ABOUT Stephanie Swift

Avatar of Stephanie Swift

Stephanie Swift is a British postdoctoral scientist at McMaster University, Canada, where she works to understand how viruses interact with the immune system. She writes about lots of different aspects of science, and is very pleased to live in a wonderfully intricate world full of glorious things to write about.


Stephanie Swift: All Posts


More evidence that red wine and aspirin protect against cancer

Posted 14 February 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Cancer is a disease of genes. DNA mutations mess with the genetic content of a cell, enabling it to escape the normal controls that restrict their growth. Now, a team of scientists led by Delphine Lissa and Guido Kroemer at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris have begun exploring ways to slow or stop the formation of cells containing multiple copies of chromosomes, which they think are an essential intermediate in cancer formation. Normal healthy cells... Read more

Bright Night Lights: Tracking Light Pollution from Space

Posted 3 February 2014 by Stephanie Swift

The creep and sprawl of artificial urban lighting is probably the most pervasive technological innovation of the 20th century. Keeping track of how artificial light is changing Europe’s nightscape is important, since more light is typically associated with greater economic development and urban expansion, but moderating light consumption helps to stabilise the ecosystem and energy security. Scientists have recently used satellite night images going back as far as 1992 (publicly available from the Defense Meterological Satellite Program databank) to analyse... Read more

Where in the body do our emotions lie?

Posted 17 January 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Emotions are strange things, bursting over us as we react to life’s joys and challenges. While they might be thought of as ethereal entities with no fixed form or function, emotions actually produce very tangible physical reactions throughout the body. These emotionally-driven physical reactions are important for surviving in the real world. For example, fear generates a helpful physical response that prepares your body to fight or flee. But we don’t really know if an emotion can fuel a reaction... Read more

Antibiotics release death sugars that help bad bugs to grow

Posted 23 December 2013 by Stephanie Swift

In the 1940’s, antibiotics were hailed as wonder drugs. “Syphilis is now curable!”, ran the posters. Yet in modern times, several dark sides of these drugs have come to light. The widespread overuse of antibiotic therapy has driven the emergence of superstrong bacteria, like MRSA, that resist the activity of conventional antibiotics. Antibiotic therapy is also troubled by the problematic core concept that it lacks specificity, and wipes out good and bad bugs alike. This is particularly worrying as we... Read more

A Marvellous Month of Science

Posted 3 December 2013 by Stephanie Swift

Fungal extracts prevent hepatitis C virus infection Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a huge cause of liver cancer, but current treatments are very expensive and not that great. Since HCV is a cunning little virus capable of quickly evolving drug resistance, simultaneously attacking it at several key points during its life cycle has the best chance of resolving infection. Researchers in Japan have now created and screened a library of 300 natural drugs isolated from fungi found on seaweed, mosses... Read more

Chilly temperatures help cancers grow

Posted 19 November 2013 by Stephanie Swift

At low temperatures, the human body has a hard time. As the cold sets in, blood vessels constrict to maintain heat and some body parts – like fingers and toes – begin to suffer. Metabolism ramps up to fight the cold and shivering sets in. As these conditions continue, everything becomes sluggish as the cells of your body do not work as well. The body enters a state of thermal stress and only the most vital systems, like the brain,... Read more

Creepy crawly centipedes are a source of new high-strength painkillers

Posted 8 November 2013 by Stephanie Swift

I'm dreading the day I get knocked up, since I know that my incredibly low pain threshold will have trouble dealing with the crazy horror that is childbirth. That’s why I was overjoyed to hear of some new research from Australia, where a new high-strength painkiller has been isolated from the venom of the Chinese red-headed centipede, Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans. In the insect world, centipedes are king of the hill – their venom is debilitating to their prey, helping them... Read more

Pumping out Petrol with Bioengineered Bugs

Posted 1 November 2013 by Stephanie Swift

One of the terribly tricky questions in this ol’ world of ours is how to sustain a species that likes to extract toxic crude oil from the ground and use it in a way that’s disturbingly damaging to the environment they inhabit. But imagine how much closer we would be to a renewable energy eutopia if instead of sucking fossil fuel out of the earth, there was an alternative way to satisfy our hunger for fuel. Enter: microbes. We’ve already... Read more

“Grape-like aromas” keep mosquitoes at bay

Posted 18 October 2013 by Stephanie Swift

The mosquito is my dad's nemesis in the insect world. He will go to extraordinary lengths to secure his person from mosquito attack, roaming the corridors on night patrols and jamming mosquito repellent devices into every possible plug socket. Such devices are usually based on the chemical, N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, or DEET. The problem with DEET is it’s expensive, it has nasty effects on our own skin and mosquitos are evolving resistance to it. But replacing DEET has proven a tricky... Read more

A Marvellous Month of Infectious Science

Posted 4 October 2013 by Stephanie Swift

Cold weather helps to spread flu across the country A very cool new study from McMaster University researchers shows how weather patterns impact the spread of influenza A virus across Canada. Using outbreak data gathered over more than 13 years, the virus could be tracked over time and space. Influenza A tended to first emerge in the colder, less humid provinces of Western Canada (British Columbia and Alberta), and then spread across the country to the East. Schools also represented... Read more