Molehills to Mountains: The Problems of Scaling Up Chemistry

This snippet is (kind of) a sequel to The Disconnection Approach. Excellent news! The new drug that you (the pharmaceutical company) have painstakingly screened, synthesised, purified and tested in clinical trials has proven to be (more) effective (than placebo) in treating the desired disease, and has minimal side effects for patients. Bonus points if it … More

The Eyes Have It

Evolution has undeniably given us many gifts with which to conquer the world – legs fit for running away from danger, opposable thumbs for making and using tools, eyes to perceive our environments and clever brains to make sense of those perceived images – and it’s been a lengthy process in each case. Think about … More

Magpies Don’t Favour Shiny Objects

Magpies like to steal shiny, metallic objects to make their nests, right? That’s how the age-old story goes. Rossini even penned an opera on the subject. The birds, part of the crow family, are often celebrated for their intelligence. Magpies are capable of storing food over winter and remembering its location, even remembering which other … More

Quantum Pigeonholes

Here’s a simple idea: You have three pigeons and only two pigeonholes. If you put the pigeons in the pigeonholes you’ll end up with at least one hole that contains two pigeons. Right? Now let’s consider quantum particles. What if you have three quantum particles and two boxes and you try the same thing? Well, … More

Concussion Crisis

With Glasgow playing host to a major upset in rugby sevens and Commonwealth Games history, we would hope that such a spectacle would increase participation in sports not so often in the public eye. But when it comes to high contact games such as rugby, great care must be exercised to ensure the well-being of … More

The Righteous Drug Smugglers

Of all the challenges facing the pharmaceutical treatment of brain diseases, the most fundamental is also one of the most difficult: getting drugs into the brain. Our brain comes with its own bouncer, the blood-brain barrier (BBB), so if your miracle drug is wearing the wrong shoes, chances are it won’t be let in. In … More

Gene Expression Analysis by Single Cell RNA-Seq

Analysis of gene expression is important in diagnostics as well as in understanding biological processes. The gene expression profile of cells assesses the extent to which genes are active (or not). Gene expression varies largely amongst different cell types and can be analysed on the RNA or the protein level. During gene expression, the genes … More

Spectroscopy: Showing art in its best light

Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction of light with matter. Different molecules interact with light in various different ways according to their characteristic functional groups. For example, the infrared spectrum of a molecule can be obtained if the molecule absorbs light in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. If the molecule scatters light … More

The Book of Life – Rewritten?

All life we know shares one common feature: DNA. From bacteria to humans, our genetic code is written in the same 4 chemical “letters”, the nucleotides Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine (G) and Cytosine (C) – at least until recently. Last month, researchers from The Scripps Research Institute in California reported that they have successfully … More

Harm Reduction

Last year saw the rise of turbo-ecstasy, pills of various guises, which were adulterated with PMA or PMMA . Whilst these compounds are related to MDMA (the active ingredient in ecstasy) they have the potential to cause toxic effects at relatively low doses. In essence, taking two tablets of regular ecstasy (at a typical concentration) … More

Give Me Wings

From our earliest and most basic stage the most notable feature of our animal cohabitants has been their size. It is this that has inspired generations of wonder at the thought of towering dinosaurs, the romanticism of the plight of the ‘gentle giants’ that are our ever dwindling populations of baleen whales, all the way … More

Of Mice and Research

As always, over the last few weeks there has been a plethora of research and new scientific discoveries published in the literature. Perhaps one of the most surprising studies is one published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, which suggests that females are discriminated against in biomedical research. No, not human females, but our rodent friends … More