Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Robots with a gut and spider-goats, 2011

Airborne wind turbines to generate power from high winds (w/ Video) - ( -- Airborne wind turbines may soon be generating power from high-altitude winds to provide consistent, clean, cheap, and abundant energy for a power-hungry world. - Check out the videos! They are so cool. The thing is really working!
Self-sustaining robot has an artificial gut (w/ Video) - UK researchers have developed an autonomous robot with an artificial gut that enables it to fuel itself by eating and excreting. The robot is the first bot powered by biomass to be demonstrated operating without assistance for several days. Being self-sustaining would enable robots of the future to function unaided for long periods. 
The bacteria in each MFC metabolize the mixture, producing hydrogen atoms in the process. The hydrogen electrons are drawn to the fuel cell anode where an is generated. Meanwhile the ions enter the cathode chamber via a proton-exchange membrane and combine with oxygen in the water in the chamber to produce more water. The robot drinks water to replace losses through evaporation.
The robot has maintained itself unaided for up to seven days, but is so far extremely inefficient, using only 1% of the energy available within the food. It moves slowly and shows some intelligent behaviors such as moving toward light. - Cool, huh? Though maybe they should increase that efficiency one way or another. I don't know why don't they simply burn the waste instead of deposing it. Of course, burning is kind of more filthy so it will require new systems. And anyway, don't you like it how Nature continues to be the best example to follow?
Vibration-powered generating batteries recharge when shaken - A new generator allows you to recharge it simply by shaking it. Its developer, Brother Industries Ltd, says that the "vibration-powered generating battery" can replace AA and AAA batteries for devices that have a power consumption of about 100 mW, such as a flashlight or remote control. - Me wants one of these! Well, if they are efficient enough, don't feel like shaking it the whole day just to get a power for a day. We already have something similar and it doesn't require too much time to power the flashlight. So I guess this will work even better. 

Novel microfluidic HIV test is quick and cheap - UC Davis biomedical engineer Prof. Alexander Revzin has developed a "lab on a chip" device for HIV testing. Revzin's microfluidic device uses antibodies to "capture" white blood cells called T cells that are affected by HIV. In addition to physically binding these cells the test detects the types and levels of inflammatory proteins (cytokines) released by the cells.
With further refinements, the test will have wide potential use for multi-parametric blood analysis performed at the point of care in the developing world and resource-poor areas.
- Another quite cool device that could change lives. I always dreamed of being able to make myself quick blood tests - imagine how it changes the meaning of health responsibility. Now you're really in charge. Because you don't depend on doctors to tell you if you're ok, you can do it yourself. Ok, it's not the same, we'll always need doctors, but the idea is that now you can see the immediate effect of some food or other substances on your body and to decide for yourself if you want to use them or not.
Omega imbalance can make obesity 'inheritable': study - Overeating combined with the wrong mix of fats in one's diet can cause obesity to be carried over from one generation to the next, researchers in France reported Friday. 
Omega-6 and omega-3, both polyunsaturated fatty acids, are each critical to good health.
But too much of the first and not enough of the second can lead to overweight offspring, the scientists showed in experiments with mice designed to mirror recent shifts in human diet.
Over the last four decades, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in a typical Western diet has shifted from a healthy five-to-one to 15-to-one in much of Europe, and up to 40-to-one in the United States.
In the experiments, four generations of mice were fed a 35-percent fat diet with the omega imbalance now found in much of the developed world.
The result was progressively fatter mice at birth, generation after generation.
The rodents also developed insulin-resistance, a telltale symptom for diabetes 2, one of the most common -- and debilitating -- consequences of obesity in humans.
The equally undesirable increase in omega-6 and drop in omega-3 can be partly explained by the change from grass-fed to grain-fed livestock, Ailhaud explained.
Grass is rich in omega-3. "But to increase productivity, feed was shifted to grain meal, especially corn, which contains a high concentration of omega-6," he said.
Adding a small quantity of flaxseed oil to animal feed could help restore a healthy omega balance in meat and dairy products, he added.

