Hegemony

◑ What, you may justifiably wonder, does onion jam have to do with the patriarchal hegemony? Nothing, of course. Unless, you count yourself a member of my mad menagerie. Still, if you're looking for some delicious comfort food that's out of the ordinary, and willing to pay a paltry remuneration by nodding sympathetically through my maternal musings, Read On!

◑ Like any self-respecting feminist, I yearned for my pragmatic teenage daughter to espouse the cause. More women in STEM! Independence! Equity! So when she won a merit scholarship at one of the Seven Sisters colleges, I exerted my not-inconsiderable persuasive powers to get her to go there. Four years later, she's back, with a degree in neuroscience but somewhat bruised around the edges. Well, the college website did say heady and nervy, and that's what we got. After looking up the patriarchal hegemony on Wikipedia, and nodding every time she said, That's so hetero-normative, I sought a meeting of the minds in the old standby of comfort food.

◑ This being the child who asked for caramelized onions as pizza topping and used words like ramekin and macerate in her vocabulary, I turned to a +A French girl "cuisine" for a recipe for onion marmalade (http://goo.gl/jWyAXQ) . The first time we made it, we dutifully converted the metric measures to American. Too bad we didn't follow them. Since then, we've confirmed by innumerable replications (p <0.005) that it always tastes delicious. I served it with a side of penne, baked in a creamy sauce tossed with roasted vegetables and topped with a layer of potatoes. 

Recipe and More pix: https://madamescientist.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/of-sweet-onion-jam-and-patriarchal-hegemony/___

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2014-03-06 19:02:22 (68 comments, 92 reshares, 239 +1s)Open 

SOFTWARE UPDATE: Gene Editing Could Rescue AIDS Patients

HIV Gains Foothold: The human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, gains entry into immune T cells by initially binding to the cell surface receptor protein CD4 and then recruiting a co-receptor, usually CCR5. Infected T cells eventually die and the patient becomes susceptible to other infections, described as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. 

As Luck Would Have It: About ~700 years ago, a chance mutation in the CCR5 gene appeared that inactivated the receptor. This mutation, CCR5-Δ32, has a slight negative fitness effect because CCR5 is one of many chemokine receptors important in the inflammatory immune response. The mutation should have dwindled or disappeared. Instead, the mutation underwent intense positive selection, now prevalent in ~10% of the European population. Modeling studies suggestt... more »

SOFTWARE UPDATE: Gene Editing Could Rescue AIDS Patients

HIV Gains Foothold: The human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, gains entry into immune T cells by initially binding to the cell surface receptor protein CD4 and then recruiting a co-receptor, usually CCR5. Infected T cells eventually die and the patient becomes susceptible to other infections, described as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. 

As Luck Would Have It: About ~700 years ago, a chance mutation in the CCR5 gene appeared that inactivated the receptor. This mutation, CCR5-Δ32, has a slight negative fitness effect because CCR5 is one of many chemokine receptors important in the inflammatory immune response. The mutation should have dwindled or disappeared. Instead, the mutation underwent intense positive selection, now prevalent in ~10% of the European population. Modeling studies suggest that the mutation helped fight off small pox virus, conferring an unexpected survival benefit. Today, it provides resistance to HIV: one copy of the mutation delays AIDS onset ~ 2 years, while 2 copies confers resistance to the common HIV-1 R5 strain. 

The Berlin Patient: A famous case of "natural gene therapy" involved Timothy Ray Brown who was being treated for HIV infection in the mid-nineties. Brown then developed leukemia in 2006 and his condition deteriorated. He received a stem cell transplant from a German donor whose CCR5 genes carried the resistant mutation. Not only did the treatment cure Brown's leukemia, it also eliminated the HIV infection (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Berlin_Patient).  

Gene Editing: Recent efforts are designed to be more accessible for AIDS patients. The idea is to remove T cells from the patient, manipulate the CCR5 gene to insert mutation, then re-introduce the modified T cells back into the patient. A small-size feasibility and safety study was reported this week (http://goo.gl/TlRBrG) involving 12 patients: 6 received modified T cells and were taken off anti-retroviral therapy for 4 weeks. The results were promising! T cell counts increased in the treatment group, and the modified cells outlasted the unmodified cells by 7-fold. The paper is behind a paywall, so please ask if you have questions!  The news story is here: http://goo.gl/j5jkws

Image shows an immune T cell (yellow) in the lower right, budding off particles of HIV (green) seen in a colored transmission electron micrograph from  http://www.sciencephoto.com/media/549097/. To the upper left, is a molecule of CCR5 (yellow) embedded in the cell membrane (grey lipid) from Wikimedia (http://goo.gl/svUNsE).

