Cells are clever cannibals

If you were starving on a desert island, you might choose to eat your left arm first to preserve your dominant hand, assuming that like most people you’re right handed. Similarly, starving cells can decide which organelles to degrade when they need to recycle nutrients. New research shows that mitochondria, which are like mini-powerhouses in the cell, can protect themselves from being cannibalised by their own cells. Cells regularly cannibalise their own organelles in a process known as autophagy. A European research team led by Professor Luca Scorrano published the research in Nature Cell Biology. They saw that mitochondria avoid being degraded during cellular autophagy by fusing together in an elongated shape. This helps cells survive periods of starvation because the elongated mitochondria can continue to produce energy. Read More »

Was the Tower of Babel in Africa?

Have you ever been frustrated by language barriers when you’re traveling? For thousands of years people have wondered why different languages exist. The Bible describes the division of languages as God’s punishment at the Tower of Babel. Linguistics, the science of language, tells us that languages evolve gradually over time. Dr Quentin Atkinson, at the University of Auckland, has analysed languages from around the world. He asserts in the journal Science that language, like humans, originated in Africa and then expanded across the globe. Read More »