Author Archives: Kevin Hascup

About Kevin Hascup

Kevin obtained his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Delaware in 2001.  He worked in Research & Development for Dade Behring, a clinical diagnostics company located in Newark, Delaware.  It was here that he acquired an interest in neurobiology and in the summer of 2003 he began the PhD program at the University of Kentucky.  In 2007, Kevin obtained his PhD in Anatomy and Neurobiology and continued his thesis research  with two  separate postdoctoral research positions at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.  Kevin is currently Director of Product Development for an up-and-coming biotechnology located in Springfield, Illinois and is co-founder of RateMyPI.com. 

While You Were at the Bench: Week 46

Researchers at Stanford University have created an organic polymer that is pressure sensitive and self-healing making this material ideal for artificial skin on biomimetic prostheses.  All the pieces are coming together for Skynet.

By incorporating iron oxide (rust) into a unique V-shaped ultrathin film, scientists at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have created a new type of solar cell that can use sunlight to oxidize water and store the energy as hydrogen-based biofuels.   This design is cheaper than photovoltaic solar cells and they can store solar energy for electricity use at night.

Is the key to the fountain of youth in all of us?  After studying the immortal polyp Hydra, German scientists have discovered that the FoxO gene is evolutionarily conserved to control longevity through regulation of stem cell production and proliferation.

A world-wide collaborative effort has identified a rare variant of the TREM2 gene that nearly triples the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Is your lab’s external terabyte hard drive maxed out from all your data files?  Good thing engineers at the University of Texas have developed self-assembling block copolymers that can increase hard drive storage capacity by five fold.

Idaho State University anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum is currently designing a remote controlled blimp for the purposes of finding the elusive Sasquatch.  I hope he equips it with a high-definition camera so I don’t have to watch any more grainy videos of purported sightings.

Have a Great Weekend!

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How does the 2012 election change policies on science, space & technology?

Every election year brings about changes to the US Senate and House of Representatives.  But for scientists, it’s important to pay attention to the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  This committee presides over all federal, non-defense scientific research and development spending.  In other words, this committee has jurisdiction over NASA, DOE, NIH, NSF, and NOAA policy to make sure US tax dollars are being spent in accordance with committee views.  Despite the grand name, the committee actually has little power over how tax dollar are spent, which is decided by the Senate appropriations committee.  However, they do make important broad policy decisions and can conduct oversight hearings on the above mentioned agencies.

During this election year, let’s take a moment to reflect upon some of the current and outgoing members to this committee.  After all, 10 current members have either been defeated or are retiring.  That is almost a third of the committee and could lead to changes on how scientific policy is determined over the next couple of years.

Let’s start by bidding a glorious adieu to Congressman Todd Akin (R-Missouri) who lost his re-election campaign.  You might remember Congressman Akin’s recent viral comments on “legitimate rape” that he made on August 19, 2012.  I won’t subject our readers to his complete lack of human physiology, but if you’re interested in you can read it here.  If Congressman Akin is this clueless on 7th grade reproduction, I would hate to learn about his views on more complex scientific policy.  Thank you Missouri residents for driving US scientific policy forward one politician at a time.

Congressman Paul Broun (R-Georgia) who was unopposed in his recent re-election campaign is also a current member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  Congressman Broun believes that evolution, embryology and the big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.”  These remarks actually prompted James Leebens-Mack, a plant biologists at the University of Georgia start a Facebook write-in campaign for Charles Darwin to run against Paul Broun.  Apparently being deceased for 130 years didn’t stop more than 4000 people from inking Darwin’s name against Congressman Broun in Dr. Leebens-Mack district.  Let’s hope Paul Broun will start paying attention to this portion of his constituents.

Roscoe Bartlett (R-Maryland), the second oldest member of the US House of Representatives, and one of the few with a doctoral degree, lost re-election this past week.  Congressman Bartlett often backed increased funding for basic research especially in the area of renewable energy.  We’ll be lucky if a like-minded individual fills this seat.

