Biomedicine & Biotech

For the last decade or two, people have been looking for something to attribute to the increase in the number of people with allergies and autoimmune diseases. A lot of ideas have been floated around - cell phones, vaccines, hand sanitizers or anything else that we use more now than we did 20 years ago.  On that list is also the increase of births done by Cesarean section. The hypothesis is that babies born by Cesarean have a different microbiome (or set of bacteria) on them than those born vaginally. And, that those bacteria that are first to establish themselves in the newborn impact the health of the baby for the rest of their life.  
It has become an accepted paradigm that how babies come into this world (vaginal delivery versus Cesarean section) dictates which bacteria colonize their bodies - establishing their microbiota that will affect their health throughout their lives. But, a recent publication calls that well-established idea into question - raising a lot of questions along the way. 
Every year, millions of Americans undergo a colonoscopy. It's become routine, and the cancer-spotting process saves lives. Now instead of a camera fitting inside a colon, imagine one that can slide and peer through a blood vessel. It's a procedure that someday may be able to predict strokes or heart attacks before they occur.
A recent report in Nature Communications highlights a new way to contain an outbreak of cholera – by using viruses that infect the bacteria, or phages. This new therapy could act as an important stop-gap measure in certain communities where cholera poses a significant health problem.
It's widely believed that a "bed of nails" surface destroys bacteria through puncturing the cell wall. But new research, based on extensive use of various microscopy techniques, a team of Australian and Nigerian have shown that an entirely different killing mechanism may be at play.
The controversy over GMOs lives on, despite the scientific community's best efforts to quell the scaremongering. In order to gather the public's concerns, the FDA is requesting comments on the topic of genome editing, in the production of plants that would be eaten by both humans and animals.
The relative size of the human male's penis and testes can be reduced to our species' mating strategies, and can provide some surprising insights into early human culture.
Some scientific discoveries, like human genome editing, challenge our thinking on many levels. And there are many voices getting into the mix of the debate on this subject, taking on the unenviable task of "playing God." 
Even birds know when they're paired up with a mate that's "out of their league." New research from the journal Biology Letters demonstrates that unattractive, male, red-backed fairy-wrens spend more time guarding their female mates – while their sexy competitors spend more time seeking "extramarital" affairs.
A new study by a team of University of Washington researchers focusing on the mating habits of fruit flies reached a somewhat surprising discovery, concluding that "mate choice in fruit flies is rational and adaptive."    
In assessing the health of humans, plants or animals, when advanced age or decay occurs we can observe the physical changes as they happen. This, however, cannot be said when studying trees, because they rot from the inside out. But a new study employing sound waves is adding to our knowledge of how to evaluate tree health.
Perhaps the strangest medical phenomenon discovered in recent years is a link between the lone star tick and an allergy to red meat. The bite of a lone star tick exposes a person to a small carbohydrate called alpha-gal. In a handful of people, this exposure elicits an abnormal immune response that produces a type of antibody called IgE, which causes allergies. Because red meat also contains alpha-gal, people who have been sensitized to the carbohydrate from a tick bite can develop life-threatening anaphylaxis if they consume pork or beef.