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Scientists work together to create more effective medicines Advances continue to progress personalised medicine, a field in which drugs are tailored to patients’ needs based on their genetic information. Historically, simply screening patients’ genomes enabled this trend but more recently, synthetic nucleotide-based medicines have taken this a step further. Nucleotide-based medicines use artificial DNA and RNA (nucleotides) to target cellular genetic information directly, shutting off genetic diseases at their source.

Time Flies

Philip Myers tells us how scientists unravelled the secrets of time telling using the humble vinegar fly You cannot win a Nobel Prize if you are dead. Last year, the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded for the ‘elucidation of the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms’, and the living received the credit. But some missed out – some who had passed away, who had been central to the

Medicine’s Forgotten Warriors

Laura Upstone tells the story of virus based medicine in the war against bacteria, the wonder drug that almost was In this age of modern medicine it is easy to
forget that only a century ago, an infected scratch from a bramble could have cost you your life. Alexander Fleming’s discovery of the first antibiotic – penicillin – opened up a wealth of opportunities. Now an infected cut is just a

Review: The Secret Language of Anatomy

“… with a sense of wonder and whimsy, this book reveals the thoughtfulness of anatomists through the ages” Did you know you have a harp in your heart (chordae tendinae), a snail in your ear (cochlea) and a beehive in your lungs (alveoli)? In their newly released book The Secret Language of Anatomy, Cecilia Brassett, Emily Evans and Isla Fay explore the etymological roots of anatomical terms in an elegant

Age Changes in Epigenetic Methylation Correlate with Age

Rachel Fox reports new developments in epigenetic research Ageing is defined biologically as the inherent and inevitable functional decline which limits lifespan. Though people swear “you’re only as old as you feel”, developments in the field of epigenetics have shown that a record of your age is written within your genes. Discovered first in humans and characterised in mice 
by a group of Cambridge-based scientists (Stubbs et al 2017), there

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