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Articles on Basic research

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The lung-on-a-chip can mimic both the physical and mechanical qualities of a human lung. Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University/Flickr

Organ-on-a-chip models allow researchers to conduct studies closer to real-life conditions – and possibly grease the drug development pipeline

Successes in the lab mostly don’t translate to people. Research models that better mimic the human body could close the gap.
A single brilliant insight is only part of the story of how diabetes became a manageable disease. Douglas Grundy/Three Lions via Getty Images

Insulin was discovered 100 years ago – but it took a lot more than one scientific breakthrough to get a diabetes treatment to patients

A biomedical engineer explains the basic research that led to the discovery of insulin and its transformation into a lifesaving treatment for millions of people with diabetes.
Some of the dishes that make up the Square Kilometre Array’s radio telescope system. This kind of “blue skies” research can have great real-world value. MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP via Getty Images

COVID-19 budget pressures threaten curiosity-driven science. That’s a bad thing

The pandemic has underscored that the world requires agility for survival. That makes blue skies science, which encourages curiosity and nimble thinking, perhaps more important than ever.
Whether in the wild or in the lab, worms have an interesting story to tell. Sinhyu/iStock via Getty Images

Why do scientists care about worms?

‘Worm’ is really a catchall term for a huge variety of animals with different characteristics that span the tree of life. They hold clues about our own origins as well as hints about human health.
It takes time to see which finding might be a golden egg. Neamov/Shutterstock.com

Funding basic research plays the long game for future payoffs

Basic research can be easy to mock as pointless and wasteful of resources. But it’s very often the foundation for future innovation – even in ways the original scientists couldn’t have imagined.
Scientists are using a powerful gene editing technique to understand how human embryos develop. shutterstock

Genome editing of human embryos broadens ethics discussions

A new gene editing experiment explores human development. With this comes new ethical questions: How do scientists acquire embryos and how are their projects approved?
Polysaccharide molecules such as cellulose, seen here, are long chains of sugars that are very hard to break apart. Enzymes – proteins that can degrade polysaccharides – have many industrial uses. CeresVesta/Wikipedia

Scientist at work: Bio-prospecting for better enzymes

Bio-prospecting is the search for useful materials from natural sources. A biologist explains what we can learn from bacteria about breaking down plant material, and how we can use that knowledge.
Academic researchers need funding – especially as the federal government devotes less to basic research. Check image via www.shutterstock.com

Is it time for a new model to fund science research in higher education?

With federal support for on-campus R&D dwindling as a percentage of GDP, keeping basic research afloat is a challenge. Schools and researchers are left to try to fill in the funding gaps.
Embarking on the path to a PhD is a scary business. Shutterstock

Want to do your PhD in Africa? Here’s what you need to know

Many people are left floundering when they try to get working on their PhDs. In Africa, this is often because the skills they need haven’t been developed earlier in their academic careers.
Decreasing funding for fruit-fly research will hurt people, not flies. John Tann

Ode to the fruit fly: tiny lab subject crucial to basic research

These insects are so much more than just the scourge of fruit bowls everywhere. They’re a key model system for all kinds of research that teaches us about our own brain and body systems.

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