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Estados Unidos dice 'no' a las patentes de genes humanos - ALT1040

Estados Unidos dice 'no' a las patentes de genes humanos - ALT1040 | Science | Scoop.it
La Opinión
Estados Unidos dice 'no' a las patentes de genes humanos
ALT1040
Una de las polémicas más habituales en la relación entre la propiedad industrial y la biotecnología está en la existencia de las patentes de genes humanos.

Via Derecho – Alianza Superior
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eva gil's curator insight, November 5, 2013 6:33 AM

aqui se pone de manifiesto el problema de si el cuerpo del ser humano puede usarse como patente o no.

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Emerging Tech: Nokia May Turn Tattoos Into More Than Body Art

Emerging Tech: Nokia May Turn Tattoos Into More Than Body Art | Science | Scoop.it

"Nokia's haptic tattoo patent application may seem like the stuff of science fiction. However, "when you consider the nanobiology and synthetic biology applications, the possibilities of having a fully functional local device attached to the body becomes very likely," said James Canton, CEO of the Institute for Global Futures. "With this convergence, you start to see a new technology platform, one that could make mobile phones of today seem like a very minor story."..."


Via Gerd Moe-Behrens
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Cuatro efectos del bisfenol A sobre la salud

Cuatro efectos del bisfenol A sobre la salud | Science | Scoop.it

El bisfenol A o BPA es una sustancia química empleada desde la década de los sesenta para fabricar plásticos duros y ligeros que se utiliza en los envases de alimentos y bebidas, en los empastes dentales, en pinturas y en los cristales de las gafas, entre otros objetos de uso cotidiano. Francia y España ya ha prohibido el uso de esta sustancia en todos los materiales que estén en contacto con alimentos infantiles, aplicando lo que se conoce como "principio de precaución". Y varias investigaciones han revelado que la excesiva exposición a este material puede tener efectos perjudiciales para la salud, aunque de momento parece que son de corto alcance y a altas dosis, y no representan un riesgo que inste a las agencias de seguridad a tomar nuevas medidas que restrinjan su uso.


Via Gumersindo Fernández
Alba Calvo Bacaicoa's insight:

El principio de precaución respalda la adopción de medidas protectoras ante las sospechas fundadas de que ciertos productos o tecnologías crean un riesgo grave para la salud pública o el medio ambiente, pero sin que se cuente todavía con una prueba científica definitiva de tal riesgo.

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Lidia Pérez de Obanos's curator insight, October 20, 2013 8:52 AM

Yo veo bien que se aplice el principio de precaucion, ya que aunque sean pequeñas dosis si afecta a la salud es mejor retirarlo del mercado y sustituirlo por otro material que no sea tóxico.

Lara Pérez Etayo's curator insight, November 27, 2013 6:10 AM

El otro dia vi un documental sobre tal producto, y hoy me ha llamado la atención dicho artículo. El principio de precaución es un concepto que regula la adopción de medidas protectoras ante las sospechas de que ciertos productos biotecnológicos como en este caso el bisfenol A, crean un riesgo grave para la salud pública o medio ambiente. Aunque en realidad hay veces que no se cuenta todavía con una prueba cintifíca defitiniva. Asi pues para la aplicación de dicho principio como bien sabemos tienen que darse dos condiciones: en primer lugar, tiene que haber una situación de incertidumbre y en segundo lugar esta situacion de incertidumbre debe suponer un riesgo grave para la salud humana y medio ambiente. En este caso se cumple ambas condiciones:   la excesiva exposición a dicho producto puede tener efectos perjudiciales para la salud, aunque de momento son de corto alcance.

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Clonación de animales en peligro de extinción | Ecologismo

Clonación de animales en peligro de extinción | Ecologismo | Science | Scoop.it
El científico comenta estamos produciendo tigres. Otro piensa hacer un zoológico de embriones congelados, pero ¿quién se preocupa por evitar las extinciones?

Via Ursula Sola de Hinestrosa
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Este método para remediar la extinción de algunos animales no me parece del todo correcto ya que se asume el fracadso produciendo nuevos animales en lugar de intentar cambiar los hábitos humanos erróneos que llevan a este desastre. 

