Biosingularity

Archive for January 2006

Stem cells are cells that have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells for as long as the person or animal is still alive.

The most eagerly anticipated therapeutic use for stem cells is regenerative medicine. Biologists dream of the day they can take a stem cell and create any of the body’s cell types, producing pancreas or liver tissue that doctors could use to aid a failing organ. But to realize that dream, scientists must first understand the forces operating in stem cells — what makes some stem cells stay stem cells, while others grow into brain, liver, and skin cells?

Technology review magazine from MIT has a nice article on how scientists are learning how to control the two unique properties of stem cells.

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In a multifaceted study involving the Kuna Indians of Panama, an international team of scientists has pinpointed a chemical compound that is, in part, responsible, for the heart-healthy benefits of certain cocoas and some chocolate products.

The study showed that epicatechin, one of a group of chemicals known as flavanols, was directly linked to improved circulation and other hallmarks of cardiovascular health. The researchers, hope the findings will lead to new dietary or medicinal methods for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health.

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Ever since chemist Stanley Miller created organic compounds from simple building blocks like water, methane, and ammonia, the idea of creating life and thus peering into its possible origins, has fascinated biologists.

Is it possible to build a “protocell” or the most primitive life form from scratch? A cadre of pioneer scientists are trying to do just that. This fascinating quest and current advances in steps of creating life are described in a recent New Scientist article.

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My pick this week, Multipolarity Memes, is a very interesting blog that is  dedicated to guide us to an accelerating, truly self-fulfilling future.

The topics covered are highly diverse from robotics, physics to biological advances. All posted stories accompany visually stimulating thematic pictures or surreal graphics. There are also some very interesting commentaries about futuristic social, political and philosphical issues or dilemmas.

Multipolarity Memes is one of the few blogs that does a great job guiding us to our accelerating future, highly recommended.

Knocking out a gene that helps repair nicks in DNA causes young mice to develop many of the degenerative characteristics of their wizened elders. Mice lacking the gene develop hunchback, thinning skin, decreasing bone density, and a declining immune system — all in the span of a month.

The researchers do not know whether the accelerated aging-like effects of losing the gene, called SIRT6, relate to its role in DNA repair. Nor do they know whether the degenerative effects are relevant to the natural aging process. However, they said, the discovery offers an intriguing new model for studying DNA repair, as well as its possible role in aging-related degeneration.

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A group, led by Dr. Paul Frenette at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found that the sympathetic–or “fight or flight” branch–of the nervous system plays a critical role in coaxing bone marrow stem cells into the bloodstream. Bone marrow cells known as hematopoietic stem cells are the source for blood and immune cells.

New study by Mount Sinai researchers may lead to improved stem cell therapies for patients with compromised immune systems due to intensive cancer therapy or autoimmune disease. Read the rest of this entry »

Single walled carbon nanotubes wrapped with DNA can be placed inside living cells and detect trace amounts of harmful contaminants using near infrared light, report researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Their discovery opens the door to new types of optical sensors and biomarkers that exploit the unique properties of nanoparticles in living systems.

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