A completely artificial immune system quickly pumps out much-needed antibodies

Antibodies (Y-shaped) respond to a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Image: Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

In the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak, Maker communities around the globe fired up their 3D printers to come to the aid of overburdened hospitals and first responders. Individuals and groups of amateurs and experts alike created 3D-printed face shields, masks, and ventilators. In labs, tissue engineers printed organs like lungs and blood vessels to study the devastating effects of the disease.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, one group of scientists pushed 3D printing technology to the limit: They synthesized an entire functional immune system. Researchers at the biotech company Prellis Biologics have developed a fully synthetic system of 3D-printed…

On the malleable nature of memory.

For a long time, I held a very vivid memory in my mind of petting a dolphin at the San Francisco zoo when I was ten years old. Each time I brought this scene to mind, it seemed as though the memory became clearer and more vivid.

I remember wearing a sweatshirt my mother had bought for me at the beginning of our visit. I remember that it was summer but unseasonably cool outside. …

Photo by John Robert Marasigan on Unsplash

Who We Are When We’re Uncertain

When I die I don’t want it to fall on anyone to rummage through all of my things and decide what to do with them. I picture someone exhuming old pieces of paper and photographs and tchotchkes I probably had not touched for years and ascribing some kind of fake significance to them in their grief, or in their guilt at a lack of grief.

Everything I presently own can fit inside the oblong square of poured concrete underneath my feet where I’m sitting, bare-legged in a dress on my mother’s front steps at…

The circadian cycles of sickness and health

Each year, many of us welcome small pleasures of autumn, like watching the leaves proceed through a spectrum of fiery jewel tones before raking them into big crunchy piles, bundling ourselves up in cosy sweaters as temperatures drop, and stealing an extra hour of sleep as millions of Americans turn their clocks back by an hour.

It’s hard to resist the appeal of ignoring the alarm clock and retreating into a mound of blankets on a dark and chilly morning, but the end of daylight savings time and its return in the spring are also accompanied by an array of…

Understanding the neuroscience of addiction and drug tolerance

Years ago, while I was studying for the GRE, the major admissions exam required by many PhD programs, a friend was also studying for her MCAT. As exams go, the GRE is unpleasant but not unendurable. Typically, you plan to spend 4 uninterrupted hours in a room with a few other students staggered at computers walled away in cubicles. By comparison, the MCAT clocks in at a monolithic 7.5 hours, spanning a dizzying range of topics. What’s more, most aspiring medical students plan on taking it at least twice.

For weeks ahead of our respective test dates, we quizzed each…

When I stopped struggling against my mental illness

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

I pulled the bed sheet back down over my nose and hit the light switch on the floor beside me as soon as I was sure my mother had found her way to her bed. I must have made some pained sub-verbal noise as I rolled over. Maybe it was the miasma of stress-related body aches that were only disentangled at night, once I’d used up all of my daytime distractions and was left with nothing but insomnia and my own horrible thoughts to sit with until the sun came up and I could start pretending to be busy with…

Face blindness, communication, and neurodiversity in digital social life

“It’s so nice to see your face” is a phrase I’ve heard more in the past three weeks than I have over the sum of the last several years. When our lab shut down, we were, along with millions of others, plunged into a panicked state of suspended animation. Each morning we would check the news for newly diagnosed cases of Covid-19, new restrictions on our movement, and ad hoc guidelines for our behaviour that all seemed to come in an uncensored contradictory flood.

During this time, we worked to hastily determine who would be permitted to return to campus…

Empathy and Pain in the Evolution of our Social Brains

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

My first mouse of the day was called “LG1202”. Had I met this mouse in a different time, maybe found him in a pet store or in my back yard, this wouldn’t have been the name I’d chosen for him. To me, he was more of a “Peanut” or “Potato”, something to match his compact, doughy little body and his big wet inquisitive eyes. He didn’t look like an “LG1202”. No one really looks like an “LG1202,” though, and there’s strategy in this. When we work with animals, we name…

How dopamine helps you pick your battles

If you want a mouse to learn something quickly, give it a strawberry milkshake.

Behavioural neuroscientists know that mice have a powerful sweet tooth, so it’s common in this kind of research to use saccharin or glucose as a reward. But mice crave strawberry milkshakes so strongly that they’ll work harder for a few sips than for other kinds of sweets. They’ll also make fewer mistakes and complete more trials during cognitive tasks before they give up.

Every mouse has a break point, though. Even when the stakes are as high as a strawberry milkshake.

Mine was during graduate school…

Stress, hunger, and the double-edged sword of the ketogenic diet

In the beginning, medicine was messy. Before we had the technology to see into cells, all we had was observation, inference, and good old fashioned knives. And in the very beginning, we didn’t even have the luxury of being able to cut people open to see how everything fit together: in many parts of the world, for religious and cultural reasons, human dissection was strictly off the table. So early students of human form and function had to make do with animals and hope that our own guts were arranged…

Lindsay Gray

Neuroscientist & cellist. Explorer of the weird wonders of the human brain.

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