Innovation and Science breakthroughs
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Innovation and Science breakthroughs
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The incredible origami house that can change shape depending on the weather

The incredible origami house that can change shape depending on the weather | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it

This new incredible folding house is able to, in the words of its creators, 'metamorphosize' into eight different configurations to adapt to seasonal, meteorological and even astronomical conditions. For example, in the summer plan, bedroom one faces east and watches the sun rise as its inhabitants wake up. It can then rotate so that the user is constantly in sunlight, while the house generates energy through its solar panels. The revolutionary home is based on the work of an early 20th Century mathematician who discovered a way to dissect a square and rearrange its parts into an equilateral triangle.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Longevity gene makes Hydra immortal and humans grow older

Longevity gene makes Hydra immortal and humans grow older | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it

Why do we get older? When do we die and why? Is there a life without ageing? For centuries, science has been fascinated by these questions. Now researchers from Kiel (Germany) have examined why the polyp Hydra is immortal – and unexpectedly discovered a link to ageing in humans.

 

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RNA Regulation: The 'Frontier for Genetic Science' | New York Genome Center

RNA Regulation: The 'Frontier for Genetic Science' | New York Genome Center | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it

The so-called “dark matter” of the genome has great secrets in it, said Robert Darnell, professor of molecular neuro-oncology at The Rockefeller University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

In a talk at the American Society for Human Genetics conference in San Francisco on Thursday, Darnell explained that while 80 percent of human DNA is transcribed as RNA, only a tiny fraction — about 5 percent — codes for proteins. He described a technique to explore the remaining unknown world by identifying the function of RNA binding proteins in the nervous system. The method grows out of his research in paraneoplastic neurologic disorders, which arise when antibodies to tumors mistakenly attack cells in the brain, causing an autoimmune response.

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Will we ever reveal all the secrets of life from DNA? It's very, very hard!

Will we ever reveal all the secrets of life from DNA? It's very, very hard! | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it

We may have sequenced the human and other species’ genomes, but we are still nowhere near predicting how this creates a living, breathing organism. Here’s why:

 

In 2001, the Human Genome Project gave us an almost complete draft of the 3 billion letters in our DNA. We joined an elite club of species that have had their genome sequenced, one that is growing with every passing month. As our technologies and understanding advance, will we eventually be able to look at a pile of raw DNA sequence and glean all the workings of the organism it belongs to? Just as physicists can use the laws of mechanics to predict the motion of an object, can biologists use fundamental ideas in genetics and molecular biology to predict the traits and flaws of a body based solely on its genes? Could we pop a genome into a black box, and print out the image of a human? Or a fly? Or a mouse? Not easily. In complex organisms, some traits can be traced back to specific genes. If, for instance, you’re looking at a specific variant of the MC1R gene, chances are you’ve got a mammal in front of you, and it has red hair. Indeed, people have predicted that some Neanderthals were red-heads for precisely this reason. But beyond that, predicting if something is a mouse or a whale or a armadillo, we still can't do it.

 

Bernhard Palsson from the University of California, San Diego agrees. “Sequencing a woolly mammoth will not predict its properties,” he says. “But you might be able to do a lot better with bacteria.” Their simpler and smaller genomes should in theory make it easier to predict the basic features of their metabolism, or whether they grow using oxygen or not. But even though we can sequence a bacterial genome in under a day, and for just $80, we would still struggle to determine important traits, like how good a disease-causing microbe is at infecting its host.

 

Finding all the genes even in a small genome is hard. Earlier this year, scientists discovered a new gene in a flu virus whose genome consists of just 14,000 letters (small enough to fit into 100 tweets), and had been sequenced again and again. So it should be unsurprising that our own genome, with 3 billion letters, is full of errors and gaps, despite ostensibly being “complete”. In May, another group showed that the reference human genome is missing a gene that may have shaped the evolution of our large brains. “There’s no genome that is completely understood even in terms of the genes within it,” says Markus Covert from Stanford University. “Typically, no function is known for a fourth to a fifth of the genes, even in smaller genomes.”

 


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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First gene therapy approved in Europe | Genome Engineering

First gene therapy approved in Europe | Genome Engineering | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it
Following its recommendation in July 2012, the European Union has approved uniQure’s Glybera (alipogene tiparvovec), making it the first gene therapy approved by regulatory authorities anywhere in the Western world, and the first treatment approved...
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Model-Free Reconstruction of Excitatory Neuronal Connectivity from Calcium Imaging Signals

Model-Free Reconstruction of Excitatory Neuronal Connectivity from Calcium Imaging Signals | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it

Via Pedro Fernandes
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NASA Voyager 1 Encounters New Region in Deep Space

NASA Voyager 1 Encounters New Region in Deep Space | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it
NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered a new region at the far reaches of our solar system that scientists feel is the final area the spacecraft has to cross before reaching interstellar space.

 

Scientists refer to this new region as a magnetic highway for charged particles because our sun's magnetic field lines are connected to interstellar magnetic field lines. This connection allows lower-energy charged particles that originate from inside our heliosphere -- or the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself -- to zoom out and allows higher-energy particles from outside to stream in. Before entering this region, the charged particles bounced around in all directions, as if trapped on local roads inside the heliosphere.

