Brexit, Brexit, Brexit

It will come as no surprise that one of the top science news (well, all news really!) stories from last week is that Britain has voted to leave the EU. Many researchers have expressed apprehension about what this could mean for their future funding, collaborations and participation in significant European research programmes. It is thought that currently 16% of science research funding for universities is awarded by the EU, as well as the recruitment of 15% of research staff. Concern over the potential loss of this funding and talent pool is at the forefront of many scientists’ minds. However, leading science figures are asking the scientific community to come together and in the words of Sir Paul Nurse ‘work hard in the future to counter the isolationism of Brexit if our science is to continue to thrive’. I’m sure everyone will be watching closely to see what the implications of this momentous decision are for the future of science and research in the UK.2000px-flag_of_europe-svg

Mercury the Meteorite

On a lighter note, it has been proposed by geologists at MIT that Mercury once took the form of an unusual meteorite classified as ‘enstatite chondrite’. This has been identified by studying the cooling history of Mercury in a time frame between 4.2 and 3.7 billion years ago. A significant drop of the planet’s internal temperature and the arrangement of lava deposits indicate that the composition matched this rare meteorite. These indicators of the early history of Mercury were preserved due to the fact that there was no volcanic activity following the events, a phenomenon that would be difficult to analyse on earth due to the abundance of volcanism. However, it is hoped that this new information may provide clues as to what is lurking in the past of our planet…

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Removing Daddy’s DNA

The human genome is known to be split 50/50 between maternal and paternal DNA…. Well that isn’t exactly true as it has been well characterised that mitochondrial DNA encoding genes important for cell energy is strictly provided by the mother. Until now, however, it was not known how maternal mitochondrial DNA was specifically selected, as sperm cells also carry mitochondrial DNA (they are in particular need of the energy!). A paper published in Science this week has demonstrated that a protein called CPS-6 in worms targets mitochondrial DNA in sperm cells shortly after fusion with an egg. This protein is otherwise responsible for programmed cell death in other tissues. The research group showed by electron microscopy, that CPS-6 is able to move into the inner most part of mitochondria and cut up the DNA located there. This process is very important for the developing embryos as any remaining paternal mitochondrial DNA affects embryonic viability.

Written by: Rosemary Pike