Cool Stuff Last Week: Changing Skin Cells into Heart Cells, a Chunk of Earth Near the Oort Cloud, and Too Much Red Meat Could Make Your “Biological Clock” Older

  1.    Reprogramming skin cells into heart cells

A group in Gladstone has discovered a way to reprogram skin cells into heart cells using a cocktail of various small molecules. Their paper in Science explains that these new cardiomyocyte-like (heart-like) cells act like regular cardiomyocyte (heart) cells. These new cells contracted like cardiomyocytes as well as have the same gene expression and electrophysical properties.  

When the skin cells were introduced in damaged mouse hearts and treated with the cocktail, the cells became fully functioning cardiomyocyte cells. This is super exciting since this new understanding of how to reprogram cells could be used for a variety of therapies.

  1.    A chunk of Earth found on the other side of the solar system

A group in Hawaii found that a strange chunk of rock near the Oort Cloud actually might be a piece of Earth from billions of years ago. The Oort Cloud is a roughly spherical shell of icy objects on the outmost reaches of our solar system. These icy objects are thought to be made of materials that formed the Sun and other planets. This new chunk of rock will help scientists understand how our solar system evolved, specifically how planets grew and migrated into their current positions in the solar system. Current models suggest that planets like Jupiter moved by flinging materials into space. Also since the rock is so old, it will help scientists answer questions about the compounds that make up Earth. Such as what are the origins of the compounds? Are they a combination of other molecules?

  1.    Too much red meat increases your body’s biological age

A study published in Aging suggests that eating too much red meat and not enough vegetables actually makes your body think you are older than you are. This is due to the increase in phosphate in your blood serum. Phosphate is found in a variety of food,with the absorption of phosphate controlled in your intestine. Normally you absorb less phosphate as you age. Eating red meat increases the amount of phosphate that is not being absorbed to above normal levels.

The study focused on the city of Glasgow and compared men and woman. They found that males deprived of vegetables had the worst consequences. Interestingly, the resulting increased phosphate levels in males correlated with lowered kidney function.  So make sure to eat your veggies!

Michelle Rubin (Editor-in-Chief)
Photo on 3-31-13 at 9.15 PM #2 Michelle is  a fourth year biomedical PhD student. She is extremely interested in science policy and hopes to pursue that after her  studies. Let her know what you think of the blog on twitter! @michellejrubin.

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