Living lasers, scuba diving spiders and magnetic blood flow

Tim’s blog

This week on radio, Tim Thwaites is talking about living lasers; scuba diving spiders; magnetic blood flow; genes that make you unfaithful; and more

Human cell becomes a living laser—Scientists have for the first time created laser light using living biological material—a single human cell and some jellyfish protein. Such living lasers could be used in new types of sensors or to trigger light-sensitive drugs deep inside the body. They might also be used for communicating between the body and bionic devices, say the American inventors.—Nature Photonics

A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110612/full/news.2011.365.html

Magnets keep the blood flowingTwo US physicists have found that strong magnetic fields can dramatically reduce the viscosity or gluginess of blood flowing through a tube. If the same is true of blood vessels, it may be possible to develop a magnetic alternative to the drugs designed to keep blood flowing in humans, thus preventing heart attacks and strokes. The researchers think the magnetic effect has something to do with the iron in blood.—Physical Review E

A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/06/magnets-keep-blood-flowing-1.html?ref=hp

Stem cells patch up “broken” heartA natural protein can activate stem cells present in mouse hearts to replace damaged tissue with new muscle cells, British researchers have discovered. The protein seems to wake up heart stem cells, which are not usually active enough in adults to repair damage.—Nature

A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110608/full/news.2011.355.html

The spider that spins itself an aqualungAn Adelaide researcher and his German colleague have unravelled the mystery of how the diving bell spider can spend its entire life underwater. It spins a web to which it can attach a bubble of air from the surface that then acts like a gill. As the bubble is emptied of oxygen, more flows in from the surrounding water.—Journal of Experimental Biology

A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/06/spiders.html?ref=hp

What makes a finch unfaithful?We all think we know why males tend to be unfaithful—after all, in most species they can sow their wild oats and not suffer many consequences. But what’s in it for the female? Bird researchers in Germany think they may have found an answer in Australian zebra finches—genes which encourage promiscuity. (“Blame it all on my parents.”)—Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20566-why-female-zebra-finches-cheat-on-their-partners.html?full=true&print=true

Chips for dinner?—Tiny radio frequency identification (RFID) chips are the greatest thing since sliced bread for tracking. But what if they actually were in sliced bread? A student at the Royal College of Art in London has come up with a design for an edible RFID chip. He reckons it could send information to computers and mobile phones about ingredients which would be useful for those who have allergies or are on a diet. Or maybe it could tell you if the food has gone off—New Scientist

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2011/06/chips-for-dinner-edible-rfid-t.html