Biology

War With the Newts review – this is smart sci-fi theatre at its best

Genetics - Sun, 2018-10-14 12:00
A reimagining of a classic 1930s novel by Karel Capek cleverly immerses us in a terrifying future where a new intelligent species is cruelly exploited
Categories: Biology

On Air preview – Tomás Saraceno is saving the world with balloon art

Genetics - Sat, 2018-10-13 12:00
Forget doomy "Anthropocene" ideas, if we're serious about saving Earth we need hope, says Tomás Saraceno, the artist whose tetrahedral balloons inspire researchers
Categories: Biology

Saving the horseshoe crab: A synthetic alternative to horseshoe crab blood for endotoxin detection

PLOS Biology (new articles) - Fri, 2018-10-12 23:00

by Tom Maloney, Ryan Phelan, Naira Simmons

Horseshoe crabs have been integral to the safe production of vaccines and injectable medications for the past 40 years. The bleeding of live horseshoe crabs, a process that leaves thousands dead annually, is an ecologically unsustainable practice for all four species of horseshoe crab and the shorebirds that rely on their eggs as a primary food source during spring migration. Populations of both horseshoe crabs and shorebirds are in decline. This study confirms the efficacy of recombinant Factor C (rFC), a synthetic alternative that eliminates the need for animal products in endotoxin detection. Furthermore, our findings confirm that the biomedical industry can achieve a 90% reduction in the use of reagents derived from horseshoe crabs by using the synthetic alternative for the testing of water and other common materials used in the manufacturing process. This represents an extraordinary opportunity for the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries to significantly contribute to the conservation of horseshoe crabs and the birds that depend on them.
Categories: Biology, Journals

Ultrablack room makes everything disappear except you and the game

Genetics - Fri, 2018-10-12 17:00
More often associated with artistic experiments and the innards of satellites, light-absorbing Vantablack paint may soon be heading to an arcade near you
Categories: Biology

Amateurs used a Chinese satellite to photograph Earth and the moon

Genetics - Fri, 2018-10-12 15:56
A tiny Chinese satellite in lunar orbit is designed to accept commands from amateurs, and has captured a new view of the Earth and its moon
Categories: Biology

Rewilding: Can we really restore ravaged nature to a pristine state?

Genetics - Fri, 2018-10-12 13:00
Vast tracts of land are returning to wilderness as farming retreats worldwide. But rewilding isn't an easy win – and debates rage about how to manage it
Categories: Biology

We can harness algae with magnets to deliver drugs inside our bodies

Genetics - Fri, 2018-10-12 12:51
If we attach tiny magnets to fast-swimming algae, we can load them up with drugs and steer them deep into the human body to deliver targeted medical therapies
Categories: Biology

Humongous fungus is older than Christianity and weighs 400 tonnes

Genetics - Fri, 2018-10-12 12:00
A gigantic fungus that lives under the ground in a Michigan forest is even larger than initially estimated and may have been around for at least 2500 years
Categories: Biology

The US wants a laser weapon that shouts at people before burning them

Genetics - Fri, 2018-10-12 11:00
The US Marines are developing a laser weapon that can shout at people from 100 metres away. It can also be turned up to deafen, dazzle or cause painful burns
Categories: Biology

Mice eat too much food if their great grandmother did the same

Genetics - Fri, 2018-10-12 02:01
When mice are given a high-fat diet their great grandchildren are more likely to put on weight – and they show a greater than expected taste for alcohol
Categories: Biology

Learning what to approach

PLOS Biology (new articles) - Thu, 2018-10-11 23:00

by Neir Eshel, Elizabeth E. Steinberg

Most decisions share a common goal: maximize reward and minimize punishment. Achieving this goal requires learning which choices are likely to lead to favorable outcomes. Dopamine is essential for this process, enabling learning by signaling the difference between what we expect to get and what we actually get. Although all animals appear to use this dopamine prediction error circuit, some do so more than others, and this neural heterogeneity correlates with individual variability in behavior. In this issue of PLOS Biology, Lee and colleagues show that manipulating a simple task parameter can bias the animals’ behavioral strategy and modulate dopamine release, implying that how we learn is just as flexible as what we learn.
Categories: Biology, Journals

