fact: how cats went from wild animals to internet stars

I like to back up my fiction with some science fact, so here is some new cat science (the best kind).

How did cats go from wild animals to internet stars? A new study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution suggests that kitties held out for as long as they could.

Scientists analysed mitochondrial DNA from the bones and teeth of 200 ancient cat remains found across Europe, Africa and the Middle East trying to understand when cats started taking over the world and snuggling their way into our hearts.

Continue reading “fact: how cats went from wild animals to internet stars”

fiction: buying time

A young woman with red hair and too much makeup blinked at me from across the counter. “How can I help you today?”

“My cat’s dying. I need to buy him some more time,” I said.

She rolled her bottom lip through her teeth. “I see. Unfortunately a human cannot procure time for a cat. If you read through Section 42A in our terms and conditions, it states that cross species time transferral is not possible.”

I had not read the terms and conditions. Who reads terms and conditions? The Department of Time webpage stated that time could be bought in increments from five minutes to ten years and all time transactions must be done in person. That’s why I was here. That’s why I had lined up with twenty other people on broken plastic chairs for over two hours. I took a breath and tried not to get angry. “Why is that?” I said.

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fact: human seahorses

Unlike humans, male seahorses are the ones who make the babies. Soon any human: male, female, transgender may also be able to become pregnant as we now have all the tools needed to grow female reproductive organs in the lab and to successfully implant them into patients. This offers hope to many people who up until now have been unable to have babies.file1261343862812 Continue reading “fact: human seahorses”

fact: smart medicine

Our bodies are made up of a series of hydrogels. At our most basic we are just water and polymers. So it makes sense to use hydrogels to monitor and treat our diseases.

Engineers at MIT have made a stretchy robust hydrogel that is 70-95% water and can be embedded with different electronics or drugs to treat diseases and medical conditions.

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fact: gene editing saves baby girl

Gene editing has been used for the first time to successfully treat a human patient – a baby girl with leukaemia – after conventional treatments failed.

Re-writing genes is no longer science fiction thanks to gene-editing technologies called CRISPR and TALENs. Scientists can now alter any gene in any animal and have been using these techniques to cure genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy in animal models. This year, Chinese scientists even edited genes in human embryos in a very controversial study.  Continue reading “fact: gene editing saves baby girl”

Ageing is a state of mind

Scientists have found one gene that can change brain signalling and slow ageing.

ageing manEven though we are very different from worms, fish and mice, we have a lot of the same genes as these animals. This is because we are actually very similar on a basic cellular level. That’s why scientists use animals as genetic models for humans.

A group of scientists recently searched for genes that might control ageing in humans by measuring gene expression changes in ageing worms, fish and mice. They found 29 human genes that were either turned on or off with age in all three animal species.

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Vaccine patch may mean the end of needles

microneedle patch administers vaccine
Vaccine patch with hyaluronic acid microneedles. Image from Hirobe et al, 2015.

No one likes needles. Now there’s another option. A group of scientists in Japan have found that a vaccine patch with microneedles called MicroHyala works as well as a traditional injected influenza vaccine.  Continue reading “Vaccine patch may mean the end of needles”

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