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]
Interesting developments in med-tech: gene testing machines for doctors, a plan to engineer stem cells to kill HIV, a new way to repair damaged nerves, the next generation of retinal implants, and the first bionic fingers up for sale. (Bonus for those uninterested in medicine: the newest take on a Minority Report-style interface, courtesy of MIT.)
grumblebee's post about cell size and scale the other day was quite fascinating. Pulling back to the home for that site, the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah delivers educational materials on genetics, bio-science and health topics ranging from stem cells to gene therapy, and from epigenetics to heredity. Explore the neurobiology of normal and addicted brains and the genetic contribution to this chronic disease.
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]
More cuckoo than cuckoos: mate two salmon, get a... trout! Just give the parents a sperm transplant. And the sperm stem cells work in females too:
...Injecting the male cells into female salmon sometimes worked, too, prompting five female salmon to ovulate trout eggs.... The stem cells were still primitive enough to switch gears from sperm-producers to egg-producers when they wound up inside female organs....
Glowing green pigs. Scientists from Taiwan have successfully created a bioluminescent pigs with genes from a jellyfish.
Come out, experts from the woodworks! Neu5Ac and Neu5Gc are sugars found on cells present in nearly every mammal, from chimps to pigs. When scientists altered the genes of mice so that they couldn't produce them, the mice died. However, unlike our closest relatives, humans lack a gene that makes Neu5Gc. The gene is not gone, but rendered silent by a fatal mutation, one that occured approximately 500,000 ago. Now, note that it is illegal to produce any new embryonic stem cell lines. Any scientist will tell you that extant and legal human stem cell lines have been existing in calf serum and often on layers of mouse "feeder" cells for growth. As such, they are immersed in a bath of antigen and if re-introdcued would elicit a strong immune response. I.e. although of human origin, they would be treated as foreign cells if injected. It is likely they would be rejected if injected with today's techniques anyway, but this may represent another significant hurdle for research, one that could be sidestepped with more progressive policy. (Via The Regular)