Medicine

Scientists Float Soap Bubbles As a More Effective Drug Delivery Method 15

Posted by Soulskill
from the bad-news-if-you-enjoy-getting-stabbed-by-sharp-objects dept.
Zothecula writes: As if soap bubbles don't spread enough happiness on their own, scientists have discovered a way of coating them in biomolecules with a view to treating viruses, cancer and other diseases. The technology has been developed at the University of Maryland, where researchers devised a method of tricking the body into mistaking the bubbles for harmful cells, triggering an immune response and opening up new possibilities in the delivery of drugs and vaccines.
Biotech

New Study Says Governments Should Ditch Reliance On Biofuels 216

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-switchgrass? dept.
HughPickens.com writes The NYT reports on a new study from a prominent environmental think tank that concludes turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand. They add that continuing to pursue this strategy is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world's growing population. "I would say that many of the claims for biofuels have been dramatically exaggerated," says Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a global research organization based in Washington that is publishing the report. "There are other, more effective routes to get to a low-carbon world." The report follows several years of rising concern among scientists about biofuel policies in the United States and Europe, and is the strongest call yet by the World Resources Institute, known for nonpartisan analysis of environmental issues, to urge governments to reconsider those policies.

Timothy D. Searchinger says recent science has challenged some of the assumptions underpinning many of the pro-biofuel policies that have often failed to consider the opportunity cost of using land to produce plants for biofuel. According to Searchinger, if forests or grasses were grown instead of biofuels, that would pull carbon dioxide out of the air, storing it in tree trunks and soils and offsetting emissions more effectively than biofuels would do. What is more, as costs for wind and solar power have plummeted over the past decade, and the new report points out that for a given amount of land, solar panels are at least 50 times more efficient than biofuels at capturing the energy of sunlight in a useful form. "It's true that our first-generation biofuels have not lived up to their promise," says Jason Hill said. "We've found they do not offer the environmental benefits they were purported to have, and they have a substantial negative impact on the food system."
Biotech

FDA Wants To Release Millions of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In Florida 262

Posted by samzenpus
from the I've-seen-this-movie dept.
MikeChino writes In an attempt to curb outbreaks of two devastating tropical diseases in the Florida Keys, the FDA is proposing the release of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into the area. Scientists have bred male mosquitoes with virus gene fragments, so when they mate with the females that bite and spread illness, their offspring will die. This can reduce the mosquito population dramatically, halting the spread of diseases like dengue fever.
Medicine

Scientists Discover How To Track Natural Errors In DNA Replication 19

Posted by samzenpus
from the points-of-failure dept.
BarbaraHudson writes Researchers figured out how to label and keep track of new pieces of DNA, and learned to follow the enzyme responsible for copying those pieces. Their research focused on enzymes called polymerases. These enzymes create small regions in DNA that act as scaffolds for the copied DNA. Scientists assumed that the body deletes the scaffolds containing errors, or mutations, and the standard computer models supported this theory. However, the actual research showed that about 1.5 percent of those erroneous scaffolds are left over, trapped within the DNA. After running models, scientists now believe they can track how DNA replicates and find the most likely areas where these scaffolds with errors turn up. The erroneous scaffolds usually appear close to genetic switches, those regions that turn on when genes activate. The mutations damage the switch, which results in genetic disease, as well as increasing the likelihood of cancer.
Biotech

Scientists Determine New Way To Untangle Proteins By Unboiling an Egg 155

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-would-like-my-eggs-undone-please dept.
An anonymous reader sends word of this biotech breakthrough. "Univ. of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites—an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published in ChemBioChem. 'Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,' said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. 'In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 min at 90 C and return a key protein in the egg to working order.'"
Biotech

