Biosingularity

Archive for March 2008

One of the more intriguing workhorses of the cell, a protein conglomerate called telomerase, has in its short history been implicated in some critical areas of medicine including cancer, aging and keeping stem cells healthy. With such a resume, telomerase has been the subject of avid interest by basic scientists and pharmaceutical companies alike, so you’d think at the very least people would know what it is.

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Chemists from UCLA and the University of Washington have succeeded in creating “designer enzymes,” a major milestone in computational chemistry and protein engineering.

Designer enzymes will have applications for defense against biological warfare, by deactivating pathogenic biological agents, and for creating more effective medications.

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The world’s best known writer of science fiction, Sir Arthur C Clarke was the first to propose satellite communications in 1945. One of his short stories inspired the World Wide Web, while another was later expanded to make the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-wrote with director Stanley Kubrick. He has lived in Sri Lanka since 1956. This is the final video of a remarkable man of optimism and vision for us to  cherish forever:

In an exclusive preview of his new book, The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker looks at language, and the way it expresses the workings of our minds. By analyzing common sentences and words, he shows us how, in what we say and how we say it, we’re communicating much more than we realize 

Five consecutive years of flat funding the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is deterring promising young researchers and threatening the future of Americans’ health, a group of seven preeminent academic research institutions warned today. In a new report released here, the group of concerned institutions (six research universities and a major teaching hospital) described the toll that cumulative stagnant NIH funding is taking on the American medical research enterprise. And the leading institutions warned that if NIH does not get consistent and robust support in the future, the nation will lose a generation of young investigators to other careers and other countries and, with them, a generation of promising research that could cure disease for millions for whom no cure currently exists.

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The machinery responsible for energy production in fat cells is working poorly as a result of obesity. Finnish research done at the University of Helsinki and the National Public Health Institute shows that this may aggravate and work to maintain the obese state in humans.

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Scientists at the University of Washington and other institutions have identified 25 genes regulating lifespan in two organisms separated by about 1.5 billion years in evolutionary change. At least 15 of those genes have very similar versions in humans, suggesting that scientists may be able to target those genes to help slow down the aging process and treat age-related conditions.

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Can we create new life out of our digital universe?” asks Craig Venter. And his answer is, yes, and pretty soon. He walks the TED2008 audience through his latest research into “fourth-generation fuels” — biologically created fuels with CO2 as their feedstock. His talk covers the details of creating brand-new chromosomes using digital technology, the reasons why we would want to do this, and the bioethics of synthetic life. A fascinating Q&A with TED’s Chris Anderson follows .  

Neuroscientists studying the mind’s ability to process images have completed the first empirical study to demonstrate, using animal models, how populations of nerve cells in visual cortex adapt to changing images. Their findings could lead to sight-improving therapies for people following trauma or stroke. The study at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston appears in the March 13 issue of the journal Nature.

eyeanatomy.jpg

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A compound found in soybeans almost completely prevented the spread of human prostate cancer in mice, according to a study published in the March 15 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Researchers say that the amount of the chemical, an antioxidant known as genistein, used in the experiments was no higher than what a human would eat in a soybean-rich diet.

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One way of combating atherosclerosis is to reduce levels of “bad cholesterol” in the blood. Scientists at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have now identified the genes that bring about this beneficial effect.

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Success in the laboratory suggests that a new compound can point the way to preventing active tuberculosis in people infected with the latent form of the bacterium, says a team led by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. A drug with such properties could also be useful in treating people who already have tuberculosis by shortening the lengthy treatment period. The discovery also points to new ways of thinking about fighting bacterial infection, which is becoming increasingly resistant to traditional antibiotics.

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