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Cancer can teach us about our own evolution

Cancer can teach us about our own evolution | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

Charles Lineweaver ( Australian National University) and Paul Davies(Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University.) have proposed a theory of cancer based on its ancient evolutionary roots. We think that as cancer progresses in the body it reverses, in a speeded-up manner, the arrow of evolutionary time. Increasing deregulation prompts cancer cells to revert to ever earlier genetic pathways that recapitulate successively earlier ancestral life styles. We predict that the various hallmarks of cancer progression will systematically correlate with the activation of progressively older ancestral genes. The most advanced and malignant cancers recreate aspects of life on Earth before a billion years ago. Click on image or title to learn more.

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Whatever happened to 'bans' on GM produce in British supermarkets? - Conversation (2015)

Whatever happened to 'bans' on GM produce in British supermarkets? - Conversation (2015) | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

In the late 1990s, Sainsbury’s and Safeway... both offered GM tomato purée... GM and non-GM cans of purée stood side by side on their shelves, the former some 18% cheaper... The cans were conspicuously labelled and pamphlets explaining what GM was all about were to hand nearby. But when the stock ran out and it was time to re-order, the anti-GM food balloon had gone up and the product was discontinued... 

In 1999 Marks & Spencer announced that it was removing all GM foods from its shelves. (In a House of Lords inquiry at that time, M&S said their customers demanded it. When asked by their lordships how many customers that meant, it turned out to have been rather a small percentage. But those who positively wanted GM were, it seems, even fewer in number)... 

All the other retailers followed suit: the UK’s retail industry was to be GM-free – or was it? In fact some GM products... were always to be found... Then there is the question of GM fodder for animals.... retailers said that they would not sell any products from pigs or poultry that had been exposed to GM feeds...


Until, that is, when Asda became the first of the leading UK supermarkets to abandon its commitment to eggs and poultry fed with GM in 2010... But by then public opinion on the issue had become almost completely mute... GM-feed for pigs and poultry was no longer to be excluded... there appears to have been no noticeable consumer rejection of products from animals fed GM...

More than half the world’s cotton is GM, so this is likely to be the case with products on sale in the UK. There is no obligation to label GM cotton so one cannot be sure, but nobody seems to ask and few seem to care... 


Public interest in this subject has largely waned... Though one can never be quite sure, it does begin to look as though the GM issue will fade away in the fullness of time, in England at least, even if it takes a while. I suspect GM food and crops will become commonplace and the protesting community will veer off in another direction, chasing new demons.

 

https://theconversation.com/whatever-happened-to-bans-on-gm-produce-in-british-supermarkets-51153

 


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The role of environmental biotechnology in exploring, exploiting, monitoring, preserving, protecting and decontaminating the marine environment - Kalogerakis &al (2014) - New Biotechnol

In light of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the EU Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, environmental biotechnology could make significant contributions in the exploitation of marine resources and addressing key marine environmental problems. In this paper 14 propositions are presented focusing on (i) the contamination of the marine environment, and more particularly how to optimize the use of biotechnology-related tools and strategies for predicting and monitoring contamination and developing mitigation measures; (ii) the exploitation of the marine biological and genetic resources to progress with the sustainable, eco-compatible use of the maritime space (issues are very diversified and include, for example, waste treatment and recycling, anti-biofouling agents; bio-plastics); (iii) environmental/marine biotechnology as a driver for a sustainable economic growth.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nbt.2014.03.007

 


Via Alexander J. Stein
ComplexInsight's insight:

late publishing this - but been on track list for some time. Also worth looking at the 2015 report on protection zones - where some progress has been made. See http://ec.europa.eu/environment/marine/eu-coast-and-marine-policy/implementation/pdf/marine_protected_areas.pdf

 

 

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Agent-based Simulations of a Logistic System

Two simulations are executed with two different sets of parameters. It highlights the movement of goods over the Seine axis territory and also, how distinct ...
ComplexInsight's insight:

Agent based simulastion of logistics is becoming increasingly commmon - nice example.

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A new threat to bees? Entomopathogenic nematodes used in biological pest control cause rapid mortality in Bombus terrestris - Dutka &al (2015) - PeerJ

A new threat to bees? Entomopathogenic nematodes used in biological pest control cause rapid mortality in Bombus terrestris - Dutka &al (2015) - PeerJ | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

There is currently a great deal of concern about population declines in pollinating insects. Many potential threats have been identified which may adversely affect the behaviour and health of both honey bees and bumble bees: these include pesticide exposure, and parasites and pathogens.

