Spinning nano-particle experiment might shed light on the origin of life on Earth

During their experiments with nano-particles, researchers a the university of Michigan have found that some basic principles of movement cause structures to form in crystals. The university of Michigan has been doing experiments with Nano technology for quite some time now. This particular experiment’s goal was to find a way to make self-assembling particles, but it had some interesting implications. The nano-particles were made to spin like pinwheels, some clockwise and some counterclockwise. This had the effect of particles spinning in the same direction sticking together without any means of attraction. If two pinwheels are both spinning clockwise, and they intersect, like gears turning the same direction, they will get stuck together, on a scale of millions, it quickly separates into areas that are distinctly clockwise only and counterclockwise only, with channels in between that particles can flow through freely. This is the beginning of a nano-pump forming, without any attraction causing the particles to stick together. This shows that billions of years ago, life on earth may have begun without the need for anything more complex than spinning particles sticking together to form nano pumps.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nanostars-it1302.jpg

source: http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/20140125190748.shtml

nano particles

Bacteria to become a new environmentally safe way to control invasive species?

 

source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zebra_mussel_GLERL_3.jpg

zebra mussels attached to a dock

Zebra mussels have, since 1991, become a huge problem in the hudson river. They devour the phytoplankton and disrupt the ecosystem, and, being an invasive species and having no natural predators in the americas, their population has soared uncontrollably. Until recently, Dr. Daniel Malloy has discovered a species of bacteria that is deadly to the shellfish, and to his knowledge, not to any other organism in the ecosystem. This solution might be just what the Hudson river ecosystem needs, a way to eradicate the aggressive zebra mussel without using chemicals that are harmful to the rest of the river’s inhabitants. This idea sprang from the use of the natural pesticide BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) to control blackflies. Malloy has discovered a species of  Pseudomonas fluorescens called “Strain CL145A” that had the desired affect on zebra mussels. When ingested, the dead cells of the bacteria, emit a toxin that destroys the digestive tracts of mussels, the live cells, outside of the digestive system have little to no effect. Malloy and his team are working on finding a fresh water strain of the bacteria to start to eradicate invasive mussels in other bodies of water.

sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/25/science/science-takes-on-a-silent-invader.html?ref=science

http://www.fish.state.pa.us/pafish/bass_black/smb2006/reebuck.pdf

Echinacea’s Habitat Decline

The plant that is commonly used to treat flu and cold symptoms, Echinacea, is beginning to suffer from a disappearing habitat. A flowering plant part of the daisy familyEchinacea grows in central and North America in mostly dry, wooded areas. As one of the “top five” herbal remedies sold in retail stores, the coneflower is regarded as an American staple to relieve suffers’ of the cold and flu. However, their habitat is in decline from human activities, bees, and deadly aphids

EchinaceaPurpureaMaxima1a.UME          Certain human activities have caused wildlands to shrink and splintered the landscape. As one of the most endangered habitats in the world, tailgrass prairie is throughly studied by scientists in order to track how Echinacea reacting to its changing environment and they are also working to save these prairie patches.

Bees have been known by scientists to pollinate the coneflower plant, Dr. Wagenius says “A bee might have been able to fly across a hundred mile expanse of coneflowers. Could it still do that today? No way.” Pollination for these plants is not at all where it should be, as bees can only pollinate these plants up to short distances.

Coneflower plants are now becoming genetically related in the prairies. If a bee brings pollen to these different plant siblings, the plant may reject the pollen. Therefore, there are no new seeds and populations decrease. A new danger to the coneflower is aphids; they devour prairies of Echinacea. As well, scientists urge prairie farmers to set fire to habitats (since they are necessary to these ecosystems). By inducing the plant to flower, new genetic diversity may be reached.

Another reason to not cut down old trees

Imagine if human growth accelerates, instead of slowing down after adolescence. This way, humans would weigh less than half as much at their middle age than at when they are at their old age.

