Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

NME’s weekly science dose (July 12-18)

It seems that young researchers from the Arab world are missing out on a big opportunity to mix with people from the highest echelons of science. At least that’s the suggestion when only two Arab researchers attended the Nobel Laureate Meeting at Lindau, Germany—an annual conference where Nobel winners present to and interact with young researchers from around the world.

The two researchers from the region, both from Egypt, were among the 625 undergraduate and postgraduate students attending. In 2011, there were 12 Arab participants, raising the question of whether the drop in number reflects a diminished interested between players in Arab research sectors.

The fact that invited ministers from Egypt and Algeria did not attend—nor invited professors from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology—seems to suggest so. But there’s more to this story, and you can find out all about it here.

In other news this week, scientists have come a step closer to understanding the role of intracellular scaffold protein (Sch1) in cell signalling. To do so, the research team, including  Mohamed Soliman from Cairo University, mapped all possible interactions between Sch1 and other cellular proteins and found 23 new Sch1-interacting proteins involved in various cellular processes. Read more details about their findings here.

Beyond the Hood

In case you are not fed up with adding the letter “i” to every new invention, check out the i-knife: it doesn’t pump music out of its handle as you cut your carrots, but it can actually tell surgeons whether the tissue they are cutting into is cancerous or not.

In a freshly published study to test out the “iKnife”, the invention was found to diagnose tissue samples from 91 patients with 100 percent accuracy, almost instantly providing information that normally takes about half an hour to reveal using regular laboratory tests.

Here’s how it works: when relying on electrosurgery—an old technique using knives with an electric current running through them to rapidly heat tissue and minimise blood loss—vapours  arising from the cut tissue creates smoke that is a rich source of biological information. The iKnife works by basically being an electrosurgical knife connected to a mass spectrometer, an instrument that can identify what chemicals are present in the ensuing smoke.

Since different types of cells produce metabolites in different concentrations, these can be used to identify exactly what is being cut into: in this case, whether the tissue is cancerous or not.

It’s uses can potentially go beyond this, helping users identify types of bacteria present in a tissue sample, and more generally determine whether what you are cutting into is, say, beef or horsemeat.

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