Tag: technique (page 1 of 5)

Why I Love Mercury Retrograde And Why You Could Too!

by Ines SuljMercury has just gone retrograde again. This time in Gemini, the sign it rules.All the planets, except Sun and Moon, go in apparent backward motion from time to time, yet the Mercury retrograde seems to be the most famous one. Almost everyone knows about it, including the people who know nothing about astrology and those who don’t even believe in it.In astrology, when a planet is in retrograde, it doesn’t actually move backwards in the sky. It only a [...]

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‘Hats Off’ To HATS-6b: Discovery of ‘puffy’ new planet brings scientists closer to finding new life in outer space

An artist's impression of the planet HATS-6b, orbiting the star, HATS-6. (Supplied: ANU) Excerpt from abc.net.au A "puffy" new planet orbiting a small, cool star has been discovered 500 light years away from Earth, by a team of scientists c...

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Lab for genetic modification of human embryos just $2,000 away – report

Reuters / Christian Charisius


With the right expertise in molecular biology, one could start a basic laboratory to modify human embryos using a genome-editing computer technique all for a couple thousand dollars, according to a new report.

Genetic modification has received heightened scrutiny recently following last week’s announcement that Chinese researchers had, for the first time, successfully edited human embryos’ genomes. 
The team at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, used CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats), a technique that relies on “cellular machinery” used by bacteria in defense against viruses. 

This machinery is copied and altered to create specific gene-editing complexes, which include the wonder enzyme Cas9. The enzyme works its way into the DNA and can be used to alter the molecule from the inside. The combination is attached to an RNA guide that takes the gene-editing complex to its target, telling Cas9 where to operate. 

Use of the CRISPR technique is not necessarily relegated to the likes of cash-flush university research operations, according to a report by Business Insider. 

Geneticist George Church, who runs a top CRISPR research program at the Harvard Medical School, said the technique could be employed with expert knowledge and about half of the money needed to pay for an average annual federal healthcare plan in 2014 -- not to mention access to human embryos. 

"You could conceivably set up a CRISPR lab for $2,000,” he said, according to Business Insider. 

Other top researchers have echoed this sentiment. 

"Any scientist with molecular biology skills and knowledge of how to work with [embryos] is going to be able to do this,” Jennifer Doudna, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, recently told MIT Tech Review, which reported that Doudna co-discovered how to edit genetic code using CRISPR in 2012. 

Last week, the Sun Yat-Sen University research team said it attempted to cure a gene defect that causes beta-thalassemia (a genetic blood disorder that could lead to severe anemia, poor growth, skeletal abnormalities and even death) by editing the germ line. For that purpose they used a gene-editing technique based on injecting non-viable embryos with a complex, which consists of a protective DNA element obtained from bacteria and a specific protein. 

"I suspect this week will go down as a pivotal moment in the history of medicine," wrote science journalist Carl Zimmer for National Geographic.

Response to the new research has been mixed. Some experts say the gene editing could help defeat genetic diseases even before birth. Others expressed concern. 

“At present, the potential safety and efficacy issues arising from the use of this technology must be thoroughly investigated and understood before any attempts at human engineering are sanctioned, if ever, for clinical testing,” a group of scientists, including some who had worked to develop CRISPR, warned in Science magazine. 

Meanwhile, the director of the US National Institutes for Health (NIH) said the agency would not fund such editing of human embryo genes. 

“Research using genomic editing technologies can and are being funded by NIH,” Francis Collins said Wednesday. “However, NIH will not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos. The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes ... has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed.”

Although the discovery of CRISPR sequences dates back to 1987 – when it was first used to cure bacteria of viruses – its successes in higher animals and humans were only achieved in 2012-13, when scientists achieved a revolution by combining the resulting treatment system with Cas9 for the first time. 

On April 17, the MIT’s Broad Institute announced that has been awarded the first-ever patent for working with the Crisp-Cas9 system. 

The institute’s director, Eric Lander, sees the combination as “an extraordinary, powerful tool. The ability to edit a genome makes it possible to discover the biological mechanisms underlying human biology.”

The system’s advantage over other methods is in that it can also target several genes at the same time, working its way through tens of thousands of so-called 'guide' RNA sequences that lead them to the weapon to its DNA targets. 

Meanwhile, last month in the UK, a healthy baby was born from an embryo screened for genetic diseases, using karyomapping, a breakthrough testing method that allows doctors to identify about 60 debilitating hereditary disorders.

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UV light reveals hidden colors in ancient shells

UV light revealed the way ancient shells looked millions of years ago.

Excerpt from perfscience.com

Using ultra-violet (UV) light, scientists have revealed astonishing colors of about 30 ancient seashells. According to PLOS, the seashells, which are estimated to be between 6.6 and 4.8 million years old, were looking white in regular white light. The true colors of the shells appeared in UV light.

