Alex Torex Blog

SciTech oriented blog

Would YOU grow your child in an artificial womb OUTSIDE of a human body?

  • Ectogenesis technology has been in development since 2001
  • Researchers have previously used tissue to create a freestanding uterus
  • This technology was later used to grow mouse embryos in artificial wombs
  • Futurist Zoltan Istvan believes the technology will be ready by 2034
  • It could then be made more widely available a decade later 
  • The issued raises the debate about whether the technology is ethical

Would YOU grow your child in an artificial womb OUTSIDE of a human body? | Mail Online

August 15, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Photosynthesis in action: Scientists capture moment plant converts energy – and it could help create man-made leaves

Scientists have announced they are closer than ever to the ‘holy grail’ of biochemistry: artificial photosynthesis.

By observing the first stage of the process in action, they say they’ve got a better understanding of how plans turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

And ultimately it may be an important step to a future where artificial plants are created that are more efficient than their organic siblings.

Photosynthesis in action: Scientists capture moment plant converts energy – and it could help create man-made leaves | Mail Online

July 10, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Mystery of how the Monarch butterfly navigates is finally solved

It has confused scientists for decades – how how do Monarch butterflies manage to navigate 2,000 miles from breeding sites across the eastern United States to fir trees in central Mexico.

Researchers first found they used the sun – but then found they could still navigate on overcast days.

Now they believe they have finally solved the mystery – the insects have an internal magnetic compass.

Mystery of how the Monarch butterfly navigates is finally solved | Mail Online

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Windows bug-testing software cracks stem cell programs

Formal verification examines the algorithms in a piece of software to check that the output will always be what the programmer intended. But it can also work back from the output to infer the nature of the algorithm creating it – just what Dunn’s team required.

Feeding the genetic and chemical data from the different stem cell cultures into the software threw up some surprising results. There appears to be no highly complicated interactome behind self-renewal. Instead, the stem cells’ program involved just 16 interactions between 12 proteins, called transcription factors, and three environmental inputs, in this case provided by chemicals in the lab. The relative simplicity of the process means biologists have a much greater chance of reliably influencing stem cell fate.

Windows bug-testing software cracks stem cell programs – health – 11 June 2014 – New Scientist

June 12, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

The bird that impersonates a MEERKAT to steal food

When times are hard, the crafty bird can make false alarms to make other animals drop their kill and run from the scene. Meanwhile, the drongo swoops in to pick up the remains.

But sometimes the birds try this tactic too often, and when they don’t get a reaction, researchers have discovered they have another trick up their sleeve: vocal mimicry. 

The bird that impersonates a MEERKAT to steal food | Mail Online

May 6, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Creating spontaneous ‘cell’ division in artificial cell models

Scientists of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Triest have taken a first step toward the creation of functioning artificial cells by reproducing motility in their computer models, causing the “cells” to divide spontaneously without the action of external forces

Creating spontaneous ‘cell’ division in artificial cell models | KurzweilAI

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Stem cells debacle: Obokata admits enhancing images

APOLOGETIC but defiant. A young researcher who shot to fame for her simple way of turning adult cells into stem cells by bathing them in acidMovie Camera has been found guilty of misconduct, but claims the underlying science is sound.

Haruko Obokata of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, was investigated by her institution over six inconsistencies discovered in two papers published by Nature.

The committee decided that two of these were deliberate alterations. One was a mislabelled image taken from her PhD thesis – something Obokata says was an accident. The other was an image of a control experiment done at a different time from the test it was compared with. Obokata says the image was enhanced but not falsified.

At a press conference last week, she apologised for the question marks over the work. She said they were due to her “carelessness, sloppiness and immaturity”, and that she “lacked proper knowledge regarding basic methods for writing theses on biological subjects and the way such papers should be presented”.

Obokata has filed a complaint against Riken, emphasising that there was no intent to deceive. She says that the mistakes don’t affect the conclusion of the paper and claims to have recreated these cells over 200 times. No external researcher has yet confirmed that they have done the same.

Stem cells debacle: Obokata admits enhancing images – 17 April 2014 – New Scientist

April 17, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

A quarter of European bumblebees at risk of EXTINCTION

‘Together with other pollinators, bumblebees contribute more than £18billion (22 billion euros) to European agriculture a year,’ its report said.

The biggest threat to bumblebees is the destruction of wildflower meadows which gives them a food supply.

