Posts Tagged 'research'

It’s All You

Well, to celebrate my return to the blogosphere (don’t pretend you’re not celebrating) and to welcome in the new year, I thought I’d do something light-hearted. So I’m going to talk about cancer. Yay!

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about writing on for some time. It’s a topic close to my heart both personally and professionally. But I’m not unique in that. Virtually everyone will have been affected by cancer somehow, whether directly or indirectly. Various environmental and age-related factors have seen cancer rising through the charts to become the number killer in the country. We’re still waiting for Gazza to turn up with some beer and fried chicken to try to reason with it… Continue reading ‘It’s All You’

I Say

One of the things that is almost guaranteed to make me want to set fire to a newspaper is when a story (or worse, a headline) uses the phrase “scientists say”. You can be fairly sure that what follows is going to be spurious, nebulous and any other negative words that end in -ous. However, whilst I do hold papers responsible for crappy reporting as it should be their duty to research their output, I also recognise that there probably is a misconception in the wider public about the “scientists say” myth.

To boil it down, it seems to me that this “scientists say” idea has, at its core, a misunderstanding of how the scientific community gels together and how ideas, experimental data and fundamental concepts all flow around and are interconnected. To be honest, it’s no surprise that people who aren’t scientists don’t just automatically know this. After all, you don’t know how an industry works until you are actually immersed in it yourself.

Continue reading ‘I Say’

Mummies. Cancer. Bollocks!

Unfortunately, crappy science can come from all around. It is a particular slap in the face when it comes from your own institution and covers a topic you kind of care about.

And so, with a heavy heart, we must turn to look at Professor Rosalie David’s recent headline-grabbing, stillborn offering in the maternity ward of science. You may well have seen the recent reports in the papers that cancer is a “man-made” disease. The source of this story comes from a University of Manchester press release publicising a recent publication in Nature Reviews Genetics by Prof. David, who is at the University.

I know that I have bashed the way the national press handle science stories before, but in this instance I don’t think that they’re particularly culpable for the negligence displayed in this case. Unfortunately, I lay the blame with the University’s press office and with Prof. David herself.

Continue reading ‘Mummies. Cancer. Bollocks!’

Express Your Contempt

Right. The Daily Express. You know, that suppositry that thinks it’s a newspaper? Well, today it carries the headline “ASPIRIN STOPS BOWEL CANCER“. Apparently Princess Diana was unavailable for comment.

Whatever about bowel cancer, I can always spot the work of an arsehole.

Continue reading ‘Express Your Contempt’

NICE attitude, jerk.

I’m sure you will have seen the furore recently over Avastin. To summarise, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE, and yes it irritates me that they left the H out. If they’d rearranged it they could have at least had NICHE) have ruled out funding the drug on the NHS, on the grounds of cost effectiveness. The media jumped all over this and NICE have been subjected to another PR whipping as a result.

Cancer is, of course, an emotive subject and of endless public interest. So stories like this get traction pretty easily. Generally, the media reported it by saying that Avastin is shown (incidentally, the article that links to made me punch my desk) to prolong life in colorectal cancer, but the meanies at NICE were keeping the purse closed. No sweeties for you.

Head of NICE

A NICE decision-maker steps out for a sandwich during the Avastin meeting. Source: the whole media.

Continue reading ‘NICE attitude, jerk.’

Gene Genie – Careful What You Wish For

The last 60 years or so have been splendid for those of us interested in genetics. It’s striking to think that it wasn’t really until 1952 that we came to universally agree that DNA was the heritable material rather than protein. This is only a year before the famous structure of the DNA double helix was uncovered. I would venture that almost everybody with any amount of post-infant-school education would be able to state that we inherit things from our parents via DNA. I would then go double or nothing that they could at least identify a picture of DNA.

Ooooh, look at those curves. Yeah!

DNA: This macro-molecule is why you're as ugly as both your parents , combined. Fact.

Continue reading ‘Gene Genie – Careful What You Wish For’

HeLa

Science tends to work as a gradual accumulation of knowledge and technical progress in numerous fields. Then you get the bigger events which have wider felt consequences and represent a larger leap forward in understanding and ability. Such an example of this would be the recent creation of “Synthia”, the artificial Mycoplasma generated by Dr. Craig Venter’s team.

Then there are revolutionary events that transform our understanding and/or capability in a field. I say “and/or” but in reality a revolution in technical skill nearly always leads to a revolution in understanding of a field, eventually, and vice versa. I would argue that Craig Venter’s achievement, though massively impressive, does not constitute a revolution. If it hadn’t been him now, it would have certainly been someone within the next 5 years. In other words, and without detracting from the event, the creation of the first ostensibly artificial life is a natural progression in the chain of advancements in molecular and cellular biology. Craig Venter is a very talented scientist, with an excellent team, but he equally excels in promoting the Venter legend.

Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman born in 1920 into a pretty tough life. And yet as a result of her suffering a true revolution in biomedical research arose. I am currently reading Rebecca Skloot’s new book on the story of Henrietta (it’s not like I’m advertising, so if you really want to know about the book, then Google is your friend!).

Continue reading ‘HeLa’


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