Science in the Media

Science is a prominent topic that our traditional media outlets as well as newer platforms such as blogs frequently discuss. Here we provide you with a number of articles from the BBC News – Health website as examples of Science in the news.

When reading through these articles consider these discussion points with respect to biomarkers:

1) Is the topic being discussed a candidate biomarker?

2) Could the location of the biomarker be as important as the ability to define if it is present?

3) If we identify a biomarker is there the opportunity to use it for any other reason?

A really visual look at some human diseases.

Hidden Beauty: Diseases become art under a microscope:

These are two articles on a debate about the importance of using antibiotics to treat infectious diseases.

Battling the bacterial threat to modern medicine:

Antibiotics resistance ‘as big a risk as terrorism’ – medical chief:

Finally an interesting example of science innovation.

The light fantastic: Harnessing Nature’s glow:


Diabetes is a disease where there is too much sugar (glucose) in the blood.

Glucose enters your body from the foods you eat such as cakes, fruits, pasta and bread. Your body uses glucose as energy for everything you do.

The insulin peptide structure

Insulin is a hormone that is made in the pancreas when there is too much glucose in the blood. Insulin acts like a key that opens the doors that lets glucose move from the blood and into your cells. It is then used for energy.

When someone’s body loses its ability to produce Insulin, they have Type 1 Diabetes and when someone’s Insulin loses its ability to ‘open the door’ to their cells, they have Type 2 Diabetes.




  • Frequent urination
  • Dehydration
  • Thirst

Problems caused by Diabetes

  • Blindness
  • Kidney failure
  • Problems with legs and feet
  • Death

Some facts about Diabetes…

Type 1 Diabetes

  • Genetic (inherit from parents)
  • Autoimmune condition (your immune system attacks your pancreas, leading to Diabetes)
  • Begins when you are a kid
  • Need to inject Insulin into your body everyday for treatment

Type 2 Diabetes

  • Lifestyle (lack of exercise, obesity)
  • Can happen at any age
  • Need to live a healthier life, exercise more and sometimes take medicines for treatment.

Discussion Points: Diabetes is one example of where a biomarker test is used on a daily basis by patients. Here the focus is on self-management not diagnosis. Can you think of any other health issues that would benefit from such a strategy?

Horse meat scandal

The “horse meat scandal” hit the headlines back in January when the food standards agency (FSA) in Ireland found beef burgers being supplied to supermarkets in the UK, had traces of horse DNA. This led to nationwide testing of products, and a range of processed beef products being taken off the shelves. As of the end of March, the FSA said 5,430 tests had been carried out in the UK, with 17 different products including Findus beef lasagne testing positive.

So how do we test for horse meat? One of the most reliable tests is called “PCR”. In PCR specific short pieces of horse DNA are used to bind to and detect any horse DNA in the product being tested. The test makes copies of the horse DNA found and these can then be counted in real time as they are produced a percentage calculated. Here the DNA is being used as the biomarker.

Horse meat itself is not a risk to humans, and is in fact sometimes on the menu in countries! However, if horse is being illegally put into food products, it may contain banned substances such as bute, a horse drug which can be harmful to humans (but only if we eat a lot!). It has made a lot of people worry about what is actually in their food and whether they can trust the label!

Wikipedia article:

Dicsussion Points: The horsemeat issue is another use of biomarkers. Not only are they used in diagnosis, we exploit them in food quality tests and other areas. Can you think of anywhere else testing for a biomarker would be useful?