Mark Lasbury

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  • October 22, 2014
  • 08:05 AM
  • 30 views

Death By Haunted House

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

People enjoy a good scare at Halloween, it’s an epinephrine rush without the bother of real danger. But could you actually be scared to death? Science says yes, it should really be called the fight, flight, faint, or fatality response. In susceptible people, a severe fright can literally change the shape of the heart and destroy the efficient pumping of blood. Unfortunately, something similar can happen in infants, and it can be lethal as well.... Read more »

  • October 15, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 63 views

Frankenstein Meets Genetic Modification

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Halloween conjures up monsters, like Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Her story is just as applicable for us today – the story of science being responsible for what it creates. The so-called Frankenfoods are called dangerous – but why? Studies that label them dangerous have been retracted or are merely correlative. New studies have shown that genetically modified crops are safe for livestock and humans. However, there are valid concerns, so every GMO must be tested rigorously.... Read more »

Snell C, Bernheim A, Bergé JB, Kuntz M, Pascal G, Paris A, & Ricroch AE. (2012) Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: a literature review. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association, 50(3-4), 1134-48. PMID: 22155268  

McCall WV, Andrade C, & Sienaert P. (2014) Searching for the mechanism(s) of ECT's therapeutic effect. The journal of ECT, 30(2), 87-9. PMID: 24755719  

  • October 8, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 93 views

A Tale Of Two Tails

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Recent, and not so recent studies, are showing just how specialized eukaryotic flagella can be. Structures are rigid, except for when they aren’t. Sperm from two species of diatoms have very different sperm tail basal bodies, which might affect how they move and function. On the other hand, rabbits have flagella with at least three different structures. Does each have it’s own function?... Read more »

Prensier, G., Vivier, E., Goldstein, S., & Schrevel, J. (1980) Motile flagellum with a "3 0" ultrastructure. Science, 207(4438), 1493-1494. DOI: 10.1126/science.7189065  

Feistel K, & Blum M. (2006) Three types of cilia including a novel 9 4 axoneme on the notochordal plate of the rabbit embryo. Developmental dynamics : an official publication of the American Association of Anatomists, 235(12), 3348-58. PMID: 17061268  

  • October 1, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 112 views

One Thing Is Just Like The Other – Sort Of

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Recent studies have illustrated how complicated evolution by descent with adaptation can be. Convergent evolution and parallel evolution explain the fingerprints of koalas and the marsupial and placental saber-toothed cats. Dollo’s Law of Irreversibility has been shown to be plastic, as frogs have re-evolved mandibular teeth and stick insects have lost and regained wings several times. ... Read more »

Lahti, D. C., N. A. Johnson, et al. (2009) Relaxed selection in the wild. . Trends in Ecology and Evolution, , 24(9), 487-496. info:/

Stone G, & French V. (2003) Evolution: have wings come, gone and come again?. Current biology : CB, 13(11). PMID: 12781152  

  • September 24, 2014
  • 06:00 AM
  • 206 views

Chase The Good, Evade The Bad

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

New research has found a bacterium that is spherical, yet has flagella all over its surface (peritrichous). This bacterium is also the only magnetotactic organism discovered that has both magnetite and Greigite crystals. Other research is showing that changing fields can turn magnetotactic bacteria on command. With some bacteria able to generate electrical circuits and others being able to open and close circuits on command, can bacterial computers be far away?... Read more »

  • September 17, 2014
  • 08:05 AM
  • 187 views

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Bacteria can swarm to conquer new territory or settle into structured biofilms, not unlike tribes that are nomadic versus those that build cities. New research indicates has shed light on the mechanics of swarming and biofilm production, including the function of extracellular DNA and secreted polysaccharides. Both biofilms and swarming depend on quorum sensing, and several new papers have identified chemicals that can interrupt quorum sensing in pathogenic bacteria and therefore prevent disease........ Read more »