In a study published in the journal Nature, scientists found out that the growth of the tree accelerates with the tree size. This means that the bigger the tree, the faster it will grow to become even larger.

This discovery is important, as it tells us another reason to save old trees to help protect our planet. The bigger the tree size, the higher the rate of carbon accumulation of the tree. Therefore, one old tree helps lessen the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere much more than a tree that is much younger. Bigger and older trees are important carbon sinks to our environment.

Photo by Author

Photo by Author

Here is a link to a video which showcases a giant tree — the extreme end of the spectrum.

Original article: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/if-old-humans-grew-like-old-trees-stand-back/?ref=biologyandbiochemistry

Is Fluoride the key to Healthy Teeth?

Photo Taken by Author.

Photo Taken by Author.

 

Brushing your teeth daily is certainly a necessity. Just like the rest of our body, it is important to clean your teeth to prevent infection and decay. However the type of toothpaste that you use, especially, at a young age can affect the effectiveness of your results. Scientists have noted that brushing your teeth with fluoride tooth paste can be very beneficial to successful dental health for adults but also possibly for young children.

“Fluoride works to prevent cavities by rebuilding teeth. Highly reactive fluoride sticks to molecules in the tooth that become exposed when bacteria-produced acid attacks the teeth. Fluoride molecules latch on to the tooth and beckon other minerals such as calcium and phosphate in a process called remineralization. When fluoride is ingested, the levels of the entire body are raised. The resulting fluoride-rich saliva bathes and when fluoride is ingested, the levels of the entire body are raised.”

Based on a study led by J. Tim Wright, a pediatric dentist at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in Chapel Hill, the ADA now recommends that children’s teeth should be brushed with a smear of fluoride toothpaste as soon as they appear. Too much fluoride for a young one, however, can be detrimental and can lead to fluorosis. Studies have shown that risk of fluorosis for some permanent teeth peaks around age two, but fluorosis also comes from other sources as well such as water and some foods like fish. Therefore parents should be careful about using too much fluoridated toothpaste — a pretty common habit, studies have found. “People tend to think a little is good, more is better,” Wright says.

Fluoride toothpaste is surely one way to prevent cavities in adults and it is looking promising as a way to reduce cavity amounts in young children as well.

 

Weird ways a child can get hurt

When I was over at my cousins’ house I noticed how protective my uncle and aunt were. Everything seemed to be childproof. Nicole, my two year old cousin, is surrounded by gates and rubber corners. I was under the impression that no matter what a parent does there is always something that can hurt their kids. So when I found “Weird ways Kids can get Hurt” I had to write about it.

File:Catch-A-Wave.JPG

By J.Smith

 

 Bouncy Castles. These tend to be at every little kids party and they seems pretty harmless, but A 2012 report in the journal Pediatrics estimated that nearly 65,000 children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for Bouncy Castle injuries.

Circular Lithium Batteries. These batteries are being used in everything from children toys to tv remotes. These batteries are the perfect size to get lodged in your kids throat where they can burn through ones esophagus in less then 2 hours. 84% of battery related injuries come from kids  who swallowed them.

Car Seats. Many parents get these for their children as they should, but most parents don’t know that these car seats, when exposed to bear skin can cause a rash from the nylon foam in the seats.

Laundry-detergent pods. These detergents are contained in see-through bags with bright colors and can easily be mistaken for candy. Nearly half of reported injuries from detergent come from children under 5.

Shopping Cart Injuries. Over 23,000 visits to the emergency room, the result of kids playing with or on shopping carts. These carts weren’t designed to hold kids…

These are only a few of many things that tend to hurt children.

