HPV vaccine is reducing the rate of cancer

Ok, that’s a bit of a careless title. I’ll admit it. There’s only correlation, not causation.

But ten years ago the HPV vaccine was introduced in Australia, and then rapidly in 130 other countries. Since then the number of cases of cervical cancer have been halved.

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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Fear can drive people to believe the unbelievable

I had an argument with a colleague the other day about engaging people who disagree with you. She said why bother when people aren’t going to change their minds?

I’ve posted a lot about science communication, and being a voice of science and reason in the face of ignorance and fear. Even if it’s aggravating, even if it’s annoying, even if it’s frustrating, if scientist don’t engage than all people are hearing is the fear.

And this article speaks to that fear really really well. I don’t know what it’s like to have a child and fear for their autism, but hearing this perspective makes me even more resolved to keep talking.

So if anyone needs me, I’ll be engaging people on the internet (the wine helps).

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Who owns your DNA? Ancestry.com does

“For the price of $99 dollars and a small saliva sample, AncestryDNA customers get an analysis of their genetic ethnicity and a list of potential relatives identified by genetic matching. Ancestry.com, on the other hand, gets free ownership of your genetic information forever. Technically, Ancestry.com will own your DNA even after you’re dead.”

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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Understanding how cancer evolves is the key to stopping it

We started this blog as a means to talk to non-scientists about biology, and since we’re a group of evolutionary biologist, to talk mostly about evolutionary biology. My first post (oh those long years ago) was about Evolutionary Medicine. So imagine my delight with this recent article in the Atlantic addresses about how understanding evolution helps treat cancer. I don’t think I need to say this is awesome, but just in case… this is awesome.

Read about it here!

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The Immortal Life of HeLa Cells

The problem with research on humans is that everyone wants it, but no one wants to be the guinea pig. Enter cell lines! The problem is that most human cells don’t survive in the lab. In fact, prior to HeLa cells, all cells died within 24 hours or so.

The excellent book by Rebecca Skloot The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, details how the HeLa line came into being, and raises the questions if she should have had consent over what was done with the cells from her tumor. And while I think that it’s misleading to say “Henrietta lived on through her cells” (hence the title of this post), it is worth considering the bioethical quandaries that have resulted from the HeLa lines, and other potential cell lines.

And the new Oprah movie, these questions are likely to be raised again soon.

Read about it here!

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Superbugs: A list of priority antibiotic resistance bacteria

The World Health Organization announced its first list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” on Monday, detailing 12 families of bacteria that agency experts say pose the greatest threat to human health and kill millions of people every year.

The list isn’t meant to scare people, but to call attention to microbes for which research into antibiotics is needed.

Read about it at the Washington Post.

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Rewriting the Code of Life

Scientists on at MIT are proposing to introduce a mouse that has its genes edited to resist Lyme disease. Given the high prevalence of Lyme disease on the small New England Island, the removal of Lyme disease from the mouse population (who harbor before it infects humans) would then directly effect how prevalent it is in the human population.

Cool huh?

But really, this story is about one of the first real world examples of CRISPR, the revolutionary gene editing tool.

Read about it over at the New Yorker. 

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