300-level biochemistry student Hannah Gordon writes about the potential uses of cells that we design ourselves and the spontaneously organising molecules that we must understand before we can make artificial cells.
Can you imagine a self-assembling, low maintenance system that converts household waste into fuel to heat and power your home? Continue reading
Biochemistry – with colour! Or the day I narrowly avoided seaweed stain down my front (and found out about a really cool protein)
Some time back, I was absent-mindedly striding down the particleboard-clad corridors of the Otago Biochemistry Department, when I nearly smacked right into Malcolm Rutledge, one of our excellent assistant research fellows. Luckily, I stopped just in time, because he was carrying very precious cargo. Nestled in a polystyrene box filled with ice, was a glass tube with a brilliant crimson-red liquid in it. Continue reading
Recent insights into how bacteria defend themselves against viruses, as revealed by Otago Biochemistry scientists and their colleagues, could guide the development of new treatments for bacterial infections. Continue reading
The kiwi, the emu, the moa, the cassowary, the rhea, the ostrich. They’re all part of a group of flightless birds from the Southern hemisphere known as ratites, and they’re giving us some very cool lessons on how animals evolve.
Otago Biochemistry’s Dr Paul Gardner and his bioinformatic colleagues from Harvard University, the Welcome Sanger Institute, and the Universities of Texas and Toronto have been using DNA sequences from these birds to figure out how species evolve, at the DNA level.
Dr Adam Middleton, a researcher at Otago Biochemistry, introduces bacteriophage viruses and explains how he uses them to help with his research into molecules involved in cancer.
Mary Hawkes explains her work helping to make genetic resources for New Zealand’s kōura (freshwater crayfish).
New Zealand is a country with weird, wonderful, and unfortunately endangered native species that have spent millions of years evolving in a unique ecosystem. From the kākāpō to the tuatara, conservationists are now using genomic data to help preserve our natural heritage. Continue reading
What do most people think of when they hear the word gout? I used to think of a pain that old, fat, white men from the olden days suffered from. But I was wrong. Yes, gout is painful. If you have a gout attack or flare-up you will suffer pain “that feels like a thousand needles stabbing you all at once”. But it can affect anyone, of any age and any ancestry, and it’s still a problem now.
Artificial intelligence gets a lot of scare stories in the media at the moment. But AI is a powerful tool that can be used for good as well, especially in fields that now generate tons of data, like medicine.
One of the big challenges in modern medicine is keeping ahead of the microbes that cause infectious diseases. Can AI, in particular a small part of AI called machine learning, help us detect and stop deadly infectious diseases before they spread and become harmful epidemics? Continue reading
Bees are plastic!
Well, they’re not actually made out of plastic (at least not usually), I mean the other meaning of plastic: easily shaped or moulded.
One set of genes can develop into one of a variety of slightly different bodies, depending on what environment those genes are exposed to. This plasticity is part of how an organism adapts to changes in their environment.
In other words, bees can change their bodies when something in their environment changes. And this happens without the bees changing their genes. Continue reading
One of the amazing things your body does is to protect itself against disease. When bacteria or viruses invade your body, or you cut yourself, your white blood cells and the substances they produce will protect you, and start healing the damage. The affected area swells up and hurts. This process is called inflammation.
However, when something goes wrong and a body can’t turn off the inflammation response, or it turns on at the wrong time, inflammation can cause arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, and can even lead to cancer. Continue reading