New Advance Confines GMOs To the Lab Instead of Living In the Wild 130

Posted by timothy
from the we've-decided-to-put-this-in-everyone dept.
BarbaraHudson (3785311) writes In Jurassic Park, scientists tweak dinosaur DNA so that the dinosaurs were lysine-deficient in order to keep them from spreading in the wild. Scientists have taken this one step further as a way to keep genetically modified E. coli from surviving outside the lab. In modifying the bacteria's DNA to thwart escape, two teams altered the genetic code to require amino acids not found in nature. One team modified the genes that coded for proteins crucial to cell functions so that that produced proteins required the presence of the synthetic amino acid in the protein itself. The other team focused on 22 genes deemed essential to a bacterial cell's functions and tied the genes' expression to the presence of synthetic amino acids. For the bacteria to survive, these synthetic amino acids had to be present in the medium on which the bacteria fed. In both cases, the number of escapees was so small as to be undetectable."
Biotech

Drug Company CEO Blames Drug Industry For Increased Drug Resistance 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the who's-to-blame dept.
BarbaraHudson writes Times Live is reporting that while doctors have usually been blamed for bacterial resistance because of over-prescribing, Karl Rotthier, chief executive of the Dutch DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals, claims lax procedures at drugs companies are the real cause. "Most antibiotics are now produced in China and India and I do not think it is unjust to say that the environmental conditions have been quite different in these regions. Poor controls mean that antibiotics are leaking out and getting into drinking water. They are in the fish and cattle that we eat, and global travel and exports mean bacteria are traveling. That is making a greater contribution to the growth of antibiotic resistance than over-prescribing", Rothier said. "We cannot have companies discharging untreated waste water into our environment, contributing to illness and, worse, antibacterial resistance. We cannot accept that rivers in India show higher concentrations of active antibiotic than the blood of someone undergoing treatment."
Biotech

Hibernation Protein May Halt Alzheimer's 79

Posted by timothy
from the all-ideas-welcome dept.
BarbaraHudson writes The BBC is reporting that tests show a protein called RBM3, involved in hibernation, may hold the key to regenerating synapses. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, and other neurodegenerative disorders, synapses are lost. This inevitably progresses to whole brain cells dying. But during hibernation, 20-30% of the connections in the brain — synapses — are culled as the body preserves resources over winter, and are reformed in the spring, with no loss of memory. Memories can be restored after hibernation as only the receiving end of the synapse shuts down. In a further set of tests, the team showed the brain cell deaths from prion disease and Alzheimer's could be prevented by artificially boosting RBM3 levels. Prof Mallucci was asked if memories could be restored in people if their synapses could be restored: "Absolutely, because a lot of memory decline is correlated with synapse loss, which is the early stage of dementia, so you might get back some of the synapse you've lost."

Further reading: here, here, and here"
Biotech

Russia Plans To Build World First DNA Databank of All Living Things 83

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-in-one-place dept.
An anonymous reader writes Researchers from Moscow State University plan to build a database that will house the DNA of every creature known to man. The University has secured a $194 million grant for the project dubbed "Noah's Ark." The gigantic "ark," set to be completed by 2018, will be 430 sq km in size, built at one of the university's central campuses. "It will enable us to cryogenically freeze and store various cellular materials, which can then reproduce. It will also contain information systems. Not everything needs to be kept in a petri dish," MSU rector Viktor Sadivnichy says.
Biotech

How Venture Capitalist Peter Thiel Plans To Live 120 Years 441

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-for-a-dip-in-the-lazarus-pit dept.
HughPickens.com writes Bloomberg News reports that venture capitalist and paypal co-founder Peter Thiel has a plan to reach 120 years of age. His secret — taking human growth hormone (HGH) every day, a special Paleo diet, and a cure for cancer within ten years. "[HGH] helps maintain muscle mass, so you're much less likely to get bone injuries, arthritis," says Thiel. "There's always a worry that it increases your cancer risk but — I'm hopeful that we'll get cancer cured in the next decade." Human growth hormone also known as somatotropin or somatropin, is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans and other animals. Thiel says he also follows a Paleo diet, doesn't eat sugar, drinks red wine and runs regularly. The Paleolithic diet, also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a modern nutritional diet designed to emulate, insofar as possible using modern foods, the diet of wild plants and animals eaten by humans during the Paleolithic era. Thiel's Founders Fund is also investing in a number of biotechnology companies to extend human lifespans, including Stem CentRx Inc., which uses stem cell technology for cancer therapy. With the 70 plus years remaining him and inspired by "Atlas Shrugged," Thiel also plans to launch a floating sovereign nation in international waters, freeing him and like-minded thinkers to live by libertarian ideals with no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.
Biotech

