Down the Wires What looks like a ribbon threaded through holes…

Down the Wires

What looks like a ribbon threaded through holes in a frosty surface is actually a tiny nanowire, just one twenty-fifth of the diameter of a human hair, made of DNA and gold. To make it, a liquid containing gold nanoparticles and little circles of DNA is poured over a membrane full of holes (the punctures in the surface), along with a cocktail of chemicals that turn the DNA circles into long strands. As the liquid dries and sinks through the pores it pulls these DNA strands down through the holes, coating them with gold along the way. Once connected, the nanowires can send an electrical signal from one side of the membrane to the other. By tweaking the chemical mixture so it only makes wires in the presence of specific biological substances – such as bacteria or damaged genes – researchers are developing this technology to build miniature biosensors to detect diseases.

Written by Kat Arney

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Neanderthals cared for each other and survived into old age – new research


When we think of Neanderthals, we often imagine these distant ancestors of ours to be rather brutish, dying at a young age and ultimately becoming extinct. But new findings show that at least some of these ancient Neanderthals survived into old age – despite suffering from sickness or diseases.

Neanderthals were hunter-gatherers, living in harsh environments, mostly colder than today. And of course they had to face different dangers to modern humans – not only during the hunt, but also because they shared ecosystems with large carnivores such as lions, leopards and hyenas.

But despite this harsh life of the hunter gatherer, our research indicates that some Neanderthals lived to be fairly old and even had some of the signs of age related illnesses – such as degenerative lesions in the spine, consistent with osteoarthritis. Our research also found that an adult male Neanderthal survived bone fractures. And when he died, he was buried by members of his group. Read more.