Living Lab on The Point

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Living Lab on The Point is a forum for the stories behind science headlines — the people who do the research, the unexpected ways that science gets done, and how the results make their way into our everyday lives.

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Living Lab host and producer Dr. Heather Goldstone.
Host and producer Dr. Heather Goldstone.
Credit Maura Longueil

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Living Lab on The Point is Produced by Dr. Heather Goldstone. The Executive Producer is Mindy Todd.

Major support for the Living Lab is provided by the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment and The Kendeda Fund. Additional support is provided by Lee McGraw and the Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation.

Public Health Image Library, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Could Viagra help stop the spread of malaria? A new study by a team of European scientists makes it look like a possibility worthy of further consideration.

Jan Mallander / Pixabay

Antibiotics revolutionized 20th century medicine, reigning in common infectious killers, like tuberculosis and influenza. Decades later, though, a growing number of antibiotics are losing effectiveness. In 2013, nearly half a million people worldwide contracted multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

The World Health Organization warns that “without urgent, coordinated action, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill.”

You may never have heard of MassBiologics, but if you’ve ever gotten a tetanus booster shot in Massachusetts, you’ve gotten one of their medicines. MassBiologics is the only non-profit in the country that is FDA-licensed to manufacture vaccines and biological medications. In its 120 year history, it has delivered more than 100 million doses of medicines globally.

"We started out in 1894, as a collaboration between the Department of Public health and Harvard University," explains Executive Vice Chancellor Mark Klempner.

Caecilians are legless amphibians, which is weird enough. Some have protrusible eyes hidden under their skin, and one species has no lungs. To top it all off, caecilian mothers feed their young by producing a nutrient-rich skin that their babies - rather
Venu Govindappa / Wikimedia Commons

Science can be beautiful and amazing. It can also be slimy, weird, and just plain gross - like legless amphibians who eat their mothers’ skin, or cocaine that makes users’ ears rot. That kind of science is some of Anna Rothschild’s favorite, and it’s the subject of her new YouTube video series, called Gross Science.

Here are some examples:

With spring comes warmer weather and beautiful flowers, but also the risk of tick-borne illnesses, like Lyme disease. One U Mass Amherst professor wants to understand how and why tick-born diseases are on the rise, and his lab now tests ticks as both a research tool and a public service.

Pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and household chemicals can be found widely in the environment and drinking water.
Wikimedia Commons

Modern American life is full of synthetic chemicals - medicines, cosmetics, soaps and shampoos, household cleaners, non-stick cookware, and stain-resistant furniture. Most of us don't give much thought to where those chemicals go when we're done with them, but some researchers are tracking them in wastewater, the environment, and even drinking water.

Hibernating black bear mother and cubs.
National Park Service

Hibernation is far more than a long winter's nap. It's more akin to a coma, with heart rate, breathing, metabolism, and consciousness all dramatically reduced, if not suspended. Steve Swoap is among those who think understanding hibernation could help doctors treat victims of trauma or stroke.

Beaches along Delaware Bay are hotspots for horseshoe crab spawning each spring.
Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve

You can't be everything to everybody. The decline of horseshoe crabs is an example of why not.

Horseshoe crabs are bizarre-looking and slow-moving, sometimes called living fossils. In fact, these ancient animals aren't really crabs, at all. More like horseshoe scorpions or horseshoe ticks, if you want to be evolutionarily correct.

In The Abandoned Barn
Courtesy of Jennifer Morgan

You've heard of being snowed in. For that matter, you've probably experienced it more than once in recent months. Well, artist Jennifer Morgan got snowed out of her studio this winter. She took the opportunity to try something new, and the result is In The Abandoned Barn, a beautiful, new children's nature book.

Naomi Oreskes' work as a science historian has pulled back the curtain on a small group of scientists and others who have deliberately worked to obscure the true risks of tobacco smoke, CFCs (remember the ozone hole?), and greenhouse gas emissions. Now, she and co-author Erik Conway have turned to science fiction to spread their message about the urgent need to address climate change. Living Lab had a few questions about that choice.