In Print: Racing Cells, Baby Dinos
Nov11

In Print: Racing Cells, Baby Dinos

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what's going on this week’s issue of C&EN. Microscopic organisms, start your engines! The second World Cell Race is upon us. Doping and steroids in the form of genetic modifications and unusual cell types are welcome in this competition to create the fastest and smartest cellular contestant. As C&EN associate editor Nader Heidari writes in this week's print column, this year's World Cell Race will be held on Nov. 22 at the BioMEMS Resource Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston (watch the live broadcast here). The cited purpose of the race is to inspire discussion about how cell motility plays a role in health and disease. The Newscripts gang also wouldn't be surprised if cell biologists were champing at the bit to enter a (relatively) high-speed racing contest. Unlike the inaugural World Cell Race in 2011 that featured a linear track, this year's race will force champion-hopefuls to navigate a maze-like course. Creating "smart" cells that don't just Roomba their way into a dead end will add another dimension of design complexity. Nader says the organizers haven't entirely revealed just how these souped-up cells are expected to make wise decisions on their paths to victory, but he's putting his money on stem cells. "They're pretty fast," Nader says. "Some went up to 5ish µm a minute! This next contest will have molds, however, so we'll see how they compare, even though they'll need special tracks because of their size." The second part of Nader's Newscripts discusses a keen-eyed teen who was first to spot a fossil on his high school's trip to Utah's Grand Staircaise-Escalante National Monument in 2009. While traipsing through rock formations on an exploratory trip led by paleontologist Andrew A. Farke, high schooler Kevin Terris peeked under a stone and ended up discovering the smallest and most complete fossil of the dinosaur Parasaurolophus yet. Farke's research group has been investigating the fossil and has recently published a paper about the baby dino, whom they've endearingly nicknamed "Joe." And Nader tells the Newscripts gang that the researchers think it's unlikely they'll discover anything quite like it again: "Joe's find is a ridiculously rare glimpse into childhood development of these dinos. It's crazy to find a relatively complete baby dino fossil, mostly because they tend to be bite-sized morsels for predators and have softer bones that wouldn't fossilize as well." Nader adds that the paleontology team "had a very tiny geological window to find and preserve the fossil as well. Farke doesn't think he'll ever find another such fossil in...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Dec20

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. Scientists come up with explanation of why Rudolph’s nose was red. And, no, it’s not because he drank one too many reindeer martinis. [CNET] If you’re worried about putting on weight this holiday season, consider Le Whaf, a kitchen gadget that turns food and drink into calorie-free vapor. [Geek] Check out BeetBox—the new instrument that makes root vegetables funky. [Gizmag] Cosmetic surgeons used stem cells and dermal filler to give woman a face-lift. Whoopsie! Dermal filler contains hydroxylapatite, which signals stem cells to turn to bone. We don’t really need to tell you the rest. [io9] Energetic materials research, now with more bananas. [JACS via Improbable Research] Video and proton transfer reaction mass spec reveal the scent of bed bug sex. [PLoS One via...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Jun14

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. Turns out the moon isn’t really made of cheese. It’s made of nanoparticles. [Nanowerk] Well, don’t we feel like old underachievers. One Swedish 10 year old solves a puzzle about approximants, which are related to quasicrystals. Plus he has an awesome name: Linus Hovmöller Zou. [New Scientist] Live stem cells recovered from a 17-day-old corpse. Horror filmmakers, start your engines. [iO9] With all the solvents we sniffed in grad school, the Newscripts gang would probably make terrible “O”s in GC-O analysis. Still, this summary of the subject and how it helps scientists understand why certain odors make food yummy is nifty. [PopSci] New study says tight pants lower sperm count. Future hipster population in major danger, Will Robinson. [Gizmodo] Computer scientists building an automated country music generator based on algorithmic methods. Why, God, why???????????? [Improbable Research] When, oh when, can we put the water jet cutter on our Amazon wish lists?...

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Hey, ACS, Where’s My Coloring Book?
Jan06

Hey, ACS, Where’s My Coloring Book?

