Biosingularity

Archive for January 2008

Why do some people solve problems more creatively than others? Are people who think creatively somehow different from those who tend to think in a more methodical fashion?

These questions are part of a long-standing debate, with some researchers arguing that what we call “creative thought” and “noncreative thought” are not basically different. If this is the case, then people who are thought of as creative do not really think in a fundamentally different way from those who are thought of as noncreative. On the other side of this debate, some researchers have argued that creative thought is fundamentally different from other forms of thought. If this is true, then those who tend to think creatively really are somehow different.
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Researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT report in the Jan. 24 online edition of Science that they have created a way to see, for the first time, the effect of blocking and unblocking a single neural circuit in a living animal.

This revolutionary method allowed Susumu Tonegawa, Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, and colleagues to see how bypassing a major memory-forming circuit in the brain affected learning and memory in mice.

mouse hippocampus

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Genes have the ability to recognise similarities in each other from a distance, without any proteins or other biological molecules aiding the process, according to new research. This discovery could explain how similar genes find each other and group together in order to perform key processes involved in the evolution of species.
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Bacteria have evolved complex mechanisms called quorum sensing systems that provide for cell-to-cell communication, an adaptation that allows them to wait until their population grows large enough before mounting an attack on a host or competing for nutrients. Lianhong Sun, a chemical engineer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has engineered one of these systems to create genetic switches that could lower the cost of producing therapeutic proteins and pharmaceuticals.
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What if swallowing a pill with a camera could detect the earliest signs of cancer? The tiny camera is designed to take high-quality, color pictures in confined spaces. Such a device could find warning signs of esophageal cancer, the fastest growing cancer in the United States.
A fundamentally new design has created a smaller endoscope that is more comfortable for the patient and cheaper to use than current technology. Its first use on a human, scanning for early signs of esophageal cancer, will be reported in an upcoming issue of IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. Read the rest of this entry »

By now, everyone knows that overweight people have a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and other problems that arise from clogged, hardened arteries. And people who carry their extra weight around their waist – giving them a “beer belly” or an “apple” shape — have the highest risk of all.But despite the impact on human health, the reasons behind this connection between heart disease and belly fat – also known as visceral fat — have eluded scientists. Now, a new study in mice gives the first direct evidence of why this link might exist – and a tantalizing look at how it might be broken.
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I have been following JoVE is the Journal of Visualized Experiments, for some time. This very unique “video journal” focuses on publishing videos of experimental procedures in life sciences.

Today I learned JoVE may soon be indexed on Pubmed, which will give it a credibility of peer reviewed scientific journal. Apparently they have also signed agreement with established science publishing companies (Annual Reviews, Springer Protocols, Current Protocols) for joint protocol publication, as in this example.. I think this is extremely useful for scientists or those who want to see actual experiments done. It will be interesting to see how it develops and accepted in scientific community.

Just as many scientists had given up the search, researchers have discovered that the pancreas does indeed harbor stem cells with the capacity to generate new insulin-producing beta cells. If the finding made in adult mice holds for humans, the newfound progenitor cells will represent an obvious target for therapeutic regeneration of beta cells in diabetes, the researchers report in the Jan. 25 issue of Cell, a publication of Cell Press.
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Like fine china and crystal, which tend to be used sparingly, stem cells divide infrequently. It was thought they did so to protect themselves from unnecessary wear and tear. But now new research from Rockefeller University has unveiled the protein that puts the brakes on stem cell division and shows that stem cells may not need such guarded protection to maintain their potency.
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A team of 17 researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) has created the largest man-made DNA structure by synthesizing and assembling the 582,970 base pair genome of a bacterium, Mycoplasma genitalium JCVI-1.0. This work, published online today in the journal Science by Dan Gibson, Ph.D., et al, is the second of three key steps toward the team’s goal of creating a fully synthetic organism. In the next step, which is ongoing at the JCVI, the team will attempt to create a living bacterial cell based entirely on the synthetically made genome.
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Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that a low concentration of vitamin E in the blood is linked with physical decline in older persons.

