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Map: Ash dieback spread across the UK (2012)

Map: Ash dieback spread across the UK (2012) | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

AshTag is collating possible sightings by the public of the tree disease. Here are the latest findings, verified by its experts. Submit your sightings via the iPhone app, Android app, or online.


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Estimating the fatality of the 2014 West African Ebola Outbreak

Estimating the fatality of the 2014 West African Ebola Outbreak | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

Case fatality rate" - or CFR - is a term that's been tossed around a lot lately in the context of the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak… But what does it really mean?

 

The CFR – which is calculated by dividing the number of deaths that have occurred due to a certain condition by the total number of cases – is actually a measure of risk. For infectious disease, CFR is a very important epidemiological measure to estimate because it tells us the probability of dying after infection. If estimated properly in the middle of an outbreak, it can even help us examine the efficacy of interventions as they take place.

 

Because different outbreaks of the same disease can demonstrate different CFRs, there’s usually a range of possible CFRs for a given disease. In the past, outbreaks caused by Zaire ebolavirus have demonstrated a mean end-of-outbreak CFR of 80% . But based off of the WHO's most recent report, it seems that only about 53% of reported Ebola cases thus far have ended in death since the 2014 outbreak began.

 

However, if we want to be particular, that 53% isn't really a CFR; it's actually the proportion of fatal cases - or PFC. This is a critical distinction. Because the outbreak in West Africa is still ongoing, we can't calculate end-of-outbreak CFR yet. We don’t know how many people will die from Ebola in the weeks ahead or how many total cases will ultimately accumulate by the end of the outbreak. So, for the time being, we have to make do with the PFC, which is essentially the number of deaths thus far divided by the number of cases to date.

 

When the WHO releases a report on the current situation in West Africa, it tells us two things: the number of people who've died and the number of reported cases at some specified point in time. For instance, in the most recent report, the WHO cited 4293 total cases and 2296 deaths as of September 8th. Dividing 2296 by 4293 gives us our previously stated PFC of 53%.

 

At first glance, it might seem then that only 53% of Ebola cases have been dying during this outbreak - a good deal less than the 80% we've seen prior... But what it really means is that only 53% of Ebola cases have died as of September 8th. We have no way of knowing whether all the people who were still hospitalized as of September 8th will survive the disease. Because of this, mid-outbreak PFC - as we've defined it thus far - doesn't tell us much about the likelihood of dying.

 

Despite Ebola’s frightening reputation, not all Ebola fatalities happen quickly. Without a little fine-tuning, PFC doesn't account for the lag between when a case is reported and when a case dies - approximately 16 days for this outbreak [3]. What this means is that the 2296 deaths reported as of September 8th were all likely reported as cases by August 23rd. Adjusting PFC for this lag-time gives us a much better approximation of CFR well before the outbreak ends.

 

Below is a chart that shows both unadjusted and lag-adjusted PFC over time for Ebola in West Africa [5]. The lag-adjusted PFC - about 80-85% - is significantly higher than the unadjusted PFC but is consistent with recent fatality estimates by Médecins Sans Frontières.


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Scientists reset human stem cells to earliest developmental state equivalent to 7-9 days old embryo

Scientists reset human stem cells to earliest developmental state equivalent to 7-9 days old embryo | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

Scientists have successfully ‘reset’ human pluripotent stem cells to the earliest developmental state – equivalent to cells found in an embryo before it implants in the womb (7-9 days old). These ‘pristine’ stem cells may mark the true starting point for human development, but have until now been impossible to replicate in the lab. fThe discovery, published in Cell, will lead to a better understanding of human development and could in future allow the production of safe and more reproducible starting materials for a wide range of applications including cell therapies.

Human pluripotent stem cells, which have the potential to become any of the cells and tissues in the body, can be made in the lab either from cells extracted from a very early stage embryo or from adult cells that have been induced into a pluripotent state.

However, scientists have struggled to generate human pluripotent stem cells that are truly pristine (also known as naïve). Instead, researchers have only been able to derive cells which have advanced slightly further down the developmental pathway. These bear some of the early hallmarks of differentiation into distinct cell types – they’re not a truly ‘blank slate’. This may explain why existing human pluripotent stem cell lines often exhibit a bias towards producing certain tissue types in the laboratory.

