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Archive for the ‘food’ category

Mar 9, 2020

Researchers establish new viable CRISPR-Cas12b system for plant genome engineering

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, food, genetics

In a new publication in Nature Plants, assistant professor of Plant Science at the University of Maryland Yiping Qi has established a new CRISPR genome engineering system as viable in plants for the first time: CRISPR-Cas12b. CRISPR is often thought of as molecular scissors used for precision breeding to cut DNA so that a certain trait can be removed, replaced, or edited. Most people who know CRISPR are likely thinking of CRISPR-Cas9, the system that started it all. But Qi and his lab are constantly exploring new CRISPR tools that are more effective, efficient, and sophisticated for a variety of applications in crops that can help curb diseases, pests, and the effects of a changing climate. With CRISPR-Cas12b, Qi is presenting a system in plants that is versatile, customizable, and ultimately provides effective gene editing, activation, and repression all in one system.

“This is the first demonstration of this new CRISPR-Cas12b system for plant genome engineering, and we are excited to be able to fill in gaps and improve systems like this through new technology,” says Qi. “We wanted to develop a full package of tools for this system to show how useful it can be, so we focused not only on editing, but on developing gene repression and activation methods.”

It is this complete suite of methods that has ultimately been missing in other CRISPR systems in . The two major systems available before this paper in plants were CRISPR-Cas9 and CRISPR-Cas12a. CRISPR-Cas9 is popular for its simplicity and for recognizing very short DNA sequences to make its cuts in the genome, whereas CRISPR-Cas12a recognizes a different DNA targeting sequence and allows for larger staggered cuts in the DNA with additional complexity to customize the system. CRISPR-Cas12b is more similar to CRISPR-Cas12a as the names suggest, but there was never a strong ability to provide gene activation in plants with this system. CRISPR-Cas12b provides greater efficiency for gene activation and the potential for broader targeting sites for , making it useful in cases where genetic expression of a trait needs to be turned on/up (activation) or off/down (repression).

Mar 9, 2020

Dogs, cats can’t pass on coronavirus, but can test positive

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, food

HONG KONG — Pet cats and dogs cannot pass the new coronavirus on to humans, but they can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their owners.

That’s the conclusion of Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department after a dog in quarantine tested weakly positive for the virus Feb. 27, Feb. 28 and March 2, using the canine’s nasal and oral cavity samples.

A unidentified spokesman for the department was quoted in a news release as saying. “There is currently no evidence that pet animals can be a source of infection of COVID-19 or that they become sick.”

Mar 8, 2020

Researchers find evidence of a cosmic impact that caused destruction of one of the world’s earliest human settlements

Posted by in categories: food, habitats

Before the Taqba Dam impounded the Euphrates River in northern Syria in the 1970s, an archaeological site named Abu Hureyra bore witness to the moment ancient nomadic people first settled down and started cultivating crops. A large mound marks the settlement, which now lies under Lake Assad.

But before the lake formed, archaeologists were able to carefully extract and describe much material, including parts of houses, food and tools—an abundance of evidence that allowed them to identify the transition to agriculture nearly 12,800 years ago. It was one of the most significant events in our Earth’s cultural and environmental history.

Abu Hureyra, it turns out, has another story to tell. Found among the cereals and grains and splashed on early building material and was meltglass, some features of which suggest it was formed at extremely high temperatures—far higher than what humans could achieve at the time—or that could be attributed to fire, lighting or volcanism.

Mar 6, 2020

Elon Musk’s Australian Battery Farm Has Saved $116 Million AUD In Two Years

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, energy, food, sustainability

Elon Musk was challenged to fix South Australia’s energy problem in 2017, and just two years on he’s saved Australians millions.

Mar 6, 2020

Meet the families ‘biohacking’ their bodies to live healthier… and longer

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, food

It’s 5pm in the Farrant household and Jack, six, and Thomas, four, are currently manifesting their desires in the form of Lego. To an outsider this looks like two small children playing with toys, but their mother Catherine proudly points out that Jack has built a yacht – something he is helping his family to acquire via visualisation exercises.

