Humans 2.0 - "With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system." [more inside]
The CRISPR Revolution [ungated: 1,2,3] - "Biologists continue to hone their tools for deleting, replacing or otherwise editing DNA and a strategy called CRISPR has quickly become one of the most popular ways to do genome engineering. Utilizing a modified bacterial protein and a RNA that guides it to a specific DNA sequence, the CRISPR system provides unprecedented control over genes in many species, including perhaps humans. This control has allowed many new types of experiments, but also raised questions about what CRISPR can enable." [more inside]
Scientists Progress in Quest to Grow Muscle Tissue in Labs - "The researchers are now working on optimizing the growth of human muscle tissue, including finding a way to get blood flow to the tissue, the best source of cells and the best growing medium for the cells."
Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie - "The lettuce, peppers, and broccoli—plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow—aren't genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same technology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. That doesn't mean they are low tech, exactly. Stark's division is drawing on Monsanto's accumulated scientific know-how to create vegetables that have all the advantages of genetically modified organisms without any of the Frankenfoods ick factor." [more inside]
The Nazi Anatomists. "How the corpses of Hitler's victims are still haunting modern science—and American abortion politics."
After more than 25 years of studying the calls of prairie dog in the field, one researcher managed to decode just what these animals are saying. And the results show that prairie dogs aren't only extremely effective communicators, they also pay close attention to detail.
"Is organic produce better for you?" is a simple question asked by a middle schooler in a science fair. Using fruit flies fed organic vs. conventional produce, Ria Chhabra tracked the flies and saw improvements based on their diet. Now barely a sophomore in high school, the project lead to university research labs, science fair awards, publication in top-tier peer-reviewed journals, and quite likely, scholarships at her pick of top-flight universities.
Is Psychometric g a Myth? - "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g." [more inside]
Science Fiction Comes Alive as Researchers Grow Organs in Lab
1997 -- Charles Vacanti of University of Massachusetts Medical Center and Robert Langer of Massachusetts Institute of Technology report the growing of a cartilage structure – in the shape of a human ear – on a mouse’s back. 2008 -- Doris Taylor at the University of Minnesota and colleagues grow a beating rat heart in the lab. 2008 --Surgeons in Spain transplant a new windpipe into a patient. The organ is made from a cadaver windpipe stripped of its original cells and reseeded with the patient’s own cells. 2010 -- Researchers at Mass General Hospital grow a rat liver. 2010 -- Yale University scientists grow a functioning rat lung. 2010 -- Alex Seifalian in London transplants a lab-made tear duct into patient 2011 -- Dr. Seifalian makes a windpipe from nanocomposite materials plus a patient’s own stem cells; the new windpipe replaces the patient’s cancerous one, saving his life. In a separate procedure, an artery made at Dr. Seifalian’s lab is transplanted into a patient. 2012 -- Surgeons in Sweden transplant a major blood vessel into a 10-year-old girl. The vein was taken from a dead man, stripped of its tissue, then reseeded with the girl’s own cells. 2013 -- Scientists from Cornell University report the making of a human ear using living cartilage cells.
What do 3D printing, jelly, liver transplants, chainmail, dental fillings, ferrofluids, and the Six Million Dollar man have to tell us about our future? Materials scientist and engineer Mark Miodownik lets us know in this Royal Institution lecture.
You're about to be the base doctor at Halley Research Station in Antarctica for a year. For ten months, no one gets in or out. Fourteen lives are in your hands, including your own. What do you put in your medical kit? And how do your choices differ from those of your predecessors (Eric Marshall and Edward Wilson) a century ago?