Now researchers led by the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council (MRC) Cambridge Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge, have managed to induce a ground state by rewiring the genetic circuitry in human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells. Their ‘reset cells’ share many of the characteristics of authentic naïve embryonic stem cells isolated from mice, suggesting that they represent the earliest stage of development.

“Capturing embryonic stem cells is like stopping the developmental clock at the precise moment before they begin to turn into distinct cells and tissues,” explains Professor Austin Smith, Director of the Stem Cell Institute, who co-authored the paper. “Scientists have perfected a reliable way of doing this with mouse cells, but human cells have proved more difficult to arrest and show subtle differences between the individual cells. It’s as if the developmental clock has not stopped at the same time and some cells are a few minutes ahead of others.”

The process of generating stem cells in the lab is much easier to control in mouse cells, which can be frozen in a state of naïve pluripotency using a protein called LIF. Human cells are not as responsive to LIF, so they must be controlled in a different way that involves switching key genes on and off. For this reason scientists have been unable to generate human pluripotent cells that are as primitive or as consistent as mouse embryonic stem cells.

The researchers overcame this problem by introducing two genes – NANOG and KLF2 – causing the network of genes that control the cell to reboot and induce the naïve pluripotent state. Importantly, the introduced genes only need to be present for a short time. Then, like other stem cells, reset cells can self-renew indefinitely to produce large numbers, are stable and can differentiate into other cell types, including nerve and heart cells.

By studying the reset cells, scientists will be able to learn more about how normal embryo development progresses and also how it can go wrong, leading to miscarriage and developmental disorders. The naïve state of the reset stem cells may also make it easier and more reliable to grow and manipulate them in the laboratory and may allow them to serve as a blank canvas for creating specialised cells and tissues for use in regenerative medicine.

Professor Smith adds: “Our findings suggest that it is possible to rewind the clock to achieve true ground state pluripotency in human cells. These cells may represent the real starting point for formation of tissues in the human embryo. We hope that in time they will allow us to unlock the fundamental biology of early development, which is impossible to study directly in people.” - See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/scientists-reset-human-stem-cells-to-earliest-developmental-state#sthash.4gxh2MI9.dpuf


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Japanese woman is first recipient of next-generation stem cells

Japanese woman is first recipient of next-generation stem cells | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

A Japanese woman in her 70s is the world's first recipient of cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, a technology that has created great expectations since it could offer the same advantages as embryo-derived cells but without some of the controversial aspects and safety concerns.


In a two-hour procedure, a team of three eye specialists lead by Yasuo Kurimoto of the Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital, transplanted a 1.3 by 3.0 millimeter sheet of retinal pigment epithelium cells into an eye of the Hyogo prefecture resident, who suffers from age-related macular degeneration.

 

The procedure took place at the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation Hospital, next to the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) where ophthalmologist Masayo Takahashi had developed and tested the epithelium sheets. She derived them from the patient's skin cells, after producing induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells and then getting them to differentiate into retinal cells. Afterwards, the patient experienced no effusive bleeding or other serious problems, RIKEN has reported.


The patient “took on all the risk that go with the treatment as well as the surgery”, Kurimoto said in a statement released by RIKEN. “I have deep respect for bravery she showed in resolving to go through with it.”

He hit a somber note in thanking Yoshiki Sasai, a CDB researcher who recenty committed suicide. “This project could not have existed without the late Yoshiki Sasai’s research, which led the way to differentiating retinal tissue from stem cells.”

 

Kurimoto also thanked Shinya Yamanaka, a stem-cell scientist at Kyoto University “without whose discovery of iPS cells, this clinical research would not be possible.” Yamanaka shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for that work.


Kurimoto performed the procedure a mere four days after a health-ministry committee gave Takahashi clearance for the human trials (see 'Next-generation stem cells cleared for human trial').



