Friday, March 11, 2011

Science Topics of the Week 3/6/2011

"Light Sheets" Image Life in 3D

Nature Methods reports on a new method to image live cells in a 3D environment without damaging the cells. Previously, exposing live cells to light would cause damage to the cellular processes preventing them from producing accurate images. This new technology focuses the light beam to allow for only a small area to be exposed to the light to limit the damage.

As a cell biologist, this is a great technology. The ability to study fixed cells in 3D has been available for awhile, but the processes occurring in live cells are of interest to get an accurate picture. My favorite quote from the article was " There's alot you can learn from actually watching things wiggle around." Very true!

Sylvain Dubey from NY Times
Invasive Animal Species Upend a Darwin Idea

Darwin had it right with his theories of evolution and natural selection...until now. The hint of this change has been seen across species for a few years now, but a study has been done with frogs, toads and salamanders. Darwin reported that an invasive species enters an environment where a closely related species is living, the invasive species will be unsuccessful. However, this has been found to be untrue in amphibians. Actually, when close relatives are already doing well in an environment, new species do well also.

This makes sense to me as similar species will require similar environments to survive and as long as there is enough resources in an area, both species can survive in an area together. This would only become an issue if there was not enough resources and it would be interesting to study what happens in those environments.

From Nature News
Enzyme Can Strengthen Memories

Researchers have discovered the enzyme protein kinase Mζ (PKMζ) will strengthen long term memories. This is important for cases of dementia and amnesia and for allowing people to remember the important things that always seem to slip as you get older. A study done on memory in rats found that increasing this enzyme increases the long term memory in rats.

This research is important as advances in medicine allow people to live longer. While people are living longer, developments that help their brain age as well as the rest of their body have been slow going. An important part of who you are is formed by your memories and discovering a way to maintain them as you age is important.

From Science/AAAS
The efficacy of cancer drugs is decreased due to cancer cells natural desire to pump the drug out of the cell. The creation of nanoparticles shaped much like a diamond prevent cancer cells from pushing them out since cellular processes can carry these particles. These nanodiamonds are non-toxic and can be loaded with an electrical charge which would allow for drugs to be attached and distributed. This was studied in a rat model and showed a decrease in tumor size greater than drugs without the nanodiamonds.

This research still needs to be studied in more detail and on larger models than rats, but this type of drug delivery method can be used in more than just cancer drug delivery to aid in the administration of those drugs.

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