Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category

Scientists Grow a Baby Zebra Fish From Stem Cells

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Scientists have been trying to find the elusive combination of instructions that would cause stems cells to become an actual living thing.

That elusive secret just ran out of places to hide.

University researchers were able to cause cells to grow into an entire animal!

The result of all this is that there’s now a baby zebra fish embryo in the world that was created completely from stem cells by scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Absorb that for a minute.

While this discovery is HUGE and of immeasurable value to the creation of organs for those who need them, there’ll probably be some backlash from torch bearers and wielders of pitchforks who want to march across the U of V campus lawn.

It sounds like something straight out of the past few decades of science fiction stories…

Especially when one of the scientists drops a line like:

“We have generated an animal by just instructing embryonic cells the right way…” and “…we can pretty much do what we want.”

They’re growing mice next.

And then?

Probably us.

(cue lightning)

[PhysOrg]

New Clam Looks Like Alien – Becomes Butt of Where’s Waldo Jokes Forever

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Back in 1989 two marine invertebrate biologists were discussing the subject of new species when the both went ‘whoa’ realizing that they’d independently discovered the same creature 1,000 miles apart. One scientist found them in Morro Bay, California while the other scientist discovered them on urchins on Vancouver Island in British Colombia.

Living on the finer spines which rest closer to the body of sea urchins, the Waldo Arthuri, is a small (0.2 inches long) clam-like creature that travels around like a snail. Because the little guys are so fragile it’s been hard for the researchers to really analyze them although they’ve been able to extract DNA which has led them to declare this a new species that’s not documented yet.

Why these things live on urchins is still an unknown.

“What they get out of the relationship is pretty mysterious. The urchin might provide shelter to the clam, and there might be food flowing in the water to the urchin that the clam might be able to filter out and benefit from. What the clam gives to its host, if anything, is pretty unknown.”

[Fox News]

Researchers Record the Moment of Inception…in a Hungry Zebrafish. We’re Next!

Friday, February 1st, 2013

‘Squirrel!’

Ever wonder what it looked like at the inception point of a thought? Like when your watching ‘fail videos’ online and you do that mental cringe at the exact moment that you’re watching someone sledding down a hill on an oil-pan and suddenly the shot pans far enough to see the gaggle of unattentive people about to meet said oil-pan driver?

Wonder no more!

Researchers in Japan have actually filmed that ‘Oh $#%*!’ moment…

In a zebrafish.

Watch the video. That sudden flash of light takes place the moment the fish noticed food being put into the tank. Zebrafish aren’t going to be taking over the world anytime soon with all of their incredible cerebral abilities, but that was the point of this…to record the inception of a thought in a more simple brain simply to see if it could be done.

A double-transgenic larva was embedded in agarose, and a spot was presented on an LCD display placed on the right-eye side. Ca2+ signals were detected on the left tectum upon appearance (ON) and disappearance (OFF) of the spot. The spot was shown for the first 3 s in this 6 s movie. The video is shown at 3x real time.

Experiments are expected to take place on more advanced brains way too soon.

We could sit around all day and come up with scenarios about this stunning breakthrough.

But if you were a zebrafish, we’d already know that.

[Gizmodo]

Disturbingly Detailed 17th Century Wax Anatomy Models Go On Display!

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Long before we were able to see inside people with x-rays, tiny cameras or accurate 3D models doctors still had to know what pieces we were made up and where they went. Students learning anatomy didn’t always have the luxury of a bunch of fresh cadavers to study either.

Enter the wax anatomy model.

During the 17th century, there wasn’t any way to learn anatomy unless someone died and their body was immediately trucked-in fresh for people in disciplines that needed to study anatomy. Instead, artists began creating anatomy models out of wax. The intricacy of these models is unsettling and creepy but also amazing because of the stunning extent of the details. Many of these wax models featured things like a removable chest, face or vital organs which, when removed, would reveal even more gruesome details of our inner anatomy.

A lengthy but disturbingly interesting write-up about the details of these models, including photos, was posted on the Journal of Anatomy way back in 2009. Why are we talking about them just now? Well they’re currently on display at the Museum of London.

Often called ‘Venuses’, referencing the Venus Di Medici statue created by an unknown Greek sculptor, most of the models were female forms and several were put in often nightmare-inducing poses.

What do we mean about nightmare-inducing? How about a pregnant woman showing her womb in operation by pulling back flaps of skin on her belly.

