Author Archives: Tony Campbell

  1. Human health and microplastics

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    Injury to the environment and human health

    Anthony K Campbell and Stephanie B Matthews


                Plastics have become one of the major pollutants of the 21century. Their breakdown forms small particles and fibres known as micro (1µm – 5mm)- and nano- (1-1000 nm) 1 plastics . These have been found is sea and fresh water, sand, the soil, many animals and plants, and food ingested by humans 2-4. They have also been found in human tissue .Currently there are at least 45 types of plastics. Few, if any, are biodegradable. There is accumulating evidence that micro- and nano- plastics can cause damage to animal and human health and to plants 5. They have been detected in blood several human organs 6-8. These plastics can also absorb toxic metals, and chemicals, including pharmaceuticals 6-10. There is therefore and urgent need to document their occurrence in environments to which humans are exposed, and to investigate potential cellular mechanisms that can result in toxic effects in humans, and animals.            We have established an online journal, The Young Darwinian, whose primary aim is to catalyse research projects for young people and to publish their results. With the support of CALIN and collaboration with Professor Arwyn Jones and Dr Iwan Palmer, Cardiff University, we have developed a simple fluorescence method for detecting micro-plastics in the environment. This has been incorporated into a kit which is now being distributed to schools and other students. The Darwin Centre we set up in Pembrokeshire regularly runs workshops and field trips investigating plastic pollution in the environment.            Professor Campbell is a world expert in intracellular signalling 11,12, a potential prime target for micro-and nano- plastic toxicity. Our aim therefore is to establish four main project areas to provide solid evidence of the risks of these plastics to human health and pharmacology.

    Main project areas

    1. Occurrence of micro- and nano- plastics in the environment: organisms, water, sand, air, and food.
    2. Uptake of pharmaceuticals by micro- and nano -plastics.
    3. Uptake of micro- and nano- plastics by invertebrates. We are experienced at working with two model systems – the fresh water flea : Daphnia 13, and the bioluminescent marine hydroid Obelia 14-16.
    4. Effects of microplastics on cells. We are experienced in investigating Ca2+ and kinase signalling in several cell types, particularly phagocytes and the generation of toxic reactive oxygen species 17,18.

    Please contact us at if you are interested in carrying out a microplastics project and having it published on The Young Darwinian web site.


    1          Sangkham, S. et al. A review on microplastics and nanoplastics in the environment: Their occurrence, exposure routes, toxic studies, and potential effects on human health. Marine Pollution Bulletin 181, doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2022.113832 (2022).

    2          Singh, S., Trushna, T., Kalyanasundaram, M., Tamhankar, A. J. & Diwan, V. Microplastics in drinking water: a macro issue. Water Supply 22, 5650-5674, doi:10.2166/ws.2022.189 (2022).

    3          Chen, G. L., Feng, Q. Y. & Wang, J. Mini-review of microplastics in the atmosphere and their risks to humans. Science of the Total Environment 703, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135504 (2020).

    4          Mamun, A. A., Prasetya, T. A. E., Dewi, I. R. & Ahmad, M. Microplastics in human food chains: Food becoming a threat to health safety. Science of the Total Environment 858, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.159834 (2023).

    5          Yong, C. Q. Y., Valiyaveettil, S. & Tang, B. L. Toxicity of Microplastics and Nanoplastics in Mammalian Systems. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17, doi:10.3390/ijerph17051509 (2020).

    6          De-la-Torre, G. E. Microplastics: an emerging threat to food security and human health. Journal of Food Science and Technology-Mysore, doi:10.1007/s13197-019-04138-1.

    7          Fournier, E., Etienne-Mesmin, L., Blanquet-Diot, S. & Mercier-Bonin, M. Microplastics in our diet: a focus on intestinal health. Cahiers De Nutrition Et De Dietetique 57, 270-283, doi:10.1016/j.cnd.2022.03.001 (2022).

    8          Gruber, M. M. et al. Plasma proteins facilitates placental transfer of polystyrene particles. Journal of Nanobiotechnology 18, doi:10.1186/s12951-020-00676-5 (2020).