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Using embryonic stem cells from mice, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have prompted the growth of healthy – and more importantly, functioning – muscle cells in mice afflicted with a human model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

The study represents the first time transplanted embryonic stem cells have been shown to restore function to defective muscles in a model of muscular dystrophy.
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It’s good news that we are living longer, but bad news that the longer we live, the better our odds of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Many Alzheimer’s researchers have long touted fish oil, by pill or diet, as an accessible and inexpensive “weapon” that may delay or prevent this debilitating disease. Now, UCLA scientists have confirmed that fish oil is indeed a deterrent against Alzheimer’s, and they have identified the reasons why.

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Nature knows how to make proteins and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) dance to assemble and sustain life. Inspired by this proof of principle, researchers at the California Institute of Technology have demonstrated that it is possible to program the pathways by which DNA strands self-assemble and disassemble, and hence to control the dynamic function of the molecules as they traverse these pathways.

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Spinal cord damage blocks the routes that the brain uses to send messages to the nerve cells that control walking. Until now, doctors believed that the only way for injured patients to walk again was to re-grow the long nerve highways that link the brain and base of the spinal cord. For the first time, a UCLA study shows that the central nervous system can reorganize itself and follow new pathways to restore the cellular communication required for movement.

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New research at the University of Chicago finds evidence for a clever way that people manage to alleviate the pain of loneliness: They create people in their surroundings to keep them company.

“Biological reproduction is not a very efficient way to alleviate one’s loneliness, but you can make up people when you’re motivated to do so,” said Nicholas Epley, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business. “When people lack a sense of connection with other people, they are more likely to see their pets, gadgets or gods as human-like.”

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Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes – visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.

The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.

 

 

 

 

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University of Pennsylvania engineers and physicians have developed a carbon nanopipette thousands of times thinner than a human hair that measures electric current and delivers fluids into cells. Researchers developed this tiny carbon-based tool to probe cells with minimal intrusion and inject fluids without damaging or inhibiting cell growth.

 

 

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This is a very informative animation of how DNA is packaged and replicated within the cell nucleus.  [Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UoKYGKxxMI] 

A new study done with mice has discovered that supplements of lipoic acid can inhibit formation of arterial lesions, lower triglycerides, and reduce blood vessel inflammation and weight gain – all key issues for addressing cardiovascular disease.

Although the results cannot be directly extrapolated beyond the laboratory, researchers report that “they strongly suggest that lipoic acid supplementation may be useful as an inexpensive but effective intervention strategy . . . reducing known risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis and other inflammatory vascular diseases in humans.”

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Scientists at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute have developed the world’s first gene detection platform made up entirely from self-assembled DNA nanostructures. The results, appearing in the January 11 issue of the journal Science, could have broad implications for gene chip technology and may also revolutionize the way in which gene expression is analyzed in a single cell.

 

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Biological engineering does not have to be confined to the laboratories of high-end industry laboratories. Rather, it is desirable to foster a more open culture of biological technology. This talk is an effort to do so; it aims to equip you with basic practical knowledge of biological engineering.  

People from different cultures use their brains differently to solve the same visual perceptual tasks, MIT researchers and colleagues report in the first brain imaging study of its kind.

Psychological research has established that American culture, which values the individual, emphasizes the independence of objects from their contexts, while East Asian societies emphasize the collective and the contextual interdependence of objects. Behavioral studies have shown that these cultural differences can influence memory and even perception. But are they reflected in brain activity patterns”

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By using a process called whole organ decellularization, scientists from the University of Minnesota Center for Cardiovascular Repair grew functioning heart tissue by taking dead rat and pig hearts and reseeding them with a mixture of live cells. The research will be published online in the January 13 issue of Nature Medicine.

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Suppressing a cellular cleanup-mechanism known as autophagy can accelerate the accumulation of protein aggregates that leads to neural degeneration. In an upcoming issue of Autophagy, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies report for the first time that the opposite is true as well: Boosting autophagy in the nervous system of fruit flies prevented the age-dependent accumulation of cellular damage in neurons and promoted longevity.

 

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Researchers at Duke University have demonstrated that monkeys have the ability to perform mental addition. In fact, monkeys performed about as well as college students given the same test.

