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Archive for the ‘genetics’ category: Page 132

Feb 2, 2016

The Two Faces of Aging: Cancer and Cellular Senescence

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, health, life extension

Aging, inflammation, cancer, and cellular senescence are all intimately interconnected. Deciphering the nature of each thread is a tremendous task, but must be done if preventative and geriatric medicine ever hope to advance. A one dimensional analysis simply will not suffice. Without a strong understanding of the genetic, epigenetic, intercellular, and intracellular factors at work only an incomplete picture can be formed. However, even with an incomplete picture useful therapeutics can and are being developed. One face is cancer, a number of diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell division. The other is slue of degenerative disorders stemming from deterioration in regenerative capacity.

Geroprotectors are a diverse and growing family of compounds that assist in preventing and reversing the unwanted side-effects of aging. Senolytics, a subset of this broad group, accomplish this feat by encouraging the removal of decrepit cells. A few examples include dasatinib, quercetin, and ABT263. Although more research must be done, there are a precious handful of studies accessible to anyone with the inclination to scroll to the works cited section of this article. Those within the life extension community and a few enlightened souls outside of it already know this, but it bears repeating: in the developed world all major diseases are the direct result of the aging process. Accepting this rather simple premise, and you really ought to, should stoke your enthusiasm for the first generation of anti-aging elixirs. Before diving into the details of this promising new pharmaceuticals we must ask what is cellular senescence? What causes it? What purpose does it serve?

Depending on the context in which they are operating a single gene can have positive or negative effects on an organism’s phenotype. Often the gene is exerting both desirable and undesirable influences at the same time. This is called antagonistic pleiotropy. For example, high levels of testosterone can confer several reproductive advantages in youth, but in elderly men can increase their likelihood of developing prostate cancer. Cellular senescence is a protective measure; it is a response to damage that could potentially turn a healthy cell into a malignant one. Understandably, this becomes considerably more complex when one is examining multiple genes and multiple pathways. Identifying all of the players involved is difficult enough. Conboy’s famous parabiosis experiment shows that alterations in the microenviornment, in this case identified and unidentified factors in the blood of young mice, can have be very beneficial to their elders. Conversely, there is a solid body of evidence that shows senescent cells can have a bad influence their neighbors. How can something similar be achieved in humans without having to surgically attach a senior citizen to a college freshman?

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Feb 1, 2016

DNA Got a Kid Kicked Out of School—And It’ll Happen Again

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, education, genetics

A few weeks into sixth grade, Colman Chadam had to leave school because of his DNA.

The situation, odd as it may sound, played out like this. Colman has genetic markers for cystic fibrosis, and kids with the inherited lung disease can’t be near each other because they’re vulnerable to contagious infections. Two siblings with cystic fibrosis also attended Colman’s middle school in Palo Alto, California in 2012. So Colman was out, even though he didn’t actually have the disease, according to a lawsuit that his parents filed against the school district. The allegation? Genetic discrimination.

Yes, genetic discrimination. Get used to those two words together, because they’re likely to become a lot more common. With DNA tests now cheap and readily available, the number of people getting tests has gone way up—along with the potential for discrimination based on the results. When Colman’s school tried to transfer him based on his genetic status, the lawsuit alleges, the district violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and Colman’s First Amendment right to privacy. “This is the test case,” says the Chadam’s lawyer, Stephen Jaffe.

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Feb 1, 2016

British Researchers Get Approval to Genetically Modify Human Embryos

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

Less than a year after scientists in China became the first to genetically modify human embryos, a research team in Britain has been given the green light to perform similar work. It’s a huge moment in biotech history—one that could eventually lead to “designer babies.”

Last September, scientists at London’s Francis Crick Institute asked the U.K’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA) for permission to perform gene editing work on human embryos. Their request has now been granted, potentially paving the way for other similar work. Human germline editing is deemed controversial because any baby born through the technique has the potential to pass those genetically modified traits down to the next generation. Advocates of the practice say it could eliminate a host of genetic diseases, while at the same time introducing the possibility of human enhancement.

“The work carried out at the Crick will be for research purposes and will look at the first seven days of a fertilized egg’s development (from a single cell to around 250 cells),” noted the lab in a statement. “The knowledge acquired from the research will be important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops.” Geneticist Kathy Niakan will be overseeing the work.

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Feb 1, 2016

British scientists granted permission to genetically modify human embryos

Posted by in category: genetics

The Francis Crick institute will genetically edit the leftover embryos from from IVF clinics.

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Jan 31, 2016

Health Apps Study Raises Questions About Digital Medicine’s Future

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, health, nanotechnology, robotics/AI

First, this study is very biased and flawed. Secondly, have the tech companies considered all of the resistance that we’re all going to face with the provider and payer communities plus their lobbyists when we try to promote medical AI, nanobots, etc.