    9          Ta, A. T. & Babel, S. Microplastics pollution with heavy metals in the aquaculture zone of the Chao Phraya River Estuary, Thailand. Marine Pollution Bulletin 161, doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2020.111747 (2020).

    10        Yu, X. X. et al. Selective adsorption of antibiotics on aged microplastics originating from mariculture benefits the colonization of opportunistic pathogenic bacteria. Environmental Pollution 313, doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2022.120157 (2022).

    11        Campbell, A. K. Intracellular Calcium.  789 (Wiley, 2015).

    12        Campbell, A. K. Fundamentals of Intracellular Calcium.  (Wiley, 2018).

    13        Campbell, A. K., Wann, K. T. & Matthews, S. B. Lactose causes heart arrhythmia in the water flea Daphnia pulex. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology B-Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 139, 225-234, doi:10.1016/j.cbpc.2004.07.004 (2004).

    14        Campbell, A. K. Chemiluminescence: Principles and Applications in Biology and Medicine.  608 (VCH/Horwood, 1988).

    15        Campbell, A. K. Extraction, Partial-Purification and Properties of Obelin, Calcium-Activated Luminescent Protein from Hydroid Obelia-Geniculata. Biochemical Journal 143, 411-418, doi:10.1042/bj1430411 (1974).

    16        Morse, V. J., Wann, K. T. & Campbell, A. K. Bioluminescence and fluorescence in Obelia species. Luminescence 29, 33-34 (2014).

    17        Davies, E. V., Hallett, M. B. & Campbell, A. K. Localized Superoxide Release by Neutrophils Can Be Provoked by a Cytosolic Calcium Cloud. Immunology 73, 228-234 (1991).

    18        Hallett, M. B. & Campbell, A. K. Measurement of Changes in Cytoplasmic Free Ca-2+ in Fused Cell Hybrids. Nature295, 155-158, doi:10.1038/295155a0 (1982).

    Professor Anthony K Campbell CBE and Dr Stephanie Matthews


  2. Music’s emotions

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    While there are lots of emotions that can be expressed through music in lots of different ways, we are going to talk about the most basic and general two… Happy and sad. One of music’s most powerful tools is heightening or even changing people emotions. A great example of this is in film. Imagine watching a movie without music. It would suck right? When the main character dies at the end of the movie, the music is ‘sad’ which makes us feel that emotion.

    On the other hand, when the good guy wins, the music is happy which makes us feel more happy. So the question is, how and why does music sound like an emotion? The first question to ask is, what characteristics make music sound happy or sad? From research, and to be honest, just general knowledge, the main element that makes music happy or sad is it’s mode (key). There are many different modes, but the most common in western music are the ionian (major) and aeolian (minor) scales. The major key is known as the happy scale, and the minor scale is known as the sad scale. But why is this?

    Music isn’t a universal language. What I mean by this is that it isn’t fact or a certain thing such as math. This suggests that there is no real scientific reason to why music can sound happy or sad and although people have theories involving the things like the harmonic series and soundwaves. The real reason behind music’s emotion is perception. This perception has been ingrained into our brains over centuries of music making and listening.

    So far we have only been talking about harmony in western music, whereas there is music from all around the world. Some music from around the world use completely different harmonic systems and play very different music in general. For example there are Hungarian scales that we might call minor scales, but they are not perceived as sad in their culture, rather they are heard as happy. There are other examples of this in other parts of the world too, including Asia and Africa. This is evidence that the emotion of music is in it’s perception rather than science and fact.

  3. The Direction of Sound

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    When someone calls your name from across a room, you can instantly tell where the person calling you is, right? It is pretty important to know where a car is coming from before you cross the road! Some owls has ear that are located on the head asymmetrically. This makes it easier from them to detect from where a small animal is located. So this brings about the question: How do we know where things are, by hearing them? There are three main factors that help us determine where sound is coming from: Timing, volume and tone.

    Time lag

    This is the very small difference in time from when the sound hits the left ear and the right ear. This is due to the space/time difference between the two ears. Our brain can use this information to work out where the sound is coming from. An example: When someone is standing to the right of you and calls you, your right ear will hear it slightly before the left. Although this time difference is so small that we don’t notice it, our brain does, and tells us that the person is to our right.


