March 2017

Big Bucks for Big Bugs

Zoë Carter considers the role of commercial research in the global fight against antibiotic resistance “Without urgent, co-ordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.” ­This warning was given in 2014 by Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Assistant Director-General for Health Security. Antibiotic resistance occurs

Running Away from Unwanted Inflammation

Kimberley Wiggins explores the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise Inflammation – it can save your life, or it can kill you. The process is necessary for the body’s response to injury and infection, where it helps to repair damaged tissue and fight off invading microbes. The problems start when levels of inflammatory mediators rise throughout the body in the absence of infections or tissue damage. This is known as ‘chronic low-grade

Overherd Immunity

Caitlin Stewart discusses the importance of vaccination and the dangers of the anti-vaccination movement Vaccination has been all over the news in recent years, as deadly, vaccine-preventable diseases are returning and infecting the population worldwide. One of these diseases, measles, was declared eradicated in the USA in the year 2000, but has since made a resurgence; with a 3-fold increase in cases between 2013 and 2014, according to the CDC,

Multidrug Resistance

Arthur Neuberger explains how increasing antibiotic resistance is a global threat that we breed inside ourselves In an interview with the BBC on the emerging threat of antibiotic resistance, Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, made clear that if global society does not take countermeasures against the spread of antibiotic resistance today, in 10 to 20 years from now, we all might be back to an

The Ageing Brain

Antonina Kouli and Bart Nieuwenhuis put the future of our brains under the microscope. Ageing is an inevitable part of life – but what exactly makes us age? While researchers agree that there is no single cause of ageing – rather, it is a continuous multifactoral process – we are far from a complete understanding of the mechanisms at work. In particular, ageing of the brain remains a mystery. “Brain

Science, Fiction

Hannah Thorne reveals the alchemy between science and literature People falling in love have ‘chemistry’ or ‘a spark’. A spur-of-the-moment idea is a ‘quantum leap’. Strong personalities are ‘magnetic’.  It is easy to find examples of the way in which the language of science permeates the way we write today – but literature has also reflected scientific progress for centuries. Alchemical metaphors abound in 16th and 17th century works: John

When Citizen Science Works

Kimberley Wiggins gives us the story of an email that led to a medical breakthrough There are many hallmarks of a great scientific mind: the ability to think outside the box, the capacity to see connections between seemingly unrelated situations, and the aptitude to ask relevant questions and think up a way to answer them. Although scientists try to nurture and develop these skills throughout their careers, you do not have

Nanotech? That’s Ancient History!

Ramya Gurunathan shines a light on nanoparticles in Ancient Roman art Nanotechnology, the science of the small, emerged as a hot-button topic around the 1990s. It now has far-reaching impacts in multiple fields of technology, ranging from medicine to transportation, and has been particularly influential in electronics. It is an area of engineering focusing on the design of new materials and devices at the nanometre (nm) scale, one billionth of

Revisiting the Test Tube

Sarah Foster considers the ethical implications of growing human embryos in the lab for longer-term experiments Still reeling from a flurry of discussion and soul-searching in the wake of the first attempts at human genome editing in 2015, the world of human embryo research now faces another controversial breakthrough. Two groups of researchers, including several Cambridge scientists, have grown human embryos in culture for an unprecedented 13 days. The researchers were

Exploring our Amazing Universe from Cambridge - The Joy of Observing the Night Skies

Andrew Sellek discusses how astronomers and amateurs alike observe the sky at night Astronomy has been done in Cambridge for centuries – a landmark was when the Cambridge Observatory was built off Madingley road in 1823. This has formed the focal point for astronomical activities, both professional and amateur, to this day: the site now houses the Institute of Astronomy (the university’s main astronomy department) as well as the astrophysics