Tag Archives | DNA

Has a Technological Singularity Already Started?

nanobot“It’s not comfortably decades down the road. It’s right now, right here, in our faces, all we have to do is look around to see it.”

A science writer argues we’re rapidly approaching a day when “we can customize the human body as easily as we can customize our car… an era where the genetic lottery of our inherited DNA will no longer dictate who we chose to be.” There’s already stem cell breast augmentation, making ovaries into testes, 3-D tissue printers and “tissue Legos”, and “then add in who knows how many other recent stem cell breakthroughs have happened in the last year and a half…”

He sees a big picture where “advancing computer science mixed with advancing biotech combine to create a potential future in which trolls and elves could walk down the street side by side with humans.”

“Here’s to hoping I’ll see you on the other side.”

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DNA ‘Spiderbot’ Is On The Prowl

nanobotVia AFP:

Scientists on Wednesday announced they had created a molecular robot made out of DNA that walks like a spider along a track made out of the chemical code for life.

The achievement, reported in the British journal Nature, is a further step in nanoscale experiments that, one day, may lead to robot armies to clean arteries and fix damaged tissues.

The robot is just four nanometres — four billionths of a metre — in diameter.

Milan Stojanovic of New York’s Columbia University, who led the venture, likens the nanobot to “a four-legged spider.”

The beast moves along a track comprising stitched-together strands of DNA that is essentially a pre-programmed course, in the same way that industrial robots move along an assembly line.

The track exploits one of the basic characteristics of DNA. A double-helix molecule, DNA comprises four chemicals which pair in rungs.

By “unzipping” the DNA, one is left with one side of the strand whose rungs can then be paired up with matching rungs.

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Are Humans Really Beings Of Light?

DNA

Dan Eden for viewzone.com (at mondovista.com):

I get lots of suggestions for stories, and I really appreciate them. But some of them are too good to be true. An example of this was a story of a giant human skeleton — maybe 40 feet tall — that was discovered by a Russian archaeological team. The story had photos and links accompanying it and looked promising. But when the links were researched they went in a circle. Each link used the other link as the source. Finally the elements of the photos turned up and we recognized a good Photoshop job had fooled everyone.

I had this same experience this week when I was sent an article where a Russian (again) scientist, Pjotr Garjajev, had managed to intercept communication from a DNA molecule in the form of ultraviolet photons — light! What’s more, he claimed to have captured this communication from one organism (a frog embryo) with a laser beam and then transmitted it to another organisms DNA (a salamander embryo), causing the latter embryo to develop into a frog!

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Researchers Turn Mosquitoes Into Flying Vaccinators

MosquitoesThanks scientists for taking mosquitoes from an “annoying” level to now a plot line for a super-villain. Martin Enserink writes on ScienceNOW:

Here’s a study to file under “unworkable but very cool.” A group of Japanese researchers has developed a mosquito that spreads vaccine instead of disease. Even the researchers admit, however, that regulatory and ethical problems will prevent the critters from ever taking wing — at least for the delivery of human vaccines.

Scientists have dreamed up various ways to tinker with insects’ DNA to fight disease. One option is to create strains of mosquitoes that are resistant to infections with parasites or viruses, or that are unable to pass the pathogens on to humans. These would somehow have to replace the natural, disease-bearing mosquitoes, which is a tall order. Another strategy closer to becoming reality is to release transgenic mosquitoes that, when they mate with wild-type counterparts, don’t produce viable offspring.

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Gordon Brown’s UK Election Pledge – More CCTV!

CCTVThis week the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, made it clear that he sees the expansion of the UK surveillance camera network as a vote winner in the coming general election [1]. Brown was in Reading delivering a speech on 'crime and anti-social behaviour', he said [2]:
CCTV and DNA are crucial. There are of course some who think CCTV is "excessive", but they probably don’t have to walk home or take the night bus on their own at the end of a night out. For the rest of us, for ordinary hard working, decent people, the evidence is clear: CCTV reduces the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour. That is why this government has funded CCTV in nearly 700 town centre schemes over the last decade — and why in the coming months we are bringing in a new power for people to petition their local authority for more CCTV, with the authority having a duty to respond. Now the opposition parties have campaigned against CCTV — our support for CCTV will be on the ballet paper at any coming election.
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Is It Wrong To Cure Colorblindness?

