Friday, January 13, 2006

Clotting Along

Chemical & Engineering News is featuring an article from the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences on a new discovery in how our blood clots. Researchers have discovered that a common inorganic polymer, polyphosphate, helps speed blood clotting and slows a protein that is responsible for destroying clots. The mechanism by which our body heals cuts and scrapes was thought to be fully understood, which is what makes this finding quite unexpected.

We were all told in high school biology that platelets are responsible for forming blood clots. While this is still true, the means by which this happens is now better understood. The initial clue to this investigation was a micrograph of a platelet showing some dark circles. These dots turned out to be polyphosphate granules. These little grains are released by the platelets, which jump-starts a biochemical cascade that stops your scraped knee from bleeding.

The pure science here is great discovery, and this has pretty good potential to improve our ability to control blood clotting.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dust of Life

An article in the January 10th issue of
Astrophysical Journal Letters
reports the first evidence of some interesting organic molecues in the dust cloud of a star not too different from our own Sun. Signals suggestive of acetylene and hydrogen cyanide were recorded. These basic chemical building blocks are a long way from amino acids and proteins. Calling them "gaseous precursors to DNA and protein," as was done by one science magazine, is simply ignorant (or perhaps just very hopeful). This finding is another important stepping stone in the development of planets capable of sustaining life, but does not mean little green men are floating in space dust.

Also covered by,, the Discovery Channel, and, among others.