“Art and science have their meeting point in method.”
The secrets of cell development
Amazingly, all the cells in our body have exactly the same DNA and yet still manage to be completely different and carry out different jobs, from pumping our hearts to fighting off infections!
We have epigenetic marks to thank for this. Epigenetic marks (special molecules that attach at certain areas of the DNA) control how a DNA sequence is read and provide a mechanism for cell memory, without affecting the DNA sequence itself. These marks allow cells to interpret the uniform genetic information in different ways, by switching different genes on or off. The marks also help cells to remember which genes should be on and off and they can also pass this information onto other cells during cell division.
Without these epigenetic mechanisms cells would lose their identity, and to some extent that is what happens in diseases like cancer.
BBSRC-funded Professor Wolf Reik and Dr Fatima Santos, from the University Of Cambridge and The Babraham Institute, are studying stem cells, like the cells above, to find out more about epigenetic information: research which is providing us with new approaches to improve the potential of stem cells for regenerative medicine.
Image credits: Dr Fatima Santos
The mystery of the roaming rocks of Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa may be at an end. Since their discovery in the 1940s, researchers have speculated about what conditions on the playa could cause 15+ kg rocks to slide tens or hundreds of meters across the dry lakebed. But the rare nature of the movement and the remoteness of the location had prevented direct observation of the phenomenon until last December when a research team caught the rocks in motion (see the timelapse animation above or the source video). Winter rain and snow had created a shallow ice-encrusted pond across the playa by the time the researchers arrived to check their previously installed equipment. Late one sunny morning, the melting ice, only millimeters thick, cracked into plates tens of meters wide and began to move under the light breeze (~4-5 m/s). Despite its windowpane-like thickness, the ice pushed GPS-instrumented rocks up to hundreds of meters at speeds of 2-5 m/min. It took just the right mix of conditions—sun, wind, snow, and water—but the two ice-shoving instances the team observed go a long way toward explaining the sailing rocks. (Image credits: R. Norris et al.; J. Norris, source video; NASA Goddard; via Discover and SciAm)
Our video about a science rapping competition just won a "Salute To Excellence" award from the National Assocation of Black Journalists!
It is an honor to win, and it was an honor to meet all the incredibly talented young rappers. I still have their songs stuck in my head. Check out their sweet science rhymes here: