Morphine and its cousins

 

Quinine

The term ‘alkaloids’ may be unfamiliar to most of us but if I start naming some examples which fall into this group of ‘nitrogenous bases secondary metabolites’, you will know what I mean. nicotine2 Some of the big names include morphine, quinine, strychnine, nicotine etc. basically a continuous list of –ine’s. The thing to note is that though the alkaloids were attributed to pharmacologically active bases derived from plants however, animals (including us!), insects and microbes also produce them.

Continue reading

Death and Transplanting Life

heart-transplant-1

For many, the heart is synonymous with passion, personality which is literally at the heart of a person. We even carelessly use the phrase “broke my heart”, however, what does happen when our thick- muscular pump of an organ truly breaks down? The assumed answer would be death; no heart beat=no longer living…right? Well, in reality, a stopped heart can restart, there is no true universal rule in death determination. You are dead when the doctor says you are dead.

Continue reading

Renewables…you say?

Most of the energy we use to power technology come from finite sources which are not sustainable. This energy which may be in the form of either fossil fuels, coal or even nuclear fuels and so on will eventually be used up. However renewable sources such as solar power will not run out…..until the sun runs out of hydrogen fuel but that’s another story.

0318199_l
Even my trusty fx- 85GT PLUS uses solar power.

We are able to harness the light energy radiated by the sun by the used of solar cells. A solar cell is an electronic device made of semiconductors which exhibit the photovoltaic effect to convert light energy into electrical energy. Semiconductors are materials which lie between conductors and insulators. A conductor is a material which is composed of atoms in which electrons are easily freed from the nuclei. Even though it is able to form a current, it remains electronically neutral as there are the same number of positive protons and negative free electrons. An insulator, on the other hand, is a material which is composed of atoms which hold more tightly onto their electrons so they have no free electrons like conductors. Current is a measure of the rate of flow of charge through a material, with the electrons being the charge carriers transporting energy across a circuit.  Continue reading

Debunking vitamin C

So, I’m sure many of us have seen the advertisement packaging for supposedly healthy drinks. One of most popularised is vitamin C. I don’t know about you but when I was growing up, I associated vitamin C with oranges and how they prevent scurvy (as told by parents to ensure I was receiving my 5 a day). So what makes this chemical so important?

Well, it turns out, Vitamin C is a vitamin (duh) which is able to dissolve in water and has the chemical formula of C6 H8 O6. The molecular structure of vitamin C is seen in the diagram below:
image Continue reading

Exciting enzymes?

So…I haven’t written a sole biology blog post in such a long time so I thought I would share some of the knowledge covered in class, more specifically on exciting enzymes.


Enzymes are biological catalysts made by living organisms which speed up chemical reactions. Each cell in our bodies is like a factory, constantly using up raw materials to turn them into useful products and also resulting in waste products. These reactions are usually slow if unaided by either heat or enzymes. This can be annoying in everyday life, for example, delayed respiration rates which rely heavily on enzymes. The food we eat in turn become the energy we use (vastly simplified). Continue reading

Thoughts #7 -Shakespeare’s portrayal of gender inequality

This post is for the females in this world. I have long heard the stories of girls who were told to stay at home because the best ‘job’ they could ever have was being a housewife. Another told me that her own gran cut off all relations with her as she proceeded to university to achieve her own dreams and ambition. Apparently, this meant there were no school fees left for her younger brother. As much as this is discussed in our daily lives, this is an issue which is prevalent all throughout history. A prime example can be found back in one of the Shakespeare’s work. Continue reading

Plastic Surgery…in the war

This week I have received some exciting news. No, I didn’t win the lottery, if that’s what you’re thinking. Or discovered a cure for cancer. I received a letter from a certain university which more or less confirmed my research placement for the summer of 2k17. However it’s is on the condition that I am accepted through the Nuffield summer placement. Without exaggeration, I opened the acceptance email and I gave myself a high five (sad, I know).
The short email was formal of course but I would like to summarise it to a brief ‘you go girl!’. This was I had waited for, my chance to discover a side of medical research, which is fundamental to medical discoveries. I will be undertaking a 4-6 week journey through the world of research based around infection, immune system and inflammation, so I decided it was appropriate to write this post surrounding this matter. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Continue reading

Stem, Stem and STEM

adult-stem-cell-cloning-670-1

Stem cells, and nope I don’t mean the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math which this blog is focused on. (hint hint – self-promotion, there are also many other interesting posts which Susan and I have written). I mean the unspecialised cells which have the ability to cure currently untreatable diseases. In plants, these cells are known as meristems, usually found in the root and shoot tips. In our bodies there are two types of stem cells. Continue reading

Frack on, or frack off?

Image result for fracking process
Diagrammatic representation of the hazardous process

Profits, prices and power has become the priority for most of us, to the extent that we have depleted the natural resources made available to us with no regard for our future generations. Such is the case in “hydraulic fracturing” which has become polarised in recent years; however few people are aware of the process involved. Some have enforced that fracking is a revolutionary way to extract “cleaner” energy such as shale gas. Shale produces even more green house gas emission more than coal and other conventional fossil fuels during combustion. While others believe it is the solution for oil dependency and therefore lower oil prices. Put simply fracking is process to extract fossil fuels, similar to offshore oil rigs. What distinguishes fracking from other methods is the location. Most of us imagine the heavy industrial machinery to be to be planted in the most remote parts of the earth but fracking offers direct access to shale gas in the comfort of your back garden. And it is not only our lush gardens that are under threat, national parks and “protected” heritage sites are also in danger of ceasing to exist. With this ever-increasing threat to private property, can we continue to observe from the side-lines any longer? Fracking Countries strive to become independent oil producers whilst firms create a monopoly of fuel provider in hopes of lowering oil prices for consumers.I will explore the ways that the disadvantages of fracking heavily outweigh the advantages.

Continue reading

Catastrophic Cancer


Cancer has been defined as the disease of our era. Even with advancing medical technology, it is one of the few ‘incurable’. Those who are diagnosed with cancer are often generalised as ‘patients’ who are solely characterised by cancer. However it is important to recognise they are people with every right to live and love.

In “The fault in our stars” by John Green, the protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancaster, a ‘grenade’ as she refers to herself, has been through a huge amount strain with her disease.

Continue reading