#ScienceEveryday   #ScienceSunday  ___

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2014-02-23 15:02:03 (107 comments, 416 reshares, 575 +1s)Open 

Dance of the Peacock Spider

Doing the Y: Only 4 mm in size, the Australian male peacock spider (Maratus volans) puts on an impressive courtship display, rivaling the Village People in Peacock Spider Dances to YMCA . Described by researchers as multi-modal, the dance includes 3rd leg waves, synchronized unfurling of colorful belly flaps, abdominal bobbing and pedipalp flickers. As if these visual displays were not enough, the spider generates bursts of vibrations carried through the ground to signal his passion for his lady love. 

Darwin's Dilemma: Is there an selective advantage to such complexity? How did it evolve? As the rituals get more elaborate, there may be diminishing returns given the limitations of biological cost and sensory perception. Translation: is it a waste of time? :) But studies show that redundant signals allow ourspid... more »

Dance of the Peacock Spider

Doing the Y: Only 4 mm in size, the Australian male peacock spider (Maratus volans) puts on an impressive courtship display, rivaling the Village People in Peacock Spider Dances to YMCA . Described by researchers as multi-modal, the dance includes 3rd leg waves, synchronized unfurling of colorful belly flaps, abdominal bobbing and pedipalp flickers. As if these visual displays were not enough, the spider generates bursts of vibrations carried through the ground to signal his passion for his lady love. 

Darwin's Dilemma: Is there an selective advantage to such complexity? How did it evolve? As the rituals get more elaborate, there may be diminishing returns given the limitations of biological cost and sensory perception. Translation: is it a waste of time? :) But studies show that redundant signals allow our spidery suitor to adapt to varied environments. Too dark to see the colorful fans? The seismic display compensates for lack of light.It is thought that each signal carries a different message for the female to evaluate. It's also an exercise in self preservation: males risk falling prey to the cannibalistic tendency of the female spider. Web building male spiders generate shudder vibrations that measurably calm the female's aggression. Others present a silk-wrapped nuptial gift that distracts the female long enough to get the deed done. An unusual tactic called thanatosis is to is to feign death when the female shows signs of terminating the romantic act. Once the female has dragged off the motionless male, she begins to feed on his nuptial gift upon which the male quickly revives to resume mating!

So humans, do you see any parallels in strategy? Perhaps, you too met your mate on the web?

▶Nuptial gifts: http://goo.gl/VCsbzN
▶Spider Shudders: Male courtship vibrations delay predatory behaviour in female spiders. Wignall and Herberstein (2013) http://goo.gl/wT29bD
▶Dance Moves: Multi-Modal Courtship in the Peacock Spider, Maratus volans. Girard et al. (2011) http://goo.gl/SlIK1E
▶Gifs: via http://biomorphosis.tumblr.com/

#ScienceSunday  ___

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2014-02-14 13:13:23 (57 comments, 41 reshares, 193 +1s)Open 

An Academic Valentine: The Science Behind Flower Color

Morning Glory Buds are Red
And they Open to Bright Blue
But in NHX1 Mutants
They can't Change their Hue

✿ We all know that roses are red and violets are blue, but did you also know that vacuolar pH determines their hue? Flowers are colored by anthocyanin pigments that collect in the vacuoles of petal cells. Their color is determined by the acidity, or pH of the vacuole. Vacuolar pH is set by a balance of proton (H+) pumps and leaks. A family of leak proteins known as sodium hydrogen exchangers is found in all cells from yeasts, plants and animals. They work to keep vacuoles and other cell compartments from becoming too acidic.A dramatic example is that of the Japanese morning glory (Ipomoea nil) where mutants in the leak protein, NHX1, fail to achieve that brilliant blue when they flower.T... more »

