Biotechnological and life science innovations do not only lead to immense progress in diverse fields of natural science and technical research and thereby drive economic development, they also fundamentally affect the relationship between nature, technology and society. Taken this seriously, the ethical and societal assessment of emerging biotechnologies as for example synthetic biology is challenged not only to constrain on questions of biosafety and biosecurity but also to face the societal questions within the different fields as an interface problem of science and society. In order to map this vague and stirring field, we propose the concept of bio-objects to explore the reciprocal interaction at the interface of science and society serious as well to have the opportunity to detect possible junctions of societal discontent and unease before their appearance
Ethical discussions walk the thin line between intellectual noise and useful guidance. Given the potential impact of bio tech I think this is a good step in the direction of discussions for useful guidance. Be interesting seeing how it develops.
How the blistering pace of technological change could have a profound impact on healthcare.
The combination of sensors and automated tests in areas of genetics and proteomics enable collection of largescale comprehensive health data for the first time. That data will generate insights into human biology, our bacterial biome and how our health systems work. Advances in large scale data processing, correlation and machine learning will help over the next decade to radically change our understanding of human biology. As data is collected and in silico experimentation mapped to invitrio understanding data will change our healthcare systems over the next 30 years. This BBC article gives a good insight into how and why this is starting to happen now.
Mo Costandi: A simple new method makes biological tissues transparent, so that they can be examined without having to be cut into slices
If you have ever had to try to make sense of a tissue sectioning slice then you may find this incredible. Nature video on guardian site is very much worth watching. For technical reference see Chung, K., et al. (2013). Structural and molecular interrogation of intact biological systems. Nature, doi:10.1038/nature12107
SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics is an academic, non-profit foundation established in 1998.
Swiss Institute fo Bioinformatics celebrates its 15th birthday. SIB is an important research organisation in switzerland and internationally, offering several important databases (e.g. SwissProt) and software tools used by researchers worldwide. Congrats to everyone involved.
On the heels of the director of the US Centers for Disease Control declaring emerging antibiotic resistance a "nightmare," the UK's Chief Medical Officer released a report in which she calls resistance a "catastrophic threat" that poses a national...
Wired has a good summary article on the U.K.’s Chief Medical Officer report on microbial resistance in which she calls resistance a “catastrophic threat” which poses a national security risk as serious as terrorism. In an interview published overnight, she warns that unless resistance is curbed, “We will find ourselves in a health system not dissimilar to the early 19th century” in which organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, joint replacements and even minor surgeries become life-threatening. Click on the image or title to get the Wired article summarizing the report or read the report in full: http://bit.ly/XCKdXQ
Researchers say their findings suggest heart disease may be more a natural part of ageing rather than being directly tied to modern vices.
While modern lifestyles and diet certainly excerbate problems of heart disease - these findings indicate that we still need a fuller system level understsnding of heart disease and the cellular dynamic processes involved.
It's not normal for a top federal health official to deploy a word such as "nightmare," or warn: "We have a very serious problem, and we need to sound an alarm." But on Tuesday, the director the CDC said both during a press conference about the...
Public reaction to news of antibiotic resistance seems to follow a predictable pattern: Instant alarm, followed almost immediately by apathy as the daily routine re-inserts itself. It will be interesting seeing how these announcements are covered and discussed and wether or not consideration of alternate mechanisms, and understanding of adaptation, evolution and bacterial communication enter the discussions more widely. Click on the title or the image to learn more..
A run of poor sleep can have a dramatic effect on the internal workings of the human body, say UK researchers.
Good article on BBC health:Researchers at the University of Surrey analysed the blood of 26 people after they had had plenty of sleep, up to 10 hours each night for a week, and compared the results with samples after a week of fewer than six hours a night. More than 700 genes were altered by the sleep shift. Each contains the instructions for building a protein, so those that became more active produced more proteins - changing body chemistry in response to reduced sleep. These results help indicate the role of sleep in regulating body chemistry and how regular sleep is important to maintain body functions such as replenishing and replacing cells.
Pasadena, CA (Scicasts) – Every great structure, from the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, depends on specific mechanical properties to remain strong and reliable.
Scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have recently developed techniques for visualizing the behaviour of biological nanostructures in both space and time, allowing them to directly measure stiffness and map its variation throughout the network. Given that the behaviour of biological materials are partly determined by their structure (the arrangement of atoms in three dimensional space and how the structure changes over time) this type of visualization holds a huge amount of promise for revealing insights into biomaterials that were previously hidden. Knowing the mechanical properties of DNA structures is crucial to building sturdy biological networks and understanding subcellular structural formation. The researchers say that this type of visualization of biomechanics in space and time should be applicable to the study of other biological nanomaterials, including the abnormal protein assemblies that underlie diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Click on the image or title to read the full article.
