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Biotech

Implant Injects DNA Into Ear, Improves Hearing 27

Posted by Soulskill
from the assimilating-individual-organs dept.
sciencehabit writes "Many people with profound hearing loss have been helped by devices called cochlear implants, but their hearing is still far from perfect. They often have trouble distinguishing different musical pitches, for example, or hearing a conversation in a noisy room. Now, researchers have found a clever way of using cochlear implants to deliver new genes into the ear — a therapy that, in guinea pigs, dramatically improves hearing (abstract)."
Biotech

Women Increasingly Freezing Their Eggs To Pursue Their Careers 332

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-your-ducks-in-a-row dept.
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Really interesting piece by Emma Rosenblum about women freezing their eggs in order to take 'biological clock' pressure off while they pursue careers: 'Not since the birth control pill has a medical technology had such potential to change family and career planning. The average age of women who freeze their eggs is about 37, down from 39 only two years ago... And fertility doctors report that more women in their early 30s are coming in for the procedure. Not only do younger women have healthier eggs, they also have more time before they have to use them.'"
Earth

Biofuels From Corn Can Create More Greenhouse Gases Than Gasoline 158

Posted by timothy
from the as-long-as-it-looks-good dept.
New submitter Chipmunk100 (3619141) writes "Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln team of researchers cast doubt on whether corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates to ramp up ethanol production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Biotech

Plant Breeders Release 'Open Source Seeds' 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the people's-meadow dept.
mr crypto (229724) writes "A group of scientists and food activists are launching a campaign to change the rules that govern seeds. They're releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new 'open source pledge' that's intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely."
Biotech

In a Cloning First, Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adults 43

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-your-cells dept.
Trax3001BBS (2368736) writes in with news about a breakthrough in creating stem cells perfectly matched to a person's DNA. "...Lanza's group used caffeine to prevent the fused egg from dividing prematurely. Rather than leaving the egg with its newly introduced DNA for 30 minutes before activating the dividing stage, they let the eggs rest for about two hours. This gave the DNA enough time to acclimate to its new environment and interact with the egg's development factors, which erased each of the donor cell's existing history and reprogrammed it to act like a brand new cell in an embryo.'"
Medicine

U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn 135

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the phd-researcher-deathmatch dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The U.S. biomedical science system 'is on an unsustainable path' and needs major reform, four prominent researchers say. Researchers should 'confront the dangers at hand,' the authors write, and 'rethink' how academic research is funded, staffed, and organized. Among other issues, the team suggests that the system may be producing too many new researchers and forcing them to compete for a stagnating pool of funding."
Australia

CSIRO Scientists' Aquaculture Holy Grail: Fish-Free Prawn Food 116

Posted by timothy
from the sweet-sweet-prawn dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A team of CSIRO scientists has discovered the holy grail of aquaculture by developing the world's first fish-free prawn food: Novaq. According to the article there is intense global interest in Novaq because it solves one of the farmed prawn industry's biggest problems — its reliance on wild fisheries as a core ingredient in prawn food. The Novaq formula is a closely guarded secret, but it is known that the product is based on microscopic marine organisms. Not only will the new feed introduce greater sustainability into a growth industry but prawns fed on the new diet grow 40% faster and are healthier and more robust."
Biotech

For the First Time, Organ Regenerated Inside a Living Animal 94

Posted by timothy
from the casio-not-wurlitzer dept.
ananyo (2519492) writes "Scientists at Edinburgh University have successfully persuaded an organ to regenerate inside an animal. As they report in the journal Development, they have treated, in mice, an organ called the thymus, which is a part of the immune system that runs down in old age. Instead of adding stem cells they have stimulated their animals' thymuses to make more of a protein called FOXN1. This is a transcription factor (a molecular switch that activates genes). The scientists knew from earlier experiments that FOXN1 is important for the embryonic development of the thymus, and speculated that it might also rejuvenate the organ in older animals. They bred a special strain of mice whose FOXN1 production could be stimulated specifically in the thymus by tamoxifen, a drug more familiar as a treatment for breast cancer. In one-year-olds, stimulating FOXN1 production in the thymus caused it to become 2.7 times bigger within a month. In two-year-olds the increase was 2.6 times. Moreover, when the researchers studied the enlarged thymuses microscopically, and compared them with those from untreated control animals of the same ages, they found that the organs' internal structures had reverted to their youthful nature."
Crime

