The Chemistry Nobel: Evolving proteins into better medicines and biofuels

It’s that time of year – Nobel Prize season! This year, the Chemistry Nobel prize was awarded to three scientists: one half to Frances Arnold “for the directed evolution of enzymes,” and the other half to George Smith and Sir Gregory Winter “for the phage display of peptides and antibodies.” What exactly are these award-winning technologies and how have they impacted society? ‘Directed evolution of … Continue reading The Chemistry Nobel: Evolving proteins into better medicines and biofuels

Make No Bones About It: Human skeletal stem cells discovered for first time

Human stem cells are specialized cells that can be harvested from the body and engineered to turn into various tissues and organs. Perhaps the greatest potential use of stem cells is the generation of new tissues for organ transplants. Unfortunately, scientists have long struggled to find skeletal stem cells that can reliably turn into bone, cartilage, and supportive tissues of the skeleton. In a study … Continue reading Make No Bones About It: Human skeletal stem cells discovered for first time

It Takes Two: Twins may be the key to understanding human biology in space

by Aparna Nathan Graphics by Nicholas Lue Space: It has been the final frontier ever since Captain Kirk and Starfleet shot into space at warp speed in the 1960s. But are humans really made for space? We did not evolve for the environment of space and we don’t know how space travels affects our biology. Now, NASA has a powerful new tool to tease out … Continue reading It Takes Two: Twins may be the key to understanding human biology in space

Transposons: Your DNA that’s on the go

by Francesca Tomasi figures by Olivia Foster Rhoades Argonaut. Idéfix. Flamenco. These words invoke movement: the ancient Greek Argonauts were a band of adventurous sailors famous for their epic quests. Meanwhile, Idéfix is the name of an adventure-loving dog in the French Astérix comic book series. And finally, flamenco conjures images of vivacious dancers. You would think the similarities between Greek mythology, French comic books, and … Continue reading Transposons: Your DNA that’s on the go

Your Personality May Determine How You Respond to Placebo Pills

The placebo effect is a puzzling phenomenon. Placebos (sugar pills or saline solutions secretly substituted for actual drugs) are commonly used in clinical trials to set a baseline against which to measure the effects of a drug. However, people in the placebo group will often show improvements alongside the treatment group. The fact that an inactive substance, such as a sugar pill, can lead to … Continue reading Your Personality May Determine How You Respond to Placebo Pills

Nanomaterials as cancer treatment: overcoming drug resistance in chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment, using drugs to destroy cancer cells. However, cancer cells can develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs by developing “efflux pumps”, pumps in the cell membrane that work to actively expel the chemotherapy drugs from the tumor cells. Shana Kelley and her team in University of Toronto developed nanomaterials that can deliver drugs into cancer cells and suppress their drug resistance. … Continue reading Nanomaterials as cancer treatment: overcoming drug resistance in chemotherapy

Vaccines for World’s Most Deadly Infectious Diseases Unlikely

Infectious diseases — including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria — are a leading cause of death worldwide, particularly in low income countries and among young children. A new study found that the vaccines aimed to prevent many of the world’s most deadly diseases may not be developed any time soon. The study, funded by the Gates Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, focused on 538 … Continue reading Vaccines for World’s Most Deadly Infectious Diseases Unlikely

Sweet Serotonin

The Dorsal Raphe Nucleus, or DRN, is an area of the brain located along the midline of the brainstem, which is found towards the back of your brain. The DRN contains the largest number of serotonin-containing neurons, called serotonergic neurons, in the brain. You may recognize serotonin from the drug advertisements on TV, as it is a popular target for treating depression. Unsurprisingly, serotonin is … Continue reading Sweet Serotonin