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Monday, 30 July 2007


Human skin to replace animal tests

Episkin - a reconstructed human skin which has been approved for testing if cosmetics are likely to irritate the skin. It is the first complete replacement for animal testing.

Tessonneaud's team grows the skin layers on collagen, using skin cells called keratinocytes left-over from breast surgery (see Diagram). The team can test the safety of cosmetics by simply smothering the skin in the product. They can then check the proportion of cells that have been killed off by adding a yellow chemical called MTT which turns blue in the presence of living tissue. "To be validated we had to show that we could reproduce results as effectively as animal tests," says Patricia Pineau, scientific director at L'Oréal. Independent tests showed that in some cases Episkin was able to predict more accurately how a person would react to products than animal tests, she says.

Episkin improves on animal testing in other ways too. For example, it can be adapted to resemble older skin by exposing it to high concentrations of UV light. Adding melanocytes also results in skin that can tan, and by using donor cells from women of different ethnicities, the team has created a spectrum of skin colours which they are using to measure the efficiency of sunblock for different skin tones.

my comment: I think this is much better than testing on animals and it's quite promising too. I hope they put more efforts on developing this technology than on modifying animals' skin to resemble human one, which i consider heartless and unnecessary. We have to learn to create new things without destroying already existing ones.

California's attack of the jumbo squid

The growing squid population has now moved north as global ocean temperatures have risen.
Historically, the two-metre-long Humboldt squid would only ride warm ocean currents northwards from the tropical waters off Central America and Mexico only during El Niño events. There, they would feast on Pacific hake, a fish that can grow up to a metre in length, but when the periodic warming ended they would make their way back to the tropics.

Robison says overfishing of tuna in the tropics has caused squid populations to rise. This occurs because tuna feed on the same smaller fish that squid eat, and also prey on young squid, keeping the population in check.

The growing squid population has now moved north as global ocean temperatures have risen.

My comment: It's high time for people to realize that the Earth is closed eco-system, where everything is interconnected . Everything we do is eventually to come back to us, and little by little, things become obvious. What's the connection? Well, global warming combined with our tuna fishing change the natural habitat of other specie thus changing the whole ocean food-link slowly but surely.

Womb-on-a-chip may boost IVF successes

Teruo Fujii of the University of Tokyo in Japan and his colleagues are building a microfluidic chip to nurture the first stages of pregnancy. They hope, eventually, to create a fully automated artificial uterus in which egg and sperm are fed in at one end and an early embryo comes out the other, ready for implanting in a real mother. They say using such a device could improve the success rate of IVF.

"While there have been many advances in the production of in vitro embryos, these embryos are still sub-optimal [compared] to their in vivo counterparts," says Matt Wheeler of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign who is also working on automated IVF systems. One reason for this is that during IVF, eggs or embryos are often moved or washed with culture fluid, causing changes in temperature and pH, he says.

To tackle these problems, Fujii's team has created a "lab on a chip" that is 2 millimetres across and 0.5 millimetres high, in which up to 20 eggs can be fertilised and then grown until they are ready for implantation. Endometrial cells, which line real wombs, are also grown in the device, so that the chemicals they produce can reach the embryos and help them grow. "We are providing the embryos with a much more comfortable environment, mimicking what happens in the body," Fujii says.


My comment: Ain't that spooky? But anyway, better is better. And providing those embryos better environment gives more chances of survival, which is great.

Deadly fish virus spreads further

A highly contagious fish disease once limited in North America to the Great Lakes has now jumped to several inland lakes. It is killing thousands of fish from an increasing number of species.

Known as viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS), the gruesome disease can cause internal bleeding and haemorrhaging from open sores.

VHS first appeared in the Great Lakes in 2003, most likely as a stowaway in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. The particular strain of virus found in the Great Lakes is believed to be a mutation of a strain found in the Atlantic Ocean.

Although the virus poses no threat to human health, it could devastate the multibillion dollar sport and commercial fishing industries in northeast North America.

In early May 2007, VHS was spotted in an inland lake in the state of Wisconsin, suggesting the virus had spread through Lake Michigan and was closing in on the Mississippi river just to the west.

Since then, two additional die-offs have been confirmed in inland lakes in Michigan and New York states. In each case, the dead fish were found in lakes about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the nearest of the five interconnected Great Lakes.

My comment: A fish virus jumping from lake to lake over 80km of land? This is really curious indeed.

The purpose

If you wonder why do I need two blogs instead of one, then you're like me :)
The idea actually is quite simple, though the title might be little confusing.
It is To The Future With Love, but it's not intended to be read as "a message to the future". Actually it is meant to be "our path to the future".
Which leads to the main goal of this blog.
I'm about to past here every article I meet on my way, which I consider important for our progress as a civilization. So prepare yourself for lots of tekie-like articles form NewScientist or whatever. I'm try to paste only things that make sense to me, but still, some things could be quite futuristic. I hope you'll enjoy this possibility to meet with the edge of science, the frontier of our New World. I will for sure.
And it will be a great way to keep a diary of all the interesting articles I read and forget.
So, that's it, enjoy this new blog and if something really interests you, please make sure you comment it, becaue it's important for me to know what you think. I'll leave my comments too.
Bye and all best!