Complex Insight - Understanding our world
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Complex Insight  - Understanding our world
News and notes on complex systems in life sciences, engineering, education and government
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Genetics may lie at the heart of crop yield limitation - EurekAlert (2017) 

Genetics may lie at the heart of crop yield limitation - EurekAlert (2017)  | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

You might think that plants grow according to how much nutrition, water and sunlight they are exposed to, but new research... shows that the plant's own genetics may be the real limiting factor.

"This could have potentially big implications for the agricultural industry... Our model plant is in the same family as cabbages, so it's easy to imagine creating giant cabbages or growing them to the desired market size faster than at present."

It was previously assumed that plant growth was generally resource-limited, meaning that plants would only grow as large and fast as they could photosynthesise. However, Dr Pullen and his team present evidence that plant growth is actually "sink-limited", meaning that genetic regulation and cell division rates have a much bigger role in controlling plant growth than previously thought: 


"We are proposing that plant growth is not physically limited by Net Primary Productivity (NPP) or the environment, but instead is limited genetically in response to these signals to ensure they do not become limiting."

By genetically altering the growth repressors in Arabidopsis, Dr Pullen and his team were able to create mutant strains. They identified the metabolic rates of the different plant strains... as well as comparing the size and weight of the plants... also grew the mutant plant strains at different temperatures to see if this changed their results: "When grown at different temperatures we still find a difference in size"...  

The impact of these results is wide-reaching, and... it may even change how we think about global climate data: "Climate models need to incorporate genetic elements because at present most do not, and their predictions would be much improved with a better understanding of plant carbon demand." 


https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-07/sfeb-gml070117.php



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CRISPR-Cas Genome Surgery in Ophthalmology

Genetic disease affecting vision can significantly impact patient quality of life. Gene therapy seeks to slow the progression of these diseases by treating the underlying etiology at the level of the genome. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated systems (Cas) represent powerful tools for studying diseases through the creation of model organisms generated by targeted modification and by the correction of disease mutations for therapeutic purposes. CRISPR-Cas systems have been applied successfully to the visual sciences and study of ophthalmic disease - from the modification of zebrafish and mammalian models of eye development and disease, to the correction of pathogenic mutations in patient-derived stem cells. Recent advances in CRISPR-Cas delivery and optimization boast improved functionality that continues to enhance genome-engineering applications in the eye. This review provides a synopsis of the recent implementations of CRISPR-Cas tools in the field of ophthalmology.

Via Gerd Moe-Behrens
ComplexInsight's insight:
While the promise of CRISPR was not that it would change how genetics and biology behaved its quickly becoming hyped that way in popular press.  The fact that the Cas9 protein can be used as a cheap and fast technique to co-localize with specific DNA sequences is undoubtedly incredibly useful. As researchers discover mechanisms where they can exploit co-localization and modification at specific sites using DNA cleavage capabilities it is important we get well informed reviews of actual applications as well as coverage of potential ones.  This paper gives a good summary of recent developments and insights to applications of CRISPR-CAS in ophthalmology  for both better understanding visual systems and potential treatments for ophthalmic disease. 
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Organisms might be quantum machines

Organisms might be quantum machines | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Few of us really understand the weird world of quantum physics – but our bodies might take advantage of quantum properties
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Interesting article on the increasingly suspected role of quantum physics in everyday biological systems including photosynthesis and migratory bird navigation. A fun read.
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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

 


Via Alexander J. Stein
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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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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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How the zebra got its stripes, with Alan Turing

How the zebra got its stripes, with Alan Turing | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Where do a zebra’s stripes, a leopard’s spots and our fingers come from? The key was found years ago – by the man who cracked the Enigma code, writes Kat Arney.
ComplexInsight's insight:

Alan Turing’s published  his ‘chemical morphogenesis’ research  paper in 1952, 2 years before his tragic and untimely death. The paper opened the discussion on how computation and biology may be at fundamentally linked, a thread which continues to be ripe with exploration today. Great article from Mosaic Science explaining the ideas in turings paper and the 60 years of subsequent research.