A New Breakthrough in Eating Disorder Treatment

Currently, we are in the midst of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  Eating disorders are a rising problem in the United States.  About 30 million men and women suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetimes, including Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and EDNOS.  Although treatment options are improving, it is quite difficult to recover from an eating disorder, which I now as someone currently in recovery from Anorexia Nervosa, and many people stay ensconced in the disorder for years.  Luckily, a new therapy has been found to be useful in the treatment of chronic eating disorders.  This new treatment method is called cognitive remediation therapy (CRT).  People in the depth of an eating disorder often show a deficit in neuropsychological functioning, which might be a reason for the development of an eating disorder and also could be the reason for a relapse.  Deficits in cognitive flexibility, for example set-shifting and central coherence, seem to perpetuate the symptoms of an eating disorder.  In CRT, patients focus on how they think rather than the exact thoughts that they are thinking.  In a study, patients who received CRT in addition to traditional treatment showed a much more favorable outcome in terms of recovery.  Patients who participated in CRT were able to improve their cognitive flexibility and keep in mind two ideas at once.  An example of this would be having the belief that a certain food will immediately cause one to gain ten pounds but also keeping in mind that that is a disordered thought and that no food itself (in moderation) will ever make anyone fat.  The ability to entertain both of these thoughts would allow the patient to think more rationally and recognize the disordered side of his or her thinking.  I never had the opportunity to experience CRT, but I’m sure it would have been helpful in allowing me to more clearly distinguish the eating disorder thoughts from the rational thoughts.  Hopefully, CRT will be useful in bringing the 20% mortality rate of eating disorders down.

My Recovery Picture

Photo by Project Heal (and Mary)

Mingming and Ningning did it!

The Chinese are one step closer to finding a way to help fix genetic defects in people.

How you make ask? Through findings in crab-eating macaque monkeys.

Photo by Katnizz

Photo by Katnizz

Two twin monkeys, Mingming and Ningning, were the “first primates to have their genes precisely edited using a gene-snipping tool borrowed from bacteria.” Which basically means that this experiment was the first successful alteration of animals’ genes.

Jiahao Sha of Nanjing Medical University and his colleagues conducted this experiment. They did this by using Cas9, a “part of a primitive ‘immune system’ — known as CRISPRs — that defends against viruses by chopping up ones that the bacteria have encountered before and recognize as threats.”

The team of researchers injected Cas9 in a monkey embryo. They also injected RNA molecules “that would guide the enzyme to three genes the scientists wanted to disrupt.” They disrupted cells involved in the immune system, sex determination and metabolism regulation. By doing this, the researchers hoped for the destruction of each cell which didn’t happen all of the time.

Sha and colleagues hope to find out how disease spread throughout the human body. They also wanted to find a bridge in to developing and testing treatments in primates. The monkey originally injected gave birth to 2 baby twins. That is where Mingming and Ningning come into play. How cute and exciting, baby monkeys?

In the two twins, the Nanjig Medical University students found success in 2 of the 3 genes tested.

The most important finding in this whole experiment was that only the genes intended to be disrupted, were disrupted.  Which suggests “CRISPRs could be used to repair some human genes without inadvertently damaging others.”

I for one am pretty jealous of these researchers because not only are they playing with the adorable monkeys, but they are working to hopefully help save many Americans in the future.

 

Recently discovered mammal suffers from parenthood…

For a recently discovered species of marsupials, the Black-tailed Antechinus, it seems that parenthood is the highest cause of death. The Black-tailed Antechinus was discovered in Queensland’s Springbrook National Park, Australia by Dr. Andrew Baker. He laid 300 traps of oats and peanut-butter to catch the marsupial. After putting the marsupials through a multitude of tests they found that all the males died after mating. The stress hormone levels in the males, post mating, would steadily increase until eventually the males bodies would simply shut down. In this species of marsupials the males never live to see their young be born.

