Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Favorite Science Story of the Week

Two weeks ago I posted a summary of some fascinating science stories I had recently read in an article called Trophic Cascades. Yesterday I found myself out of podcasts to listen to on the way to work. I also completed my most recent audio book, The Kite Runner, and don't receive another Audible subscription credit for another week (my subscription provides one audio book per month).

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini

Read more about this book...

Last night I searched for some new sciencey podcasts (is that a word?). Since I already listen to Science Friday and This Week In Science, I was looking for something a little different and more in-depth. My search led me to the podcast from the journal Cell.

Today on the bus to and from work, I listened to a couple of podcasts from Cell. My first impression is that I have a lot to learn as I start work toward my Biology degree in the fall (see Mid-life Crisis). My second impression is that it is a fun challenge to see just how much of the discussion I can understand.  I did better than I expected.  Lastly, its fascinating to hear about this research and understand just how much we do know about the inner workings of life on this planet, but equally fascinating how much we don't yet know. I definitely plan to continue listening in.

This brings me to my favorite science story of this week. Within the March 9, 2007 podcast of Cell, they interviewed one of the authors of a paper on Central Role of p53 in the Suntan Response and Pathologic Hyperpigmentation. The researchers study the pathway initiated by UV radiation (sunlight) which produces a suntan. They prove that this pathway is controlled by the gene p53, which is known to be associated with DNA protection mechanisms. This makes sense as UV radiation can damage DNA. The paper explores this pathway in much more detail than I could or would explain here. The interesting part of the story is that they also found that the same pathway produces a beta-endorphin. This could explain why people feel better when they are in the sun.  The authors, at least in the interview, did not provide a hypothesis as to why beta-endorphin generation might be part of this pathway.

Excuse me while I go outside to get some endorphins!

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