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Category Archives: 2. Animal Physiology

Happy New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my followers. And best wishes for the new school term.

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New TEDEd Lesson

I have just uploaded a new video and TEDEd lesson on the digestive system which I have been putting together for a while. I am also planning on updating my older video resources to bring them more up to date.

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I will be posting a Christmas Special video in the next few days so subscribe on YouTube to see it first.

Would you eat this burger?

Today in London the first ever lab-grown hamburger was cooked and eaten. Would you eat meat grown in a lab? Before you answer the question you should know more about how the burger was made and more importantly, why?

How the burger was made?
It was made by Professor Mark Post from Maastricht University in Holland using using stem cells taken from a dead cow. These are muscle specific stem cells that are then provided with nutrients so that they can divide over and over again by mitosis. The cells naturally come together to form small fibres called myotubes. These are electrically stimulated to make them contract and relax, this builds the muscle fibres just like going to the gym. They are then combined with fat grown in a lab and a few other additives such as beetroot for colour and then pressed into a burger. Therefore only a few cells are needed to make a whole burger, and potentially tons of meat.

Watch the video below to learn more about stem cells.

Why was the burger made?

  • We currently have a huge demand for meat in the world. The increase of the middle classes in countries such as India and China has further increased demand for meat and also the cost. Artificial meat could therefore provide a cheaper alternative to real meat.
  • The population is increasing at an exponential rate. Current methods of producing meat will not be sustainable in the future and so artificial meat may be a good solution as it can be grown using 99% less land. Using less land for animals means more can be used to grow crops such as fruit and vegetables which are healthy and much needed as the population continues to grow.
  • Current methods of meat production are very bad for the environment. A lot of energy is used to farm meat, from producing the feed to housing and slaughtering the livestock. However the major issue is methane. Ruminants such as sheep and cattle release a lot of methane due to their digestive system. Methane is a greenhouse gas which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This is contributing hugely to global warming and consequently climate change. In contrast, lab-grown beef uses 45% less less energy and produces 96% less greenhouse gases (Source: Environmental Science and Technology Journal).
  • Another issue is animal welfare. Many vegetarians and vegans have taken the life choice not to eat meat because they disagree with how animals are treated in the production of meat. Meat grown in the lab avoids the need to grow animals and slaughter them in the way we do now. Only one cow would be needed to make thousands and thousands of burgers.

Watch this video to see a nice summary of these issues.

What are the problems with lab-grown meat?

  • It costs about £250,000 to make lab-grown beef. However in the future when the cost of the technology involved becomes cheaper it could be economically viable to make meat on a mass scale. The question is will it ever be cheap enough to actually be used by the countries where it may be needed the most?
  • The taste of the meat may not be as good. At this afternoon’s tasting Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: “It’s close to meat, it’s not that juicy, the consistency is perfect”. It’s therefore expected that other additives will need to be used to make the meat taste better and also make it more healthy then regular meat.
  • Perhaps we should be focussing on managing our current issues with food such as food wastage – at the moment we throw away a 6th of all food!
  • The thought of growing food in a lab this way can be off-putting to people.

So now you know the details, have you made up your mind? If you’re still not sure watch this TED talk by Prof Mark Post and see if he can convince you.

Please comment below with your opinions on this amazing scientific development.

Photo credit: David Parry/PA

New IGCSE Quizlets available

I know a lot of recent visitors to the website have enjoyed using Quizlet to help with their revision. For anyone who hasn’t used Quizlet before you can learn what it is, and how to use it, by clicking here. There are now two new quizes available to help you revise Food and Digestion, just click on the links below to access them:

IGCSE Biology – Nutrition and Biochemistry

IGCSE Biology – Digestion and Enzymes

For anyone studying this topic I’d recommend watching Hank Green’s YouTube video below. He will take you on a crash course through the bowels of the human digestive system and explain why it’s all about surface area!

Hank’s YouTube channel is a great resource for anyone studying Biology, it has 40 different videos covering topics such as photosynthesis, meiosis, natural selection and ecology. Why don’t you check it out!

Raising Asthma Awareness

Did you know that asthma is one of the most common causes of absence from school? It is a chronic lung disease that often develops during childhood and currently affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide.

Asthma is a very interesting disease because it is extremely common but can only be managed and not cured. Whilst we understand how asthma affects the respiratory system we still don’t understand what exactly causes it. Scientists believe that changes in human lifestyles, human influences on the environment, genetic factors and the development of the immune system in early life may all contribute to the disease.

In recent years the number of people suffering with asthma has increased so rapidly that it is now one of the biggest mysteries in modern medicine! To help raise awareness of this common condition the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) has made today World Asthma Day.

To learn more about the symptoms of asthma and how it affects the respiratory system just watch the video below for a clear scientific explanation.

Need help with revision?

Over the next month I will be posting various resources to help you revise for your exams. This will include hints, tips, videos, summaries, tests and planners. Once they have been posted you will also be able to find them on the relevant pages.

IGCSE Biology Revision

OCR AS Biology Revision

OCR A2 Biology Revision

The first resource, available to download now, is a revision tracker. It can be used for any subject but is particularly useful when revising for a factual subject such as Biology. Every time you complete a test or a past paper question, you should write down anything you get wrong on the tracker. This will allow you to keep a note of your weakest topics and help you to focus your revision in the weeks leading up to your exam or test.

I have also posted an IGCSE revision quiz for the whole of Section B: Human Physiology. The quiz takes about 30 minutes to complete and I’d recommend doing it several times as it’s a really effective way to improve your factual recall. I wrote the the quiz using the Edexcel textbook so all the answers can be found there.

Please write in the comments below if you’ve found these helpful, or if there are any other revision resources that you’d like me to create.

Watch me dissect a pig’s eye!

I have just uploaded my latest dissection to my YouTube channel. This dissection is in HD and has labelled diagrams throughout to help explain the major structures of the eye.


You can also revise everything you need to know about the eye for IGCSE by viewing my Slideshare PowerPoint below, which is also available to download.

Both these resources, and many more to help you understand the eye, can be found by visiting the IGCSE Coordination section of my website.

No Smoking Day 2013

Today is officially No Smoking Day, so if you want to swap your fags for swag check out the WeQuit website for information, support and tips to help you kick the habit for good.

No Smoking Day 2013 v2

When I was at school smoking was everywhere. At 16 you could legally buy cigarettes, smoking was allowed inside pubs and clubs, tobacco was advertised on billboards, and tobacco brands were the prominent sponsors of Formula 1. However, times have now changed and it was only reported in the news last week that UK Ministers will soon be introducing plain packaging for cigarettes and a ban on smoking in cars carrying passengers under 16.

However, two-thirds of smokers start smoking before the age of 18, and studies show that just one cigarette a month is enough to get teenagers addicted for life. So if it’s young people who start smoking, the big question is will any of these changes deter school children from starting the habit in the first place? Tell me what you think by commenting below.

And if you’re unsure as to how smoking harms the body then why don’t you watch Gunther von Hagens, of Bodyworlds fame, explain the dangers of smoking in the video below.

Suffering from a broken heart?

heartIt’s Valentine’s day! A day to celebrate being in love. However, not everyone has that someone special. Maybe you’re suffering from a broken heart. The good news is that it can’t be as badly broken as the sheep’s heart I recently dissected.

You can view my dissection, which demonstrates the major structures found in the heart, on my YouTube channel. Or maybe try my ‘flipped’ lesson on TED-Ed.

I will be posting my next dissection, a pig eye, in a few weeks time!


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