Archive for February, 2012
Back in January, I blogged about how in December of 2011 the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) took the controversial step of requesting that the high-impact journals Science and Nature remove certain methodological details and the identity of the key mutations from the results to be published of two H5N1 avian influenza virus studies. The reason for this drastic regulation? The NSABB classified their results as “dual use” research – research that could be used for either beneficial or ill-purposed applications. They raised concerns about the More >
Next to the rarely true excuse, “Of course I´m not too heavy… I just have heavy bones,” the couch potato gene could be the perfect excuse for those who find exercise something of a chore. It may not be an attitude problem: ‘I’m not lazy, it’s my genes!’
In investigating couch potatoes scientists have discovered why some of us have fun working out for hours while others lack energy and can barely summon the get-up-and-go to reach for the TV remote.
They believe they have identified the genes that produce an enzyme in our muscles during work outs called AMP kinase More >
In the 1970s a team of archaeologists led by Carl Gustafson unearthed the remains of a single, 3-ton, male mastodon (Mammut americanum, a close relative of mammoths and elephants), hunted and butchered by a group of men at the Manis site in the state of Washington, USA (Gustafson 1979). Among the mastodon remains they found a spear point that pierced a rib bone. Luckily for us the hunters did not recover the projectile weapon. We thus have evidence of the technology that cavemen in the Americas used to secure their food.
Originally Gustafson and his colleagues dated the mastodon hunting at More >
After asking students during a lesson on mutations if it is possible that a mutation in DNA could be good, most students will nod yes without much understanding. Recently, I finally had one student raise his hand immediately and answer the question (with extreme surprise that no other students were blurting out the answer)…”evolution!” He was able to make the connection between changes in DNA that are building up over time, and how that change can possibly make that organism better in some way. If it helps the survival of an organism, that mutation is going to stick around and More >
What do you get when you cross an immunologist, a nanotechnologist, and a geneticist? A DNA nano-robot!
Welcome to the world of nanobiotechnology and translational research…
In a brilliant example of multidisciplinary research, Harvard Medical School’s Shawn Douglas, Ido Bachelet, and George Church combined forces to build nanostructures that would mimic the body’s immune system to recognize cancer cells and trick them into self-destructing. Their research is published today in Science but the discovery didn’t just happen overnight. It’s the culmination of several key discoveries going back several years, by researchers around the globe.
It’s the season of hibernation, something I’ve always wished I could do. Oh, to wrap up in a ball, sleep away the winter, and wake to a beautiful spring day – like Bambi! Although the thought has always intrigued me, it never really occurred to me what a feat hibernation actually is. It turns out that all of the bears, squirrels, rabbits etc…. that I thought were just sleeping, are breaking biological laws!! If I was to stay dormant for 5 months, without food or drink and little to no movement in freezing temperatures I would die, so no hibernating More >
Epigenetics is the study of chemical reactions that control the on and off switch of genes at specific times and the factors influencing them. Environment is a factor that influences epigenetic change which may encompass behavior, stress or diet. The easiest of the three to make observations from is diet. When we think of food, rarely do we think of chemical modifications to DNA and restriction of gene activity. Commonly we think of foods coming in and being broken down into nutrients to be utilized in metabolic pathways to make components the body can use. Interestingly one of the pathways More >
This article in science is good news for suffers of Alzheimer’s. A group out of Case Western University reports that the drug Bexarotene can reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in mouse models of the disease.
More importantly, Bexarotene is already in use in human patients, making it easier to determine if the drug will have similar benefits for Alzheimer’s patients.
According to Alzheimer’s Foundation statistics, 5.4 million Americans suffer from this debilitating disease. Alzheimer’s devastates patient’s cognitive abilities, with the most notable symptom being profound and worsening memory loss. While some amount of memory loss is to be expected with old age, Alzheimer’s patients More >
Just like normal tissue, tumors need blood vessels to grow. Because of this, drugs that stop angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels, are one important approach to treating cancers. These angiogenesis inhibitors stop tumor growth by starving them of oxygen and nutrients, usually by interfering with signals from the tumor cells that promote blood vessel formation in the surrounding tissue. Angiogenesis inhibitors have been shown to be effective in the treatment of several cancer types, but the results aren’t always as expected. Several recent studies show how complicated this can be. For instance, FDA approval of the drug More >