sciencehabit writes "Don't expect an artificial chicken in every pot anytime soon. Since 2008, the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has offered $1 million to anyone able to create a commercially viable artificial meat from growing chicken cells. But although scientists are making progress toward artificial hamburgers, even a 2-year extension from the original deadline of 2012 wasn't enough to lure applicants for PETA's prize."
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Taco Cowboy writes "Dirty water is a major cause of mortality in the developing world. 'The most common water-borne pathogens are bacteria (e.g. Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae), viruses (e.g. adenoviruses, enteroviruses, hepatitis, rotavirus), and protozoa (e.g. giardia). These pathogens cause child mortality and also contribute to malnutrition and stunted growth of children.' People have been working on engineering cheaper and cheaper filtration systems for years, but now a group of researchers has found a promising and simple solution: a tree branch. 'Approximately 3 cm^3 of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person.' 'Before experimenting with contaminated water, the group used water mixed with red ink particles ranging from 70 to 500 nanometers in size. After all the liquid passed through, the researchers sliced the sapwood in half lengthwise, and observed that much of the red dye was contained within the very top layers of the wood, while the filtrate, or filtered water, was clear. This experiment showed that sapwood is naturally able to filter out particles bigger than about 70 nanometers.' The team tested E. coli-contaminated water, and the branch was able to filter out 99 percent of the bacterial cells."
sciencehabit writes "The U.K. government today issued proposed regulations that would allow researchers to try a new and controversial in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure in patients. The technique could allow women who are carriers of mitochondrial disease to have healthy, genetically related children. But it also transfers DNA from one egg or embryo into another, a form of genetic alteration that could be passed on to future generations. Altering the genes of human egg cells or embryos in IVF procedures is now forbidden in the United Kingdom."
Lasrick writes "Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic: 'The marvelous thing about horseshoe crab blood, though, isn't the color. It's a chemical found only in the amoebocytes of its blood cells that can detect mere traces of bacterial presence and trap them in inescapable clots.' Madrigal continues, 'To take advantage of this biological idiosyncrasy, pharmaceutical companies burst the cells that contain the chemical, called coagulogen. Then, they can use the coagulogen to detect contamination in any solution that might come into contact with blood. If there are dangerous bacterial endotoxins in the liquid—even at a concentration of one part per trillion—the horseshoe crab blood extract will go to work, turning the solution into what scientist Fred Bang, who co-discovered the substance, called a "gel." ... I don't know about you, but the idea that every single person in America who has ever had an injection has been protected because we harvest the blood of a forgettable sea creature with a hidden chemical superpower makes me feel a little bit crazy. This scenario is not even sci-fi, it's postmodern technology.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Here's a neat story out of Britain, with good news about long-term success for the patient involved, and for others who might benefit from similar procedures: three years ago, surgeon Craig Gerrand successfully printed and implanted an artificial pelvis (actually, about half of one) into a patient suffering from a rare form of cancer. Other techniques were ruled out, because the patient would be losing so much bone. So, after careful scanning, additive printing with titanium was used to create the replacement: 'In order to create the 3-D printed pelvis, the surgeons took scans of the man's pelvis to take exact measurements of how much 3-D printed bone needed to be produced and passed it along to Stanmore Implants. The company used the scans to create a titanium 3-D replacement, by fusing layers of titanium together and then coating it with a mineral that would allow the remaining bone cells to attach.' Now, three years after the procedure, the printed pelvis is holding up just fine, and the patient is able to walk with a cane."
Nemo the Magnificent writes with this excerpt from the University of Arizona: "A new study (paywalled) published in the journal Nature provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the evolutionary relationships of influenza virus across different host species over time... In the 1870s, an immense horse flu outbreak swept across North America. City by city and town by town, horses got sick and perhaps five percent of them died. Half of Boston burned down during the outbreak, because there were no horses to pull the pump wagons. In the West, the U.S. Cavalry was fighting the Apaches on foot because all the horses were sick... The horse flu outbreak pulled the rug out from under the economy.""
sciencehabit writes "As the cost of genetic sequencing plummets, experts believe our genomes will help doctors detect diseases and save lives. But not all of us are comfortable releasing our biological blueprints into the world. Now cryptologists are perfecting a new privacy tool that turns genetic information into a secure yet functional format. Called homomorphic encryption, the method could help keep genomes private even as genetic testing shifts to cheap online cloud services."
An anonymous reader writes "Economic espionage is nothing new but one of the biggest areas being targeted now is agriculture. Here's a story about a FBI investigation to track down theft of seeds from research farms. 'The case of the missing corn seeds first broke in May 2011 when a manager at a DuPont research farm in east-central Iowa noticed a man on his knees, digging up the field. When confronted, the man, Mo Hailong, who was with his colleague Wang Lei, appeared flushed. Mr. Mo told the manager that he worked for the University of Iowa and was traveling to a conference nearby. When the manager paused to answered his cellphone, the two men sped off in a car, racing through a ditch to get away, federal authorities said.'"