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No fly zone: Darwin's finches self-fumigate (with a little help)

No fly zone: Darwin's finches self-fumigate (with a little help) | WWWBiology | Scoop.it
When a bird species is threatened by nest parasites, you might think the logical next step is to fumigate – unsurprisingly, though, physically spraying nests (as you might spray an infested house) is disruptive… (Interesting emerging method in conservation...
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World’s Largest Dam Removal Unleashes U.S. River After Century of Electric Production

World’s Largest Dam Removal Unleashes U.S. River After Century of Electric Production | WWWBiology | Scoop.it
The last section of dam is being blasted from the Elwha River on Washington's Olympic Peninsula on Tuesday.

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Ebola vaccine trials set to begin in September

Ebola vaccine trials set to begin in September | WWWBiology | Scoop.it
(HealthDay)—Officials at the World Health Organization said that the first round of clinical trials of a potential Ebola vaccine made by drug maker GlaxoSmithKline could begin next month.

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Flowering plants revolutionised life on Earth

Flowering plants revolutionised life on Earth | WWWBiology | Scoop.it
New evidence from liverworts and beetles shows how the rise of flowering plants 100 million years ago created ideal conditions for a boom in terrestrial life.

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Climate Change: Changes in Rainfall Patterns Could Drive Rise in Debilitating Disease

Climate Change: Changes in Rainfall Patterns Could Drive Rise in Debilitating Disease | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

Climate change could spread a debilitating disease that's prevalent in developing countries, according to a recent study.

 

Researcher from Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom found that Buruli ulcer, a disease that affects thousands of people every year, mainly in developing countries, could be spread by the changes in rainfall patterns.


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nsf.gov - National Science Foundation (NSF) News - Learn the latest on synthetic biology at a June 26 Capitol Hill briefing - US National Science Foundation (NSF)

nsf.gov - National Science Foundation (NSF) News - Learn the latest on synthetic biology at a June 26 Capitol Hill briefing - US National Science Foundation (NSF) | WWWBiology | Scoop.it
NSF's mission is to advance the progress of science, a mission accomplished by funding proposals for research and education made by scientists, engineers, and educators from across the country.
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Learning ability in math and reading are tightly linked and highly genetic, scientists say

Learning ability in math and reading are tightly linked and highly genetic, scientists say | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

Around half of the genes that influence how well a child can read also play a role in their mathematics ability, say scientists from UCL, the University of Oxford and King’s College London who led a study into the genetic basis of cognitive traits.


While mathematics and reading ability are known to run in families, the complex system of genes affecting these traits is largely unknown. The finding deepens scientists’ understanding of how nature and nurture interact, highlighting the important role that a child’s learning environment may have on the development of reading and mathematics skills, and the complex, shared genetic basis of these cognitive traits.

 

The collaborative study, published today in Nature Communications as part of the Wellcome Trust Case-Control Consortium, used data from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) to analyse the influence of genetics on the reading and mathematics performance of 12-year-old children from nearly 2,800 British families.

 

Twins and unrelated children were tested for reading comprehension and fluency, and answered mathematics questions based on the UK national curriculum. The information collected from these tests was combined with DNA data, showing a substantial overlap in the genetic variants that influence mathematics and reading. 


Dr Chris Spencer (Oxford University), lead author said: “We’re moving into a world where analysing millions of DNA changes, in thousands of individuals, is a routine tool in helping scientists to understand aspects of human biology. This study used the technique to help investigate the overlap in the genetic component of reading and maths ability in children. Interestingly, the same method can be applied to pretty much any human trait, for example to identify new links between diseases and disorders, or the way in which people respond to treatments.”


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Rick Frank's curator insight, July 14, 5:27 AM

I can hear the protesters screaming already :)

Diane Johnson's curator insight, July 14, 12:24 PM

Really interesting - the more we know about our genetic underpinnings, the more we know there is to learn.

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Crossing the Interspecies Barrier: Opening the Door to Zoonotic Pathogens

Crossing the Interspecies Barrier: Opening the Door to Zoonotic Pathogens | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

The number of pathogens known to infect humans is ever increasing. Whether such increase reflects improved surveillance and detection or actual emergence of novel pathogens is unclear. Nonetheless, infectious diseases are the second leading cause of human mortality and disability-adjusted life years lost worldwide [1-2]. On average, three to four new pathogen species are detected in the human population every year [3]. Most of these emerging pathogens originate from nonhuman animal species.


