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Current Topic: Biology

2 New Efforts to Develop Stem Cell Line for Study - New York Times
Topic: Biology 4:33 pm EDT, Jun  7, 2006

Scientists at two universities — Harvard and the University of California, San Francisco — will try to develop embryonic stem cells from the adult cells of patients suffering from certain diseases.

2 New Efforts to Develop Stem Cell Line for Study - New York Times

New Scientist News - Print me a heart and a set of arteries
Topic: Biology 3:54 pm EDT, Apr 13, 2006

SITTING in a culture dish, a layer of chicken heart cells beats in synchrony. But this muscle layer was not sliced from an intact heart, nor even grown laboriously in the lab. Instead, it was "printed", using a technology that could be the future of tissue engineering.

New Scientist News - Print me a heart and a set of arteries

Garage Bio Terror - Technology Review
Topic: Biology 8:53 am EDT, Apr 10, 2006

Biotechnology’s advance could give malefactors the ability to manipulate life processes--and even affect human behavior.

Big article on BioTerrorism.

Garage Bio Terror - Technology Review

Paul Boutin : Biowar for Dummies
Topic: Biology 1:30 pm EST, Feb 21, 2006

A few months ago, Roger Brent, a geneticist who runs a California biotech firm, sent me an unpublished paper in which he wrote that genetically engineered bioweapons developed by small teams are a bigger threat than suitcase nukes.

Brent is one of a growing number of researchers who believe that a bioterrorist wouldn’t need a team of virologists and state funding. He says advances in DNA-hacking technology have reached the point where an evil lab assistant with the right resources could do the job.

Gold Star, but I'm wondering how alarmist this is.

Paul Boutin : Biowar for Dummies

Boing Boing: Wasp performs roach-brain-surgery to make zombie slave-roaches
Topic: Biology 12:25 pm EST, Feb  3, 2006

The wasp slips her stinger through the roach's exoskeleton and directly into its brain. She apparently use ssensors along the sides of the stinger to guide it through the brain, a bit like a surgeon snaking his way to an appendix with a laparoscope. She continues to probe the roach's brain until she reaches one particular spot that appears to control the escape reflex. She injects a second venom that influences these neurons in such a way that the escape reflex disappears.

From the outside, the effect is surreal. The wasp does not paralyze the cockroach. In fact, the roach is able to lift up its front legs again and walk. But now it cannot move of its own accord. The wasp takes hold of one of the roach's antennae and leads it--in the words of Israeli scientists who study Ampulex--like a dog on a leash.

Boing Boing: Wasp performs roach-brain-surgery to make zombie slave-roaches

Human-Animal Hybrids.
Topic: Biology 4:40 pm EST, Feb  1, 2006

So what scientists have been doing is inserting human genes into mice, to produce similar genetic overdoses in their development. As I reported before, there have been partial insertions, but now a team of researchers has inserted a complete human chromosome 21 into mouse embryonic stem cells, and from those generated a line of aneuploid mice that have many of the symptoms of Down syndrome, including the heart defects. They also have problems in spatial learning and memory that have been traced back to defects in long-term potentiation in the central nervous system.

These mice are a tool to help us understand a debilitating human problem.

George W. Bush would like to make them illegal.

Human-Animal Hybrids.

Recipe for Destruction - New York Times
Topic: Biology 11:12 pm EDT, Oct 17, 2005

A Science staff writer, Jocelyn Kaiser, said, "Both the authors and Science's editors acknowledge concerns that terrorists could, in theory, use the information to reconstruct the 1918 flu virus." And yet the journal required that the full genome sequence be made available on the GenBank database as a condition for publishing the paper.

Proponents of publishing this data point out that valuable insights have been gained from the virus's recreation. These insights could help scientists across the world detect and defend against future pandemics, including avian flu.

There are other approaches, however, to sharing the scientifically useful information. Specific insights - for example, that a key mutation noted in one gene may in part explain the virus's unusual virulence - could be published without disclosing the complete genetic recipe. The precise genome could potentially be shared with scientists with suitable security assurances.

Bill Joy and Ray Kurzweil oppose "full disclosure" of immuno-security vulnerabilities.

Recipe for Destruction - New York Times

The Australian: It's a miracle: mice regrow hearts [August 29, 2005]
Topic: Biology 9:04 am EDT, Sep  1, 2005

The ability of the mice at her laboratory to regenerate organs appeared to be controlled by about a dozen genes.

Professor Heber-Katz says she is still researching the genes' exact functions, but it seems almost certain humans have comparable genes.

Regeration is closer.

The Australian: It's a miracle: mice regrow hearts [August 29, 2005]

Biological Solution to Natural Gas Scarcity
Topic: Biology 2:16 am EDT, Jun 17, 2005

Some of these bacteria produce methane that accumulates in "gas hydrates" — a super concentrated methane ice that contains more carbon than all conventional fossil fuels and, therefore, a potentially enormous energy source. However, we know little about gas hydrates as they melt during recovery due to the fall in pressure.

There is some crap in here about the Bermuda Triangle that I strongly urgue you to ignore. The real story here is bacteria that produce methane hydrates. I was not aware of this. This means that if technology for extracting natural gas from methane hydrates is realized, natural gas will be a long term sustainable energy solution. Thats awesome. The DOE wants to be able to produce commerical natural gas from methane hydrates by 2015.

Biological Solution to Natural Gas Scarcity

New internet technologies fight bird flu
Topic: Biology 9:48 am EDT, Jun 14, 2005

I've begun work at wikipedia on "pandemic preparedness." I believe that pandemic preparedness needs to be done socially as well as through health services.

With regard to the recent tsunami, Wikipedia played an important role only after the tsunami had struck. Now, we have the opportunity see some community preparation before a pandemic.

For what is worth, there is a blog on avian flu, so there is some ongoing preparation. I wonder whether ProMED-mail subscribers, with their wide and deep expertise, can help guide that process and make it the best possible undertaking. In times of panic, I believe it will help to have some "blogging champions" all over the world working on this issue.

New internet technologies fight bird flu

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