 

Whether biological pest control agents adversely affect bees has been much less well studied: it is generally assumed that biological agents are safer for wildlife than chemical pesticides. The aim of this study was to test whether... nematodes sold as biological pest control products could potentially have adverse effects on the bumble bee... One product was a broad spectrum pest control agent... the other product was specifically for weevil control...

 

Both nematode products caused ≥80% mortality within the 96 h test period when bees were exposed to soil containing... nematodes at the recommended field concentration... Of particular concern is the fact that nematodes from the broad spectrum product could proliferate in the carcasses of dead bees, and therefore potentially infect a whole bee colony or spread to the wider environment.

 

https://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1413

 


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Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, November 21, 2015 9:44 AM

Also see these two articles in The Times: 

 

Organic pesticide increases risk to bees, 20 November:  www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/science/article4618597.ece

 

Organic farms used pesticide lethal to bees, 17 June:  www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/article4472324.ece

 

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First CRISPR Gene Drive in Mosquitoes Aims to Eradicate Malaria

First CRISPR Gene Drive in Mosquitoes Aims to Eradicate Malaria | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
The students in Anthony James’s basement insectary at the University of California, Irvine, knew they’d broken the laws of evolution when they looked at the mosquitoes’ eyes.

By rights, the bugs, born from fathers with fluorescent red eyes and mothers with normal ones, should have come out only about half red. Instead, as they counted them, first a few and then by the hundreds, they found 99 percent had glowing eyes.

More important than the eye color is that James’s mosquitoes also carry genes that stop the malaria parasite from growing. If these insects were ever released in the wild, their “selfish” genetic cargo would spread inexorably through mosquito populations, and potentially stop the transmission of malaria.

The technology, called a “gene drive,” was built using the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR and is being reported by James, a specialist in mosquito biology, and a half dozen colleagues today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A functioning gene drive in mosquitoes has been anticipated for more than a decade by public health organizations as a revolutionary novel way to fight malaria. Now that it’s a reality, however, the work raises questions over whether the technology is safe enough to ever be released into the wild.

“This is a major advance because it shows that gene drives will likely be effective in mosquitoes,” says Kevin Esvelt, a gene drive researcher at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute. “Technology is no longer the limitation.”

Starting last summer, Esvelt and other scientists began warning that gene drives were about to jump from theory to reality (see “Protect Society from Our Inventions, Says Genome Editing Scientists”) and needed more attention by regulators and the public. The National Academy of Sciences is studying the science and ethics of the technology and plans to release recommendations next year on “responsible conduct” by scientists and companies.

Gene drives are just the latest example of the fantastic power of CRISPR editing to alter the DNA of living things, which has already set off a debate over the possibility that gene editing could be used to generate designer human babies (see “Engineering the Perfect Baby”). But Henry Greely, a law professor and bioethics specialist at Stanford, says environmental uses are more worrisome than a few modified people. “The possibility of remaking the biosphere is enormously significant, and a lot closer to realization,” he says.

Malaria is caused when a mosquito bite transmits plasmodium, a single-celled parasite. It’s treatable, yet every year, 670,000 people die from malaria, the majority of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

James says his mosquitoes are the culmination of decades of mostly obscure, unheralded work by a few insect specialists toward constructing a genetic solution to malaria. It finally became possible this year when scientists in the laboratory of Ethan Bier, a fly biologist at the University of California, San Diego, who is a coauthor of the paper, finally used CRISPR to perfect a molecular “motor” that could allow the anti-malaria genes to spread.

The mosquitoes have two important genetic additions. One is genes that manufacture antibodies whenever a female mosquito has a “blood meal.” Those antibodies bind to the parasite’s surface and halt its development. Yet normally, such an engineered mosquito would pass the genes only to exactly half its offspring, since there’s a 50 percent chance any chunk of DNA would come from its mate. And since the new genes probably don’t help a mosquito much, they’d quickly peter out in the wild.

That’s where CRISPR comes in. In a gene drive, components of the CRISPR system are added such that any normal gene gets edited and the genetic cargo is added to it as well. In James’s lab, practically all the mosquitoes ended up with the genetic addition, a result Esvelt calls “astounding.”

