Snippets Feb 27

Snippets Feb 27

FOR EFFICIENT ALTERNATIVES

A novel weapon against bacteria

Our war against bacteria is raging, and lately, antibiotics are doing little to help. The World Health Organisation (WHO) fears that very few antibiotics will serve as an army against pathogenic bacteria in the future, as drug resistant bacteria have emerged.

Now, scientists all over the world are looking for efficient alternatives to
antibiotics, and think that the antimicrobial peptides could be one. The venom of a tiny, web-weaving spider, Lachesana tarabaevi is one of the
sources for these peptides.

In a new study, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, have found that peptides derived from this spider's venom is effective against Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that causes skin infections, and is resistant to many common antibiotics. Lachesana tarabaevi belongs to a group of venomous spiders. Its venom contains a protein known as latarcin, which the researchers have found can act against Staphylococcus aureus.

NEW TECHNIQUE

3D bioprinting for cancer study

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have developed a printing technique using cells and molecules normally found in natural tissues to create constructs that resemble biological structures. These structures are embedded in an ink which is similar to their native environment and opens the possibility to make them behave as they would in the body. This allows the researchers to observe how cells work within these environments and potentially enables them to study biological scenarios such as where cancer grows. The technique combines molecular self-assembly with additive manufacturing, similar to 3D printing, to recreate the complex structures. The study is published in Advanced Functional Materials.

DOCUMENTARY

Into the Inferno

Into the Inferno is a documentary that explores active volcanoes from around the world. Directed by Werner Herzog, the documentary follows volcanologist and co-director Clive Oppenheimer, who hopes to minimise the volcanoes' destructive impact.

They travel to Indonesia, Iceland, Ethopia and North Korea to investigate not only the volcanoes, but also the people who live with them, and must co-exist with this terrifying Damoclean sword over their heads. Herzog casts an anthropologist's eye on them, and sees how these people have developed customs and rituals that are part fearful, part celebratory. To watch the documentary, visit www.bit.ly/2fKVu4M.

BONDED BY SCIENCE

Researchers describe their nerdy proposals

Scientific papers often inspire new ideas and questions, and sometimes even tinges of professional jealousy. But on the rarest of occasions, a publication will go straight to the heart. A few researchers have taken the opportunity to register their love in the nerdiest manner, by hiding a proposal of marriage in their manuscripts.

Caleb Brown wanted his proposal to endure like the fossils he studies. The researcher at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Canada, decided to pop the question to girlfriend Lorna O'Brien , a fossil technician, in the acknowledgements section of a paper describing a new species of horned dinosaur. Because the paper was the first description of the creature, Brown knew it would have longevity and be cited in future research. But Lorna - who said yes - wasn't the only one who read the paper. When journalists spied the proposal, Caleb's efforts triggered news stories around the world. "I was so naive. I had no idea it would go viral," he says. The acknowledgements section is rarely the most important part of a peer-reviewed paper. Which is probably why materials scientist Keqiang Chen had to ask his girlfriend, Qiaohui Zhong, to read his paper twice when it came out in May last year. Qiaohui, who works in the same laboratory as Keqiang and is a co-author of the paper, didn't notice his proposal on her first reading. When she finally spotted it, she accepted.

Manuscripts aren't the only mechanism that people in science have used to make their proposals. Carl Mehling, who works at the American Museum of Natural History, USA, popped the question to his now-wife, Fiona Love Brady, while excavating for sharks' teeth and other marine fossils at Big Brook in New Jersey. One evening in 1998, Carl convinced a friend to drive him to the site, where he hid a garnet ring inside a coffee tin and buried it in the stream bed, marking the spot with some plants. The next morning, Carl pretended he'd just discovered the tin when he handed it to Fiona. She tipped its contents onto her sorting screen and found a glass vial containing the ring, a poem and an uncut diamond. Carl says he was thrilled when Fiona agreed to marry him.

Science writer Kendra Snyder met her partner, Dave Mosher, because of a particle collider, so it was only fitting that the instrument featured in their engagement, she says. Two years after they met, Kendra was asked to write a story about unusual crystals forming in her facility's particle collider, which had been shut down over summer. Little did Kendra know that the story was a ruse. As she descended, she was surprised to find Dave there. "I did not see it coming at all," says Kendra.

3D PRINTING

Recreating biological structures

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have developed a printing technique using cells and molecules normally found in natural tissues to create constructs that resemble biological structures. These structures are embedded in an ink which is similar to their native environment and opens the possibility to make them behave as they would in the body.

This allows the researchers to observe how cells work within these environments and potentially enables them to study biological scenarios such as where cancer grows. This could lead to the development of new drugs. The technique combines molecular self-assembly, building structures by assembling molecules like Lego pieces, with additive manufacturing, similar to 3D printing, to recreate the complex structures. The study is published in Advanced Functional Materials.

 

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