Zoonotic pathogens represent approximately 60% of all known pathogens able to infect humans [4]. Their occurrence in humans relies on the human-animal interface, defined as the continuum of contacts between humans and animals, their environments, or their products. The human-animal interface has existed since the first footsteps of the human species and its hominin ancestors 6–7 million years ago, promoting the prehistoric emergence of now well-established human pathogens [5]. These presumably include pathogens with roles in the origin of chronic diseases, such as human T-lymphotropic viruses and Helicobacter pylori, as well as pathogens causing major crowd diseases, such as the smallpox and measles viruses and Bordetella pertussis [6]. Since prehistory, the human-animal interface has continued to evolve and expand, ever allowing new pathogens to access the human host and cross species barriers [5].


Species Barriers:

The suitability of any species to act as a host to a particular pathogen varies due to both host species– and pathogen-dependent factors, which define the species barriers. The species barriers separating nonhuman animal species from humans and thus of concern for zoonotic pathogens are the focus of this paper. However, the proposed conceptual framework is applicable to any host-pathogen system.


The species barriers separating nonhuman animal species from humans represent a major hurdle for effective exposure to, infection by, and subsequent spread of zoonotic pathogens among humans [7]. Accordingly, these species barriers can be divided into three largely complementary sets. First, the interspecies barrier determines the nature and level of human exposure to zoonotic pathogens. Second, the intrahuman barrier determines the ability of zoonotic pathogens to productively infect a human host and effectively cope with the immune response. Third, the interhuman barrier determines the ability of zoonotic pathogens to efficiently transmit among humans, causing outbreaks, epidemics, or pandemics. Zoonotic pathogens may cross, more or less efficiently, one or more of these sets of barriers. Only pathogens that cross all barriers have the potential to sustainably establish in the human population.


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Not as random as thought: Modeling how neurons work together to perform complex movements

Not as random as thought: Modeling how neurons work together to perform complex movements | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

In a bid to better understand the brain and also to create robotics limbs that behave more realistically, a team of three European universities has developed a highly accurate new model of how neurons behave when performing complex movements.

 

The results from the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are published in the June 18 edition of the journal Neuron.

 

The new theory was inspired by recent experiments carried out at Stanford University, which had uncovered some key aspects of the signals that neurons emit before, during, and after a movement. “There is a remarkable synergy in the activity recorded simultaneously in hundreds of neurons,” said Guillaume Hennequin, PhD, of EPFL’s Department of Engineering, who led the research. “In contrast, previous models of cortical circuit dynamics predict a lot of redundancy, and therefore poorly explain what happens in the motor cortex during movements.”

 

I addition to helping us better understand the brain, better models of how neurons behave will aid in designing prosthetic limbs controlled via electrodes implanted in the brain. “Our theory could provide a more accurate guess of how neurons would want to signal both movement intention and execution to the robotic limb,” said Hennequin.

 

References:

Guillaume Hennequin, Tim P. Vogels, Wulfram Gerstner, Optimal Control of Transient Dynamics in Balanced Networks Supports Generation of Complex Movements, Neuron, 2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.04.045
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World's smallest pair of 3D glasses for praying mantis

World's smallest pair of 3D glasses for praying mantis | WWWBiology | Scoop.it
Scientists from Newcastle University created the tiny glasses to investigate the 3D vision of the praying mantis and think their experiment could lead to new technologies.

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Malaria parasites found to hide out in the bone marrow

Malaria parasites found to hide out in the bone marrow | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

Malaria is an infectious disease which claims the lives of more children worldwide than any other; it is caused by parasitic micro-organisms, plasmodiums. These parasites are transmitted to their hosts via mosquito bites, where they induce a range of symptoms, including vomiting, fever, headaches, and, in severe cases, death. Incidence of malaria is prevalent in poverty stricken areas around the equator, with an estimated 207 million cases in 2012.  The most life threatening form of the disease is caused by Plasmodium falciparum. 