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La vacuna de la tuberculosis se probará en humanos este año

La vacuna de la tuberculosis se probará en humanos este año | Science | Scoop.it

 

El fármaco que apoya Bill Gates lo ha diseñado un grupo de la Universidad de Zaragoza
Hay 10.000 dosis preparadas para comenzar el ensayo clínico que evalúe su eficacia
Gates: "Mucha investigación en tuberculosis y malaria se hace aquí en España"

 

Unas 10.000 dosis de una innovadora vacuna de la tuberculosis diseñada por el equipo de Carlos Martín, de la Universidad de Zaragoza y fabricadas por la biofarmacéutica gallega Biofabri se encuentran a la espera de que las autoridades sanitarias concedan los permisos necesarios para dar comienzo a los ensayos clínicos que demuestren su seguridad y eficacia. “Esperamos que este año empiecen las pruebas en humanos”, apunta este catedrático de Microbiología.

Hasta el momento, la única vacuna preventiva existente frente a esta enfermedad en auge (un tercio de la población mundial está infectada, dos millones de personas mueren cada año) es de 1920 y se ha mostrado un instrumento incapaz de hacer frente a la bacteria causante de la enfermedad, el Mycobacterum tuberculosis.


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Canadá cancela la patente del Viagra y abre las puertas a los genéricos

Canadá cancela la patente del Viagra y abre las puertas a los genéricos | Science | Scoop.it
El Tribunal Supremo considera que la farmacéutica Pfizer retuvo información y jugó con el sistema de patentes...

Via Leticia Lázaro Antón, Joan Domenech, Adrian Vallejo Blanco
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bosco_emparanza's curator insight, November 26, 2013 11:53 AM

La ley de patentes de Canadá permite que una compañía tenga durante 16 años el monopolio de un medicamento que ha inventado. La patente de Pfizer sobre Viagra expiraba en 2014, sin embargo el Tribunal Supremo de Canadá la canceló en noviembre del 2012.

hector glez's curator insight, November 28, 2013 3:03 AM

En esta noticia se explica la perdida de la patente del viagra en Canadá antes de que por cronología debía hacerlo, ya que se alegó contra la empresa que mantenía dicha patente no especificar el principio activo en el que sustentaba su producto. Esto hace referencia al régimen de patentes.

Leire Tapia's curator insight, November 29, 2013 4:16 PM

La noticia trata sobre como Pfizer ha perdido la patente del Viagra en Canadá ya que al parecer no especificó cual era el principio activo del medicamento. Si es así me parece correcto su cancelación y además como se dice en la noticia supone también un beneficio para los consumidores ya que la versión genérica del Viagra es más barata y más gente podrá tener acceso a ella.

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Glioblastoma multiforme: Incurable brain cancer gene BCL2L12 is silenced

Glioblastoma multiforme: Incurable brain cancer gene BCL2L12 is silenced | Science | Scoop.it

Scientists at Northwestern University say they were able to demonstrate the successful delivery of a drug that turns off a critical gene in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), increasing survival rates significantly in animals with the deadly disease. This form of brain cancer, which ended Sen. Edward Kennedy’s life, kills approximately 13,000 Americans a year.

 

According to the investigators, the novel therapeutic, which is based on nanotechnology, is small and nimble enough to cross the blood-brain barrier and get to where it is needed—the brain tumor.

 

Designed to target a specific cancer-causing gene in cells, the drug flips the switch of the oncogene to “off,” silencing the gene, they added. This knocks out the proteins that keep cancer cells immortal.

 

In a study of mice (“Spherical Nucleic Acid Nanoparticle Conjugates as an RNAi-Based Therapy for Glioblastoma”), the nontoxic drug was delivered by intravenous injection. In animals with GBM, the survival rate increased nearly 20%, and tumor size was reduced three to four fold, as compared to the control group. The results were published October 30 in Science Translational Medicine.

 

“We preclinically evaluate an RNA interference (RNAi)–based nanomedicine platform, based on spherical nucleic acid (SNA) nanoparticle conjugates, to neutralize oncogene expression in GBM,” wrote the scientists. “In vivo, the SNAs penetrated the blood-brain barrier and blood-tumor barrier to disseminate throughout xenogeneic glioma explants. SNAs targeting the oncoprotein Bcl2Like12 (Bcl2L12)—an effector caspase and p53 inhibitor overexpressed in GBM relative to normal brain and low-grade astrocytomas—were effective in knocking down endogenous Bcl2L12 mRNA and protein levels, and sensitized glioma cells toward therapy-induced apoptosis by enhancing effector caspase and p53 activity.”