 


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First ever biological amplifier created by Imperial scientists

First ever biological amplifier created by Imperial scientists | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

cientists have made an amplifier to boost biological signals, using DNA and harmless E. coli bacteria.

 Conventional amplifiers, such as those that are combined with loudspeakers to boost the volume of electric guitars and other instruments, are used to increase the amplitude of electrical signals. Now scientists from Imperial College London have used the same engineering principles to create a biological amplifier, by re-coding the DNA in the harmless gut bacteria Escherichia coli bacteria (E. coli). 
Via Gerd Moe-Behrens
ComplexInsight's insight:

Click title or image to learn more.

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Gerd Moe-Behrens's curator insight, August 14, 2014 6:08 PM

by Gail Wilson

"Scientists have made an amplifier to boost biological signals, using DNA and harmless E. coli bacteria.

Conventional amplifiers, such as those that are combined with loudspeakers to boost the volume of electric guitars and other instruments, are used to increase the amplitude of electrical signals.
Now scientists from Imperial College London have used the same engineering principles to create a biological amplifier, by re-coding the DNA in the harmless gut bacteria Escherichia coli bacteria (E. coli). 

The team say this ‘bio-amplifier’ might be used in microscopic cellular sensors , which scientists have already developed, that could detect minute traces of chemicals and toxins, to make them more sensitive. Ultimately, this could lead to new types of sensors to detect harmful toxins or diseases in our bodies and in the environment before they do any damage.
In laboratory tests, the team’s bio-amplifier was able to significantly boost the detection limit and sensitivity of a sensor designed to detect the toxin arsenic. The device is also modular, which means that the devices can be easily introduced in different genetic networks, and can potentially be used to increase the sensitivity and accuracy of a broad range of other genetic sensors to detect pathogens and toxins.
The results of the study are published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research. 
Dr Baojun Wang, who is now based at the University of Edinburgh, but carried out the study while in the Division of Cell and Molecular Biology at Imperial, said: “One potential use of this technology would be to deploy microscopic sensors equipped with our bio-amplifier component into a water network. Swarms of the sensors could then detect harmful or dangerous toxins that might be hazardous to our health. The bio-amplifiers in the sensors enable us to detect even minute amounts of dangerous toxins, which would be of huge benefit to water quality controllers.”
Scientists have previously known that cells have their own inbuilt amplifiers to first detect and then boost biological signals, which are crucial for survival and reproduction. They have been attempting to understand how they work in more detail so as to remodel them for other applications. However the challenge for scientists has been engineering a device that can predictably amplify signals without distortion or feedback.
In the study, scientists first re-engineered genes involved in a special cell network called hrp (hypersensitive response and pathogenicity), which have naturally occurring amplifying proteins that function just like an electronic amplifier. They then cloned these amplifying components and inserted them into the harmless gut bacteria E. coli, fitting it with a synthetic arsenic input sensor and a fluorescent green protein gene as the output.  ..."


http://bit.ly/Yadvkb

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The Surprising Gut Microbes of African Hunter-Gatherers | Science | WIRED

The Surprising Gut Microbes of African Hunter-Gatherers | Science | WIRED | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
In Western Tanzania tribes of wandering foragers called Hadza eat a diet of roots, berries, and game. According to a new study, their guts are home to a microbial community unlike anything that's been seen before in a modern human population -- providing, perhaps, a snapshot of what the human gut microbiome looked like before our ancestors figured out how to farm about 12,000 years ago.
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'Sticky balls' stop cancer spreading

'Sticky balls' stop cancer spreading | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Cancer-killing "sticky balls" can whip tumour cells out of the blood and may prevent cancers spreading, early research suggests.
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An interesting approach to tackling metastases from researchers at Cornell.

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Malaria vaccine shows early promise

Malaria vaccine shows early promise | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
A malaria vaccine has shown promising results in early stage clinical trials, according to researchers.
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Researchers found the vaccine, which is being developed in the US, protected 12 out of 15 patients from the disease, when given in high doses. The method is unusual because it involves injecting live but weakened malaria-causing parasites directly into patients to trigger immunity.