Out Like a Light: Sleep Switch in Brain Identified

Researchers from Oxford University’s Center of Neural Circuits and Behavior have identified the switch in the brain, which causes sleep, from a study of fruit flies. This switch regulates sleep promoting neurons in the brain. When one is tired and in need of sleep, these neurons will activate. Once you are fully rested, neuron activity will die down. Though this new insight was gained through studying fruit flies, or Drosophila, the researchers believe this information is also relevant to humans. In the human brain, there are similar neurons that are active during sleep and are the targets of general anesthetics that cause sleep. These facts support the idea that humans have a sleep mechanism like that found in fruit flies, according to Dr. Jeffrey Donlea, one of the lead authors of the study. The findings of this study were published in the journal, Neuron.The discovery of this sleep switch is important for a number of reasons like finding new treatments for sleep disorders, but it is just a small piece of the enigma that is sleep. The internal signal, which this sleep switch responds to, is still unknown, as is the activity of these sleep-promoting cells while we are awake. We do not even know why humans and all other animals need sleep.

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In spite of these mysterious, scientists do know how the body regulates sleep. Humans and animals have a body clock, which makes us accustomed to the 24 hour cycle of day and night, and a sleep switch, which logs the hours you are awake and causes you to sleep when you need rest. When this mechanism is off or not being used, sleep deficiency increases. The combination of these two is the most likely cause of us sleeping at night.

The significance of this switch in the process of sleep and its relationship to bodily function was found when studying the fruit flies. If they did not sleep, mutant flies cannot regain these lost sleep hours. Sleep-deprived flies are also more likely to nod off and be cognitively impaired. Like sleep-deprived humans, these flies were subject to severe learning and memory deficiencies. In the mutant flies, the researchers proved the insomnia of the flies was due to a broken part of the electrical activity switch, which caused the sleep-inducing neurons to always be off.

Why do you think sleep is important? How is this discovery significant and how do you think this information will be used in the future? Will the mystery of sleep be solved soon?

Photograph by Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Other helpful links:

  • http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140219124730.htm
  • http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm
  • http://www.sleepfoundation.org

Junk DNA Shaping Your Face?

DNA_Double_Helix

So called “junk DNA” found in mice have been identified as major factors in the shaping of their faces. These findings are important because the same sequences are found in humans, and might be shaping ours. Junk DNA is named as such because it doesn’t code proteins, so it was originally thought to be “junk”. Scientists believe that these findings can help with research for congenital conditions such as cleft palates.

Geneticists have only, as of yet, been able to define a small number of the genes that influence human face shape, however there is a large variety of human faces. Axel Visel of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory believes that this variation is caused by “distant acting enhancers“: non coding regions of DNA that can influence facial shape.

Visel discovered these findings by using a technique called optical projection tomography where he developed three dimensional models of mouse embryos and saw how gene expression varied the faces.

Discovering enhancers that affect face shape could be an important step in preventing or fixing conditions such as cleft palate syndrome. What do you think about this research or its implications?

Stop! Don’t Smell the Roses!

800px-SneezeDuring the flu season, we all try to be a little more vigilant when it comes to germs. Even as a self-proclaimed “germaphobe,” I was not as lucky to escape the evil grasp of the disease. Aside from recognizing  the obvious perpetrators, who include those who refuse to cover their mouths, people who breathe just a little too close to me, and  grimy freshmen, I wanted to find out a little more about the  origin of diseases.

 An interesting area of research regarding the topic is being pioneered by Scott McArt and Lynn Adler of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They are investigating how great a role flowers play in the transmission of diseases. Around 190 studies having to do with flowers and diseases they pass on have been dated back to the lat 1940′s. This research is important because it can “help efforts to control economically devastating pollinator-vectored plant pathogens.” Still, this topic is very new and not as conclusive as many would think. Despite this fact, “eight major groups of animal pathogens that are potentially transmitted at flowers” (by bees and other pollinators) have been discovered. It is unknown whether pathogens are transmitted via the chemical or physical traits of flowers. 

The main goal of the study was to attention to the need to further explore the relationship between flowers, their pollinators and diseases, as many people have expressed concern for “the pollinator declines caused in part by pathogens.” Do you agree that this is an area worth researching?

