Showing posts with label biology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label biology. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Good Stuff in This Month's Wired

I thought Inside the New Arms Race to Control Bandwidth on the Battlefield was really interesting going into some of the issues of dealing with networking in an extremely hostile environment.

This Woman Invented a Way to Run 30 Lab Tests on Only One Drop of Blood "Instead of vials of blood—one for every test needed—Theranos requires only a pinprick and a drop of blood. With that they can perform hundreds of tests, from standard cholesterol checks to sophisticated genetic analyses. The results are faster, more accurate, and far cheaper than conventional methods."

Plus there's a nice video of a U2 spy plane taking off and flying which is a few years old from a TV show James May on the Moon.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Scientists Discover A New, Simpler Way To Make Stem Cells

Scientists discover a new, simpler way to make stem cells. "To transform mature cells into powerful stem cells that are a biological blank slate, the team simply bathed them in an acid bath for half an hour. The technique appears to be far easier and faster than current methods for creating these cells, which scientists are racing to develop into therapies for a range of diseases."

"The new work reveals a potentially cheap, fast, and simple avenue to create the powerful cells—by exposing mature cells to environmental stress instead of having to manipulate the genes inside the cell’s nucleus. If the finding is replicated by other scientists, it also promises to yield fresh insights into the behavior of cells, and demonstrates that important scientific advances often emerge from unexpected areas of inquiry."

"Ultimately, the team found that the environmental stress was producing the stem cells. The mechanism is not fully understood, but scientists saw telling changes in the pattern of molecules that attach to DNA and determine which genes are active. Further work showed that other types of stress, such as growing the cells in low oxygen or bathing them in a solution that is more acidic than milk but less than juice, transformed a portion of the cells into STAP cells—short for stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency. STAP cells had genetic markers that were signatures of stem cells, but they weren’t quite the same as true stem cells found in embryos. They didn’t live as long, and they couldn’t multiply indefinitely. But the researchers found that if they put the STAP cells in lab dishes with the right growth medium—a nutrient gel that is used to help embryonic stem cells multiply—the STAP stem cells became just like embryonic stem cells."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Scientists film how the brain makes memories for the first time ever

Scientists film how the brain makes memories for the first time ever. "For the first time in history, scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have captured how our brain makes memories in video, watching how molecules morph into the structures that, at the end of the day, make who we are."

Monday, December 02, 2013

After Antibiotics, the Feces Pill Remains

After Antibiotics, the Feces Pill Remains.

"Hirsch offers them an orange pill, which they swallow. Underneath the pill’s outer shell are several smaller gel capsules. Inside the smallest capsule is a glycerin-suspended clump of bacteria that’s been extracted from human feces. ‘It’s like a Russian doll,’ Hirsch told me. ‘With a surprise in the middle.’ Hirsch is one of just a few dozen specialists in the country who perform fecal transplants—procedures used primarily to treat people who have severe gut infections caused by an overgrowth of a bacteria called Clostridium difficile."

How odd, but given all we're learning about the microbiome it makes sense.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Unknown Bacteria Discovered in Two Spacecraft Clean Rooms

Unknown Bacteria Discovered in Two Spacecraft Clean Rooms "Scientists have discovered a microbe that – to their knowledge – can be found just two places on Earth. The first: a spacecraft clean room in Guiana. The second: a spacecraft clean room in Florida, some 2,500 miles away."

" Clean rooms – where space agencies like NASA and ESA prepare spacecraft prior to launch – are certainly among the most sterile places on Earth, and therefore seem a rather unlikely place to find new forms of life. And yet, it bears mentioning that this is not the first time scientists have found one to harbor a microbe. In fact, in 2007, despite scientists' best efforts to zap them into oblivion with intense heat, chemical cleaning, and UV radiation, samples collected from three different NASA cleanrooms turned up close to 100 different kinds of bacteria, about half of which were new to science. Point being: even in the cleanest of places, microbial life finds a way."

Thursday, November 07, 2013

New ligament discovered‬ in the human knee

New ligament discovered‬ in the human knee "Two knee surgeons at University Hospitals Leuven have discovered a previously unknown ligament in the human knee. This ligament appears to play an important role in patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears."

I don't understand how this wasn't noticed before, given all the knee surgeries and med students with cadavers.

