Tag Archives | DNA

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…”… Read the rest

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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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According to DNA, You’re Half-Human, Half-Virus

Frank Ryan writes in New Scientist:

When, in 2001, the human genome was sequenced for the first time, we were confronted by several surprises. One was the sheer lack of genes: where we had anticipated perhaps 100,000 there were actually as few as 20,000. A bigger surprise came from analysis of the genetic sequences, which revealed that these genes made up a mere 1.5 per cent of the genome.

This is dwarfed by DNA deriving from viruses, which amounts to roughly 9 per cent.On top of that, huge chunks of the genome are made up of mysterious virus-like entities called retrotransposons, pieces of selfish DNA that appear to serve no function other than to make copies of themselves. These account for no less than 34 per cent of our genome.

All in all, the virus-like components of the human genome amount to almost half of our DNA. This would once have been dismissed as mere “junk DNA”, but we now know that some of it plays a critical role in our biology. As to the origins and function of the rest, we simply do not know…

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Oops: Backscatter X-Ray Machines “Tear Apart DNA”

At Yahoo Tech:

The latest airport security trend is the backscatter x-ray machine, touted as a powerful way to virtually frisk a traveler for contraband without the embarassment of a strip search.

Though touted as completely safe because the level of radiation is so low, travelers have been nervous about the devices — and not just because it shows off a nice outline of their privates to the people manning the machines — but because they remain scared of the health problems they might propose.

Looks like a little healthy paranoia might have been a good thing. While the conventional wisdom has held that so-called “terahertz radiation,” upon which backscatter x-ray machines are based, is harmless because it doesn’t carry enough energy to do cellular or genetic damage, new research suggests that may be completely wrong.

Specifically, researchers have found that terahertz radiation may interfere directly with DNA. Although the force generated is small, the waves have been found to “unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.”

I’m not a doctor, but that just doesn’t sound good…

[continues at Yahoo Tech]… Read the rest

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40-Million-Year-Old Virus Found In Human Genome

Reported on AFP via Yahoo News:
DNA

Humans carry in their genome the relics of an animal virus that infected their forerunners at least 40 million years ago, according to research published by the British science journal Nature.The invader is called bornavirus, a brain-infecting pathogen that was first identified in 1970s. Scientists led by Keizo Tomonaga of Japan’s Osaka University compared the DNA of a range of mammals, including humans, apes, elephants, marsupials and rodents, to look for tell-tale signatures of bornavirus code.

In the human genome, the team found several bornavirus fragments but also in the form of two genes that may be functional, although what they do is unclear. Until now, the only viruses known to have been handed on in vertebrates were retroviruses, which work by hijacking cellular machinery in order to reproduce.

Retroviruses are effective in infiltrating the germline — the DNA of reproductive cells, which means their sequence, or part of it, is handed on to ensuing generations.

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