An Academic Valentine: The Science Behind Flower Color

Morning Glory Buds are Red
And they Open to Bright Blue
But in NHX1 Mutants
They can't Change their Hue

✿ We all know that roses are red and violets are blue, but did you also know that vacuolar pH determines their hue? Flowers are colored by anthocyanin pigments that collect in the vacuoles of petal cells. Their color is determined by the acidity, or pH of the vacuole. Vacuolar pH is set by a balance of proton (H+) pumps and leaks. A family of leak proteins known as sodium hydrogen exchangers is found in all cells from yeasts, plants and animals. They work to keep vacuoles and other cell compartments from becoming too acidic.A dramatic example is that of the Japanese morning glory (Ipomoea nil) where mutants in the leak protein, NHX1, fail to achieve that brilliant blue when they flower. The first NHX1 gene was cloned by our lab from yeast in the mid-nineties. More recently, mutations in the human genes have been linked to autism, Alzheimer's disease, seizures and cognitive disabilities, in ways that we are only just beginning to understand.

#valentinesday    #AcademicValentine   #ScienceEveryday  

✿ Image: From the review by Jon Pittman http://www.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpls.2012.00011/full ___

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2014-02-04 23:00:11 (139 comments, 304 reshares, 466 +1s)Open 

///\oo/\\\ Tarantula!

▶ All arthropods (insects, spiders and crabs) have a hard exoskeleton, which they must shed at intervals, to catch up on their growth. Known as ecdysis (from the Greek ekduo to strip off), the process is carefully coordinated, risky in the wild, and fraught with difficulties.

▶ For several days or even weeks before the molt, a tarantula will appear moody and sluggish, refusing to eat. It spins a cradle, called molting web (seen to the left of the gif), and lays on its back. Its heart rate increases dramatically and hemolymph ("blood") is pumped into the upper body (cephalothorax) so it nearly doubles in size. The pressure cracks the carapace along the sides and front. Wave like muscle contractions in the abdomen push the old exoskeleton, lifting it off like the lid of a can. Now comes the tricky part: the spider must workits... more »

///\oo/\\\ Tarantula!

▶ All arthropods (insects, spiders and crabs) have a hard exoskeleton, which they must shed at intervals, to catch up on their growth. Known as ecdysis (from the Greek ekduo to strip off), the process is carefully coordinated, risky in the wild, and fraught with difficulties.

▶ For several days or even weeks before the molt, a tarantula will appear moody and sluggish, refusing to eat. It spins a cradle, called molting web (seen to the left of the gif), and lays on its back. Its heart rate increases dramatically and hemolymph ("blood") is pumped into the upper body (cephalothorax) so it nearly doubles in size. The pressure cracks the carapace along the sides and front. Wave like muscle contractions in the abdomen push the old exoskeleton, lifting it off like the lid of a can. Now comes the tricky part: the spider must work its legs out of the old shell, with forward facing hairs and bristles keeping it from slipping back inside. 

One well-placed kick, and the ordeal is over - here, have a cigar! 

♺▶ Fun Facts (aka everything you wanted to know about molting but were afraid to ask):

● Before the molt, the spider secretes a digesting fluid that loosens and eats away at the old cuticle (yum!).

● While spiderlings molt several times a year, mature females, who can live up to 40 years molt every other year. Unfortunately, many males do not survive their last adult molt, because their male sex organs get stuck in the exoskeleton (sorry, guys!). 

● The molt lasts from ~20 minutes, in babies, to several days in the adult (ladies, you sympathize, right?). 

● During a molt, spiders also shed their fangs, chelicerae (which they use for grasping), their throats and stomach lining, female genital organs (omg!), and the lining of their "book lungs". 

● A spider that has lost a leg can regenerate one during a molt.  

Credit: This has been a fun Google+   #collaboration  with the lovely +Carmelyne Thompson  for   #ScienceEveryday . Carmelyne gif-ed the ecdysis time-lapse for this post, after we discussed another cool spider molt gif on her post (http://goo.gl/fVo5fp). If you don't have Carmelyne in your circles for more science fun, you should! 

More reading: http://goo.gl/U6w0cV___

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2014-02-02 14:28:32 (67 comments, 22 reshares, 213 +1s)Open 

Hair, Tooth or Scale? 

