Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New Bionic Leaf

Photosynthesis is how all plants get their fuel. It is one of the most important scientific processes that takes place in nature. Photosynthesis is so important that many students learn the concept of it early on in elementary school science. Now a team a Harvard has found a way to create a bionic leaf that can perform photosynthesis that is ten times as efficient as the natural alternative.

This was not chemist Daniel Nocera's first hack at artificial photosynthesis. Him and his team produced a similar device in 2015. The device was powerful enough to produce 216 milligrams of alcohol fuel per liter of water. The downfall of this device was that the catalyst responsible for splitting the water was also responsible for poisoning the microbes. Now Nocera and his team have found a catalyst made of an alloy of cobalt and phosphorus. With this new catalyst they have solved the old problems while making the leaf even more efficient.

Arguably the largest problem facing the world today is climate change. Climate change is such a huge problem because it effects every person living or yet to be born on this planet. Scientists from across the globe are frequently coming up with new ways to halt climate change and global warming. These are great, but a large part of combating climate change is to find a clean and renewable energy source. Without a clean source of energy, all other attempts to stop climate change are rather worthless.

Most of the alternative energy solutions recently presented by scientists don't operate with the efficiency of this bionic leaf. I believe that this method could be a very valuable source of clean renewable energy in the future.


I really liked the topic of this article. Potential ways to combat cancer are always interesting to me because of the magnitude of people that are affected by cancer every year. The current methods of chemotherapy and radiation simply aren't good enough.

One of the big problems with chemo and radiation is that they don't target just the cancer. During chemo and radiation patients can become very sick as other parts of their body are attacked. What I like about CRISPR is that the doctors check to make sure the correct genes were removed before the blood reenters the patient. The fact that this method has a system of checks in place makes it much more appealing. It should also make it easier to get it approved in the U.S. for trials.

The possible applications for gene editing seem limitless. The science used in CRISPR could be applied to everything from HIV to cancer. If CRISPR proves successful in human trials it could be a game changer in medicine. Imagine a world where when you got any kind of illness all you had to do was have some genes edited and you’d be set to go.

Part of what is so exciting about cancer research is that scientists are always coming up with new possible treatments for cancer. The cure for cancer is arguably the greatest scientific mountain of this time. Yet it seems to be only a matter of time before someone stumbles upon a cure for cancer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Less is More?

The first article that I chose to read discussed how gene loss can be a force of evolution. At first glance this seems totally backwards; how can losing genes help us evolve? That doesn't make any sense. However, the article does well at explaining how gene loss helps species adapt to new environments and how gene loss may have helped humans separate themselves from other primates.

The way the gene loss occurs is when the genome is removed from the sequence or when a genome no longer functions due to a mutation. Mutations and genomes reminds me of the lab we did in Bio looking at mutations of genetic sequences using strips of paper with genetic sequences on them.

I like that the article discusses how parasites lose dispensable genes because parasites are very different from primates. It shows that gene loss occurs across a wide range of organisms. It would be interesting to see if any species don't lose genes.

Until reading this article I didn't know that humans and chimps had 98% of the same genes. I knew it was high but I find it remarkable that less than 2% of a genetic difference has lead us on such different paths. It is interesting that what sets us apart may have more to do with the genes we lost than gained.