By davidsecko

David Secko is a molecular biologist and a science writer, who is currently studying journalism at the University of British Columbia. He thinks Steven Wright was right when he asked: "ok, so what's the speed of dark?" His writing has appeared in The Scientist, The Tyee, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Science's Next Wave and UBC's Thunderbird Magazine.

FREQUENTER LIST 2006: DAVID SECKO

– PART I: A HAIKU – DNA wind chimes what songs would they play all day– four notes bellow ‘sex!’ – PART II: TEN LINKS – 1. Nature’s Peer Review Debate (link) 2. Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science (link) 3. SandLot (link) 4. The Mind of Leonardo (link) 5. SwarmSketch (link) 6. A monk’s flourishing garden: the basics of molecular biology explained (link) 7. Are computer games rebooting our minds? (link) 8. Working out with the heavyweights of physics (link) 9. Canadian climate novel silenced (link) 10. Inexpensive CD4 counting for the developing world (link) – PART III: TWO PICTURES –…

G PROTEINS: MOLECULAR SWITCHES FOR SENSING THE ENVIRONMENT

(August 2003) Cells show an astounding awareness of the environments in which they find themselves, actually adapting their behavior to changing surroundings. The key to this ability is a constant sampling of the multitude of molecules found in their environments, many of which are signals that convey information to the cell [1]. To do communicate with their environment, they employ a large array of molecules that allow signals to be sent, received, deciphered and responded to. These molecules are generally referred to as “signaling molecules [2].” Categorization of these molecules on the most general level is based on whether they…

PROTEIN PHOSPHORYLATION: A GLOBAL REGULATOR OF CELLULAR ACTIVITY

(August 2003) As early as the 19th century it was known that phosphates could be bound to proteins. Most examples of these ‘phosphoproteins’ were found in milk (caseins) and egg yolk (phosvitin) and were simply considered a biological method of providing phosphorus as a nutrient. Therefore, the existence of phosphoproteins was considered a consequence of metabolic reactions, and nothing more, for almost a century after their discovery [1]. In the 1950’s this all began to change as phosphoproteins began to emerge as key regulators of cellular life. An initiating factor of this emergence occurred in 1954, when an enzyme activity…

CONVERSING AT THE CELLULAR LEVEL: AN INTRODUCTION TO SIGNAL TRANSDUCTION

(August 2003) Conversation in the biological world is quite natural. Even on the level of the cell, a busy broadcast of communications is occurring; a fact which has caught the attention of biologists. Today, one of the hottest areas in cell biology research is the study of ‘signal transduction’. Signal transduction is the study of how a cell communicates [1]. Every cell is able to communicate through having evolved the ability to produce, recognize, interpret and respond to signals in its environment. The word ‘signals’ in this context refers to nothing more than chemical molecules that are floating around. Cells…

CELL SURFACE RECEPTORS: A BIOLOGICAL CONDUIT FOR INFORMATION TRANSFER

The behavior of a cell often relies on the chemical signals it is exposed to in its environment. In general, two types of chemical signals can be found floating through the cellular environment: water-soluble (hydrophilic) molecules or fat-soluble (hydrophobic) molecules. Both are important components of cellular communication and physically interact with cellular structures to facilitate this function. In virtually every case, the cellular structures that these chemical signals interact with are receptor proteins. Receptors and the Surface of a Cell A cell is surrounded by a membrane, which forms a barrier between the inside and outside of the cell. This…

A BRAKE ON THE EVER EXPANDING GENOME

Want to expand a genome? Previous thinking suggests you only need some transposable elements, often nicknamed “jumping genes”, to repeatedly, and irreversibly, insert into the genome. Time will take care of the rest. However, new research is now challenging this view by revealing that transposable elements can also be deleted during evolution. The new findings were recently reported by Louie van de Lagemaat, Dixie Mager and their colleagues from the Terry Fox Laboratory in Vancouver, BC. They compared the human, chimpanzee and Rhesus monkey genomes and found 37 instances where transposable elements were present in the primitive Rhesus monkey, but…

SHORTSTOP PROVIDES HUNTINGTON’S CLUES

A debate is going on in Huntington’s research about whether the hallmark protein aggregates found in the brain of patients actually cause the disease. Now, a new “shortstop” may have found part of the answer. But this shortstop isn’t an infielder. It’s a new strain of mouse, one with a mutation expected to cause neurodegeneration — since it’s tailored to make large amounts of the above protein aggregates — only it doesn’t. Shortstop mice were recently created by Elizabeth Slow and colleagues at the University of British Columbia. And their unexpected ability to resist neurological damage is causing their creators…

WEALTH AS A CANCER RISK

Wealth can bring a lot of things to a family and new research is suggesting such things are not always good. One of these is childhood leukemia. Although rare overall, leukemia is one of the most common potentially fatal illnesses that can befall a child, and a new study completed at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver is revealing that a high socioeconomic status can raise the risk of this disease by as much as 14% in Canada. The reasons for the link between wealth and childhood leukemia are not yet clear, but knowing is important nonetheless, since it’s a…