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  • November 11, 2014
  • 02:03 PM
  • 228 views

Some Plants can regenerate by DNA duplication

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

When munched by grazing animals (or mauled by scientists in the lab), some herbaceous plants overcompensate – producing more plant matter and becoming more fertile than they otherwise would. Scientists say they now know how these plants accomplish this feat of regeneration.... Read more »

  • November 10, 2014
  • 03:57 PM
  • 321 views

A new way to look at Global Warming

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Global warming, nothing new with that and it’s here to stay for now. But while computer models churn out bleak forecasts for the planet’s future, we also have a more conceptual understanding of what is happening as humans pump carbon dioxide into the air. Unfortunately the traditional conceptual understanding of carbon dioxide wrapping the planet in a sort of blanket that traps more heat is not quite right.... Read more »

  • November 9, 2014
  • 12:48 PM
  • 286 views

If being sad is “bad”, then why is there sad music?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

We tell children not to look so sad. We tell adults to wipe that sad look off their face and smile. We even worry that if you are sad too long, you might need medical attention. Yet, for most of us, when life gets you down, you put on some sad music. So if sadness is such a negative, why do we spend our money and time wallowing in these sad tunes?... Read more »

  • November 8, 2014
  • 12:55 PM
  • 268 views

When it comes to sleep recommendations, what about the children?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Sleep is a hot topic lately, are we getting too much, too little, how much is enough? However, most of these questions are for adults, so what about children? Well as it turns out a new study used activity monitors to track how sleep habits changed in younger and older teens as they grew during a two-year period. Key findings from this study has also lent t0 new support to recent recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics that middle and high schools avoid starting earlier than 8:30 a.m.... Read more »

  • November 6, 2014
  • 05:53 PM
  • 421 views

A Possible Genetic “Cure” for HIV… Maybe

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Let’s face it, a cure for HIV probably won’t be coming around for awhile. That slippery little virus manages to avoid everything we throw at it. Well researchers at Massachusetts General (MGH) and Boston Children’s hospitals (BCH) tried to take another crack at the problem. For the first time they have used a relatively new gene-editing technique to create what could prove to be an effective technique for blocking HIV from invading and destroying patients’ immune systems.... Read more »

Mandal, P., Ferreira, L., Collins, R., Meissner, T., Boutwell, C., Friesen, M., Vrbanac, V., Garrison, B., Stortchevoi, A., Bryder, D.... (2014) Efficient Ablation of Genes in Human Hematopoietic Stem and Effector Cells using CRISPR/Cas9. Cell Stem Cell, 15(5), 643-652. DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2014.10.004  

  • November 5, 2014
  • 04:08 PM
  • 271 views

A Big Break for Bio-Gasoline

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

While the world waits for a better battery (and a energy grid system that doesn't require constant power making), scientists are hard at work trying to teach old fuels a new trick. Thankfully an international team of bioengineers has boosted the ability of bacteria to produce isopentenol, a compound with desirable gasoline properties. The finding, if it is not obvious, is a significant step toward developing a bacterial strain that can yield industrial quantities of renewable bio-gasoline.... Read more »

  • November 5, 2014
  • 12:34 PM
  • 372 views

What is the most instantly recognisable song?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

Everyone knows a hook when they hear one, but scientists don’t know why. By playing the Hooked on Music game you are exploring the science of songs and helping us to unlock what makes music catchy.

Last weekend the preliminary outcome of the online game was announced in Manchester, UK at the MOSI, answering the question: What is the most instantly recognisable song? Interestingly, numerous media started to report on this. A small media hype?... Read more »

J.A. Burgoyne, D. Bountouridis, J. van Balen, & H. Honing. (2013) Hooked: A Game for Discovering What Makes Music Catchy. Proceedings of the 14th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference , 245-250. info:/

  • November 4, 2014
  • 05:46 PM
  • 305 views

Steak is bad for the Heart and now We Know why

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

“Red meat is bad for your heart”, that is typically the story we hear from people. While some might take this as meat is bad for us, or that it is wrong to eat red meat, science has been trying to find a better answer to that question. After all it wouldn’t do for science to say, it just does. Well as luck may have it, new research provides details on how gut bacteria turn a nutrient found in red meat into metabolites that increase the risk of developing heart disease. The findings may lead to new strategies for safeguarding individuals’ cardiovascular health.... Read more »