Although at first glance, these three appendages appear to have little in relation to one another, there are intriguing hints of a common developmental origin. Can you guess the identity of today's Science Mystery Pix?

The Toothless Men of Sind: Our story begins in 1875, with Charles Darwin describing the curious case of a Hindu kindred whose males suffered a near absence of teeth and hair. This inherited condition, known as ectodermal dysplasia, was tracked down to defects in genes coding for a signaling protein (ectodysplasin-A or EDA) and its receptor (EDA receptor or EDAR). Similar hairless and toothless mutations were found in the mutant mouse strains Tabby and Downless, pointing to a common developmental origin for hair and teeth. 

Fighting Tooth and Scale : Which came first, teeth or scales? It isthoug... more »

Hair, Tooth or Scale? 

Although at first glance, these three appendages appear to have little in relation to one another, there are intriguing hints of a common developmental origin. Can you guess the identity of today's Science Mystery Pix?

The Toothless Men of Sind: Our story begins in 1875, with Charles Darwin describing the curious case of a Hindu kindred whose males suffered a near absence of teeth and hair. This inherited condition, known as ectodermal dysplasia, was tracked down to defects in genes coding for a signaling protein (ectodysplasin-A or EDA) and its receptor (EDA receptor or EDAR). Similar hairless and toothless mutations were found in the mutant mouse strains Tabby and Downless, pointing to a common developmental origin for hair and teeth. 

Fighting Tooth and Scale : Which came first, teeth or scales? It is thought that the earliest teeth arose in shark-like fish that lived in the Early Devonian period, about 400 million years ago. The pointy tooth-like scales found near the mouth of fossils would have helped grasp prey or fight predators. Eventually, these transformed into the teeth of modern day mammals. 

A Fishy Tale: Now for the final link! Mutants of the medaka fish (Oryzias latipes), originally isolated from wild populations, are viable and fertile but completely lack scales. Named rs-3 (for reduced scale-3), the mutation affected the same ectodysplasin-A receptor (EDAR), which is required for the initiation of hair development in mammals. So what do you think..is the image a 20x magnification of hair, tooth or scale?

REF: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11516953 
http://news.discovery.com/animals/dinosaurs/teeth-prehistoric-111117.htm

Image from Dr. Havi Sarfaty of the Israel Veterinary Association and winner of Nikon Small World competition. 

  #ScienceSunday  #ISeeTheWorldWithScience  ___

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2014-01-30 23:04:24 (44 comments, 41 reshares, 226 +1s)Open 

Homo aquaticus: The Science of an Underwater Gill

In 1962, underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau predicted the arrival of Homo aquaticus: people surgically equipped with gills who could live and breathe in any depth for any amount of time without harm. Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about Triton, a conceptual gill (http://goo.gl/pWkd5k) that supposedly could allow humans to breathe underwater. There are many reasons why this device is still in the realm of science fiction. But first, it's helpful to understand how some animals breathe air underwater. 

Breathe, Breathe in the Air: Like us, insects breathe oxygen from air, using a system of canals connected to the outside by breathing holes or spiracles. So how do aquatic insects survive submerged underwater, often for their entire lives? Mosquito larvae develop tiny snorkeling tubes, called... more »

Homo aquaticus: The Science of an Underwater Gill

In 1962, underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau predicted the arrival of Homo aquaticus: people surgically equipped with gills who could live and breathe in any depth for any amount of time without harm. Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about Triton, a conceptual gill (http://goo.gl/pWkd5k) that supposedly could allow humans to breathe underwater. There are many reasons why this device is still in the realm of science fiction. But first, it's helpful to understand how some animals breathe air underwater. 

Breathe, Breathe in the Air: Like us, insects breathe oxygen from air, using a system of canals connected to the outside by breathing holes or spiracles. So how do aquatic insects survive submerged underwater, often for their entire lives? Mosquito larvae develop tiny snorkeling tubes, called siphons, that poke out of the water for regular refills. Others, like mayflies and damselflies, develop biological gills that extend into the water to extract oxygen by diffusion. The champion for ingenuity, however, is the diving beetle which carries a bubble of water tucked under its body, seen as a silvery sheath in the photograph. The air bubble is a short term supply of oxygen, that is replenished from the surrounding water based on a few simple physical principles that are fun to consider!

