Science Journal

Borkenkäfer (Foto: Rafal Konieczny, Creative Commons 3.0)

We’ve heard the politicians and the eco-activists’ views on the Šumava – but what do the scientists say? And by the way, how do cells read DNA? That’s what we’ll be trying to get our heads around this month on Science Journal.

Where do the trillions of cells in the human body (or other bodies for that matter) get their instructions from? They read the book of DNA. But how? No one has yet been able to quite figure that out apparently. Scientists from the Molecular genetics Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences though have taken a good step in the right direction, helping to explain how histones – special proteins that help protect DNA in the cell nucleus – can change certain molecules of RNA if they are modified only slightly. Meanwhile, it’s incorrect changes to RNA splices that cause a number of diseases, so learning to properly modify the histones could be a step towards curing certain timorous or neurodegenerative diseases. But why try to explain it poorly myself when I can get an expert explanation from Dr David Staňek of the Molecular genetics Institute, whose team made the discovery…

Photo: Rafal Konieczny,  Creative Commons 3.0
What’s fuzzy and brown, about five millimetres long and can devour a forest? None other than Ips typographus, better known as the bark beetle – which has done untold damage to one of the most important natural preserves in the Czech Republic, the Šumava, or Bohemian Forest. Part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and one of the most beautiful places in the country for hiking or skiing, when a tree falls in the forest - whether at the hands of loggers or the mandibles of the bark beetle -everyone hears it. The ongoing debate that we have followed for years is whether to combat the infestation by logging the infested areas - as the current park management wants to do - or to leave mother nature to clean up after herself. We hear from the politicians and environmental groups on a regular basis, but less so what the natural scientists have to say on the matter. To that end, I called Dr. Jan Frouz of Charles University’s Institute for Environmental Studies, who I asked for a judgement on the polarised positions…

Jan Frouz the Institute for Environmental Studies there, ending this month’s edition of Science Journal, we’ll be with you again with more science news in roughly 27 days, 23 hours and 45 minutes.