Biology, Mind & Brain, Neurology, News

The key to patience lies within serotonin

(A) The picture on the left shows serotonin neurons in red. The middle picture shows neurons expressing light sensitive proteins in green. The picture on the right is an overlay of the previous two pictures, showing in orange light sensitive proteins selectively expressed in serotonin neurons. (B) Blue light illumination, 500 microsecond pulse, shown in blue line, induced spontaneous action potentials in the serotonin neuron for approximately 10 seconds. The yellow light illumination, 500 microsecond pulse, shown in yellow line, stopped spontaneous action potentials.

Either when someone’s late for a date or you need to queue in line, our patience becomes tested. Some people handle the waiting better than others, leading us to the idea that patience is a virtue that differs from person to person. But what is it exactly that helps us remain patient, and why do some people remain unfazed even when faced with hours, days even of waiting? The answer might lie in serotonin - one of the most widespread neutransmitter believed to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions. An imbalance in serotonin levels, for instance, has been linked with depression. The finding came after Japanese researchers at the …

Biology, News

Fungus lethal for AIDS patients found growing on trees by 13 year old

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Researchers have pinpointed the source of a huge environmental threat for AIDS patients – the source of a fungal infection which has been plaguing Southern California for years; it literally grows on trees. The finding was based on the research project of a 13 year old. Cryptococcus gattii, formerly known as Cryptococcus neoformans var gattii, is an encapsulated yeast found primarily in tropical and subtropical climates. It is the cause of many pulmonary infections in humans, especially in those with compromised immune systems, like AIDS patients. Recent times have witnessed a surge of infection occurrences, arguably due to global warming.  From 1999 through to early 2008, two hundred and sixteen…

Biology, News

Zombie ant fungi ‘know’ brains of their hosts

Zombified ant - image via Wired.

A while ago, we were telling you about the infamous “zombie ant fungus” – a parasitic fungus that reproduces by manipulating the behavior of ants. It’s one of the most gruesome acts in nature – the parasite fungi infect tropical ants, literally taking control of their actions, ultimately leading the infected ant to march to its death at a mass grave near the ant colony, where the fungus spores erupt out of the ant’s head so it can spread even further, infecting more ants. Now, a new study has shown that the fungus knows how to differentiate between ant species, emitting mind controlling chemicals only when it infects its natural target host. The…

Biology, News

Hot-spring bacteria can make photosynthesis using far-red light

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Bacteria living in obscure environments use an extremely rare process to harvest energy and produce oxygen from sunlight – but they don’t use visible light, they use far-red light. “We have shown that some cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, can grow in far-red wavelengths of light, a range not seen well by most humans,” said Donald A. Bryant, the Ernest C. Pollard Professor of Biotechnology and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State. “Most cyanobacteria can’t ‘see’ this light either. But we have found a new subgroup that can absorb and use it, and we have discovered some of the surprising ways they manipulate their genes in order to…

Biology, Genetics, News

Whole organ ‘grown’ in animals for the first time

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A whole functional organ has been successfully grown in animals for the first time; a group of Scottish researchers created a group of cells which, when transplanted into a mouse, developed into a fully functional thymus – a critical part of the immune system. The findings could lead to a revolution in organ transplant. The thymus is a specialized organ of the immune system. Within the thymus, T-cells mature. T cells are critical to the adaptive immune system, where they adapt specifically to foreign invaders. Each T cell attacks a specific foreign substance which it identifies with its receptor. Scientists at the Medical Research Council centre for regenerative medicine at the…

Biology, News, Space

Sea plankton discovered outside space station

Sea plankton was discovered on the outside of the International Space Station. Photo by NASA from Wikimedia Commons

Russian researchers who were conducting experiments on the surface of the ISS were absolutely shocked when they found sea plankton, just outside of the space station. Other reports mention that they found them while they were polishing some parts of the ISS, but that’s not really important here: they found real, living, sea creatures in space. Samples taken from illuminators and the surface of the space station were found to have traces of sea plankton and other microorganisms, but nobody really knows how they got there. Heh… I guess, uhhh, life finds a way. “Results of the experiment are absolutely unique,” chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission Vladimir Solovyev told ITAR-TASS. “We…

Biology, News, Nutrition

Lab creates real, vegan cheese – no cows involved

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A while ago, we were telling you about the lab in Netherlands which artificially created a hamburger, making it the first lab-grown hamburger in the world. Now, a team from California has followed in their footsteps, creating the first cheese that does not originate from milk. A group of biohackers from Counter Culture Labs in Oakland, and BioCurious in Sunnyvale, California have been using baker’s yeast to produce cheese – without the participation of a cow. If you’ve ever tried vegan milk or cheese, then you probably know they don’t taste like the real thing at all. They are typically made from soy or nuts, and never have the salty, delicious taste of milk and cheese. But…

Biology, Nanotechnology, News

This bacterium shoots wires out of its body to power itself

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This bacterium has a lot in common with power companies. Power companies use copper wires to channel electricity (and therefore, electrons), and this bacterium developed a mechanism to do something similar: in the absence of oxygen, it grows nanowires from its own body through which it pushes electrons to nearby rocks. This is how it obtains energy, as opposed to almost all organisms, which use internal processes to produce their energy. This being said though, researchers have long known that bacteria can swap electrons with minerals, but the details and specific cases were quite rare. Even visualizing bacteria ripping out material from itself to create nanowires to power itself up….

Biology, Health & Medicine, Nanotechnology

A component from scorpion and honeybee venom stops cancer growth

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The difference between a poison and a cure is the dosage – and this could be very well said about this approach. Bio-engineers report that peptides in some venoms bind to cancer cells and block tumor growth and spread and could be effectively used to fight cancer – the only problem is they might also harm healthy cells. Bioengineer Dipanjan Pan and coworkers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, are now using polymeric nanoparticles to deliver venom toxin directly to cancer cells. The problem is limiting the effect it has to the cancer cells, and avoiding any damage to healthy cells. The researchers inserted a derivative of TsAP-1, a toxin peptide…