New submitter kalman5 writes "Dennis Aabo Sørensen is the first amputee in the world to feel sensory rich information — in real-time — with a prosthetic hand wired to nerves in his upper arm. Sørensen could grasp objects intuitively and identify what he was touching while blindfolded. The surgical team 'attached electrodes from a robotic hand to a 36-year-old volunteer's median and ulnar nerves. Those nerves carry sensations that correspond with the volunteer's index finger and thumb, and with his pinky finger and the edge of his hand, respectively. The volunteer controlled the prosthetic with small muscle movements detected by sEMG, a method that dates to the 1970s and measures electrical signals through the skin—unlike the electrodes attached to his nerves, sEMG is not invasive.' The results? 'The volunteer was able to complete the requested tasks with his prosthetic thumb and index finger 67 percent of the time the first day and 93 percent of the time by the seventh day of the experiment, Micera and colleagues report. He found the pinky finger harder to control: he was only able to accomplish the requested grip 83 percent of the time by the end of the experiment.'"
Lucas123 writes "In a report released today, Gartner predicts that the time is drawing near when 3D-bioprinted human organs will be readily available, an advance almost certain to spark a complex debate involving a variety of political, moral and financial interests. For example, some researchers are using cells from human and non-human organs to create stronger tissue, said Pete Basiliere, a Gartner research director. 'In this example, there was human amniotic fluid, canine smooth muscle cells, and bovine cells all being used. Some may feel those constructs are of concern,' he said. While regulations in the U.S. and Europe will mean human trials of 3D printed organs will likely take up to a decade, nations with less stringent standards will plow ahead with the technology. For example, last August, the Hangzhou Dianzi University in China announced it had invented the biomaterial 3D printer Regenovo, which printed a small working kidney that lasted four months. Apart from printing tissue, 3D printing may also threaten intellectual property rights. 'IP will be ignored and it will be impossible or impractical to enforce. Everything will change when you can make anything.' said John Hornick, an IP attorney."
vinces99 writes "A mere glass full of water from Monterey Bay Aquarium's 1.2 million-gallon Open Sea tank is all scientists really needed to identify the Pacific Bluefin tuna, dolphinfish and most of the other 13,000 fish swimming there. Researchers also discerned which of the species were most plentiful in the tank. Being able to determine the relative abundance of fish species in a body of water is the next step in possibly using modern DNA identification techniques to census fish in the open ocean, according to Ryan Kelly, University of Washington assistant professor of marine and environmental affairs, and lead author of a paper in the Jan. 15 issue of PLOS ONE. 'It might be unpleasant to think about when going for a swim in the ocean, but the water is a soup of cells shed by what lives there,' Kelly said. Fish shed cells from their skin, damaged tissues and as body wastes. 'Every one of those cells has DNA and if you have the right tools you can tell what species the cell came from. Now we're working to find the relative abundance of each species present,' he said."
malachiorion writes "Cornell, MIT and iRobot have all shown off so-called jamming manipulators: rubbery blobs that grip objects by deforming around them. But with the first commercially available version shipping to industrial and manufacturing customers, Cornell spinoff Empire Robotics has a new market in mind: Prosthetics. While impossibly expensive, neuro-controlled bionic hands continue to be a fantasy for most amputees, jamming manipulators could do the job. This article is about the merits of a low-tech, self-gripping stump, that could be powered by hooking up to an air compressor." This seems like a decent solution while we close in on a method to regrow lost limbs.
Sockatume writes "According to an article published by the BBC, Chinese firm BGI has refined cloning procedures to the point where they can produce 500 pigs per year, performing two embryo implantations per day with a 70-80% success rate. Much of the operation is concerned with producing genetically-engineered animals for research. The biotech firm's other work includes million-individual-scale animal and plant genetic sequencing."
the_newsbeagle writes "When surgeons set out to repair holes in the walls of the heart's chambers or in blood vessels, they often do invasive open-heart surgery and use sutures, staples, and glue to keep a patch in place. But the sutures and staples are a rough fix, and many of the glues on the market today don't work well on wet tissue that's continually flexed by the heart's contractions and the movement of pumping blood. Today biomaterial researchers announced a new light-activated glue that could make surgery less invasive, quicker, and easier. The adhesive was inspired by slugs' and sandcastle worms' sticky secretions, which work underwater, and it can be applied with slender tools during minimally invasive surgery. A flash of UV light then sets the glue, which bends and flexes with the tissue."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "George Johnson writes in the NYT that cancer is on the verge of overtaking heart disease as the No. 1 cause of death and although cancer mortality has actually been decreasing bit by bit in recent decades, the decline has been modest compared with other threats. The diseases that once killed earlier in life — bubonic plague, smallpox, influenza, tuberculosis — were easier obstacles. For each there was a single infectious agent, a precise cause that could be confronted. But there are reasons to believe that cancer will remain much more resistant because it is not so much a disease as a phenomenon, the result of a basic evolutionary compromise. As a body lives and grows, its cells are constantly dividing, copying their DNA — this vast genetic library — and bequeathing it to the daughter cells. They in turn pass it to their own progeny: copies of copies of copies. Along the way, errors inevitably occur. Some are caused by carcinogens but most are random misprints. Mutations are the engine of evolution. Without them we never would have evolved. The trade-off is that every so often a certain combination will give an individual cell too much power. It begins to evolve independently of the rest of the body and like a new species thriving in an ecosystem, it grows into a cancerous tumor. 'Given a long enough life, cancer will eventually kill you — unless you die first of something else (PDF). That would be true even in a world free from carcinogens and equipped with the most powerful medical technology,' concludes Johnson. 'Maybe someday some of us will live to be 200. But barring an elixir for immortality, a body will come to a point where it has outwitted every peril life has thrown at it. And for each added year, more mutations will have accumulated. If the heart holds out, then waiting at the end will be cancer.'"
