By Ralitsa Madsen, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge, UK
Iris, the Greek Goddess messenger between humans on Earth and the Gods on Mount Olympus, has made an entry into human biology by providing inspiration for the name of a skeletal muscle-derived hormone. Irisin belongs to the class of myokines, which are molecules released by skeletal muscle in response to exercise and act as messengers to other tissues, including liver, fat and the brain. Given the beneficial effects of exercise, particularly in the context of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, major efforts have been invested into discovering myokines of potential therapeutic value. Irisin seems to have it all, with multiple animal studies confirming its metabolic benefits such as lowering of blood glucose and lipid levels. Continue reading →
Tilly Potter, Department of Twin Research, King’s College London
I recently began my PhD during which I will be carrying out investigations into the human microbiome – that is, all of the microbes we harbour on and in our bodies and their genetic material. The reasons why I was attracted to this area are likely similar to those of other scientists who have entered this field; microbiome research is still in its relative infancy yet appears to hold enormous potential regarding understanding differences between health and disease, with the number of diseases or adverse health states examined continuing to increase with time. This makes it an incredibly diverse and exciting area to work within! Continue reading →
While every PhD experience is unique, there are big areas of overlap between experiences of PhD students regardless of discipline; I’ve spent several months speaking to a number of PhD students from across the UK, all in different fields and at different stages of their projects. Despite this wide range of backgrounds and circumstances, several aspects jump out as being ever-present markers of a PhD project; the unifying factors that connect together to make PhD life what it is.
So what are these common factors? And why do they make PhD life so great? Continue reading →
By Dr Shane Hegarty, University College Cork, Ireland
The brain is responsible for our experience of, and acts as the interface between, the self and the outside world. Everything we think, feel, remember and dream is written by a precisely-interconnected community of approximately 100 billion brain cells. Have you ever wondered where the different types of neurons in our brain originate from? Or how these brain cells then find their way to connect with other cells, up to a metre away in our body? These answers can be found in the developing brain, which arises from the microscopic, but miraculous, embryo.
Creation of our brain
Very early in human development, the embryo consists simply of three fundamental cell layers: outer ectoderm (becomes outer-body parts e.g. skin/hair/teeth); middle mesoderm (develops into muscles, bones and blood vessels); and inner endoderm (forms our inner-body compartments e.g. gut/lungs). That’s most of our body covered, but where does our brain come from? Continue reading →
By Emma Pettengale, Commissioning Editor, Portland Press
Why the molecular?
Molecular biosciences explore the structure and function of biomolecules within your cells and the processes that allow cells to live, reproduce and communicate with each other. Biomolecules are the building blocks for all life on Earth, from the simplest viruses, through bacteria to complex eukaryotic organisms and underpin the processes of transcription, translation, replication and cell function.