Radio Verulam West Herts Drive Time Science Feature 22/05/2017
Scar treatment using mussel ‘gloop’.
“The humble mussel could soon help us prevent scarring. A sticky substance naturally secreted by the marine animal is one element of a glue that closes skin wounds seamlessly in rats. The glue could be used to prevent unsightly scars after accidental cuts or surgical operations.
Scars form when the collagen scaffolding in skin is broken apart. Instead of re-forming in their original and neat basket-weave arrangement, the collagen fibres grow back in parallel bundles that create the characteristic lumpy appearance of scars.
One way to reduce scarring is to apply decorin, a skin protein involved in collagen organisation. But because decorin has a highly complex physical structure it is hard to synthesise.”
“To get round this problem, Hyung Joon Cha at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea and his colleagues have created a simplified version of decorin. They combined a small section of the decorin protein with a collagen-binding molecule and a sticky substance secreted by mussels.
The resulting glue was tested on rats with deep, 8-millimetre-wide wounds. The glue was spread over each wound and covered with clear plastic film. Rats in a control group had their wounds covered in plastic without any glue.
By day 11, 99 per cent of the wound was closed in the treated rats compared with 78 per cent in the control group. By day 28, treated rats had fully recovered and had virtually no visible scarring. In comparison, control rats had thick, purple scars”.
“The results are impressive but there is still a way to go before the results can be translated to humans. “Rats have loose skin, whereas we have tight skin, and they tend to heal better and have less scarring than we do,” she says. As a result, the glue may not be as effective in people as in rats.
… the glue will now be tested in pigs, whose skin better resembles our own.”
Welsh man accidentally creates world’s hottest chilli.
The world’s hottest chilli pepper - so fiery it could kill someone who eats it -has been created in North Wales.
It measures around than 2.48m on the Scoville scale, and it could potentially cause anaphylactic shock for someone who eats it, burning the airways and closing them up.
The chilli has been named Dragon’s Breath, in honour of its Welsh beginnings. The 2.48m Scoville heat units (SHU) the chilli registers dwarfs its nearest rival, the Carolina Reaper, which measures on average 1.5m on the Scoville scale, with an individual pepper measuring up to 2.20m. Mr Smith, who has developed the chilli along with scientists from Nottingham University - says he is expecting any day a confirmation letter from the Guinness Book of Records recognising his chilli as the world’s most potent.
Mr Smith was loaned the chilli plant by Nottinghamshire chilli farmer Neal Price about three months ago, who grew it using a new plant food developed with Nottingham Trent University. It was developed to be used in medical treatment as an anaesthetic because the oils that come from it are so potent that they can numb the skin.
He said: “This was developed because a lot of people are allergic to anaesthetic, and this can be applied to the skin because it is so strong it numbs it.”
As well as being of use in treating people who are allergic to anaesthetics, it is thought the chilli’s oils could also be useful in developing countries, where access to anaesthetic is limited for financial reasons.
The Dragon’s Breath chilli is so potent that it must be kept in a specially sealed container. It will be on display at the Chelsea Flower Show between May 23 and 27.
Scientist of the Month
She helped to link the spectral class of stars (O, B, A, F, G, K, M) to their temperature. She also found that the common metals in the Sun’s spectrum are relatively the same as those found on Earth. However, she found that helium and hydrogen were vastly more abundant but was talked out of this conclusion by astronomer Henry Russell, who then found the same result four years later by a different method and despite acknowledging her, he gets recognised for this and even has his name on the widely used Hertzspung-Russell diagram.
She went on to study stars with high luminosity to understand the structure of the Milky Way, making over 1.25 million observations with her assistants and 2 million observations of variable stars.
She became the first women to be promoted to Professor at Harvard and to head a department there.
Night Sky This Month
Sunset is at 9 and 9:25 pm over the next month, the latest sunsets of the year. If you want to stargaze when the skies are darkest after these times, the New Moon is 25th May and 24th June.
Early risers, before the 4:40 sunrise, will see Venus as the morning star and it is at its greatest western elongation (i.e. furthest from the Sun from our perspective) on 3rd June.
Saturn is at opposition on 15th June, meaning it is closest to Earth in its orbit and will be brighter than any other time of year and is visible all night.
The summer solstice will occur on 21st June, marking the longest day and the first day of summer.
Look for the asterism known as The Summer Triangle marked by the stars Deneb, Altair and Vega in the constellations Cygnus, Aquila and Lyra.