Overcoming Paralysis with Laser Stimulated Muscles

You may have heard about an exciting scientific demonstration that kicked off the recent World Cup. Although it didn’t reach most televised coverage of the soccer event, the presentation was a landmark in brain-controlled robotics. The new technology would allow a paralyzed person to use their mind and command a robotic suit to kick a soccer ball. After seeing such futuristic science fiction-esque technology, some of us start to let our minds run wild with visions of standing alongside Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt while kicking alien butt in a robotic exoskeleton. However, there may be a more practical and elegant way to help people with nerve damage.A recently published article in Science showed the use of light to activate motor neurons, allowing a previously paralyzed leg to move. In the study, researchers developed mouse stem cells that produce a light-sensitive protein. Read More

The Mysterious Case of the Western Blot Tank

This, my friends, is a gem I picked up a few months ago at surplus for $2. It’s a really old Western blot tank.For those of you who don’t know, a Western blot is a way scientists have of looking for the presence of specific protein in a sample. 

The samples are put into this lovely box, and undergo something called gel electrophoresis. You load the samples into a gel tray, and then run a current across it in the box. Because the proteins will move through the gel based on how large they are (the smaller the protein, the faster it will move), you can look for the presence of a band in the same size as your protein of interest.  Read More

Wherein I discover my personal mission statement

I recently entered the following article to a contest. I didn’t win, but it was a great exercise and it really forced me to think about why I want to be a science writer.Within my group of friends, I am the only scientist.
 That seems to be unusual. Individuals in the same career field tend to gravitate towards each other. You can complain about the mundane trivialities of your job, and someone in your field can sympathize. Or you can geek out about a new topic or breakthrough. But in my group of friends, I have no co-conspirators. I can’t complain about spending hours on surgeries and behavioral testing, only to find out that my viral injection targeting was off. Nor can I grumble about that annoying primary antibody that just doesn’t work.  Read More