A research group from the University of Leeds has shown that infection by the brain parasite Toxoplasma gondii, found in 10-20 per cent of the UK’s population, directly affects the production of dopamine, a key chemical messenger in the brain. Their findings are the first to demonstrate that a parasite found in the brain of mammals can affect dopamine levels. Whilst the work has been carried out with rodents, lead investigator Dr Glenn McConkey of the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences, believes that the findings could ultimately shed new light on treating human neurological disorders that are dopamine-related such as schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Parkinson’s disease. This research may explain how these parasites, remarkably, manipulate rodents’ behaviour for their own advantage.
At the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, woolly mammoths dwindled to extinction as warming weather diminished their food sources, most scientists believe. There are believed to be ten million mammoths buried in permanently frozen soil in Siberia. Because of the sparse human population in the region, though, only about a hundred specimens have been discovered, including two dozen complete skeletons. Only a handful of complete carcasses have been found. In 2002 hunters stumbled across the mammoth now on display in Japan. After a period of relatively warm weather, the head of the beast had been left protruding through the snow and ice cover.
New research has revealed how infection by a parasitic fungus dramatically changes the behavior of tropical carpenter ants (species Camponotus leonardi), causing them to become zombie-like and to die at a spot that has optimal reproduction conditions for the fungus. The multinational research team studied ants living high up in the rainforest canopy in Thailand.
Two cells — one marked mostly in green, the other in blue — of a newly discovered organism found in water samples collected from the University of Exeter pond. Scientists think these "cryptomycota" use their tails to propel themselves while searching for food. Meredith Jones / Nature
What these scientists have done could give us the first bulletproof HIV vaccine. They have re-awakened the human genome's latent potential to make us all into HIV-resistant creatures; they published their ground-breaking research in PLoS Biology. A group of scientists led by Nitya Venkataraman and Alexander Colewhether wanted to try a new approach to fighting HIV - one that worked with the body's own immune system. They knew Old World monkeys had a built-in immunity to HIV: a protein called retrocyclin, which can prevent HIV from entering cell walls and starting an infection.
The invention of scuba diving has allowed us to breathe underwater but only at very shallow depths. Thanks to our inability to conquer the bends, diving below 70m still remains astonishingly dangerous to anyone but a handful of experts. Ultra-deep diving is so lethal that more people have walked on the moon than descended below 240m using scuba gear. Now an inventor in the United States believes he has solved the riddle of how to get humans down to serious depths – by getting us to breathe liquid like fish. Arnold Lande, a retired American heart and lung surgeon, has patented a scuba suit that would allow a human to breathe “liquid air”, a special solution that has been highly enriched with oxygen molecules. The idea immediately conjures up the terrifying spectre of drowning but our lungs are more than capable of taking oxygen from a solution.
R esearchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created a device that mimics a living, breathing human lung on a microchip. The device, about the size of a rubber eraser, acts much like a lung in a human body and is made using human lung and blood vessel cells. Because the lung device is translucent, it provides a window into the inner-workings of the human lung without having to invade a living body. It has the potential to be a valuable tool for testing the effects of environmental toxins, absorption of aerosolized therapeutics and the safety and efficacy of new drugs.