What worries Esvelt is that, in his opinion, the California researchers haven’t used strict enough safety measures. He says locked doors and closed cages aren’t enough. He wants them to install a genetic “reversal drive” so the change can be undone, if necessary. “An accidental release would be a disaster with potentially devastating consequences for public trust in science and especially gene-drive interventions,” he says. “No gene-drive intervention must ever be released without popular support.”

James says the experiment was safe since the mosquitoes are kept behind a series of locked, card-entry doors and because they aren’t native to California. If any escaped, they wouldn’t be able to reproduce.

In fact, the whole point of a gene drive is to release it into the wild, a concept that has long been accepted, at least in theory, by public health organizations including the Gates Foundation. Now that they’re actually possible, however, alarming news headlines have compared the technology to “the next weapon of mass destruction” and even raised the specter of insect terrorism, such as mosquitoes that kill people with a toxin.

Gene-drive terrorism is probably nonsense, at least for now. That’s because even if insect weapons were possible, in practice it’s unlikely a terrorist organization would invest millions in an advanced genetic-engineering program. “I have been thinking quite a bit about bad things you could do with it, and we haven’t come up with anything that would succeed,” says Bier. “There are so many bad things you could do that are easier.”

Instead, Bier and James say they are convinced that engineered mosquitoes should be released as soon as possible, something they hope to do if they can find a community affected by malaria that will agree to it. “Imagine we could design a mosquito that would magically cure cancer,” says Bier. “Well, the fear of getting malaria is the same fear we have of getting cancer. In my opinion the benefits outweigh the risks, and we should move forward as aggressively as we can.”

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Forecasting Metastatic Breast Cancer’s Path in a Patient

Forecasting Metastatic Breast Cancer’s Path in a Patient | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Researchers developed a mathematical model to forecast metastatic breast cancer survival using techniques usually reserved for weather prediction and financial forecasting. They looked at 25 years of data regarding 446 patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering and focused on a subgroup who were diagnosed with localized disease but later relapsed with metastatic disease. The model shows cancer metastasis is neither random nor unpredictable.
ComplexInsight's insight:

Since this touches on some of our own research areas - the paper is a must read and an excellent piece of research more importantly its hopefully a major step forward in helping find effective treatment for metastatic cancer. An excellent example of systems modelling and applying insights from one field to another.

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Information Dynamics in the Interaction between a Prey and a Predator Fish

Accessing information efficiently is vital for animals to make the optimal decisions, and it is particularly important when they are facing predators. Yet until now, very few quantitative conclusions have been drawn about the information dynamics in the interaction between animals due to the lack of appropriate theoretic measures. Here, we employ transfer entropy (TE), a new information-theoretic and model-free measure, to explore the information dynamics in the interaction between a predator and a prey fish. We conduct experiments in which a predator and a prey fish are confined in separate parts of an arena, but can communicate with each other visually and tactilely. TE is calculated on the pair’s coarse-grained state of the trajectories. We find that the prey’s TE is generally significantly bigger than the predator’s during trials, which indicates that the dominant information is transmitted from predator to prey. We then demonstrate that the direction of information flow is irrelevant to the parameters used in the coarse-grained procedures. We further calculate the prey’s TE at different distances between it and the predator. The resulted figure shows that there is a high plateau in the mid-range of the distance and that drops quickly at both the near and the far ends. This result reflects that there is a sensitive space zone where the prey is highly vigilant of the predator’s position.

 

Information Dynamics in the Interaction between a Prey and a Predator Fish
Feng Hu, Li-Juan Nie and Shi-Jian Fu

Entropy 2015, 17(10), 7230-7241; http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/e17107230 ;


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ComplexInsight's curator insight, November 26, 2015 4:31 PM

Interesting use of entropy for information transfer in predator-prey interactions.  Good paper - worth reading and a lot worth thinking  further about.

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Motorcycle runs on water and can travel 310 miles on a single litre

Motorcycle runs on water and can travel 310 miles on a single litre | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

Footage shows Sao Paulo-based public officer Ricardo Azevedo filling his 'T Power H20’ motorcycle with clean water and water from the polluted Tiete River before going for a spin. 

 

He said: ‘The advantage of this motorcycle, which works with the hydrogen that comes from the water, is that the result that comes out of the exhaust is water vapour. 


‘This is different from gasoline, which the result is carbon monoxide.’



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Laurent BINDEL's curator insight, August 4, 2015 5:00 AM

It is only a matter of ingenuity to change our energy world. And of course the inventors have to be able to work without getting barriers thrown in their path all the way... anyway, 310 miles (500 km) per litter of water isn't bad 'gas mileage' at all!

