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Microdevice sheds new light on cells ability respond to mechanical stress

Chagnon-Lasard, with a team from the University of Ottawa, have developed a new microdevice that applies force gradients to cells. With the device, they have shown that the cellular cytoskeleton can not only sense differences in strain forces being applied over an area, it will actually realign itself in the direction of least stress.

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Cells probe their surroundings to transduce a mechanical signal into a genetic one

Scientists at the University of Kyoto have linked Vinculin, a focal adhesion protein, with the famous YAP/TAZ pathway: its a mechanosensor that dictates cell fate based on the rigidity of the substrate

 Noriyuki Kioka’s team have provided a new window of understanding on how mechanical forces influence cell differentiation.
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Metabolomics to study microbiota

Combining metabolomics with genetic analysis is, Choo and Kanno et al argue, a richer way to predict a phenotypic outcome when it comes to the complex universe of inputs and outputs in our densely populated gut.

By mass, 99% of the DNA in and on a person is bacterial – only 1 % is human.

The gut microbiome, a word to describe the bacteria living in your intestines, is defined by its symbiosis, interconnectivity and redundancy. If you take away one species, another might fill the gap in function.  Wipe out a different species and this might have devastating effects down the chain.

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Wavelength matters: the colour of light alters sleep patterns

Researchers from the University of Oxford find that the specific wavelength of light hitting neurons at the back of the eye causes mice to fall asleep faster, slower or for longer. They also identify the pigment responsible: Melanopsin.

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Respiratory viruses hijack your social network for spread

Respiratory viruses hijack your social network to facilitate their spread1. Liquid droplets saturated with virus, released when you sneeze, have about a 6 metre radius (just an estimate). So the people you infect are most likely to be your close friends and relatives.

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Write for us…

Hi everyone

Would like to take this opportunity to promote the journal article side of the new Randall and CHAPS PhD blog. As you can see, its looking pretty snazzy these days, traffics pretty high from those who already participate, and we are ready for as many new submissions as we can manage!

Here’s why its good:

  • If you feel like an imposter when you write, actively avoid it, or just take a long time over it…the cure is to write more! You might go from hating writing to actually finding joy in it. This will make you the next Hemingway/Stein, guaranteed.

EH 6947P

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Bitop aerosolises an ancient bacterial molecule to protect us from pollution

Here’s a link to the paper under discussion1: http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/rccm.200812-1911OC#.WBcwWvmLR7O

Pollution in our cities is a big problem. Cycling to work every morning through central London exposes me to a broad range of tiny carcinogenic particles. Google maps now labels high pollution areas for the conscientious cyclist to avoid, but sometimes this is impossible, and it is arguable how much distance you actually need to be away from a problem area for this to be effective.

Most face masks designed to protect the wearer from airborne particles have filters that are too large to be effective – most of the harmful stuff is pretty tiny. There is a notable exception in ‘totobobo’ masks, which provide OK protection. Warning – these do not look trendy, and they make it pretty hard to, um, breathe.

Continue reading “Bitop aerosolises an ancient bacterial molecule to protect us from pollution”

Tasmanian devils rapidly evolve resistance to ‘Devil face tumours’

tas
Figure 1: A Tasmanian devil

Tasmanian devils are dog-sized carnivorous marsupials native to Tasmania, south of Australia which are affected by a transmissible type of cancer known as Devil Face Tumor (DFT). There are two types of DFT, the first identified in the 1990s and the second in 2016. Whereas some cancers are known to be caused by virus, it is believed that DFT is transmitted directly when devils bite each other in fights. This is only one of three types of transmissible cancer identified in nature. As this is a direct transfer of cancer cells from an external source, the host immune system should destroy the ‘foreign’ cells, but they grow regardless and this process is not fully understood.

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Imaging the bacterial RNA transcriptome on the nanoscale

Here’s a cool paper1:

Paper zhuang

This is a different subject to what I’m used to in terms of the biology, but I thought I might be able to communicate a bit of the super resolution imaging, because that’s my bag at the moment. I’ve included mostly images from the paper, no graphs – if you are interested in those, just google the paper: its a free one.

What’s the transcriptome? RNA and why we measure it

RNA stands for Ribonucleic acid. It is produced or ‘transcribed’ as an intermediate between gene (your DNA) and protein: the complex blob of ordered molecules that performs a specific function in a cell. In an average human cell there are trillions of different proteins.

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