 

“This is a beautiful marriage of a new technology with the genes of a terrible disease,” said Chad A. Mirkin, Ph.D., a nanomedicine expert and a senior co-author of the study.

 

“This proof-of-concept further establishes a broad platform for treating a wide range of diseases, from lung and colon cancers to rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.”

 

The power of gene regulation technology is that a disease with a genetic basis can be attacked and treated if scientists have the right tools, pointed out Dr. Mirkin. Thanks to the Human Genome Project and genomics research over the last two decades, there is an enormous number of genetic targets; having the right therapeutic agents and delivery materials has been the challenge, he explained.

 

“The RNA interfering-based SNAs are a completely novel approach in thinking about cancer therapy,” said Alexander H. Stegh, Ph.D., a co-author on the study. “One of the problems is that we have large lists of genes that are somehow disregulated in glioblastoma, but we have absolutely no way of targeting all of them using standard pharmacological approaches.

 

That's where we think nanomaterials can play a fundamental role in allowing us to implement the concept of personalized medicine in cancer therapy.”

 


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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UNC scientists identify brain circuitry that triggers overeating

UNC scientists identify brain circuitry that triggers overeating | Science | Scoop.it

Back in the 1950s, when scientists electrically stimulated a region of the brain called the lateral hypothalamus, they knew that they were stimulating many different types of brain cells. Garret Stuber, PhD, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and department of cell biology and physiology, wanted to focus on one cell type — GABA neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, or BNST. The BNST is an outcropping of the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with emotion. The BNST also forms a bridge between the amygdala and the lateral hypothalamus, the brain region that drives primal functions such as eating, sexual behavior, and aggression. 

 

BNST GABA neurons have a cell body and a long strand with branched synapses that transmit electrical signals into the lateral hypothalamus. Stuber and his team wanted to stimulate those synapses by using an optogenetic technique, an involved process that would let him stimulate BNST cells simply by shining light on their synapses.

Typically, brain cells don’t respond to light. So Stuber’s team used genetically engineered proteins — from algae — that are sensitive to light and used genetically engineered viruses to deliver them into the brains of mice. Those proteins then get expressed only in the BNST cells, including in the synapses that connect to the hypothalamus.

His team then implanted fiber optic cables in the brains of these specially-bred mice, and this allowed the researchers to shine light through the cables and onto BNST synapses. As soon as the light hit BNST synapses the mice began to eat voraciously even though they had already been well fed. Moreover, the mice showed a strong preference for high-fat foods. 

“They would essentially eat up to half their daily caloric intake in about 20 minutes,” Stuber said. “This suggests that this BNST pathway could play a role in food consumption and pathological conditions such as binge eating.”

Stimulating the BNST also led the mice to exhibit behaviors associated with reward, suggesting that shining light on BNST cells enhanced the pleasure of eating. On the flip side, shutting down the BNST pathway caused mice to show little interest in eating, even if they had been deprived of food. 

 “We were able to really home in on the precise neural circuit connection that was causing this phenomenon that’s been observed for more than 50 years,” Stuber said.

The study, which uses technologies highlighted in the new National Institutes of Health Brain Initiative, suggests that faulty wiring in BNST cells could interfere with hunger or satiety cues and contribute to human eating disorders, leading people to eat even when they are full or to avoid food when they are hungry. Further research is needed to determine whether it would be possible to develop drugs that correct a malfunctioning BNST circuit. 

 

“We want to actually observe the normal function of these cell types and how they fire electrical signals when the animals are feeding or hungry,” Stuber said. “We want to understand their genetic characteristics – what genes are expressed. For example, if we find cells that become really activated after binge eating, can we look at the gene expression profile to find out what makes those cells unique from other neurons.” And that, Stuber said, could lead to potential targets for drugs to treat certain populations of patients with eating disorders.


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Researcher develops new medicine that attacks HIV before it integrates into human DNA

Researcher develops new medicine that attacks HIV before it integrates into human DNA | Science | Scoop.it

Thirty-four million people are living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) worldwide and each year some 2.5 million more are infected, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A new medicine developed at the University of Georgia attacks the virus before it integrates with human DNA, understood by researchers as the point of no return.

 

"In our laboratories, we have discovered a highly potent HIV integrase inhibitor, aimed at the ‘point of no return' in HIV infectivity," said Nair, who is the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Drug Discovery in the UGA College of Pharmacy. "This inhibitor is highly effective against many variations of HIV."

