Tag Archives | Biology

Single-celled sniper uses one eye to hunt

This single-celled organism can point its eye in different directions and it may use it to hunt prey. It also has a unique piston mechanism, but its use is still unclear.

Michael Le Page via New Scientist:

It is perhaps the most extraordinary eye in the living world – so extraordinary that no one believed the biologist who first described it more than a century ago.

Now it appears that the tiny owner of this eye uses it to catch invisible prey by detecting polarised light. This suggestion is also likely to be greeted with disbelief, for the eye belongs to a single-celled organism called Erythropsidinium. It has no nerves, let alone a brain. So how could it “see” its prey?

Fernando Gómez of the University of São Paulo, Brazil, thinks it can. “Erythropsidinium is a sniper,” he told New Scientist. “It is waiting to see the prey, and it shoots in that direction.”

Erythropsidinium belongs to a group of single-celled planktonic organisms known as dinoflagellates.

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Can We Trust Scientists’ Self-Control?

Positive-pressure biosafety suitNew biological techniques create the potential for catastrophe. The self-control of scientists is not enough to protect us, or to secure public trust. National governments must step in. Filippa Lentzos, Koos van der Bruggen and Kathryn Nixdorff argue that the US should lead the way, at the Guardian:

There is a growing convergence of concern about new technologies in the life sciences that are raising significant societal, ethical, environmental and security risks. Global public engagement must be a priority for deliberation about these technologies and for developing a set of common red lines.

The genome-editing technique CRISPR-Cas9 is the latest in a series of technologies to hit the headlines. This week Chinese scientists used the technology to genetically modify human embryos – the news coming less than a month after a prominent group of scientists had called for a moratorium on the technology. The use of ‘gene drives’ to alter the genetic composition of whole populations of insects and other life forms has also raised significant concern.

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DNA Can’t Explain All Inherited Biological Traits, Research Shows

A histone is a protein that provides structural support to a chromosome. In order for very long DNA molecules to fit into the cell nucleus, they wrap around complexes of histone proteins, giving the chromosome a more compact shape. Some variants of histones are associated with the regulation of gene expression. Credit: Darryl Leja, NHGRI

A histone is a protein that provides structural support to a chromosome. In order for very long DNA molecules to fit into the cell nucleus, they wrap around complexes of histone proteins, giving the chromosome a more compact shape. Some variants of histones are associated with the regulation of gene expression.
Credit: Darryl Leja, NHGRI

Via ScienceDaily:

Characteristics passed between generations are not decided solely by DNA, but can be brought about by other material in cells, new research shows.

Scientists studied proteins found in cells, known as histones, which are not part of the genetic code, but act as spools around which DNA is wound. Histones are known to control whether or not genes are switched on.

Researchers found that naturally occurring changes to these proteins, which affect how they control genes, can be sustained from one generation to the next and so influence which traits are passed on.

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Scan Allows Scientists to Determine Biological Age From the Face Alone

You know how there’s always some ancient person emerging from a formerly “hidden” culture who’s supposed to be hundreds of years old? Well now we can just scan them to find out their real age. That’s assuming the software’s any good, mind. From the Guardian:

Scientists have created a 3D imaging system they claim can reliably predict a person’s biological age from the look of their face alone.

These 3D images are a composite of two sets of female faces, showing the average facial structure for each age group in the study. The left image shows the average of the 17-29 year-old women, the right 60-77 year-old women. Composite: Chinese Academy of Sciences

These 3D images are a composite of two sets of female faces, showing the average facial structure for each age group in the study. The left image shows the average of the 17-29 year-old women, the right 60-77 year-old women. Composite: Chinese Academy of Sciences

 

The researchers believe the technology could be used to judge whether proposed anti-ageing treatments have any effect, and to help doctors fine-tune advice and therapies for their patients.

They developed the technology after scanning the faces of more than 300 people aged 17 to 77 and building up a map that reveals how the human face changes over a lifetime.

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You Are More Bug Than Human

Yup, that’s right, you have so many disgusting creatures living on and in your body that you’re more bug than human (per BBC Future). Deal with it.

We hate to break it you, but you’re not totally human. It’s nothing about you personally. It’s just that more than 90% of the cells in the human body are actually parasites. You might feel like a single being, but you’re really more of a bug city, teeming with different species.

Every square centimetre of your face houses one or two tiny spiders. — Don’t panic – they keep you clean.

Or as Greg Foot from BritLab puts it in the above video: “In a rather gross way, you are practically a walking petri dish, a home for more bugs and bacteria than you’d care think about.”

