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Biotech

Genetically Modifying an Entire Ecosystem 52

Posted by Soulskill
from the evolve-big-or-evolve-home dept.
New submitter structural_biologist writes: Genes normally have a 50-50 chance of being passed from parent to offspring, but scientists may have figured out a way to create genes that show up in offspring with a much higher frequency. "One type of gene drive influences inheritance by copying itself onto chromosomes that previously lacked it. When an organism inherits such a gene drive from only one parent, it makes a cut in the chromosome from the other parent, forcing the cell to copy the inheritance-biasing gene drive—and any adjacent genes—when it repairs the damage." When introduced into the wild, organisms containing gene drives would breed with the population, quickly spreading the modified genes throughout the ecosystem. While the technology could help prevent the spread of malaria and manage invasive species, many scientists worry about the wide-ranging effects of such a technology and are calling for its regulation.
Medicine

Gene Therapy Converts Heart Cells Into "Biological Pacemakers" 26

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the tick-tock dept.
Zothecula (1870348) writes Pacemakers serve an invaluable purpose, by electrically stimulating a recipient's heart in order to keep it beating at a steady rate. The implantation of a pacemaker is a major surgical procedure, however, plus its presence in the body can lead to complications such as infections. Now, for the first time, scientists have instead injected genes into the defective hearts of pigs, converting unspecialized heart cells into "biological pacemakers." Research Paper (abstract, full text paywalled).
Biotech

Biohackers Are Engineering Yeast To Make THC 159

Posted by timothy
from the really-great-bread-man dept.
meghan elizabeth writes How do you get weed without the weed? By genetically engineering yeast to produce THC, of course. Once theorized in a stoner magazine column more than a decade ago, a biotech startup working in Ireland is actively trying to transplant the genetic information that codes for both THC and another cannabinoid called CBD into yeast so that "marijuana" can be grown in a lab—no plants necessary.
Biotech

Child Thought To Be Cured of HIV Relapses, Tests Positive Again 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the poor-kid dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Mississippi child, who was born with HIV passed from her mother, received HIV treatment for 18 months after her birth. In the course of over two years after the treatment, her blood indicated no trace of the virus or of HIV-specific antibodies, leading many to hope that she may have been cured completely. Earlier this month, however, the virus was detected again. Nearly 4 years old, the child is once more being given HIV treatment, and scientists are trying to figure out how she could have gone so long before relapsing.
Medicine

Wireless Contraception 302

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-connect-to-you-local-contraeptive-hotspot dept.
Kittenman writes: The BBC is carrying information on a type of contraception (funded in part by Bill Gates) that takes the form of a microchip, inserted under the skin. The chip releases contraceptive hormones to the body until wirelessly advised not to do so. This device has several interesting applications and issues associated with it. The researchers are already working on making the device secure against unauthorized transmissions. There's also the issue of making it easier for governments to control population levels. The chip will be available from 2018. This correspondent will watch the issues with interest.
Biotech

Consciousness On-Off Switch Discovered Deep In Brain 284

Posted by samzenpus
from the green-light-red-light dept.
An anonymous reader writes "One moment you're conscious, the next you're not. For the first time, researchers have switched off consciousness by electrically stimulating a single brain area. Although only tested in one person, the discovery suggests that a single area – the claustrum – might be integral to combining disparate brain activity into a seamless package of thoughts, sensations and emotions. It takes us a step closer to answering a problem that has confounded scientists and philosophers for millennia – namely how our conscious awareness arises. When the team zapped the area with high frequency electrical impulses, the woman lost consciousness. She stopped reading and stared blankly into space, she didn't respond to auditory or visual commands and her breathing slowed. As soon as the stimulation stopped, she immediately regained consciousness with no memory of the event. The same thing happened every time the area was stimulated during two days of experiments.
Biotech

Researchers Create Walking, Muscle-Powered Biobots 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the franken-bot dept.
Zothecula writes If you're going to deploy robots in biological settings – for example, inside the body – it makes a lot of sense to build those robots out of actual biological body parts. Muscle, for example, is a very effective, biodegradable replacement for an electric actuator that can run in a nutrient-rich fluid without the need for any other power source. Bio-robotics experts in Illinois have demonstrated a bio-bot built from 3-D printed hydrogel and spinal muscle tissue that can "walk" in response to an electrical signal. Their next step will be trying to incorporate neurons that can get the bot walking in different directions when faced with different stimuli.
Biotech

