Using Circulating Tumour Cells to Personalise Cancer Treatment

Rapid technological advances within the past decade now allow the isolation and analysis of individual tumour cells circulating in the blood stream of cancer patients. We are beginning to realise the potential of these cells, which carry the hallmarks of the patient’s tumour, in developing personalised treatments with the possibility of avoiding invasive biopsies. Tumours … More


Breaking the Chemist’s Back

As many of you will know, the definition of a chemist is “a scientist trained in the field of chemistry who studies both the properties and composition of chemicals and who studies the way that chemicals interact with other chemicals.” Contrary to what a hit American TV show (you know the one) would like you … More


A Quantum Conundrum

How secure do you feel on the internet? Like you’re dangling from a dangerously high precipice by the straps of your dungarees, while some piece of malevolent code holds scissors to the straps? Or perhaps like you’re curled up, warm and snug, under a blanket of encryption beside a crackling fire. For most of us, … More


And the 2014 Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to…

Congratulations to John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser on being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of the brain’s navigation system. How does our brain create maps of our environment to generate our orientation? John O’Keefe and May-Britt and Edvard Moser were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine … More


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