Too Many Live Wires

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11 posts · 10,652 views

A blog for all ages aiming to cast some light on the dark world inside living cells. The blog will discuss the impact of the latest cell biology research for the public and for science. It uses novel metaphors to explore scientific ideas; and will give advice to school children interested in careers in biology and mathematics. Jargon is kept to a minimum, hopefully making for an interesting and entertaining read.

John Ankers
11 posts

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  • December 5, 2012
  • 04:21 AM

There's something about ivy

by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

‘Tis the season to be jolly: A time when geese are getting fat and red-nosed reindeers are given their first big break. At Christmas, your halls may be decked with holly but it’s ivy that grows over everything else. But have you ever wondered how ivy is able to climb up walls? ... Read more »

Burris, J., Lenaghan, S., Zhang, M., & Stewart, C. (2012) Nanoparticle biofabrication using English ivy (Hedera helix). Journal of Nanobiotechnology, 10(1), 41. DOI: 10.1186/1477-3155-10-41  

  • July 24, 2012
  • 06:27 AM

Buddy-cops! Why evolution favours the odd couple

by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

Inside our cells, the battle with viruses has a lot in common with 1980s action-comedy Lethal Weapon. Both feature an unlikely pair of heroes. Each partnership - proteins and LA cops alike - has a reliable, straight-laced, by-the-book one and a loose canon, maverick one.

New research suggests that whether they're crime fighting or fighting an infection, the odd couple always gets the job done.... Read more »

Ratushny AV, Saleem RA, Sitko K, Ramsey SA, & Aitchison JD. (2012) Asymmetric positive feedback loops reliably control biological responses. Molecular systems biology, 577. PMID: 22531117  

  • July 4, 2012
  • 06:46 AM

Under your skin: taking skin cancer out by its roots

by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

The summer sun may finally be on its way. This is great news for barbecue kings and beach bums but also for the weeds lurking below the surface of the soil popping up intermittently to strangle my carrots.

New research published in Cell describes another reason to cake ourselves in sun cream, cover up our bare flesh and wear ridiculously wide-brimmed hats in the coming months: weed-like skin cancers which start below the surface of the skin and grow upwards. ... Read more »

Hu B, Castillo E, Harewood L, Ostano P, Reymond A, Dummer R, Raffoul W, Hoetzenecker W, Hofbauer GF, & Dotto GP. (2012) Multifocal Epithelial Tumors and Field Cancerization from Loss of Mesenchymal CSL Signaling. Cell, 149(6), 1207-20. PMID: 22682244  

  • June 19, 2012
  • 03:56 AM

Who needs NASA? Launching genes with lasers in space-travelled fish

by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

NASA has its sights on launching rockets into space with lasers. "What if..." they're wondering, "shuttles could be sent up using laser beams to heat their fuel from the ground?"

Biophysicists in Japan have had a similar idea. They've successfully used lasers to launch genes inside living creatures, with a little help from nanotechnology. If this works in humans, future battles with cancer may be fought by remote control.... Read more »

Miyako, E., Deguchi, T., Nakajima, Y., Yudasaka, M., Hagihara, Y., Horie, M., Shichiri, M., Higuchi, Y., Yamashita, F., Hashida, M.... (2012) Photothermic regulation of gene expression triggered by laser-induced carbon nanohorns. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(19), 7523-7528. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1204391109  

  • June 7, 2012
  • 04:57 AM

Death by metal: a hidden detonator inside cancer cells?

by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

Our cells are wired to explode. Given the right signals they can burst open, scattering bits of crunched up DNA, shrivelled membrane and chemicals in all directions. Sometimes this is all part of the plan: controlled cell death it vital to defining the outline of our toes and fingers in the womb, and to the daily act of replacing old cells with new ones. Cell death is a part of life.

New research has uncovered a hidden route to cell death. Death by iron, or 'ferroptosis' may b........ Read more »

Dixon, S., Lemberg, K., Lamprecht, M., Skouta, R., Zaitsev, E., Gleason, C., Patel, D., Bauer, A., Cantley, A., Yang, W.... (2012) Ferroptosis: An Iron-Dependent Form of Nonapoptotic Cell Death. Cell, 149(5), 1060-1072. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.03.042  

  • May 31, 2012
  • 06:36 AM

Want to build the perfect smartphone? Take a lesson from your cells

by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

Today's smartphones could do better. Yes, they send texts, make video calls, talk to satellites, take, edit (and share) your pictures, play games and music... one even makes a whipping noise if you waggle it a bit. Some of them can make phone calls too. But surely there's so much more that could be crammed in?

The human cell has functionality that would put any smartphone to shame. The secret, as new research investigates, was learning how to multitask.... Read more »

  • May 24, 2012
  • 04:34 AM

Getting to the root of Type II diabetes... with liquorice?

by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

The liquorice root is full of surprises. Chewed as a breath freshener in Italy and a sweet in Sweden (and the north of England), this little brown stick has also been used as a remedy for mouth ulcers for thousands of years.

New research has identified a natural chemical extracted from the liquorice root that could be used to treat Type II diabetes.... Read more »

Weidner, C., de Groot, J., Prasad, A., Freiwald, A., Quedenau, C., Kliem, M., Witzke, A., Kodelja, V., Han, C., Giegold, S.... (2012) From the Cover: Amorfrutins are potent antidiabetic dietary natural products. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(19), 7257-7262. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1116971109  

  • May 18, 2012
  • 11:42 AM

Anchors away! When neural stem cells decide a change is as good as a rest

by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

Between 1830 and 1930, over nine million people left England from Liverpool on ships bound for Australia, Canada and America. The Merseyside port swelled with would-be emigrants, all holding tightly to the decision to leave their homes for the promise of a new life.

Stem cells in the brain are similarly destined for change. A recent study suggests their transformation into specialised cells, a process known as differentiation, is combined with the decision to migrate to where they are needed........ Read more »

Niola, F., Zhao, X., Singh, D., Castano, A., Sullivan, R., Lauria, M., Nam, H., Zhuang, Y., Benezra, R., Di Bernardo, D.... (2012) Id proteins synchronize stemness and anchorage to the niche of neural stem cells. Nature Cell Biology, 14(5), 477-487. DOI: 10.1038/ncb2490  

  • May 14, 2012
  • 10:42 AM

New research: Morphine gets our wires crossed

by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

Researchers may have found the cause of a mysterious side-effect of morphine.

Morphine, a drug used to treat chronic pain, is also known to cause inflammation of the central nervous system (CNS), reducing its pain-killing effects. The question is ‘how?... Read more »

Wang, X., Loram, L., Ramos, K., de Jesus, A., Thomas, J., Cheng, K., Reddy, A., Somogyi, A., Hutchinson, M., Watkins, L.... (2012) Morphine activates neuroinflammation in a manner parallel to endotoxin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(16), 6325-6330. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1200130109  

  • May 14, 2012
  • 10:42 AM

Faultless: Your skin's battle with open wounds and cancer

by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

New research has revealed a connection between how our skin heals and the prevention of skin cancers.

In a paper published two weeks ago in JCB, Jeremy Rotty and colleagues showed that keratin 6 (K6), a fibrous protein used to repair skin lesions, can also put the brakes on skin cells growing too quickly.
... Read more »

  • April 25, 2012
  • 09:52 AM


by John Ankers in Too Many Live Wires

At six in the morning, on 18th August 1969, Jimi Hendrix took to the stage at the Woodstrock festival. In amongst his two and half hour set were many of his hallmarks - smashed guitars, fires, unpredictable guitar solos, playing behind the head and with teeth, and a new technique which Hendrix himself had invented.... Read more »

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