Within humans, P. falciparum undergoes two distinct stages, asexual replication, and differentiation into what are called gametocytes. Asexual replication occurs within red blood cells, with pathological symptoms arising from the inevitable red blood cell rupturing. Released parasites generally invade additional red blood cells for subsequent rounds of asexual replication; however, a small subset of parasites instead differentiate into the male and female forms that are refered to as gametocytes. Once taken up by a female Anopheles mosquito, these gametocytes are able to undergo sexual replication. Thus, the differentiation of P. falciparum into gametocytes represents an attractive target for intervention strategies. However, within the blood only mature gametocytes are found, and until recently, relatively little was known about immature gametocyte sequestration within tissues.

 

A recent study carried out a systematic organ survey of children who died from malaria, successfully identifying sites of immature gametocyte accumulation using a combination of immunohistochemical labelling, and quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). The study provides strong evidence that gametocyte development occurs within the haematopoietic system present in the bone marrow, where they may form and develop within red blood cell precursors. Furthermore, binding interactions with red blood cell precursors seem to support the retention of developing gametocytes within the bone marrow’s extravascular space, where they are able to avoid immune detection until they are mature enough to be released back into the blood. The observation of gametocytes adopting a specialised niche within the haematopoietic system of the bone marrow is supported by anindependent study, which earlier this year used qRT-PCR to demonstrate that the bone marrow of infected children is enriched for immature gametocytes.

 

The recently characterised locations and mechanisms of gametocyte sequestration within the bone marrow, provide novel targets through which malaria transmission could be blocked, advancing both prevention and treatment efforts.


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Next-Gen Glaucoma Treatments: Microfluidic Implant And Smart Phone App Monitoring

Next-Gen Glaucoma Treatments: Microfluidic Implant And Smart Phone App Monitoring | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

Stanford Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics, Stephen Quake, and Head of the Ophthalmic Science and Engineering Lab at Bar Ilan University Dr. Yossi Mandell teamed up to create a state-of-the-art intraocular implant that will change glaucoma treatment by making intraocular pressure readings frequent, easy and convenient.

 

Made to fit inside a commonly used intraocular lens prosthetic, and implanted through simple surgery such as for cataracts which many glaucoma patients already receive, the device measures the pressure of the fluid within the eye.  A smart phone app or a wearable device such as Google Glass allows the wearer to take “snapshots” of the device that reports back the pressure.

 

The lens device holds a tiny tube, capped at one end and opened on the other, filled with gas. As the fluid pressure pushes against the gas, a marked scale permits reading of the intraocular pressure.  The implant does not interfere with vision, as proven in an Air Force-approved vision test, and in one reported study the implant was responsible for changes to treatment for glaucoma in nearly 80 percent of the wearers.

 

Nearly 2.2 million Americans battle the eye disease glaucoma.  Patients endure weekly visits to the ophthalmologist to have the disease monitored and treated. The disease is characterized by increasing pressure inside the eye, which results in a continuous loss of a specific type of retinal cell accompanied by degradation of the optic nerve fiber.  The mechanism that links pressure to damage is not clear but there is correlation between the intensity of pressure readings and level of damage.


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Why female biology matters

Why female biology matters | WWWBiology | Scoop.it
Female biology is neither magic nor mysterious. It doesn't make those in possession of it nurturing, or caring, or motherly. It doesn't mean we ought to bear children, nor does it mean we can alway...
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EZH2: An emerging role in melanoma... [Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2014] - PubMed - NCBI

PubMed comprises more than 23 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.
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Not only in DNA's hands: Epigenetics has large say in blood formation

Not only in DNA's hands: Epigenetics has large say in blood formation | WWWBiology | Scoop.it
Blood stem cells have the potential to turn into any type of blood cell, whether it be the oxygen-carrying red blood cells, or the many types of white blood cells of the immune system that help fight infection. How exactly is the fate of these stem cells regulated? Preliminary findings from research ...

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Highly drug resistant, virulent strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa arises in Ohio

Highly drug resistant, virulent strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa arises in Ohio | WWWBiology | Scoop.it
A team of clinician researchers has discovered a highly virulent, multidrug resistant form of the pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, in patient samples in Ohio. Their investigation suggests that the particular genetic element involved, which is still rare in the United States, has been spreading heretofore ...