How Did Those STAP Stem Cell Papers Get Accepted In the First Place? 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-press-send dept.
bmahersciwriter writes The news team at the scientific journal Nature turns its investigative power on the journal itself. The goal: to try and understand how two papers that made extraordinary claims about a new way to create stem cells managed to get published despite some obvious errors and a paucity of solid evidence. The saga behind these so-called STAP cells is engaging, but sadly reminiscent of so many other scientific controversies.
Biotech

Fixing Faulty Genes On the Cheap 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-if-i-like-the-worn-out-look dept.
An anonymous reader sends an article about CRISPR, a system for modifying genes and moving them from cell to cell. It's notable because the cost to do so is dropping to the point where it's becoming viable to use on a patient-by-patient basis. CRISPR is one of those interesting inventions that comes, not from scientists explicitly trying to cure a disease, but from researchers trying to understand something fundamental about nature. Jennifer Doudna's research at the University of California, Berkeley has focused on how bacteria fight the flu. It turns out bacteria don't like getting flu any more than the rest of us do. Doudna says the way bacteria fight off a flu virus gave her and her colleagues an idea. Bacteria have special enzymes that can cut open the DNA of an invading virus and make a change in the DNA at the site of the cut — essentially killing the virus. Doudna and other scientists figured out how this defense system works in bacteria; that was interesting all by itself. But then they realized that they could modify these enzymes to recognize any DNA sequence, not just the DNA sequence of viruses that infect bacteria.
Biotech

Long-Lasting Enzyme Chews Up Cocaine 73

Posted by timothy
from the sadly-enzymes-have-no-gums dept.
MTorrice (2611475) writes "Despite cocaine's undeniable destructiveness, there are no antidotes for overdoses or medications to fight addiction that directly neutralize cocaine's powerful effects. A natural bacterial enzyme, cocaine esterase, could help by chopping up cocaine in the bloodstream. But the enzyme is unstable in the body, losing activity too quickly to be a viable treatment. Now, using computational design, researchers tweaked the enzyme (full paper, PDF) to simultaneously increase stability and catalytic efficiency. Mice injected with the engineered enzyme survive daily lethal doses of cocaine for an average of 94 hours."
Biotech

Scientists Successfully Grow Full Head of Hair On Bald Man 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-for-patrick-stewart dept.
realized writes: "A man with almost no hair on his body has grown a full head of it after a novel treatment by doctors at Yale University. The patient had previously been diagnosed with both alopecia universalis, a disease that results in loss of all body hair, and plaque psoriasis, a condition characterized by scaly red areas of skin. The only hair on his body was within the psoriasis plaques on his head. He was referred to Yale Dermatology for treatment of the psoriasis. The alopecia universalis had never been treated.

After two months on tofacitinib [an FDA-approved arthritis drug] at 10 mg daily, the patient's psoriasis showed some improvement, and the man had grown scalp and facial hair — the first hair he'd grown there in seven years. After three more months of therapy at 15 mg daily, the patient had completely regrown scalp hair and also had clearly visible eyebrows, eyelashes, and facial hair, as well as armpit and other hair, the doctors said."
Biotech

Modular Science is Building Hardware and Software for Lab Automation (Video) 6

Posted by Roblimo
from the biology-research-on-an-organic-shoestring dept.
Modular Science is something Tim Lord spotted at last month's O'Reilly Solid Conference in San Francisco. Its founder, Peter Sand, has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT. He's scheduled to speak at this year's OSCON, and his speaker blurb for that conference says, "He is the founder of ManyLabs, a nonprofit focused on teaching math and science using sensors and simulations. Peter also founded Modular Science, a company working on hardware and software tools for science labs. He has given talks at Science Hack Day, Launch Edu, and multiple academic conferences, including SIGGRAPH." And now he's also been interviewed on Slashdot. Note that there are plenty of lab automation systems out there. Peter is working on one that is not only "an order of magnitude cheaper" than similar devices, but is also easy to modify and expand. It's the sort of system that would fit well not just in a college-level lab, but in a high school lab or a local makerspace. (Alternate Video Link)
Biotech

Researchers Find "Achilles Heel" of Drug Resistant Bacteria 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-your-medicine dept.
Rambo Tribble writes Researchers in Britain are reporting that they have found a way to prevent bacteria from forming the "wall" that prevents antibiotics from attacking them. “It is a very significant breakthrough,” said Professor Changjiang Dong, from the University of East Anglia's (UAE) Norwich Medical School. “This is really important because drug-resistant bacteria is a global health problem. Many current antibiotics are becoming useless, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Many bacteria build up an outer defence which is important for their survival and drug resistance. We have found a way to stop that happening," he added. This research provides the platform for urgently-needed new generation drugs.
Biotech

