Last Week on

For the first time, researchers have transformed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into specialized bladder cells. Meanwhile the development of iPSCs from normal cells has been shown to depend on two proteins necessary for the induction of a glycolytic state. In order to make iPSCs, researchers have previously needed to collect significant amounts of skin, bone marrow, or blood from a donor, but researchers have demonstrated a new method that requires only a single drop of blood.  In the future, you may be able to prick your finger, send a drop of blood to the lab, and have them grow a new bladder for you.

Paleontologists digging in the Dakotas have discovered “a giant crested bird-like dinosaur that the experts liken variously to an outsized cassowary, or a ‘chicken from hell.'”  The new genus of oviraptorosaur was named Anzu after a Mesopotamian bird-demon.

By coating gallium nitride semiconductors with “a layer of phosphonic acid derivatives,” researchers increased the brightness and longevity of LEDs without having to increase energy input.

Human appetite for conch snails has reduced the size of mature specimens by 2/3 in the last seven millennia.

A study of dioxin exposure via breast milk in Vietnam showed a correlation between levels of the chemical and development of autism in children.

Regardless of how long you spend playing, video games (especially those played with others) may help you relax after a long day at work.

Mexico now beats the U.S. as the most obese country in the world; they also drink the most Coca-Cola.  With Coke expanding aggressively in developing nations, chronically undernourished people are faced with too much of a good thing.

Getting less sleep is associated with having less ‘gray matter’ in the brain, but researchers can’t determine the direction of causality.  In another study, autistic children demonstrated shorter sleep duration than control groups.

Among sex-changing fish, the largest females are known to replace dominant males in a pinch, but male-to-female transitions are much more rare.  By studying a bunch of widowed male wrasses, researchers observed that the males would pair up with the next individual they encountered–whether male, female, or juvenile–and when two widowed males paired up, the smaller would become a female.

Baseline risk of ACL and other ligament injury may be genetically determined.

To accelerate word learning in young children, read them a story and then put them down for a nap.

Lithium-air batteries use the atmosphere as a cathode and could boost the range of electric vehicles to 300 miles or more.

Computational research has postulated the structure of electromagnetic knots that satisfy Maxwell’s equations.

And finally, a study of stem cell therapy for Lou Gehrig’s disease (or ALS) showed that the cells can be safely transplanted into the spinal cord and do not accelerate progression of the disease, providing a green light for further research.


Making Cancer, and Making It Worse

On Pharyngula, PZ Myers says that cancer, unlike an infectious bacterium or virus, is not the product of millions of years of evolution. Instead, PZ writes, “Cancer misuses and perverts existing processes in your cells to send them out of control.” But what causes cancer? Well, it happens about 20,000 times a day in your body. Luckily, it is almost always repaired. It is the mutation of DNA during cell division. Just one base out of place, and suddenly the gene that made a protein to tightly regulate cell division is making a protein that encourages the cell to divide continually. Depending on what other mutations this cell line, by chance or carcinogen, accumulates, it can grow to destroy the body. PZ also explains the role of tumor suppressor genes, which generally stop uncontrolled cell division.  Sexual beings have two copies of every gene in their bodies, and for some cancers to be successful, both copies of a tumor suppressor gene must be knocked out.  On the other hand, new research at the Weizmann Institute suggests that for leukemia cells to proliferate, one copy of a cancer-causing gene must remain healthy even though the other must be mutated.  And on Respectful Insolence, Orac takes another look at the endless parade of cancer quackery in the media, in this case a talk-show host praising a doctor whose treatment regimen (including 150 pills per day and a coffee enema) appeared in a clinical trial to make pancreatic cancer patients die sooner.

Posted to the homepage on September 23, 2013.