I have seen some resistance mounted by some providers, some pharma, etc. against CRISPR. And, I believe this type of resistance is only going to hurt patients as well as many cancer survivors with a genetic predisposition to cancer, and other genetic mutations.


A study of mobile health apps’ impact on health care costs represents a limited but crucial step for assessing digital medicine.

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Jan 31, 2016

Elon Musk identifies electric aircraft, genetics and neuron scale brain computer interfaces as high potential technologies

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, computing, cyborgs, Elon Musk, genetics, neuroscience, space travel, sustainability

Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Tesla Motors, Inc, was at Startmeup Hong Kong and talked about what he thought were areas of technological opportunity.

At 37 minutes into this video Elon Musk talks about high potential technology like Hyperloop which he currently does not have time to address electric aircraftgenetics is thorny but is our best shot at many tough diseasesbrain computer interfaces at the neuron level has potential for intelligence augmentationNeural Lace was mentioned.

Scientists from China and the US have found a pioneering way to inject a tiny electronic mesh sensor into the brain that fully integrates with cerebral matter and enables computers to monitor brain activity.

Continue reading “Elon Musk identifies electric aircraft, genetics and neuron scale brain computer interfaces as high potential technologies” »

Jan 30, 2016

Genetic engineering could thwart the Zika virus, among other mosquito-borne diseases

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, genetics, habitats, health, transportation

With the recent use of genetically engineered mosquitoes in Brazil to halt the spread of the Zika virus, we might be beginning to see some major health improvements as a consequence of the genetics revolution. A world in which mosquitoes were all but eliminated from the ecosystem would look quite different from the world of today, especially for people living in the tropics where the threat of mosquito transmitted infections does more than just mar an otherwise tranquil margarita sipped from the veranda of a beach resort. This is not to beggar the more mundane advantages of a mosquito-free habitat, but rather call attention to the fact that for large parts of the world, including Brazil, mosquitoes can be the difference between life and death.

Ironically, the genetic changes made to the Aedes aegypti mosquito in order to halt the spread of the Zika virus are deceptively simple. The company behind the project, Oxitec, used a modified version of something called the “Sterile Insect Technique” to create their hybrid specimens. The end goal of this process is to produce a male mosquito possessing a “self-limiting gene.” When these males mate with wild female mosquitoes, they create non viable offspring that perish soon after the birth. The end result is a rapid drop in the mosquito population of a given area.

When compared with some of the more hazardous forms of mosquito control currently in use such as massive spraying of DEET and chemical infusers popular throughout Asia, sterilizing mosquitoes sounds like an imminently reasonable approach. As a journalist who once saw his roadside samosa blasted by a massive spray of DEET from an oncoming municipal vehicle in India, I can personally attest to a preference for a genetic solution.

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Jan 30, 2016

Discovered: How to unlock inaccessible genes

Posted by in category: genetics

An international team of biologists has discovered how specialized enzymes remodel the extremely condensed genetic material in the nucleus of cells in order to control which genes can be used. The discovery will be published in the print edition of the journal Nature on Feb. 4, 2016.

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Jan 29, 2016

Biotechnology, synthetic biology keys to humans colonizing other planets

Posted by in categories: alien life, biotech/medical, food, genetics, particle physics, space travel, sustainability

Over the last 12,000 years or so, human civilization has noticeably reshaped the Earth’s surface. But changes on our own planet will likely pale in comparison when humans settle on other celestial bodies. While many of the changes on Earth over the centuries have been related to food production, by way of agriculture, changes on other worlds will result, not only from the need for on-site production of food, but also for all other consumables, including air.

As vital as synthetic biology will be to the early piloted missions to Mars and voyages of exploration, it will become indispensable to establish a long-term human presence off-Earth, namely colonization. That’s because we’ve evolved over billions of years to thrive specifically in the environments provides by our home planet.

Our physiology is well-suited to Earth’s gravity and its oxygen-rich atmosphere. We also depend on Earth’s magnetic field to shield us from intense space radiation in the form of charged particles. In comparison, Mars currently has no magnetic field to trap particle radiation and an atmosphere that is so thin that any shielding against other types of space radiation is negligible compared with the protection that Earth’s atmosphere affords. At the Martian surface, atmospheric pressure never gets above 7 millibars. That’s like Earth at an altitude of about 27,000 m (89,000 ft), which is almost the edge of space. And it’s not like the moon is a better option for us since it has no atmosphere at all.

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Jan 28, 2016

Scientists use big data to discover a genetic cause for schizophrenia

Posted by in category: genetics

It’s not a smoking gun. But in this week’s Nature, there’s a study that strongly links schizophrenia with a double-agent gene involved in the immune system.

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