 

According to Nair, HIV integrase is an ideal target for drug therapy because it is essential for viral replication, and there is no human counterpart, which means there is a low risk of side effects.

Cell signaling, the transmission of information by molecules that coordinate and direct cellular actions, plays a key role in HIV cell invasion and the hijacking of cellular biochemistry, allowing the virus to replicate itself.

 

In the initial stage of HIV infection, the body's immune system releases antibodies to attack the virus. Helper T-cells, called CD4+ cells, play a central role in the body's immune response, orchestrating other cells in the immune system to carry out their specific protective functions. In its invasion of CD4+ cells, HIV recognizes and attaches itself to the outer surface of the cell, penetrates it, sheds its outer coat, releases its 15 viral proteins and a ribonucleic acid and proceeds with exploiting the human cellular biochemical machinery to reproduce itself in massive numbers.

 

"Of all of the steps involved in the replication or reproduction of HIV in its infectivity of the human system, the single most devastating point is the incorporation or integration of viral DNA into human chromosomal DNA," said Nair.

 

This insertion of viral DNA into human DNA occurs through a complex biochemical process that is facilitated by HIV integrase, a viral enzyme. Only after this crucial step is the viral invader in a position to exploit human cellular biochemistry to reproduce itself in astonishing numbers to ultimately bring about the destruction of CD4 lymphocytes, the coordinators of the immune response system of the human body.

 

As the infected T-cells die, the immune system of the infected body is unable to defend itself; opportunistic infections such as pneumonia, meningitis, antibiotic-resistant TB and other bacterial and viral infections become deadly. HIV and, eventually, AIDS and drug-resistant tuberculosis are a particularly deadly liaison, which kill a quarter of a million people a year, according to the WHO. 

"A devastating consequence of the integration step is that once viral integration has occurred, it cannot be reversed," Nair said. "That's why integration is viewed as the ‘point of no return' in HIV infection."
The drug developed in Nair's lab blocks the viral enzyme from inserting its genome into the DNA of the host cell. While Nair acknowledges an HIV vaccine that eliminates the virus altogether may not be doable, therapies that allow people to live longer lives while infected are attainable.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Adrian Vallejo Blanco's curator insight, October 31, 2013 7:32 AM

Nueva medicina desarrollada en la Universidad de Georgia ataca el VIH  antes de que se integra con el ADN humano. Se  trata de un inhibidor o bloqueador muy potente de la integrasa del VIH, dirigido al punto de no retorno en la infectividad del VIH.

Este inhibidor es extremadamente eficaz contra muchas variantes de VIH. La integrasa del VIH es un objetivo ideal para la terapia médica, ya que es esencial para la replicación del virus, y no existe ninguna contrapartida humana – porque la integrasa del VIH es exclusivamente viral y no existe en humanos, de modo que podría bloquearse sin que repercuta en el sujeto- existiendo mínimo riesgo de efectos secundarios

De los pasos implicados en la replicación del VIH y en su infectividad del sistema humano, el punto más devastador es la incorporación o integración de ADN viral en el ADN cromosómico humano que se produce a través de la integrasa del VIH  conocido como el punto de no retorno.

El fármaco bloquea la enzima viral a la hora de insertar su genoma en el ADN de la célula huésped, ya que una vacuna contra el VIH que elimine por completo el virus actualmente no es factible ya que el virus tiene múltiples formas o subtipos pero, sin embargo, un medicamento puede hacer el VIH casi totalmente impotente.

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"La patente impide que otros se beneficien de un esfuerzo de investigación durante 20 años" - RTVE.es

"La patente impide que otros se beneficien de un esfuerzo de investigación durante 20 años" - RTVE.es | Science | Scoop.it
Las patentes, los títulos que protegen los derechos de propiedad intelectual de las invenciones para ser explotadas industrialmente, se tramitan en oficinas públicas especializadas. P...
Alba Calvo Bacaicoa's insight:

En mi opinión, el uso de patentes es necesario ya que sin ellas podría utilizarse un descubrimiento nada más salir a la luz y esto quitaría prestigio al esfuerzo de las personas o empresas que han intervenido en la investigación, además de la gran cantidad de dinero invertido en dicho proyecto.

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Coto al cigarrillo, aunque sea electrónico

Coto al cigarrillo, aunque sea electrónico | Science | Scoop.it
Cataluña prohibirá el uso del dispositivo en todos sus edificios. Los expertos apoyan el principio de precaución

Via AVATCOR
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Camila Armero's curator insight, December 2, 2013 3:59 PM

El Gobierno catalán prohibe el uso del cigarrilo electrónico en todas sus competencias (hospitales, centros educativos...). Incluso el departamento de salud pretende conseguir que se aplique a estos la misma legislación que con el tabaco.

