The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories are making platelets, sound from fabrics, and angry flies.

Article written by Brooke Lumicisi

 

A leap towards plentiful platelet production

Earlier this year the American Red Cross put out a crisis call for blood and platelet donors due to a severe shortage. Now, thanks to a group of researchers at The University of Virginia, we could be closer to rectifying at least part of this problem in the lab. The group published their research in the Journal of clinical investigation this month identifying a biological switch in progenitor stem cells allowing them to manipulate the megakaryocyte (MK) cells that produce platelets. Platelets are very important and specialised cells that prevent excessive bleeding when you cut yourself. Platelets are produced in inside the MK cells, which are large and very rare cells in the bone marrow. It has long been known that there is a difference between foetal and adult MK cells, with the foetal cells able to rapidly produce many MK cells and the adult cells slowing down production of MK cells and focussing on massive platelet production. This research has found that by switching on or off a protein called IGF2BP3 they can drive the cells to become either more foetal or adult-like. This means that a production line of MK cells could be created by keeping them in the foetal phenotype, harvesting them and switching them to the adult platelet-producing mode. Platelet infusions are often required for cancer patients whose own platelets are depleted by the disease or treatments, but are often in short supply. Being able to produce these in the lab in large quantities would revolutionise this process.

Ref: https://www.jci.org/articles/view/88936

Further reading: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1297261/

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Platelets are produced in bone marrow

Is my shirt too loud?

Soon the answer could be yes, and not just in fashion terms if a group from Michigan State University have anything to do with it. They have created a very thin sheet-like device known as a ferroelectret nanogenerator (FENG) that can not only convert mechanical energy to electrical energy as previously reported but can also act as a microphone or loudspeaker, by manipulating sound vibrations and turning them into mechanical energy and vice versa. The device works by essentially using extremely thin layers of charged ions to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, and back again in the case of the speaker. To demonstrate the loudspeaker effect the group turned the material into a flag and piped music from an iPad into the flag, which ‘reproduced the sound flawlessly’ according to the researchers. The researchers commented that many of the current technologies in flexible electronics are focussing on sight and touch, and that this development fills a void in addressing the important speaking and listening aspects of technology. So, the speakers and microphones we use could very soon be smaller and more flexible, and also embedded into current materials and inconspicuous.

Ref: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15310

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Time to ditch your T-qualiser

The poisoned pen

Female fruit flies have been found to be significantly more aggressive after mating. Researchers at Oxford University analysed hundreds of fruit flies immediately after mating and found that the females were much more aggressive compared to non-mating females. They hypothesised two potential causes the first being the result of an increase in egg production following mating resulting indirect behavioural effects, or a component in the male ejaculate was directly causing the aggression. The study found that regardless of whether or not the females were producing eggs, this post-coital aggressiveness persisted, therefore the researchers determined that it must be a direct effect and actually found that the ‘sex peptide’ (not joking) was the culprit. The Oxford University team have said that this could have implications for understanding post-mating aggression in many insect species, but also many mammals as it has been shown that components in the ejaculate of the males can have striking effects on female physiology and behaviour. I think that headache is coming back…

Ref: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-017-0154

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An angry fly – post-coital?

 

Article written by Brooke Lumicisi