Evidence Aside, FBI Says Russians Out To Steal Ideas From US Tech Firms 132

Posted by timothy
from the post-bolsheviks-in-the-washroom dept.
v3rgEz (125380) writes "It sounds like a scare from 1970s Cold War propaganda or a subplot from the popular TV series "The Americans," but the FBI says the threat is real: Russian investment firms may be looking to steal high-tech intelligence from Boston-area companies to give to their country's military. Many of the firms under scrutiny are in the Boston area, including those partnered with a number of area biotech companies and with ties to MIT." And while the FBI says this could be happening, as the article points out, this pronouncement seems to be based on plausibility rather than specific incidents of such theft. One relevant excerpt: "The FBI warning comes as the Obama administration has increased pressure on Russia for its annexation of the former Ukrainian territory of Crimea by levying sanctions on some business leaders close to President Vladimir Putin. In March, the US Commerce Department banned new licenses for the export to Russia of defense-related products and “dual-use” technologies that could have military applications."
Biotech

Scientist Quits Effort To Live-Blog Stem Cell Generation 17

Posted by timothy
from the hard-to-perform-for-an-audience dept.
According to reader sciencehabit (1205606), Kenneth Ka-Ho Lee, the embryologist who has been live-blogging his attempt to reproduce a new kind of stem cells, has given up, writing on this Research Gate page, "I don't think STAP cells exist and it will be a waste of manpower and research funding to carry on with this experiment any further." From the linked article: "Though he is giving up, he hopes others will continue to investigate whether the new approach – which has dogged by controversy and claims of research misconduct — can really lead to stem cells."
Power

Cheaper Fuel From Self-Destructing Trees 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the larch-powered dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Wood is great for building and heating homes, but it's the bane of biofuels. When converting plants to fuels, engineers must remove a key component of wood, known as lignin, to get to the sugary cellulose that's fermented into alcohols and other energy-rich compounds. That's costly because it normally requires high temperatures and caustic chemicals. Now, researchers in the United States and Canada have modified the lignin in poplar trees to self-destruct under mild processing conditions—a trick that could slash the cost of turning plant biomass into biofuels."
Biotech

Single-Celled Organism Converted Into Electronic Oscillator For Bio-Computing 34

Posted by timothy
from the your-slurm-is-thinking dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The single-celled organism slime mold, or Physarum polycephalum, is an extraordinary creature. It explores its world by extending protoplasmic tubes into its surroundings in search of food and it does this rather well. Various researchers have exploited this process to show how Physarum can find optimal routes between different places and even solve mazes. Now one researcher has worked out how to use these protoplasmic tubes as clock-like electronic oscillators. His experiment was straightforward. He encouraged the growth of protoplasmic tubes between two blobs of agar sitting on electrical contacts. He then measured the resistance of the tubes at various voltages. This turns out to be about 6 megaohms. But the results show something else too: that the resistance oscillates over a period of about 73 seconds. That's due to the tubes contracting as waves of calcium ions pass through them. So altering the period of oscillation should be possible by influencing the production of calcium ions, perhaps using light or biochemistry. Electronic oscillators are significant because they are basic drivers of almost all active electronic devices. But this guy's goal is bigger than this. The plan is to grow a "Physarum chip" that acts as a general purpose computer, a device that will need some kind of oscillator or clock to co-ordinate activity, just as in an ordinary processor, although speed will not be its chief characteristic."
Biotech

Should Patients Have the Option To Not Know Their DNA? 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the only-tell-me-what-i-secretly-want-to-know dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Genome sequencing is getting faster and cheaper every year. This article points out that in the not-too-distant future, a DNA test will be a common diagnostic tool for doctors. It's a good thing for figuring out what's wrong with you — but there will unintended consequences. The test will also return information about conditions and diseases you're likely to get, which will spur more frequent testing — which can be extremely uncomfortable and/or expensive — as well as more frequent worrying. Should people be able to opt-out of this knowledge? Even if they do, should the information go into the patient's medical record? It likely will, and then the next doctor may be in the difficult position of not knowing what she can discuss with the patient. A new decision from the American College of Medical Genetics has recommended giving patients the option of not having the information gathered at all. It can get more complicated, too: '[G]eneticists and bioethicists are already discussing scenarios where patients may approach such decisions more like a menu, saying they want to know about increased risk of heart disease but not cancer, for example.'"
Biotech

Threatened Pandemics and Laboratory Escapes: Self-fulfilling Prophecies 94

Posted by timothy
from the here-sniff-this-tube dept.
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Martin Furmanski, a medical doctor and medical historian, writes of the laboratory escapes of high-consequence pathogens that have occurred in recent decades (including several instances of smallpox!). The article explores 'gain of function" experiments-- experiments in which researchers manipulate dangerous pathogens to increase communicability among humans, and whether the benefit we see from those experiments outweighs the incredible risk. 'Many other laboratory escapes of high-consequence pathogens have occurred, resulting in transmission beyond laboratory personnel. Ironically, these laboratories were working with pathogens to prevent the very outbreaks they ultimately caused. For that reason, the tragic consequences have been called "self-fulfilling prophecies.''"
Medicine

Creating "Homo Minutus" — a Benchtop Human To Test Drugs 49

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the man-is-obsolete dept.
Science_afficionado (932920) writes "Vanderbilt University scientists reported significant progress toward creating 'homo minutus' — a benchtop human — at the Society of Toxicology meeting on Mar. 26 in Phoenix. The advance is the successful development and analysis of a human liver construct//organ-on-a-chip that responds to exposure to a toxic chemical much like a real liver. The achievement is the first result from a five-year, $19 million multi-institutional effort led by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), to develop four interconnected human organ constructs — liver, heart, lung and kidney — that are based on a highly miniaturized platform nicknamed ATHENA (Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer). The project is supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Similar programs to create smaller-scale organs-on-chips are underway at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Institutes of Health."
Biotech

Ancient Virus DNA Discovery Could Be a Breakthrough In How Diseases Are Treated 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the oldest-medicine dept.
concertina226 (2447056) writes "Understanding how retroviruses are passed down through our DNA could be the key to helping researchers re-programme normal cells to become stem cells for treating diseases. Researchers from Canada and Singapore have discovered that the ancient viruses which entered our ancestors' genomes thousands of years ago have altered the way our cells behave; the material left by dead viruses in our cells is the answer. 1,000 copies of one particular class of retroviruses, known as the human endogenous retrovirus HERV-H, is still in our genome, and while the HERV-H retrovirus DNA is dead and cannot replicate itself, it continues to send out messages telling the embryonic stem cell how to become other cells in the body, and this is what makes the cells pluripotent."
Biotech

Synthetic Chromosomes Successfully Integrated Into Brewer's Yeast 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the origin-story-for-superyeast dept.
New submitter dunnomattic writes: "Researchers at New York University School of Medicine have achieved a milestone in synthetic biology. A fully synthetic yeast chromosome, dubbed 'synIII,' has successfully replaced chromosome 3 of multiple living yeast cells. The researchers pieced together over 250,000 nucleotide bases to accomplish this feat. Dr. Jef Boeke, the lead author of the study, says, 'not only can we make designer changes on a computer, but we can make hundreds of changes through a chromosome and we can put that chromosome into yeast and have a yeast that looks, smells and behaves like a regular yeast, but this yeast is endowed with special properties that normal yeasts don't have.' Work is underway (abstract) to synthesize the remaining 15 chromosomes."
Biotech

Scientist Live-Blogs His Lab's Attempts To Generate New Type of Stem Cells 20

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-real-time dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "In the latest twist in the story of STAP cells, a new kind of stem cell described in two Nature papers in January, a scientist is live-blogging his latest attempt to generate the cells. The papers described how subjecting cells from newborn mice to a mildly acidic solution turned them into pluripotent stem cells, the sought-after cells that can become all the body's cell types. Kenneth Ka-Ho Lee, a stem cell researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has already tried once to make the cells, following the methods published in Nature in January. That attempt failed, which Lee documented publicly on the website ResearchGate. The lack of success mirrors other reports from scientists around the world in the weeks since the papers were published, despite a more detailed set of methods posted by some of the authors on 5 March. Today, Lee posted in the comment section of his ResearchGate review that he had set up a team of four lab members to do the experiments. They will live blog the research, and promise frequent updates."
Biotech

MIT Researcher Enlists Bacteria To Assemble Nanotech Materials 36

Posted by timothy
from the would-change-ikea-directions-forever dept.
The Register reports on an approach to nanotech that combines biological computing with micro-mechanics, embodied in the work of MIT associate professor Timothy Lu. Lu's research has resulted in the creation of tiny structures assembled using modified E. coli. "Specifically," says the article, "the MIT researchers were able to put bacteria to work producing conducting biofilms, some of which were studded with quantum dots, and arranging gold nanowires. This paves the way for the development of mass manufactured cell-based material factories, and even 'living materials' that have some of the desirable properties of bones or trees, Lu confirmed." His most radical idea, says Lu, is furniture that shapes itself to cushion the user's most-stressed areas.
Biotech

Electric 'Thinking Cap' Controls Learning Speed 112

Posted by timothy
from the worshipping-moist-temples dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Vanderbilt researchers say they've shown it's possible to selectively manipulate our ability to learn by applying a mild electrical current to the brain. Using an elastic headband that secured two electrodes conducted by saline-soaked sponges to the cheek and the crown of the head, the researchers applied 20 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to each subject. Depending on the direction of the current, subjects either learned more quickly, slower, or in the case of a sham current, with no change at all. The [paywalled] study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience."

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