Friday, August 12

Tag: biology

Spare Parts?
Science & Technology

Spare Parts?

Lab-grown body parts aren’t just science fiction. Scientists all over the world are attempting to use stem cells to grow ears, livers, hearts, kidneys, blood vessels, skin and bladders in labs that are transplantable into real people. Though rare, some people are walking around with lab-grown bladders. Around 80% of the world’s transplants come from the deceased while the other 20% is mainly made up of living donors and a small percentage attributed to a lab. Many people question whether the future could see people receiving transplants from a lab, or even a ‘farm’ of lab-grown human body parts, mass produced for transplants all over the world. These organs are greatly needed. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are over 100,000 people waiting for a lifesaving...
What’s the Deal With…tardigrades?
Features

What’s the Deal With…tardigrades?

With a name meaning 'slow stepper', these eight-legged microorganisms might not sound very exciting. But tardigrades are arguably the toughest cookies in the animal kingdom and the most resilient creatures to have ever been discovered. First described in 1773, these unassuming creatures, only up to a millimetre in length, have been found all over the world, from hot springs, to Mount Everest, to the freezing conditions of Antarctica. Not many other animals have been proven to survive a few minutes of exposure to temperatures of 151°C and equally 'live to tell the tale' after a quick freeze at -272°C (colder than the average temperature on the surface of Pluto). And talking of extra-terrestrial conditions, tardigrades can even survive the vacuum of space for 10 days, when we wouldn't las...
What’s the Deal With…three-person babies?
Science & Technology

What’s the Deal With…three-person babies?

Thought your family was complicated? Try having three parents. The news broke this week that a woman in the Ukraine gave birth to a healthy baby girl conceived using the genetic information from three people. This novel IVF technique was recently approved for medical use in the UK, but how can this all be possible and why would we even bother in the first place? The key players in all of this are mitochondria. These organelles are small (on average only 0.002mm in length) but mighty and, to reference the classic line taught at GCSE biology, 'the powerhouses of the cell'. This means they supply energy to nearly all body cells and have a key role in other processes like programmed cell death or 'apoptosis'. Unfortunately, for around 1 in 5000 babies in the UK every year, genetic mutati...