Partial homologies between sleep states in lizards, mammals, and birds suggest a complex evolution of sleep states in amniotes

PLOS Biology (new articles) - Thu, 2018-10-11 23:00

by Paul-Antoine Libourel, Baptiste Barrillot, Sébastien Arthaud, Bertrand Massot, Anne-Laure Morel, Olivier Beuf, Anthony Herrel, Pierre-Hervé Luppi

It is crucial to determine whether rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and slow-wave sleep (SWS) (or non-REM sleep), identified in most mammals and birds, also exist in lizards, as they share a common ancestor with these groups. Recently, a study in the bearded dragon (P. vitticeps) reported states analogous to REM and SWS alternating in a surprisingly regular 80-s period, suggesting a common origin of the two sleep states across amniotes. We first confirmed these results in the bearded dragon with deep brain recordings and electro-oculogram (EOG) recordings. Then, to confirm a common origin and more finely characterize sleep in lizards, we developed a multiparametric approach in the tegu lizard, a species never recorded to date. We recorded EOG, electromyogram (EMG), heart rate, and local field potentials (LFPs) and included data on arousal thresholds, sleep deprivation, and pharmacological treatments with fluoxetine, a serotonin reuptake blocker that suppresses REM sleep in mammals. As in the bearded dragon, we demonstrate the existence of two sleep states in tegu lizards. However, no clear periodicity is apparent. The first sleep state (S1 sleep) showed high-amplitude isolated sharp waves, and the second sleep state (S2 sleep) displayed 15-Hz oscillations, isolated ocular movements, and a decrease in heart rate variability and muscle tone compared to S1. Fluoxetine treatment induced a significant decrease in S2 quantities and in the number of sharp waves in S1. Because S2 sleep is characterized by the presence of ocular movements and is inhibited by a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, as is REM sleep in birds and mammals, it might be analogous to this state. However, S2 displays a type of oscillation never previously reported and does not display a desynchronized electroencephalogram (EEG) as is observed in the bearded dragons, mammals, and birds. This suggests that the phenotype of sleep states and possibly their role can differ even between closely related species. Finally, our results suggest a common origin of two sleep states in amniotes. Yet, they also highlight a diversity of sleep phenotypes across lizards, demonstrating that the evolution of sleep states is more complex than previously thought.
Categories: Biology, Journals

Police can now use millions more people’s DNA to find criminals

Genetics - Thu, 2018-10-11 20:00
Consumer genetic databases are becoming powerful tools for identifying criminals, and a new technique could link you to forensic data held by US police
Categories: Biology

Soyuz crash could kill the ISS and set space flight back decades

Genetics - Thu, 2018-10-11 18:29
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft has crash landed after an attempted launch to the International Space Station, which may throw a wrench in space flight plans
Categories: Biology

Could the world’s mightiest computers be too complicated to use?

Genetics - Thu, 2018-10-11 17:55
China, Japan and the US are racing to build the first exascale computer – but devising programmes clever enough to run on them is a different story
Categories: Biology

AIs invent weird new limbs to beat virtual obstacle courses

Genetics - Thu, 2018-10-11 17:10
Simulated robots can learn to control their bodies in many creative ways, and now they can also build the best limbs for crossing through an obstacle course
Categories: Biology

T. rex may have used its long feet for stealthy surprise attacks

Genetics - Thu, 2018-10-11 17:00
Carnivorous dinosaurs generated seismic waves with every footfall – but because of the shape of their feet they may have masked their presence approaching prey
Categories: Biology

We are a step closer to making babies with same-sex genetic parents

Genetics - Thu, 2018-10-11 17:00
We are getting better at creating mice with same-sex parents but we are still nowhere near the point at which this could be attempted in people
Categories: Biology

Nikon Small World photo competition reveals nature in minuscule detail

Genetics - Thu, 2018-10-11 17:00
Peer into nature with these amazing images from the Nikon Small World microphotography prize. They include a bug bubble house and the eye of a weevil
Categories: Biology

Medicinal cannabis will be available in the UK from next month

Genetics - Thu, 2018-10-11 16:24
The UK Home Secretary has announced that doctors will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis from next month following a specially commissioned review
Categories: Biology