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How to Make Stem Cells… Using Acid!

Just yesterday, two papers were published in the journal Nature showing a completely novel way to make stem cells – the approach uses an acid bath. This method is rather shocking in its simplicity, and it’s unclear why or how it works, but somehow it does. Basically, the researchers took adult (somatic) cells from young … Continue reading »

Contagious Dog Cancer is 11,000 Years Old

We know of few cancers that are contagious. The ones we’re most familiar with are caused by viruses, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer, and hepatitis B, which can cause liver (hepatic) cancer. (To read more about these virus-caused cancers and their vaccines, check out my book Biology Bytes: Digestible … Continue reading »

H7N9: Pandemic Potential?

Have you heard of H7N9? It’s a new avian influenza virus, and it has good reasons to be making people worried. Early last year, the virus was first found in people in China. There it’s been found in poultry (domestic birds like chickens, ducks, and geese) and is thought to be primarily spread through contact … Continue reading »

Carnivores in Decline

It may not come as a surprise to find that large carnivores around the world are declining in numbers, but what may be startling is just how far-reaching the consequences are likely to be. Large carnivores often have extensive territories, which they roam to catch their relatively large prey. This behavior can put these carnivores … Continue reading »

Caffeine Stimulates Memory

Caffeine is a beloved stimulant, which people enjoy consuming in coffee, tea, soda, or other forms. It helps wake us up, making us feel mentally alert. But while we feel mentally active when we use caffeine, studies have not shown conclusive links between consuming caffeine and memory… until very recently, that is. Earlier this week, … Continue reading »

Shell-Swept Beaches: What’s the Cost?

When you’re vacationing on a beach, it might seem like a harmless act to pick up a shell and take it home with you as a souvenir. Especially if there are a lot of shells on the beach – how could taking one, or just a few, be a bad thing? But a recently published … Continue reading »

Ranaviruses: Ravaging Amphibian Populations

Over the past few years, amphibians have been hit hard on a global scale. (Amphibians include frogs, toads, salamanders, and the lesser-known caecilians, which are tropical, limbless, worm-like critters.) A few months ago, I wrote a post about the chytrid fungus, which may have already caused 125 to 500 amphibian species to become extinct. Another … Continue reading »

Sleep on the Brain

People have long wondered why we need to sleep. Why can’t we just stay awake all of the time? What purpose does sleep serve? These might seem like silly questions because sleep obviously makes us less tired (or should, when we get enough of it!), but there’s clearly more to it – we regularly need … Continue reading »

Using the Immune System to Fight Cancer

Recently, the prestigious magazine Science published its list of Breakthroughs of the Year 2013. At the very top of this list was cancer immunotherapy. A scanning electron microscope image of a healthy human T cell. (Image credit: NIAID/NIH) Cancer immunotherapy is a promising field of research that focuses on using a person’s immune system to … Continue reading »