UAB researchers cure type 1 diabetes in dogs EurekAlert (press release) The study was led by the head of the UAB's Centre for Animal Biotechnology and Gene Therapy (CBATEG) Fàtima Bosch, and involved the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular...
As a dog lover this is an awesome piece of research (plus the fact that traditionally research in diabetes in dogs has led to improved treatments in humans). Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), led by Fàtima Bosch, have shown for the first time that it is possible to cure diabetes in large animals with a single session of gene therapy. As published this week in Diabetes, the principal journal for research on the disease, after a single gene therapy session, the dogs recover their health and no longer show symptoms of the disease. In some cases, monitoring continued for over four years, with no recurrence of symptoms. The therapy is minimally invasive. It consists of a single session of various injections in the animal's rear legs using simple needles that are commonly used in cosmetic treatments. These injections introduce gene therapy vectors, with a dual objective: to express the insulin gene, on the one hand, and that of glucokinase, on the other. Glucokinase is an enzyme that regulates the uptake of glucose from the blood. When both genes act simultaneously they function as a "glucose sensor", which automatically regulates the uptake of glucose from the blood, thus reducing diabetic hyperglycemia (the excess of blood sugar associated with the disease). To learn more click on the headline or image.
Scientists have identified a previously unknown group of never cells in the brain which regulate cardiovascular functions.
Scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, in collaboration with colleagues in Germany and the Netherlands, have identified a previously unknown group of nerve cells in the brain. The nerve cells regulate cardiovascular functions such as heart rhythm and blood pressure. It is hoped that the discovery, which is published in theJournal of Clinical Investigation, will be significant in the long term in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases in humans
Researchers have developed a platform that compiles all the atomic data, previously stored in diverse databases, on protein structures and protein interactions for eight organisms of relevance. They apply a singular homology-based modelling procedure.The scientists Roberto Mosca, Arnaud Ceol and Patrick Aloy provide the international biomedical community with Interactome3D, an open-access and free web platform developed entirely by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona). Interactome 3D offers for the first time the possibility to anonymously access and add molecular details of protein interactions and to obtain the information in 3D models. A great article describing the services is available here: http://www.nanowerk.com/news2/biotech/newsid=28103.php#ixzz2FLF10eRq or click on the image or title to explore the service directly.
Present in almost in every cell, microRNAs are known to target tens to hundreds of genes each and to be able to repress, or "silence," their expression. What is less well understood is how exactly miRNAs repress target gene expression. Now a team of scientists led by geneticists at the University of California, Riverside has conducted a study on plants (Arabidopsis) that shows that the site of action of the repression of target gene expression occurs on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), a cellular organelle that is an interconnected network of membranes—essentially, flattened sacs and branching tubules—that extends like a flat balloon throughout the cytoplasm in plant and animal cells
I think this is fundamentally important. As a programmer - microRNA reminds me of microcode running on multiple parallel processes . With this work showing that ER membranes are essential for microRNA activity. The last line of the article nails it: "Our work shows that an integral membrane protein, AMP1, is required for the miRNA-mediated target gene repression to be successful. As AMP1 has counterparts in animals, our findings in plants could have broader implications." Full paper in Cell
Call it the ultimate nature documentary. Scientists have recorded atomic motions in real time, offering a glimpse into the very essence of chemistry and biology at the atomic level.
Mapping molecular motions -- the "magic" of chemistry revealed. Despite the enormous number of possible arrangements of atoms during a structural transition, such as occurs with changes in charge distribution or chemical processes, the interconversion from one structure to another reduces to a few key types of motions. This enormous reduction in dimensionality is what makes chemical concepts transferable from one molecule to another and has enabled chemists to synthesize nearly any molecule desired, for new drugs to infusing new material properties. This is a still image from a movie that gives a direct atomic level view of this enormous reduction in complexity. The specific trajectories along three different coordinates, as highlighted in the movie, are shown as projections (right view) on a cube. The key atomic motions can be mapped on to three highly simplified coordinates -- the magic of chemistry in its full atomic splendor. (Credit: Lai Chung Liu, University of Toronto)
In an awesome peice of detective work mapping out the evolutionary arms race between virus and immune reponse was published in the journal nature. The research team's study is based on a patient in Africa who had a rapid diagnosis after being infected with the virus.By analyzing immune response and HIV evolution the team were eventually able to produce an antibody named CH103 that could neutralise 55% of HIV samples tested. However the anitbody was not produced in one easy step. Rather it was the product of the war of the immune system and HIV trying to out-evolve each other in a a typical arms rage that culminated in the production of CH103. This mapping may help in designing fututer treatments and certainly contributes a lot to understanding the HIV immune system relationships. Click on the image or title to learn more.