‘Dinner’s ready,’ calls out the nanny. In line with the family’s Paleo diet – of anti-inflammatory, natural foods – they have octopus cooked with lemongrass, and fish-bone broth. ‘Yes, my favourite,’ cries Jack happily, while his mum explains exactly what the broth is: ‘It’s an age-old elixir that’s made from boiling wild bones. It’s very high in iodine, which most of us are deficient in.’

After dinner, the children can continue to express their creativity, or watch some television – though if they’re going to do the latter after 6pm they need to put on their ‘blue-light blockers’, glasses with amber lenses to block the blue light of technology from affecting their sleep. ‘We also do red-light therapy,’ explains Catherine, pointing to a red dinosaur lamp in the boys’ bedroom. ‘It’s to help the body’s natural rhythms of sunset with exposure to red colours at night, and blue and white light in the morning.’

Continue reading “Meet the families ‘biohacking’ their bodies to live healthier… and longer” »

Mar 6, 2020

The Hunt for a Better Gut Bacteria in Central Africa

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, food, health

Powerful antibiotics and widespread sanitation practices have expanded lifespans across the industrialized world. But they have also come at a cost. Our microbiomes, or the trillions of microbes collectively working in our bodies to help regulate our immune system and food digestion, have lost much of its health-promoting bacteria because of our modern lifestyles and sanitation practices.

Scientists across the world are now looking to the planet’s few remaining pre-industrialized societies to see what industrialized guts have lost–and in doing so, could fundamentally change the way scientists think about germs. Thomas Morton heads to the Central African Republic to see this emerging field of microbiome science.

Continue reading “The Hunt for a Better Gut Bacteria in Central Africa” »

Mar 6, 2020

The inevitable impact of the Coronavirus on the world’s rare earths supply

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, food

The coronavirus outbreak in China has had a foreseeable but unintended consequence. Truck drivers have refused to make deliveries into areas either identified as or suspected of harboring the disease.

This has interrupted not only the flow of minerals out of the affected areas but also the refining and manufacturing of metals, food, and fuel. Among the under-reported deficiencies thereby caused the most important ones for the global rare earths production and utilization industries is the interruption in the flow of chemical reagents necessary for refining rare earths and for producing metals, alloys, and magnets.


Critical materials-based supply chains may be hanging by a thread, the thread of the size of existing Chinese inventories. The coronavirus outbreak in China has had a foreseeable but unintended consequence.

Continue reading “The inevitable impact of the Coronavirus on the world’s rare earths supply” »

Mar 5, 2020

Our Genetic Future Is Coming… Faster Than We Think

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, evolution, food, genetics

If there was a public vote about human gene enhancement, would you vote YES or NO?


Our species is on the cusp of a revolution that will change every aspect of our lives but we’re hardly talking about it.

Continue reading “Our Genetic Future Is Coming… Faster Than We Think” »

Mar 5, 2020

Plastic-eating caterpillars have gut bacteria that can live on polyethylene for over a year

Posted by in categories: food, materials

“The problem of plastic pollution is too large to simply throw worms and there is still a lot to do before we can parlay this work into making a meaningful contribution,” Cassone said. “Also, the larvae tend to eat less plastic with longer times on that type of diet. By understanding the process – why the breakdown of plastic occurs so rapidly in the waxworm—we can then begin to develop ways to really make a meaningful impact to plastic pollution.”

He continued: “Now that we know the microbiome plays a role, if we can better understand how the bacteria works together with the worm and what kind of conditions cause it to flourish, perhaps this information can be used to design better tools to eliminate plastics from our environment.”

Not all are convinced, however. Till Opatz, from the Department of Chemistry at the Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany, was critical of the initial findings that caterpillars digest plastic. At the time he and his colleagues said they disagreed with the methodology and conclusions reported, adding the study “does not provide sufficient proof” that G. mellonella can chemically destroy polyethylene.

Mar 5, 2020

Physicists Are Studying Mysterious ‘Bubbles of Nothing’ That Eat Spacetime

Posted by in categories: food, physics, space

A spontaneous hole in the fabric of reality could theoretically end the universe, but don’t worry: physicists are studying the idea for what it can teach us about the cosmos.

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