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Current Topic: Biology

Mercury News | 04/21/2003 | Emerging biotech field uses genetics to predict drug reactions
Topic: Biology 9:22 pm EDT, Apr 21, 2003

] Now, several companies and medical laboratories are
] developing rapid genetic tests to determine who is likely
] to respond poorly, or not at all, to standard doses of
] common medications. These tests represent the beginning
] of a fundamental change in the way medicine is practiced,
] by tailoring the choice of drug and the amount prescribed
] to the genetics of the patient.
] The full impact may not be felt for five or 10 years. But
] already, Roche, the worldwide leader in marketing
] diagnostic tests, is betting $70 million on new gene
] chips from Affymetrix in Santa Clara. The first Roche
] AmpliChip will check patients for common variations in
] two genes that play crucial roles in the breakdown of
] almost half of the prescription drugs now on the market.


Mercury News | 04/21/2003 | Emerging biotech field uses genetics to predict drug reactions

New Scientist - Genetic 'smart bomb' knocks out hepatitis
Topic: Biology 9:05 pm EDT, Apr 21, 2003

] Human liver cells harbouring the hepatitis C virus can be
] selectively targeted and destroyed by a new gene therapy
] approach, according to new research.
] The key is a genetically-engineered "suicide" gene,
] delivered aboard a harmless virus, which is triggered
] only when it enters a hepatitis-infected cell.

This is So cool. This is similar to what I was working on with cancer cells at Esoterix.

New Scientist - Genetic 'smart bomb' knocks out hepatitis

New Scientist - Baby teeth revealed as source of stem cells
Topic: Biology 9:04 pm EDT, Apr 21, 2003

] The tooth fairy could soon face competition for baby
] teeth from scientists who have discovered the teeth are a
] source of stem cells. The cells could help repair damaged
] teeth and perhaps even treat neural injuries or
] degenerative diseases.
] Currently, researchers can isolate two types of stem
] cells. Embryonic stem cells can develop into any cell in
] the body, but their harvesting requires the destruction
] of embryos, which pro-life groups oppose. Adult stem
] cells avoid this problem, but have more limited
] abilities. Now it appears that the stem cells from
] children's lost teeth could provide an intermediate and
] easily accessible source.

So...this is cool....but at the same time, it makes me conjure up images of researchers sneaking around dentists offices. Kinda funny.

New Scientist - Baby teeth revealed as source of stem cells

The Spread of SARS: History of the Outbreak (3/17/03 - Present)
Topic: Biology 10:21 am EDT, Apr  9, 2003

I keep thinking of this song when I'm reading SARS news:

NOFX - Just the Flu

Looking back to the past,
predictions of the end
Unseen ultra violet rays
are beating on my head
Nuclear threat wanna bet will be our demise
The day will come when we'll look to apocalyptic skies

When the news had spread, that soon we'd all be dead
Well it just blew our minds
No one could have guessed that our worst fears at best
Figments of our time

So it seems that our dreams will never come to be
How could such a stupid thing destroy humanity?
A few weeks till extinction and there's nothing we can do
A message sent to other worlds will say, "It was just the flu"

There's no lesson to be learned
There's no one left to learn it

The Spread of SARS: History of the Outbreak (3/17/03 - Present)

Birth of Cloned Endangered Cattle Praised
Topic: Biology 2:20 am EDT, Apr  9, 2003

] Astounding even veterans of the fight against animal
] extinction, cloning technology has reproduced two
] endangered wild cattle, birthed by a cow last week on an
] Iowa farm. One of the bulls weighed twice as much as
] expected and it was euthanized Tuesday.
] The procedure that created the bantengs has given
] conservationists hope that cross-species breeding can
] help reverse the daily disappearance of 100 species and
] add genetic diversity to dwindling animal populations

Birth of Cloned Endangered Cattle Praised

Wired News: Plants: New Anti-Terror Weapon?
Topic: Biology 10:50 pm EDT, Apr  6, 2003

] "At the end of three years, if we are successful, we
] would expect to have demonstrated in a laboratory setting
] that sentinel plants can indicate the presence of
] explosives."

Plants that change color in the presence of certain chemicals or biological agents.

[cool -Nano]

Wired News: Plants: New Anti-Terror Weapon?

Clothing that kills microbes...
Topic: Biology 4:56 pm EST, Apr  3, 2003

] Tiny molecular daggers that latch onto fibres stab and
] destroy microbes have been created, meaning "killer
] clothes" may soon be available. Anti-fungal socks could
] take on athlete's foot while, on a more serious note,
] military uniforms could kill anthrax.

Somehow I get the feeling that there might be useful microbes that would also be killed...

Clothing that kills microbes...

The Scientist :: Depending on Cigarettes, Counting on Science, Mar. 24, 2003
Topic: Biology 1:19 am EST, Mar 25, 2003

] Two companies, Xenova Group and Nabi Biopharmaceuticals,
] are taking a vaccine approach to block nicotine's action
] on the brain. "Using a vaccine as a treatment rather than
] a preventive is a slightly different way of thinking
] about vaccines," says Doreen Wood, product manager at
] Xenova. Rather than generating an immune response that
] clears away nicotine, both companies' vaccines create
] antibodies that bind nicotine in the blood and prevent it
] from crossing the bloodbrain barrier. The result:
] Nicotine can't stimulate the brain's reward centers--no
] buzz. Thus, there is little, if any, reason to smoke.

Interesting stuff on Nicotine and the brain. Interesting timing on this article as well.

The Scientist :: Depending on Cigarettes, Counting on Science, Mar. 24, 2003

New Scientist - Faulty repairs blamed for lung cancer
Topic: Biology 12:05 am EST, Mar  7, 2003

] Lung cancer may be caused by a faulty repair mechanism
] triggered by smoking, according to a new study.
] US researchers have found that a primitive cell pathway,
] which is crucial for the development of lungs in the
] embryo, could be the major culprit in small cell lung
] cancer (SCLC).
] The pathway is found in all creatures, from worms to
] humans. It is called Sonic Hedgehog, after a mutant form
] in fruit fly embryos that leads to the sprouting of hairs
] all over their bodies.
] "The hypothesis was that smokers chronically injure their
] airways and pathways such as hedgehog get turned on to
] repair damage - but chronic injury results in persistent
] pathway activation, which leads to cancer," says Neil
] Watkins, team leader at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive
] Cancer Center, part of Johns Hopkins University in
] Maryland.
] The group's experiments showed that the Sonic Hedgehog
] pathway was indeed activated in half of 10 SCLC human
] tissue samples. Furthermore, they successfully stopped
] tumour growth in mice by blocking this pathway and
] believe this may lead to potential therapies in humans.

This article is particularily interesting to me for several reasons. One is that I am learning about this particular pathway in my Animal Development class (and learned a bit about it in other classes as well), so its just cool to see something in the news about it. Also, what makes this interesting is that lung cancer is the cancer that nobody has seemed to make much headway on in the way of cures...
At the end of this article, they talk about the cells differentiating into adult lung cells...and that means that this could be an important find for other areas of biology as well...such as organogenesis.

New Scientist - Faulty repairs blamed for lung cancer

BBC NEWS | Health | Gene therapy breakthrough
Topic: Biology 1:05 pm EST, Feb 25, 2003

] Scientists have developed a more effective way to carry
] out gene therapy without the risks of current methods

Whoa....I have never heard of this microbubble technology before. Sounds really interesting. If anyone else knows of any good links to info about this, let me know.

BBC NEWS | Health | Gene therapy breakthrough

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