Scientists Turn Back the Clock on Adult Stem Cells Aging
|1:54:59 AM, Thursday, September 22, 2011|
"Researchers have shown they can reverse the aging process for human adult stem cells, which are responsible for helping old or damaged tissues regenerate. The findings could lead to medical treatments that may repair a host of ailments that occur because of tissue damage as people age. A research group led by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the Georgia Institute of Technology conducted the study in cell culture, which appears in the September 1, 2011 edition of the journal Cell Cycle
The regenerative power of tissues and organs declines as we age. The modern day stem cell hypothesis of aging suggests that living organisms are as old as are its tissue specific or adult stem cells. Therefore, an understanding of the molecules and processes that enable human adult stem cells to initiate self-renewal and to divide, proliferate and then differentiate in order to rejuvenate damaged tissue might be the key to regenerative medicine and an eventual cure for many age-related diseases. A research group led by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, conducted the study that pinpoints what is going wrong with the biological clock underlying the limited division of human adult stem cells as they age.
"We demonstrated that we were able to reverse the process of aging for human adult stem cells by intervening with the activity of non-protein coding RNAs originated from genomic regions once dismissed as non-functional 'genomic junk'," said Victoria Lunyak, associate professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.
Adult stem cells are important because they help keep human tissues healthy by replacing cells that have gotten old or damaged. They're also multipotent, which means that an adult stem cell can grow and replace any number of body cells in the tissue or organ they belong to. However, just as the cells in the liver, or any other organ, can get damaged over time, adult stem cells undergo age-related damage. And when this happens, the body can't replace damaged tissue as well as it once could, leading to a host of diseases and conditions. But if scientists can find a way to keep these adult stem cells young, they could possibly use these cells to repair damaged heart tissue after a heart attack; heal wounds; correct metabolic syndromes; produce insulin for patients with type 1 diabetes; cure arthritis and osteoporosis and regenerate bone.
The team began by hypothesizing that DNA damage in the genome of adult stem cells would look very different from age-related damage occurring in regular body cells. They thought so because body cells are known to experience a shortening of the caps found at the ends of chromosomes, known as telomeres. But adult stem cells are known to maintain their telomeres. Much of the damage in aging is widely thought to be a result of losing telomeres. So there must be different mechanisms at play that are key to explaining how aging occurs in these adult stem cells, they thought.
Researchers used adult stem cells from humans and combined experimental techniques with computational approaches to study the changes in the genome associated with aging. They compared freshly isolated human adult stem cells from young individuals, which can self-renew, to cells from the same individuals that were subjected to prolonged passaging in culture. This accelerated model of adult stem cell aging exhausts the regenerative capacity of the adult stem cells. Researchers looked at the changes in genomic sites that accumulate DNA damage in both groups.
"We found the majority of DNA damage and associated chromatin changes that occurred with adult stem cell aging were due to parts of the genome known as retrotransposons," said King Jordan, associate professor in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech..."
Biologists Discover Genes That Repair Nerves After Injury
|1:32:40 AM, Thursday, September 22, 2011|
"Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have identified more than 70 genes that play a role in regenerating nerves after injury, providing biomedical researchers with a valuable set of genetic leads for use in developing therapies to repair spinal cord injuries and other common kinds of nerve damage such as stroke.
In the September 22 issue of the journal Neuron, the scientists detail their discoveries after an exhaustive two-year investigation of 654 genes suspected to be involved in regulating the growth of axons -- the thread-like extensions of nerve cells that transmit electrical impulses to other nerve cells. From their large-scale genetic screen, the researchers identified 70 genes that promote axon growth after injury and six more genes that repress the re-growth of axons.
"We don't know much about how axons re-grow after they're damaged," said Andrew Chisholm, a professor of biology at UC San Diego. "When you have an injury to your spinal cord or you have a stroke you cause a lot of damage to your axons. And in your brain or spinal cord, regeneration is very inefficient. That's why spinal cord injuries are basically untreatable."
Chisholm and UC San Diego biology professor and HHMI Investigator Yishi Jin headed the collaborative research team, which also included researchers from the University of Oregon.
While scientists in recent decades have gained a good understanding of how nerve cells, or neurons, develop their connections in the developing embryo, much less is known about how adult animals and humans repair -- or fail to repair -- those connections when axons are damaged.
"There are many processes not involved in early development that are involved in switching the neurons to this re-growth mode," said Chisholm. "In essence what we found are genes that people had not suspected previously to be part of this process."