Gloag ES, Turnbull L, Huang A, Vallotton P, Wang H, Nolan LM, Mililli L, Hunt C, Lu J, Osvath SR.... (2013) Self-organization of bacterial biofilms is facilitated by extracellular DNA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(28), 11541-6. PMID: 23798445  

Alteri CJ, Himpsl SD, Pickens SR, Lindner JR, Zora JS, Miller JE, Arno PD, Straight SW, & Mobley HL. (2013) Multicellular bacteria deploy the type VI secretion system to preemptively strike neighboring cells. PLoS pathogens, 9(9). PMID: 24039579  

  • September 10, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 128 views

Bacteria Can Really Get Around

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Bacteria have evolved a type of motion that is a lot like a snot-powered rocket, so getting from point A to point B must be pretty important. Bacteria have evolved no fewer, and probably a lot more, than eight different ways to move around. New research is defining the physics and molecular biology of these modes of transportation, including a pseudo-cytoskeleton, helical conveyor belts, and something called “reverse and flick.”... Read more »

Kinosita Y, Nakane D, Sugawa M, Masaike T, Mizutani K, Miyata M, & Nishizaka T. (2014) Unitary step of gliding machinery in Mycoplasma mobile. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(23), 8601-6. PMID: 24912194  

Jin F, Conrad JC, Gibiansky ML, & Wong GC. (2011) Bacteria use type-IV pili to slingshot on surfaces. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(31), 12617-22. PMID: 21768344  

Stocker R. (2011) Reverse and flick: Hybrid locomotion in bacteria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(7), 2635-6. PMID: 21289282  

  • September 3, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 160 views

Bacteria Are Intelligent Designers

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

The bacterial flagellum is quite an intricate system for such a “primitive” organism. New research is telling us about how the flagellum is assembled and how it is regulated. A series of new work is related to the switching of the torque in the C ring so that flagella can spin counter clockwise or clockwise without a change in proton ion gradient flow. A series of conformation changes in the FLiD alter the position of charge clouds so that opposite charges drive a turn in the opposit........ Read more »

  • August 27, 2014
  • 08:25 AM
  • 236 views

Let’s Chew The Fat

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

If vegetables are low fat, how can we make cooking oils from them? The key is that vegetable oils aren’t really vegetable oils- they’re fruit oils. In some plant fruits, the fats are sued to entice animals to eat them and disperse seeds. In other, the fats are used to provide energy for the embryonic plants. New research is showing that some plant oils have unique uses. A 2014 study shows that avocado oil is as good or better at stabilizing biochemical markers in patients with metabo........ Read more »

Carvajal-Zarrabal O, Nolasco-Hipolito C, Aguilar-Uscanga MG, Melo Santiesteban G, Hayward-Jones PM, & Barradas-Dermitz DM. (2014) Effect of dietary intake of avocado oil and olive oil on biochemical markers of liver function in sucrose-fed rats. BioMed research international, 595479. PMID: 24860825  

  • August 20, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 185 views

Because He Is The One

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Swatting a fly is hard. They always seem to know you’re coming, and even if you do surprise them, they often avoid your assassination attempts. New research is showing how they do it. A 2014 paper indicates that animals with faster metabolic rates actually process information and react quicker than larger animals. This, along with recent data showing how flies can jump away from a visual stimulus before taking flight and how they can coordinate a 0.03 second banking turn with incoming visu........ Read more »

Muijres FT, Elzinga MJ, Melis JM, & Dickinson MH. (2014) Flies evade looming targets by executing rapid visually directed banked turns. Science (New York, N.Y.), 344(6180), 172-7. PMID: 24723606  

Jumpertz R, Hanson RL, Sievers ML, Bennett PH, Nelson RG, & Krakoff J. (2011) Higher energy expenditure in humans predicts natural mortality. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 96(6). PMID: 21450984  