Esta noticia es un claro ejemplo de la aplicación del principio de precaución por parte del gobierno, ya que hay cierta incertitumbre en la seguridad de estos cigarrillos, y la OMS desaconseja su uso hasta tener certeza de que son eficazes y de calidad. 

Ni el ministerio de educacion ni la Unión Europea han presentado una regularización clara en este aspecto, pero este vacío legal debería desaparecer definitivamente en poco tiempo porque este producto está en auge en la sociedad, y si no se conocen bien sus efectos, estaría en riesgo la salud pública.

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Creados minirriñones humanos a partir de células madre

Creados minirriñones humanos a partir de células madre | Science | Scoop.it
Todavía es pronto para pensar en trasplantes, pero los órganos abren esa posibilidad a medio plazo. La medicina regenerativa logra otro éxito tras las yemas de hígado y de cerebro
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Genomics firm 23andMe patents ‘designer baby' system, promises not to use it

Genomics firm 23andMe patents ‘designer baby' system, promises not to use it | Science | Scoop.it

A personal genetics firm was recently granted a patent on a system that lets you predict the traits of a baby -- but the company promises not to use.

 

The Mountain View, Calif., company 23andMe just announced the patent for a system that would let parents to be chose traits they’d like to pass on or suppress in their children, from hair and eye color to susceptibility to diseases.

 

"Taken out of 'patentese,' what 23andMe is claiming is a method by which prospective donors of ova and/or sperm may be selected so as to increase the likelihood of producing a human baby with characteristics desired by the prospective parents," explained Sigrid Sterckx, a bioethicist at Ghent University in Belgium

 

"What is claimed is not a cast-iron, fool-proof method guaranteeing that the eventual child will have all the phenotypic traits on the parents’ shopping list, an impossible task, but merely a method of improving the chances that the baby has the right' characteristics," she wrote.

 

An image of the system associated with the patent shows a simple, pull-down menu to design your offspring: “I prefer a child with a low risk of colorectal cancer,” for example, or “I prefer a child with a high probability of blue eyes.”

 

But rest assured, the company told Wired it promises not to use the technology.

 

“When we originally introduced the tool and filed the patent there was some thinking the feature could have applications for fertility clinics,”said Catherine Afarian, a 23andMe spokeswoman. “But we’ve never pursued the idea, and have no plans to do so.”

 

 more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/10/03/23andm3-patents-designer-baby-system/ essay: http://www.nature.com/gim/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/gim2013164a.html


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Patentan un método para reducir los efectos secundarios de la quimioterapia / Noticias / SINC - Servicio de Información y Noticias Científicas

Patentan un método para reducir los efectos secundarios de la quimioterapia / Noticias / SINC - Servicio de Información y Noticias Científicas | Science | Scoop.it
SINC, Servicio de Información y Noticias Científicas, plataforma multimedia de comunicación científica...

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eva gil's curator insight, November 5, 2013 6:28 AM

como hemos visto en clase las patentes en es Eapaña no son muy abundantes, pero este es un ejemplo de una patente en la rama sanitaria

bosco_emparanza's curator insight, November 26, 2013 12:03 PM

El Centro de Investigación Príncipe Felipe patenta un novedoso método de eliminación de metales en sangre, principal causante de los efectos secundarios en la quimioterapia.

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Maíz, trigo, arroz, cebada, soja, algodón, patatas, tabaco, tomate, uva…hasta 206 patentes ya son de BAYER

Maíz, trigo, arroz, cebada, soja, algodón, patatas, tabaco, tomate, uva…hasta 206 patentes ya son de BAYER | Science | Scoop.it

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Yolanda Ongay's curator insight, November 14, 2013 6:17 AM

La empresa alemana Bayer posee 206 de las 2000 patentes concedidas en Europa para plantas transgénicas, lo que le sitúa por delante de Monstanto, que tiene 119 patentes.

Las patentes de Bayer están centradas sobre todo en productos resistentes a herbicidas y en la producción de industrial de plantas productoras de almidón y azúcar.

aurdánoz's curator insight, November 30, 2013 12:15 PM

Una patente se puede considerar, u punto a partir del cual se crea un negocio desde un punto de vista biotecnológico farmacéutico.