Of particular interest to the UC San Diego biologists are the six genes that appear to repress the growth of axons.
"The discovery of these inhibitors is probably the most exciting finding," said Chisholm, because identifying and eliminating the inhibiting factors to the re-growth of axons could be just as essential as the biochemical pathways that promote axon re-growth in repairing spinal cord injuries and other kinds of nerve damage..."
Dash Berlin - Never Cry Again (Jorn Van Deynhoven Remix)
|1:21:10 AM, Thursday, September 22, 2011|
Lasers Could Be Used to Detect Roadside Bombs
|12:17:03 AM, Thursday, September 22, 2011|
"A research team at Michigan State University has developed a laser that could detect roadside bombs -- the deadliest enemy weapon encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
he laser, which has comparable output to a simple presentation pointer, potentially has the sensitivity and selectivity to canvas large areas and detect improvised explosive devices -- weapons that account for around 60 percent of coalition soldiers' deaths. Marcos Dantus, chemistry professor and founder of BioPhotonic Solutions, led the team and has published the results in the current issue of Applied Physics Letters.
The detection of IEDs in the field is extremely important and challenging because the environment introduces a large number of chemical compounds that mask the select few molecules that one is trying to detect, Dantus said.
"Having molecular structure sensitivity is critical for identifying explosives and avoiding unnecessary evacuation of buildings and closing roads due to false alarms," he said.
Since IEDs can be found in populated areas, the methods to detect these weapons must be nondestructive. They also must be able to distinguish explosives from vast arrays of similar compounds that can be found in urban environments. Dantus' latest laser can make these distinctions even for quantities as small as a fraction of a billionth of a gram.
The laser beam combines short pulses that kick the molecules and make them vibrate, as well as long pulses that are used to "listen" and identify the different "chords." The chords include different vibrational frequencies that uniquely identify every molecule, much like a fingerprint. The high-sensitivity laser can work in tandem with cameras and allows users to scan questionable areas from a safe distance.
"The laser and the method we've developed were originally intended for microscopes, but we were able to adapt and broaden its use to demonstrate its effectiveness for standoff detection of explosives," said Dantus, who hopes to net additional funding to take this laser from the lab and into the field.
This research is funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security. BioPhotonic Solutions is a high-tech company Dantus launched in 2003 to commercialize technology invented in a spinoff from his research group at MSU..."
Bionic Bacteria May Help Fight Disease and Global Warming
|12:03:31 AM, Thursday, September 22, 2011|
"A strain of genetically enhanced bacteria developed by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies may pave the way for new synthetic drugs and new ways of manufacturing medicines and biofuels, according to a paper published September 18 in Nature Chemical Biology.
For the first time, the scientists were able to create bacteria capable of effectively incorporating "unnatural" amino acids - artificial additions to the 20 naturally occurring amino acids used as biological building blocks - into proteins at multiple sites. This ability may provide a powerful new tool for the study of biological processes and for engineering bacteria that produce new types of synthetic chemicals.
"This provides us with a lot more room to think about what we can do with protein synthesis," said Lei Wang, assistant professor in Salk's Chemical Biology and Proteomics Laboratory and holder of the Frederick B. Rentschler Developmental Chair. "It opens up new possibilities, from creating drugs that last longer in the blood stream to manufacturing chemicals in a more environmentally friendly manner."
In 2001, Wang and his colleagues were the first to create bacteria that incorporated unnatural amino acids (Uaas) into proteins, and, in 2007, they first used the technique in mammalian cells. They did this by creating an "expanded genetic code," overriding the genetic code of the cells and instructing them to use the artificial amino acids in the construction of proteins.
The addition of Uaas changes the chemical properties of proteins, promising new ways to use proteins in research, drug development and chemical manufacturing.
For instance, Wang and his colleagues have inserted Uaas that will glow under a microscope when exposed to certain colors of light. Because proteins serve as the basis for a wide range of cellular functions, the ability to visualize this machinery operating in live cells and in real time helps scientists decipher a wide range of biological mechanisms, including those involved in the development of disease and aging..."
Ojai Valley Taxidermy, Chuck Testa, Expert Taxidermist
|11:46:07 PM, Wednesday, September 21, 2011|
-- Ojai Valley Taxidermy just got a huge boost thanks to this hilarious commercial made by Commercial Kings Rhett and Link.
