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Science for everyone- research news, in depth analysis and science explained in a flash.

Isabel Torres
22 posts

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  • May 16, 2014
  • 11:08 AM
  • 127 views

Tun-ing in on water bears' superpowers

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Water bears, or tardigrades, are harmless microscopic animals. Yet, despite their endearing bear-like appearance, tardigrades are the hardest animals to kill on Earth. And boy, many have tried.Tardigrades are chubby eight-legged animals, no longer than the head of a pin, related to velvet worms and also arthropodes, a large family including insects, spiders and crustaceans. They can be found anywhere where there’s water, but they prefer to live in damp moss and lichens. These tough creatu........ Read more »

  • February 18, 2014
  • 05:54 PM
  • 235 views

All eyes on bioprinting

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

3D printing is in fashion. Clothes, prosthetic limbs, guns and even pizza, you name it—just about anything can be printed these days. Even living cells.Bioprinting is an emerging technology that promises to revolutionise the field of regenerative medicine. The idea is simple: you load a printer cartridge with cells removed from a patient or grown in the lab, and then print a brand new tissue or organ ready for transplantation. Alternatively, you could print healthy tissue directly onto a patie........ Read more »

  • December 20, 2013
  • 05:48 PM
  • 326 views

Salamanders have different ways of regenerating lost limbs

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Regenerating complex tissues is an enviable ability. Salamanders have mastered this skill to perfection, but a recent study shows that two closely related species use different molecular strategies to regenerate their lost limbs.The remarkable ability to regenerate body parts is fairly common amongst invertebrates. If you chop up a flat worm (planarian) in several bits, they will each grow into a tiny worm (scientists have even been able to grow flat worms from single cells!). When spiders (and........ Read more »

Sandoval-Guzmán Tatiana, Wang Heng, Khattak Shahryar, Schuez Maritta, Roensch Kathleen, Nacu Eugeniu, Tazaki Akira, Joven Alberto, Tanaka Elly M., & Simon András. (2013) Fundamental Differences in Dedifferentiation and Stem Cell Recruitment during Skeletal Muscle Regeneration in Two Salamander Species. Cell Stem Cell. DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2013.11.007  

  • December 5, 2013
  • 04:04 PM
  • 311 views

Promiscuous female chickens choose who fathers their children... after sex

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Sex is not much fun for female chickens. Even though they are likely to have many partners, female chickens have little choice over with whom they mate. On top of this, male chickens are anything but picky and will copulate with whoever comes their way, including their sisters. But female chickens can still have the last squawk—instead of choosing a partner, they select the sperm that fertilises their eggs. It’s easy to understand why being promiscuous is advantageous for males: the more fem........ Read more »

Lovlie H., Gillingham M. A. F., Worley K., Pizzari T., & Richardson D. S. (2013) Cryptic female choice favours sperm from major histocompatibility complex-dissimilar males. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280(1769), 20131296-20131296. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1296  

  • November 6, 2013
  • 05:08 AM
  • 268 views

Cocoons protect ants from disease – and from nest eviction

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

For ant larvae and pupae, getting sick is a death sentence—when adult ants spot an infirm individual in their spotlessly clean nest, they simply chuck it out and leave it to die. But some pupae have worked out a way to avoid nest eviction. Scientists have discovered that in some ant species the pupae spin bug-proof cocoons that help them dodge disease.Credit: Alexander Wild (www.alexanderwild.com)Ants are tormented by all sorts of nasty bugs, from bacteria to fungi and parasites. Because larva........ Read more »

Tragust Simon, Ugelvig Line V, Chapuisat Michel, Heinze Jürgen, & Cremer Sylvia. (2013) Pupal cocoons affect sanitary brood care and limit fungal infections in ant colonies. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 13(1), 225. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-13-225  

  • October 4, 2013
  • 09:16 AM
  • 426 views

Seeing is believing? An optical illusion that challenges decades-old assumptions

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Our brains are wired to make things up. To make sense of the physical world around us, the brain takes bits of information received from the senses and, like an artist painting a landscape, creates a unique mental picture shaped by its experiences. Without this ability to process sensory information (called perception) we wouldn’t be able to see in three dimensions, understand someone speaking in a noisy room, or even watch a film at the cinema. But there is a caveat: the brain can sometimes m........ Read more »

Wexler M., Glennerster A., Cavanagh P., Ito H., & Seno T. (2013) Default perception of high-speed motion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(17), 7080-7085. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1213997110  

  • September 19, 2013
  • 06:02 PM
  • 482 views

Baby zebras can suckle for psychological needs, not just for feeding

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

All mammals are born with a sucking reflex - an instinct on which their lives depend - but human babies are unique in that they also need to suck for comfort. Or so it was thought. A new study now shows evidence suggesting that baby zebras can suckle for psychological needs, rather than just for feeding. The use of soothers is a sensitive topic amongst parents. Soothers (also known as pacifiers or dummies) comfort babies and help them sleeping, but many parents go through great lengths (and many........ Read more »