Consider the skin on your face. As smooth and peachy as it may look, every square centimetre houses around one or two “demodex spiders”.

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DARPA’s Solution to Ebola (and all other Infectious Diseases)

It’s tempting to think of DARPA as the US Government’s evil technology agency, but Alexis Madrigal has discovered one DARPA program that might just be an incredible solution to infectious diseases, reporting for Fusion:

Saving the world from Ebola suddenly sounds so simple, as the solution spills from Colonel Dan Wattendorf’s mouth, up on the stage in the windowless banquet hall of this Marriott hotel south of San Francisco.

“We’re going to take the genetic code and put it into a format where you go to your drug store or doctor and get a shot in the arm,” Wattendorf told a room full of medical researchers and technologists. “There’s a low-cost of goods, no cold chain, and we would produce the correct antibody in [any] individual directly.”

DARPA

Wattendorf, a clean-cut, angular triathlete, is a program manager for the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the military’s far-out research wing. On this day, he’s speaking at a DARPA-sponsored conference called Biology Is Technology.

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Ending Aging with Dr. Aubrey de Grey | Midwest Real

aubrey de grey

Via Midwest Real

Dr. Aubrey de Grey is Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer at the SENS Research Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to ending aging. 

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The march of time spares none, neither rich, famous nor powerful. The deep, existential angst that comes part and parcel with that knowledge has, no doubt, haunted mankind from the very first moment we became self-aware. It’s also the one obstacle we’ve encountered as a species we just take for granted as the unassailable natural order of things.

It’s incredible really- we’ve walked the moon, we fly across the world and we transmit words through the air as if it’s trivial. Yet, for some reason when it comes to aging, we yield. Even the most brilliant men among us don’t consider the possibility that we might be able to circumvent becoming old and dying.

Actually, some brilliant men do.

Ending aging has become the life’s work of our guest, Dr.Read the rest

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Bigger Than Science, Bigger Than Religion

Genesis Farm. (Photo: Michael Taylor/flickr/cc)

Genesis Farm. (Photo: Michael Taylor/flickr/cc)

Richard Schiffman writes at Common Dreams:

The world as we know it is slipping away. At the current rate of destruction, tropical rainforest could be gone within as little as 40 years. The seas are being overfished to the point of exhaustion, and coral reefs are dying from ocean acidification. Biologists say that we are currently at the start of the largest mass extinction event since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. As greenhouse gases increasingly accumulate in the atmosphere, temperatures are likely to rise faster than our current ecological and agricultural systems can adapt.

It is no secret that the Earth is in trouble and that we humans are to blame. Just knowing these grim facts, however, won’t get us very far. We have to transform this knowledge into a deep passion to change course. But passion does not come primarily from the head; it is a product of the heart.

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Remarkable Stories of Humans Who Hibernated

Shane Gorski (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Shane Gorski (CC BY-ND 2.0)

via Mysterious Universe:

In the winter of 1981, teenager Jean Hilliard was on her way home at around midnight when the family car she was driving ran off the road near Lengby, Minnesota. Unable to free the vehicle, she made the dangerous decision to leave the car on foot, and attempt to walk to the nearby home of her friend, Wally Nelson.

Hilliard trudged along in the snow, her cowboy boots slipping occasionally and slowing her progress. She began to grow tired, and was nearly to the point of collapsing by the time she could see the shape of Wally’s home off in the distance.

Whether or not Hilliard could make it or not in those final moments may have been far from her mind, but there in the frigid early morning hours, she collapsed into the snow, only 15 feet from Nelson’s front door.

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‘Aquatic Osteoporosis’ Jellifying Lakes

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A handful of Holopedium capsules which are replacing the water flea Daphnia due to declining calcium levels in many lakes. Credit: Image courtesy of Queen’s University

Via ScienceDaily:

A plague of “aquatic osteoporosis” is spreading throughout many North American soft-water lakes due to declining calcium levels in the water and hindering the survival of some organisms, says new research from Queen’s University.

Researchers from Queen’s, working with colleagues from York University and the University of Cambridge, as well as other collaborators, have identified a biological shift in many temperate, soft-water lakes in response to declining calcium levels after prolonged periods of acid rain and timber harvesting. The reduced calcium availability is hindering the survival of aquatic organisms with high calcium requirements and promoting the growth of nutrient-poor, jelly-clad animals.

In the study, researchers looked at the microscopic organisms (~1 mm) Daphnia and Holopedium — the latter whose size is greatly increased by its jelly capsule.

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