What makes prions the 'zombie protein'?

How can a misfolded protein be behind some of the strangest and deadliest diseases out there?

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  • Prions don't sound so bad at first blush: they're simply proteins that have the wrong shape.
  • They may sound innocuous, but "catching" prions is always fatal, and there is no cure.
  • Curiously, the most famous case of a prion disease outbreak happened in a cannibalistic tribe in Papua New Guinea.
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Surprising Science

Researchers announce molecular surgery — no cutting, no scarring

Doctors may be able to painlessly reshape cartilage with the technique.

Photo credit: SHAH MARAI / AFP / Getty Images
  • The application of electrical current can temporarily soften cartilage, allowing it to be manipulated before re-hardening.
  • The technique promises to eliminate cutting, scarring, pain, and recovery time.
  • So far it's been tested on just one bunny who now has one straight ear and one bent one.
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Technology & Innovation

Brazilian scientists produce mini-brains with eyes

Using a new process, a mini-brain develops retinal cells.

  • Mini-brains, or "neural organoids," are at the cutting edge of medical research.
  • This is the first one that's started developing eyes.
  • Stem cells are key to the growing of organoids of various body parts.
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Surprising Science

The "Düsseldorf patient": A third person may also be in HIV remission

Recently, "the London patient" became the second person in history to be cured of HIV. Now, "the Düsseldorf patient" appears to be the third, with the possibility of more on the way.

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  • Timothy Brown became the first person to be cured of HIV in 2007.
  • Recently, it's been reported that a patient known as "the London patient" has also lost any trace of the HIV virus in their system.
  • Now, a third patient appears to be in HIV remission known as "the Düsseldorf patient."
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Surprising Science

How antibiotics used in factory farming destroy our microbiomes

Good bacteria are our friends. We need to protect them.

  • More and more research nowadays links good gut flora to several health benefits, such as the inhibition of Alzheimer's to a fast metabolism.
  • Since we're over prescribed antibiotics, and because much of the meat we consume comes from animals that were fed antibiotics, we are destroying much of the good bacteria, and often at the risk — because of our diets — of replenishing them.
  • A well-rounded diet that's light in animal protein, high in macronutrients, and supplemented with a good intake of prebiotics can ensure we're keeping probiotics flourishing.
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