algal biofuels

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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While You Were At the Bench: Week 43

Seven Italian seismologists have been found guilty of manslaughter for the deaths of 29 people killed in the 2009 earthquake that decimated the city of L’Aquila when they incorrectly assessed the risks of ongoing seismic activity in the area.  This judicial ruling has completely shocked the scientific community and sets an interesting precedent for scientific accountability.

The US National Research Council released a report this week stating that CURRENT scale-up methods of algal biofuels for replacing oil and ethanol transporation fuels “would place unsustainable demands on energy, water and nutrients.”  The report goes on to state that these pitfalls are being addressed and none are a definitive barrier to large scale development.  You can read a summary of the report here.

In a follow-up to the Nobel prize in physics, Princeton researchers have used microwave photons to determine the spin states of electrons.  This might allow for quick transfer of quantum information through a computing device. Here is a  summary of the study.

South African researchers have identified two individuals who naturally developed antibodies that target the outer glycan layer on HIV.  These antibodies can kill 88% of the HIV strains found worldwide, which could lead to a completely new class of drugs for treating or even curing HIV.

Here’s one for college students.  A new study out of Rutgers has shown that rats drinking moderately high levels of alcohol daily (the human equivalent of 3-4 beverages per day) did not disrupt learning processes, however, neurogenesis was reduced by 40% in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus.  The authors note this level of drinking is closer to binge drinking, rather than moderate levels of alcohol (1-2 beverages daily) that typically show cardiovascular and cognitive health.

Cool photo of the week.  Check out this 9 gigapixel image of the center of the Milky Way (galaxy not candy bar) containing 84 million stars.  The image is a composite of photos from the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA.

Keep this in mind if you ever need to know how to eat a Triceratops.  Paleontologists have concluded from bite marks in Triceratops skull fossils that T-Rex would grip the neck frills to pull the head off and eat the tender meat around the head.   Dinosaurs are cool.

And a big thanks to all the blog readers.  Total blog views surpassed the 5K mark this week.  Keep coming back for future blog posts and remember to check out our website.

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