Rider in the Storm: Since 9/11, Afghanistan's National Sport of Buzkashi Has Become as Complicated as the Country Itself
|10:59:02 PM, Wednesday, September 21, 2011|
"There aren't a lot of bats, balls or rackets in northern Afghanistan. There are goats, horses, men and dusty plains, and they have been there ever since Genghis Khan and his Mongol horde swept into the neighborhood in the 13th century. Their game, then, is simple. Men on horseback grab a goat from a chalk circle, carry it around a pole and drop it into another circle. No downs, innings, line judges or refs. Sometimes there are teams, and sometimes there aren't. Sometimes the field is 200 meters by 200 meters, and sometimes it isn't. And the goat? The goat might be a calf, but it's always dead, just lying there with its head and hooves cut off.
Grab the goat, bring it around the pole and put it in the circle. That's buzkashi.
The game sounds simple until you hang out with Mohammad Hasan Palwan. "Palwan" means strongman in Dari, the Persian language of Afghanistan. That's what people call him. The strongman. For a strongman, he's hardly big like American athletes, not like Ndamukong Suh or Blake Griffin. He's tall and wiry with brown-green eyes and a neat mustache. For an athlete at the top of his game, he's old -- maybe 42 or 43. He's not sure because he doesn't know his birthday. His hands, though, are giant and covered with a thousand small scars. His fingers are crooked, knobby and gnarled, like a pair of moving ginseng roots. Palwan has broken them all. And his ribs. And his arms. And his legs. And his jaw.
Palwan is one of buzkashi's great "chapandazan" -- the men who play Afghanistan's national sport, men who have been riding horses since they were boys, just like their fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers forever back in time. In Mazar-e Sharif, the sport's heartland located 200 miles north of Kabul, Palwan has been the champion 11 times -- four short of his father, who is regarded as the best chapandaz ever. Is Palwan the best in the country? It's hard to say. There is no Super Bowl or Stanley Cup that decides these things.
Buzkashi is played on Friday afternoons from November through February or so. I saw my first match in December 2008 in a barren field on the edge of Mazar. Musicians in turbans wailed as hash wafted over a crowd of thousands of men watching from the sidelines. (Women do not attend.) There were no tickets or uniforms, and anybody could play. That day, more than 100 horsemen wearing Soviet-era tank helmets and hand-worked, knee-high leather boots fought leg to leg in a scrum of horseflesh and cracking whips to pick up a headless goat weighing 150 pounds from the backs of their 1,100-pound stallions. Horses reared, men whipped each other, and spectators fled when the action got too close. Horse owners in the audience offered prizes for the victors: It could be $20; it could be $3,000; it could be a horse or a car. Egos often take over, and the pots become enormous. Palwan remembers riding home from a match 20 years ago with $17,000, earrings for his wife, two camels and five AK-47s.
The game is a microcosm of the country, a tangled web of patronage and allegiances, of great wealth, chaos and brutality. It is anything but simple.
"It is," says Palwan, "war."
And like all recent wars in Afghanistan, buzkashi is riding a wave of U.S. dollars. America has poured roughly $100 billion per year into the country since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. That money has flowed through the land like water through a sieve, making a number of tribal big men rich in the process. It's fair to say that nothing happens in the regions they control without their collusion, knowledge or profit. And they've found more than a few ways to profit. Some of their money has come from legitimate enterprises -- providing U.S. military and NATO subcontractors protection through dangerous mountain passes, for instance, as documented in a 2010 Senate report -- but plenty more allegedly comes from drug-running and illegitimate kickbacks. While Afghanistan's national pastime receives no financial support from any official U.S. programs, the influx of so many billions of American dollars has indirectly pumped new energy into this medieval sport..."
Kindergartner Shows Mother's Drug Pipe and Crystal Meth in School
|10:24:01 PM, Wednesday, September 21, 2011|
"Sweet Springs - Here's a shocking show-and-tell session in a Missouri kindergarten class. A six-year old boy took his teacher's instructions to bring important family items into school too literally when he whipped out his mother's crack pipe and illegal drugs.
Students at the Sweet Springs elementary school had been asked by their teacher to bring in important family items for a show and tell event. One six-year old boy decided to bring that which was nearest and dearest to his mother - her crack pipe and several baggies filled with crystal meth. Court documents reveal the the drugs are worth about $3,700.
Local KCTV-5 reports that worried and shocked school officials contacted the police who then executed a search warrant at the mother's home. Court records indicate that a search warrant was executed and a police dog named "Boomer" found a crack pipe. The mother, 32-year old Michelle Marie Cheatham was charged Monday, Sept. 12, with class C felony possession of a controlled substance and with class C felony endangering the welfare of a child.