  • August 14, 2014
  • 01:55 PM
  • 210 views

Getting High On Life

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Living organisms can survive and thrive in all kinds of rough environments. This would include the edges of space. There are bird species that can fly at almost 40,000 ft., as high as the highest clouds. New research is showing just how the bar headed goose is able to fly when the air is thin and the oxygen is scarce. But more impressive are the bacteria. They can actually live their whole lives in the air, dividing and growing nearly 25 miles (41 km) above the surface of the Earth. A study from........ Read more »

Pawar SP, Dhotre DP, Shetty SA, Chowdhury SP, Chaudhari BL, & Shouche YS. (2012) Genome sequence of Janibacter hoylei MTCC8307, isolated from the stratospheric air. Journal of bacteriology, 194(23), 6629-30. PMID: 23144385  

Hawkes LA, Balachandran S, Batbayar N, Butler PJ, Chua B, Douglas DC, Frappell PB, Hou Y, Milsom WK, Newman SH.... (2013) The paradox of extreme high-altitude migration in bar-headed geese Anser indicus. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 280(1750), 20122114. PMID: 23118436  

  • August 13, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 199 views

Getting High On Life

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Living organisms can survive and thrive in all kinds of rough environments. This would include the edges of space. There are bird species that can fly at almost 40,000 ft., as high as the highest clouds. New research is showing just how the bar headed goose is able to fly when the air is thin and the oxygen is scarce. But more impressive are the bacteria. They can actually live their whole lives in the air, dividing and growing nearly 25 miles (41 km) above the surface of the Earth. A study from........ Read more »

Pawar SP, Dhotre DP, Shetty SA, Chowdhury SP, Chaudhari BL, & Shouche YS. (2012) Genome sequence of Janibacter hoylei MTCC8307, isolated from the stratospheric air. Journal of bacteriology, 194(23), 6629-30. PMID: 23144385  

Hawkes LA, Balachandran S, Batbayar N, Butler PJ, Chua B, Douglas DC, Frappell PB, Hou Y, Milsom WK, Newman SH.... (2013) The paradox of extreme high-altitude migration in bar-headed geese Anser indicus. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 280(1750), 20122114. PMID: 23118436  

  • August 6, 2014
  • 08:15 AM
  • 226 views

Fall Leaves And Orange Flamingos

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Flamingos are pink because of their diet, but greater and lesser flamingos eat different things – and neither food is pink. The spirulina food of the lesser flamingo is a cyanobacterium called Arthospira fusiformis. Unforunately, there have been large die offs in lesser flamingos. Recent research has shown that this may be due to toxic alga blooms and production of toxins even by A. fusiformis. In addition, a newer study has shown that a bacteriophage is responsible for large die offs of A........ Read more »

Anderson MJ, & Williams SA. (2010) Why do flamingos stand on one leg?. Zoo biology, 29(3), 365-74. PMID: 19637281  

Peduzzi P, Gruber M, Gruber M, Schagerl M. (2014) The virus's tooth: cyanophages affect an African flamingo population in a bottom-up cascade. ISME J. , 8(6), 1346-1351. info:/

  • July 30, 2014
  • 08:10 AM
  • 275 views

Does Life Come In XXXS?

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Is there a minimum size for life? How would you measure it, cell volume or genome size? People do both. The current minimum example of life is Mycoplasma genitalium, at just 200 nm by 600 nm in well-fed cultures. M. genitalium also has the smallest known genome for a free-living organism (520 genes, we have about 27,000). Some organisms have fewer genes (137 or so) but are endosymbionts, so they can get away with trashing some of their DNA. New research shows that M. genitalium is a pathogenic o........ Read more »

Manhart LE. (2013) Mycoplasma genitalium: An emergent sexually transmitted disease?. Infectious disease clinics of North America, 27(4), 779-92. PMID: 24275270  

Gibson DG, Glass JI, Lartigue C, Noskov VN, Chuang RY, Algire MA, Benders GA, Montague MG, Ma L, Moodie MM.... (2010) Creation of a bacterial cell controlled by a chemically synthesized genome. Science (New York, N.Y.), 329(5987), 52-6. PMID: 20488990  

  • July 23, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 194 views

Let's Get Loud

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Loud noises are common in nature. New research is giving clues as to how and why animals make such noise. A new study investigates the reasons that howler monkeys howl. Protection and marking territory are main reasons, including for protection of infants or feeding areas.

