Archive for the ‘News’ Category

From Discover magazine: “Helpful Mouse Fetuses Naturally Send Stem Cells to Mom to Fix Her Damaged Heart”

The punchline is

When a pregnant mouse has a heart attack, her fetus donates some of its stem cells to help rebuild the damaged heart tissue.

The original article is available here.

Kara RJ, Bolli P, Karakikes I, Matsunaga I, Tripodi J, Tanweer O, Altman P, Shachter NS, Nakano A, Najfeld V, Chaudhry HW. Fetal Cells Traffic to Injured Maternal Myocardium and Undergo Cardiac Differentiation. Circ Res. 2011 Nov 14. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22082491.

These days with tight budget and poor economy, I am always intrigued in finding ways to conserve my research funding, which I think is a responsible approach to research rather than the big spending and throwing-away-old-but-good-equipment mentality. For example, all monitors in my office are old, unwanted CRT monitors. The oldest one is a Sony Trinitron that I picked up as a postdoc at Harvard in 2004, when they were throwing away many CRTs and replacing them with the sexy LCD monitors. It is still running great and I wish I could pick up more at that time.

Anyway, there is an interesting new consumer camera called Lytro that has just been launched recently. It is based on a revolutionized light field concept that can capture not just the color and intensity, but also the vector direction of the light. Thus, information with regards to the location of the object be extracted after image acquisition; in other words, one can “focus” after image acquisition in the computer. This concept is originated from the Ph.D. research of Ren Ng, Lytro’s CEO, at Stanford.

I think the concept can potentially be applicable to research imaging in life-science. For example, in fluorescent imaging, we always want to acquire information from a very specific focal plane of the specimen. One fancy way to exclude the out-of-focus information is by confocal microscopy,  a fancier way of imaging which is not a cheap at all. From my limited understanding, Lytro’s principle can potentially be applicable to generate an effect that is similar to confocal on a regular fluorescent microscope, perhaps with some essential modifications of the algorithms. If that is possible, then Lytro can be a very economical replacement (a few hundreds) of confocal (hundreds of thousands). I immediately emailed them about that and asked for the possibility of getting a unit to play with. Of course they said thank you for the great idea, but no, we won’t be able to send you one.

I do hope someone, including Lytro, who has time and interest, can figure this application out… then we can have a $400 confocal! Think about capturing all the confocal market in the field!

and the reasons behind the OWS movement.

From boingboing:

Police officer pepper-sprays seated, non-violent students at UC Davis

Interview with a pepper-sprayed UC Davis student

Photo:Brian Nguyen/The Aggie. From: boingboing.net

goes to Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, Jack W. Szostak.

“for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase”

link to Nobel prize.org

link to the press release

Some interesting work here, the full winner list is available from their website:

PEACE PRIZE

Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
REFERENCE: “Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Sturdier and Does Their Fracture-Threshold Suffice to Break the Human Skull?” Stephan A. Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael J. Thali and Beat P. Kneubuehl, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, vol. 16, no. 3, April 2009, pp. 138-42.

VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE

Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.
REFERENCE: “Exploring Stock Managers’ Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production,” Catherine Bertenshaw [Douglas] and Peter Rowlinson, Anthrozoos, vol. 22, no. 1, March 2009, pp. 59-69.

ECONOMICS PRIZE

The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks — Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland — for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa — and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.

MEDICINE PRIZE

Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years.
REFERENCE: “Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?”, Donald L. Unger, Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 41, no. 5, 1998, pp. 949-50.

LITERATURE PRIZE

Ireland’s police service (An Garda Siochana), for writing and presenting more than fifty traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country — Prawo Jazdy — whose name in Polish means “Driving License”.

MATHEMATICS PRIZE

Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000).
REFERENCE: Zimbabwe’s Casino Economy — Extraordinary Measures for Extraordinary Challenges, Gideon Gono, ZPH Publishers, Harare, 2008, ISBN 978-079-743-679-4.

may lie inside this girl.

Brooke Greenberg is the size of an infant, with the mental capacity of a toddler. She turned 16 in January.

….

Brooke hasn’t aged in the conventional sense. Dr. Richard Walker of the University of South Florida College of Medicine, in Tampa, says Brooke’s body is not developing as a coordinated unit, but as independent parts that are out of sync. She has never been diagnosed with any known genetic syndrome or chromosomal abnormality that would help explain why.

References:

Doctors Baffled, Intrigued by Girl Who Doesn’t Age [ABC news]

Walker RF. A case study of ‘‘disorganized development’’ and its possible relevance to genetic determinants of aging. Mech Age Devel 2009; 130:350 [PubMed][pdf (link provided by the research group's site)]

Scientists have found out that night owls can work longer and be more alert late at night. As simple as that.

Researchers found that in tests those who consider themselves more alert in the morning can concentrate for less time than those who work best at night.

The results, reported in the journal Science, suggest that night owls generally outlast early birds in the length of time they can be awake before becoming mentally fatigued.

References:

Night owls can work longer than early birds, scientists find [Telegraph]

Schmidt C, Collette F, Leclercq Y, Sterpenich V, Vandewalle G, Berthomier P, Berthomier C, Phillips C, Tinguely G, Darsaud A, Gais S, Schabus M, Desseilles M, Dang-Vu TT, Salmon E, Balteau E, Degueldre C, Luxen A, Maquet P, Cajochen C, Peigneux P. Homeostatic sleep pressure and responses to sustained attention in the suprachiasmatic area. Science. 2009 Apr 24;324(5926):516-9. [PubMed][Science]

People with Down’s syndrome rarely get most kinds of cancer and U.S. researchers have nailed down one reason why — they have extra copies of a gene that helps keep tumors from feeding themselves.

….

“One such gene is Down’s syndrome candidate region-1 (DSCR1, also known as RCAN1),” Harvard’s Sandra Ryeom and colleagues wrote.

This gene codes for a protein that suppresses vascular endothelial growth factor or VEGF — one of the compounds necessary for angiogenesis.

References:

Down’s syndrome reveals one key to fighting cancer [Reuter]

Baek KH, Zaslavsky A, Lynch RC, Britt C, Okada Y, Siarey RJ, Lensch MW, Park IH, Yoon SS, Minami T, Korenberg JR, Folkman J, Daley GQ, Aird WC, Galdzicki Z, Ryeom S. Down’s syndrome suppression of tumour growth and the role of the calcineurin inhibitor DSCR1. Nature. 2009 May 20. [PubMed][Nature]

A fundamental but elusive step in the early evolution of life on Earth has been replicated in a laboratory.

Researchers synthesized the basic ingredients of RNA, a molecule from which the simplest self-replicating structures are made. Until now, they couldn’t explain how these ingredients might have formed.

….

No matter how they combined the ingredients — a sugar, a phosphate, and one of four different nitrogenous molecules, or nucleobases — ribonucleotides just wouldn’t form. Sutherland’s team took a different approach “and successfully synthesized RNA” in a laboratory conditions resembled those of the life-originating “warm little pond”.

References:

Life’s First Spark Re-Created in the Laboratory [Wired]

Powner MW, Gerland B, Sutherland JD. Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions. Nature. 2009 May 14;459(7244):239-42. [PubMed][Nature]

Gene Patents Stifle Patient Access To Medical Care And Critical Research

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (PUBPAT), filed a lawsuit today charging that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer stifle research that could lead to cures and limit women’s options regarding their medical care. Mutations along the genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, are responsible for most cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. The lawsuit argues that the patents on these genes are unconstitutional and invalid.

Obviously genes should not be patented and should be deposited into the public domain.