Genetic error led humans to evolve bigger, but more vulnerable, brains

The skull of a Australopithecus sediba, a species of Australopithecines, who were our ancestors and whose brains started to grow two to three million years ago. Image credit - Australopithecus sediba by Brett Eloff, courtesy Profberger and Wits University is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Newly-discovered genes that helped supersize human brains along with DNA retrieved from extinct humans, which can still be found in people living today, are expanding scientists’ understanding of how our species evolved. One of the major features that distinguish humans from other primates is the size of our brains, which underwent rapid evolution from about … Read more

Mini-brains offer hope in search for new drugs for brain disorders

Cerebral organoids allow scientists to test new drugs on human brain tissue in labs.

Miniature brains grown in laboratory dishes could overcome some of the problems testing drugs on animals and help researchers identify new ways to treat very human, and incurable, conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. Most new drugs are developed and tested using mice as models. However, with brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, the animals never … Read more

Study of DNA flags could reignite centuries-old evolution debate

Charles Darwin (left) and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (right) are the faces of the earliest debate about evolutionary research.

Evolution could be partly based on environmental adaptation and not just random mutations, re-opening a centuries-old debate between Charles Darwin and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, according to Professor Thomas Carell from Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. He studies the way our genes are switched on and off over our lifetimes – a process known as epigenetics. How has … Read more

Sherlock Drones – automated investigators tackle toxic crime scenes

Using drones to gather information and samples from a hazardous scene can help incident commanders make critical decisions.

Crimes that involve chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) materials pose a deadly threat not just to the target of the attack but to innocent bystanders and police investigators. Often, these crimes may involve unusual circumstances or they are terrorist-related incidents, such as an assassination attempt or the sending of poisons through the mail. In the … Read more