Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back into Science

Well, I am back to the blog. I took a three week hiatus to do my phlebotomy practicum (which was kinda cool) and then dove back into school this week (which was awesome). My classes this semester are Clinical Microbiology and Hematology/Coagulation, which means I spend 20 hours a week in the lab, and another 15 or so studying outside the lab. Fortunately, I love the material, so it makes school much more enjoyable.
So now that school is in session, I will be focusing more on Med Lab stuff, though I won't completely abandon science news, especially if it's exciting.

My first week of classes was mostly review, though they did cram a lot of new stuff down our throats, at least new to me. One teacher, who has been in the medical field all her life, and even took some med school classes at U of W, commented on how Med Techs know more about the medical laboratory then nurses and doctors (the exception being, of course, pathologists and other lab geeks). It certainly has been a crazy week. While in Hematology we're covering different microscope techniques and erythrocyte development, in Micro we mixed our own medias and did our first Gram stains.

And for exciting science news: IBM scientists have taken the first picture of a molecule. An actual molecule. You can see the bonds!
The molecule is pentacene, a chain of five benzene rings.

It' ^_^

Learn more here and here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What's the sound of one lung coughing?

My friend Jenny was asking me the other day about a lung bacterium in China which can kill you in 24 hours. I looked into it and discovered that the bacterium she was referring to is actually Yersinia pestis, which is responsible for the plague.
Yes, THE plague.
When Y. pestis gets into the lungs, its called the "pneumonic plague". And yes, it can kill you within 24 hours if it goes untreated. Administering antibiotics within the first 24 hours is critical.
The World Health Organization reports that between 1998 and 2008, nearly 24,000 cases were reported and around 2,000 deaths. Most cases occur in Africa.
For more fun facts about the plague, go here (It's actually an interesting and easy to remember fact list. Makes for great dinner convo with the in-laws.)

China has had it before, so its nothing new or alarming. In April of this year, over 10 were infected, causing the quarantine of a village. Read more about that here.

Note: Facebookers, to see the spiffy photos of Y. pestis (it glows!), click here to go to Lab Geek. Or you could just be lame and not see the photos.
But that's no fun.

She Dazzled Me With Science!

The Critter. Not the Auto Insurance.
Geckos are very cute. They are also very good at climbing on difficult terrain using a complex adhesive system. It was not known when and how they activate their unique system of traction. However, thanks to those geniuses at University of Calgary and Clemson University in South Carolina, we now have a better understanding of gecko feet. They discovered that geckos' amazing grip is triggered by gravity.
U of C biological sciences professor, Anthony Russel, says "Geckos use microscopic, hair-like filaments to attach to surfaces. Only at certain angles do they switch on their traction system." Geckos must be on an incline in order to trigger their adhesive system, which allows them to climb smooth surfaces at steep angles.
Learn more here.

Kill Tumors with Nanotubes!
Scientists have discovered that injecting nanotubes into tumors and heating them with a 30-second zap of a laser effectively kills kidney tumors in nearly 80 percent of mice. The finding holds a potential future cancer treatment for humans.
I would go into detail of the study, but it's late and I'm tired. So instead, go here to learn more.

Speaking of lasers, check out this nifty video. (Facebook minions may have to go to my actual blog, Lab Geek, to watch.) Its a video of a laser going through a red balloon to pop the black balloon within. The red wavelength of the laser is transmitted through the red balloon and subsequently absorbed by the darker balloon.

Trash Island
There has been a lot of talk the past few months of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of garbage (mostly plastic) which is twice the size of Texas and covers hundreds (possibly thousands) of miles. Now a gaggle
of scientists from the University of California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography has embarked on a three-week mission to study the patch, trying to evaluate how much is there, what types of trash is most common, and possible draw up prevention strategies. The reasons may seem obvious, but the main one is the alarming amount of plasitic, which slowly degrades and turns into increasingly smaller bits of plastic. Seabirds mistake it for food and they dive down to eat it, as well as various forms of marine life.
Dive in here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Science Quickies

I am wayyy too tired to actually write out a piece by piece description, so all you're getting today is science stubs.

New York and North Carolina scientists report the assembly of the first functioning prototype of an artificial Golgi organelle. The lab-on-a-chip device could lead to a faster and safer method for producing heparin, the widely used anticoagulant/blood thinner.
Robert Linhardt and colleagues point out in a recent study that the Golgi bodies are one of the most poorly understood organelles of the human body. Scientists already know, however, that the organelles play a key role in producing heparin.
Enjoy the science here.

Derek Lovley and his minions at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are playing around with Geobacter, and observed the evolution of a new strain. This new strain dramatically increases power output per cell and overall bulk power. It also works with a thinner biofilm than earlier strains, cutting the time to reach electricity-producing concentrations on the electrode.
Learn more here.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine say that current diagnostic tests for ovarian cancer are ineffective for early detection. A new study finds that in order to make a significant dent in the mortality rate for the deadly cancer, the tests would have to be able to detect tumors of less than 1 cm in diameter.
Read about it here.

Scientists reported the successful isolation of genetically diverse Marburg viruses from a common species of African fruit bat. The Marburg virus is a genetic cousin to the Ebola virus, and can produce severe fever, bleeding, and up to a 90% death rate during outbreaks. The African fruit bat is also known as the Egyptian fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus. This is the first time the virus has been isolated from a natural host.
Follow the excitement here.

Armchair astronomers helped discover a batch of tiny galaxies that may help professional astronomers understand how galaxies formed stars in the early universe.

"Green Pea" galaxies are forming stars 10 times faster than the Milky Way, despite being 10 times smaller and 100 times less massive, making them among the most extremely active star-forming galaxies ever found. They are between 1.5 billion and 5 billion light years away.
Learn more here.

Scientists Program Blood Stem Cells To Become Vision Cells