Koeth RA, Wang Z, Levison BS, Buffa JA, Org E, Sheehy BT, Britt EB, Fu X, Wu Y, Li L.... (2013) Intestinal microbiota metabolism of L-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis. Nature medicine, 19(5), 576-85. PMID: 23563705  

Robert A. Koeth, Bruce S. Levison, Miranda K. Culley, Jennifer A. Buff, Zeneng Wang, Jill C. Gregory, Elin Org, Yuping Wu, Lin Li, Jonathan D. Smith, W.H. Wilson Tang, Joseph A. DiDonato.... (2014) g-Butyrobetaine is a proatherogenic intermediate in gut microbial metabolism of L-carnitine to TMAO. Cell Press. info:/10.1016/j.cmet.2014.10.006.

  • November 3, 2014
  • 05:55 PM
  • 292 views

Reshaping the Limits of Synthetic Biology

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Ever think you could have built something better if you had a hand in the design? Sometimes people just have a desire to make, after all the maker movement is huge for a reason. Well geneticists have a new toy tool to play with —dubbed “the telomerator”—that could redefine the limits of synthetic biology and advance how successfully living things can be engineered or constructed in the laboratory based on an organism’s genetic, chemical base-pair structure. How cool is that?!... Read more »

J. Boeke et al. (2014) Circular permutation of a synthetic eukaryotic chromosome with the telomerator. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. info:/10.1073/pnas.1414399111

  • November 3, 2014
  • 07:31 AM
  • 233 views

For Stress-Free Penguins, Use a Rover

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

The first time a colony of Antarctic penguins sees a towering human striding toward them, it must be like First Contact. They’ve never seen a species our size on land before, or anything that moves like we do. Even after penguins have interacted with researchers, the approach of a human is a physiologically stressful experience. […]The post For Stress-Free Penguins, Use a Rover appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Maho, Y., Whittington, J., Hanuise, N., Pereira, L., Boureau, M., Brucker, M., Chatelain, N., Courtecuisse, J., Crenner, F., Friess, B.... (2014) Rovers minimize human disturbance in research on wild animals. Nature Methods. DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.3173  

  • November 2, 2014
  • 06:08 PM
  • 145 views

...How to Fix Science

by Viputheshwar Sitaraman in Draw Science

(Part 2/2) However, we can fix science. [Infographic]... Read more »

Alberts, B., Kirschner, M., Tilghman, S., & Varmus, H. (2014) Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(16), 5773-5777. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1404402111  

  • November 2, 2014
  • 02:11 PM
  • 299 views

Boosting Crop Yields via Genetics

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Genetic engineering techniques offers many different promises, some of which will obviously come sooner than others. One of those promises was a possible end to famine, while most famine in the world today is in developing countries, that could spread as population increases. To that end scientists have announced a new way to dramatically increase crop yields by improving upon Mother Nature's offerings. The team has discovered a set of gene variations that can boost fruit production in the tomato plant by as much as 100%.... Read more »

Z. Lippman et al. (2014) Optimization of crop productivity in tomato using induced mutations in the florigen pathway. Nature Genetics. info:/10.1038/ng.3131

  • November 2, 2014
  • 09:54 AM
  • 379 views

Understanding the past to know more about our future: study finds spikes in carbon dioxide levels correlated with end of last glacial cycle

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

We've always thought that the last glacial cycle correlated with a slow rise in CO2, however new data from Antarctica shows quick spikes in CO2 and methane lasting under 100 years. This data could provide new insights into the carbon cycles useful for understanding today's CO2 increases.... Read more »

Marcott, S., Bauska, T., Buizert, C., Steig, E., Rosen, J., Cuffey, K., Fudge, T., Severinghaus, J., Ahn, J., Kalk, M.... (2014) Centennial-scale changes in the global carbon cycle during the last deglaciation. Nature, 514(7524), 616-619. DOI: 10.1038/nature13799  

