Curiosity Rover

While You Were at the Bench: Week 49

A small clinical trial has demonstrated that colorectal cancer can be detected in patients by analyzing the volatile organic compounds in their exhaled breath with up to 75% accuracy.  While further studies are required to improve the accuracy, this noninvasive screening method could be applied to detecting other types of cancers.

Voyager 1, launched in 1977, has reached the boundary of our solar system and could be the first craft to pass beyond our solar system in months to years.  Despite being 11 billion miles from Earth, Voyager 1 is still able to transmit scientific data albeit 17 minutes delayed.

I can see my house lights!  Click here to check out global composite night time images of Earth in stunning clarity.

Researchers in The Netherlands have discovered that maggot secretions degrade complement proteins thus preventing inflammatory responses thereby helping open sores and wounds to heal faster.  Unfortunately, a topical cream is several years away.

Using tunable plasmonic nanobubbles, researchers at Rice University were able to kill cancer cells while simultaneously performing gene transfer in healthy cells of the same sample.  This rapid procedure can help improve the safety and efficacy of cell and gene therapy or bone marrow transplantation.

First soil samples analyzed by Curiosity indicate water, sulfur, chlorine and carbon on the Red Planet’s surface.  While it is too early to claim organic compounds, the recent success has led NASA to announce another rover sent to Mars by 2020.  No word on sending a rover to Titan. Might it be because the ice is thicker than originally thought?

High levels of dichlorophenols typically found in herbacides and pesticides have been linked to food and other environmental allergens in 64.5% of the study participants.  By the way, did I mention that dichlorophenols are also used in water chlorination.

Extroversion may increase lifespan….at least in gorillas.  An 18 year longitudinal study of 283 captive gorillas has shown that those with high social, play, and curiosity behaviours were linked with increased survival.

Now go get out of the lab and 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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While You Were At the Bench: Week 40

It’s been a busy week for scientists, but here are some of the highlights.

Contrary to the belief that retracted journal articles are due to simple errors, a recent PNAS article found that 67.3% of retracted journal articles are due to fraudulent data.  Com’n people.  We’re better than this!

Columbia University ophthalmologists used human induced pluripotent stem cells to improve the vision of blind mice.  This approach may be useful for restoring vision in humans with macular degeneration and other retinal deficits.

Kyoto University researchers successfully used mouse embryonic stem cells to develop oocytes that produced viable offspring once fertilized and implanted into a surrogate mother.   This method could lead to new infertility therapies but raises potential ethical and legal issues.

Where’s Nemo?  A study conducted by the Australian Institute of Marine Science has determined the Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral in the last 27 years.  The contributors?  Cyclones (48%), Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (42%) and Bleaching (10%).

By measuring different isotopes of Carbon from ice core samples obtained in Greenland, researchers have determined the amount of methane produced by humans in the last 2000 years.  Human sources of methane production has increased dramatically since the start of industrial revolution in the 1800′s.

Has the Curiosity Rover discovered an ancient riverbed on Mars?  The photos look rather convincing.

In a follow-up to a previous blog regarding genetically modified food, the European Food Safety Authority has determined that a French study supporting the toxic effects of genetically modified corn was poorly designed and therefore does not support the conclusions made in the paper.  The authors have until October 12th to address concerns raised by the agency.

Geologists are attempting to drill 6 kilometers beneath the Pacific Ocean sea floor to obtain the first ever sample of the Earth’s mantle.  Maybe they can retrieve Brendan Fraser’s acting career while they are down there.  Zing!

Have a great weekend.

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5.8 Billion

Five billion, eight hundred million

We’re looking at an estimated 5.8 billion dollars being spent by the presidential and congressional races to buy your vote this year.  According to Time Magazine, the combined amount Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will spend on their presidential campaigns is 2.5 billion dollars.  I hope you love presidential mud-slinging commercials; there’s going to be a lot of them as we near Election Day.  I could spend an entire article discussing how the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United changed the political landscape, but I’m trying to avoid putting my readers to sleep…unlike my previous blog posts.

It’s extremely hard to put 5.8 billion into perspective.  Especially for us living off of research scientists salaries.   But let’s see what else we could buy with that money.

15.3% of scientific funding appropriated by the NIH (30.9 billion) and NSF (7.0 billion) in fiscal year 2012.

We could send two more Curiosity rovers to Mars (2.5 billion a piece).  The extra 800 million could be used to equip them with flipper arms and circular saw blades to create a NASA version of Robot Wars.  Seriously, can someone bring that television show back?

Google could buy Groupon, again….and again (2.5 billion acquisition).  Maybe a third time if they offered a groupon.

A little more than a third of the cost of the London Olympics. 

We could fund 145,000 post-doctoral positions for 1 year ($40K each).  This would actually help provide the jobs necessary for President Obama’s mission to increase the number of scientists and engineers in the US. 

Apple?  No.  We’re not nearly in that ball park.  Current estimates put cash on hand at over $110 billion.  But give it a few more presidential elections and we might reach that mark.

Even though politicians will spend all this money, little attention is given to scientific topics.  Why?  First, topics like stem cell research and alternative energy are hot button issues that are bound to upset large groups of people regardless of how the question is answered.  Second, the majorities of politicians know very little about scientific research and simply don’t want to look foolish.  This might explain why the focus always goes to the ethics of scientific research rather than the actual implications of the research itself. 

While RateMyPI.com has no political affiliations, we would like to encourage you to turn off the television (or at least forward through the election commercials) and head over to AAAS.org for a breakdown of the presidential candidates Science and Technology platforms.  Let’s make informed voting decisions this election rather than allowing the politicians to simply buy our vote. 

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