Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Survey: Science Careers

I need 50 responses and have 10 days to gather those responses so if you have studied science at GCSE/A-level/degree or know someone who has could you please fill this out! I promise it won't take 2 mins!

Apologies in advance for not including options for foundation yr science courses. Just opt for yes on A-levels if that's the case.

We have two brains?

We’ve all tried at some point to lose weight and one of the many ways in which we do this is by cutting down our portion size. Science tells us that a routine of eating large portions stretches our stomach, causing us to require larger portions more regularly in order to satisfy our hunger. In addition, we’re aware that signalling cells, neurons, line our stomach and relay information about hunger and fullness to the brain. Previously it was believed that detection of how stretched our stomach is, is the most important factor in determining fullness, however research is now revealing that the neuronal network in the stomach has a larger part to play than we initially thought.

Michael Mosley from the BBC visited the London Science Museum to swallow a camera that would take photos of his digestive tract, whilst it was digesting. He presents a TV programme to be aired tomorrow at 21:00 BST on BBC4 titled Guts: The Strange and Mysterious World of the Human Stomach where he explores the complexity of our second brain – the stomach, an organ which we are only realising can control not just our hunger but also our moods and emotions. Check out the TV programme and if you miss it we always have BBC iPlayer! Also check out his article on BBC News website - !

Friday, 6 July 2012

100 years since pioneering Nobel Prize...where are we now?

The Nobel Prize winners for 2012 shall be announced in October, the winner receiving the newly reformed Nobel Prize Medal and not to mention the rather generous cash prize! So why am I talking about this now?

Having recently read an article in New Scientist regarding the successful transplantation of the first donated vein in Sweden; I thought it rather apt to highlight that 100 years ago, the 1912 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to Alexis Carrel "in recognition of his work on vascular suture and the transplantation of blood vessels and organs".

Alexis Carrel was a French surgeon who worked with his colleague Charles Lindbergh on a book titled The Culture of Organs and more importantly who invented the first perfusion pump. This pump enabled tissues and organs to exist outside the body - a huge advancement in surgery, enabling procedures such as open-heart surgery and introducing the idea of transplantations. His worked on vascular suture pioneered the surgical world, introducing techniques that form the basis of modern surgery such as triangulation. Carrel would perform surgical grafts and mend and reconnect broken arteries and veins – all inspired by his embroideress would you know!

Carrel lived in an era of scientific evolution and technological reform; thanks to the foundations set down by scientists of this time, the progress and status of science today is one to be most certainly proud of! Returning to this story in New Scientist, the success of this procedure has crucial implications for transplantations as we know it and it’s exciting! Let me briefly explain so that you can all be as excited as me.

You may have read about the growing of organs in laboratories, for transplantation, that have been coated with the recipient’s cells, in order to prevent rejection. Well, this is exactly what the team in Sweden have done; having stripped the vein of the donor’s cells using a detergent, the remaining protein scaffolding was used to build upon. The next step was to extracted the recipient’s cells and grow enough to coat this protein scaffolding. Using the recipient’s endothelial and smooth muscle cells, the Swedish team developed a new vein for transplantation. The recipient was a 10yr old girl who suffered from chronic blockages in her hepatic portal vein, one of the main blood vessels transporting blood from the gut to the liver; her growth and nutrition suffered greatly. The transplantation of this 9cm long vein has transformed her into an energetic child, full of life!

The world will come to see more of this transplantation method, reducing the risk significantly of rejection and expanding the sources available for organ donations. If scientists can consistently and successfully carry out this procedure of stripping and re-developing organs in a laboratory, then the era of waiting for an appropriate donor match is over – a lifesaving advancement, for whom we have Alexis Carrel to thank (amongst others of course!).  

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Higgs Boson...where to start?!

Everyone is posting about the Higgs Boson particle...we've all seen at least one funny picture uploaded onto Facebook! But I question whether anyone actually knows what this recent scientific revelation is all about?! I'm no physicist however here's what I've been reading and now I'm almost as excited as Brian Cox! 

I liked the diagram in this one:

Got to love New Scientist...

This is rather funny, I like the "For Religious Fundamentalists" at the end...

For those of you that want to see how happy Brian Cox is...

Eating a worm for science!

Parasites, worms, maggots and leaches…nauseating terms that gross the majority of us out! However if you’re speaking to a biotherapy researcher, these terms relate to possible therapy options for an array of illnesses including psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease and allergies. But surely using maggots as therapy is such an archaic idea?! Well actually…no! Hospitals still buy supplies of maggots from “farms” and grow them under sterile conditions till that glorious day, when the maggots get a nice feast!

The International Biotherapy Society supports research into the use of living organisms as novel therapies for the treatment of human and animal diseases, hosting conferences around the world (where scientists ultimately discuss how they’re going to convince the public that swallowing a worm will help them!).

Although the notion hasn’t been totally rejected by the public; many people have embraced biotherapy due to individual negative responses to clinical and pharmaceutical therapies. Helminth-therapy for auto-immune disorders for example, is currently available at a few private clinics around the world. Autoimmune Therapies is just one of the established companies offering Helminth-therapy to the public stating that "Helminthic therapy is just one step in restoring the natural environment in our bodies". Check out on their website for recent research publications and patient accounts!

However, medical councils, doctors and biotherapy specialists are not encouraging people to abandon modern medicine completely! Continuing this blog’s apparent theme on Helminth-therapy, the decision to use Helminths as a therapy is not as simple as popping a pill and does entail an element of lifestyle change. The impact that such therapies have on our immune system is something that cannot be opted for unnecessarily or without thought. Worm Therapy, a Mexico-based company highlight on their website how variable the success of this therapy can be ( Theoretically worms dampen down your immune system and this will either work for you or not based on individual differences. The overall success of this therapy, for example the time it takes for the worms to start working in terms of symptom alleviation or how many times you need to be infected, is dependent on you, your disease and your immune status.

So will we see an introduction of the wiggly worm as a viable and effective therapeutic option in the foreseeable future or is it doomed to fail because of the nation’s squeamish nature? Would you swallow a worm if an illness you had left you house-bound and depressed or would you rather stick to the safety-tested drugs that lie available on our pharmacy shelves?