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Bacteria 'have lessons for economy'

Bacteria 'have lessons for economy' | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Colonies of bacteria balance growth against risk, just like financial investors, ecologists have found.
ComplexInsight's insight:

Almost half a century ago Richard Levins first suggested that trade-offs in organisms' investment decisions lead to them exploiting different niches, and this concept may apply both in biological ecology and in financial markets, but it has not previously been demonstrated as clearly by experimental observations. Using lab-based synthetic biology, experiments in bacterial evolution, and mathematical modelling a new study test Levins hypothesis and  finds links between behavioural patterns of micro-organisms and markets.  A research group from the UK and Australia used strains of the bacterium E. coli that were constrained in the amount of resource that they had for growth, but that were also subjected to varying degrees of biological stress. The work is described in a paper in the journal Ecology Letters and covered by the BBC Science team.

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Antibiotic resistance: The last resort

Antibiotic resistance: The last resort | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Health officials are watching in horror as bacteria become resistant to powerful carbapenem antibiotics — one of the last drugs on the shelf.
ComplexInsight's insight:

As antibiotic resistance continues to evolve and spread - it continues to not get the attention and funding it needs. Research work is urgently needed in new treatments but also in how bacteria, evolve, transport and move in and around hospitals, how they communicate, and how to optimize standard infection-control practices.  Good article from Nature. scary reality.

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Dolphins 'call each other by name'

Dolphins 'call each other by name' | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Dolphins call each other by name using unique signature whistles, a study suggests.
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A team from the University of St Andrews in Scotland found that when dolphins hear their own call played back to them, they respond in a similar way to humans responding to their name.The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1304459110

Click the image, title or link to learn more.

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Jed Fisher's comment, August 1, 2013 5:51 PM
amazing
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[1706.05043] The thermodynamic efficiency of computations made in cells across the range of life

Biological organisms must perform computation as they grow, reproduce, and evolve. Moreover, ever since Landauer's bound was proposed it has been known that all computation has some thermodynamic cost -- and that the same computation can be achieved with greater or smaller thermodynamic cost depending on how it is implemented. Accordingly an important issue concerning the evolution of life is assessing the thermodynamic efficiency of the computations performed by organisms. This issue is interesting both from the perspective of how close life has come to maximally efficient computation (presumably under the pressure of natural selection), and from the practical perspective of what efficiencies we might hope that engineered biological computers might achieve, especially in comparison with current computational systems. Here we show that the computational efficiency of translation, defined as free energy expended per amino acid operation, outperforms the best supercomputers by several orders of magnitude, and is only about an order of magnitude worse than the Landauer bound. However this efficiency depends strongly on the size and architecture of the cell in question. In particular, we show that the {\it useful} efficiency of an amino acid operation, defined as the bulk energy per amino acid polymerization, decreases for increasing bacterial size and converges to the polymerization cost of the ribosome. This cost of the largest bacteria does not change in ancells as we progress through the major evolutionary shifts to both single and multicellular eukaryotes. However, the rates of total computation per unit mass are nonmonotonic in bacteria with increasing cell size, and also change across different biological architectures including the shift from unicellular to multicellular eukaryotes.

 

The thermodynamic efficiency of computations made in cells across the range of life
Christopher P. Kempes, David Wolpert, Zachary Cohen, Juan Pérez-Mercader


Via Complexity Digest
ComplexInsight's insight:
The concept of computation as it occurs in biology is fascinating and this paper is likely to become a-classic - worth reading.
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A Safety and Efficacy Study of TALEN and CRISPR/Cas9 in the Treatment of HPV-related Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia

This is an open-label and triple cohort study of the safety and efficacy of TALEN and CRISPR/Cas9 to possibly treat HPV Persistency and human cervical intraepithelial neoplasiaⅠwithout invasion.

Via Gerd Moe-Behrens
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If your tracking CRISPR/Cas9 applications - this is worth reviewing.
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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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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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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.

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I Contain Multitudes | Quanta Magazine

I Contain Multitudes |  Quanta Magazine | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Our bodies are a genetic patchwork, possessing variation from cell to cell. Is that a good thing?
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With new methods of single cell DNA sequencing becoming available - biologists are beginning to look a the degrees of variations that exist across cells and the extent of cell to cell diversity and what this implies for biological adaptation.