There was nothing I liked to do better when I was a young lass than to put crayons to the pages of my coloring books. Staying inside the lines was decidedly cool, and anyone who couldn’t manage it wasn’t allowed to defile my beloved “Sleeping Beauty” or “Aladdin” books. Even today, I have a soft spot for coloring books, so when I see one as fantastic as Cell Press’s “Coloring With Cell,” I think it deserves a mention. I picked up this fun book at a Cell symposium late last year; it came with the registration materials. Immediately, I was in love with the book, made especially for young and old geeks everywhere. Inside, Sammy The Cell guides you through the pages, describing the parts inside cells, how membrane channels work, and into what forms stem cells can differentiate. A particular favorite is the connect-the-dots activity you can do to reveal RNA polymerase stuck to some DNA. This rad coloring book got me to thinking: “What would an American Chemical Society coloring book look like? What sorts of things would it ask tiny chemists to color?” Some flasks and beakers of course, and some ball-and-stick molecules to be sure. Perhaps the periodic table, a bit of safety gear, and our dear mascot, Milli Mole. But what else? Newscripts readers: What would you want to see in a coloring book geared toward getting people excited about chemistry? (And ACS, when are you going to print one, please?) Is it easier or harder to come up with things to color than for biology? I recently shared “Coloring With Cell” with my 10-year-old niece, who wasn’t quite sure at first what to make of the book but humored me by coloring a page or two. In the end, though, she asked if I could bring it back so she could finish coloring a virus particle. Sweeter words I’ve never heard. Other Newscripts coloring book reading: “Backyard Gas, Crafty Chemistry,” where kids learn about the wonders of...

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Sweet Science: Glucose Regulates Stem Cells, Cancer
Aug09

Sweet Science: Glucose Regulates Stem Cells, Cancer

Most people think of glucose, a humble sugar, as the fuel for several critical body functions, including muscle contraction, brain function, and a host of cellular processes. As it turns out, glucose function might also make a prime target for the development of regenerative medicine and cancer treatments. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic led by Dr. Andre Terzic report in Cell Metabolism that glucose plays a pivotal role in “re-induction” of pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from cells called fibroblasts.  These rapidly dividing cells, which normally build connective tissues like collagen, can be convinced to shutter their oxidative, mitochondria-based metabolism in favor of a glycolytic pathway, essentially changing the cells to iPSCs in the process.  How does one rewire cellular metabolism?  Expose mouse fibroblasts to a nuclear reprogramming kit (which uses viruses to rewrite nuclear DNA), and then grow them in a high-glucose solution. The scientists used 1H NMR metabolic profiling to monitor changes in cellular metabolism in this sugary environment, finding that in roughly one week they exhibit the same metabolic footprint as embryonic stem cells. No word yet on small molecule drugs that can supplant this process.            In other glycemic news, Stanford Medical School researchers, led by Dr. Amato J. Giaccia, have reported a small molecule capable of inducing “synthetic lethality” in renal cell carcinomas, a common type of kidney cancer. Treatment of cancer by chemical synthetic lethality combines small-molecule inhibition and genetic mutation to selectively kill cancer cells dependent on these pathways.  Carmen briefly covered this advance in the August 8 issue of C&EN. Two transporters for glucose, GLUT1 and GLUT2, control how kidney cells use sugar; however, genetic mutations cause cancerous cells to favor GLUT1. STF-31, a sulfonamide which targets GLUT1, selectively shuts down glucose transport to those cancerous cells lacking functional VHL tumor suppressor genes, a common mutation in renal cell carcinomas. But tumor cells are notoriously tricky. The Stanford scientists wondered if in the absence of the GLUT1 activity, cancer cells: might simply use an alternative pathway called oxidative phosphorylation to stay alive.  They found that adding excess pyruvate (fuel for the oxidative phosphorylation engine) could not compensate for glucose starvation, and RCC cells still died. Other non-specific glucose transporter inhibitors (fasentin or phloretin, which hit GLUT1 and GLUT2 indiscriminately) killed normal kidney cells as well as cancerous cells, which confirms overexpressed GLUT1 as STF-31’s RCC...

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