All posts by LL

Psyching Out the Fruit Fly

Fruit fly brains are useful for studying genes implicated in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Getting at them, however, requires messy dissections that can damage tissue. Now, a new technique may offer a hands-off peek into the miniature mind of Drosophila.

A team led by Leeanne McGurk of the Medical Research Council’s Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh, U.K., takes flies bred with genetic markers that make the nervous systems fluoresce (blue, in photo) and bleaches their exoskeletons, making the bodies translucent. Optical projection tomography reveals the 3D structure of the organs and allows researchers to virtually slice the flies’ brains on any axis, the authors report online on 5 September in PloS One. The procedure may one day be automated, collaborator Liam Keegan says, and–with better resolution and longer-lived fluorescence–could make hand-dissection of fruit fly brains a thing of the past.

Originally appeared in Science Magazine as a Random Sample: [html] [pdf]

A Karolinska Doctoral Candidate Learns the Joys of Business Ownership, Research, and Fatherhood

Mohammed Homman is in no hurry to defend his dissertation. It’s not because the Karolinska Institute doctoral candidate needs more time to write or perform a few more experiments. Nor is it because he needs to be home most days by 5 p.m. to help his wife, Maria Homman, who heads her own research and development lab at Akzo Nobel, care for their two daughters. Homman is taking his time to finish his degree because he’s busy wooing investors, hiring researchers–some of them with their own doctorates–and establishing business partnerships. Finishing his degree just isn’t his highest priority right now.

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Pass the Salt

Since ancient times, people have been salting meat for storage. Now Iranian archaeologists are using the same trick to preserve the body of a man who mined some of that salt millennia ago.

The body is the sixth found since modern mining operations resumed in the Chehr Abad mine in Zanjan province in 1992. The other five are on display in museums in Tehran and Zanjan, but Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization says the museum specimens are degrading. So when the most recent body was unearthed this year, archaeologists decided to reinter it. Iranian, German, and British experts will meet in Iran this autumn to plan long-term preservation.

University of Oxford archaeologist Mark Pollard, who has studied samples from the remains, says the six bodies most likely belonged to miners who died in cave-ins. Pollard hopes to find out where the miners came from by comparing strontium isotopes in their bones with the isotopes in nearby areas, which the miners would have absorbed from their food and drinking water. Field surveys show no sign of habitation within 30 kilometers of the mine during the Achaemenid (550-330 B.C.E.) and Sassanid (224-651 C.E.) dynasties, when the miners lived.

Originally appeared in Science Magazine as a Random Sample: [html] [pdf]

Barcelona Walking Tour Podcast

Bienvenido a Barcelona! This Let’s Go audio walking tour should help you find the gaudiest and finest Barcelona has to offer. You could do it all in one long day, or pick and choose, since each track covers a separate sight or neighborhood.

Download the audio files [mp3] or read the story behind the story here…

This and the Paris walking tour were my first stab at writing the script for an audio format. It took a little over a year for me to get around to visiting Barcelona myself, but when I did I was able to share parts of this tour with some other travelers–fun!

Unlike Paris, Barcelona’s public bicycle system is not geared towards short-stay visitors.