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Extreme Science from BBC Science Focus Magazine

Extreme Science from BBC Science Focus Magazine

Extreme Science from BBC Science Focus Magazine

Let this BBC Science Focus special edition open your eyes to the mind-bending research taking place right now. IN THIS ISSUE… - The human-animal hybrids that could save your life - Dangerous venoms that could cure cancer - How we’ll avert Armageddon - Why mushrooms aren’t just for breakfast - The good side of electroconvulsive therapy

Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Publisher:
Immediate Media Company London Limited
Frequency:
One-off
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in this issue

2 min.
welcome

Science can never be considered sluggish or uninspiring. In fact, it’s a fast-moving field that offers unique ways to push the boundaries of what we know. By thinking laterally and trying new things, researchers in all disciplines, from astronomy to zoology, can discover cures for disease, understand the human mind, and even decipher the mysteries of the Universe. So far, scientists have donned their scuba gear and plunged into lakes and oceans in order to hunt for new antibiotics that could help us treat disease (p48). They’ve also pulled on the protective gloves to milk some of the planet’s most venomous creatures to find revolutionary compounds to target chronic pain, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis and other conditions (p42). For those who are more interested in the human brain, there has been some…

1 min.
eye opener

Cave raider XINU ATTIC, CHINA An intrepid explorer descends into the vast, murky depths of Xinu A_ic, part of China’s Er Wang Dong cave system. Their mission? To collect samples of microbes, from as deep as 500m underground. The expeditions are huge undertakings, but studying these microoganisms can reveal how they grow without light and with so few of the nutrients that would normally sustain life. “The microbiology gets more interesting the deeper you get,” explains microbiologist Dr Hazel Barton. “We’ll spend around a week in the cave, exploring its structure and taking samples. We rig our own ropes, carry all our own camping gear and research equipment, sometimes through gaps as small as 20cm!” Understanding the evolution and significance of the microbes living in these environments can help us better understand the…

10 min.
could a pig’s heart save your life?

Back in 2016 it was announced that researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US had kept a genetically engineered pig’s heart beating in a baboon for three years. Though it was undoubtedly a headline-grabbing story, there are serious implications for the research. Every year, several million people die worldwide because of transplant shortages. There just aren’t enough human organs from tragedies like road accidents to go around. But some scientists are working on a radical solution – to use organs from animals. Xenotransplantation, as the procedure is known, may sound like something from a science fiction movie but doctors and scientists have been trying to develop it for decades. Back in 1984, Stephanie Fae Beauclair, generally known as ‘Baby Fae’, was born with a heart defect that…

8 min.
forbidden medicine

More than 30 years ago, in 1988, hypothermia expert Robert Pozos decided to unearth a document that society had tried to forget for almost 40 years. The 68-page report, compiled by an American army off icer after WWII, contained details of the horrific experiments that Nazi doctors had conducted on many people in concentration camps. These procedures, and the conduct of the Nazi doctors stationed at camps such as Dachau and Auschwitz, make for difficult reading. More akin to sadistic torture than research, the ‘experiments’ involved Jews being frozen to death, dissected alive, poisoned, wounded without anaesthetic, or sterilised – all supposedly in the name of advancing Nazi medicine. After the details of Nazi war crimes were revealed at the Nuremberg Trials in the late 1940s, the documents relating to these atrocities…

1 min.
who do hela cells belong to?

In 1951, a young black woman called Henrietta Lacks was treated for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. As was common at the time, especially for black or poor patients, she was not told that the tissue from her biopsy might also be used for scientific research. Her cells turned out to be unlike anything doctors had ever seen: they grew quickly and could be kept alive outside the body, seemingly indefinitely. This remarkable ‘immortalised’ cell line (known as ‘HeLa’ after Henrietta Lacks) meant scientists could conduct detailed, long-term studies on human cells in the lab for the first time. Lacks died shortly after her biopsy was taken, and her family were not told about the HeLa cell line, even as it developed into a valuable (and…

10 min.
hock value

On a cold Monday in May 2010, Karen escaped, in a panic, from her room in a Birmingham hospital’s psychiatric ward. She arrived at a motorway flyover. Looking down, she watched the traffic, plotting for the perfect time to jump. The flashbacks had become too much. “My only purpose was to end my life,” she recalls. “I did not want to be here.” Karen’s descent into severe depression had started six months earlier, when her husband had been diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition and she had dedicated herself to supporting him and their three kids. Her partner recovered and returned to work, but Karen began to struggle psychologically, and in the months that followed she isolated herself from her friends, became anxious and eventually stopped eating. After losing a dangerous amount…