Biosingularity

Archive for March 2009

Harvard University scientists are a step closer to creating synthetic forms of life, part of a drive to design man-made organisms that may one day be used to help produce new fuels and create biotechnology drugs.

Researchers led by George Church, whose findings helped spur the U.S. human genome project in the 1980s, have copied the part of a living cell that makes proteins, the building blocks of life. The finding overcomes a major roadblock in making synthetic self-replicating organisms, Church said today in a lecture at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The technology can be used to program cells to make virtually any protein, even some that don’t exist in nature, the scientists said. That may allow production of helpful new drugs, chemicals and organisms, including living bacteria. It also opens the door to ethical concerns about creation of processes that may be uncontrollable by life’s natural defenses.

–>>>>>>> Article in Bloomberg news

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The March, 2009 issue of Nutrition and Cancer published the finding of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center of an association between long term consumption of zinc supplements and a reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer in men. Read the rest of this entry »

Chronic stress takes a physical and emotional toll on our bodies and scientists are working on piecing together a medical puzzle to understand how we respond to stress at the cellular level in the brain. Being able to quickly and successfully respond to stress is essential for survival.

Using a rat model, Jaideep Bains, PhD, a University of Calgary scientist and his team of researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute have discovered that neurons in the hypothalamus, the brain’s command centre for stress responses, interpret ‘off’ chemical signals as ‘on’ chemical signals when stress is perceived. “It’s as if the brakes in your car are now acting to speed up the vehicle, rather than slow it down.” says Bains. This unexpected finding is being published in the March 1st online edition of Nature Neuroscience. Read the rest of this entry »

With obesity reaching epidemic levels, researchers at the Ohio State University Medical Center are studying a potentially long-term treatment that involves injecting a gene directly into one of the critical feeding and weight control centers of the brain. Read the rest of this entry »

A strange and confused chapter in the history of American medical research ended Monday morning, when President Obama signed an executive order ending a ban on federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell lines that were developed after August 9, 2001.

The ban has been roundly denounced as hypocritical and destructive, stunting advances in one of the most exciting fields of medical research. Some restrictions will still apply, and whether research will provide much-anticipated cures is an open question — but at least the question will be answered by science, with the government’s full weight behind it.

–>>>>>>>> Article in Wired

The function of a protein is determined both by its structure and by its interaction partners in the cell. Until now, proteins had to be isolated for analyzing them. An international team of researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University, Goethe University, and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) has, for the first time, determined the structure of a protein in its natural environment, the living cell. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, the researchers solved the structure of a protein within the bacterium Escherichia coli. “We have reached an important goal of molecular biology”, says Prof. Peter Güntert from the Goethe University’s Biomolecular Magnetic Resonance Center. (BMRZ)

Read the rest of this entry »

More and more information is being gathered about how human genes influence medically relevant traits, such as the propensity to develop a certain disease. The ultimate goal is to predict whether or not a given trait will develop later in life from the genome sequence alone (i.e. from the sequence of the bases that make up the DNA strands that store genetic information in every cell of the body).

Now, writing in the journal Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, a group of researchers form the Netherlands put this goal to a test using eye colour. The group around Manfred Kayser of the Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam showed that it can be predicted with an accuracy of over 90% whether a person has blue or brown eyes by analysing DNA from only 6 different positions of the genome. Read the rest of this entry »


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