The mass use of herbicides and pesticides has also been a big blow, with chemicals used to remove ‘weeds’ such as clover from farmlands that the insects feed on.

Half of Europe’s bumblebee species have falling populations and just 13 per cent are increasing, it said.

A quarter of European bumblebees at risk of EXTINCTION | Mail Online

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

The space ‘super vegetables’ that could boost your health and improve your vision

Using the model plant species Arabidopsis, the team demonstrated that a few pulses of bright light on a daily basis spurred the plants to begin making zeaxanthin in preparation for an expected excess of sunlight.

The pulses were short enough that they didn’t interfere with the otherwise optimal growing conditions, but long enough to cause accumulation of zeaxanthin.

The space ‘super vegetables’ that could boost your health and improve your vision | Mail Online

March 11, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Lifespan predicted from flashes in worm cells

Mitochondria generate a cell’s energy. It’s long been thought that an accumulation of free radicals, produced when cells metabolise, drives the ageing process by damaging DNA and proteins. Mitochondria are particularly at risk because they produce free radicals in large quantities but lack the DNA repair mechanisms found in other parts of the cell.

Dong’s team found that the number of “mitoflashes”, caused by the presence of free radicals, emitted when a nematode was three days old could predict its lifespan. Worms typically live for 21 days and are at their peak of reproductive fitness at 3 days old. Those with low mitoflash activity at that time lived longer, while those with high mitoflash activity died before day 21.

Read more: Lifespan predicted from flashes in worm cells – life – 12 February 2014 – New Scientist

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

New live-cell printing technology improves on inkjet printing

A new way to print living cells onto any surface and in almost any shape has been developed by researchers led by Houston Methodist Research Institute nanomedicine faculty member Lidong Qin.

Unlike a similar inkjet printing process, almost all cells survive.

Read more: New live-cell printing technology improves on inkjet printing | KurzweilAI

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

That’s one freaky feline! Breeders develop a cat that looks like a WEREWOLF and acts like a DOG

Exotic animals can make popular pets but a cat with a touch of the supernatural will stand out in among the neighbours’ moggies.

A new breed of cat that looks like a werewolf and behaves like a dog has been developed by U.S. breeders

The Lykoi gets its spooky looks because of a genetic mutation in a domestic short hair cat, which prevents the curious creature from growing a full coat of fur, making it looks like a werewolf.

Read more: That’s one freaky feline! Breeders develop a cat that looks like a WEREWOLF and acts like a DOG | Mail Online

February 11, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Bird-brained? This crow’s a genius! Amazing video reveals how creature solves 8 complex puzzles to unlock a treat

James Bond is known for his ability to make the best of a bad situation, but a crow called 007 has also proved to be a top notch problem solver.

The cunning crow has solved one of the most complex tests of the animal mind ever to be constructed.

And did so in less than three minutes on camera – a world first.

Read more: Bird-brained? This crow’s a genius! Amazing video reveals how creature solves 8 complex puzzles to unlock a treat | Mail Online

February 11, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

The beauty of genes: Scientists take stunning ‘photographs’ of human cells by making the DNA inside them GLOW

This hypnotic image is what the human body looks like when you break it down into its smallest parts.

It might seem like a piece of abstract art, but in reality these intricate patterns are the tiny scaffolds and components that make up a human cell.

Inside each cell is a huge range of molecular machinery that can resemble a busy construction site, with different types of these tiny cellular workers coming and going.

Read more: The beauty of genes: Scientists take stunning ‘photographs’ of human cells by making the DNA inside them GLOW | Mail Online

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Extraordinary stem cell method tested in human tissue

Last week, the scientific world was bowled over by a study in Nature showing that an acidic environment turned adult mouse cells into “totipotent” stem cellsMovie Camera – which can turn into any cell in the body or placenta. The researchers called these new totipotent cells stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells.

“If they can do this in human cells, it changes everything,” Rob Lanza of Advanced Cell Technologies in Marlborough, Massachusetts, said at the time. The technique promises cheaper, quicker and potentially more flexible cells for regenerative medicine, cancer therapy and cloning.

Now, Vacanti and his colleagues say they have taken human fibroblast cells and tested several environmental stressors on them in an attempt to recreate human STAP cells. He won’t reveal what type of stressors were applied but he says the resulting cells appears similar in form to the mouse STAP cells. His team is in the process of testing to see just how stem-cell-like these cells are.