Update: This makes more sense, No, science has not discovered a new body part. "What this new paper provides is a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the anterolateral ligament's relationship with other, nearby anatomical structures. In other words: How does this ligament, WHICH WE'VE KNOWN ABOUT FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY, function in concert with other components of the knee and leg?"

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Real Reason Why Sleep Deprivation Can Destroy You

This is a pretty interesting article. The Real Reason Why Sleep Deprivation Can Destroy You "In a nutshell, this new study provides evidence that we need a certain amount of sleep every night, because the brain takes this time to rid itself of toxic metabolic byproducts, which would otherwise accumulate in the brain and impair brain function, destroy neurons — and potentially cause neurodegenerative disorders."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

These images show just how differently cats and humans see the world

These images show just how differently cats and humans see the world "Cats and humans have very different perspectives on the world, both literally and figuratively. Indeed, as these visualizations beautifully illustrate, cats use their highly specialized eyes to see the world in a way that's far removed from what we experience."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The world’s first mind-controlled robotic leg is ready for prime time

io9 describes The world’s first mind-controlled robotic leg.

"Until now, the only thought-controlled prosthetics available to amputees were bionic arms. But the new leg will soon be available to the more than one million Americans with leg amputations. It was developed by lead scientist Levi Hargrove at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

The leg’s movements are controlled by a person’s original nerves, which are redirected to a small area of the thigh muscle. When these redirected nerves instruct the muscles to contract, sensors on the amputee’s leg detect tiny electrical signals from the muscles. These signals are then analyzed by a specially-designed computer program which instantaneously decodes the type of movement the patient is trying to perform (like moving the knee or ankle). It then sends these commands to the robotic leg."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Infants remember speech heard in the womb

Ars Technica writes Infants remember speech heard in the womb.

"Partanen wanted to explore this on a more detailed level. ‘Can babies learn from the music, speech, stories that they hear from the womb?’ he said. ‘We were interested in looking at this from a neurophysiological angle.’

In order to find out, Partanen and his colleagues used basic sounds. The fetuses in their studies were not played opera or told fairy tales: instead, participating families played multiple recordings of a sound several times a week during pregnancy. This sound was the pseudoword ‘tatata.’ Occasionally this sound was varied with a subtle pitch increment in the middle syllable.

Very soon after birth, researchers compared responses to these sounds when they were played to infants who had been exposed to it while in the womb, as well as those who had not. When recording the electrical activity of the brains of the infants using EEG, they found that the infants who had been exposed to the sounds previously reacted much more strongly to them. Furthermore, these infants were capable of discriminating the small pitch differences between the two versions."

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Patent life: how the Supreme Court fell short

Patent life: how the Supreme Court fell short - Boing Boing "You can't patent the building blocks of life, but you can patent a type of synthetic DNA that contains all the same information. Maggie Koerth-Baker explains how the Justices misunderstood the science and the effect that their verdict could have on future research.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia admitted he doesn’t really understand it. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote an entire court opinion implying—unconvincingly, to scientists—that he does. And, as of right now, there’s still nothing stopping you from filing patents on it. Meet complementary DNA (cDNA), the confusing molecule at the heart of the recent Supreme Court ruling on DNA patents.

The case, ruled upon in june, was hailed as a victory over efforts to turn the human genome into corporate property. But the ruling may not be the smackdown of gene patents that it appeared to be, and cDNA is where much of the uncertainly lies. Big questions remain: What is cDNA actually being used to do? Why does it matter who owns it? And what do scientists think this debate is really about?"

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Plants Avoid Starvation at Night By Doing Basic Math

Plants Avoid Starvation at Night By Doing Basic Math "Researchers from the John Innes Centre have shown that plants are capable of doing basic division — a calculation that helps them consume their starch reserves at a steady pace during nighttime."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The science of breast milk

Salan writes on The science of breast milk. "For decades, milk was thought of strictly in terms of nutrients, which makes sense—milk is how a mother feeds her baby, after all. But providing nutrients turns out to be only part of what milk does. And it might not even be the most important part."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Does Moderna Therapeutics Have the NEXT Next Big Thing in Medicine?