David Cruzate's curator insight, August 6, 2015 5:09 PM

It is only a matter of ingenuity to change our energy world. And of course the inventors have to be able to work without getting barriers thrown in their path all the way... anyway, 310 miles (500 km) per litter of water isn't bad 'gas mileage' at all!

SusanMichelle's curator insight, August 8, 2015 11:11 AM

It is only a matter of ingenuity to change our energy world. And of course the inventors have to be able to work without getting barriers thrown in their path all the way... anyway, 310 miles (500 km) per litter of water isn't bad 'gas mileage' at all!

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The storytelling scientist

"Why a lack of narrative in science is a problem and why better narratives could mean better scientific communication."


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6 Rules For Great Storytelling, From A Moth-Approved Master Of The Form

6 Rules For Great Storytelling, From A Moth-Approved Master Of The Form | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

Via The Digital Rocking Chair
ComplexInsight's insight:

We all have to communicate and knowing how to tell a story and related a good yarn is increasingly a key skill. Worth reading.

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The Digital Rocking Chair's curator insight, October 22, 2015 2:38 PM


David Zax:  "Moth storytelling champ Margot Leitman has been hired by Facebook and others to help them learn how to spin a yarn. These are her rules."

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Scaling synthetic biology from lab to market | Karen Polizzi

http://www.weforum.org/ "Discovery isn't the same as delivery,” says Karen Polizzi from Imperial College London. She explores how synthetic biology can scale ...

Via Gerd Moe-Behrens
ComplexInsight's insight:

Good discussion on issues of scaling synthetic biology - worth watching if you have 5 mins.

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Artificial vanillin receptor modulates transcription - PLOS Synthetic Biology Community

Artificial vanillin receptor modulates transcription - PLOS Synthetic Biology Community | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Bacteria adjust to different environmental conditions mainly by modulating transcription. Internal and external stimuli affect regulatory elements, all of which formulate the complex transcriptional profile of an organism at any given moment. In synthetic biology, the use of synthetic genetic circuits and metabolic pathways, which are often unresponsive to the aforementioned native regulation, is a common procedure. Such behavior can be advantageous, as it allows the organism to remain unaffected by unpredictable perturbations. In many cases, however, the lack of interaction with the internal control leads to undesired effects: metabolic intermediate accumulation, reduced fitness, and decreased product yields. This sets the framework of a recent research paper from the groups of Stephen Mayo and Richard Murray, where they describe a de novo transcription factor that is regulated by vanillin.

Vanillin is a byproduct of lignin degradation and an important substrate for the flavor industry. It is a phenolic compound with cytotoxic effects. In this article, the researchers modified qacR, a tetR-family repressor to bind vanillin, which binds to DNA via a helix-turn-helix domain. In the absence of the effector molecule, qacR physically inhibits RNA polymerase from transcribing the region downstream the binding site (see figure). The inducer causes conformational changes that prevent this binding, thus activating the gene. The procedure for qacR engineering consists of three steps:

(i) computational protein design. The researchers superimposed vanillin with the qacR crystal structure, enabling them to identify the potential binding conformations and the crucial aminoacids. They subsequently came up with a number of protein mutants that could form the correct interactions with vanillin and did not have steric clashes.

(ii) cell-free initial screening. The proteins resulting from the previous step were tested in an in vitro transcription/translation system. This methodology let the authors of the paper validate the repression qacR imposes on a reporter gene (GFP), while screening the functionality of the engineered proteins. Since all of the initial modified proteins failed to be activated by vanillin, the researchers went back to step (i) and designed more modifications. This time, two mutants showed the desired phenotype.

(iii) in vivo validation. As a last step, the two proteins from step (ii) were tested in E.coli. Both were able to suppress GFP expression in the lack of activator. One of them responded positively to increasing concentrations of vanillin, resulting in increased fluorescence.

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From robotics to analytics, why NASA is offering startups over 1,000 patents for 'free' | ZDNet

From robotics to analytics, why NASA is offering startups over 1,000 patents for 'free' | ZDNet | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Startups could get a major lift from NASA if they can find a technology at the space agency that fits their commercial ambitions.

Via The Robot Launch Pad
ComplexInsight's insight:

bookmarking for follow up reading.