Cluster up

Vacanti says that the human cells took about a week to resemble STAP cells, and formed spherical clusters just like their mouse counterparts. Using a similar experimental set-up with green monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus) cells, Vacanti says the resulting cells are behaving slightly differently. He says that may be due to the fact that the researchers used slightly different techniques. Both Vacanti and his Harvard colleague Koji Kojima emphasise that these results are only preliminary and much further analysis and validation is required.

“Even if these are STAP cells they may not necessarily have the same potential as mouse ones – they may not have the totipotency – which is one of the most interesting features of the mouse cells,” says Sally Cowley, head of the James Martin Stem Cell Facility at the University of Oxford.

Pluripotent cells, such as embryonic stem cells, can form any cell in an embryo but not a placenta. Totipotent cells, however, can form any cell in an embryo and a placenta – meaning they have the potential to create life. The only cells known to be naturally totipotent are in embryos that have only undergone the first couple of cell divisions immediately after fertilisation.

Read more: Extraordinary stem cell method tested in human tissue – health – 05 February 2014 – New Scientist

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

A 3D window into living cells, no dye required

University of Illinois researchers have developed a new imaging technique that needs no dyes or other chemicals, yet renders high-resolution, three-dimensional, quantitative imagery of cells and their internal structures using conventional microscopes and white light.

Called white-light diffraction tomography (WDT), the imaging technique opens a window into the life of a cell without disturbing it and could allow cellular biologists unprecedented insight into cellular processes, drug effects and stem cell differentiation.

The team, led by electrical and computer engineering and bioengineering professor Gabriel Popescu, published their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

“One main focus of imaging cells is trying to understand how they function, or how they respond to treatments, for example, during cancer therapies,” Popescu said. “If you need to add dyes or contrast agents to study them, this preparation affects the cells’ function itself. It interferes with your study. With our technique, we can see processes as they happen and we don’t obstruct their normal behavior.”

Read more: A 3D window into living cells, no dye required | KurzweilAI

January 27, 2014 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

What does a dolphin use to get high? A toxic puffer fish that makes them lapse into a trance-like state

Zoologist and series producer Rob Pilley said that it was the first time dolphins had been filmed behaving this way.

He added: ‘We saw the dolphins handle the puffers with kid gloves, very gently and delicately like they were almost milking them to not upset the fish too much or kill it.

‘As a result the fish released various toxins as a defence.

‘The dolphins then seemed to  be mesmerised.’

He insisted that the scene couldn’t have been a one-off encounter, saying: ‘The dolphins were specifically going for the puffers and deliberately handling them with care.’

What does a dolphin use to get high? A toxic puffer fish that makes them lapse into a trance-like state | Mail Online

December 30, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

Unusual breathing in lizards could make them more likely to survive a global catastrophe

Other than the American alligator, the savannah monitor lizard is the only other known reptile found the ability to breathe in this way – also known as unidirectional breathing.

This is in contrast to humans and other mammals who have a two-way, or ‘tidal’, breathing pattern.

Tidal breathing means air enters the lungs through airways and then flows back out again the same way.

Rather than being partially filled with stale air like human lungs, a bird’s lungs contain air with much higher oxygen content to help them fly. 

‘Reptiles could inherit the Earth': Unusual breathing in lizards could make them more likely to survive a global catastrophe | Mail Online

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

The abominable snowman? He may be more a Yogi than a Yeti

But we can speculate on what the possible explanation might be. It could mean there is a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas descended from the bear that was the ancestor of the polar bear. Or it could mean there has been more recent hybridisation between the brown bear and the descendent of the ancient polar bear.

Read more: The abominable snowman? He may be more a Yogi than a Yeti: DNA tests find animal is genetic match for ancient polar bear | Mail Online

October 17, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

What a way to go! Male marsupial found to sex itself to death after intensive 14-hour mating sessions in its final fortnight

The mouse-like creature, which only lives for a year, has sex so often in the last two weeks of its life that is loses all its fur, becomes infected, bleeds internally and eventually dies.

Lead researcher Dr Diana Fisher said: ‘Poor little guys – you have to feel sorry for them.

What a way to go! Male marsupial found to sex itself to death after intensive 14-hour mating sessions in its final fortnight | Mail Online

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

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