Alex Torex Blog

SciTech oriented blog

Bird-brained? This crow’s a genius! Amazing video reveals how creature solves 8 complex puzzles to unlock a treat

James Bond is known for his ability to make the best of a bad situation, but a crow called 007 has also proved to be a top notch problem solver.

The cunning crow has solved one of the most complex tests of the animal mind ever to be constructed.

And did so in less than three minutes on camera – a world first.

Read more: Bird-brained? This crow’s a genius! Amazing video reveals how creature solves 8 complex puzzles to unlock a treat | Mail Online

February 11, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

The beauty of genes: Scientists take stunning ‘photographs’ of human cells by making the DNA inside them GLOW

This hypnotic image is what the human body looks like when you break it down into its smallest parts.

It might seem like a piece of abstract art, but in reality these intricate patterns are the tiny scaffolds and components that make up a human cell.

Inside each cell is a huge range of molecular machinery that can resemble a busy construction site, with different types of these tiny cellular workers coming and going.

Read more: The beauty of genes: Scientists take stunning ‘photographs’ of human cells by making the DNA inside them GLOW | Mail Online

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Extraordinary stem cell method tested in human tissue

Last week, the scientific world was bowled over by a study in Nature showing that an acidic environment turned adult mouse cells into “totipotent” stem cellsMovie Camera – which can turn into any cell in the body or placenta. The researchers called these new totipotent cells stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells.

“If they can do this in human cells, it changes everything,” Rob Lanza of Advanced Cell Technologies in Marlborough, Massachusetts, said at the time. The technique promises cheaper, quicker and potentially more flexible cells for regenerative medicine, cancer therapy and cloning.

Now, Vacanti and his colleagues say they have taken human fibroblast cells and tested several environmental stressors on them in an attempt to recreate human STAP cells. He won’t reveal what type of stressors were applied but he says the resulting cells appears similar in form to the mouse STAP cells. His team is in the process of testing to see just how stem-cell-like these cells are.

Cluster up

Vacanti says that the human cells took about a week to resemble STAP cells, and formed spherical clusters just like their mouse counterparts. Using a similar experimental set-up with green monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus) cells, Vacanti says the resulting cells are behaving slightly differently. He says that may be due to the fact that the researchers used slightly different techniques. Both Vacanti and his Harvard colleague Koji Kojima emphasise that these results are only preliminary and much further analysis and validation is required.

“Even if these are STAP cells they may not necessarily have the same potential as mouse ones – they may not have the totipotency – which is one of the most interesting features of the mouse cells,” says Sally Cowley, head of the James Martin Stem Cell Facility at the University of Oxford.

Pluripotent cells, such as embryonic stem cells, can form any cell in an embryo but not a placenta. Totipotent cells, however, can form any cell in an embryo and a placenta – meaning they have the potential to create life. The only cells known to be naturally totipotent are in embryos that have only undergone the first couple of cell divisions immediately after fertilisation.

Read more: Extraordinary stem cell method tested in human tissue – health – 05 February 2014 – New Scientist

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

A 3D window into living cells, no dye required

University of Illinois researchers have developed a new imaging technique that needs no dyes or other chemicals, yet renders high-resolution, three-dimensional, quantitative imagery of cells and their internal structures using conventional microscopes and white light.

Called white-light diffraction tomography (WDT), the imaging technique opens a window into the life of a cell without disturbing it and could allow cellular biologists unprecedented insight into cellular processes, drug effects and stem cell differentiation.

The team, led by electrical and computer engineering and bioengineering professor Gabriel Popescu, published their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

“One main focus of imaging cells is trying to understand how they function, or how they respond to treatments, for example, during cancer therapies,” Popescu said. “If you need to add dyes or contrast agents to study them, this preparation affects the cells’ function itself. It interferes with your study. With our technique, we can see processes as they happen and we don’t obstruct their normal behavior.”