  • November 2, 2014
  • 06:32 AM
  • 164 views

Research is Broken...

by Viputheshwar Sitaraman in Draw Science

(Part 1/2) The system of funding research is broken... [Infographic]... Read more »

Alberts, B., Kirschner, M., Tilghman, S., & Varmus, H. (2014) Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(16), 5773-5777. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1404402111  

  • November 1, 2014
  • 01:14 PM
  • 304 views

Where HIV hides

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

HIV is hard to get rid of,not because it primarily resides in the blood, but because of where it hides when antiretrovirals drop HIV levels. So the real question is where does HIV hide? Unfortunately those antiretroviral drugs can usually control the virus, but can’t completely eliminate it. So any strategy to eradicate HIV from the body has to take into account not only the main group of immune cells the virus targets, called CD4 or helper T cells, but other infected cells as well.... Read more »

  • October 31, 2014
  • 04:05 PM
  • 274 views

New Genetic Editing Technique Offers Novel Treatment of Defects

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

The promises of genetic modifications are endless, longer life, better health, cures for genetic based diseases that would otherwise cause an unimaginable amount of suffering all wiped out. We’ve come a long way in genetic alteration thanks, in part, to the ever faster moving pace of science. While genetic modification is the thing of horror movies, it also can change the world in ways we cannot even imagine — unfortunately getting genome-editing proteins into cells, where they need to be to access the genome, is a major challenge, especially in live animals or human patients.... Read more »

  • October 30, 2014
  • 03:45 PM
  • 343 views

Zombies: Science Fiction vs. Fact

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Well in the spirit of Halloween I thought I would make a nice little zombie post. Zombies, those brain loving little guys, [and girls] are everywhere. From shows like The Walking […]... Read more »

Lafferty KD. (2006) Can the common brain parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, influence human culture?. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 273(1602), 2749-55. PMID: 17015323  

Vyas A, Kim SK, Giacomini N, Boothroyd JC, & Sapolsky RM. (2007) Behavioral changes induced by Toxoplasma infection of rodents are highly specific to aversion of cat odors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(15), 6442-7. PMID: 17404235  

Thomas, F., Schmidt-Rhaesa, A., Martin, G., Manu, C., Durand, P., & Renaud, F. (2002) Do hairworms (Nematomorpha) manipulate the water seeking behaviour of their terrestrial hosts?. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 15(3), 356-361. DOI: 10.1046/j.1420-9101.2002.00410.x  

W. Wesołowska T. Wesołowski. (2014) Do Leucochloridium sporocysts manipulate the behaviour of their snail hosts?. Journal of Zoology , 292(3), 151-155. info:/10.1111/jzo.12094

  • October 29, 2014
  • 03:19 PM
  • 279 views

More Genetic Links Behind Autism

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Vaccines do NOT cause autism. One more time, vaccines DO NOT cause autism. So what does cause autism, that problem has been plaguing scientists for awhile now. Thankfully two major genetic studies of autism and involving more than 50 laboratories worldwide, have newly implicated dozens of genes in the disorder. The research shows that rare mutations in these genes affect communication networks in the brain and compromise fundamental biological mechanisms that govern whether, when, and how genes are activated overall.... Read more »

Iossifov, I., O’Roak, B., Sanders, S., Ronemus, M., Krumm, N., Levy, D., Stessman, H., Witherspoon, K., Vives, L., Patterson, K.... (2014) The contribution of de novo coding mutations to autism spectrum disorder. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13908  

De Rubeis, S., He, X., Goldberg, A., Poultney, C., Samocha, K., Ercument Cicek, A., Kou, Y., Liu, L., Fromer, M., Walker, S.... (2014) Synaptic, transcriptional and chromatin genes disrupted in autism. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13772  

  • October 28, 2014
  • 04:11 PM
  • 404 views

Scientists resurrect 700-year-old viruses, Just in time for Halloween!