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Chemicals That Make Plants Defend Themselves Could Replace Pesticides - Elsevier (2015)

Chemical triggers that make plants defend themselves against insects could replace pesticides, causing less damage to the environment. New research... identifies five chemicals that trigger rice plants to fend off a common pest – the white-backed planthopper, Sogatella furcifera

 

Pesticides are used around the world to control insects that destroy crops... One of the problems with many pesticides is that they kill indiscriminately. For rice plants, this means pesticides kill the natural enemies of one of their biggest pests, the white-backed planthopper... This pest... causes the plants to wilt and can damage the grains. It also transmits a virus disease... which stunts the plants’ growth and stops them from “heading,” which is when pollination occurs.

 

Left untreated, many of the insects’ eggs would be eaten, but when pesticides are used these hatch, leading to even more insects on the plants. What’s more, in some areas as many as a third of the planthoppers are resistant to pesticides... “Therefore, developing safe and effective methods to control insect pests is highly desired”... 

 

Because of the problems of using pesticides, it’s vital to find new solutions to help protect rice plants from infestation. Plants have natural self-defense mechanisms that kick in when they are infested with pests like the planthopper. This defense mechanism can be switched on using chemicals that do not harm the environment and are not toxic to the insects or their natural enemies... 

 

Researchers... developed a new way of identifying these chemicals. Using a specially designed screening system, they determined to what extent different chemicals switched on the plants’ defense mechanism... The researchers used bioassays to show that these chemicals could trigger the plant defense mechanism and repel the white-backed planthopper. This suggests that these chemicals have the potential to be used in insect pest management... 

 

“This new approach to pest management could help protect the ecosystem while defending important crops against attack.”

The next step for the research will be to explore how effective the chemicals are at boosting the plants’ defenses and controlling planthoppers in the field.

 

https://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/chemicals-that-make-plants-defend-themselves-could-replace-pesticides

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bmcl.2015.10.041

 


Via Alexander J. Stein
ComplexInsight's insight:

Its good to see more research in these areas - but it would be good if in parallel we looked at potential impact of activated and elevated triggers and response  in terms of ecosystems and human health.  Multi-systemic approaches are going to be increasingly needed, which is worrying given how limited funding in this area already is..

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Information Dynamics in the Interaction between a Prey and a Predator Fish

Accessing information efficiently is vital for animals to make the optimal decisions, and it is particularly important when they are facing predators. Yet until now, very few quantitative conclusions have been drawn about the information dynamics in the interaction between animals due to the lack of appropriate theoretic measures. Here, we employ transfer entropy (TE), a new information-theoretic and model-free measure, to explore the information dynamics in the interaction between a predator and a prey fish. We conduct experiments in which a predator and a prey fish are confined in separate parts of an arena, but can communicate with each other visually and tactilely. TE is calculated on the pair’s coarse-grained state of the trajectories. We find that the prey’s TE is generally significantly bigger than the predator’s during trials, which indicates that the dominant information is transmitted from predator to prey. We then demonstrate that the direction of information flow is irrelevant to the parameters used in the coarse-grained procedures. We further calculate the prey’s TE at different distances between it and the predator. The resulted figure shows that there is a high plateau in the mid-range of the distance and that drops quickly at both the near and the far ends. This result reflects that there is a sensitive space zone where the prey is highly vigilant of the predator’s position.

 

Information Dynamics in the Interaction between a Prey and a Predator Fish
Feng Hu, Li-Juan Nie and Shi-Jian Fu

Entropy 2015, 17(10), 7230-7241; http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/e17107230 ;


Via Complexity Digest, ComplexInsight
ComplexInsight's insight:

Interesting use of entropy for information transfer in predator-prey interactions.  Good paper - worth reading and a lot worth thinking  further about.

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Fast and slow thinking -- of networks: The complementary 'elite' and 'wisdom of crowds' of amino acid, neuronal and social networks

Complex systems may have billion components making consensus formation slow and difficult. Recently several overlapping stories emerged from various disciplines, including protein structures, neuroscience and social networks, showing that fast responses to known stimuli involve a network core of few, strongly connected nodes. In unexpected situations the core may fail to provide a coherent response, thus the stimulus propagates to the periphery of the network. Here the final response is determined by a large number of weakly connected nodes mobilizing the collective memory and opinion, i.e. the slow democracy exercising the 'wisdom of crowds'. This mechanism resembles to Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow" discriminating fast, pattern-based and slow, contemplative decision making. The generality of the response also shows that democracy is neither only a moral stance nor only a decision making technique, but a very efficient general learning strategy developed by complex systems during evolution. The duality of fast core and slow majority may increase our understanding of metabolic, signaling, ecosystem, swarming or market processes, as well as may help to construct novel methods to explore unusual network responses, deep-learning neural network structures and core-periphery targeting drug design strategies.