We warned you.

[IO9]

Doctors Put Woman’s Skull In Her Belly!

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Hell’s Canyon is a name where you actually expect weird stuff to happen on a regular basis. Knowing that Hell’s Canyon is in Idaho only makes it worse.

For 36 year-old American beauty queen Jamie Hilton it got worse.

During a fishing trip to Hell’s Canyon with her husband, Jamie stumbled and slammed her head causing severe swelling and other complications.

In an attempt to save her life, doctors removed a quarter of her skull to prevent the swelling from causing any more damage.

When the mother of three, a former Mrs Idaho, woke from the operation she found a lump in her stomach and a large portion of her head missing. Mrs Hilton posted a photo of the skull in her abdomen on her blog entitled ‘Miracles… believe in them’ as well as a photo showing a scar running the length of her head.

That’s where her little skull-friend stayed too…for 42 days!

When Jamie had recovered from the first portion of the surgery, it was time to remove the incubating skull-piece from her belly and return it to her dome. You’d think science and medicine would’ve come up with some kind of awesome adhesive at this point like ‘Gorilla Bone & Organ Glue” but nah…

Using industrial strength staples, doctors stapled the skull piece back into place, sewed her pretty little noggin’s fleshy covering back up and called it a day.

Jamie is currently in recovery, doing well and happy as can be.

Guess who’s going to be the ‘astronaut at the table’ when it comes to her interview at the next beauty pageant? Yup…the chick who carried her own skull in her belly like a baby.

Winning!

[Metro.Co.UK]

Woman Grows Ear on Her Arm to Replace Her Missing Ear!

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

We’ve seen tissues and body parts grown in petri dishes before. Nothing new, right? Now we’ve seen a human being’s own body used as a petri dish to grow a body part for her own body!

Sherrie Walters, a woman from Baltimore, has become that human being/test subject for an extremely radical and extremely weird procedure. Plastic surgeon and reconstructive surgeon Patrick Byrne has been looking for someone like Sherri Walters for quite a while to basically test a theory he had.

The discovery of a rapidly-spreading basal cell cancer in her ear in 2008 required the removal of part of her ear, part of her skull and her left ear canal. But now, in a groundbreaking and complicated set of surgeries, Johns Hopkins doctors have attached a new ear made from Walters’ own tissue.

Byrne used cartilage from Walters’ ribs to stitch together a new ear matching her right ear. He then implanted it under the skin of her forearm, where it grew for months.

Byrne later surgically attached the ear and its blood vessels. Then surgery Tuesday added shape and detail to the ear.

Walters still has two minor surgeries to go before the whole bizarre procedure is over with and she gets that ‘new’ ear.

And she’s got some sage advice before you ever end up in this situation:

“And it’s a cliche but use the sunscreen and if you are not sure about something, get it checked because that’s what I didn’t do.”

Different parts grown in different places? Hmm.

Every single guy right now is probably thinking about a particular woman in Total Recall.

Knock it off.

[CBS Baltimore (via @ManusFerrea}]

[Video]: Woman Grows Fingernails…All Over Her Body!

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

We’ve seen a LOT of weird things before in the medical field. But THIS? This is a whole new level.

Back in 2009 a woman by the name of Shanyna Isom had an asthma attack. No biggie, right? Wrong. Isom experienced an allergic reaction to the steriods used to treat the asthma attack.

The result? A reaction like a d-lister from the Xavier Institute…she’s growing fingernails where she would normally grow hair.

No…really…fingernails are sprouting from her body.

Johns Hopkins University doctors are baffled at the condition. There’s no precedent for what’s happening to Isom. She began growing skin cells at 12 times the rate of a normal person and each follicle began producing a fingernail!

Doctors seem to have the bizarre disorder under control and are working to figure out how to fix whatever strange effect the steroid treatment created which caused this entire mess to start in the first place.
[I09]

Bird Flu Goes Viral in Lab Ferrets!

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Virologists and epidemiologists sure can be a fun bunch.

Put enough money behind one of their projects and who knows what you’ll end up with.

In this case we may end up with the end of the human race.

Remember the bird flu scare? Total Year 2000-style panic. Many people just took it as another sign that those silly Mayans weren’t so silly and 2012 was the last time they’d have to buy a calendar from one of those kiosks in the mall.

After an article in the L.A Times, that panic could start to rear its ugly head if current research results on the H5N1 virus mentioned in the story begin making rotation on televised news sources.