New Species Discovered in a Famously Sexual Animal Family

The Antechinus family of rodents has one of the most peculiar sex lives in the animal kingdom, and just recently another species was discovered. These small  dasyurid marsupial are carnivores who live in Australia and New Guinea. The most extraordinary aspect of the Antechinus family is their sexual cycle. Most males live only long enough to breed, being born in November and reaching sexual maturity around August of the following year. By the time the males are old enough, they cease to function except for the sole purpose of finding a mate. The shrews stop eating and sleeping and begin to shut down bodily functions deemed ‘unnecessary’ so as to save energy for finding a mate and passing on genetic material. This ‘sacrifice’ of bodily functions goes so far as to shut down the immune system and strips the body of vital proteins. As a result of these sacrifices, the males do not long outlive their first sexual experience, which can last about 12 hours. The females live slightly longer, lasting the entire mating season and storing all of the semen within their bodies until ovulation at the end of the season, producing liters with children from various fathers. Although some females manage to survive up to 3 seasons, most die after their first litter.

A relative of the new species from the genus Antechinus

The new species, the black-tailed antechinus, was previously thought to be part of the dusky antechinuses species which is significant in that males are larger and commonly live for multiple mating seasons. It is unknown at this point whether the black-tailed antechinus shares that advantage or if the males simply die after their first season like most of the members of their genus. Other than their peculiar mating habits, the fact that a previously unknown species was discovered in Australia is remarkable, because new mammal species are extremely rare. However finds such as this of new species demonstrate how many new and interesting species of mammals and other organisms may still be out there.

Spinal Neurogenesis

An astrocyte cell grown in tissue culture as viewed by Gerry Shaw

Normally, when spinal neurons are lost during life due to disease or injury, they are lost for good, however, thanks to a recent study done by  Zhida Su and his colleagues at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center that may no longer be the case. The team took astrocytes—star-shaped support cells in the nervous system— from the spines of living mice and converted them into neurons. This research was based of the previous works of  Marius Wernig from the Stanford University School of Medicine, who first converted rat skin cells into stem cell like cells and then into neurons, Benedikt Berninger from Ludwig -Maximillians University Munich, who took certain brain cells and turned them into neurons, and Olof Torper from Lund University, who transformed astroytes from the brains of mice into neurons. Su and his team were drawn to spinal astrocytes because they form scar tissue after spinal cord injuries.

Su and his team accomplished this transformation by injecting a series of viruses into the mice, one of which, SOX2, managed to convert the spinal astrocytes into neuroblasts, both in culture and in living mice who had suffered spinal injuries. Some of these neuroblasts then went on to form functioning neurons and with the addition of valproic acid the number of cells which matured doubled and actually interacted with existing motor neurons.  Although this process is slow and can take up to four weeks, it is incredibly promising and it is even suggested that, “For each reprogrammed [cell], perhaps more than one new neuron could be generated,” meaning that each neuroblast could divide and create multiple neurons. Although this research is extremely promising, only 3-6% of astrocytes effected become neuroblasts which has been in no way enough to study the effects on the health of the mice. However, this research is very young and could lead to major achievments in neurogenesis in the future and the “curing” of paralysis and other conditions that result from the destruction of neurons.

The “Sleep Switch” Has Been Discovered

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/fourtwenty/2922398332/in/photostream/

If you’re like me, and most of you are since you’re all human, you’ve probably had a night or two where you just couldn’t fall asleep and figured that you had too much going on in your brain.  Maybe, if you’ve taken a biology course at some point or another, you’ve thought that your brain just has too much activity going on and you wished it would all just come to a nice rest.  In reality, if you’re experiencing that little bit of restlessness, your brain isn’t doing enough!  Scientists at Oxford University’s Centre for Neural Circuits and Behavior recently carried out a study on fruit flies in which they determined the “sleep switch” is really just a regulation of certain neurons in the brain which become more active when the body needs sleep.  Although the study was done on an entirely different species, these scientists still believe that the mechanism is comparable in humans due to the presence of similar neurons in the human brain.  The study showed that when sleep is needed by the body, the “electrical excitability” of the neurons increases, leading to the conclusion that their activity is related to how sleep is triggered.

