The True Power of CRISPR

CRISPR or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats has been getting a lot of attention recently. The power of CRISPR allows for a number of different and exciting things to happen; this includes genetic engineering to biomedicine.

The power of CRISPR can allow for us to disable or correct genes for certain diseases and disorders from ever appearing in someone, although complicated, it is a very promising technique which can be used in multiple beneficial ways. The recent YouTube video by Kurzgesagt explains CRISPR and some of it’s history, as well as the power it holds in improving life for the future.

The video above describes CRISPR and it’s benefits. However, with techniques like these, there is always a problem in terms of it’s effectiveness as well as the law, rules and ethics involved in utilising the technique in a useful way.

Nevertheless, with any such techniques, there are many more positives compared to negatives, therefore as time goes on, and as more tests and research is done, I believe the technique will be the key within genetic engineering.

So what are your thoughts on CRISPR and it’s future? Go ahead and comment, lets chat.

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Growing Plants in Space

Space, the final frontier. Space is a dangerous yet wonderful aspect of the planet we live on. To experience the vast nature of space, we would need to be launched up approximately 62 miles (100 km or 380,000 feet) high. However, to be able to stay up there, you would need to bring along food and water for your time there.

The ISS (International Space Station) is at a 248 miles (400km) orbital height along with a number of amazing individuals piloting the ISS. One of the great things we take for granted in the fact that Earth is covered in plantations. From large and small trees, to beautiful flowers.

Space is a whole different story, there are zero plants in space which generally means that the chances of life being discovered is very low. One amazing thing the folks at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) are doing is experimenting with plant growth in space.

Specifically, the folks under the APEX (Advanced Plant Experiment) umbrella are working on experimenting on the cultivation and growth of plants in space. They have already learned a great deal and gotten some interesting surprises, specifically how plants grow from a seedling into a full fledged plant in conditions much different to those in Earth.

The video covers some of the things researchers Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul of the University of Florida have learnt.

This study points to future studies, mainly if plants can actually grow on other planets. With all the theories going around, the future is near, even within our lifetime. There are multiple aspects that can affect the growth of crops and plants on a planet, the first is water and the second depends on the type of planetary soil.

Lots of evidence has arisen in the past decade pointing to multiple locations on moons and planets where water or frozen ice is available. However, do these planets provide the correct rock, climate, topography, time and biota?

Nevertheless, what are your thoughts on the growth of plants in space? It’s definitely one of the key steps in the overall journey for humans to go even further.

The Five Senses and Neuroscience

Have you ever wondered how we as humans work? How we feel, taste, see, hear or even smell? Well, there are some great resources available to read which are just a Google search away. If however, you wanted a couple of videos which can explain and get you up to speed on how we as humans we interact with our surroundings, then 5 videos below will definitely be of help.

The videos below cover all the five major senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. They were produced by Neuro Transmissions/Alie Astrocyte.


How do we see?

If you’ve wondered how we see, Alie explains everything involved in the visual system as well as how information that comes from light is translated into something useful using your brain.


How do we hear?

A very informative video explained by Alie on how our ears translates all sound in our surrounding and how we use it in everything that we do.


How do we smell?

Scent is very important, it allows us to distinguish between different things even when we’re blindfolded. Alie explains everything about smell and the nitty gritty of how it related to neuroscience.


How do we taste?

Taste, one of the major sensory functions in our body, it allows us to distinguish between something that tastes totally disgusting to something nice like ice cream. Alie explains everything from the amazing receptors and how they can detect taste.


How do we feel?

Fantastic video which covers everything from touch to feel. Touch is a very important factor, it is what keeps is safe from harm such as something that may be too cold or too hot. Alie cover it all in this great video.


After watching the above videos, I learned a lot, especially how the five senses all related greatly to neuroscience, on top of which the videos are very well done and very informative. If you feel like you’ve learnt a thing a two, tell us in the comment section. Be sure to subscribe to the Neuro Transmissions YouTube channels if you want to see more amazing science videos.

So you know, I’m not associated with the channel or person, I liked the videos and the wealth of information they provide, so felt like sharing these.

Science Podcasts are Great, Here’s Why

Podcasts are great, they provide a lot of great information to the listener. Depending on what you listen to, there is always something available for everyone. I’ve recently really got into listening to them, from science based ones to others which tickle my fancy.

Science-based podcasts are amazing, they provide me with information on the latest information regarding scientific discoveries to bleeding-edge work on the work I’m interested into.

Here I’ll be listing a few that I listen to, or have recently discovered and find to be amazing worth sharing.

BBC Inside Science

BBC Inside ScienceI have actually been listening to BBC Inside Science for a while now, Dr Adam Rutherford and guests are amazing at telling the listeners all the latest mysteries, challenges and controversies that surrounds science that’s changing in our world. Every episode is around 30 minutes, which is fully packed with information that the listeners cares about. If you are into science, and the latest information that surrounds the world of science, then you will definitely like this podcast.

BBC Inside Science’s latest episode covers “Genetics and education, Eyam plague, Pint of science, Labradors and chocolate”, if you’d like to listen to it, go ahead by clicking here.


The Science Hour

BBC Science HourThe Science Hour by the BBC is another great example of a podcast which highlights science, health and technology news of the week. If you are like me, then getting a curated piece of information right in front of you is something that is great, this podcast does this. Like the Inside Science above, this is a weekly podcast which is a great example which I listen to very often.

Science Hour has a large number of episodes, it’s  latest episode covers “Genetics and Educational Attainment”, if you’d like to listen to it, click here.