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Transcriptic Aims to Make the Biology Lab Programmable - Bio-IT World

Transcriptic Aims to Make the Biology Lab Programmable - Bio-IT World | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Bio-IT World
Transcriptic Aims to Make the Biology Lab Programmable
Bio-IT World
At a time when monkeys are exerting telepathic control over mechanical limbs, most biologists still don't have access to robotics for even the simplest procedures.
ComplexInsight's insight:

Transcriptic is an awesomely promising start up - that aims to provide automated execution of different lab protocols.  Intersting article at Bio-IT World. If you are interested in the future of weblab work and how it connects to synthetic biology and bio discovery - well worth reading.

 

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Antibody machinery 'leukaemia cause'

Antibody machinery 'leukaemia cause' | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

The tools used to fortify the body against infection are also one of the causes of the most common form of childhood leukaemia, say researchers. The machinery used to produce millions of antibodies in the immune system can misfire, making cells more likely to become cancerous.

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Science Weekly podcast: Daniel M Davis on the immune system's wonders

Science Weekly podcast: Daniel M Davis on the immune system's wonders | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
This week on Science Weekly with Alok Jha we discover the immense complexity of the human immune system when we meet Prof Daniel M Davis to discuss his new book The Compatibility Gene.
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complexity of the human immune system is simply staggering - good introduction to the scale in this weeks guardian science podcast.

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Human Deaths and Third-Generation Cephalosporin use in Poultry, Europe - Vol. 19 No. 8 - August 2013 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC

Human Deaths and Third-Generation Cephalosporin use in Poultry, Europe - Vol. 19 No. 8 - August 2013 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

Globally, antimicrobial drug resistance is rapidly rising, with resultant increased illness and death. In Europe, increasing proportions of bloodstream infections caused by E. coli are resistant to third-generation cephalosporins...

ComplexInsight's insight:

Antibiotic use in agriculture tends to be a tension filled debate.  Farmers  want healthy stock and the use of antibiotics as with people has had a major impact. However use of antiobiotics in farming helps accelerate bacterial evolution and antibiotic resistance. The debate around antibiotic overuse on farms or over perscription in human medicine and the relation to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, how antibiotic resistant strains migrate from farms to elswhere is ongoing. The human and financial impact and cost of antiobiotic overuse  in agriculture has until now been a grey area of discussion.  A multi-national team of researchers recently published their findings to these questions in the open journal Emerging Infectious disease published by CDC. They found  number of avoidable deaths and the costs of health care potentially caused by third-generation cephalosporin use in food animals is a staggering 1,518 deaths and 67,236 days in the hospital, every year, which would not otherwise have occurred. Considering those factors, they recommend the ongoing use of these antimicrobial drugs in mass therapy and prophylaxis should be urgently examined and stopped, particularly in poultry.  The article and technical appendix are worth reading.

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'Fossil' protein clue to early life

'Fossil' protein clue to early life | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
New reconstructions of the genetic code of an ancient protein provides clues to the origins of life on Earth.
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The resurrected protein is thought to have existed almost four billion years ago in single-celled organisms linked to the earliest ancestor of all life. The protein survives in the extreme environments of high acidity and temperature expected on early Earth and, intriguingly, also Mars.

Spanish and US scientists reported their study in the journal Structure. 

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These Bacteria Are Wired to Hunt Like a Tiny Wolf Pack - Wired Science

These Bacteria Are Wired to Hunt Like a Tiny Wolf Pack - Wired Science | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

You wouldn’t know it, but there is an elaborate stealth communication network in the Earth beneath your feet. This smart web acts like a superorganism, fortifying defensive capabilities and coordinating deadly attacks on unsuspecting targets. But it’s not run by the NSA, the CIA, or the military. This web is made of bacteria

ComplexInsight's insight:

Good artile explainging recent findings in bacterial communication research. Understanding how bacteria communicate and organise will be key to next generation treatments rather than relying only on discovered antibiotics.

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