A slightly older study notes that blue whale song has become lower in pitch since the whaling ban. The authors suggest that the reason for this may be that males don’t have to sing as loud (higher frequencies are loud........ Read more »

  • July 16, 2014
  • 08:05 AM
  • 278 views

East To West And Back Again

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Sunflowers were named by Linnaeus for their round shape and bright color that reminded him of the sun, not because they follow the sun. But they do seem to turn to face the sun each day. A new review has looked at the molecular mechanisms that control the movement of the apex of the plant. But questions remain – how does the plant turn back to the east at night? Why is it that the flower turns but the leaves do not? Why does the movement stop when the flower matures?... Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 08:15 AM
  • 262 views

What’s So Repelling About Repellents?

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

It’s amazing that even though citronella and DEET reduce mosquito bites, we have very little idea of how they work. New research is showing that DEET interacts with olfactory receptors so that chemical attractants are still sensed, but their interpretations are confused. You are still there, but you pretty disappear as far as the mosquito is concerned. Other research shows that one of the co-receptors for olfactory receptors is responsible not only for DEET activity, but also for mosquito ........ Read more »

  • July 2, 2014
  • 08:25 AM
  • 366 views

How Do Mosquitoes Find You?

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Spend much time outside in the summer and you will have to deal with mosquitoes. The mechanisms that females use to find a blood meal are becoming better understood. New research shows how the proboscis probes for a blood vessel, perhaps using the TRPA1 heat sensing ion channel as a signal for nearby blood.

Once they feed, females lay eggs. New research indicates that they actually prefer water that contains the dead larvae of similar mosquitoes, dead from predators. The presence of predator........ Read more »

  • June 25, 2014
  • 08:15 AM
  • 270 views

They Can See The Blood Running Through You

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Vampire bats sense heat via pit organs in their nose-leaves, but they find their victims by sight, smell and echolocation. New research shows that an alternatively spliced version of the capsaicin receptor TRPV1 is responsible for the heat sensing, but what do they use it for? Their teeth are so short that they must find blood vessels close to the surface – shallow vessels give off more heat than do deep vessels or skin where there is no large vessel.

Vampire bats occasionally feed on ........ Read more »

Patel R, Ispoglou S, & Apostolakis S. (2014) Desmoteplase as a potential treatment for cerebral ischaemia. Expert opinion on investigational drugs, 23(6), 865-73. PMID: 24766516  

Gracheva EO, Cordero-Morales JF, González-Carcacía JA, Ingolia NT, Manno C, Aranguren CI, Weissman JS, & Julius D. (2011) Ganglion-specific splicing of TRPV1 underlies infrared sensation in vampire bats. Nature, 476(7358), 88-91. PMID: 21814281  

  • June 18, 2014
  • 08:15 AM
  • 230 views

Sneaking Up On A Snake

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Snakes have several ways of finding prey. Some use sight; many use taste and smell via the veromonasal organ. New research has identified the sensitivity of snake hearing, even though they don’t have an outer or middle ear. They sense vibrations by placing their lower jaws on the ground and the vibrations are transduced by the cochlea they do possess. Finally, new research is showing how the heat-sensing pits of pit vipers work. They use a mutated version of the thermosensor and noxious ch........ Read more »

Gracheva EO, Ingolia NT, Kelly YM, Cordero-Morales JF, Hollopeter G, Chesler AT, Sánchez EE, Perez JC, Weissman JS, & Julius D. (2010) Molecular basis of infrared detection by snakes. Nature, 464(7291), 1006-11. PMID: 20228791  

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