Monthly Archives: January 2012

Molecules can repair themselves if allowed to ‘rest’

Don’t worry, if a molecule loses its ability to fluoresce when struck by a laser beam. Just allow it to ‘rest’ in the dark for sometime. It will regain its ability soon. The recovery is found to begin within 30 minutes and is nearly complete after 8 hours of rest, according to a new study by physicist Mark Kuzyk and colleagues at Washington State University. Kuzyk said, It’s almost as if you have a piece of paper that’s yellowed over time, and you put it in a dark room for a day, and it comes back brand-new. The ‘self-healing’ property is discovered in AF455 — a dye compound designed to excel at two-photon absorption. It is a process where the absorption of light energy from a laser can cause a change in the molecule capable of being harnessed for various purposes. It is also during two-photon absorption, when many molecules also glow, or fluoresce, allowing researchers to monitor the process. The two-photon absorption can be used prominently for optical data storage and photolithography — a technique using lasers for assembling microscopic motors parts and nano-sized robots. Kuzyk said, That’s one of the first questions people ask when they see this. They say, ‘isn’t this just the liquid replenishing the stuff that was damaged?’ Nope, this is in a polymer. So you know that it’s the same molecule that’s sitting at that point, as you had before. The molecule itself is actually recovering.

Canadian scientists create animal model of infantile spasms

An animal model of infantile spasms has been created by Canadian scientists that can offer advancements for searching novel treatments for children suffering from epileptic seizures. It is a kind of seizure which surfaces during infancy and early childhood and lasts for one to five seconds in clusters and very few treatments are available for this disease. In this case a mouse model was used for producing effects which resembled human infantile spasms. The spasms have been found to last for months in case of children and this is expected to help in analyzing the evolution of this disease and treat it in different stages. The mouse model is expected to improve the likelihood of searching out new treatments. It looks that soon we will have an effective treatment for infantile spasms. image Via playfuls

New epiblast stem cells could aid research into new therapies

Stem cells, for the last few years, have been creating waves in the field of research and treatment. After cardiologists and vascular surgeons resorting to ‘adult stem cell therapy’ for treating heart disease, bringing promises for ‘no-option patients’ suffering from Coronary Artery Disease (Coronary Heart Disease), Cardiomyopathy, and Congestive Heart Failure, it is now, perhaps, the turn for the Parkinson’s patients to take its help. The discovery of yet another ‘new stem cell-type’ assures the optimistic and impertinent UK scientists with more research into curing several diseases using it. Perhaps, it can be a hope for Parkinson’s patients, with the disease responding to ‘stem cell therapy.’ Unlike the previously extracted animal stem cells that behaved very differently from human counterparts, the two new researches extracted rodent embryonic stem cells, which closely resemble that of humans. This eventually is building hopes in bringing in stem cell therapy into newer arenas. The new type of stem cells is named ‘epiblast stem cells,’ which Professor Roger Pederson claims to constitute “the missing link’ between mouse and human embryonic stem cells. Bolstering this research, another team of scientists at Oxford University, independently has come up with the same findings. Cuing with these new epiblast stem cell-lines, the future is sure to see potential stem cell therapies for painful and killer disease using human embryonic stem cells. Image

Scientists sequenced macaque genome

Researchers have sequenced the genome of the relatively ancient rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), providing perspective into how humans are genetically different from our primate relatives. Coming only two years after the sequencing of the chimpanzee genome, the feat, reported today in the journal Science, provides new insight into what makes humans human. Geneticist Richard A. Gibbs said, It allows us to learn what has been added or deleted in primate evolution from the rhesus macaque to the chimpanzee to the human. Comparing our genome with the genome of other organisms is crucial to identifying what makes the human genome unique, added Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which sponsored the project. The macaque genome joins a growing list that now includes not only humans and chimps, but also mouse, rat, dog, cow, honeybee, sea urchin, roundworm and yeast genomes. The scientists have found that

GM goat-milk brings promise against deadly nerve agents

Of the human-made known chemical warfare agents, nerve agents are among the most toxic and rapidly acting — Sarin and VX being the most effective ones. To counter-nullify these poisons, scientists have come up with a solution. No, it is not simply another drug or chemicals. It is that goat milk which may fall in your everyday diet! Though surprising, this is no ordinary goat milk, but is procured from a herd of genetically modified goats! Yes, scientists have genetically modified goats to make a drug – named recombinant butyrylcholinesterase — in their milk that is capable of fighting against the deadly nerve agents — collectively called organophosphates. The new drug made from the GM goats, is found to successfully bind and neutralize organophosphate molecules – the chemical group that also includes some pesticides used in farming. Thus, the goat milk-drug can also be a medication against this pesticide poisoning. Thus, now goat milk can not just be a curative, but also protective “prophylactic,’ treating people exposed to nerve gas, bringing a big promise in protecting troops against the toxic exposures on the battlefield. Image