Love is like Oxygen: Water contains dissolved oxygen, reaching up to 5% in volume in icy-cold streams, but much less than the 20% found in the atmosphere. As oxygen is consumed by the insect, it creates a partial pressure difference inside the air bubble.  This is "corrected" by dissolved oxygen that diffuses in from the water.  There is a lot of unused nitrogen in the air bubble, 80% by volume, which is free to diffuse out , also creating a similar partial pressure deficit.  Because there is very little dissolved nitrogen present in water (it has lower water solubility than oxygen), some of the nitrogen's partial pressure deficit is "corrected" by oxygen diffusing in, enriching the insect's air supply.  So as long as the rate of oxygen diffusing in keeps up with the rate at which it is consumed by the insect, all is well. Unfortunately, the surrounding pressure of the water can shrink the size of the bubble over time, reducing the surface to volume ratio and hampering gas exchange. That's why some insects make the occasional trip to the water surface, to refill their air bubbles. For those insects that don't have this option, a plastron is the answer. 

What the Fakir?: A plastron is a special array of rigid, closely-spaced hydrophobic hairs (setae) that create a fixed "airspace" next to the body.  Air trapped within a plastron operates as a physical gill (just like air in a bubble) but this airspace cannot shrink in volume because a double layered fortress of setae prevents encroachment of surrounding water.  Think of the analogy of a fakir lying on a bed of nails: while one nail can puncture through his skin, lying on many nails effectively distributes his body weight so that the skin, like the surface of water (inset images below), is not broken. Also, the setae do a good job of repelling water using the lotus effect covered in an old post (http://goo.gl/yW7QpC). 

Triton or not Triton?: Back to the beginning, will a physical gill work for humans? Humans need a lot more oxygen than beetles, so enormous surface areas will be needed to extract oxygen from water. Too much or too little oxygen in the air we breathe can be toxic. Still, a terrier named Muggins survived a 3 hour dip in the Mississippi river using articificial gills. Check out the story (http://goo.gl/xdJeQd) and tell me if you think  Homo aquaticus  will soon be in a pool near you!  

Images: Diving beetle by Ernie Cooper (http://goo.gl/EWMwjx); Inset http://goo.gl/ci28mS

#ScienceEveryday  ___

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2014-01-21 18:51:26 (62 comments, 30 reshares, 142 +1s)Open 

Genetics of Obesity

Weight Watchers: How much you weigh depends on many metabolic pathways, brain signals that regulate appetite, and environmental factors such as your lifestyle and diet. At least some of this is coded by genes, but narrowing down which ones is like finding the proverbial needles in a haystack. There are millions of gene variants, known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs (pronounced snips), between any two people, than can be read from a sample of DNA (from a cheek swab). A Genome Wide Association Study or GWAS (pronounced Gee-Wahs) compares gene variants between two groups of people, say skinny and overweight, to see if any particular variant is associated with a trait, like obesity.  If any particular SNP is significantly more frequent in obese people, compared to the skinny group, then that SNP could mark a gene associated with bodywei... more »

Genetics of Obesity

Weight Watchers: How much you weigh depends on many metabolic pathways, brain signals that regulate appetite, and environmental factors such as your lifestyle and diet. At least some of this is coded by genes, but narrowing down which ones is like finding the proverbial needles in a haystack. There are millions of gene variants, known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs (pronounced snips), between any two people, than can be read from a sample of DNA (from a cheek swab). A Genome Wide Association Study or GWAS (pronounced Gee-Wahs) compares gene variants between two groups of people, say skinny and overweight, to see if any particular variant is associated with a trait, like obesity.  If any particular SNP is significantly more frequent in obese people, compared to the skinny group, then that SNP could mark a gene associated with body weight.

The Manhattan Plot: Named for a city skyline rather than a Hollywood thriller, this scatter plot helps pinpoint the genetic variants associated with obesity. Each color represents a different chromosome, with the largest chromosome on the left, going down in size and ending with the X chromosome on the far right. Each colored dot is a SNP, and the higher it is on the vertical (y axis) the bigger the difference of that variant between the two groups. In this study, the most significant SNPs were on chromosome 16 (light gray dots), in a gene called FTO. In another study, researchers measured levels of the hunger hormone grehlin after a meal: in people with a high risk variant of the FTO gene, grehlin levels in the blood stayed high, instead of dropping to signal that they were full. FTO codes for an enzyme that alters chemical modification (methylation) on the RNA messages coding for many proteins. For more on FTO see the Wiki page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FTO_gene). 