Science in Action

BBC Science in ActionAnother from the BBC see’s Roland Pease and guests discussing the latest science research and news stories from all over the world. Many of the episodes are rich and packed with information about all things science. Science In Action covers all the recent outbreaks and news, such as the Zika Virus and so on. Science In Action, like many other podcasts, tries it’s best to keep on track with the latest science as well as bringing in a range of great guests.

Science In Action covers a vast variety of topics, it’s latest podcast episode covers “Arctic Warming Could Be Changing Bird’s Shape”, which can be listened here.


These three podcasts from the BBC will usually cover all that I require, but there are many more different types of podcasts which covers many different topics. For example, Niel deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio covers all things about science, comedy and pop culture. Discovery from the BBC World Service covers the world of science in half-hour episodes too.

Another is the BBC Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage which is run by Brian Cox and Robin Ince in a witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists’ eyes. The Guardian’s Science Weekly is another fantastic podcast which covers everything with analysis and interviews from individuals in science and technology.

One which I have heard quite a lot about is Nature Podcast. If you are a scientist, then you must have heard of Nature, one of the biggest and long running journals covering everything from astronomy to neuroscience. I’ve not had the pleasure of listening to the episodes, but it’s on my que to listen to.

Similar to Nature Podcast, I’ve also not had the chance to listen to a couple but have heard a lot of good things about them. This includes, TEDTalks Science and Medicine, which discusses everything in these topics. Science Friday (SciFri) covers everything from outer space to the tiniest of microbes.

With such an extensive list of amazing podcasts to listen to, it can take some time to listen to them all. I use the app PocketCasts which is available on the web, Android devices and Apple devices. If you have a favourite podcast that you listen to, or one that I’ve mentioned and you’d like to talk about. Go on, comment down below and let’s talk.

Glass Sculptures of Deadly Viruses

It’s been a some time since I last posted, that’s why I looked for something amazing to post. This time it’s these amazing looking Glass Sculptures of some of the deadliest viruses imaginable.

These wonderful sculptures were produced by Luke Jerram, check his other work out if you like this one.

Quorum Sensing: What Is It?

To begin with, I’d like to mention that it has been a while since I last wrote a blog post, around 10 months ago. And now, I believe that it’s time to begin writing about science once more. I’d like to try to write about what I’m into, or my current work or study once a week. This week, it’s Quorum Sensing!

A lot of people ask what exactly quorum sensing is, well the definition written in a paper by Melissa Miller and Bonnie Bassler (2001) describes quorum sensing being the process and regulation of gene expression in response to fluctuations in cell-population density.

Bacterial quorum sensing
Bacterial Quorum Sensing. Left shows individual bacterial cell releasing autoinducers when no threshold has been reached. Right shows a community of cells with large amount of autoinducers thus causing quorum sensing based gene expression and eventually the activation of this community of cells.

The paper by Miller and Bassler (2001) describes in detail the way in which chemical signals, called autoinducers, can induce the process of quorum sensing. For example, bacterial cells are able to release these autoinducers signals which build up in concentration. Once the minimum threshold limit for these autoinducers have been reached, gene expression can occur in the affected population of bacteria causing a response from them.

This could be anything from a potential toxin to a simple chemical reaction between the population of bacterial cells. It’s known that gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria use quorum sensing as a way of communicating with one another, usually to cause physiological activities.

The discovery and understanding of quorum sensing opens up multiple ways in which cells, in general, could possibly communicate within a small to large population. It’s been known that quorum sensing largely looks into the cell density of a particular population, if the autoinducer threshold has been met, for example, pathogenic bacteria could potentially express and release toxins into the host.

From the paper presented by Miller and Bassler (2001) there has been a large number of different discoveries and potential explanation to why certain bacteria’s behaving in a particular way.

One particular way in which quorum sensing could potentially be useful in a study would possibly be within the world of cancer. It’s know that cancers cells, which usually mutate due to a number of potential factors, could possibly have certain links to quorum sensing.

By monitoring and evaluating how certain types of cancers function, we could potentially see how they communicate. Using the logic within quorum sensing, and how that occurs within a number of different types of cells, it could allow for a number of different types of detection tools and ways in which quorum sensing can be used in order to potentially prevent cancer.

To end this blog post, I’d like to post an awesome TED-Ed video by Bonnie Bassler herself as she explains quorum sensing.

Paper: “Quorum sensing in bacteria” by Miller and Bassler (2001)

Binge drinking disrupts immune system activity in young adults

Recently read a study based on young adults (aged 18 – 34) who drank enough to exceed 0.08 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) showed signs of increased immune function. But at 2 and 5 hours later, their immune system showed reduced activity compared to those who are sober.

It’s clear that alcohol affects the immune system in many ways, from hours to days after exposure. This study focus’ on the early effects of alcohol of the immune system while blood alcohol content is still elevated.

Volunteers were given a high-dose alcohol content. Blood was collected pre-ingestion of alcohol, 20 mins, 2 hours and 5 hours post alcohol ingestion. Flow cytometry and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) techniques were used.

Results showed an increase in total circulating leukocytes, monocytes and natural killer cells only after 20 mins after ingestion, where BAC was at around 130 mg/dL. There was also an increase in tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-Alpha levels. AT 2 to 5 hours, immune function and activity reduced. It concluded that binge alcohol increased immune activity and function in it’s early pro-inflammatory state, which was followed by an anti-inflammatory state thereafter.

Paper:
Afshar, M., Richards, S., Mann, D., Cross, A., Smith, G., Netzer, G., Kovacs, E. and Hasday, J. (2014). Acute Immunomodulatory Effects of Binge Alcohol Ingestion. Alcohol. [online] Available at: http://www.alcoholjournal.org/article/S0741-8329(14)20186-8/abstract [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].