Using what makes your bread and beer against cancer: a scientist appeals to the public for help - blog by Gurdur


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Using what makes your bread and beer against cancer: a scientist appeals to the public for help
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Posted 07-Nov-2011 at 06:21 PM (18:21) by Gurdur
Updated 07-Nov-2011 at 07:41 PM (19:41) by Gurdur

Yeast, a small one-celled organism, is an incredibly important part of out lives. Yeast is essential in the making of our beer and wine, most of our bread, and for much more. Today, there are even yeast-powered electric batteries (here's a link to a science project of how to make a yeast-powered fuel cell, and here's a description of a completely different way of using yeast to eventually produce electricity). Yeast is so important to us, over thousands of years in the making of our bread, beer and wine, that the English word yeast comes from a very ancient Indo-European root word, one which meant to boil or bubble, which is an apt way of looking at fermentation.

When yeast is added, to malt and water for beer, or to grapes for wine, or dough for bread, it starts work busily; but to do that, the yeast cells have to multiply like crazy, which means they need to divide. Cell division is how we get new cells, how our bodies grow and repair themselves. So our lives depend on our cells dividing; but sometimes that division process can go all wonky, and cells reproduce far too much, or with defects, and that's when we get most cancers, a result of cell division gone wrong. So studying cell division is essential to the fight against cancer. That's exactly where yeast is very helpful indeed - yeast divides happily, it's cheap and easy, and it's a great study object, very cooperative indeed. It's so cooperative some scientists have now figured out how to switch on and off processes inside yeast just by using light.

The basic process of cell division, though, is what's here in question, and it's being studied in Manchester, Britain, by the scientist Marisa Alonso-Núñez (@lualnu10) and her team. That team study yeast cell division in order to be able to apply the results to cancer research; that's possible because cell division as a process, in yeast or in us, is a very critical process, so critical that the proteins used as yeast's tools for dividing cells are largely exactly the same as those used by human cells. It's also a very complex process, so it must be studied each bit by tiny bit, step by small step.

Marisa's team study one such protein and how it works in the overall cell-division process. To do that, they have to mark the protein, so they can 'see' it in its workings inside yeast. To be able to mark it, they need something that reacts to that one single protein, and only to that one single protein, out of the many, many different proteins and other materials inside yeast cells. So they use antibodies, markers which react to one protein only, and those antibodies have to be manufactured. They're not cheap.

As we all know, medical and science research funding is becoming very difficult to get these days in Britain. This is a very worthwhile project, in a proper research institute (the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester, UK), and yet it's bogged down in very basic funding problems. So Marisa has turned to public appeal, and she's asking for very little; she's only asking for $2,500 (just over £1,500) in order to buy the essential marker, the specially manufactured antibody. As you can imagine, she and her team already do as much as they can all by themselves. She and her team make all details of the project open to the public, and it's part of a new step in how scientists finally interact directly with the public.

You can help by donating towards the fund needed of $2,500 (just over £1,500), and it's really easy to do so, since Marisa has used Rocket Hub, a newish site made for crowd-sourcing funding drives. The Rocket Hub page for Marisa's project is here, and you will find my real name (Tim Skellett) there on the list of donors at the bottom of the page. She has also made a short video herself about her project and why it needs this funding, explaing the scientific ins-and-outs, which is shown below at the bottom of this post. You can find Marisa's personal blog post about her efforts here. So far 15 people have donated, but the amount raised so far is only $420, only 17% of the amount needed so far. Please bear in mind this sort of research is essential in the fight against cancer, and the amount requested is quite small beer; so donate, it'll only cost you a small bit o' your bread to help!



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  1. Old Comment
    iamwombat's Avatar
    LOL! Coffee creamer powder makes an excellent explosive too. Just try a brown paper bag with a few ounces of creamer in it it, filled with air and crimped shut at the top with staples, thrown onto a fire (outside). woof. I love fire.
    Posted 24-Nov-2011 at 04:14 AM (04:14) by iamwombat iamwombat is offline
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Ingenio contra la crisis: el reto SciFund. Una nueva forma de financiar la ciencia. —

18-Nov-2011, 09:32 AM (09:32)
español en mi blog y algunas reseñas en inglés sobre él en el blog del reto SciFund y en el de Tim Skellett. ¿Podemos salvar el parque natural de Collserola? Este es el proyecto de Jorge Mederos (Museo de H

Ciencia y tecnología ::

19-Nov-2011, 09:39 AM (09:39)
sp; Curiosidades y Experimentos, Divulgación, Noticias

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