"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Monday, October 30, 2006


So much of biology is about control - making sure things grow enough but not too much, maintaining homeostasis, et cetera - and understanding how controls work and act in systems is key to advancing research. I'll surprise no one by saying that ultimately, it all comes back to genes, but some might be surprised by how much I really mean by "all."

Researchers have known for some time that there is an inherited (genetic) component to schizophrenia. We also know that the disease involves a disruption of normal acetylcholine neurotransmission. Thus, it was no great surprise to find that a gene variant, which seems to predispose people to develop schizophrenia, involves acetylcholine transmission. Researchers found that members of a 200-person cohort who developed schizophrenia were more likely to have a certain variant of the neuregulin gene. This is really cool!

We know now that bacteria play a much bigger role in controlling the Earth's climate than we used to think. How they do it is still mostly a mystery, but news from the NSF shows how a gene in marine plankton decides whether the plankton release sulfur in a for that goes into the atmosphere, affecting climate, or stay in the ocean, as nutrient. This kind of research is getting more and more critical, as global warming speeds up.

Finally, there's controlling populations. For years, birth control (at least in the US) has been primarily a woman's responsibility - they take the Pill. Now, researchers are one step closer to a male contraceptive pill - one that stops sperm production midway, by causing nascent sperm to separate from nurturing Sertoli cells too early to survive. This one is especially novel, as it uses a novel delivery method: binding the drug to inactivated FSH, it can be delivered directly to target cells without toxic side effects in the rest of the body. But I wonder what the side effects will really be? Also, won't American males' rapidly dropping testosterone levels take care of this anyways?

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