One of the surprises of this work...is that the circadian clock operates in essentially all cells that contain a nucleus, not only specialized cells in the brain, allowing PER and TIM to “affect other aspects of physiology” with “implications for work schedules, sleep hygiene,” and more, ushering in the field of chronobiology.
In the study of the plant kingdom, a slow revolution is underway. Scientists are beginning to understand that plants have abilities, previously unnoticed and unimagined, that we’ve only ever associated with animals. In their own ways, plants can see, smell, feel, hear, and know where they are in the world. One recent study found that clusters of cells in plant embryos act a lot like brain cells and help the embryo to decide when to start growing.
For only a few years, it has been clear that bacteria are completely dominant in a healthy human being: On top of our ten billion body cells, there are one hundred billion microbial cells that play a role in our metabolism. This enormously increases the options for our bodily processes: If we include the microbes’ genes, then we have over 100,000 genes at our disposal, as opposed to just over 20,000.
In evolutionary terms, the intelligence of octopuses is an anomaly... octopuses – and to some extent their cephalopod cousins, cuttlefish and squid – frustrate the neat evolutionary division between clever vertebrates and simple-minded invertebrates... they learn, and can use tools; and they show a capacity for mimicry, deception and, some think, humour... Octopuses are the closest we can come, on earth, to knowing what it might be like to encounter intelligent aliens.
Twenty years ago, an orange juice producer dumped thousands of tons of orange peels and pulp onto a barren section of a Costa Rican national park, which has since transformed into a lush, vine-laden woodland. The shift is a dramatic illustration of how agricultural waste can regenerate a forest and sequester vast sums of carbon — for free.
Now, researchers at the University of Cambridge have created a new material that mimics spider silk’s strength, stretchiness and energy-absorbing capacity. This material offers the possibility of improving on products from bike helmets to parachutes to bulletproof jackets to airplane wings. Perhaps its most impressive property? It’s 98 percent water.
The treatment requires removing millions of a patient’s T-cells...and genetically engineering them to kill cancer cells. The technique employs a disabled form of H.I.V....to carry new genetic material into the T-cells to reprogram them. The process turbocharges the T-cells to attack B-cells, a normal part of the immune system that turn malignant in leukemia. The altered T-cells...are then dripped back into the patient’s veins, where they multiply and start fighting the cancer.
Geneticists are running ever-bigger and more expensive searches to identify the variants behind all kinds of traits and diseases, in the specific hope that their results will tell them something biologically interesting. They could show us more about how our bodies develop, for example, or point to new approaches for treating disease. But if Pritchard is right, then most variants will not provide such leads because they exert their influence in incidental ways.
Until now, the oldest known fossils of our species dated back just 195,000 years. The Moroccan fossils, by contrast, are roughly 300,000 years old. Remarkably, they indicate that early Homo sapiens had faces much like our own, although their brains differed in fundamental ways.
Asthma affects nearly one in six Detroit residents. The city’s asthma rate is 40 percent higher than that of Michigan as a whole, and sufferers here are more than three times as likely to wind up in the hospital. And air pollution makes asthma worse.