Biomedical Sciences

Pterodactyls lived like seagulls

Jack McMinn investigates pterosaur parenting Pterosaurs were the the dominant airborne animals of the Mesozoic Era (252-66 million years ago), dying out alongside the dinosaurs and being ecologically replaced by birds. However, a new study by Xiaolin Wang et al. seems to suggest that pterosaurs often used the same evolutionary strategies as their avian replacements. Fossilised embryos of Hamipterus, a Chinese cousin of the famous Pteranodon, were found still inside

Judged by your Genes

Katherine Dudman introduces genetic discrimination, the sly cousin of racism and sexism Have you ever spared a thought for the value of the information encoded in your genes? Have others? We are constantly bombarded with headlines about the latest research to link behaviour, appearance or disease to variations in our genetic makeup. You may even have considered your own chances of developing cancer, escaping Alzheimer’s or making it through to

Read, learn, and inwardly digest

Joy Thompson studies the links between the lavatory and the literary In 2008, Goldstein and colleagues were concerned about a hole in the gastroenterology literature. It’s common knowledge that many a person has “first solaced his mind, then wiped his behind”, according to the limerick, but no-one had studied the effect of toilet reading on digestive health. Goldstein et al. hypothesised that toilet reading could make defecation easier by providing

A Psychedelic Conversation: Tackling the Taboo

Antonina Kouli and Bart Nieuwenhuis report on the CamBRAIN panel discussion of psychedelic drugs’ medical potential As strange as it sounds today, psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms’ active ingredient) showed great clinical promise in the early 1960s. Several early scientific papers suggested that psychedelics could be used to treat psychiatric disorders and even for pain relief. However, the simultaneous rise in psychedelic use by the public at

The Drug that Brought the Dress Back

Following Professor France Ashcroft’s 2015 damehood, Atreyi Chakrabarty examines how the work of one woman transformed both treatment and understanding of a debilitating childhood disease. Neonatal diabetes is a myth. At least that was what Frances Ashcroft was told in 1997 on her quest to find newborns with the condition. Yet her persistence and determination to find the cause and cure of this unique condition was unfailing. Not only did she

Standing on the Gene: an interview with Professor Wolf Reik

Jiali Gao and Salvador Buse discuss the emerging field of epigenetic modification, and ask Professor Wolf Reik where it might take us. In the news, in conversation, in the cafe – you have probably heard of epigenetics. But what exactly is it? Epigenetics literally means ‘on top of genetics’. Whereas genetics is the study of genes, which are stretches of DNA containing the information needed to make proteins, epigenetics is the study

Understanding the Irrational

Laura Nunez-Mulder discusses psychiatry’s future with Professor Paul Fletcher Psychiatry is changing. Historically, the field has been dynamic, undergoing transformation as institutions and asylums have come in and out of fashion. Over the last century, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a handbook of checklists by which psychiatrists can make diagnoses, has been overhauled time and time again. The DSM is a controversial manual. Many disorders overlap,

Zika Virus

Alex Sampson considers the spread and disappearance of a new disease In mid-2015, media attention shifted from the subsiding Ebola outbreak in West Africa to a new viral epidemic: Zika. Emerging from relative obscurity, Zika virus swept across the Americas within a single year, infecting over 1.5 million people and leaving an unforeseen trail of children born with neurological defects. Coinciding with the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Zika virus epidemic

Cannabis Joins The Fight Against Addiction

Rachael Rhodes explores the potential medical applications of a Class C drug In 1996 Californians voted to introduce an untested medicinal drug into the public marketplace. Although the drug had not been through clinical trials, plenty of people had apparently tested it for themselves and were convinced of its effectiveness. I’m talking about cannabis (aka: marijuana, pot, weed), a drug that was illegal nearly everywhere else at the time. This

Come Flu with Me

Holly Giles tracks the spread of post-World War II collaborations within international research communities In 1947, in a post-war world divided by intense political tensions, scientists from countries all over the planet joined their effort to tackle together one of the most serious threats to human health: influenza. Every year, flu epidemics are responsible for approximately 250,000 to 500,000 deaths around the world. Whilst it is commonly believed that the