biobricks writes "New York Times reports on how the county council on the Big Island of Hawaii banned GMOs. 'Urged on by Margaret Wille, the ban’s sponsor, who spoke passionately of the need to “act before it’s too late,” the Council declined to form a task force to look into such questions before its November vote. But Mr. Ilagan, 27, sought answers on his own. In the process, he found himself, like so many public and business leaders worldwide, wrestling with a subject in which popular beliefs often do not reflect scientific evidence. At stake is how to grow healthful food most efficiently, at a time when a warming world and a growing population make that goal all the more urgent.'"
schwit1 writes with news that one of the big presentations at next week's Consumer Electronics Show will be a set of contact lenses that are designed to augment a user's vision. A company called iOptik will be demonstrating a functioning prototype. The lenses themselves are actually only part of the display — they're paired with eyeglasses that are fitted with micro-projectors which generate the imagery shown on the lenses. "[B]y utilizing the specialized lenses to help users focus on both close and faraway objects — an issue when putting panoramic images inches from the eyes — in conjunction with the glasses to project the media and overlays, Innovega is able to do two things when most wearables do just one. First, it can project 'glance-able' displays, like Google Glass does exclusively where data is pushed to the periphery. But by utilizing the contact lenses with the glasses, it can also project a full-screen HUD, in other words operate in a heads-up display mode similar to what goggle wearables like the gaming-focused Oculus Rift offer. ... 'All the usual optics in the eyewear are taken away and there is a sub-millimeter lens right in the center,' [iOptik CEO Stephen Willey] explained. 'It's shaped, so the outside of the lens is shaped to your prescription if you need one and the very center of the lens is a bump that allows you to see incredibly well half an inch from your eye.' The second component involved is the optical filter that directs light. 'Light coming from outside the world is shunted to your normal prescription. Light from that very near display goes through the center of the lens, the optical filter,' Willey said."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "ABC News reports that General Mills has ended the use of genetically modified ingredients in Cheerios, its flagship breakfast food. General Mills has been manufacturing its original-flavor Cheerios without GMOs for the past several weeks in response to consumer demand. Original Cheerios will now be labeled as 'Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients,' although that it is not an official certification. 'We were able to do this with original Cheerios because the main ingredients are oats,' says Mike Siemienas, noting that there are no genetically modified oats. The company is primarily switching the cornstarch and sugar to make the original Cheerios free of GMOs. Green America has been targeting Cheerios for the past year to raise the profile of the anti-GMO movement. 'This is a big deal,' says Green America's Todd Larsen. 'Cheerios is an iconic brand and one of the leading breakfast cereals in the U.S. We don't know of any other example of such a major brand of packaged food, eaten by so many Americans, going from being GMO to non-GMO.' For its part, General Mills says, It's not about safety,' and will continue to use GMOs in other food products."
sciencehabit writes "Roaming bits of DNA that can relocate and proliferate throughout the genome, called 'jumping genes,' may contribute to schizophrenia, a new study suggests (abstract). These rogue genetic elements pepper the brain tissue of deceased people with the disorder and multiply in response to stressful events, such as infection during pregnancy, which increase the risk of the disease. The study could help explain how genes and environment work together to produce the complex disorder and may even point to ways of lowering the risk of the disease, researchers say."
First time accepted submitter ultranova writes with news of a new phase in trials for an HIV vaccine. From the article: "Some 1,000 patients throughout France and Switzerland will take part on the trials, with the first phase involving hundreds of HIV sufferers. Participant numbers will increase as the program progresses. ... According to Reijonen, the GTU technology developed by FIT Biotech is also suitable for use as a preventive HIV vaccine, however, he says that such a drug is still ten years away.The central idea behind HIV vaccine development is the use of genetic immunization. Genes are introduced into the body in order to generate a controlled immune response against HIV. Gene Transport Unit (or GTU) technology refers to FIT Biotech’s patented method by which genes can be safely introduced into the body."