Science News September 2017

Science News September 2017

Science News September 2017 – advances in science, medicine, engineering, technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship in September 2017. Let us know what you science news you have heard of, seen on the TV, read in newspapers, or found on the  Internet. And tell us what has inspired you and made you curious. We will post it on this web site.  email us at for any interesting breakthroughs in your country.

Science News September 2017 30th Sept  Vitamin C strikes again

Vitamin C, or Ascorbic Acid, is an essential nutrient in the human diet, which if severely lacking, leads to scurvy. Scientists in Texas and Utah have shown that high levels of vitamin C in the stem cells that become blood cells, leads to a reduction in the risk of these cells developing leukaemia, by regulating their number and activity. Furthermore, lack of Vitamin C increases the risk of leukaemia. The mechanism for this action is that Vitamin C acts as a cofactor for an enzyme called TET2, which in turn effects the level of oxidation of the methyl groups in DNA, which then effect gene expression.

The advance that made this study possible was better isolation of the cells by combining techniques called flow cytometry with Liquid chromatography-Mass spectrometry.

Despite many studies in humans, high dose Vitamin C has not been shown to reduce overall mortality, and there is conflicting evidence in major studies of lung, prostate and colorectal cancer risk and survival. But people with blood cell malignancy have a much lower level of Vitamin C in the blood. Cause or effect?

Read more at :  Miller and Ebert   Leukaemia: Vitamin C regulates stem cells and cancer   Nature 549, 462–464   (28 September 2017)   doi:10.1038/nature23548

Agathocleous, et al    Ascorbate regulates haematopoietic stem cell function and leukaemogenesis       Nature   549,   476–481 (28 September 2017)


Science News September 2017 25th Sept  Can coconut oil help you tan? Calling all redheads.

Coconut oil is rich in Palmitic acid, a 16 carbon saturated fatty acid, has long been reviled because of its dietary link with cardiovascular disease. But now, the binding of palmitic acid to the protein MC1R may be a potential therapeutic target to reduce metastasis in malignant melanoma, a vicious skin cancer. MC1R is one of the family of cell surface G protein coupled receptors, and having a version of this protein, which results in reduced or absent signalling capacity, is linked with having red hair. This may be the reason why redheads don’t tan easily. It is also thought to be why redheads have an increased risk of skin cancer. The idea goes that if MC1R gets palmitoylated, that is more palmitic acid is incorporated into it, the activity of the receptor can be regulated, making it less susceptible to cancer. There is more production of the eumelanin (rather than the darker phaeomelanin) and more efficient DNA repair. A group from Guangdong in China, Boston in the USA and Oxford in the UK have collaborated, and using human melanoma cells, shown just this.

So should we all eat more palmitic acid? Not yet, scientists in Barcelona report that palmitic acid increases metastatic activity of a different type of skin cancer. Watch this space. And Palmitoylated , isn’t that a great word?

Read more at:

  1.  Palmitoylation-dependent activation of MC1R prevents melanogenesis Chen, S. et alNature 549, 399–403 (2017). 06 September 2017
  2. Cell signalling: Red alert about lipid’s role in skin cancer   Jackson Patton Nature 549, 337–339 (21 September 2017) doi:10.1038/nature23550
  3. Targeting metastasis-initiating cells through the fatty acid receptor CD36 Nature 541, 41–45 (05 January 2017) doi:10.1038/nature20791


Science News September 2017 20th Sept. How the giraffe got its neck

The long neck of a giraffe has long been a controversy in evolution. The distinguished biologist Jean Baptiste de Lamarcke in the 19th century argued that it stretched its neck to reach and eat high leaves, and this stretching was inherited. Rather Alfred Russel Wallace and Darwin argued that in any population of the giraffe’s ancestors there was a range of neck lengths. Those with the longest got the most food, and so had a better chance of passing this on to their offspring – natural selection. Chapman Pincher in 1949 (Nature 164, 29-30) pointed out that giraffes also had very long legs, and that the long neck would help them drink water. But fossil giraffes existed with long legs and short necks. Heat regulation has been another idea, supported recently by an argument that the long neck enabled them to tilt their heads and necks towards the sun, thereby exposing less skin to heat, keeping them cooler in the arid environment they live in. If you have any ideas why giraffes have evolved with long necks and legs then email us at

Read more at:

Mitchell, G. et al (2017) J. Arid. Environ.145, 35-42, and Nature 549, 312; 2017.


Science News September 2017 5th Sept  Tiny camera developed to sit on the back of a bee

Engineers at Bangor University in Wales are developing an amazing camera that is so small it can sit on the back of a bee. The key to this exciting development is that it does not need a battery, as it used the energy from the bee for its electrical supply. The camera will give vital new information about how bees collect nectar. Bees are vital as the major pollinators of fruit. But there numbers have dramatically declined in recent years. Email us about your sightings of bees. The project is being led by Dr Paul Cross and environment lecturer and Dr Christiano Palego, a micro-systems expert.


Science News September 2017 2nd Sept. Princess and the pea – a Royal goes GM

Princess Anne, the Queen’s daughter and farmer, has shocked some, by supporting genetically-modified (GM) crops, saying they can be beneficial and she might grow them herself, if this was allowed after BREXIT. She told the BBC , “Surely, if we’re going to be better at producing food levels of the right value, then we have to accept that genetic technology – whether you call it modification or anything else – is going to be part of that.” This appears to put her at loggerheads with her brother Prince Charles, who is vehemently against GM crops, and stopped the National Botanic Garden in Wales from being involved with this technology. Environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth are not happy with this stance by the Princess, spokespeople saying that this is a ‘dead horse’, and that GM farming causes major environmental damage. But The Young Darwinian says’, ‘Good on you Princess’. The future for GM is bright.

Comments are closed