Researchers say hybrid of human gum cells and mouse stem cells raises possibility of growing new teeth on patient's jaw
Professor Paul Sharpe, who led the research at King's College London's dental institute, said: "Epithelial cells derived from adult human gum tissue are capable of responding to tooth-inducing signals from embryonic tooth mesenchyme in an appropriate way to contribute to tooth crown and root formation and give rise to relevant differentiated cell types, following in-vitro culture."These easily accessible epithelial cells are thus a realistic source for consideration in human biotooth formation. The next major challenge is to identify a way to culture adult human mesenchymal cells to be tooth-inducing, as at the moment we can only make embryonic mesenchymal cells do this." Previous research has shown that embryonic teeth are capable of developing normally in the adult mouth. "What is required is the identification of adult sources of human epithelial and mesenchymal cells that can be obtained in sufficient numbers to make biotooth formation a viable alternative to dental implants," said Sharpe.
ADP-ribosylation is an important post-translational protein modification, yet enzymes capable of removing the protein-proximal ADP-ribose were unknown.
Protein activity is strictly regulated. Incorrect or poor protein regulation can lead to uncontrolled growth and thus cancer or chronic inflammation. Members of the Institute of Veterinary Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Zurich have identified enzymes that can regulate the activity of medically important proteins. Their discovery enables these proteins to be manipulated very selectively, opening up new treatment methods for inflammations and cancer. The work was published online on March 10, 2013 in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. A related article was also published online at the same time in the same journal. For a healthy organism, it is crucial for proteins to be active or inactive at the right time. The corresponding regulation is often based on a chemical modification of the protein structure: Enzymes attach small molecules to particular sites on a protein or remove them, thereby activating or deactivating the protein. Identification of the enzymes and related mechanisms opens up the possiblity for new related treatments in related processes. Click on the iage or title to learn more.
Hantaviruses cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) in Eurasia. In Europe both the amplitude and the magnitude of outbreaks of HFRS have increased. The mechanisms that drive the incidences are complex and multi-factorial and only partially due to increased awareness and improved diagnostic tools. Risk determinants include reservoir ecology, virus ecology and anthropogenic factors. The dogma of one specific rodent species as primordial reservoir for a specific hantavirus is increasingly challenged. New hantaviruses have been discovered in shrews, moles and bats and increasing evidence points at host-switching events and co-circulation in multiple, sympatric reservoir species, challenging the strict rodent–virus co-evolution theory. Changing landscape attributes and climatic parameters determine fluctuations in hantavirus epidemiology, for instance through increased food availability, prolonged virus survival and decreased biodiversity.
The way cancer cells can make a completely chaotic mess of their genetic code in order to thrive has been explained by UK researchers.
Excellent article on BBC Science regarding diversity of cancer DNA in a tumour and research at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute and the University College London. This has been a major problem in finding effective approaches to treating cancers. Prof Swanton told the BBC: "It is like constructing a building without enough bricks or cement for the foundations.
"However, if you can provide the building blocks of DNA you can reduce the replication stress to limit the diversity in tumours, which could be therapeutic."
He admitted that it "just seems wrong" that providing the fuel for a cancer to grow could be therapeutic.However, he said this proved that replication stress was the problem and that new tools could be developed to tackle it.
Future studies will investigate whether the same stress causes diversity in other types of tumour.
Science World Report Main culprit behind breast cancers discovered Daily News & Analysis The findings came from a team of researchers led by Reuben Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics and also a...
Mutation is a major problem with treatment of breast cancer. The discovery that an enzyme – called APOBEC3B helps drive multiple mutations – may change the way breast cancer is diagnosed and treated. Article is worth reading though results will need additional confirmation and investigation. Click on title to learn more.
Application and development of computational methods and tools for modeling and analyzing complex biological systems.
AS some one who deeply subscribes to Chris Langton's view that the natural stufy of Computing is to stufy computation as its writ across all of nature, this research at Microsoft is deeply interesting (and echoes compaies liek Autodesk who come from one discipline and are increasingly looking at life sciences through the view of computing: The Biological Computation group is conducting research to uncover fundamental principles of biological computation: what cells compute, how and why. We focus primarily on developing computational techniques that enable multiscale modelling, from molecules to cells to systems. Our work currently focuses on fundamentals of Biological Computation, with applications in Immunology and Development, together with principles of Programming Life, with applications in DNA Computing and Synthetic Biology. Click on the image or title to learn more.