The U.S. National Institute of Heath has urged steps to curb growth in "training" positions in biomedical research (report). [more inside]
The Beer Archaeologist. "Biomolecular archaeologist" Dr. Patrick McGovern has unearthed millennia-old alcohol recipes and ancient medicinals, "by analyzing residues in ancient pottery. Now he's working with brewer Sam Calagione, (of Discovery Channel's Brew Masters, (autoplaying video)) whose pub Dogfish Head serves up beers based on recipes that are thousands of years old." (Via) [more inside]
The Triumph of New-Age Medicine "Medicine has long decried acupuncture, homeopathy, and the like as dangerous nonsense that preys on the gullible. Again and again, carefully controlled studies have shown alternative medicine to work no better than a placebo. But now many doctors admit that alternative medicine often seems to do a better job of making patients well, and at a much lower cost, than mainstream care—and they’re trying to learn from it." [more inside]
The Price of Altruism - George Price, a (troubled) father of group selection thru his discovery of the eponymous Price Equation, has a rather interesting biography... [more inside]
Using a 3-D petri dish, Researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island have built a completely functional artificial human ovary that will allow doctors to harvest immature human egg cells (oocytes) and grow them into mature, ready-to-be-fertilized human eggs outside the body. (In vitro) The advance could eventually help preserve fertility for women facing chemotherapy or other medical treatments that may be destructive to ovarian folliculogenesis. Press Release. Article link. (paywall) [more inside]
New Adventures in Recent Evolution - In the last few years, biologists peering into the human genome have found evidence of recent natural selection. cf. Social Darwinism: 21st century edition [previously] (via ip) [more inside]
Followup to this post: A US District Court has ruled that Myriad Genetic's patents on breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which allow them to hold exclusive rights to a widely used genetic test for inherited breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility, are invalid. Genomics Law Report analyzes the ruling in two posts. The decision is likely to be challenged in a legal appeal — but if upheld, it could have huge implications for the biotechnology industry. [more inside]
A new study suggests that humanity's sense of fair play and kindness towards strangers is determined by culture, not genetics. Speculation: the finding may be directly related to the rise of religion in human history, as well as more complex economies. (Via). [more inside]
We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we? An essay from Archaeology Magazine examines the ethical, scientific and legal ramifications. (Via Heather Pringle's Time Machine blog, where essay author Zach Zorich posted a reply and elicited a response.) [more inside]
On behalf of medical organizations, universities, & individual patients, pathologists and genetics researchers, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the US Patent and Trademark Office. Myriad holds the US patents to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, associated with hereditary causes of breast and ovarian cancers. Their patents guarantee the company the right to prevent anyone else from testing or studying those genes, which the ACLU says is unconstitutional and inhibits researchers from finding treatments and cures. [more inside]
Dr. Aric Sigman has told us that TV is literally killing us, that it makes children pregnant, that Batman makes our kids violent and that multitasking ruins children's attention span. Now he says that social networking can cause cancer, strokes, and dementia. (PDF of press release)
Scientists Repurpose Adult Cells - "Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research." [nature abstract, nature writeup, audio announcement]
EO Wilson believes in
Darwinism group selection: "evolution as a multi-level process1 that can evolve adaptations above the level of individual organisms."
Surtsey was first observed on November 14, 1963, as a pillar of smoke on the water some ways south of Iceland. The very next day lava and tephra broke the surface of the Atlantic and by May, 1964 the formation had grown to 2.4 km². Over the next three years lava eruptions continued, coating the loose debris in a hard shell and protecting it from erosion. An island born. Naturally, Surtsey has been under close scientific observation since its emergence, and courtesy The Surtsey Research Society you can read published reports on the geology and biological colonization of this new earth.
An unprecedented five consecutive years of stagnant funding for the National Institutes of Health is putting America at risk - a few prominent research institutions get together to voice their concern over flat funding of the National Institutes of Health over the past 5 years, in their report The Broken Pipeline (pdf). Bloggers comment [1, 2, 3].
In their own words... Researchers at the National Institutes of Health recall the early years of AIDS, from diagnosis of the then-unknown disease, to discovering the viral cause, and from there to the search for treatments. The site features interviews (including several with virologist Robert Gallo), early publications, and a collection of archived image materials.
The Human Speechome Project - "A baby is to be monitored by a network of microphones and video cameras for 14 hours a day, 365 days a year, in an effort to unravel the seemingly miraculous process by which children acquire language.". Selected video clips. Paper (PDF, 750KB). To test hypotheses of how children learn, Prof Deb Roy's team at MIT will develop machine learning systems that “step into the shoes” of his son by processing the sights and sounds of three years of life at home. Total storage required: 1.4 petabytes.
Nature has a somewhat technical but free supplement on stem cells (alongwith a podcast and related blog).
Blue Gene bears Blue Brain beats Deep Blue. Dr. Henry Markram answers questions in the FAQ. Neurons are beautiful. Blue Gene/L is now the fastest supercomputer in the world. IBM Research rocks. Deep Blue beat Kasparov almost a decade ago. Feeling Blue?
Nature has a somewhat technical but free supplement on sleep
Genesis. "Life" from inorganic mixture. Full PDF paper : Spontaneous Formation of Cellular Chemical System that Sustains Itself far from Thermodynamic Equilibrium.
Thou shalt not make scientific progress. "Medical research is poised to make a quantum leap that will benefit sufferers from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and other diseases. But George W. Bush's religious convictions stand in its way."
Gene Prevents 'Brains Everywhere' The human version of the gene probably is not involved in keeping the human brain inside the skull, but likely plays some other role in nervous system development in human embryos, says Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, a developmental biologist at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Cool.
Scientists in the USA have discovered [NYTimes] a new cell in the eye responsible for resetting the biological clock. Its being called "heretical".. Not every day, Dr. Provencio said, do scientists find a new body function.
Thrown off the scent. A fascinating story about The Pill and its effect on women's mate choice, and the effect of these choices on evolution. T-shirts belonging to unknown men were given to women to smell. All they had to do was say which smelt best. Women on the pill chose exactly the opposite t-shirts to those that didn't - find me free will, personal taste and the nature / culture divide in that if you can... [found via Plastic - and if you want to talk about that, then click here]