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Venom gets good buzz as potential cancer-fighter

Venom gets good buzz as potential cancer-fighter | WWWBiology | Scoop.it
Bee, snake or scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs, scientists will report here today. They have devised a method for targeting venom proteins specifically to malignant cells while sparing healthy ones, which reduces or eliminates side effects that the toxins ...

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PLOS Collections : Plant Translational Research

PLOS Collections : Plant Translational Research | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

As the world's human population continues to expand, and as water resources come under increasing pressure and pathogens that cause devastating crop losses continue to spread in the face of increased global commerce and climate change, there is a pressing need for plant research to contribute solutions to improving food security in a sustainable and safe way.

Plant translational research - the development of basic plant research discoveries into technologies or approaches that improve agriculture - has a vital role to play in meeting these challenges, and given the importance of research in this field, PLOS believes that such work should be published in open access journals, ensuring that it reaches the widest possible audience without any barriers to access.

The technical advances highlighted in this PLOS Collection exemplify how basic research discoveries are being translated into methods to develop and improve, both agriculturally and environmentally, important crop traits.

At PLOS, we are committed to supporting breakthroughs in both basic and translational plant science. We encourage plant researchers to submit their high quality plant research and, in particular, plant research that has clear translational possibilities.

The Collection was produced with the support of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Collection will be updated periodically with new Plant Translational Research.

www.ploscollections.org/planttranslationalresearch


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Single-Cell Genomics Reveals Hundreds of Coexisting Subpopulations in Ocean Microbes

Single-Cell Genomics Reveals Hundreds of Coexisting Subpopulations in Ocean Microbes | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live in the oceans, forming the base of the marine food chain and occupying a range of ecological niches based on temperature, light and chemical preferences, and interactions with other species. But the full extent and characteristics of diversity within this single species remains a puzzle.


To probe this question, scientists in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) recently performed a cell-by-cell genomic analysis on a wild population of Prochlorococcus living in a milliliter — less than a quarter teaspoon — of ocean water, and found hundreds of distinct genetic subpopulations.


Each subpopulation in those few drops of water is characterized by a set of core gene alleles linked to a few flexible genes — a combination the MIT scientists call the “genomic backbone” — that endows the subpopulation with a finely tuned suitability for a particular ecological niche. Diversity also exists within the backbone subpopulations; most individual cells in the samples they studied carried at least one set of flexible genes not found in any other cell in its subpopulation.


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The Billion Cell Construct: Will Three-Dimensional Printing Get Us There?

The Billion Cell Construct: Will Three-Dimensional Printing Get Us There? | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

In the 1960s field known as Bionics, many human tissue functions were considered analogous to basic mechanical and electrical systems, such as servomechanisms [1]. Researchers made rapid progress recapitulating components of systems found in the body, and forecasts were made as to when human–machine interfaces would become so completely integrated with our anatomy as to be essentially undetectable. This conceptual framework has proven useful in practice, with contemporary work applied to human patients through surgical implants such as knee, hip, and limb prostheses [2]; pacemakers; and cochlear and retinal devices [3]. Although these medical devices significantly improve the quality of life for patients today, there are many functions in living tissues which cannot be addressed with electromechanical systems. Shrewd utilization of our best materials simply cannot replace tissues in the body whose functions are intimately tied to their biochemistry. For example, we don't know how to make a plastic or a metal that can metabolize acetaminophen and alcohol like the liver can.


Since cells are the major functional unit responsible for biochemistry in the body, efforts to separate cells from their native environment in vivo and apply them therapeutically in extracorporeal devices have remained steadfast. In extracorporeal liver-assist devices, live cells can be loaded into bioreactor chambers outside the body and then connected in a closed loop with host blood circulation so that the biochemical benefit from cells in the device will positively affect the patient [4],[5]. But these strategies that are external to the body, including dialysis of blood during kidney failure, lead to their own morbidities and are not suitable long-term therapies [6].