The Marshall Democrat-News reports that both charges include the same range of punishment. If convicted, Cheatham could face up to seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections or up to one year in the county jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.
The crystals that had been brought into school by the child tested positive for methamphetamine. Police Chief Richard Downing told KCTV-5 that the incident marked a first in his law enforcement career.
The circumstances of the arrest have worried neighbors. One resident of the small town said,
"That kind of makes you wonder why parents would leave something like that out for a child to get a hold of."
A family friend says Cheatham's life took a downturn after her husband died earlier this year in a car crash and she received a large military pension. The pension enabled her to post the $7,500 bail, and she was then hospitalized because of complications from an earlier gastrointestinal surgery. The friend says the boy is now being cared for by loved ones..."
Italian Sparrow Joins Family as a New Species
|12:50:41 AM, Wednesday, September 21, 2011|
"Scientists in Norway say they have conclusive genetic evidence that sparrows recently evolved a third species.
The Italian sparrow, they argue, is a cross between the ubiquitous house sparrow and the Spanish sparrow.
Whether it is a distinct species has been the subject of a long scientific debate.
The Oslo team say in the journal Molecular Ecology that their evidence resolves the question.
Many bird-watching guides already identify the Italian sparrow as a separate species.
But this study, led by evolutionary biologist Glenn-Peter Saetre from the University of Oslo, is a genetic snapshot that appears to settle the debate.
The researchers studied populations of Italian and Spanish sparrows that share the same habitat in the south-east of Italy.
They took blood samples from the birds in order to extract DNA.
"By examining the genetics, we have shown conclusively that the Italian sparrow is of mixed origin - it is a hybrid of the house sparrow and the Spanish sparrow," Dr Saetre told BBC Nature.
"Second, and perhaps equally important - it is not reproducing with the Spanish sparrow, even though the two birds live side-by-side."
If the birds had been breeding, the scientists say that they would have found genetic "intermediates" - birds with genes from both species..."
Researchers Capture 'Natural Killer' White Blood Cells in Action in Highest Resolution Ever
|12:31:17 AM, Wednesday, September 21, 2011|
"Researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Oxford have pioneered a new technique to see exactly how our body's "natural killer" white blood cells actually do their dirty work. It's the first time we've ever been able to see how this element of the body's natural defenses actually works.
There are myriad difficulties in trying to observe this kind of event. For one thing, the cells are incredibly small, and execute their, well, executions (that's an apt description, as you'll see) very, very quickly. Then there's the problem that the cells are three-dimensional (of course), while the high-speed microscopes used for this are only capable of seeing the horizontal plane. (3-D cameras are not, at the moment, quick enough to work for this.) Previously, researchers would have to painstakingly capture many 2-D images, then stack them on top of each other--not very efficient, and not particularly effective, either.
So how did these researchers pull it off? Says Professor Paul French of Imperial College London: "Using laser tweezers to manipulate the interface between live cells into a horizontal orientation means our microscope can take many images of the cell contact interface in rapid succession. This has provided an unprecedented means to directly see dynamic molecular processes that go on between live cells." But taking lots of images at once, the researchers can reconstruct a 3-D image with ease.
What's going on in that video above is essentially an execution. Inside the "natural killer" or "NK" cell, enzyme-filled granules organize, ready to stream out as soon as the cell creates a portal. Then, the granules attack the diseased cell. In this case, the NKs are using membrane nanotubes to pull them in, like a bungee cord.
NKs are used by the body to attack all kinds of damaged cells, from tumors to viruses, though they also sometimes attack transplanted organs. By understanding the intricacies of this operation, the scientists hope to create better medical treatments--they might use NK cells in medicine, or discover ways to stop them from attacking foreign but welcome tissue."
8 Simple Questions You Won't Believe Science Can't Answer
|11:32:04 PM, Tuesday, September 20, 2011|
"The field of science is capable of some amazing things, mostly because it's filled with all the Albert Einsteins and Doogie Howsers the world has produced over the centuries. But it may shock you that some of the most mundane, everyday concepts are as big a mystery to scientists as they are to the average toddler.
Things like ..."
-- I was familiar with most of what this article had to say, it's definitely worth a read. Interesting that these are still mysteries.
Electrical Stimulation of Brain Boosts Birth of New Cells, May Improve Memory
|9:31:53 PM, Tuesday, September 20, 2011|
"Stimulating a specific region of the brain leads to the production of new brain cells that enhance memory, according to an animal study in the September 21 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings show how deep brain stimulation (DBS) — a clinical intervention that delivers electrical pulses to targeted areas of the brain — may work to improve cognition.