While this recent discovery has already been inspiring new ideas on how to combat sleep disorders, it is really a step towards the much more basic question, “Why do we (animals) need to sleep?”  The next step towards answering this questions, explains Dr. Diogo Pimentel of Oxford University, is to identify “what happens in the brain during waking that requires sleep to reset.”

This “sleep switch” mechanism is one of two that are theorized to be used in the process of sleep.  The other being the body’s internal clock, which adjusts an animal to certain cycles based on the 24 hour day.  At the point of sleepiness, “The body clock says it’s the right time, and the sleep switch has built up pressure during a long waking day,” explains Professor Miesenböck, in whose laboratory the study was conducted.

Original Article: http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2014/02/19/scientists_identify_the_switch_that_says_its_time_to_sleep.html

Marriage: GOOD for your Blood Pressure?

wedding rings

The Journal of Hypertension, recently released a study by researchers at Harvard Medical School that being married may actually be good for your blood pressure. Researchers followed 325 individuals over a period of two years and monitored their blood pressure rates. Half of the subjects were married while the other half were single.

According to this study a “healthy” person should follow a cycle of blood pressure throughout the day. A person’s blood pressure should raise during the day and then fall over night. A ten percent drop in  systolic pressure–the number at the top when reading blood pressure– is considered “normal” for an average person. The researchers refer to this pattern as “nocturnal dipping”.

Of the 325 individuals tested those who were married were more likely to follow this pattern of “nocturnal dipping”. Married men especially experienced this throughout the study. Researchers came to this conclusion after taking into account age,  weight, medical history, socio economic status, diet, and body mass index in addition to a person marital status.

It is believed that marriage gives a person an emotional and economic support system, which in turn allows a person to better manage stress and blood pressure.

Low Iron, Sticky Blood, and Strokes

Photo taken by BruceBlaus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blausen_0088_BloodClot.png

Photo taken by BruceBlaus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blausen_0088_BloodClot.png

Scientists at Imperial College London discovered that low iron levels make blood “stickier” and thus, result in a higher risk of having a stroke.  The most common type of stroke, ischaemic stroke, is a result of a lack of blood supply to the brain caused by small clots.  These researchers found that iron deficiency increases stickiness of platelets, which cause clotting when stuck together (original article).  This connection between iron deficiency and stickier blood was made previously, but its implications are just now being identified.

In this recent study, about 500 patients with a disease called hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) were studied because their condition allows small blood clots to travel to the brain more often than clots in people without the condition.  The patients with low iron were more likely to have a stroke, and their platelets stuck together to form a clot more quickly than those of patients with higher iron levels.  More specifically, having a moderately low iron level (about 6 micromoles/liter) about doubled the risk of stroke when compared to the risk with a normal iron level.  This is a strong start to proving the link between iron levels and strokes, but more research must be done to fully prove the connection because there are more steps that occur between the clot forming and the stroke occurring.

Scientists are hoping that the newly discovered implications of this research could help lower the risk of stroke in high-risk patients through the monitoring and regulation of iron levels.  Could simply raising a person’s iron level help prevent strokes? I believe that further research will reveal a more complex solution involving a process that occurs between the clotting and the actual stroke.

Sleeping: Switch off the Lights, Switch on the Neurons

 

Photo taken by André Karwath http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Drosophila_melanogaster_-_front_(aka).jpg

Photo taken by André Karwath
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Drosophila_melanogaster_-_front_(aka).jpg

Scientists at Oxford University’s Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour “identified the switch in the brain that sends us off to sleep”  (see original article) by doing a study on fruit flies (Drosophilia).  This part of the brain had been discovered in 2011 (see this article about the discovery), but the new research identifies more specifically the molecules and sleep-causing cells involved. 

