Saturday, 15 March 2014


The bid to understand and create stem cells is very current and is a very desirable piece of knowledge many a biologist and geneticist would like to know. New articles and papers are always sprouting up, with innovative findings, which claim to shed light on the amazing properties which these cells have the ability to perform.

An article in Nature, was published in January and it reported that dipping cells in acid could convert them into stem cells. The author of this piece Prof. Teruhiko Wakayama has revoked his findings and has said that 'it is no longer clear what is right'. His findings have not been discredited, but they are currently under intense scrutiny, due a number of mistakes which have been been found throughout the article.

There are 2 different types of stem cells; adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. These cells all have a potency to differentiate into specialised cell types. There are many different therapeutic treatments which rely on stem cells- like bone marrow transplants. Furthermore many new technologies are being developed to help treat cancer, Parkinson's disease, spinal chord injuries and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). As stem cells are only present in the human body in finite amounts, it is a race to find ways to harvest more stem cells, or alter the integrity of normal somatic cells to produce stem cells.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Lighting up the sky.

The Auroras are a natural phenomenon which have been described about as far back as Roman times. A story I heard growing up was about an emperor who was in battle and thought Rome was burning, so he rushed back home only to realise it was the sky; dancing with coloured light casting a reddish-orange glow over the city he so loved.

The word Aurora is Latin and means sunrise, but it is also the name of the Roman goddess of dawn. There are 2 kinds of auroras, the Borealis and the Australis. The Borealis is known as the Northern Lights and mainly appear as a green glow occasionally tinged red. The appearance of the Borealis is generally around the equinoxes, and look like curtains due to the magnetic field lines which arise within them due to the polarity of The Earth. The Australis appears in the Southern hemisphere around the poles, and is essentially the same as the Borealis.

Auroras are formed via ions released from the Sun. The Earth's magnetic field traps the ions and it is the collision between the Sun's ions and the Earth's atmospheric molecules which cause the release of energy which is visualised as light (the auroras). It is the Earth's magnetic field which causes the appearance of the rippling effect associated with The Lights.

Auroras come in a wide range of colours, and this is dependent upon altitude. Red only occurs at the highest altitudes, green is apparent at the lower altitudes and the blue colour is occasionally seen at the lower part of the lights (the bottom of the curtains).

Explorer Fact: Last week the Northern lights were visible in some of the Southern Counties of Britain (Norfolk, Essex, Suffolk and Kent).