One in twelve men suffers from colorblindness, though “The good news here is that these folks are simply missing a patch of DNA… which is just the kind of challenge this Millennium is made for. Enter science.”

But NPR’s Moira Gunn (from Biotech Nation) now asks a provocative question. Is it wrong to cure colorblindness?

She reports on an experiment that used a virus to introduce corrective DNA into colorblind monkeys. (“It took 20 weeks, but eventually the monkeys started distinguishing between red and green.”) Then she asks, could it be viewed differently? “Are we trying to ‘normalize’ humans to a threshold of experience?

“Slippery Slope. Enter here. Watch your step…”

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Resurrected Man Claimed by Two Families

Resurrected ManChris Capps writes on Unexplainable.net:

A man who has allegedly come back from the dead after being murdered is being fought over by two families, each claiming him as their own son in Transkei. The man is being called Siviwe Ntwalana, a man who was murdered five years ago and also Lakitha Zokufa after another deceased son who allegedly came back from the dead. The story is too strange for fiction.

The man in dispute is currently residing at Mthatha General Hospital Mental Clinic under the name Lakitha Zokufa.

Apparently the man with two names’ testimony, when present, is not applicable in this situation, but it seems he isn’t particularly sure himself which of the families is correct. Interestingly, there is no real gain for either family financially for getting their son back, and both are convinced enough by their son’s presence that they are willing to pay for the otherwise strange man’s medical fees.

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Archbishop Tutu’s DNA Helps Show African Diversity

Archbishop-TutuBy Malcolm Ritter for AP via comcast.net News:

Scientists who decoded the DNA of some southern Africans have found striking new evidence of the genetic diversity on that continent, and uncovered a surprise about the ancestry of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

They found, for example, that any two Bushmen in their study who spoke different languages were more different genetically than a European compared to an Asian. That was true even if the Bushmen lived within walking distance of each other.

“If we really want to understand human diversity, we need to go to (southern) Africa and we need to study those people,” said Stephan Schuster of Pennsylvania State University. He’s an author of the study, which appears in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

The study also found 1.3 million tiny variations that hadn’t been observed before in any human DNA. That should help scientists sort out whether particular genes promote certain diseases or influence a person’s response to medications.

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Should We Clone Neanderthals?

Homo_sapiens_neanderthalensisZach Zorich examines the scientific, legal, and ethical obstacles for Archaelogy:

If Neanderthals ever walk the earth again, the primordial ooze from which they will rise is an emulsion of oil, water, and DNA capture beads engineered in the laboratory of 454 Life Sciences in Branford, Connecticut. Over the past 4 years those beads have been gathering tiny fragments of DNA from samples of dissolved organic materials, including pieces of Neanderthal bone. Genetic sequences have given paleoanthropologists a new line of evidence for testing ideas about the biology of our closest extinct relative.

The first studies of Neanderthal DNA focused on the genetic sequences of mitochondria, the microscopic organelles that convert food to energy within cells. In 2005, however, 454 began a collaborative project with the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, to sequence the full genetic code of a Neanderthal woman who died in Croatia’s Vindija cave 30,000 years ago.

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DNA 2.0: A New Operating System for Life is Created

DNALinda Geddes writes in New Scientist:

A new way of using the genetic code has been created, allowing proteins to be made with properties that have never been seen in the natural world. The breakthrough could eventually lead to the creation of new or “improved” life forms incorporating these new materials into their tissue.

In all existing life forms, the four “letters” of the genetic code, called nucleotides, are read in triplets, so that every three nucleotides encode a single amino acid.

Not any more. Jason Chin at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have now redesigned the cell’s machinery so that it reads the genetic code in quadruplets.

In the genetic code that life has used up to now, there are 64 possible triplet combinations of the four nucleotide letters; these genetic “words” are called codons. Each codon either codes for an amino acid or tells the cell to stop making a protein chain.

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