 

Fast and slow thinking -- of networks: The complementary 'elite' and 'wisdom of crowds' of amino acid, neuronal and social networks
Peter Csermely

http://arxiv.org/abs/1511.01238 ;


Via Complexity Digest
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Complexity Digest's curator insight, November 18, 2015 6:13 PM

See Also: http://networkdecisions.linkgroup.hu 

António F Fonseca's curator insight, November 23, 2015 3:30 AM

Interesting  paper about fast cores and slow periphery,  conflict in the elite vs democratic consensus.

Marcelo Errera's curator insight, November 24, 2015 11:32 AM

Yes, there must be few fasts and many slows.  It's been predicted by CL in many instances.

 

http://www.researchgate.net/publication/273527384_Constructal_Law_Optimization_as_Design_Evolution

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Can CRISPR Avoid the Monsanto Problem?

Can CRISPR Avoid the Monsanto Problem? | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

It is distressing, but a fact, that the more rapidly any technology is adopted by scientists the more likely it is to leave people confused, anxious, and suspicious. This week, I wrote an article for the magazine about just such a revolutionary technique, called CRISPR, that permits scientists to edit the DNA of plants and animals with an ease and a precision that even a decade ago seemed inconceivable.

CRISPR research has already begun to transform molecular biology. There have been bold new claims about its promise and powers nearly every day. Yet, for the past fifty years, at least since Watson and Crick demonstrated that DNA contained the blueprints required to build everything alive, modern science has been caught in a hype trap. After all, if we possess such exquisitely detailed instructions, shouldn’t they be able to help us fix the broken genes that cause so many of our diseases?

The assumption has long been that the answer is yes. And for decades, we have been told (by the medical establishment, by pharmaceutical companies, and, sadly, by the press) that our knowledge of genetics will soon help us solve nearly every malady, whether it affects humans, other animals, or plants.

It turns out, however, that genetics and magic are two different things. Deciphering the blueprints in the three billion pairs of chemical letters which make up the human genome has been even more complex than anyone had imagined. And even though the advances have been real, and often dramatic, it doesn’t always seem that way. This has led many people to discount, and even fear, our most promising technologies. Somehow, we take lessons more readily from movies like “Jurassic Park” and “Gattaca” than from the very real, though largely incremental, advances in medical treatments.

This dangerous disconnect between scientific possibility and tangible results has already caused great harm: a scientifically unjustified fear of G.M.O.s, for example, has prevented many potentially life-enhancing crops from even being tested, let alone planted widely. The death of one patient, in 1999, halted all human-gene-therapy experiments in the United States for several years. We should, of course, be exceedingly cautious with such research, but if the U.S. is going to stop studies that could potentially help millions of people there are costs to that, too. (It’s worth remembering that there are real risks to everything we do: aspirin kills hundreds of Americans every year, and in the first half of 2015 nearly twenty thousand people have died in car accidents.)

Because it makes manipulating genes so much easier, CRISPR offers researchers the ability to rapidly accelerate studies of many types of illness, including cancers, autism, and AIDS. It will also make it possible to alter the genes of plants so that they can resist various diseases (without introducing the DNA of a foreign organism, which is how G.M.O.s are made). With CRISPR, almost anything could become possible: You want a unicorn? Just tweak the horse genome. How about a truly blue rose? The gene for the blue pigment does not exist naturally in roses. With CRISPR, it should be a trivial matter simply to edit that gene in.

Eventually, CRISPR should also permit technicians to edit embryos, which, at least in theory, could change the genetic lineage of mankind. The prospect is at least as frightening as it is exciting, and we need to start talking about that now. In the press, at least, that conversation—about perhaps the most exciting advance in the history of molecular biology—seems to have started. Two of the researchers I focussed on in my piece for The New Yorker have also been featured in other publications in the past two weeks: the Times has a profile of Jennifer Doudna, the Berkeley biochemist who helped figure out how to program CRISPR molecules to edit DNA, and STAT, a new online health and science publication launched by the Boston Globe’s owner, has one about Feng Zhang, a pioneering biologist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T., who first made the technology work in mammals. The subject will soon get even more attention. Early next month, the National Academy of Sciences will convene an international conference devoted to the ethical use of this powerful new tool.


