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Issue 14 Understanding Science

Can we treat Alzheimer’s?

It is likely that most of us, especially if we are hopeless romantics, had heard about the book or movie called „The Notebook“. In this two-hour romantic drama we are led through a wonderful and a bit painful story of a young couple who, against all ods, managed to grow old together. However, „The Notebook“ shows us much more than just a romantic love story – it also shows us the tragic lives of some 50 million people around the world whose memories and families fade away due to dementia.

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Issue 14 Understanding Science

Patient tumour avatars improving treatment outcomes

With more than 19 million cases diagnosed per year and around 10 million deaths worldwide, cancer represents a big challenge in health care and an important cause of mortality and morbidity. Some of the most diagnosed cancer types like lung, female breast, and colorectal cancer account for a third of this incidence and mortality rate. So, how come we are still so ineffective in treating cancer? Part of the answer is tremendous tumour heterogeneity: between different types, between two people having the same type, or within one single tumour in one single person. And this biological phenomenon has been challenging scientists for a long time now.

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Issue 12 Understanding Science

What happens when we mess up?

It is in the nature of medicine that you are gonna screw up; you are gonna kill someone.

Gregory House, on the TV show House
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Issue 11 Understanding Science

From dissections to CRISPR: animal use in biomedical research

World Day for Laboratory Animals is marked annually on the 24th of April to raise awareness about experimenting on animals. Animal models have been used for scientific purposes, such as helping us understand cell mechanisms, complex biological functions and in finding new cures for diseases. Due to anatomical and physiological similarities between humans and animals, especially mammals, potential medications, vaccines and therapies are first investigated on animal (and non-animal) models. Clearly, not all results conducted on animals can be directly applied to humans; rather, they help us understand crucial processes and decide whether it is safe to move on to the next level. It is almost impossible to imagine biomedical research being run without animal models as they are crucial for fundamental discoveries – from ancient dissections to contemporary gene editing technology.

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Issue 10 Understanding Science

Why it’s sometimes okay to use 3 instead of π

Now, now. Lay down the pitchforks. The title of this post might seem all the more blasphemous to some of you due to its date of publication, but it allows us to introduce a very important topic – the power of approximation, and when it should and should not be employed.

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Issue 9 Understanding Science

What’s a number?

Three is a number, right? So are pi, the square root of two or i. But mathematics is all about abstraction, so how do we abstract the concept of a number? How do we properly define numbers?

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Issue 8 Understanding Science

How do we learn and how do we remember?

Learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge, skills, and behaviour. It follows us throughout our lives and enables us to adapt to various new situations.

Memory is the ability of storing the knowledge, skills, and behaviour acquired through learning in our brains. We can differentiate between explicit and implicit memory, as well as sensoric, short-term, and long-term memory. These types of memory are frequently misunderstood, so I will try to explain them as easily as possible.

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Issue 6 Understanding Science

Growth-accommodating implants – a breakthrough in medicine

Surgeons. Credit: Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

Medicine is rapidly advancing as various scientific discoveries are implemented into everyday medical practice. One of the most recent fascinating developments are growth-accommodating implants: therapeutic medical devices manufactured to replace, support or enhance a part of the body while not restricting its growth.

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Issue 5 Understanding Science

Undetectable: On LIGO and the importance of experiment

The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: the test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific truth.

Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics
Credit: LIGO.
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Issue 4 Understanding Science

Using our own body to fight cancer – the era of immunotherapy

Most of us probably know someone who’s suffered from cancer, is still suffering or, unfortunately, we have it ourselves. Media daily feed us information on this topic, covering a wide range of news on the newest cancer drugs, treatments or medical discoveries. And yet, you might wonder why, after years and years of research, we still haven’t successfully found a universal cure for cancer. The answer to this is more complex than it seems – so let’s take it step by step.