Biology and Biotech

The German conglomerate Bayer has agreed to buy the Monsanto seed and pesticide company for $66 billion, putting an end to months of speculation about who would acquire it. Now the speculation has turned to American anti-science groups and how they will continue to demonize a company that isn't part of evil America, but instead is based in the Europe they love to invoke.

Monsanto has been a ready target for those groups, who claim that its products have caused suicides in India, lawsuits against wholesome farmers across North America, and bees to keel over at the mention of the name. One of those groups, the Non-GMO Project, has even made a fortune charging companies to put a label on saying they don't have any GMOs.

So if you want to buy Non-GMO rock salt, you...

Tens of thousands of women have mastectomies to treat breast cancer each year and a new study lends hope to the idea that reconstructive surgery could make breastfeeding possible afterward.

In experiments, researchers induced breast cells to self-assemble into aligned, ductal shapes, overcoming the "subtrate stiffness" problem in cell alignment; the stiffness of the tissue scaffold to which cells bind. They built 3-D scaffolds out of protein gel by placing the gel over silicone molds. Depending on each mold’s shape, the gel solidified into different shapes with various levels of stiffness throughout. Then, breast cells were placed on top of the gel and the researchers recorded time-lapse microscopic video of the...

We all know you're adults and hate guessing games so I'll get right to the answer: 58. 

Fifty eight countries/territories currently have active Zika transmission. That has to alarm you as much as it does me.

And those do not include those countries where someone brought it back home after becoming infected on a trip (such as France.) These 58 are the countries where a person in the country contracted Zika while in that country. 

The breakdown is as follows: 

  • 1 country in Africa (Cape Verde)  
  • 8 in the Pacific Islands 
  • 48 in North, Central and South America 

Map courtesy of www.cnn.com

That's worrisome. Even more...

There is something nauseatingly ingenious about the Huffington Post. A website that rose to prominence by shamelessly copying and pasting other people's work, it proudly refuses to pay most of its writers and has almost no editorial standards. In 2011, this journalistic dumpster fire was sold to AOL for $315 million. Utterly brilliant. It's like robbing a bank and having the police pay you for community service.

One of the latest contributions from HuffBlow to the national dialogue comes courtesy of self-described teenage "food safety activist"...

Women's health

Roughly 1 in 3 women douche, but there is no good health reason to do so. Many women believe that douching will clean their vaginas or eliminate unpleasant odors, but that isn't true. Any benefits from douching are merely temporary. The downsides, however, are substantial. Douching can change the makeup of the bacteria that normally live in the vagina, and it can even make women more susceptible to STDs. 

Now, researchers have added another concern: Douching appears to increase the risk of infection with HPV (human papillomavirus), which causes cervical cancer. 

Researchers hailing mostly from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center assessed the relationship between...

From the realm of concussion research, it appears that the data are beginning to catch up with the intuition of the medical community. And that's good news for head trauma victims, and their coaches, who are looking for greater clarity on how to best protect players.

A new study confirms something that we believed was true, yet couldn't be sure of. But research published online in the recent issue of Pediatrics concludes that when concussion victims are removed more quickly from physical activity after an incident and have additional time to recover before resuming play, this intervention significantly speeds recovery time and reduces concussive symptoms.

In fact, continuing to play doubles recovery time and worsens short-term mental function, says the authors of...

Now that it's September, more and more students will be heading back to school. The youngest kiddies may play a game called "Show and Tell," in which they bring in various items and talk about what they did over the summer.

Now, it's our turn to play Show and Tell.

While you were out barefoot skiing, we were holding down the fort in steamy Manhattan, defending evidence-based science and medicine and debunking hype. So, in case you missed it, here are the top 10 most popular articles we published this summer:

Burnt Bread Makes An Excellent Carbon Foam

Chemists Were Wrong About Splenda

...

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 4.05.04 PM Partially denuded salt marsh at end of drought via Nature Communications.

The perception that coastal salt marshes are 'wastelands' good only for draining, has been contradicted by observations over many years that such areas are rich in biodiversity. Salt marshes provide habitats and food for insects, fish, molluscs, and mammals, and are known to be important nurseries for numerous species — and these organisms can help maintain or restore the health of salt...

When biologists think of evolution, we tend to be biased toward those instances in which an organism gains some new ability, such as when a bacterium acquires a new antibiotic resistance gene. In other cases, new traits can be conferred by gene duplication, in which an extra (and usually nonessential) copy of a gene mutates and acquires new functions. Traditionally, but incorrectly, an assumption exists that more complex organisms have larger genomes. As a result, biologists have tended to view evolution as a process by which organisms amass new genes and functions over time.

But in a new paper published in Nature Reviews Genetics, University of Barcelona geneticists Ricard Albalat...

The bride wore white. And then some.

Garlic. It's not a new health craze, simply because it's not all that new. But, it is crazy. And, five minutes on the Internet will show you how crazy. It will prevent X (where X = any condition on earth), and enhance Y (where Y = anything you want enhanced). Regardless of its health benefit or lack thereof, I think we can all agree on one thing. It's not going to make you smell so good. But, not for the reason you might think. Which is why, by the time you finish reading this, you will still stink, but may have saved a few bucks on Listerine. Here's a rule that organic chemists know all too well. Sulfur stinks. Pretty much any volatile, sulfur-containing chemical is going to smell really bad. A few examples: hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs), isoamyl mercaptan (skunk), methanethiol (fart...