- F*ck you McDonalds :) Seriously. I hope that now people will start getting serious the problem of obesity. Because it's no longer a result only of bad behavior, now you see that you're chemically bound to have such problems if your mother preferred to eat in McDonalds instead of eating more salads. And note, I hate MC, but the same goes for all the deep-fried potatoes with palm oil. What do you think there is in this oil? "Palm oil contains several saturated and unsaturated fats in the forms of glyceryl laurate (0.1%, saturated), myristate (1%, saturated), palmitate (44%, saturated), stearate (5%, saturated), oleate (39%, monounsaturated), linoleate (10%, polyunsaturated), and linolenate (0.3%, polyunsaturated)" from Wikipedia. I recommend you to click on the different links to learn more about what you eat. You'll see that there are actually some healthy stuff from the list above, the problem is in those 44% palmitate which was used to make napalm. I'm not some pro, but it's quite easy to connect the increase in allergies and cancers with two major things that really changed in the last decades - more soy and more palm oil.

Vaccine-delivery patch with dissolving microneedles eliminates 'sharps,' boosts protection

July 18, 2010 
A new vaccine-delivery patch based on hundreds of microscopic needles that dissolve into the skin could allow persons without medical training to painlessly administer vaccines - while providing improved immunization against diseases such as influenza.
Just 650 microns in length and assembled into an array of 100 needles for the mouse study, the dissolving microneedles penetrate the outer layers of skin. Beyond their other advantages, the dissolving microneedles appear to provide improved immunity to influenza when compared to vaccination with hypodermic needles.
When infected with influenza virus 30 days later, both groups that had received the vaccine remained healthy while mice in the control group contracted the disease and died.
Three months after vaccination, the researchers also exposed a different group of immunized mice to flu virus and found that animals vaccinated with microneedles appeared to have a better "recall" response to the virus and thus were able to clear the virus from their lungs more effectively than those that received vaccine with hypodermic needles.
The microneedle arrays were made from a polymer material, poly-vinyl pyrrolidone, that has been shown to be safe for use in the body. Freeze-dried vaccine was mixed with the vinyl-pyrrolidone monomer before being placed into microneedle molds and polymerized at room temperature using ultraviolet light. source
My comment: So if I understand that correctly, you cannot administer just anything using this needles, you need the very needles mixed with the substance. That's quite limiting actually. So it means that the producers of the vaccines will produce the needles as well, which is good for them but bad for the market if it raise the price of the vaccines. Not that I do think those particular vaccines make any sense, but many people use them, so...But anyway - needle with pain is a like a dream. :) They only need to expand it to all needles.

Bioartificial lungs transplanted into rats (w/ Video)

July 15, 2010 by Lin Edwards
( -- Researchers in the US have grown lungs in their laboratory and transplanted them into rats. The transplanted lungs functioned for up to six hours. The current work follows independent research announced last month by Yale University, in which the first ever bioengineered lung tissue was transplanted into rats. In those experiments the tissue carried out gas exchange for only two hours.
The scientists involved in the latest experiments were from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and were led by Harald C. Ott. They removed the left lungs from the rats and then stripped the lungs of cells using a mild detergent in a process called decellurization. The blood vessels, airways and connective tissues remained as a kind of structural scaffolding or matrix. They then added epithelial and endothelial cells and nutrients and incubated the mix in a to help the grow and remain supple and flexible.
In less than a week the cultivated lungs resembled the original lungs in size, and once gas exchange had been demonstrated in culture, they were transplanted into the rats. Anatomical measurements and study of oxygen flow demonstrated the new lungs were working. They continued to work for up to six hours, after which they failed through accumulation of fluid inside the and resultant capillary leakage.
The experiments did not successfully regenerate all the types of cells found in the lungs, and Ott said there remained a lot of work to do before the technique could be scaled up to produce human lungs. He estimated we might be seeing regenerated organs for use in human patients within five or 10 years. source
My comment: It's incredible and disappointing in the same time. Incredible, because they actually managed to grow a lung, disappointing, because it failed after all. But it's a good step forward. If you consider how many people would love to have a lung-transplant (or even best - an injection which will make the lung repair!), because lungs get damaged so easily and from so many things - active/passive smoking, bad air, traffic, toxic substances and so on and so on. I hope that they do the job in less than 5 years, though. I mean their development should be exponential, no?