I really don't trust Boston Magazine for such a thing, but I hadn't heard of this and found it interesting. Does Moderna Therapeutics Have the NEXT Next Big Thing in Medicine? "At 12:01 a.m., the company’s PR firm sent a press release to media and investors over the PR Newswire, announcing triumphantly that Moderna was on the verge of ‘adding an entirely new drug category to the pharmaceutical arsenal in the fight against important diseases.’ What the company had been so quietly pioneering was a fundamentally new form of drug delivery—one that would allow for the targeted production of medicine inside the human body.

It was a startling idea. Moderna claimed to have figured out a way of instructing specific cells to manufacture drugs on demand. The company said it had completed extensive preclinical trials, including a successful trial in nonhuman primates. Still to come was the final frontier: clinical trials in humans. If they proved successful, Moderna declared, it would be able to slash the rate of drug discovery from years to mere weeks, and treat dozens of diseases for which currently there were no drugs. The practice of medicine, and the pharmaceutical business, would be changed forever."

Monday, March 11, 2013

‘Unclassified’ Life Found in Antarctic Lake

‘Unclassified’ Life Found in Antarctic Lake

"A preliminary examination of water samples from the ancient subglacial Lake Vostok near the South Pole indicated that its inhabitants are not to be found anywhere else on Earth, a member of the research team told RIA Novosti."

"‘After excluding all known contaminants…we discovered bacterial DNA that does not match any known species listed in global databanks. We call it unidentified and 'unclassified' life,’ Bulat said.

Seven samples of the same species of bacteria were found in water frozen on the head of the drill that was used in 2012 to reach the lake, covered by a 3.5-kilometer-thick ice sheet, but the match between its DNA and any known organisms never exceeded 86 percent, while a match of under 90 percent is already enough to indicate a new species, Bulat said."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How Scientists Stalked a Lethal Superbug

Wired last month had a good read, How Scientists Stalked a Lethal Superbug—With the Killer's Own DNA. "A lethal bacterium was running rampant at an NIH hospital. Antibiotics were useless. Then two scientists began a frantic race to track down the killer—with the superbug’s own DNA."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Surprising Brain Differences Between Democrats and Republicans

Chris Mooney wrote in Mother Jones, The Surprising Brain Differences Between Democrats and Republicans "The past two weeks have seen not one but two studies published in scientific journals on the biological underpinnings of political ideology. And these studies go straight at the role of genes and the brain in shaping our views, and even our votes."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

MP3 files written as DNA with storage density of 2.2 petabytes per gram

Ars Technica writes MP3 files written as DNA with storage density of 2.2 petabytes per gram "It's only within the past few decades, however, that humans have learned to speak DNA. Even then, it took a while to develop the technology needed to synthesize and determine the sequence of large populations of molecules. But we're there now, and people have started experimenting with putting binary data in biological form. Now, a new study has confirmed the flexibility of the approach by encoding everything from an MP3 to the decoding algorithm into fragments of DNA. The cost analysis done by the authors suggest that the technology may soon be suitable for decade-scale storage, provided current trends continue."

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Mark Lynas, environmentalist who opposed GMOs, admits he was wrong.

Mark Lynas, environmentalist who opposed GMOs, admits he was wrong.

"If you fear genetically modified food, you may have Mark Lynas to thank. By his own reckoning, British environmentalist helped spur the anti-GMO movement in the mid-‘90s, arguing as recently at 2008 that big corporations’ selfish greed would threaten the health of both people and the Earth. Thanks to the efforts of Lynas and people like him, governments around the world—especially in Western Europe, Asia, and Africa—have hobbled GM research, and NGOs like Greenpeace have spurned donations of genetically modified foods. But Lynas has changed his mind—and he’s not being quiet about it. On Thursday at the Oxford Farming Conference, Lynas delivered a blunt address: He got GMOs wrong."

I've never really looked at the issue in detail. My understanding has always been that farmers have crossed plants to make new hybrids and GMOs are just another way of doing that. GMOs can be more controlled in what they change, though it's really hard to know the effects on humans, particularly over the long term, without studies that probably don't happen to the extent we'd like (particularly over the long term). Still I'm for trying to improve things using best current practices. I'm not sure how it all pans out with patent issues and monopolies and while labeling is fine, there's no way to provide the public with information that would be at all useful in a decision. Still, given all that, I'm happy to see that someone discovered science, looked into the issue, and came to a conclusion, particularly one that was different from their original position. That's the way it's supposed to work.