The switch (which is made of several molecules) in the fly brain is likely similar to the switch in the human brain because both species have a similar group of sleep neurons.  This switch regulates the neurons that cause organisms to sleep (the neurons that are targets of anesthetics).   The sleep neurons are active when the organism is tired and needs sleep (it is the result of these neurons being activated that causes sleep), and less active when it is well rested.  The switch or “homeostat” is one of two devices that regulate sleep (the other is the body clock that distinguishes night from day in humans). It records the hours a person is awake and then signals the neurons that cause sleep when the person needs to rest.    

In the study, flies were kept awake all night.  Regular flies slept more the next day, while the mutants could not do this.  The mutants were found to “nod off” (determined by the fact that flies stop moving when they sleep) and were found to have learning and memory issues.  In these mutants, researchers found a key molecular piece of the “sleep switch” and determined that it was broken.  This resulted in the neurons that cause sleep not being activated; this led to insomnia.

Now that the sleep switch has been “pinpointed”, what new drugs will be created to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders?  People are also wondering if this more specific discovery will help answer the larger question of why animals need sleep at all.  As someone who does not get much sleep, I find this new identification very interesting and relevant in the busy lives of people today.

No More Water Damage?

Have you ever dropped your phone in water? If so you know the horrible feeling of “my phone is ruined”! But this whole situation can now be avoided with a recent discovery made by a British based firm called “P2i“. This firm is known for being the leaders in liquid repellent. The company was established in 2004; it was developed by the United Kingdom government’s defense science and technology laboratory (DSTL). Their new nano-coating is talked about in an article on CNN.

 

Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns

Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns

 

Their latest discovery is a liquid repellent nano-coating that provides a watertight solution. Simply spray the nano-coating onto a surface and liquids will be repelled. The trick is a “patented chemical that lowers an objects surface energy”, when the surface energy is lowered the “liquid forms beads upon contact and rolls off with out being absorbed”. This special chemical is extremely small- 50 nanometers wide (which is 1,000 times thinner than a human hair)!

The chemical sprays on clear which makes it invisible to the naked eye. So spray this on your iPhone or any mobile device and it won’t look a bit different. Stephen Coulson, the chemical engineer who invented this new technology stated “You look at it and you can’t see any change. But when you drop water on it, it will just bead up and drop off. More importantly, the internals will also be protected to prevent corrosion damage”.

Interestingly, the British Ministry of Defense started the question of whether water repellent chemicals could work- specifically to protect its soldiers during attack. They wanted uniforms that could resist all types of liquids including chemical weapons. So P2i created clothes for the British Army.

Continuing with their success, P2i now works with Motorola and TCL Alcatel. But they are not only limited to electronics, recently they began working with  shoe-makers K-Swiss, Nike and Adidas. P2i is now experimenting with formula one racing cars, tennis balls and surfboards. Coulson stated “we see the future as everything being treated with P2i’s technology”. Here is a video from CNN talking with P2i about the nano-coating. What do you think of this new product?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not So Simple Sponge

Sponges are said to be the simplest of multi-cellular organisms. Because they are simple filter feeders, lacking nervous, digestive, and circulatory systems, they are an important piece in studying the evolution of animals. Sponges are found all over the world and suggest to be diverged early from other animals.

A recent study found extremely surprising evidence about sponges that could potentially shed new light on animal evolution. The study showed that higher complex genes, thought to be absent in sponges, proved to be present in all sponge types. Gene study is very important in sponges. Genes in sponges are involved in more basic structures and the functions of theses genes are currently unknown. It is important to study these genes because the genes we do know in other animals may serve a different function in sponges, suggesting these genes were “co-opted” later for the function we know now. Determining the function of genes in sponges is the next step in studying animal evolution.

These findings are ground breaking because they can lead to new ideas in determining gene function and early evolution of metazoan. Its amazing how much information scientists can conclude from such a simple organism!

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http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/

Nadia Prigoda-Lee/Attribution License