  • August 13, 2013
  • 09:36 AM
  • 348 views

Rare embryo discovery gives hints on how dinosaurs reproduced

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Sometime in the Late Jurassic era, a dinosaur nest was hit by a fatal tragedy and its eggs never hatched. Whatever killed the baby dinos - perhaps a hungry predator or a flood - was a stroke of luck for the team of paleontologists who, about 150 millions later, stumbled on the crushed eggs and embryo remains in the Lourinhã geological formation, in Portugal.  “Most of the time what happens is that you find eggs without embryos, to find them together is really a matter of chance,” says ........ Read more »

Araújo Ricardo, Castanhinha Rui, Martins Rui M. S., Mateus Octávio, Hendrickx Christophe, Beckmann F., Schell N., & Alves L. C. (2013) Filling the gaps of dinosaur eggshell phylogeny: Late Jurassic Theropod clutch with embryos from Portugal. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/srep01924  

  • July 8, 2013
  • 02:21 PM
  • 323 views

The strange virus from the sewage

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Viruses can infect all types of organisms. Unable to multiply on their own, viruses parasitise animals, plants, bacteria and even other viruses, in order to propagate. Bacteria-killing viruses, called bacteriophages or simply phages, are the most abundant and diverse organisms on the planet. It is estimated that there are over 100 million different phages, but only about 0.0002% of phage genomes have been sequenced. Sewage-polluted waters, like some lakes and ponds, are a sample haven for v........ Read more »

Šimoliūnas Eugenijus, Kaliniene Laura, Truncaitė Lidija, Zajančkauskaitė Aurelija, Staniulis Juozas, Kaupinis Algirdas, Ger Marija, Valius Mindaugas, Meškys Rolandas, & van Raaij Mark J. (2013) Klebsiella Phage vB_KleM-RaK2 — A Giant Singleton Virus of the Family Myoviridae. PLoS ONE, 8(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060717.s003  

  • May 20, 2013
  • 03:35 PM
  • 765 views

Why don't men understand women?

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Men might have found themselves an excuse not to listen to women. New research suggests that men have twice more difficulty reading emotions in women than in men. This may not sound surprising, but evidence that men have trouble understanding women is, at best, scarce.Being able to guess someone else’s thoughts, feelings and intentions is an instinctive social skill that develops in early childhood. We might take it for granted, but people who struggle or are unable to read other people, like ........ Read more »

  • May 13, 2013
  • 06:45 AM
  • 329 views

Multi-tasking pigments

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Plants and other photosynthetic organisms live in a catch-22 situation. “Plants produce oxygen but are also poisoned by oxygen,” says Roberto Bassi, an Italian plant physiologist who has been passionate about photosynthesis since his graduate degree at the Padua University Botanical Garden. Bassi’s research group at Verona University played a pivotal role in understanding the dual function of carotenoid pigments in absorbing light energy and protecting the photosynthetic machinery against ........ Read more »

  • April 18, 2013
  • 04:36 AM
  • 500 views

Kidneys grown in the lab work in animals

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital in the US have grown rat kidneys in the laboratory that produced urine when transplanted into living animals. This is an important step towards the production of customised organs for transplantation into people with kidney failure, which could replace donor organ transplants. Patients with kidney failure can be treated with dialysis, but can only be cured with a kidney transplant. About 15,000 people are waiting for a donor kidney in the Eurot........ Read more »

Song Jeremy J, Guyette Jacques P, Gilpin Sarah E, Gonzalez Gabriel, Vacanti Joseph P, & Ott Harald C. (2013) Regeneration and experimental orthotopic transplantation of a bioengineered kidney. Nature Medicine. DOI: 10.1038/nm.3154  

  • April 1, 2013
  • 05:31 PM
  • 280 views

Excuse me, that's my hand! (... but is it really?)

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

About 15 years ago, a one-page Nature study shook the scientific community. Researchers from the University of Pittsburg showed with a simple experiment that people could feel that a fake rubber hand was in fact their own- they called it the ‘rubber hand illusion’. It goes like this: place a fake hand on a table in front of you and your own hand just next to it. Then block your hand from your view, stare at the fake hand, and get someone to stroke both hands in the same way for a few minutes........ Read more »

Garbarini Francesca, Pia Lorenzo, Piedimonte Alessandro, Rabuffetti Marco, Gindri Patrizia, & Berti Anna. (2013) Embodiment of an alien hand interferes with intact-hand movements. Current Biology, 23(2). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.003  

  • March 21, 2013
  • 01:15 PM
  • 735 views

Why do chimpanzees build nests?

