The NY Times recently posted a typically well-written piece on the relationship between cell mutations and cancer. It’s like a crash-course in the science that drives the Errors story:
“For the last decade cancer research has been guided by a common vision of how a single cell, outcompeting its neighbors, evolves into a malignant tumor. Through a series of random mutations, genes that encourage cellular division are pushed into overdrive, while genes that normally send growth-restraining signals are taken offline.
With the accelerator floored and the brake lines cut, the cell and its progeny are free to rapidly multiply. More mutations accumulate, allowing the cancer cells to elude other safeguards and to invade neighboring tissue and metastasize.” (Continued)
Another breakthrough in the world of genetic research. See here
The science of the Errors story draws on the research into cell regeneration that they’re doing at the Max Planck Institute (CBG) Dresden, most particularly in axolotl. Here are some other examples compiled by New Scientist magazine of some dramatic and weird examples of animals regenerating their own parts. Click here for the image gallery
Here’s a very interesting profile on a controversial figure in the world of biology and molecular biology. Eric Schadt is a ridiculously prolific US scientist who’s shaking up the world of molecular biology, telling everyone that’ll listen that mainstream science’s ideas of molecular biology are just too simple to be useful. His idea? New Biology – which says that biology is way more complex than we previously thought (‘more like physics'(!)) and that complexity should be embraced.
Some interesting views here (in parts it could be our very own Samuel talking):
“Okay, so the complexity of living systems — and the amount of data they generate — turns out to be too much for even the most heroic of individual scientists to master. All right then: Biologists have to form networks that mimic the biological networks they’re studying. The networks between genes and proteins turn out to be organized socially, like human networks, and so human social networks will be required to understand them …”
Decide for yourself. Here’s the link to the full profile
In previous Science posts were strange stories from the real world of science that are uncanny ‘echoes’ of the narrative in Errors. Here’s yet another, equally weird.
In 2009, a researcher in Chicago died of the plague. He died of the supposedly non-virulent strain that he had been working on as part of a federal bioterrorism research project. They’re working with the plague?
No-one knows how he contracted it, and they only figured out recently that it was lethal for him (but safe for others) because he had an undiagnosed hereditary genetic disease called hemochromatosis, which affected how his body responded to the plague bacterium. Needless to say, authorities are continuing to investigate, and noted that the case raises issues about their safety procedures. No kidding.
In Errors, main man Dr Geoffrey Burton is drawn to his field of research by a mysterious genetic mutation in his own child. He is, therefore, effectively researching his own body’s genetic mutation.
Here’s a strange piece we came across about people testing on their own bodies: Italian scientist Rita Levi-Montalcini became the first Nobel Prize-winner to reach the age of 100. No big deal? Well what if her longevity was related to her taking regular doses of nerve growth factor (NGF)? Her discovery of NGF in 1979 may have played a direct role in her amazing vitality. Weird science.
There was a French group some years ago that reconstituted an ancient virus from the human genome and showed it to be infectious. So the story presented in Errors is, in real life, quite possible – our genome is truly full of such genetic fossils that could have unexpected functions in disease and normal human tissue function. Here’s a link to a blog post reporting the finding:http://www.microbiologybytes.com/blog/2006/11/20/phoenix-from-the-ashes-the-5-million-year-old-virus/