Thursday, 28 March 2013

Absolutely vaccinating!

The standard vaccinations which we have all had the 'joy' of experiencing since the age of 2 months, contain either an inactive but live form of the pathogen or the dead empty shell of the pathogen. Our body responds to this intruder by producing lymphocytes and memory cells, combating this pathogen; then when we catch the disease later in life, we are now immune (due to the B-memory cells) and do not express any symptoms as a consequence. Although this is a safe method of vaccination, scientists at The Pirbright Institute have managed to produce a more stable and entirely synthetic alternative to live vaccines.

The vaccine is being generated for the disease foot-and-mouth, which is a devastating disease which hit the UK in 2001, and caused billions of pounds worth of damage to the economy and decreased the agricultural productivity.

A virus has a protein shell and genomic RNA which enables it to replicate inside the host and its cells. The scientists have managed to reinforce the protein shell making it stronger and hence more stable.

The main benefit of this new vaccine is its' stability which means it will be able to be kept out of the fridge for several hours, at temperatures up to 56C without thermally denaturing.  Potentially this could be a critical factor in seeing the administration of this type of vaccine to the developing nations.

Explorer Fact: Foot-and-mouth disease is a picornavirus

Thursday, 7 March 2013

You can ring my bell.

What device does practically everyone in the world have?

 Check your pockets.

 It's a phone!!

With the movement in technology, telephones have become smaller and more portable, and now they are not even solely telephones anymore. They are able to surf the Internet, send messages to other people and perform most of the operations a computer can.

It was this very day, 7th March 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell was awarded the first ever American patent for the telephone. Although, this invention, really took off in the 19th century, Bell himself refused to have one in his own personal study.

Bell originally thought that multiple reeds were needed for communication, however upon the plucking of a single reed by his coworker, Thomas Watson, Bell on the receiving end of the wire, heard the string pluck, which indicated only a singular string was necessary. This device led to the 'gallows' sound powered telephone that could transmit muffled sounds rather than distinct speech.

A few days after Bell had his patent granted, he tried his invention using a liquid transmitter which was very similar in design to Gray's. Consequently even in the present day Bell is thought of as having "stolen" the telephone from Gray, although he refrained from using Gray's device in public after March 1876.

The telephone: what a No-bell idea.