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Each day, every wild chimpanzee over the age of weaning builds at least one nest. Why do chimpanzees take time out of their very busy lives to build a nest, sometimes two, every day for most of their lives? New research led by Fiona Steward from the University of Cambridge (UK) shows that shelter construction may have evolved to enable large apes to sleep comfortably while minimising predation risk. Although chimpanzees have few predators in the wild, and direct evidence of predation on apes is ........ Read more »

Stewart Fiona A, & Pruetz J D. (2013) Do Chimpanzee Nests Serve an Anti-Predatory Function?. American journal of primatology. PMID: 23471670  

  • March 14, 2013
  • 04:12 PM
  • 643 views

Giant bubbles protect fish from scoliosis

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Sea squirts, fish and mammals don't look much alike, but glimpse at their embryos and you probably couldn't tell them apart. Among other similarities, all sport a tube-like structure stretching from head to tail - the notochord - that serves as a backbone, before being replaced by the spine. New research now shows that mysterious bubble-like structures in the notochord are critical to make a straight spine.In the centre of the notochord there are unusual cells packed with huge fluid-filled vacuo........ Read more »

  • February 24, 2013
  • 11:20 AM
  • 741 views

NewsFLASH: A free ride for Salmonella

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Our guts are home to over a 100 trillion bacteria that help digestion, prevent inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) and protect us from invaders, such as harmful bacteria. To keep pathogens at bay without destroying ‘good’ bacteria, there is a subset of specialised cells in the gut epithelium that act as sentinels. These so called ‘M cells’ engulf and rapidly transport large particles from the gut lumen to the underlying lymphoid tissue, where they are recognised and sorted b........ Read more »

Tahoun Amin, Mahajan Simmi, Paxton Edith, Malterer Georg, Donaldson David S., Wang Dai, Tan Alwyn, Gillespie Trudi L., O’Shea Marie, & Roe Andrew J. (2012) Salmonella Transforms Follicle-Associated Epithelial Cells into M Cells to Promote Intestinal Invasion. Cell Host , 12(5), 645-656. DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2012.10.009  

  • February 18, 2013
  • 12:15 PM
  • 500 views

Changing thymes: plants adapt to climate warming

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Before ending up on a dinner plate, thyme plants use ingenious ways to survive extreme cold and severe drought. By sniffing around in the field, scientists discover that wild thyme adapts remarkably quickly to climate change. In the early 1970s, a research team from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique led by Philippe Vernet made a very odd finding. While collecting samples of wild thyme (Thymus vulgaris) from a small basin tucked between hills on the north of Montpellier, in France,........ Read more »

Thompson, J., Charpentier, A., Bouguet, G., Charmasson, F., Roset, S., Buatois, B., Vernet, P., & Gouyon, P. (2013) Evolution of a genetic polymorphism with climate change in a Mediterranean landscape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1215833110  

  • February 12, 2013
  • 05:47 PM
  • 568 views

Scientists find new clues on how bacteria resist antibiotics

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

New research shows how some bacteria manage to evade a widely used antibiotic by removing it from their protein factories.The widespread use of antibiotics over the past decades has led to the emergence of resistant bacteria. Since their discovery in the 1930s, antibiotics have been overused in human medicine and in industrial farms as food supplements to promote animal growth. A shocking 80% of antibiotics produced in the USA are used in farms, despite warnings from the World Health Organizatio........ Read more »

Li, W., Atkinson, G., Thakor, N., Allas, ., Lu, C., Chan, K., Tenson, T., Schulten, K., Wilson, K., Hauryliuk, V.... (2013) Mechanism of tetracycline resistance by ribosomal protection protein Tet(O). Nature Communications, 1477. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2470  

Donhofer, A., Franckenberg, S., Wickles, S., Berninghausen, O., Beckmann, R., & Wilson, D. (2012) Structural basis for TetM-mediated tetracycline resistance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(42), 16900-16905. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1208037109  

  • February 8, 2013
  • 09:44 AM
  • 463 views

A cracking discovery

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Not many people can say they’ve had close encounters with a 4-metre long crocodile, a near-extinct Galápagos tortoise and… a yeti. For Michel Milinkovitch, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Geneva, this is just part of the job. A typical day at work could be spent in his lab working with computer scientists, or it could be spent at the zoo studying crocodiles up close, very close. “Once we were working in the croc pit and a male charged,” he says laughing “I just shouted ........ Read more »

Milinkovitch, M., Manukyan, L., Debry, A., Di-Poi, N., Martin, S., Singh, D., Lambert, D., & Zwicker, M. (2012) Crocodile Head Scales Are Not Developmental Units But Emerge from Physical Cracking. Science, 339(6115), 78-81. DOI: 10.1126/science.1226265  

  • January 28, 2013
  • 07:41 AM
  • 647 views

Dung beetles follow the Milky Way

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

After the sun sets over the African savannah, the nocturnal male beetle Scarabaeus satyrus leaves its nest in the ground to go on a hunt for a pile of fresh dung. Once he finds the fuming manure, the beetle franticly sculpts it into a ball and rolls it away as quickly as possible to escape competition from vicious dung stealers. At a safe distance from the dung heap, the beetle buries the ball and, if he is lucky, a female will mate with him and then lay her eggs inside the secluded excrement. O........ Read more »

Dacke, M., Baird, E., Byrne, M., Scholtz, C., & Warrant, E. (2013) Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way for Orientation. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.034  

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