Advice from a professional science writer

Talking about science is incredibly important, yet sometimes risky business. Take the Italian astronomer and physicist Galileo (1564–1642), for example. In 1633, Galileo was put on trial for publishing an idea that, at the time, was considered highly controversial: The Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo’s writing ticked off the Catholic Church, who clung to their belief that the Earth lay at the center of the universe. Galileo was charged with heresy, sentenced to a lifetime of house arrest, and had his publications banned from the public.

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Science can be…

Biomaterials turbocharge the healing properties of stem cell implants

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A pain-free future for patients with osteoarthritis may now be within reach, thanks to an innovative spongy biomaterial for delivering therapeutic stem cells right to affected joints.

Osteoarthritis causes cartilage (the cushioning tissue between bones) to gradually wear away. Consequently, bones in the joint begin to grind against each other, causing stiffness, swelling, and excruciating pain for patients. It’s a debilitating condition that affects over one in 10 people over 60 — a concerning statistic given that older persons are expected to outnumber children by 2030.

The problem is that cartilage…

If you have an underlying condition, you might be in trouble

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New research has revealed that COVID-19 vaccines may not work as effectively in those whose immune systems have been negatively impacted by underlying medical conditions or the drugs used to treat those conditions.

These findings are not entirely surprising. For instance, previous investigations in immunocompromised people had pointed towards the possibility that vaccines may not perform optimally in these populations. In the VACANCE study of 2012, for example, less than half of the participants (who were cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy) produced antibodies to influenza after receiving the vaccine.


They aren’t making you a better person

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As a society, we’re obsessed with the future — that amorphous blob that’s shaped based on the choices we make today. According to self-improvement gurus, the future is completely under our control with a little motivation and focus. We can shape our tomorrows, simply by setting goals. Aim little red dots on your dreams and make your hard work count for something.

If like me, you’ve set more goals than you can remember, perhaps it’s time to take a closer look. Are goals really jet thrusters propelling you to greater heights or simply brick-filled suitcases that you’ve been lugging around?

The device could save lives of those with severe COVID symptoms

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A surge of pro-inflammatory cytokines, intense, and sustained inflammation leading to organ damage and a high risk of death. The cytokine storms associated with severe COVID cases are dangerous, but manageable if caught early.

“Especially now in the context of COVID-19, if you could monitor pro-inflammatory cytokines and see them trending upwards, you could treat patients early, even before they develop symptoms,” said Shalini Prasad, a researcher from the University of Texas.

Prasad and colleagues have created a sweat sensor, which when worn on a patient’s skin, continuously measures…

They turn solid tissue “liquid”

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To understand what’s going on with a patient, doctors may take a biopsy-a sample of tissue extracted from a suspicious lump, for example. Fine needles are typically used for this purpose, in a technique that has remained mostly the same over the last 150 years.

“Biopsy yields — the amount of tissue extracted — are often inadequate, with some studies showing that up to a third of fine-needle biopsies struggle to get enough tissue for a reliable diagnosis,” said Heikki Nieminen, an inventor of a new vibrating biopsy needle that overcomes these challenges.

“A biopsy…

Processed foods are bad news for your natural microflora

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We know that processed foods like ice cream, potato chips, and candy bars in excess can cause people to pile on the pounds. However, new research shows that by destroying the natural gut microbiome, these foods can also promote chronic, low-grade infections that lead to inflammatory diseases such as diabetes.

A diverse group of “good” microorganisms colonizes the intestinal tract where they protect against infection by pathogenic bacteria. This microbiota also helps in the development and maintenance of the mucosal immune system, to keep “bad” bacteria at bay.

In a research…

The data helps us track variants

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Over 1.2 million genome sequences collected from 172 countries have been uploaded to a data-sharing site over the course of the pandemic. This is a major milestone for epidemiologists and researchers looking to track how SARS-CoV-2 emerged and evolved as it swept the globe.

Critically, this data also helps scientists keeping a close eye on variants on the move (some of which are more transmissible or cause more severe forms of COVID). Such data is important to keep tabs on to ascertain whether emerging variants are able to evade current diagnostics and therapeutics.


Viscosity impacts cell health, and now we can measure it

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How “sticky” cells are, or their viscosity, holds a wealth of information about their health and functionality. Now, researchers have developed a laser-powered technology that can make precise measurements of this characteristic in living cells for diagnostic and pharmaceutical testing applications.

“The stickiness, or viscosity, of liquids, is incredibly important in biology,” said Warwick Bowen from the Queensland Quantum Optics Lab, which developed this innovative new approach to viscosity measurements.

“In living cells, viscosity fluctuations control shape and structure, modulate chemical reactions, and signal whether a cell is healthy or…

It’s the first to meet the WHO’s goal of 75% vaccine efficacy

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University of Oxford scientists have developed a vaccine against malaria, which they describe as having “unprecedented efficacy levels”.

A preprint study details a trial that tested the vaccine in 450 children from Burkina Faso, aged between 5 and 17 months. The participants were randomized to receive either the malaria vaccine or a control rabies vaccine. Shots were timed to be administered just before peak malaria season in the region.

The results were hailed as a breakthrough: The vaccine showed 77 percent efficacy in the higher dose group. This…

Tara Fernandez

Cat person, PhD-qualified Cell Biologist & Science Writer. Interested in trends and emerging technologies in the biopharma industry.

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