Photo Credit – The New England Journal of Medicine 2013.
This is a photo of a Brown Recluse spider bite, these spiders are venomous and are usually found in southern and central states in the U.S., however this 10 year old girl was bitten in Mexico. Bites from these spiders are rare as this type of spider is not usually aggressive and cannot bite through clothing. Bites mainly occur if the spider is trapped between something.
Bites from the Brown Recluse spider can usually heal within 3 weeks, but in this rare case, the venom has destroyed the skin tissue which causes an increase in the size of the wound within 2 days. The bite caused a 2-inch lesion of dead skin tissue (the black tissue in the picture above), swelling and also a fever. More can be read about this story here.
I wanted to learn more about this kind of spider but I was somewhat reluctant when it came to clicking on images-could just imagine it creeping up my leg or something. Anyway I plucked up the courage and here’s what one of these bad boys looks like:
Photo Credit: Wikipedia. Brown Recluse Spider (Loxosceles reclusa)
The spiders’ venom is whats known as hemotoxic which is a term used to describe a substance that is haemolytic – in other words it causes the lysis of red blood cells. When the venom becomes distributed around the body systemic affects can occur, such as; vomiting, nausea, fever, rashes and joint and muscle pain. These systemic and cutaneous consequences are grouped together by a condition known as Loxoscelism – the condition that occurs when bitten by a species of the genus Loxosceles.
Scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands have developed a way of “growing” a beef burger, by using adult cow stem cells! The burger itself has said to have cost almost £250,000 to produce – making it the most expensive burger ever made. Not your average McDonalds anyway.
The burger was made by culturing bovine stem cells and from these, making strands of muscle which would then be put together to make the complete burger. Around 3000 strands were compiled to make the complete patty, with each strand only measuring around 2cm long and 2mm thick. The strips are collected into small pellets and frozen. When there is enough muscle tissue the pellets are defrosted and compacted into a burger.
Cultured beef burger (Photo: David Parry/PA)
The scientist who made the concept come to life was Professor Mark Post. He believes that this synthetic meat could be the answer to the worlds growing demand for meat and eventually hopes to to keep a limited number of donor animals in the world provide stem cells for this synthetic meat.
An article in the Independent goes on to explain how this synthetic method can be a far more economical and environmentally friendly way of producing meat in comparison to the conventional livestock method. It states that stem cells taken from 1 animal could produce a million times more synthetic meat than what could be butchered from an animal carcass.
The big question is, how will it taste? And will people be prepared to eat this new type of meat over the traditional lets say Aberdeen Angus beefburger?
An article on the BBC News website tells us about the taste verdict, when it was cooked and eaten in London. The general consensus of the food critics was that the general feel and “bite” of the beefburger was there but they felt the fat was missing which gives a leanness to the burger. I’m not sure, personally if I could get over the fact that the meat I was eating was completely synthetic, but I would definitely give it a go – Samuel L. seems to be convinced anyway.
So, how long are we away from picking up one of these burgers on a supermarket shelf?
Well Professor Mark Post stated “I think it will take a while. This is just to show we can do it”- but hey, they did it. Another one for science.
I came across this website on StumbleUpon. It has tonnes of intricate 3D animations of processes occurring inside the human body. This one in particular depicts the infection of the H1N1 virus to a human host.
The video goes on to explain how scientists have used a process known as Gene Trapping which involves infecting cells with various retroviruses to select suitable drug targets that can be used to combat viral replication and invasion.
Check out the link above if you’re interested.
So, I’ve never went about writing a serious blog before. I’ve decided to start this one to spread super cool news about new breakthroughs in science and technology and just general aspects of science that I find cool and interesting.
I’m currently moving into my 3rd year at the University of Edinburgh studying Biomedical Science and hoping to specialise in Infectious Diseases as my honours degree – with that in mind I love all things microbial and find it fascinating how the body interacts with such creatures and vice versa.
Anyway, enough of me talking, better get on with it!