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Mouse Colon Colonized with Human Microbiota

Mouse Colon Colonized with Human Microbiota | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
This 63X photograph shows a mouse colon colonized with human microbiota. It won second place in the 2015 Nikon Small World Photomicrophotography Competition, which recognizes excellence in photography with the optical microscope and was taken using confocal microscopy.
ComplexInsight's insight:

Its a small world - and a stunning photogaph. Examining occurances of microbiota and how they travel between species has a lot of implications for understanding healthcare and disease reservoirs. 

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Mathematical Models Key to Designing Better Cancer Treatment Strategies

Mathematical Models Key to Designing Better Cancer Treatment Strategies | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Researchers are developing ways to help predict how different cancers are likely to progress when actual tumor growth measurements are hard to come by. More than one in three people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Accurate predictions of tumor growth are key to determining the right dose of radiation and chemotherapy, how often patients should undergo screening, and whether treatment is effective.
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Models of cancer that are benchmarked against actual occurances and correctly predict behaviour are critically important for devising fruture treatments. Good intro to the subject.

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The Hidden Power Laws of Ecosystems - Issue 29: Scaling - Nautilus

The Hidden Power Laws of Ecosystems - Issue 29: Scaling - Nautilus | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Here’s how to cause a ruckus: Ask a bunch of naturalists to simplify the world. We usually think in terms of a web of complicated…
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Interesting article - from an ecologists point of view on many of the topics and areas of research familiar to complex adaptive systems researchers but applied against actual ecosystems.

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Rescooped by ComplexInsight from Virology and Bioinformatics from Virology.ca
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Biopython: freely available Python tools for computational molecular biology and bioinformatics

Biopython: freely available Python tools for computational molecular biology and bioinformatics | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

"The Biopython project is a mature open source international collaboration of volunteer developers, providing Python libraries for a wide range of bioinformatics problems."


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Rescooped by ComplexInsight from Virology and Bioinformatics from Virology.ca
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PLOS Computational Biology: Ten Simple Rules for Creating a Good Data Management Plan

PLOS Computational Biology: Ten Simple Rules for Creating a Good Data Management Plan | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

"Research papers and data products are key outcomes of the science enterprise. Governmental, nongovernmental, and private foundation sponsors of research are increasingly recognizing the value of research data. As a result, most funders now require that sufficiently detailed data management plans be submitted as part of a research proposal. A data management plan (DMP) is a document that describes how you will treat your data during a project and what happens with the data after the project ends. Such plans typically cover all or portions of the data life cycle—from data discovery, collection, and organization (e.g., spreadsheets, databases), through quality assurance/quality control, documentation (e.g., data types, laboratory methods) and use of the data, to data preservation and sharing with others (e.g., data policies and dissemination approaches). "


Via Cindy
ComplexInsight's insight:

Good article - along with workflows - data management lifecycle and scientifiic workflow lifecycle management are critical in quality research and likely gowth areas in lifesciences tech for quite some time. Worth reading.

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Scope and Opportunities of Bioengineering and Biotechnology in Agriculture and Related Industries - APO (2015)

Scope and Opportunities of Bioengineering and Biotechnology in Agriculture and Related Industries - APO (2015) | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

p. 305-313: With Asia having some of the fastest-growing economies with over 60% of the world’s population, 34% of the world’s arable land, and 36% of the world’s water resources, the region’s need to overcome formidable challenges and improve its total agricultural production and agricultural productivity are urgent... 

 

Feeding and nourishing a larger, more urban, and increasingly affluent Asian population sustainably and equitably will be an unprecedented challenge in the coming years. It will require a more holistic approach to address agricultural production an

d productivity more effectively.

 

Increasing production of food, feed, and fiber through the use of modern biosciences and biotechnology is only one among many strategies needed to meet this challenge. Access to modern science and technology will need to be supported by more comprehensive policies on investment, regulations, and education. In addition, while rural areas currently hold most of the world’s poor and hungry, and will continue to do so for many years to come, the urban areas of Asia will require more attention and distinct focus from national governments... 

 

Increasing productivity is a development imperative, whether urban or rural, if more agricultural production is to be achieved with reduced arable land, labor, and water in Asia. And therein lies the huge potential for biotechnology as a “green” technology.