The Thrifty Gene Hypothesis: In 1962, geneticist James Neel proposed that gene variants contributing to obesity may have been of selective advantage during ancient times of food scarcity. For example, mice with mutations in the Mrap2 gene gain more weight for the same number of calories consumed. Not to be outdone, biologist John Speakman countered with the Drifty Gene Hypothesis which suggests that the loss of threat from predators, about 2 million years ago, removed a key factor selecting against obesity! The biological battle of the bulge continues....

REF: A Genome-Wide Association Study on Obesity and Obesity-Related Traits.  Kai Wang et al., PLoS ONE http://goo.gl/2QGOFR

Image: From +BPoD http://bpod.mrc.ac.uk/archive/2014/1/14

#ScienceEveryday  ___

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2014-01-11 17:01:46 (74 comments, 48 reshares, 260 +1s)Open 

Science Mystery Pix

Art or Nature?: This beautiful image reminds me of the art of Van Gogh: Willows at Sunset (http://goo.gl/E0rYPo), perhaps? But it's actually a photomicrograph of an insect part. Can you guess what it may be? Hint: it's useful during aquatic sex :) 

Rheinberg Illumination: This image was colorized using a form of microscopy invented in 1896 by Julius Rheinberg. Quite simply, a two colored filter, usually cut from sheets of acetate, is placed in front of the light source. One color makes up the background while the other is diffracted by the object under study. It's a cheap and creative way to bring art into science! A nice explanation can be found here: http://www.cellsalive.com/enhance1.htm

Photo credit: Spike Walker / Wellcome Images

#ScienceEveryday    #ISeeTheWorldWithScience  

Science Mystery Pix

Art or Nature?: This beautiful image reminds me of the art of Van Gogh: Willows at Sunset (http://goo.gl/E0rYPo), perhaps? But it's actually a photomicrograph of an insect part. Can you guess what it may be? Hint: it's useful during aquatic sex :) 

Rheinberg Illumination: This image was colorized using a form of microscopy invented in 1896 by Julius Rheinberg. Quite simply, a two colored filter, usually cut from sheets of acetate, is placed in front of the light source. One color makes up the background while the other is diffracted by the object under study. It's a cheap and creative way to bring art into science! A nice explanation can be found here: http://www.cellsalive.com/enhance1.htm

Photo credit: Spike Walker / Wellcome Images

#ScienceEveryday    #ISeeTheWorldWithScience  ___

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2013-12-29 23:38:50 (96 comments, 351 reshares, 684 +1s)Open 

The Biology of Transparency

The Invisible Man: Have you ever wished to be invisible? Transparency is quite common in biology, being particularly useful as camouflage in the open ocean where there is nothing to hide behind. There is an astonishing variety of transparent jellyfish, glass squid, worms and this creepy-crawly crustacean from the "twilight zone" of the deep sea seen in the image. 

How does it work? To be transparent, light must pass through without being absorbed or scattered. Most organic molecules do not absorb light in the visible range, except for the visual pigments of the eyes, which must absorb light to function. Light scattering is caused by changes in refractive index which determines how light is bent as it passes through (see http://goo.gl/7l6zFC). To be perfectly transparent, the refractive index should be thesame... more »

The Biology of Transparency

The Invisible Man: Have you ever wished to be invisible? Transparency is quite common in biology, being particularly useful as camouflage in the open ocean where there is nothing to hide behind. There is an astonishing variety of transparent jellyfish, glass squid, worms and this creepy-crawly crustacean from the "twilight zone" of the deep sea seen in the image. 

How does it work? To be transparent, light must pass through without being absorbed or scattered. Most organic molecules do not absorb light in the visible range, except for the visual pigments of the eyes, which must absorb light to function. Light scattering is caused by changes in refractive index which determines how light is bent as it passes through (see http://goo.gl/7l6zFC). To be perfectly transparent, the refractive index should be the same throughout. This is clearly a challenge in biological tissues, where lipid membranes and protein/DNA rich organelles (like mitochondria or nuclei) are much denser than the surrounding cytoplasm. So transparent animals resort to a number of tricks to avoid light scattering.

