Once bitten, twice shy: our exaggerated fear of shark attacks
Category: GCSE Biology
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Jul 22 2013
‘Big leap’ towards curing blindness http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23374623
‘Big leap’ towards curing blindness in stem cell study
The prospect of reversing blindness has made a significant leap, according to scientists in the UK.
An animal study in the journal Nature Biotechnology showed the part of the eye which actually detects light can be repaired using stem cells. The team at Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London say human trials are now, for the first time, a realistic prospect. Experts described it as a “significant breakthrough” and “huge leap” forward. Photoreceptors are the cells in the retina which react to light and convert it into an electrical signal which can be sent to the brain. However, these cells can die off in some causes of blindness such as Stargardt’s disease and age-related macular degeneration. There are already trials in people to use stem cells to replace the “support” cells in the eye which keep the photoreceptors alive.
Now the London-based team have shown it is possible to replace the light-sensing cells themselves, raising the prospect of reversing blindness. They have used a new technique for building retinas in the laboratory. It was used to collect thousands of stem cells, which were primed to transform into photoreceptors, and injected them into the eyes of blind mice. The study showed that these cells could hook up with the existing architecture of the eye and begin to function. However, the effectiveness is still low. Only about 1,000 cells out of a transplant of 200,000 actually hooked up with the rest of the eye. Lead researcher Prof Robin Ali told the BBC News website: “This is a real proof of concept that photoreceptors can be transplanted from an embryonic stem cells source and it give us a route map to now do this in humans.
“That’s why we’re so excited, five years is a now a realistic aim for starting a clinical trial.”
The eye is one of the most advanced fields for stem cell research. It is relatively simple as the light sensing cells only have to pass their electrical message on to one more cell in order to get their message to the brain, unlike an attempt to reverse dementia which would require cells to hook up with far more cells all across the brain.
The immune system is also very weak in the eye so there is a low chance of the transplant being rejected. A few cells can also make a big difference in the eye. Tens of thousands of stem cells in the eye could improve vision, but that number of stem cells would not regenerate a much larger organ such as a failing liver. Prof Chris Mason, from University College London, told the BBC: “I think they have made a major step forward here, but the efficiency is still too low for clinical uses.
“At the moment the numbers of tiny and it will take quite a bit of work to get the numbers up and then the next question is ‘Can you do it in man?’
“But I think it is a significant breakthrough which may lead to cell therapies and will give a much expanded knowledge on how to cure blindness.”
Dr Marcelo Rivolta, from the University of Sheffield, said the study was a “huge leap” forward for treating blindness and could have implications across stem cell research.
Permanent link to this article: https://animatedscience.co.uk/2013/big-leap-towards-curing-blindness
Jul 11 2013
Sharks stun prey with overhead kick http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23245791
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May 12 2013
Cambridge-based scientists develop ‘superwheat’
UK scientists ‘develop superwheat’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22498274
British scientists say they have developed a new type of wheat which could increase productivity by 30%.
The Cambridge-based National Institute of Agricultural Botany has combined an ancient ancestor of wheat with a modern variety to produce a new strain.
In early trials, the resulting crop seemed bigger and stronger than the current modern wheat varieties.
It will take at least five years of tests and regulatory approval before it is harvested by farmers.
Some farmers, however, are urging new initiatives between the food industry, scientists and government.
They believe the regulatory process needs to be speeded up to ensure that the global food security demands of the next few decades can be met, says the BBC’s Tom Heap.
One in five of all the calories consumed round the world come from wheat.
But despite steady improvement in the late 20th century, the last 15 years have seen little growth in the average wheat harvest from each acre in Britain.
Just last month, cereal maker Weetabix announced that it would have to scale back production of some of its products due to a poor wheat harvest in the UK.
Now British scientists think they may have found the answer to increasing productivity again.
Around 10,000 years ago wheat evolved from goat grass and other primitive grains.
The scientists used cross-pollination and seed embryo transfer technology to transfer some of the resilience of the ancient ancestor of wheat into modern British varieties.
The process required no genetic modification of the crops.
Permanent link to this article: https://animatedscience.co.uk/2013/uk-scientists-develop-superwheat