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.
By Derry K Mercer, Principal Scientist at Novabiotics Ltd & member of the Biochemical Society Policy Advisory Panel
From cradle to grave, antimicrobials have become pivotal in safeguarding the overall health of human societies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the biggest threats to global health today. Recently, at the United Nations, World Heads of State committed to taking a broad, coordinated approach to address the root causes of AMR across multiple sectors, especially human health, animal health and agriculture, only the fourth time that a health issue has been taken up by the UN General Assembly. According to the O’Neill report, it is estimated that 700,000 people die annually from drug resistant infections. In the US alone, more than two million infections a year are caused by bacteria resistant to at least one antibiotic, costing the US health system more than US$20 billion in excess costs annually. Continue reading →
By Sayan Chakraborty, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, A-STAR, Singapore
In our hectic modern lifestyle, we are constantly subjected to stress of many kinds including the stress experienced by our body from weight-gain. From the physiological perspective, these symptoms are managed by signalling molecules present in the body that control energy expenditure and form new blood vessels (angiogenesis) to cope with increased ‘cellular stress’ levels. These physiological consequences can be precursors to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, one symptom of which is increased angiogenesis.
Proliferative retinopathy, an advanced form of diabetic retinopathy, occurs when abnormal new blood vessels and scar tissue form on the surface of the retina. (Credit: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, USA)Continue reading →
By Helen Albert, Community & Press Editor, Biochemical Society
It’s that time of year again, short days, long nights, all feeling a bit of the ‘winter blues’ before we all head off to rest and recuperate over the Christmas break. We all know that sunlight can be therapeutic and indeed much of the literature suggests that exposure to sunlight triggers the release of the happiness hormone serotonin.
It seems that the healing powers of light are much broader than simply making us all feel good about ourselves. Earlier this month Li-Huei Tsai and her colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US published a paper in Nature that showed that optogenetic techniques could improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s in a mouse model of the disease. Continue reading →