27 may 2009

Science podcast: pheromones & diabetes


Find out how pheromones influence the sex and social lives of animals and how researchers gained new insight into a rare type of diabetes in the latest Inside Oxford Science podcast.

Inside Oxford Science is presented by Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics and Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, and is a regular series of audio podcasts for iTunesU and www.ox.ac.uk The series gives anyone the chance to listen to Oxford University scientists discussing the latest scientific discoveries and stories.

In the third edition zoologist Dr Tristram Wyatt explores the science of pheromones – chemicals secreted by everything from insects to mammals, fish to reptiles in an effort to change the behaviour of other members of the same species.

In the fifty years since pheromones were first discovered we’ve learnt how they dominate the sex lives of many animals, how they can be used in foraging and navigation and even how they can be ‘forged’ by predators.

Dr Wyatt goes on to examine the question of whether humans use pheromones and, if they do, why no one has identified them yet.

Professor Frances Ashcroft then tells us about her role in basic research into diabetes. 25 years ago she discovered that a protein known as a potassium channel is crucially important for insulin release.

After many years of detective work researchers found the DNA sequence that coded for the channel. Professor Ashcroft identified clones of the genes involved (Kir6.2) that enabled the search for mutations associated with diabetes.

Marcus du Sautoy
Inside Oxford Science is presented by Professor Marcus du Sautoy

In 2004 she and Andrew Hattersley discovered that mutations in Kir6.2 are associated with a rare form of diabetes that manifests at birth or shortly after, known as neonatal diabetes.

Their discoveries suggested a new treatment for this rare form of diabetes that led to some remarkable stories of children with the condition being able to walk and speak for the very first time.

Joining in the discussion are cosmologist Professor Pedro Ferreira and press officer and science communicator Dr Jonathan Wood.

You can read more about this podcast in Inside Oxford Science Extra on the Oxford Science Blog.

Inside Oxford Science #3Presenter: Professor Marcus du SautoyFeaturing: Professor Pedro Ferreira, Professor Frances Ashcroft, Dr Tristram Wyatt, Dr Jonathan WoodProducer: Pete Wilton
Assistant Producer: Jonathan Wood
Editor: Steve Pierce

Frances Ashcroft photo by Robert Taylor www.taylor-photo.co.uk