Science Small Plate (May 3, 2013)

Could I interest you in a helping of science?

  • The data used in genome studies is supposed to be de-identified, disconnected from information that could tell from whom the DNA came. But it seems that reconnecting the genome to the individual might not be all that difficult.
  • It was a big week for cancer genomics, as the proof mounted that where a cancer originates in the body matters less than what genes fuel it.
  • There’s sibling rivalry, and then there’s sibling rivalry. It’s not like sharks, where siblings sometimes eat each other…in the womb.
  • Our brains aren’t smooth, but fold in on themselves in ways that us squeeze a lot of brain into our skulls. Mouse brains, in contrast, are smooth. But by tweaking the production of one protein, researchers have gotten mouse brains to take on the folded contours of human ones.
  • It sounds like 5th grade biology lab on steroids. In an effort to understand how life in space affects the health of animals, the Russians have launched a satellite holding “a crew of geckoes, forty-five mice, eight Mongolian gerbils, fish, snails, and plant seedlings.”
  • One big area of science is figuring out how to develop new devices, tools, medicines, etc. by mimicking how animals do things. Like learning how to make better injection needles by studying porcupine quills. Or better adhesives by understanding how clingfish cling.
  • National Geographic put together a list of the top ten animal superpowers. I was disappointed that they’d didn’t suggest any head-to-head face-offs. Who will win, the pit viper with heat vision, or the eel with toxic blood? Fight!
  • So what happens when you’re a Toxoplasma gondii┬áparasite and in you’re in a mouse, but you really would rather be in a cat? Why, you get in the mouse’s brain and take away its fear of cats, that’s what.
  • Diabetes researchers found a hormone from the liver that makes insulin-producing cells in the pancreas grow like crazy, opening a new front for potentially treating the disease.
  • IBM researchers made a stop-action movie using individual atoms. Let me say that again: A STOP-ACTION MOVIE USING INDIVIDUAL ATOMS.
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