    The volume of the sound helps us determine how far away a something is, and it can also help determine the direction of the sound too. This is because the sound is very slightly quieter in one ear than the other due to the distance between them and because of object between the ears… Your head. Your head absorbs some sound making it slightly quieter when it hits the the other ear. An example: When our friend speaks to us from the right, our right ear hears the sound slightly louder than the left. Again, we don’t really notice this difference, but our brain does.


    The tone of a sound also helps the brain figure out where it’s coming from. Generally, the further away a sound is, the less high frequencies there are. This is because the bass energy travels further than high frequencies and the objects around absorb more high frequencies than low frequencies. An example: When you’re standing far away from a concert or music festival, all you really hear is the bass. This is an extreme example because we’re standing very far away, but it’s the same concept.

  4. TYD-Specsavers Audio Challenge

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    Here is a chance to get curious about how you locate sound. This is pretty important when you cross the road! Also discover when music is happy or sad. Have a go at the Audio Quiz

  5. Science News July 2018

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    Could there really be life on Mars?

    Amazing news from NASA’s Marsis radar instrument on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter. A huge lake has been discovered underneath the south polar ice cap. This gives even more credence to life on Mars, not just millions of years ago, but now!

    For more information see:

  6. Management Team

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    The Young Darwinian has set up a Management  Team

    Chief Executive: Dr Stephanie Matthews

    Editor in Chief: Professor Anthony Campbell

    Non-executive Business and Marketing Director: Frank Moloney

    Social media and Audio Manager: Lewis Campbell

    Editorial Assistant: To be appointed

    Sales and Marketing Manager: To be appointed




    Gem Productions see

  7. Glowworms

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    It is glowworm season

    World firefly day July 7-8: Click here WFfday

    Here are some UK glowworms 

    See a video here of females glowing in July

    Glowworms are amazing. They are bioluminescent beetles. The female glows during June and July, and sometimes August, to attract a mate. Once it has mated it stops glowing, and lays its eggs a few days later, and then dies. The larvae hatch in about 3 weeks time. These flash when disturbed as a warning – do not eat me I taste horrible. The UK glowworms are closely related to fireflies. There are two species in Britain – Lampyrus noctiluca and Phosphaenus hemiptera (very rare, mate be extinct here). However the famous New Zealand glowworm is actually the larva of a fly, several similar species being found in Australia.

    The light is produced by a chemical reaction – burning without fire, all the energy going into making cold light and no heat. The energy for All bioluminescence comes from oxidation. A small organic molecule, called a luciferin, is oxidised by oxygen the reaction being catalysed by a protein called a luciferase. Each animal group uses a completely different luciferase. The luciferin used by glowworms and fireflies is only used by them. Luminous jelly fish, shrimp, and copepods use a completely different luciferin called coelenterazine. Darwin had major problems with bioluminescence. He could not see how small change by small change could lead to a new phenomenon. In fact the first entry in his Beagle notebook was bioluminescence off the coast of Tenerife, caused by microscopic dinoflagellates. But we have solved this. Bioluminescence turns out to be a model for one of the greatest puzzles in evolution – the origin of a new enzyme (see Campbell, A. K. 2012. Darwin shines light on the evolution of bioluminescence. Luminescence, 27, 447-449 – pdf available on request).

    Amazingly bioluminescence has revolutionised biomedical research, clinical diagnosis, drug discovery and created three individual  billion dollar markets.

    email us any you have seen to

    See the Uk’s glowworm site set up by Robin Scagell for sites near you. You must wait till it is very dark, for example after 10.30 at night.