Machine Learning Reveals Genetic Controls 14

Posted by Soulskill
from the finally-explains-why-your-ears-stick-out-so-far dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this quote from Quanta Magazine: Most genetic research to date has focused on just 1 percent of the genome — the areas that code for proteins. But new research, published today in Science, provides an initial map for the sections of the genome that orchestrate this protein-building process. "It's one thing to have the book — the big question is how you read the book," said Brendan Frey, a computational biologist at the University of Toronto who led the new research (abstract).

For example, researchers can use the model to predict what will happen to a protein when there’s a mistake in part of the regulatory code. Mutations in splicing instructions have already been linked to diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy, a leading cause of infant death, and some forms of colorectal cancer. In the new study, researchers used the trained model to analyze genetic data from people afflicted with some of those diseases. The scientists identified some known mutations linked to these maladies, verifying that the model works. They picked out some new candidate mutations as well, most notably for autism.

One of the benefits of the model, Frey said, is that it wasn’t trained using disease data, so it should work on any disease or trait of interest. The researchers plan to make the system publicly available, which means that scientists will be able to apply it to many more diseases.
Medicine

Researchers Accidentally Discover How To Turn Off Skin Aging Gene 175

Posted by Soulskill
from the vain-mice-everywhere-rejoice dept.
BarbaraHudson sends this excerpt from The Province: While exploring the effects of the protein-degrading enzyme Granzyme B on blood vessels during heart attacks, professor David Granville and other researchers at the University of British Columbia couldn't help noticing that mice engineered to lack the enzyme had beautiful skin at the end of the experiment, while normal mice showed signs of age. The discovery pushed Granville's research in an unexpected new direction.

The researchers built a mechanized rodent tanning salon and exposed mice engineered to lack the enzyme and normal mice to UV light three times a week for 20 weeks, enough to cause redness, but not to burn. At the end of the experiment, the engineered mice still had smooth, unblemished skin, while the normal mice were deeply wrinkled.

Granzyme B breaks down proteins and interferes with the organization and the integrity of collagen, dismantling the scaffolding — or extra-cellular matrix — that cells bind to. This causes structural weakness, leading to wrinkles. Sunlight appears to increase levels of the enzyme and accelerate its damaging effects.
Biotech

Brain Stimulation For Entertainment? 88

Posted by Soulskill
from the volunteer-your-neighbors-as-guinea-pigs dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been used for years to diagnose and treat neural disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer's, and depression. Soon the medical technique could be applied to virtual reality and entertainment. Neuroscientist Jeffrey Zacks writes, "it's quite likely that some kind of electromagnetic brain stimulation for entertainment will become practical in the not-too-distant future." Imagine an interactive movie where special effects are enhanced by zapping parts of the brain from outside to make the action more vivid. Before brain stimulation makes it to the masses, however, it has plenty of technical and safety hurdles to overcome.
Biotech

Material Possiblities: A Flying Drone Built From Fungus 52

Posted by timothy
from the mushroom-treatment dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes What if you could construct an unmanned aerial vehicle out of biological material, specifically a lightweight-but-strong one known as mycelium? The vegetative part of a fungus, mycelium is already under consideration as a building material; other materials would include cellulose sheets, layered together into "leather," as well as starches worked into a "bioplastic." While a mushroom-made drone is probably years away from takeoff, a proposal for the device caught some attention at this year's International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. Designed by a team of students from Brown, Spelman, and Stanford Universities in conjunction with researchers from NASA, such a drone would (theoretically) offer a cheap and lightweight way to get a camera and other tools airborne. 'If we want to fly it over wildfires to see where it's spreading, or if there's a nuclear meltdown and we want to fly in to see what's going on with the radioactivity, we can send in the drone and it can send back data without returning,' Ian Hull, a Stanford sophomore involved in the project, told Fast Company.
Biotech