See Right Through Me: One way is to become extremely flat! Since there is an exponential relationship between thickness and light absorption/scattering, a 1 cm thick tissue that is 60% transparent will achieve 95% transparency if it is only 1 mm thick. Some tissues, like the lens of our eyes, undergo drastic reduction of complexity, relying on neighboring cells to feed them. At the ultrastructural level, surfaces can be cloaked in submicroscopic bumps, smaller than half the wavelength of light that average out the differences in refractive indexes. Known as moth eye surfaces, these are responsible for the transparency of the beautiful glasswing butterfly Greta oto (see http://goo.gl/KS85mo).

I See You!: It's hard to keep the gut transparent, unless one only eats transparent food, like the larvae of the phantom midge that sucks out clear fluids from its prey. Also, transparency can be foiled by predators that have evolved to use UV light or even polarized light to spot their prey, since underwater light is polarized particularly in the horizontal plane. A study with squid showed that they attacked plastic beads with birefringence, preferentially over beads without this optical property. Something to think about before you invest in an invisibility cloak!

GIF: This 9 cm long amphipod is nearly completely transparent. Via http://goo.gl/bL14Oy from the video below.

Video: For a short 2:41 minute video of more stunning transparent creatures, watch Deep Sea Creatures - Nature's Microworlds - Episode 11 Preview - BBC Four

REF: http://biology.duke.edu/johnsenlab/pdfs/pubs/transparencyreview.pdf

Musical Inspiration: Queen - 'The Invisible Man'

#ScienceSunday   #ScienceEveryday  ___

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2013-12-24 14:43:26 (72 comments, 70 reshares, 282 +1s)Open 

Science Santa and a Cellular Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the lab
Not a creature was stirring, not even a postgrad.
The pipetmen and tip boxes were arranged with care,
In hopes that science elves soon would be there.

The postdocs were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of job offers danced in their heads.
And the PI, at home, took off her many caps
And rested her brains for a well-deserved nap. 

When from the cell culture room there arose such a clatter
The grad student rushed to see what was the matter? 
Away to the culture hood he flew in a flash
Turned off the UV light and raised up the sash.

The neurospheres bobbed merrily in their own private party
Transiently transfected, they proliferated smartly.
The epithelial cells broke free from their tightj... more »

Science Santa and a Cellular Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the lab
Not a creature was stirring, not even a postgrad.
The pipetmen and tip boxes were arranged with care,
In hopes that science elves soon would be there.

The postdocs were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of job offers danced in their heads.
And the PI, at home, took off her many caps
And rested her brains for a well-deserved nap. 

When from the cell culture room there arose such a clatter
The grad student rushed to see what was the matter? 
Away to the culture hood he flew in a flash
Turned off the UV light and raised up the sash.

The neurospheres bobbed merrily in their own private party
Transiently transfected, they proliferated smartly.
The epithelial cells broke free from their tight junctions 
Downregulating e-cadherin and migrating to the function.

The mycoplasma were raising microscopic mayhem
And the opportunistic fungus could barely be stemmed.
But hush! There came silence and the ruckus stalled
For here is Science Santa with presents for all!

Data for the PhD candidate in her fifth year
The replicates have p values <0.005, never fear!
Acceptance without revision from the journal Nature?
The young post-baccalaureate just advanced in stature.  

A tenure-track position, which was his sole goal
Now the senior postdoc won’t be on the dole.
For the PI, her broken budget can finally be mended 
That R01 in the 5th percentile will surely be funded?!

With a wink of an eye and a twitch of his nose
His bounty unloaded, up and away he rose.
Then Science Santa called, as he flew into the New Year
Happy Experimenting to all, and to all Good Cheer!

CELLULAR CHRISTMAS
Donna Stolz (Univ. Pittsburgh) created this festive wreath by assembling images of mammalian cells from more than 25 experiments. 

Apologies to Clement Clarke Moore who wrote the original (and better) poem in 1822: http://www.carols.org.uk/twas_the_night_before_christmas.htm

Suggestions, additions or edits to the bad rhyme? :)
#MerryChristmas   #ScienceEveryday  ___

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