    Also see these sites


    It is World Firefly day this week, Se

    Some useful references

    1. Campbell AK (2003). Rainbow Makers. Chemistry in Britain June 2003:30-33
    2. Campbell AK (2017). Fundamentals of intracellular calcium, Wiley, Chichester.
    3. Campbell, A. K. 2003a. Save those molecules! Molecular biodiversity and life. Journal of Applied Ecology, 40, 193-203.
    4. Campbell, A. K. 2003b. What Darwin missed. Astrophysics and Space Science, 285, 571-585.
    5. Campbell, A. K. 2012. Darwin shines light on the evolution of bioluminescence. Luminescence, 27, 447-449.
    6. Campbell, A. K. 2015. Intracellular Calcium, Vols 1 and 2. Intracellular Calcium.
    7. Campbell, A. K. 2018. Fundamentals of intracellular calcium, Chichester, Wiley.
    8. Campbell, AK (2015). Intracellular calcium. ISBN 978-0470-695-111. Wiley, Chichester.
    9. Campbell,AK. (1988). Chemiluminescence: principles and applications in biology and medicine, pp608. Horwood/VCH, Chichester and Weinheim. ISBN 3-527-26342-X. 0 7156 2499 7.
    10. Campbell,AK. (1994). Rubicon: the fifth dimension of biology. pp 304. Duckworth, London, 0 7156 2499 7.
    11. Herring,PJ, Campbell,AK, Whitfield, M and Maddock, L (eds) (1990). Light and Life in the Sea. pp 357. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    12. Sala-Newby, GB, Thomson, CM and Campbell, AK (1996). Biochem. J. 313: 761-767. Sequence and biochemical similarities between luciferases of the glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca and the firefly Photinus pyralis.
    13. Tyler, J (2002). Glowworms. ISBN: 9780952352617
    14. Vassel, N, Cox, CD, Morse, V, Powell, R, Evans, R, Brancale, A, Wann, KT and Campbell, AK (2012). Enzymatic activity of albumin shown by coelenterazine chemiluminescence. Luminescence 27, 234-241.



  8. The Pryce Story

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    The Pryce story
    Gwynedd Daloni Cooper
    Compiled by Anthony K. Campbell
    The story of the Pryce family in the beautiful village of Llanfairynghornwy, Anglesey at the end of the nineteenth century

    The Pryce story was written by Gwynedd Daloni Cooper, née Seth Hughes, and compiled by Anthony Campbell. Both were born in Bangor, North Wales. This book also contains biographies of her two sisters, Penelope and Jennet, as well as family trees going back to the 17th century, and a host of photographs of Anglesey, including St Mary’s church, Llanfairynghornwy. Anglesey and the mountains of Snowdonia are an inspiration to all who visit there. The natural history and geology inspired Darwin. This book follows is catalysed by this inspiration.

    It is available from at a price of £30 plus postage.



  9. Science News February 2018

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    Genetic engineering of firefly gene enables single cancer cells to be seen in a live animal.

    Bioluminescence is the emission of light from living organisms1,2. The genes that code from their light emitting proteins have revolutionised clinical diagnosis and biomedical research, and amazingly have created several billion dollar markets. The firefly luciferase gene can be used to light up cancer cells in live animals. A drug that kills the cancer cells then causes the light to go out. A famous Japanese group have used genetic engineering to markedly improve the use of cancer cells expressing firefly luciferase in whole animals for drug discovery. They used an ingenious combination of a chemically modified luciferin and a genetically selected luciferase, which clearly results in a large increase in light emission, when used in live animals. They claim they can now detect single cells in a live mouse. The apparent higher expression of genetically engineered bioluminescent proteins may be caused by an increase in half life of the protein, rather than higher synthesis3-5. This half-life can be as short as 20 minutes in cells. Luciferases and jellyfish photoproteins, such as those from the marine species Gaussia, Aequorea and Obelia, use coelenterazine as the luciferin1,2,6. This produces blue light, and is more sensitively detected by an intensified CCD camera, than the yellow or red emission from firefly luciferase1,2. The EM- CCD camera used by these authors is likely to be red sensitive. This is an important point. A further issue is the quantum yield, the fraction of luciferin molecules producing a photon. Natural firefly luciferase has a very high quantum yield, typically 80-100%1. The combination of a genetically engineered luciferase and modified luciferin may have reduced this. In coelenterazine systems this is typically <20%. The high quality work reported here will lead to further application of bioluminescence in whole animals, where it is superior to fluorescence.