The committee will most likely be welcoming back physicist Bill Foster (D-Illinois) who recently won election in his district and subsequently ousted a current committee member, Judy Biggert.  Foster was a former member of this committee during his seven year stint as a Congressman.  Science support actually played a large role in this election campaign since Foster’s Congressional district included the DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory.

In addition, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is in the process of electing a new chair.  The current chair, Ralph M. Hall (R-Texas) has reached his term limit for committee chair.  With Republican majority in the US House of Representatives, three conservative members have shown interest in the position including Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (California), Lamar Smith (Texas), and James Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin).  James Sensenbrenner was previously chair of this committee during the Clinton administration.  Unfortunately, all three have denied climate change, so don’t expect major recommendations for clean energy from this committee anytime soon.

Let us know how you think membership changes to this committee will reflect US science policy in the upcoming years.

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 45

After studying a cohort of 18-26-year-olds with autosomal dominant mutations in presenilin 1 that predispose them to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have determined structural changes to several brain regions as well as CSF proteins indicative of increased amyloid beta.  This study has shown the earliest known biomarkers for AD, which could improve screening methods, diagnosis and treatment.

Using MRI, neuroscientists have determined that recent military veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, have decreased amygdala volume (the brain region associated with regulating fear).  The next step is determining if a smaller amygdala predisposes people to PTSD or is a result of experiencing traumatic events.

Researchers have discovered a second species of blind mole rat, Spalax (BMR), that has innate cancer resistance mediated through the release of interferon-beta.  This discover could lead to new therapies for treating carcinoma in humans.

Astronomers have discovered three planets 42 light years away from Earth that orbit their sun at a distance suitable for sustaining climate, liquid water, and possibly life.  Their discovery will spark additional observation from both land and spaced based telescopes.

A Goffin’s cockatoo named Figaro has been observed repeatedly shaping sticks to reach food placed outside of his habitat in Vienna, Austria.   Add this species to a quickly increasing list of animals observed using tools and demonstrating “higher intelligence.”

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that an electronic device implanted into the inner ear of guinnea pigs can be powered by endocochlear potential without loss in hearing.  This study sets the foundation for creating a biological battery that can power biosensors or drug delivery systems for treating hearing loss.

Researchers at Harvard have successfully recapitulated pulmonary edema using human lung cells grown onto a polymer (organ-on-a-chip) that allows them to quickly screen potential drugs for toxicity and therapeutic efficacy.  I wonder if PETA is excited or angry that they’ll have nothing to complain about in the future?

Have a great weekend!

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 44

The hole in the ozone layer over Antartica reached its smallest maximal size in the last two decades.  NASA and NOA scientists believe the warmer temperatures in the Antartic this year helped reduce the damage to the ozone layer caused by chlorofluorocarbons.

Researchers have engineered a macromolecule that not only inhibits the IgE-Fc Receptor but also dissociates preformed ligand-receptor complexes. This could lead to a new class of fast-acting medication for acute allergic reactions.

Researchers at Stanford University have created the first all carbon solar cell.  While they acknowledge the efficiency (< 1%) is considerably lower than commercially available photovoltaic solar cells, the carbon-based thin film technique can dramatically reduce the cost associated with solar cells.

We already know that redhead, fair skinned individuals are more susceptible to melanoma caused by ultraviolet radiation.  However, new research in ginger mice suggests redheads might develop melanoma through a mechanism of oxidative damage without exposure to the sun.

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have discovered that Notch signaling is essential for determining cell fate during embryogenesis in C. elegans.  Blocking this signal could lead to new ways of “growing” replacement organs for humans.

And in an update to a former post, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is being delayeddue to a complicated contract process.  The first scheduled energy producing experiments aren’t scheduled until 2027 or 2028.

A great place to go for a run.

Researchers in Montreal have shown that middle-aged, overweight individuals who exercised four days a week for four months not only lost weight, but also improved their cognitive function.  Now, put down that plate of poutine, visit RateMyPI.com, and hit the gym.

Have a great weekend!

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