Scientists breed goats that produce spider silk

May 31, 2010 by Lisa Zyga
( -- Researchers from the University of Wyoming have developed a way to incorporate spiders' silk-spinning genes into goats, allowing the researchers to harvest the silk protein from the goats’ milk for a variety of applications. For instance, due to its strength and elasticity, spider silk fiber could have several medical uses, such as for making artificial ligaments and tendons, for eye sutures, and for jaw repair. The silk could also have applications in bulletproof vests and improved car airbags.   source
My comment: ROFL, silk is like the holy grail of genetic engineering. There was an article in New Scientists about the trillion uses of spider silk. I recommend it to everyone. I's amazing what spiders can do with silk. And that we still can't.

Synthetic life patents 'damaging'

A top UK scientist who helped sequence the human genome has said efforts to patent the first synthetic life form would give its creator a monopoly on a range of genetic engineering.
Professor John Sulston said it would inhibit important research.
US-based Dr Craig Venter led the artificial life form research, details of which were published last week.
Prof Sulston and Dr Venter clashed over intellectual property when they raced to sequence the genome in 2000.
Craig Venter led a private sector effort which was to have seen charges for access to the information. John Sulston was part of a government and charity-backed effort to make the genome freely available to all scientists.

"We said that this was the human genome and it should be in the public domain. And I'm extremely glad we managed to pull this out of the bag."
'Range of techniques' Now the old rivals are at odds again over Dr Venter's efforts to apply for patents on the artificially created organism, nicknamed Synthia.
But Professor Sulston, who is based at the University of Manchester, said patenting would be "extremely damaging". source
My comment: Of course it is damaging! All the patents are damaging. They were created to protect creativity by guaranteeing some righs to the inventor. Now, they are focused on protection to real inventors, but the companies who happened to have paid them salaries. Which is wrong on so many fronts. I agree there should be some form of remuneration for the inventors, the problem is not in that. The problem is that they don't use patents to get paid, they use it to stop other people/companies from working on their product. They actually use patents to stop inventions and progress! And now that is obviously wrong. Because it creates monopolies. It means that if say Merck developed something, it will be only Merck that will continue the work from then on, for the next 20 years. Thus stopping any competition and any profit for the society. Which in the case where there are government subsidies for higher education, actually paid for those scientists to become what they are. We legally rob the society of its best chances.

Ultrasound waves as contraceptive?

LONDON: Researchers from University of North Carolina believe a blast of ultrasound to the testes can safely stop sperm production for six months. The scientists, in fact, are beginning to conduct tests to see if ultrasound can be used as a reversible male contraceptive, reports the BBC News website.
With a grant of $100,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation the researchers hope to offer a new birth control option to couples throughout the world.
Once the testis has stopped producing sperm and all "sperm reserves" have been depleted, the man will be temporarily infertile. The effects of ultrasound waves would easily wear off and leave men with no adverse side effects, believe experts.
Reasons include a lack of interest from pharmaceutical firms and a lingering belief that many women would not entrust the job of preventing pregnancy to men.
Early research has suggested that the method could be successful. However, experts warned that the long-term effects were still unknown.
My comment: Well, it's true that women won't trust men to protect them, not with current laws, but this offers clear protection for men, if the laws get changed so that men really get equal burden on breeding. Not just the fun part. And anyway, if it is safe, it offers great option for rich men, who might not want to have random children, while most of them really like to have random sexual contacts. So I don't think there's absolutely no market for this kind of product. Because it's non-hormonal and so it should have no effect over the general health of the person. Which is quite cool. And I'm sure that men with serious girlfriends who are not ready for babies yet, will also choose that kind of prevention. Because hormonal therapies are always dangerous. And thy are absolutely inapplicable for women with cardio-vascular problems.