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

You know how some zombie movies start with a discovery of a virus, it gets loose, and things quickly spiral out of control from that? Well in breaking news a team of researchers have found two 700-year-old viral sequences in frozen caribou dung in an arctic ice patch. The group isolated part of a viral RNA genome and the complete genome of a DNA virus. Then they infected living plants with the DNA virus, what could go wrong?... Read more »

Ng, T., Chen, L., Zhou, Y., Shapiro, B., Stiller, M., Heintzman, P., Varsani, A., Kondov, N., Wong, W., Deng, X.... (2014) Preservation of viral genomes in 700-y-old caribou feces from a subarctic ice patch. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1410429111  

  • October 27, 2014
  • 03:40 PM
  • 360 views

Real Zombie-Making Parasites Among Us

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

The mummified cat and the rat in the crypt of Christ Church in Dublin. Photo by Adrian Grycuk at Wikimedia Commons.The Happening, M. Night Shyamalan’s worst panned movie of all time, is a science fiction thriller about people going into a mysterious trance and committing suicide as a result of other mind-hacking species. One of the leading criticisms raised against this movie is the ridiculousness of the premise. One species can’t cause another to willingly commit suicide! …Or can they? Toxoplasma gondii (we’ll call it T. gondii) is a protozoan parasite that has developed just such mind-hacking abilities! As far as we can tell, T. gondii only reproduces in the digestive tract of cat species, where it lays fertile eggs that are pooped out into the environment. From there, T. gondii eggs can contaminate any number of things that are consumed by other animals, such as rodents, birds, or even humans. When cats eat prey animals that are infected with T. gondii, another generation of parasites is now positioned to reproduce and the cycle continues.However, prey animals can be pretty good at avoiding cats, in part by avoiding the smell of cats. This is a problem for the reproductive plans of T. gondii. The tiny protozoan has responded to this problem with remarkable biological sophistication: They alter the behavior of their rodent hosts so that the infected rodents find the smell of cat urine so irresistible that they run straight towards their predators! Now, researchers have found that T. gondii-infected rats don’t only like the smell of cat urine, but they even prefer the smell of wild cat urine over the smell of urine of weaker domesticated cats.A rat checks out odor-soaked papers in a Y-shaped apparatus. Image from Kaushik, et al. (2014) in Integrative and Comparative Biology.Maya Kaushik, Sarah Knowles and Joanne Webster at the School of Public Heath at the Imperial College of London compared the responses of rats that were either infected with T. gondii or not to urine produced by domestic cats or wild cats. To do this, they put infected or uninfected rats into a Y-shaped apparatus. For each trial, tissue paper soaked in domestic cat urine or wild cat (cheetah or puma) urine was placed in two of the three arms and nothing was placed in the third arm. The researchers then measured how much time the rats spent in each of the three arms and how much they moved.As expected, the T. gondii-infected rats avoided the cat-urine-soaked arms less than the uninfected rats did. Furthermore, when presented with a choice between arms with wild cat urine versus domestic cat urine, the infected rats (but not the uninfected rats) preferred the smell of the predatory wild cats over the domestic cats! Infected rats also moved more slowly around the wild cat urine compared to domestic cat urine, as if just begging any wild cats that may be around to eat them. It appears that T. gondii have developed a mechanism to turn rats into mindless zombies that practically run into the mouths of the nearest, most vicious cat they can find.These mind-hacked rat-zombies may not be the only victims of T. gondii. People (particularly those that change their kitties’ litter boxes) can also become infected with the parasite. Some estimates suggest that nearly one-third of all people are already infected! Furthermore, people that test positive for T. gondii infection find the smell of cat urine more attractive than people who test negative! Although we are not likely to run to be eaten by our house-bound kitties, we may be more likely to change the litter box (or get more cats and become a crazy cat lady). So it looks like many of us are mind-hacked zombies too! Want to know more? Check this out:Kaushik, M., Knowles, S., & Webster, J. (2014). What Makes a Feline Fatal in Toxoplasma gondii's Fatal Feline Attraction? Infected Rats Choose Wild Cats Integrative and Comparative Biology, 54 (2), 118-128 DOI: 10.1093/icb/icu060 ... Read more »

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