"DBS has been quite effective for the treatment of movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, and has recently been explored for treatment of a range of neurologic and psychiatric conditions," said Paul Frankland, PhD, of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), senior author of the study. "These new findings have important clinical implications as they inform potential treatments for humans with memory disorders."
Throughout life, new cells are born in parts of the hippocampus, the brain's learning and memory center. In the new study, Frankland and his colleagues found that one hour of electrical stimulation to the entorhinal cortex — a region that directly communicates with the hippocampus — in adult mice led to a two-fold increase in new cells in the hippocampus. Although the burst of new cells lasted for only about one week, the cells produced during this time window developed normally and made connections with other nearby brain cells.
Six weeks later, the researchers evaluated whether the newly integrated cells produced changes in memory. The authors tested how well the animals learned to navigate onto a landing submerged in a small pool of water. Compared with mice that did not receive the therapy, DBS mice spent more time swimming near the landing, suggesting that stimulation of the entorhinal cortex improved spatial learning.
"To date, the neurobiological basis for the clinical effect of DBS has not been well understood," said Daniel A. Peterson, PhD, of the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, an expert on stem cells and brain repair who was unaffiliated with the study. "This study suggests that the stimulation of specific brain circuitry may result in the development of new functional brain cells in particular brain regions."
In a related preliminary study, researchers led by Andres Lozano, MD, PhD, of Toronto Western Hospital, recently published a Phase I clinical trial showing that DBS of the fornix, a brain region that also communicates directly with the hippocampus, slows cognitive decline in some people with dementia and other cognitive impairments. "The pro-cognitive effects of deep brain stimulation in human patients may result from the production of new neurons," Frankland said."
This Massive Cold War Spy Satellite Was Hidden from the World Until Now
|1:03:27 AM, Tuesday, September 20, 2011|
"The HEXAGON satellite spied on America’s Cold War foes for over a decade, taking extremely detailed (film!) photographs from space. It was 60 feet long—bigger than a bus. And the public never, ever saw it. We did.
To celebrate its 50th birthday, the top secret satellite operators at the National Reconnaissance Office gave the public a little present: full access to a real life HEXAGON at National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia — filled largely with nostalgic old spies and space engineers. So of course we checked it out. The enormity of the thing is stunning, as is its complexity.
In the 70s, flying a plane over the Soviet Union and China wasn’t like hopping on Jet Blue — especially one loaded with American spy gear. So the Pentagon cooked up HEXAGON — the most sophisticated space eyeball among the first generation of spy sats. Beginning in 1971, each HEXAGON was pushed up into space by a Titan III rocket, whereupon it would snap humungous panoramic views of Russian turf with its giant camera, which boasted a focal length of 77 inches, a 20-inch aperture, and the ability to capture detail down to two or three feet. But how’d it get the film down to Earth? With a lot of balls.
Each payload of recon negatives was launched in its own landing vehicle, met by a spy plane that would literally snatch it out of the air like a butterfly net. These photos were used to, of course, see what the dastardly commies were up to, and plan for an eventual war against them. Of course, none of this was ever needed, as they weren’t really up to that much. But the HEXAGON marked a profound shift for warfare — even cold warfare. For the first time, space was a battlefield. America began to think that to control space was to control what sat underneath it — the vacuum was militarized. And this giant hulk helped make it that way — a process that’ll never, ever be reversed."
Rabbit Dies Saving Owners From House Fire in Alaska
|12:53:36 AM, Tuesday, September 20, 2011|
"ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A pet rabbit is being credited for saving its owners from a house fire in southeastern Alaska before it died of smoke inhalation, fire officials said on Friday.
The rabbit woke up the homeowner early on Tuesday morning by scratching on her chest, the Ketchikan Fire Department said in a statement.
The homeowner realized that the house was full of smoke, woke up her daughter and fled the house.
The fire was brought under control fairly quickly, with four engines, a ladder truck and 33 firefighters responding.
Damage to the house from flames, smoke and water was considered moderate.
While there were no injuries to the mother or daughter, the rabbit was not so lucky. The animal succumbed to smoke inhalation and did not survive, the fire department said."
The 6 Most Gigantic Everything in the History of War
|12:45:03 AM, Tuesday, September 20, 2011|
"In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "War makes people act like dicks." We don't want to glorify war or otherwise portray it as something other than terrible. Yet, war makes people think big, and sometimes you have to sit back and be amazed by what humans can accomplish when they really, really want to kill each other..."
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