"Super Bananas" May Save Millions of Lives In Africa 396

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-banana-a-day dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes "A super-enriched genetically engineered banana will soon go through its first human trial, which will test its effect on vitamin A levels, Australian researchers said Monday. The project plans to have the special banana varieties — enriched with alpha and beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A — growing in Uganda by 2020. The bananas are now being sent to the United States, and it is expected that the six-week trial measuring how well they lift vitamin A levels in humans will begin soon."
Biotech

EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods 272

Posted by timothy
from the but-don't-cross-the-border dept.
think_nix (1467471) writes The EU Parliament is paving the way for EU Nation States to decide on banning or allowing GMO foods within their respective territories. An further article at Der Spiegel (German) (Google translation) quotes the German Health Minister's claim that if countries cannot specifically, scientifically argue for a ban, this would allow GMO companies to initiate legal actions against the banning ruling states. Furthermore it was noted, given EU Parliaments current stance on not reintroducing border and customs controls between member states, this will make checks and controls of GMO foods between member states even more difficult.
Biotech

3D Bioprinters Could Make Enhanced, Electricity-Generating 'Superorgans' 69

Posted by timothy
from the finally-some-competition dept.
New submitter meghan elizabeth (3689911) writes Why stop at just mimicking biology when you can biomanufacture technologically improved humans? 3D-printed enhanced "superorgans"—or artificial ones that don't exist in nature—could be engineered to perform specific functions beyond what exists in nature, like treating disease. Already, a bioprinted artificial pancreas that can regulate glucose levels in diabetes patients is being developed. Bioprinting could also be used to create an enhanced organ that can generate electricity to power electronic implants, like pacemakers.
Biotech

Japanese Stem Cell Debacle Could Bring Down Entire Center 52

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-bad-apple dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes Shutting down the research center at the heart of an unfolding scientific scandal may be necessary to prevent a recurrence of research misconduct, according to a report released at a press conference in Tokyo today. A committee reviewing conduct at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, Japan, found lax oversight and a failure on the part of senior authors of two papers in Nature outlining a surprisingly simple way of reprogramming mature cells into stem cells. The committee surmised that a drive to produce groundbreaking results led to publishing results prematurely. "It seems that RIKEN CDB had a strong desire to produce major breakthrough results that would surpass iPS cell research," the report concludes, referring to another type of pluripotent stem cell. "One of our conclusions is that the CDB organization is part of the problem," said committee chair Teruo Kishi Kishi. He recommends a complete overhaul of CDB, including perhaps restructuring it into a new institute. "This has to be more than just changing the nameplate."
Biotech

Ear Grown From Van Gogh DNA On Display 64

Posted by samzenpus
from the great-things-are-not-done-by-impulse-but-by-a-series-of-small-things-printed-together dept.
First time accepted submitter afeeney (719690) writes 'The Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, is displaying an ear grown from DNA contributed by a relative of artist Vincent Van Gogh. The Center said artist Diemut Strebe made the replica using living cells from Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo. Using a 3D-printer, the cells were shaped to resemble the ear that Vincent van Gogh is said to have cut off during a psychotic episode in 1888. “I use science basically like a type of brush, like Vincent used paint,” Strebe told The Associated Press. Historians argue about whether Van Gogh cut off his own ear and if so, why, but it remains one of the most famous acts of self-mutilation in the Western world.'
Biotech

Key Researcher Agrees To Retract Disputed Stem Cell Papers 61

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the so-much-for-that dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "After several months of fiercely defending her discovery of a new, simple way to create pluripotent stem cells, Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, has agreed to retract the two Nature papers that reported her work. Satoru Kagaya, head of public relations for RIKEN, headquartered in Wako near Tokyo, confirmed press reports today that Obokata had finally agreed to retract both papers. He said the institute would be notifying Nature and that the decision to formally retract the papers would be up to the journal."
Biotech

'Curiosity' Lead Engineer Suggests Printing Humans On Other Planets 323

Posted by timothy
from the ok-use-the-wormhole-to-get-the-printer dept.
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes "Adam Steltzner, the lead engineer on the NASA JPL's Curiosity rover mission, believes that to send humans to distant planets, we may need to do one of two things: look for ways to game space-time—traveling through wormholes and whatnot—or rethink the fundamental idea of 'ourselves.' 'Our best bet for space exploration could be printing humans, organically, on another planet,' said Steltzner."

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