Cells loaded into extracorporeal devices or growing at the bottom of a Petri dish bear little resemblance to the exquisite anatomical complexity found in the human body. Organs like the lung, heart, brain, kidney, and liver are pervaded by incredibly elegant yet frighteningly complex vascular networks (carrying air, lymph, blood, urine, and bile), leaving us without a clear path toward physical recapitulation of these tissues in the laboratory (Figure 1). However, we don't need to fully understand tissue organization or all of developmental biology (e.g., spatiotemporal growth factor release) before we can improve the quality of life for patients suffering from damaged or diseased organs. Transplanting whole organs from a human donor into a recipient can provide lifelong benefit when accompanied with immunosuppressive therapy [7],[8]. Moreover, isolated cells have been shown to be able to provide biochemical benefit to the host, even when injected or placed at ectopic sites inside the recipient [9]–[11].

 

As we look toward the future, the prospect of using a patient's own cells to develop living models of their active biochemistry as well as functional, life-lasting cellular implants offers potentially revolutionary changes to research and healthcare. Stem cell biologists are uncovering exciting new ways to induce pluripotency [12] and direct lineage commitment [13]. But simple questions about cell number and cell types, their spatial arrangement, and local extracellular and microenvironmental considerations remain largely intractable because of difficulties in placing and culturing cells in three-dimensional (3D) space. For example, embryoid body aggregates containing thousands of cells change differentiation trajectory as a function of cell population and microenvironmental characteristics [14], while larger cell populations packed at physiologic densities rapidly die because of lack of adequate oxygen and nutrient transport.


Recent advances in 3D printing, a suite of technologies originally developed for plastic and metal manufacturing, are now being adapted to operate within the soft, wet environments where cells function best. Because 3D printing excels at producing heterogeneous physical objects of high complexity, biologists and bioengineers are gaining unprecedented access to a rich landscape of tissue architecture we've always wanted to explore.

 

Reference: Miller JS (2014) The Billion Cell Construct: Will Three-Dimensional Printing Get Us There? PLoS Biol 12(6): e1001882. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001882


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Sad statistics: 25 Alarming Global Warming Facts

Sad statistics: 25 Alarming Global Warming Facts | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

Global warming is among the most alarming environmental issues that the world faces today. This phenomenon does not simply involve the significant rise in the earth’s temperature but a lot more. The adverse effects of global warming have become more and more apparent since the dawn of the 20th century, with more hurricanes and tropical storms causing massive destruction in different areas around the world, more animal species losing their habitats and becoming extinct, and more people dying because of too much heat. Here are 25 alarming global warming statistics.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Marc Kneepkens's curator insight, June 20, 8:12 PM

Alarming numbers.

Jim Doyle's curator insight, June 23, 8:51 AM

Sad statistics: 25 Alarming Global Warming Facts

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Software Used for Facial Recognition Teases Out Secret Messages Hidden on Bird Eggs

Software Used for Facial Recognition Teases Out Secret Messages Hidden on Bird Eggs | WWWBiology | Scoop.it

Some bird eggs have visual signatures that help them distinguish they own clutch from impostor cuckoo .

 

For most honest bird species, brood parasites like the cuckoo are no joke. These sneaky free-loaders comprise about one percent of all bird species. Sniffing out false eggs is serious business for many birds. Brood parasites plant eggs in unsuspecting nests and leave the duped foster parents to care for their chicks—usually to the deadly detriment of the foster parents' own babies. 

 

Now, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Cambridge have discovered one way that bird parents likely keep an eye on their own eggs: with special visual signature. The researchers used the same kind of software that companies rely on for facial recognition and image stitching but applied that technology to hundreds of eggs of eight different parasitized bird species. They call the new program NaturePatternMatch.

 

The host birds, they found, have previously unrecognized egg "signatures"—essentially, secret visual cues that allow them to recognize their own among the imposters. The more intensely the bird species is targeted by cuckoos, the more complex and sophisticated their egg signatures. Some of the host birds, they found, produce exactly the same egg, whereas some show variation within their own clutch or between females within the same species. All of these methods, the team says, would likely be effective strategies for lessening the likelihood of being duped.

 

"The ability of Common Cuckoos to mimic the appearance of many of their hosts' eggs has been known for centuries," the researchers say in a statement. "The astonishing finding here is that hosts can fight back against cuckoo mimicry by evolving highly recognizable patterns on their own eggs, just like a bank might insert watermarks on its currency to deter counterfeiters."


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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