    1. Campbell,AK. (1988). Chemiluminescence: principles and applications in biology and medicine, pp608. Horwood/VCH, Chichester and Weinheim.
    2. Campbell AK (2017). Fundamentals of intracellular calcium, pp 428, Wiley, Chichester.
    3. Badminton, M, Kendall, JM, Sala-Newby, G and Campbell AK (1995). Differences in stability of recombinant apoaequorin within subcellular compartments. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 217:950-957.
    4. Jeffery, J. Kendall, J.M. and Campbell, A.K. (2000). Apoaequorin monitors degradation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) proteins initiated by loss of ER Ca2+. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 268,711-715.
    5. Baubet,V, Le Mouellic, H, Campbell, AK, Lucas-Meunier, E, Fossier, P and Brulet, P (2000). Chimeric GFP-aequorin as bioluminescent Ca2+ reporters at the single cell level. Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci.97:7260-7265.
    6. Campbell,AK and Herring,PJ. (1990) Marine Biology 104:219-225. Imidazolopyrazine bioluminescence in copepods and other marine animals.

    Read more at:

    Iwano et al, Science 359, 935-939 (2018). Single –cell bioluminescence imaging of deep tissue in freely moving animals.

    Space Travel – time to dream again

    A cherry red Tesla Roadster with a dummy at the wheel, and the sound system playing Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, went into space this month. It was launched by the Falcon Heavy rocket, the brainchild of Elon Musk, a visionary genius. Musk set up SpaceX a private company, in 2002 to open up space travel. He had many doubters. But it’s not just the technical wizardry that is so important here. He has given a new generation inspiration, excitement and a chance to dream again about Space travel. Pity about the car though. The dummy hopefully enjoyed the ride.

    Stop press: Monkeys cloned

    Two baby macaque monkeys, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, have been born in Shanghai, China. The crazy thing is that they are truly identical, made from cloning using SCNT, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer. Dolly the sheep was the first mammal cloned and this has now been achieved in 23 mammalian species. But this is the first time in a primate. The researchers argue that monkeys are needed to study human disease mechanisms, genetic defects and potential therapeutic treatments. The technology used to achieve these live births is very clever but the regulation of use of the technology and the ethics will no doubt be debated long and hard.

    Read more at:

    Cloning of Macaque Monkeys by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer     Cell Volume 172, Issue 4, p881–887.e7, 8 February 2018 Z Liu, Y Cai, et al     DOI: |


    Clever Clostridium, naïve nutritionists: Another sorry sugar tale

    In 2000/2001 a sugar, trehalose was granted safe status in the USA and Europe, and because technological advances made it cheap to make, was added to many foods. Shortly after this, epidemics of serious severe diarrhoea started, caused by the pathogen, Clostridium difficile. Trehalose is a disaccharide that is made of two sugar units, in this case, two glucoses. Surely this cannot cause problems?

    Take a clue from nature. The human body evolved coping well with mainly sucrose (glucose and fructose) maltose (glucose and glucose) and babies are very good at metabolising lactose (galactose and glucose). The way the two sugar units link together and the sterioisomerism of the molecules is vital. In the right place, trehalose is an amazing disaccharide that is used by bees for rapid energy and by plants to withstand dehydration, but the human gut has not been exposed to much of it. Two strains of Clostridium difficle have evolved to flourish in very low levels of trehalose. The arguments made by the researchers from the USA, Netherlands and UK are compelling. The moral? Why change the sugars we eat. They are not benign molecules to be messed with.

    Read more at:

    Dietary trehalose enhances virulence of epidemic Clostridium difficile   Collins C. Robinson et al   Nature volume 553, pages 291–294


    Reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field

    Is this a doomsday scenario?

    Everyone who uses a compass knows that the Earth has a magnetic field around it produced by the molten metal at the core of our planet. The compact needle points towards magnetic North, which is different from geographic North. Scientists have discovered that, every hundred thousand years or so, the filed turns upside down. In other words, it reverses. Recent data from satellites obtained by the European Space Agency (ESA) has shown that the next reversal has already started. Some have argued that a complete reversal could be catastrophic, and allow a lethal stream of particles from the sun, and cosmic rays. But NASA says we do not need to worry as the fossil record from times when this occurred before shows that life carried on as normal.

    Read more at: