Aug 11

Will there be more records to break?


At this month’s Summer Olympics in Rio, the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt — will try to beat his own world record of 9.58 seconds in the 100-meter dash.
Whereas a great number of training techniques and technologies continue to push the boundaries of athletics, the slowing pace at which sporting records are now broken has researchers speculating that perhaps we’re approaching our collective physiological limit.
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Aug 02

Zika becomes a sexually transmitted infection


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed that Zika is already a sexually transmitted disease. Public health experts now know that Zika can be passed in bodily fluids. So far, in the continental United States, 15 cases of Zika are confirmed to have been transmitted by sexual contact. This has been reported in ten other countries, and in the United States, the first known case of sexual transmission was in 2008. Until the giant South American outbreak began, Zika was under-researched, and that was true for sexual transmission of the disease as well.
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Jul 25

Zika calls attention to a common birth-defect virus

E81B0G Conceptual image of human cytomegalovirus. Cytomegalovirus is a genus of the viral family Herpesviridae.

A common and much less exotic virus than Zika is killing hundreds of babies and leaving thousands with severe birth defects, including abnormally small heads and brains, hearing loss and cerebral palsy. It is the cytomegalovirus (CMV).
This virus is a much greater global problem than Zika, but receives much less attention.
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Jun 27

Scientists discover 320 million-year-old plant root stem cells

Radix carbonica

A team of paleontologists led by Oxford University researcher Prof. Liam Dolan has found the oldest known population of plant root stem cells in a fossilized root tip from a Carboniferous coal swamp forest 320 million years old. The discovery was published in the journal Current Biology. In addition to revealing the oldest plant root stem cells identified to date, the research also marks the first time an actively growing fossilized root has been discovered – in effect, an ancient plant frozen in time. Prof. Dolan and his colleagues have named the stem cell fossil Radix carbonica (Latin for ‘coal root’). Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 09

Evolutionary approach to cancer treatment

Computer artwork depicting a tumour cell dissolving by laser or drug treatment. These tumour cells promote the formation of new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. The tumour cells release angiogenic growth factor proteins that bind to endothelial cells in nearby blood vessels and encourage the growth of new blood vessels from the existing ones. These blood vessels provide the tumour with oxygen and nutrients.

The existence of cancer is based on a fundamental process that occurs in an organism: cell division. A tumor cell breaks the rules of cell division that other cells follow. Cancer can only grow this way if some of the tumor suppressor genes – such as the p53 gene – get mutated in the cancer cells. Then, some corrupt cells do not get fixed. Over time, one of these cells can grow and divide into thousands, then tens of thousands of cancer cells. Eventually there may even be billions of cells in a tumor.
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Jun 07

Genetically modified bacterium absorbs CO2 and produces biofuel

Bionic leaf Ralstonia eutropha

Harvard Professor of Energy Daniel G. Nocera has genetically engineered bacteria (Ralstonia eutropha) to absorb hydrogen and carbon dioxide and convert them into alcohol fuel: isopropanol, isobutanol and isopentanol.  The hydrogen could come from Nocera’s previous invention, the artificial leaf. It converts sunlight ten times more efficiently than plants. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 06

Netherlands allows growing human embryos

Netherlands allows growing human embryos
The government of the Netherlands is willing to allow growing human embryos “under strict and limited conditions” for research purposes, which would give hope to parents who have problems conceiving. The Dutch minister of health, Edith Schippers, said the aim is to “give people the possibility of (healthy) children”. The research has to do with infertility, artificial reproduction techniques and hereditary or congenital diseases. It also meant for people who became infertile after being treated for cancer at an early age. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 25

DNA as digital data storage

A team of researchers from the University of Washington and Microsoft have used DNA to store four image files with a total size of 145 kilobytes, among them an image of a cat. The files have been read error-free afterwards, without losing a single byte of information.
Why was DNA chosen for a storage medium?
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Apr 20

Dead tumor cells may be used for vaccination

Dead tumor cells

Researchers from the University of Ghent have demonstrated that dead tumor cells are an exceptionally strong stimulus for the immune system in its fight against spreading tumors. The discovery comes from a group of young scientists who study different types of cell death on the molecular level. Dr. Peter Vandenabeele’s team shifted their interest to cancer research when more and more results implied a relation between that process and metastasis and other disease.
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Apr 12

Study used CRISPR technology to introduce HIV-resistance mutation into embryos

DNA eraser
Researchers from the Guangzhou Medical University in China have reported the use of CRISPR gene editing in human embryos to try to make them resistant to HIV infection. A total of 213 fertilized human eggs were collected from 87 patients of in vitro fertility therapy. The embryos were unsuitable for implantation because they contained an extra set of chromosomes. They were destroyed after the experiment.
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