Japanese scientists derive alcohol from cows

Japanese scientists claim that they have found out a gene which can imitate the effects of yeast fermentation inside Sake cows’ udders and hence can be used for production of base ingredients for wine. Researchers will now be able to replace genes for developing lactose with an artificial gene that can lead to the production of pure alcohol. Kyoto University’s Dr Shuji Sakegami came up with this idea after he found out that his daughter did not respond well to transition from her mother’s milk to milk of the cow. Though the young daughter is not old enough for alcohol but the whole world would surely be surprised by this discovery. Now probably you will be able to derive alcohol from cow apart from milk. In case this idea turns out to be successful we will be able to see commercial production of wine within fifteen to twenty years but environmentalists and wine producers would surely protest this move. Via bbr

Researchers develop genetic spider silk

Researchers from Germany have gone ahead and developed genetically engineered spider silk. The spider silk is being stated to be more elastic as compared to rubber and is stronger than steel too. In case commercialization is achieved this silk could be used for both technical and medical applications. The researchers of Thomas Scheibel at the Technical University have used genetic engineering for the production of spider silk proteins of European garden spider. The protein was purified using dialysis and fluids were separated in two different fluid phases – in one phase there were protein dimmers and in other oligomers which are multiple protein units linked together. Potassium phosphate needs to be added so that the liquid can be formed into threads. Rather than structural change in protein degree of oligomerization is important for thread formation and very soon an effective spinning process would be formed for production of genetically engineered spider silk. Via monstersandcritics

Bt cottonseeds being opposed by state government in India

It has been reported that Andhra government is looking for a ban to be imposed on Bt cottonseeds since cattle deaths were reported after they grazed on the leftover Bt cotton fields. As a result a fact finding team has been sent by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committed to the affected areas in order investigate it. Areas of Khammam, Adilabad and Warangal have been affected by it. A warning has been already sent to the local people asking them to keep away their herd from these grazing grounds. Even the commissioner of agriculture is being asked not to sell BT cottonseeds in the coming season. Bt cotton had been approved for commercial cultivation after bio safety studies had been undertaken but it seems the studies were not conducted properly and as a result cattle has been dying after consuming Bt cotton leaves. This incident will surely leave a bitter taste for the farmers and it may happen that Bt cotton may never find a place in the Indian fields. Via bharattextile

Scientists make ethical stem cells from skin of a rat

Scientists have found ways to prepare stem cells from skin of an adult rat, without harming embryos. The discovery, which was done successfully on rats, will remove the ethical concerns of using stem cells for various medical purposes. Researchers have shown that it is possible to create stem cells similar to those present in embryos from skin. So far, mature cells were considered incapable of producing stem cells. The success of the research on rat has made scientists hopeful of being able to do this in case of humans as well. If this happens, the stem cells obtained from skin cells of a person will be able to produce cells and tissues that would be genetically an exact copy of the original, dispelling any rejection by the body that was probable for a stem cell obtained from an embryo. Stem cells are totipotent–capable of developing in any kind of tissue present in the body. Such a capability is of immense benefit as they can be used to replace the damaged cells and tissues, thus providing possible cure for several diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The use of stem cells from embryo had ethical and moral concerns as the collection of stem cells damages the embryos. This many said is tantamount to murder or cannibalism. The new discovery, if successful for humans, will pave new ways for curing several diseases including those which were till now could not be treated. This will surely help cure many diseases and body defects. An advancement in this technique may also provide body organs for transplantation. The possibilities are immense but some concerns will continue to remain. The stem cells could be used rampantly for cosmetic purposes like skin grafts. This may also open a new arena of spare parts for human bodies as is available for machines. This will obviously dent the magical power of life. The cliche remains valid even here – every coin has two sides. It’s all up to us to choose the positive side. Learn more about stem cells. Source: BBC, Daily Mail Image Source:

India emerging as a global hub for stem cell research

Who said India lags behind in the arena of stem cell research? The country is growing at the rate of fifteen percent per year in the stem cell market arena and will reach the figures of $ 540 million by 2010. India has around fifteen centers which are undertaking research in the arena of stem cell. Of them five centers are involved in undertaking extensive trials in the arena of cardiology. India has all the strength to emerge as a global hub for undertaking stem cell research. Since U.S has banned stem cell research India can surely prosper in this field as it has both knowledge and technology for undertaking research in this area. With medical field making rapid moves researchers are opting for advanced techniques which can help in targeting the root cause of the diseases rather than just treatment of the symptoms and in this respect stem cell research is gaining a stronger position. One questions which is troubling my mind is if India emerges as a hub for stem cell research how will it handle the sensitive topics such as cloning and breeding of human cells. Via prminds