Monthly Archives: November 2012

While You Were at the Bench: Week 48

Scientists at Wake Forest University have combined an ink jet printer and an electrospinning machine to fabricate cartlidge using viable tissue.  This printer hybrid is a big step forward in designing three dimensional tissue for implantation in humans.

At a separate Skynet facility….errr…I mean University of Waterloo, computational neurobiologists have developed a 2.5 million neuronal model that is capable of counting, recollection, and gambling.  I’m thinking, Vegas baby!

Swedish engineers have developed an aerosol based growth method for mass fabricating highly reproducible semiconductors using gold rather than a silicon substrate.  This method is potentially a cheaper alternative to constructing batteries, LED’s, and solar cells.

Sea snails obtained near Antartica are showing severe signs of shell dissolution due to increased ocean acidification (uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide), which has been previously demonstrated in a controlled laboratory environment.  These snails are a vital source of food and important for the carbon cycle in the waters around Antartica.

The bread wheat genome has been deciphered in the hopes of improving wheat production world wide.  If only this study had come out sooner, maybe Hostess brands would have been saved…..nah.

SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk, has proposed creating a self-sustaining Martian colony by utilizing a new type of spacecraft called cyclers that the company is building.

In an update to a former blog post regarding a French study on toxicity of genetically modified corn, the European Food Safety Authority has concluded that the study “does not meet acceptable scientific standards” due to “inadequencies in the design.”  You can read the full report here.

Apparently Movember is also Bigfoot month.  Veternarian Melba S. Ketchum claims to have sequenced 100 DNA samples from the elusive hairy beast.   According to Dr. Ketchum, the DNA results indicate Sasquatch is a result of mating between homo sapien and an unknown primate 15,000 years ago.  Until I read the peer reviewed journal article on this one, I think it might just be this guy “it is“.

Have a Great Weekend!

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 47

I hope everyone in the US had a great Thanksgiving.  I’ll keep this post short in case the Tryptophan is kicking in.

Over the past year, cancer researchers from Georgetown University have developed a technique to induce an indefinite proliferative state in primary mammalian epethelial cells without producing tumors that normally occur with embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells.  These conditionally reprogrammed cells (CRC’s) were designed for screening cancer therapies, but this technique for creating adult stem-like cells is ideal for regenerative medicine.

In a big step forward for optogenetics, scientists at MIT have developed a 3D array of thin microwaveguides for delivering light to discrete brain regions for activating specific neurons.  This design allows for the independent control of hundreds of light sources for researchers to better understand the activity of entire neuronal circuits.

Turns out green algae is the vampire of the plant kingdom.  This is the first known plant species that secretes enzymes to break down cellulose from neighboring plants and assimilate it as an energy source for continued survival.  Since a major process for biofuel production is cellulose breakdown, green algae can now be used to expedite this process.

By pharmacologically inhibiting eIF4E expression, researchers at McGill University were able to reverse social behavior deficits in a mouse model of autism spectrum disorder.  While the inhibitory drug used is too toxic for human use, it does open new avenues of therapeutic targets for treating Autism.

Did the 2.5 billion dollar Curiosity Rover hit pay dirt?  (Sorry, I’ve been watching too much discovery channel.)  NASA is going to hold a press conference in two weeks to discuss an exciting discovery regarding a sample of Martian soil.  Internet buzz suggests organic material, but NASA is staying mute on the subject for now.

Have a Great Weekend!  I’m off to stimulate the economy.

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100% Efficacy for Improving Quality of Life in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients?

This post deviates from our normal posts.  It is not about careers.  It is not directly about science and research.  But it is about results.  I recently attended a conference and had the pleasure of attending a talk by Dan Cohen about the use of music as an aide to improve quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  Music is able to accomplish this by engaging the whole mind and body.  Dan Cohen gave several examples of success stories, but one of the more powerful was Henry.  As you can see in the video, Henry was unresponsive, irritable, depressed, and at times didn’t even recognize his own daughter.  After just a few sessions of listening to music that was personalized for him, not just songs from his generation, but songs he actually used to listen to and enjoy, Henry became animated.  He began to sing and dance and he became responsive to questions and engaging. 

While Dan was not an especially polished speaker, his message was clear…personalized music is more effective than any medicine currently on the market at increasing quality of life for people with dementia.  This is a sentiment that is echoed by many, including Dr. Oliver Sacks who authored Musicophillia and Dr. Peter Davies who has been instrumental in the development of several drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease (such as Aricept).  The Music and Memory program has been implemented in over 60 nursing home/adult care facilities across North America since its inception 7 years ago and every single one of them has continued the program.  My question is this…why is this inexpensive (the cost of iPods, earphones, and music-if they are not donated) and easily implemented (just find out what music they like and download it on the iPod) program not established in every adult care facility in the world?  In the US alone there are over 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease and an estimated cost to/on society of ~$200,000,000,000/year.  Add to that the cost to bring an Alzheimer’s drug to market.  Now think about the efficacy of that drug.  Add in patient compliance and potential side effects.  Is there really any comparison?  The Music and Memory program can be implemented now with almost immediate results and added benefits of decreasing depression, disruptive behaviors, and anxiety. 

Modern medicine has been wonderful at extending our lifespan.  Unfortunately, this is often accompanied by debilitating diseases and poor quality of life.  As the holiday season is upon us, why don’t we get involved and do some good.  If you get a new iPod, why not donate your old one to Music and Memory ?  Better yet, start a donation center in your city and bring Music and Memory to people in your community.  Let’s see if we can make a difference worldwide.

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 46

Researchers at Stanford University have created an organic polymer that is pressure sensitive and self-healing making this material ideal for artificial skin on biomimetic prostheses.  All the pieces are coming together for Skynet.

By incorporating iron oxide (rust) into a unique V-shaped ultrathin film, scientists at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have created a new type of solar cell that can use sunlight to oxidize water and store the energy as hydrogen-based biofuels.   This design is cheaper than photovoltaic solar cells and they can store solar energy for electricity use at night.

Is the key to the fountain of youth in all of us?  After studying the immortal polyp Hydra, German scientists have discovered that the FoxO gene is evolutionarily conserved to control longevity through regulation of stem cell production and proliferation.

A world-wide collaborative effort has identified a rare variant of the TREM2 gene that nearly triples the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Is your lab’s external terabyte hard drive maxed out from all your data files?  Good thing engineers at the University of Texas have developed self-assembling block copolymers that can increase hard drive storage capacity by five fold.

Idaho State University anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum is currently designing a remote controlled blimp for the purposes of finding the elusive Sasquatch.  I hope he equips it with a high-definition camera so I don’t have to watch any more grainy videos of purported sightings.

Have a Great Weekend!

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