Tag Archives: Biology

Oxford Cagey About New Animal Labs

LONDON–When scientists move into new laboratory buildings, their universities often proclaim the event with a ribbon cutting and champagne. Yet when the first mice arrived at the University of Oxford’s new animal research facility last week, officials waited to make the announcement until a press conference here today. Rather than enthusiastically providing details about the building’s inhabitants–animals and researchers included–Oxford officials spent much of the media encounter declining to answer questions and asking that names of those involved with the building not be used. Continue reading

In The Fold

Mom wanted you to be a doctor, but you were too busy playing videogames to take the MCATs? Now is your chance to make amends.

Foldit, a new online game, taps our inner competitive streak to advance a key area of medicine: the understanding of how proteins form. Proteins are the engines of cellular life—they are, in layman’s terms, what make cells work—and hold the secret to many of the world’s worst viruses. Viruses use particular proteins to reproduce, and by figuring out the precise shape of these proteins, we’ll be well on our way to a cure. The problem, however, is that computers, for all their powers, aren’t terribly adept at determining the shape of proteins. That’s where you come in.

At Foldit, researchers post initial guesses of how a protein might be shaped, and challenge players to improve the guesses by making the virtual protein more compact (proteins naturally form the most compact shape possible). The more compact your protein model, the higher your score. It may not be as fun as Halo, but it’s a lot more helpful.

This story first appeared in GOOD Magazine: [html] [pdf].

Work Out, Chow Down

Heavy snacking after exercise may have little to do with hunger or appetite hormones. In a new study, people who rode a bike for an hour ate more for lunch than those who just sat around ate, despite similar levels of hunger and short-term appetite-suppressing hormones. The urge to gobble after exercise, it turns out, may be a more complicated mixture of psychology and body chemistry. Continue reading