Es un acto comercial porque se desarrolla un conocimiento nuevo hasta poder venderlo, y de esta forma se incrementa la financiación.

 

En este caso Bayer ha invertido una gran cantidad de dinero en investigaciones y su única forma de conseguirlo a través de las patentes, por ejemplo el desarrollo de maíz transgénico, el dinero que ha invertido lo recupera gracias a que lo ha patentado y tiene la exclusividad durante 20 años desde que se pide la patente.

Otra forma legal que emplea Bayer para conseguir patentes es, comprándoselas a empresas más pequeñas. De esta forma llega a las 206 patentes.

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Do we want “gentically modified children”? - Practical Ethics ...

Do we want “gentically modified children”? - Practical Ethics ... | Science | Scoop.it
And as to the idea that you can't clone something by simply moving it, consider the following (horrifying) thought experiment: You have a replication machine that can only work by taking a human heart and building up around ...

Via Andreina De Leon Carmenatis
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Andreina De Leon Carmenatis's curator insight, October 20, 2013 6:37 AM

cuestión muy discutida en los últimos años, ¿creen ustedes que debemos hacer este tipo de prácticas ? Personalmente creo que la clonación es un sector muy arriesgado en el que jugar, sobre todo si estamos hablando de embriones, en estas prácticas entra en juego no solo la ética de cada científico,  sino támbien la consideración de la diversidad génetica, el uso no controlado de clonación, el efecto en el futuro individuo....

Piensen en todo ello y hagan un balance de riesgo y beneficio

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An Ocean full of Viruses -- There are hundred million times more viruses on Earth than stars in the universe

An Ocean full of Viruses -- There are hundred million times more viruses on Earth than stars in the universe | Science | Scoop.it
Viruses abound in the world’s oceans, yet researchers are only beginning to understand how they affect life and chemistry from the water’s surface to the sea floor.

 

There are an estimated 10E31 viruses on Earth. That is to say: there may be a hundred million times more viruses on Earth than there are stars in the universe. The majority of these viruses infect microbes, including bacteria, archaea, and microeukaryotes, all of which are vital players in the global fixation and cycling of key elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. These two facts combined—the sheer number of viruses and their intimate relationship with microbial life—suggest that viruses, too, play a critical role in the planet’s biosphere.

 

Of all the Earth’s biomes, the ocean has emerged as the source for major discoveries on the interaction of viruses with their microbial hosts. Ocean viruses were the inspiration for early hypotheses of the so-called “viral shunt,” by which viral killing of microbial hosts redirects carbon and nutrients away from larger organisms and back toward other microorganisms. Furthermore, researchers analyzing oceanic life have discovered many novel viruses that defy much of the conventional wisdom about what a virus is and what a virus does.

 

Among these discoveries are “giant” marine viruses, with capsid cross-sections that can exceed 500 nm, an order of magnitude larger than prototypical viruses. Giant viruses infect eukaryotic hosts, including the protist Cafeteria and unicellular green algae. These viruses also carry genomes larger than nearly all previously identified viral types, in some cases upwards of 1 million base pairs. In both marine and nonmarine contexts, researchers have even identified viruses that can infect giant viruses, the so-called virophages, a modern biological example of Jonathan Swift’s 17th-century aphorism: “a flea/ Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;/ And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em;/ And so proceed ad infinitum.”

 

It is apparent that we still have much to learn about the rich and dynamic world of ocean microbes and viruses. For example, a liter of seawater collected in marine surface waters typically contains at least 10 billion microbes and 100 billion viruses—the vast majority of which remain unidentified and uncharacterized. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of high-throughput tools that facilitate the study of bacteriophages and other microbe-infecting viruses that cannot yet be cultured in the laboratory. Indeed, studying viruses in natural environments has recently gone mainstream with the advent of viral metagenomics, pioneered by Forest Rohwer and colleagues at San Diego State University in California.

 

More recently, culture-free methods have enabled insights into questions beyond that of characterizing viral diversity. For example, Matthew Sullivan’s group at the University of Arizona and colleagues recently developed an adapted “viral tagging” method, by which researchers can now characterize the genotypes of environmental viruses that infect a host of interest, even if those viruses cannot be isolated in culture. These and other techniques—and the increasingly interdisciplinary study of environmental viruses—bring the scientific community ever closer to a clearer understanding of how viruses shape ocean ecology.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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