According to the researchers, “The biology of modern Conidae (cone snails)-which includes the hyperdiverse genus Conus-has been intensively studied, but the fossil record of the clade remains poorly understood, particularly within an evolutionary framework”.

In the presence of UV light, the organic matter remaining in the shells fluoresces. With this, the shells appeared similar to what they looked when living creatures used to live in them. It is yet unclear which particular compounds in the shells are releasing the light when exposed to UV rays. With the help of the technique, the researchers were able to document the coloration patterns of 28 different cone shell species found in the Dominican Republic. Out of these 28 shells, 13 were found to be the species, which were not known earlier. And this could help know about the relationship between modern species.

San Jose State University geologist Jonathan Hendricks exposed over 350 fossil specimens to ultraviolet light. 

The coloration patterns of the ancient species were compared with existing animals and doing this, researchers found many displayed similarities. According to this finding, some modern species emerge from lineages. These lineages began in the Caribbean millions of years ago.

The newly distinguished species, Conus carlottae, was also among the newly distinguished species and it has a polka-dotted shell, which is not found in modern cone snails today. Researchers are now using UV light to emit color from porcelain white seashell fossils.

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Seed Bombers Can Plant An Entire Forest of 900,000 Trees A Day!

Here's a good use for old military planes! Planting trees EVERYWHERE!Seed bombing or aerial reforestation is a farming technique where trees and other crops are planted by being thrown or dropped from an airplane or flying drone. The “seed bombs” are typically compressed bundles of soil containing live vegetation, which are ready to grow as soon they hit the ground.This is something that can be done on both an industrial and DIY scale, depending on the property and the situati [...]

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New spin on Saturn’s peculiar, err, spin

 Excerpt from spacedaily.comAccording to the new method, Saturn's day is 10 hours, 32 minutes and 44 seconds long. Tracking the rotation speed of solid planets, like the Earth and Mars, is a relatively simple task: Just measure the time it tak...

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NASA’s Plan to Give the Moon a Moon


Excerpt from wired.com

It sounds almost like a late ’90s sci-fi flick: NASA sends a spacecraft to an asteroid, plucks a boulder off its surface with a robotic claw, and brings it back in orbit around the moon. Then, brave astronaut heroes go and study the space rock up close—and bring samples back to Earth.
Except it’s not a movie: That’s the real-life idea for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which NASA announced today. Other than simply being an awesome space version of the claw arcade game (you know you really wanted that stuffed Pikachu), the mission will let NASA test technology and practice techniques needed for going to Mars.
The mission, which will cost up to $1.25 billion, is slated to launch in December 2020. It will take about two years to reach the asteroid (the most likely candidate is a quarter-mile-wide rock called 2008 EV5). The spacecraft will spend up to 400 days there, looking for a good boulder. After picking one—maybe around 13 feet in diameter—it will bring the rock over to the moon. In 2025, astronauts will fly NASA’s still-to-be-built Orion to dock with the asteroid-carrying spacecraft and study the rock up close.
Although the mission would certainly give scientists an up-close opportunity to look at an asteroid, its main purpose is as a testing ground for a Mars mission. The spacecraft will test a solar electronic propulsion system, which uses the power from solar panels to pump out charged particles to provide thrust. It’s slower than conventional rockets, but a lot more efficient. You can’t lug a lot of rocket fuel to Mars.
Overall, the mission gives NASA a chance at practicing precise navigation and maneuvering techniques that they’ll need to master for a Mars mission. Such a trip will also require a lot more cargo, so grabbing and maneuvering a big space rock is good practice. Entering lunar orbit and docking with another spacecraft would also be helpful, as the orbit might be a place for a deep-space habitat, a rendezvous point for astronauts to pick up cargo or stop on their way to Mars.
And—you knew this part was coming, Armageddon fans—the mission might teach NASA something about preventing an asteroid from striking Earth. After grabbing the boulder, the spacecraft will orbit the asteroid. With the added heft from the rock, the spacecraft’s extra gravity would nudge the asteroid, creating a slight change in trajectory that NASA could measure from Earth. “We’re not talking about a large deflection here,” says Robert Lightfoot, an associate administrator at NASA. But the idea is that a similar technique could push a threatening asteroid off a collision course with Earth.
NASA chose this mission concept over one that would’ve bagged an entire asteroid. In that plan, the spacecraft would’ve captured the space rock by enclosing it in a giant, flexible container. The claw concept won out because its rendezvous and soft-landing on the asteroid will allow NASA to test and practice more capabilities in preparation for a Mars mission, Lightfoot says. The claw would’ve also given more chances at grabbing a space rock, whereas it was all or nothing with the bag idea. “It’s a one-shot deal,” he says. “It is what it is when we get there.” But the claw concept offers some choices. “I’ve got three to five opportunities to pull one of the boulders off,” he says. Not bad odds. Better than winning that Pikachu

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