eLife Episode 37: How human handedness happens

31 March 2017
Presented by Chris Smith.

In this episode we hear about helping people with paralysis to communicate, how exposing mice to nicotine can affect their sons, scaffold-building parasites, the origins of human handedness and plain-language summaries of research.

In this episode

Brain computer interface helps paralysed people to communicate

00:33 - Brain power

Sensors on the surface of the brain help paralysed people to communicate

Brain power
with Jaimie Henderson, Stanford University

Damage and disease affecting the brain and spinal cord are devastating. A person never recovers their lost function because the central nervous system has very limited abilities to repair and regenerate its tissues. So scientists are turning to technology to creative more effective assistive devices for patients with neurological disabilities, and they’re getting better all the time. Chris Smith heard how from Stanford University's Jaimie Henderson...

Paternal nicotine exposure protects male offspring against a range of other drugs

06:21 - Like father, like son

Exposing male mice to nicotine can make their sons more resistant to nicotine and other drugs

Like father, like son
with Oliver Rando, University of Massachusetts

Our realisation that epigenetics offers our offspring an opportunity to adapt on a timescale far faster than a genome message can change, has give us new insights into the basis of number of diseases. Take diabetes and hypertension, for instance, which are more common in the offspring of parents with metabolic syndromes themselves. But are the epigenetic changes that underpin these altered disease risks a highly focused response to one component of an adverse environment, or a more generalised genetic alarm signal whereby the body alters its resilience against a range of potential threats. Speaking to Chris Smith, Oliver Rando thinks it’s the latter...

Toxoplasma assembles an actin scaffold inside cells to coordinate parasite replication

12:26 - Combatting toxoplasmosis

The Toxoplasma gondii parasite builds a scaffold inside human and other animal cells to help it multiply and cause disease

Combatting toxoplasmosis
with Marcus Meissner, University of Glasgow

At first glance, a parasite caught from a cat litter tray doesn’t sound like it should have much in common with malaria. But malaria is a close relative of Toxoplasma gondii; and the discovery by Glasgow’s Marcus Meissner, that, when toxoplasma grows inside our cells, it assembles a communications network that synchronises the growth of the parasites, could reveal a new way to combat both bugs. Chris Smith heard how...

Genes are asymmetrically activated on the two sides of the spinal cord early in development

17:52 - Left handed, or right handed?

Handedness has its origins in the spinal cord

Left handed, or right handed?
with Sebastian Ocklenburg, Ruhr University, Bochum

One striking things about humans is the fact that 90% of us, when handed a pen or a tool, will use it with our right hands. And this is not a modern phenomenon. Cave paintings suggest that our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago were also inclined to use their right hands for specialist tasks. Chris Smith wanted to know how this happens...

Plain language summaries

23:14 - Spread the word

Plain-language summaries are making research more accessible to broader audiences

Spread the word
with Sarah Shailes and Stuart King, asst Features Editors, eLife

Each month we try to devote at least one of our interviews to consider some of the wider impacts of scientific practice and scientific life. Recently we’ve looked at the impacts of the positive result bias, how women fare in science and whether science is losing its best young talent owing to funding shortfalls. This month, with the help of assistant features editors Sarah Shailes and Stuart King, Chris Smith considers eLife itself and the role of its research digests. And if you’re not sure what a digest is, Sarah can explain...

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