 

http://www.apo-tokyo.org/publications/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/Productivity-in-the-Asia-Pacific_Past-Present-and-Future-20151.pdf#page=320

 


Via Alexander J. Stein, ComplexInsight
ComplexInsight's insight:

Having grown up  in a northumberland mining village in the north east of England, surrounded by farming and small woodlands - agriculture is something i think of intimately interwound with industry and how we live. If you grew up in a city - it can seem distant, but its always fundamental. If you grew up around farms - you know they are places of high and low tech. Strains and breeds are early forms of bio-engineering, agricultural equipment gives access to pragmatic engineering principles early on. In the coming decades advanced in bioengineering and biotech will increasingly be larger components of modern agriculture in order to meet increasing population pressures and demands generated by increased urban living. This report clearly helps identify the opportunities and possibilities and policy requirements that exist. If you are tracking the technology aspects of modern agriculture or interested in how agriculture will ahve to change to address increasing social needs - this report is well worth reading.

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Rescooped by ComplexInsight from Papers
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Making big data work: smart, sustainable, and safe cities

The goal of the present thematic series is to showcase some of the most relevant contributions submitted to the ‘Telecom Italia Big Data Challenge 2014’ and to provide a discussion venue about recent advances in the appplication of mobile phone and social media data to the study of individual and collective behaviors. Particular attention is devoted to data-driven studies aimed at understanding city dynamics. These studies include: modeling individual and collective traffic patterns and automatically identifying areas with traffic congestion, creating high-resolution population estimates for Milan inhabitants, clustering urban dynamics of migrants and visitors traveling to a city for business or tourism, and investigating the relationship between urban communication and urban happiness.

 

Making big data work: smart, sustainable, and safe cities
Bruno Lepri, Fabrizio Antonelli, Fabio Pianesi and Alex Pentland

EPJ Data Science 2015, 4:16  http://dx.doi.org/10.1140/epjds/s13688-015-0050-4 ;


Via Complexity Digest
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Interesting results of Telecom Italia's 2014 Bid Data Challenge - if smart cities are of interest  - worth reading.

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Rescooped by ComplexInsight from Ag Biotech News
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Scope and Opportunities of Bioengineering and Biotechnology in Agriculture and Related Industries - APO (2015)

Scope and Opportunities of Bioengineering and Biotechnology in Agriculture and Related Industries - APO (2015) | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

p. 305-313: With Asia having some of the fastest-growing economies with over 60% of the world’s population, 34% of the world’s arable land, and 36% of the world’s water resources, the region’s need to overcome formidable challenges and improve its total agricultural production and agricultural productivity are urgent... 

 

Feeding and nourishing a larger, more urban, and increasingly affluent Asian population sustainably and equitably will be an unprecedented challenge in the coming years. It will require a more holistic approach to address agricultural production an

d productivity more effectively.

 

Increasing production of food, feed, and fiber through the use of modern biosciences and biotechnology is only one among many strategies needed to meet this challenge. Access to modern science and technology will need to be supported by more comprehensive policies on investment, regulations, and education. In addition, while rural areas currently hold most of the world’s poor and hungry, and will continue to do so for many years to come, the urban areas of Asia will require more attention and distinct focus from national governments... 

 

Increasing productivity is a development imperative, whether urban or rural, if more agricultural production is to be achieved with reduced arable land, labor, and water in Asia. And therein lies the huge potential for biotechnology as a “green” technology.

 

http://www.apo-tokyo.org/publications/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/Productivity-in-the-Asia-Pacific_Past-Present-and-Future-20151.pdf#page=320

 


Via Alexander J. Stein
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ComplexInsight's curator insight, October 26, 2015 4:03 PM

Having grown up  in a northumberland mining village in the north east of England, surrounded by farming and small woodlands - agriculture is something i think of intimately interwound with industry and how we live. If you grew up in a city - it can seem distant, but its always fundamental. If you grew up around farms - you know they are places of high and low tech. Strains and breeds are early forms of bio-engineering, agricultural equipment gives access to pragmatic engineering principles early on. In the coming decades advanced in bioengineering and biotech will increasingly be larger components of modern agriculture in order to meet increasing population pressures and demands generated by increased urban living. This report clearly helps identify the opportunities and possibilities and policy requirements that exist. If you are tracking the technology aspects of modern agriculture or interested in how agriculture will ahve to change to address increasing social needs - this report is well worth reading.