Education

What is Biotech?

The biotechnology (biotech) industry is incredibly diverse. Recently, I wrote about the size of the biotech industry, which is, of course, related to how biotechnology is defined. As a strict definition, biotechnology is the use of biology to turn raw materials into useful products. However, the act of developing a biotech product requires many enabling technologies, reagents,…

The high cost of academic reimbursement

Spring, 2004. I was in the second year of my post-doc, with kids ages 4 and 2. Because I was no longer a student, the full brunt of my student loan payments had hit me, which were collectively almost double the cost of my mortgage. To put it generously, money was tight. Truthfully, we were…

A new study conducted by Drs. Sara Letzner and Onur Gunturkun (Ruhr-Universitat at Bochum) as well as Dr. Christian Beste (Technische Univeritat at Dresden) shows that pigeons are better than humans when it comes to multitasking. Their findings were published in Current Biology. The findings from the study show that the mammalian cerebral cortex, with all…

People with diabetes have less sRAGE

  When blood sugar concentrations are elevated, humans run the risk of glucose binding to proteins in the blood and causing the irreversible formation of advanced glycation end products (AGE). Once formed, AGEs can bind to their receptor (RAGE) and stimulate inflammation and oxidative stress. This pathological signaling can be stopped by pieces of the…

Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus) are a fascinating example of divergent evolution. Over time, some of these freshwater river fish washed into caves where they continue to live. With perpetual darkness, these cavefish have lost their ability to see along with their skin pigmentation. Oxygen and food are also hard to come by in the caves.…

Through the course of evolution vertebrates have apparently lost their gene-encoded viral defense mechanisms. These ancient defenses allow plants and insects to silence the expression of certain genes by using what is known as RNA interference. This natural defense system can be manipulated to create genetically modified crops that resist certain infections. However, a new…

The marsupial placenta

Image of a tammar wallaby and her joey By Mathae – Own work via Wikimedia Commons   When I think of marsupials, what comes to mind is an image of a mother carrying her young (joey) in a pouch. Contrary to popular belief, however, mother tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii) have an internal functioning placenta. Albeit,…

Attempts to save Houston’s bats

By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Got bugs? Get a bat. As many species of bats are insectivores, they help keep insect populations in check. Hurricane Harvey has been devastating to people, animals and property. So it probably comes as no surprise that there…

You may recall prior Lifelines posts discussing the devastating effects of white nose syndrome (WNS) in bats. WNS, Pseudogymnoascus destructans is a fungus responsible for the deaths of millions of North American bats over the last ten years. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, Dr.…

warm waters = smaller fish

I love fishing. As with every fisherman, I have my fair share of “the one that got away” stories steeped in *mostly* truth. So, you can imagine my interest in reading research that shows fish appear to be shrinking in warming waters. Warm waters carry less oxygen, which makes it difficult for fish to breath…especially larger…