The findings shed light on the shared evolutionary origins of arithmetic ability in humans and non-human animals, according to Assistant Professor Elizabeth Brannon, Ph.D. and Jessica Cantlon, Ph.D., of the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

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Many researchers have tried to create a mathematical model of how cells pack together to form tissue, but most models have many different complicated factors, and no model is universal.

Researchers at Northwestern University have now created a functional equation — using only two parameters — to show how cells pack together to create the eyes of Drosophila, better known as the fruit fly. They hope that the pared-down equation can be applied to different kinds of tissues, leading to advances in regenerative medicine.

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Biologists have created baker’s yeast capable of living to 800 in yeast years without apparent side effects. The basic but important discovery, achieved through a combination of dietary and genetic changes, brings science closer to controlling the survival and health of the unit of all living systems: the cell.
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This is “The PCR Song” by “Scientists for a Better PCR”. It was done by the good folks at Bio-Rad to promote their 1000 Series Thermal Cyclers (a pcr machine). This is probably the best geek ad  and will provide laughs to all (especially those who remember when pcr meant dipping your samples in individual waters baths for two or more hours). Enjoy! - 
 

One of the nation’s pre-eminent genetic researchers, Eric Hoffman, PhD, of Children’s Research Institute at Children’s National Medical Center, predicts that in relatively short order, medicine’s next innovation–individualized molecular therapies–will have the unprecedented ability to treat muscular dystrophies, and other disorders.

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In some ways, HIV resembles a minimalist painter, using a few basic components to achieve dramatic effects. The virus contains just nine genes encoding 15 proteins, which wreak havoc on the human immune system. But this bare bones approach could have a fatal flaw. Lacking robust machinery, HIV hijacks human proteins to propagate, and these might represent powerful therapeutic targets.

Using a technique called RNA interference to screen thousands of genes, Harvard Medical School researchers have now identified 273 human proteins required for HIV propagation. The vast majority had not been connected to the virus by previous studies. The work appears online in Science Express on Jan. 10.

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Overweight people who lose a moderate amount of weight get an immediate benefit in the form of better heart health, according to a study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. And the heart improvements happen whether that weight is shed by eating less or exercising more.

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The first clinical studies of an experimental drug have revealed that obese people who take it for 12 weeks lose weight, even at very low doses. Short-term studies also suggest that the drug, called taranabant—the second drug designed to fight obesity by blocking cannabinoid receptors in the brain—causes people to consume fewer calories and burn more, researchers report in the January issue of Cell Metabolism, a publication of Cell Press. Cannabinoid receptors are responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana (Cannabis sativa), and natural “endocannabinoids” are important regulators of energy balance.

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A report in the January issue of Cell Metabolism, a publication of Cell Press, provides new evidence explaining how stem cells known as satellite cells contribute to building muscles up in response to exercise. These findings could lead to treatments for reversing or improving the muscle loss that occurs in diseases such as cancer and AIDS as well as in the normal aging process, according to the researchers.

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A new scientific review of the most current research shows the link between eating oatmeal and cholesterol reduction to be stronger than when the FDA initially approved the health claim’s appearance on food labels in 1997.

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Practice makes perfect — or at least that’s what we’re told as we struggle through endless rounds of multiplication tables, goal kicks and piano scales — and it seems, based on the personal experience of many, to be true. That’s why neuroscientists have been perplexed by data showing that at the level of individual synapses, or connections between neurons, increased, repetitive stimulation might actually reverse early gains in synaptic strength. Now, neuroscientists from Carnegie Mellon University and the Max Planck Institute have discovered the mechanism that resolves this apparent paradox. The findings are published in the Jan. 4 issue of Science.

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MIT researchers have uncovered a critical difference between flu viruses that infect birds and humans, a discovery that could help scientists monitor the evolution of avian flu strains and aid in the development of vaccines against a deadly flu pandemic.

The researchers found that a virus’s ability to infect humans depends on whether it can bind to one specific shape of receptor on the surface of human respiratory cells.

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People who adopt four healthy behaviours – not smoking; taking exercise; moderate alcohol intake; and eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day – live on average an additional fourteen years of life compared with people who adopt none of these behaviours, according to a study published in the open access journal PLoS Medicine.

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