Read more: A 3D window into living cells, no dye required | KurzweilAI

January 27, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

What does a dolphin use to get high? A toxic puffer fish that makes them lapse into a trance-like state

Zoologist and series producer Rob Pilley said that it was the first time dolphins had been filmed behaving this way.

He added: ‘We saw the dolphins handle the puffers with kid gloves, very gently and delicately like they were almost milking them to not upset the fish too much or kill it.

‘As a result the fish released various toxins as a defence.

‘The dolphins then seemed to  be mesmerised.’

He insisted that the scene couldn’t have been a one-off encounter, saying: ‘The dolphins were specifically going for the puffers and deliberately handling them with care.’

What does a dolphin use to get high? A toxic puffer fish that makes them lapse into a trance-like state | Mail Online

December 30, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Unusual breathing in lizards could make them more likely to survive a global catastrophe

Other than the American alligator, the savannah monitor lizard is the only other known reptile found the ability to breathe in this way – also known as unidirectional breathing.

This is in contrast to humans and other mammals who have a two-way, or ‘tidal’, breathing pattern.

Tidal breathing means air enters the lungs through airways and then flows back out again the same way.

Rather than being partially filled with stale air like human lungs, a bird’s lungs contain air with much higher oxygen content to help them fly. 

‘Reptiles could inherit the Earth': Unusual breathing in lizards could make them more likely to survive a global catastrophe | Mail Online

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

The abominable snowman? He may be more a Yogi than a Yeti

But we can speculate on what the possible explanation might be. It could mean there is a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas descended from the bear that was the ancestor of the polar bear. Or it could mean there has been more recent hybridisation between the brown bear and the descendent of the ancient polar bear.

Read more: The abominable snowman? He may be more a Yogi than a Yeti: DNA tests find animal is genetic match for ancient polar bear | Mail Online

October 17, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

What a way to go! Male marsupial found to sex itself to death after intensive 14-hour mating sessions in its final fortnight

The mouse-like creature, which only lives for a year, has sex so often in the last two weeks of its life that is loses all its fur, becomes infected, bleeds internally and eventually dies.

Lead researcher Dr Diana Fisher said: ‘Poor little guys – you have to feel sorry for them.

What a way to go! Male marsupial found to sex itself to death after intensive 14-hour mating sessions in its final fortnight | Mail Online

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought

But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have indentified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae.

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought | TG Daily

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Scientists develop tough petunia plant which survives temperatures of -10C and will continue flowering through winter

The petunia ‘Below Zero’ plants come in batches of five plugs and cost £7.

Read more: That’s blooming brilliant! Scientists develop tough petunia plant which survives temperatures of -10C and will continue flowering through winter | Mail Online

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Back from the dead, nearly: Scientists create living embryo of extinct frog that gives birth through its MOUTH

Jesus wept: Like Lazarus, the long-extinct gastric-brooding frog, Rheobatrachus silus, could be be brought back to life – some 30 years after the last living specimen died out

Read more: Back from the dead, nearly: Scientists create living embryo of extinct frog that gives birth through its MOUTH | Mail Online

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

‘Zombie’ cells are created in lab… and they outperform their living counterparts

Scientists ‘embalm’ the living cell in a silica acid solution
Fossilised cell can survive greater temperatures and pressures than flesh
Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories and University of New Mexico hope technique can used in commercial manufacturing

Read more: ‘Zombie’ cells are created in lab… and they outperform their living counterparts | Mail Online

February 22, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

The Sauron dinosaur: Palaeontologists name beast after Tolkien’s demonic creation after it is identified from just its eye-socket

Sauroniops pachytholus was one of four large predatory dinosaurs which lived in North Africa 95million years ago
Scientists estimate that it was as much as 40ft long and similar in shape but unrelated to Tyrannosaurus rex

Read more: The Sauron dinosaur: Palaeontologists name beast after Tolkien’s demonic creation after it is identified from just its eye-socket | Mail Online

November 7, 2012 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Artificial jellyfish created from heart cells

Prof Parker said he wanted to challenge the traditional view of synthetic biology which is “focused on genetic manipulations of cells”. Instead of building just a cell, he sought to “build a beast”.