Nanotube Film Could Replace Defective Retinas 24

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-what-if-I-like-the-idea-of-lasers-in-my-eyes dept.
Zothecula writes: A promising new study (abstract) suggests that a wireless, light-sensitive, and flexible film could potentially form part of a prosthetic device to replace damaged or defective retinas. The film both absorbs light and stimulates neurons without being connected to any wires or external power sources, setting it apart from silicon-based devices used for the same purpose. It has so far been tested only on light-insensitive retinas from embryonic chicks, but the researchers hope to see the pioneering work soon reach real-world human application.
Biotech

Researchers Design DNA With New Shapes and Structures 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the nanoscale-body-mods dept.
Jason Koebler writes: The shape of DNA is a double helix, right? That's what we are taught. Well, now the answer is "not always." Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered how to program DNA to be shaped like a bowl, or a spiral, or a ring, or other shapes that aren't found in nature.

It's the latest in a string of discoveries about the underlying structure of life and the building blocks by which it's made. Recently, scientists created new nucleotides that do not exist in nature and inserted them into a living organism. And now, this: DNA can look like just about anything and can be assembled into many shapes.
Medicine

How High-Tech Temporary Tattoos Will Hack Your Skin 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the wear-and-test dept.
Molly McHugh writes with this story about sensors that can be attached to temporary tattoos to monitor various medical information. "The Center for Wearable Sensors at the University of California San Diego has been experimenting with attaching sensors to temporary tattoos in order to extract data from the body. The tattoos are worn exactly as a regular temporary tattoo would be worn. The sensors simply sit atop the skin without penetrating it and interact with Bluetooth or other wireless devices with a signal in order to send the data....A biofuel battery applied as a temporary tattoo converts sweat into energy, and a startup within the center has developed a strip that extracts data from sweat to explain how your body is reacting to certain types of exercise. Amay Bandodkar, a fourth year PhD student at UCSD, explains that the sensors are programmed to react to the amount of lactate the body produces."
Earth

Pantry Pests Harbor Plastic-Chomping Bacteria 45

Posted by samzenpus
from the earth-plus-plastic dept.
MTorrice writes In the U.S. alone, consumers discard over 32 million tons of plastic each year, only 9% of which is recycled. Polyethylene is one of the most popular and, unfortunately, persistent types of plastics. Bags, bottles, and packaging made from the polymer accumulate in landfills and oceans across the globe. Scientists have lamented that the material isn't biodegradable because microbes can't chew up the plastic to render it harmless. However, a new study reports the first definitive molecular evidence that two species of bacteria, found in the guts of a common pantry pest, can thrive on polyethylene and break it apart.
Medicine

Canada's Ebola Vaccine Nets Millions For Tiny US Biotech Firm 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-fun-and-games-until-somebody-loses-several-internal-organs dept.
Anita Hunt (lissnup) writes: Iowa-based NewLink Genetics has secured a US$50million deal with pharmaceutical giant Merck for the experimental Ebola vaccine developed by Canadian government scientists. NewLink bought the exclusive commercial licensing rights to Canada's VSV-EBOV in 2010 with a milestone payment of just US$205,000. This is an interesting new twist in a story we've discussed previously, and which continues to draw media attention.
The Military

How the Pentagon's Robots Would Automate War 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the peace-reigns-when-the-war-servers-are-down-for-scheduled-maintenance dept.
rossgneumann writes: Pentagon officials are worried that the U.S. military is losing its edge compared to competitors like China, and are willing to explore almost anything to stay on top—including creating robots capable of becoming fighting machines. A 72-page document throws detailed light on the far-reaching implications of the Pentagon's plan to monopolize imminent "transformational advances" in biotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence, information technology, nanotechnology, and energy.