 

The Voyager team infers this region is still inside our solar bubble because the direction of the magnetic field lines has not changed. The direction of these magnetic field lines is predicted to change when Voyager breaks through to interstellar space. The new results were described at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco on Monday.

 

"Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun's environment, we now can taste what it's like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway," said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "We believe this is the last leg of our journey to interstellar space. Our best guess is it's likely just a few months to a couple years away. The new region isn't what we expected, but we've come to expect the unexpected from Voyager."

 

Since December 2004, when Voyager 1 crossed a point in space called the termination shock, the spacecraft has been exploring the heliosphere's outer layer, called the heliosheath. In this region, the stream of charged particles from the sun, known as the solar wind, abruptly slowed down from supersonic speeds and became turbulent. Voyager 1's environment was consistent for about five and a half years. The spacecraft then detected that the outward speed of the solar wind slowed to zero.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Transposable elements reveal a stem cell specific class of long noncoding RNAs

Transposable elements reveal a stem cell specific class of long noncoding RNAs | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it
Over a decade after sequencing the human genome, it has now become clear that the genome is not mostly ‘junk’ as previously thought. In fact, the ENCODE project consortium of dozens of labs and petabytes of data have determined that these 'noncoding' regions house everything from disease trait loci to important regulatory signals, all the way through to new types of RNA-based genes
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Study Finds Genome Links to Lung Cancer in 'Never-Smokers' | New York Genome Center

Study Finds Genome Links to Lung Cancer in 'Never-Smokers' | New York Genome Center | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it

Recent genomic studies of the world’s worst killer – lung cancer – have run up against a vexing question: Is the disease that affects tobacco users separate from the version that kills people who never smoked?

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NASA: DNA Building Blocks Can Be Made in Space

NASA-funded researchers have evidence that some building blocks of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic instructions for life, found in meteorites were likely created in space. The research gives support to the theory that a "kit" of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life.

 

Scientists have been extracting fragments of DNA from meteorites for decades now, but there was never really hard proof that those pieces of biological molecules were native to the extraterrestrial object rather than terrestrial contamination that occurred when the object slammed into Earth. So while the idea of DNA riding aboard extraterrestrial objects has been floated before, this is the first time we’ve been presented real evidence backing that notion. The idea isn’t that these building blocks are just passengers aboard meteorites, but that the chemistry inside asteroids and comets can actually manufacture the essential building blocks of biology. And a liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry analysis of sample meteorites and the environments where they were found seems to confirm this. The LC and MS analysis separated and analyzed the component parts of the samples and found adenine and guanine, two of the components of the double helix that make up the code that tells our cells what to do. They also found hypoxanthine and xanthine, which don’t factor in to DNA but are used in other biological functions.

 

But more interestingly, the researchers found three nucleobase-related molecules: purine, 2,6-diaminopurine, and 6,8-diaminopurine. These last two are rarely used in biology, but they are like analogs for nucleobases--the same core molecule but structurally slightly different. That’s really important because if the meteorites were terrestrially contaminated, they wouldn’t be there (because they are not used in biology). But if the chemical processes going on inside an extraterrestrial object really are churning out prebiotic stuff, then you would expect to see all kinds of nucleobases--the ones used for biology, and others that aren’t.


Moreover, analysis of the Antarctic ice and Australian soil around where the meteorites were found showed the amounts of the two nucleobases as well as the hypoxanthine and xanthine to be drastically lower. If the contamination were terrestrial, one could expect equal amounts of the molecules (or less) to be present in the meteorite samples, certainly not more.
It’s a pretty convincing case, though one that will undergo a lot more scientific scrutiny. If comets and asteroids really are churning out the ingredients for life, it certainly changes our picture of life in the universe, and the possibility that other rocks out there might be harboring their own biological systems.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Extra chromosome 21 removed from Down syndrome (trisomy 21) cell line

Extra chromosome 21 removed from Down syndrome (trisomy 21) cell line | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it

University of Washington scientists have succeeded in removing the extra copy of chromosome 21 in cell cultures derived from a person with Down syndrome, a condition in which the body’s cells contain three copies of chromosome 21 rather than the usual pair. A triplicate of any chromosome is a serious genetic abnormality called a trisomy. Trisomies account for almost one-quarter of pregnancy loss from spontaneous miscarriages, according to the research team. Besides Down syndrome (trisomy 21), some other human trisomies are extra Y or X chromosomes, and Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18) and Patau syndrome (trisomy 13), both of which have extremely high newborn fatality rates.

 

The targeted removal of a human trisomy, they noted, could have both clinical and research applications. In live births, Down syndrome is the most frequent trisomy. The condition has characteristic eye, facial and hand features, and can cause many medical problems, including heart defects, impaired intellect, premature aging and dementia, and certain forms of leukemia, a type of blood cancer.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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An integrated map of genetic variation from 1,092 human genomes : Nature : Nature Publishing Group

An integrated map of genetic variation from 1,092 human genomes : Nature : Nature Publishing Group | Innovation and Science breakthroughs | Scoop.it
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NYU CHIBI Stuart Brown, PhD: Use of Next Gen Seq Tech to Study Transcriptomes (RNA-seq).

The Use of Next Generation Sequencing Technology to Study Transcriptomes (RNA-seq).

Via Ali Taheri, Pedro Fernandes
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