Thursday, 16 August 2012

New Male Contraceptive?

There was an article published in Cell today about a potential new male contraceptive option, that would be equivalent to the pill. Matzuk et al describe a small molecule inhibitor that can inhibit the production of spermatozoa to the point of infertility in mice. When they stopped giving the mice the compound, fertility returned and the mice and their offspring appeared normal. The offspring were able to breed, and litter size, pup weight and behaviour were similar to pups sired by mice that hadn't been given the compound. The compound had no effect on hormone levels, which means the mice could engage in normal mating behaviours.

This small molecule inhibitor is very promising, and it may provide a more effective means of contraception for couples that can not use some of the current options.

A preview of the article:

The article:

Today's Scrabble word: Jeon for 22 points

Monday, 13 August 2012

Zucchini Brownies

I finally had some time to do some baking, and I decided to try a recipe for Zucchini Brownies that I found on Pinterest. I was looking for a healthier option for a dessert, and zucchini is in season now, so this looked promising. The recipe is available here:

I used 3 normal sized zucchinis to get 2 cups. I don't have a blender or food processor, so I cut the zucchini into fairly small pieces then added it little by little with the yogurt into my Magic Bullet. I used vegetable oil and a low sugar regular yogurt. I had regular whole wheat flour, and it is ok, but he texture of the brownies isn't as smooth as using white flour - I guess saying they were a tiny bit gritty would be accurate. Whole wheat pastry flour (as used in the recipe) would solve this problem. You can see or taste the zucchini in the brownies. If I hadn't made them myself, I would have no idea that there was a vegetable hiding in this treat!. The brownies were very moist. I didn't try the frosting recipe from the website - I had some Betty Crocker chocolate frosting leftover from my holiday Cake Pops, so I iced the brownies with them, then added some crushed pecans on top. These brownies were very tasty, and I will definitely make them again.

Today's Scrabble word: CIG for 18 points

Immunology and Obesity

Article from Nature Immunology discussing the effects of obesity on the immune system. Some facts from the article: Obesity induced inflammation contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, liver disease and some forms of cancer. Diet induced obesity in mice impairs T cell response and causes greater severity of disease and death after infection with influenza. Obesity is associated with aberrant population expansion of cells of the immune system in adipose (fat) tissue. This produces chronic inflammation which can lead to neurodegeneration and type 2 diabetes. Obesity can compromise the efficacy of vaccination against influenza, hepatitis B and tetanus.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Arsenic Life

There's been several articles about this recently, and I've been remiss in not actually writing about them. Last year an article ( was published that described a bacterium that broke the basic rules of biology and was able to grow in the presence of arsenic, with no phosphorous present. Phosphorous is one of the basic building blocks of life and is required for DNA synthesis (among other things). The authors reported that the bacteria GFAJ-1 substituted arsenic for phosphorous to sustain growth. This article sparked a lot of controversy and several labs tried to independently verify the original study. None were able to do so.
This article describes the arsenic causing ribosome breakdown, that released phosphorous that the bacteria was able to use to survive. They show the same phenomena occurs with E. coli.
In this paper they state that they were unable to detect arsenic from the DNA of cells grown in the presence of arsenic, refuting the original paper.
A paper published at the same time as the above also refutes the original paper. The authors found that the bacteria was able to grow in low phosphorous, high arsenic environments, but that phosphorous was necessary for growth. They conclude that GFAJ-1 is an arsenic resistant, phosphorous dependent bacteria.

I've started playing Scrabble online, so I will now include a Scrabble Word of the Day and points it earned with each post. Today's Scrabble Word of the Day "zeroth" for 76 points.


Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Science of Garbology

Science has a special feature this week called "Working With Waste". There are many articles that discuss ways to reduce the production of waste, or to use the waste in new ways (so it isn't wasted!). There are articles on garbology (it is a real thing), new toilets, waste water, and 0 waste challenges. All the articles can be linked to from here:

Friday, 3 August 2012

History repeats itself?

I was away for 2 days and am just catching up on all the science reading today . . . hence a bunch of posts about cool articles. This article is particularly awesome. The scientists use "cliodynamics" or scientific methods to illuminate the past (and predict future events). They found that the USA has 50 cycles of violence. The motivating issues vary, but the violent political upheaval is surprisingly regular. The next one is expected to peak in 2020. THey also found that "empires" have cycles that extends over 2-3 centuries, which fits the patterns of instability that occurred across Europe and Asai from the fifth century BC onwards. Last year's Egyptian uprising fits right in with this.

Check out the article at Nature:

What should we learn in genetics class?

Dr. Rosemary Redfield (UBC) just published a perspective in PLoS Biology discussing how to adapt genetics teaching to be more relevant to the "real world", and to help aid student understanding and retention of the concepts. An interesting read, and (for educators) brings up some questions about if basic science courses need overhauls to better represent the scientific knowledge and applications of today.

HIV Treatment as Prevention Feature

PLoS Medicine Volume 9(7) July 2012 has a feature on the use of antiretrovirals as HIV prevention. There are a bunch of articles and different perspectives and aspects are given. I would highly recommend checking it out.