The two groups at Caltech and Harvard worked for years to understand the key factors that contribute to jellyfish propulsion, including the arrangement of their muscles, how their bodies contract and recoil, and how fluid dynamics helps or hinders their movements.
Medusoid-jellyfish grabs The swimming behaviour of the Medusoid closely mimics that of the real thing

Once these functions were well understood, the researchers began to reverse engineer them.

They used silicone to fashion a jellyfish-shaped body with eight arm-like appendages.

Next, they printed a pattern made of protein onto the “body” that resembled the muscle architecture of the real animal.

They grew the heart muscle cells on top, with the protein pattern serving as a road map for the growth and organisation of the rat tissue. This allowed them to turn the cells into a coherent swimming muscle.

BBC News – Artificial jellyfish created from heart cells

July 23, 2012 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Stanford University researchers create first virtual organism

A team of Stanford University researchers has managed to create the world’s first complete computer model of an organism.

The team – led by Prof. Markus Covert – leveraged data from more than 900 scientific papers to account for every molecular interaction that takes place in the life cycle of Mycoplasma genitalium, the world’s smallest free-living bacterium.

Stanford University researchers create first virtual organism | TG Daily

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Six-Legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides For 80 Years

No, this isn’t a make-believe place. It’s real.

They call it “Ball’s Pyramid.” It’s what’s left of an old volcano that emerged from the sea about 7 million years ago. A British naval officer named Ball was the first European to see it in 1788. It sits off Australia, in the South Pacific. It is extremely narrow, 1,844 feet high, and it sits alone.

Six-Legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides For 80 Years : Krulwich Wonders… : NPR

March 1, 2012 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Kakapo: The parrot that can’t fly and only wants sex every two years

Shagged by a rare parrot – Last Chance To See – BBC Two – YouTube

Do some animals DESERVE to go extinct? The parrot that can’t fly, mistakes predators for mates and only wants sex every two years

Kakapo: The parrot that can’t fly and only wants sex every two years | Mail Online

February 22, 2012 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

A mitosis mystery solved: How chromosomes align perfectly in a dividing cell

To solve a mystery, sometimes a great detective need only study the clues in front of him. Like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Tomomi Kiyomitsu used his keen powers of observation to solve a puzzle that had mystified researchers for years: in a cell undergoing mitotic cell division, what internal signals cause its chromosomes to align on a center axis?

A mitosis mystery solved: How chromosomes align perfectly in a dividing cell

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Eeek! Human response to fear is more like animals than thought

“The findings suggest that, despite our sophisticated mental capabilities, our responses are in fact driven by these more primitive processes when in danger.

Lead author, Professor Ian McLaren of the University of Exeter, said: ‘This research clearly shows that, in these circumstances, our reaction to a fear-provoking stimulus depends on a primitive response caused by associative learning. This is something we share with other animals.

‘This could have important practical implications. Now that we know that associative processes are implicated in our response to fear-inducing stimuli, we need to consider the implications for the ways in which we treat anxiety and phobias.'”

Eeek! Human response to fear is more like animals than thought | Mail Online

January 20, 2012 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

I lived as a turkey for a year

Did you learn to talk “turkey”?
They sort of taught me their language. Researchers had identified 25 to 30 calls in wild turkeys that I was familiar with. But I learned that wild turkey vocabulary was much more complex than I had realised – within each of their calls were different inflexions that had specific meanings. For example, they had an alarm call for dangerous reptiles, but what I learned was that in that call there were specific inflexions that would identify a species of snake. Eventually when I heard a certain vocalisation I knew without question they had found a rattlesnake.

I lived as a turkey for a year – life – 23 December 2011 – New Scientist

December 23, 2011 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

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