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Recent Breakthroughs with Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

It’s exciting times if you’re an induced pluripotent stem cell (also called an iPSC). OK, so maybe these stem cells don’t actually feel excitement, but there’s still some amazing progress being made with iPSCs. This includes making functional livers out of them, modifying them to attack cancerous tumors, and using them in their first clinical … Continue reading »

Common Crustaceans: Pillbugs and Sowbugs

Often times the most amazing discoveries can be made in one’s own backyard. Take, for example, pillbugs and sowbugs. These are the little, grey, “armored” critters you commonly encounter if you turn over a rock, a piece of rotting wood, or a pile of decaying leaves, especially in damp areas. When revealed, you may have … Continue reading »

Amphibians Facing Extinction: Fighting the Chytrid Fungus to Survive

A chytrid fungus has been ravaging amphibian populations worldwide for years, and the situation has only been getting worse. (Amphibians include frogs, toads, salamanders, and the lesser-known caecilians, which are tropical, limbless, worm-like critters.) Identified in 1998 as parasitizing and killing amphibians, the chytrid fungus species Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (“Bd” for short) grows within the infected … Continue reading »

Novel Malaria Vaccine: Most Effective Yet?

It’s amazing to think that some of the smallest organisms cause humans some of the most trouble. For example, malaria is caused by a tiny, single-celled parasite, so small that several can live within one of our blood cells. In 2010, about 219 million people in the world were infected with malaria (mostly in tropical/subtropical … Continue reading »

Neanderthals: Not That Different After All

The more we find out about our extinct cousins the Neanderthals, the more we discover just how similar we are. Based on DNA evidence, it’s thought that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals (technically Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) diverged to go their separate ways about 270,000 to 440,000 years ago, becoming two different branches on … Continue reading »

The Amazing Tardigrade

What can survive being frozen at just above absolute zero, and sitting in boiling water? What about getting thrown out into space and surviving life in an oxygen-free vacuum with intense solar UV radiation for at least 10 days? It’s the amazing tardigrade! The tardigrade is a tiny, 1 millimeter-long organism that can survive a … Continue reading »

Lab-Grown Meat: Triumphs and Challenges

Coverage of the new lab-grown, 5-ounce burger patty, which was made from cow muscle stem cells, has been all over the news the past few days, since its taste-test in London on August 5th. Those few bites cost years of research and over $330,000 to make possible, and could lead to a more efficient and … Continue reading »

Decline of the Honey Bees: The Most Likely Suspects

You’ve probably heard that honey bees are in decline. Since 2006, honey bees have been struck by a condition that devastates hives, leaving as many as 95% of hives in an area empty. It’s been called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD for short) and it makes the bees abandon their hives, flying away and never returning. … Continue reading »

Under Their Skin: How the Surinam Toad Hatches its Eggs

If you’ve ever gone tadpole hunting, you may have seen some frog or toad eggs sitting in the water. Often they’ll be clinging to a piece of vegetation, or something else, to keep them from drifting far. The parents usually abandon the eggs shortly after they’re laid, and the eggs sit and develop, basically alone, … Continue reading »