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Using Snake Venom Protein to Fight Cancer

Q&As

While “snake oil” is shorthand for false cure, snake venom may have real healing power. At March 7’s SciCafe, From Poison to Panacea: Using Snake Venom to Combat Cancer,University of Southern California biochemistry professor Frank Markland will share his research on a protein found in snake venom and how it’s being used to combat cancer in the lab. Below, Markland answers a few questions about his research.

How are you using snake venom in cancer research?

Frank Markland: We injected contortrostatin, a protein found in southern copperhead snake venom, directly into the mammary glands of mice where human breast cancer cells had been injected two weeks earlier. Not only did the injection of this protein inhibit the growth of the tumor—it also slowed angiogenesis, the growth of blood vessels into the tumor that supply it with nutrients and allow the tumor to grow and spread. The protein also impaired the spread of the tumor to the lungs, one site where breast cancer spreads effectively.

Tags: Q&A, SciCafe

Animal Drawing Entices Artists of All Stripes

Education posts

For over 30 years, Museum naturalist and diorama master Stephen Quinn has shown students the art of drawing animals—from their skeletal composition, to their musculature, to the nuanced patterns of their coats and gaits. The course always draws students with a range of backgrounds, including expert medical illustrators and comic book artists as well as enthusiastic beginners. And every year, Quinn sees a few familiar faces.

One belongs to George Corbin, who has taken the course five times and has already signed up for Animal Drawing’s spring session, which will run for eight weeks beginning on Thursday, March 15. 

Tags: Art Classes for Adults

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A 19th-Century Gift

From the Collections posts

Not long ago, a descendant of John William Draper, a celebrated 19th-century naturalist, gave the Museum Draper’s collection of fossils from Whitby, England. The set, mostly ammonites, was neatly stowed in a wooden box along with a handwritten list of contents dated 1844 and a price stamp of 28 shillings.

“It’s a lovely cabinet of curiosities,” says Neil Landman, curator in the Division of Paleontology, who suspects Draper bought the collection whole, perhaps as a gift for his children or because it was “the kind of thing any respectable naturalist would have owned.”

Born in England in 1811, Draper emigrated to the U.S. in 1832 and rose to prominence as a chemist, botanist, historian, and pioneering photographer. He served as president of New York University from 1850 to 1873 and was a founder of the NYU Medical School, where he taught chemistry until a year before his death in 1882.

Tags: Paleontology

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Searching for Deep-Sea Monsters

From the Field posts

Curator John Sparks is blogging weekly about the upcoming exhibition, Creatures of Light, which opens on Saturday, March 31.

Although they look like alien beings right out of a (low-budget) horror film with huge, dagger-like teeth, enormous mouths, and their own lights, many of the deep-sea creatures we feature in the exhibition can be found in the deep, perpetually dark waters right off shore from our major cities, such as the Hudson Canyon near New York City and the San Diego Trough off of southern California. To collect these bizarre creatures, we tow a special net behind a boat far below the surface, an important method of collection not just for fishes, but for all kinds of invertebrates, and one that’s allowed us to learn more about the ocean’s inhabitants than any other technique. Once we retrieve the net from the depths, we sort and photograph the still-glowing catch on board. These images show some of the extraordinary deep-sea creatures we collected on a recent expedition off of southern California.

Tags: Bioluminescence

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