Tracking the 'evolution' of nanoparticles as they decontaminate groundwater

June 18, 2010 by Kurt Pfitzer
( -- Engineers use advanced imaging techniques to examine bimetallic materials that have remediated more than 50 toxic waste sites.
Iron 1,000 times thinner than a human hair have demonstrated an unprecedented ability to clean contaminated since they were invented 10 years ago at Lehigh.
The palladium-coated particles have remediated more than 50 toxic waste sites in the U.S. and other countries in one-tenth the time, and at a much greater economy of scale, than traditional “pump and treat” methods.
Now, thanks to Lehigh’s unrivaled electron microscopy and spectroscopy facilities, researchers have gained unmatched insights that could improve the efficiency and extend the applications of the powerful nanoparticles.
The researchers used scanning (STEM) and X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (XEDS) to capture, for the first time, the evolution in the nanostructure of the bimetallic particles as they remove contaminants in water.
The advanced imaging instruments at Lehigh captured amazing details of the reactions within nanoparticles. As they react with pollutants such as trichloroethene (TCE), a toxic industrial solvent, the nanoparticles display huge structural changes. The particle core hollows out, the iron diffuses outward, and the , a catalyst that makes up 1 percent of particle mass, migrates from the outer surface to the interior surface of the iron.
Writing earlier this month in (ES&T), the premier journal in its field, the Lehigh researchers reported that the nanoparticles’ ability to remove toxins decreases as the particles “age” and undergo structural change with exposure to water.
Their results, they wrote, suggest that the nanoparticles’ age and storage environment play a critical role in influencing their effectiveness as remediation agents.
The nanoparticles, which were invented by Zhang, average 50 nanometers in diameter (1 nm equals a billionth of a meter). Islands of palladium on the iron’s outer surface measure 2 to 5 nm in diameter. The particles have removed pesticides, vinyl chloride, TCE and other contaminants in 10 states and in Europe and Asia. Treated sites include landfills, an electronics manufacturing plant, chemical plants and military facilities.When injected into groundwater, the nanoparticles flow with the water and react with and detoxify contaminants. Their small size and greater proportional surface area give them more reactivity with toxins than larger quantities of the same catalyst. source
My comment: All great, I didn't have an idea they already use them in such quantities. However, I didn't get it what happens with those nanoparticles once they decontaminate everything. Are they safe? What decontaminates them? True, they are small and mostly iron, but still do we just leave them where they are or do we do something about them?

HIV patients with lymphoma given new hope

June 18, 2010 by Lin Edwards
( -- The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is widely treated using highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), which patients must continue throughout their lives. Now a new study suggests the patients’ own stem cells could be genetically modified and then transplanted back into their bodies to give them a single administration therapy, given once and lasting for life. This could avoid the costs and the toxic side effects of the traditional HAART.
The new research, carried out by a team led by John Rossi, a molecular geneticist from the City of Hope cancer center in Duarte, California, has found the new genetic material was still in the blood up to two years after the transplants.
The research results follow a report last year of the “Berlin patient,” who received a to treat leukemia. The transplant came from the of a donor who was found to have a mutation in the CCR5 gene, which codes for a receptor that allows HIV to enter . After the transplant the patient appeared to be completely cured of the leukemia and of AIDS, which makes it the only known case of AIDS being cured. It is not certain that the mutation caused the cure, but it seems likely.
The proof-of-principle research was carried out on four HIV patients who needed bone marrow transplants because of a called AIDS-related lymphoma. As part of the normal treatment, the patients’ bone marrow was removed and they then received chemotherapy to destroy the in the remaining marrow and blood system. Blood were extracted from the marrow.
Ordinarily, the stem cells would be transplanted back after the chemotherapy, but in the experiment the researchers genetically manipulated a small number of them, inserting three therapeutic genes, including one that cripples CCR5, before returning the cells to the patients. Dr Rossi said the combination of three genes was intended to increase the effectiveness since it would make it more difficult for the virus to escape, but as a safety precaution they did not implant a large number of cells.
The number of cells expressing the modified genes was too low to provide a therapeutic benefit, but the research did prove the principle that genetic manipulation of stem cells may be a valuable way of treating patients with HIV and AIDS in the future without having to find rare donors who already have a beneficial genetic mutation. The research found no evidence of adverse effects for any of the patients and all four are still free of lymphoma two years after the treatment.
Dr Rossi said the next step is to determine the proportion of stem cells that need to be modified for each patient. Animal studies may provide some answers, but eventually, “if done right,” genetic therapy could replace daily antiretroviral therapy. The current therapy is effective and allows patients to live relatively normal lives, but it is financially out of reach for millions of patients in developing countries, and has side effects that can still shorten patients’ lives.
Rossi’s team are also working on ways to make the transplant procedure less risky and toxic, to enable it to be used for HIV patients who do not have cancer. source
My comment: That research is simply wow! I wish them luck, because so many  HIV patients don't have access to those antiretrovirals, even in countries which are not in the 3d world. They are simply very expensive! And they don't cure you, they just make your life bearable. So I sincerely hope this new method works. Though genetic therapy is traditionally considered very dangerous, in some cases, it's one of the very few options.

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