Scientists have been playing with the bird flu virus in order to see if it would ever mutate enough to become a pandemic among humans spreading merely through someone sneezing on someone else.

And guess what? It could. Since 2003 there have been 606 confirmed cases of H5N1 in humans…almost 60% of those proved fatal. Fatalities among birds, where the virus gets its ‘bird flu’ monicker, have been in the millions. Scientists want to get a lead on the pathogen to see what evolutionary process it would have to take to become a global pandemic amongst humans.

They have an answer and it’s not pretty.

Using ferrets, Dutch researchers led by virologist Ron Fouchier, have developed a strain of the virus that is transmitted through droplets in sneezes. Passing ten times between infected ferrets and mutating five times in the process, H5N1 became airborne and a very real threat to all of us.

After injecting one ferret with H5N1 via droplets to their nose, scientists would let the virus mutate inside the ferret’s body. Once the virus mutated, researchers would then infect another ferret with the mustation. Ten ferrets and five mutations later? Lots of ‘uh ohs’ and nervous, unspoken glances at the other scientists in the room.

As the government continues to provide funding for studies like this in ongoing biological weapons research, scientists, researchers and world leaders are trying to put safeguards in place and determine just how far developing mankind-destroying viruses should go.

The public, because we’ve seen the movies, are worried that scientists may create something that would wipe us all out either because they felt like being a jerk that day, want to swim in a pile of cash like Scrooge McDuck or are making up for all those times people picked on them as a child and would like to pay everyone back for that.

What most people are concerned about is when controversial papers like this are published for the world to see. All we need is one of those scientists with the back-stories mentioned above or a crazy person with enough tenacity and hatred for all of us to peruse a detailed document like the paper for this study to wake up on the wrong side of bed one day.

Brakes had been applied to publishing this research. After six months of red-tape? That paper is about to go public. The Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program at the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science (which publishes Science where the paper will appear) want the paper to see publication so that work can continue on the H5N1 virus. Both the Dutch and US government are seeking to add addtional guidelines concerning publishing research like this in order to prevent individuals from having complete access to the process of creating something like the airborne H5N1 mutation so it doesn’t end up at some local elementary science because some super-nerdy ‘pageant parents’ wanted little Billy to get first place at any price.

Director of the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program at the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science (seriously…have a title), Mark Frankel, stated that the beneifit of studying H5N1 “far outweighs” any potential danger.

“There’s a risk in everything in life”, he said.

To which many of us would probably think that too.

Especially when we decide to manufacture deadly-to-mankind, airborne viruses.

I’m running to the mall…anyone else want me to pick them up one of those Mayan calendars?

[LA Times]

Japanese Scientists Grow Crude Liver in a Dish!

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Something straight out of a science fiction story is becoming a reality in Yokohama, Japan right now: regenerative organs.

There have been tons of attempts, theories and even a small handful of groundbreaking work concerning regenerating new organs, veins, tissue and even blood using stem cell research. It often sounds almost fantastical at times considering the small amount of work that’s actually been produced from the field.

Japanese researchers revealed at the International Society for Stem Cell Research last week that they’ve reproduced a liver-like tissue in a dish.

Their findings have yet to be published but there is a lot of buzz taking place on the internet this morning about this news release.

Our imaginations and the media will probably go crazy talking about the possibilities of this breakthrough. The reality is that this is about as crude an example of a regenerated as one could possibly get. It’s still got a long way to.

Using various cell types and what reads like a hipper, less late-night grave-diggy version of Frankenstein, researchers have basically taken human skin cells back to an ‘embryonic state’, reprogrammed them, let them begin to grow, added various other cells to the process and created a very primitive ‘liver bud’, a very early stage of liver development.

As primitive as this ‘liver’ is right now, the tissue does contain blood vessels that worked when the tissue was transplanted under the skin of a mouse.

There’s no doubt where this amazing technology is headed and that its goal of recreating human organs is going to happen given time.

And, George Daly, the director of the stem-cell transplantation program at the Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts in charge of last week’s session, said:

“It blew my mind.”

[Nature]

This Ugly Blob is the Future of New Materials

Monday, June 11th, 2012

That thing pictured over there to the right? That thing that looks like hair from your shower drain or a Giger-inspired coffee mug? It’s a living organism that just might be the future of how we harvest material for all of our tech needs.

Wait…wha?

That weird-looking thing is actually a genetically engineered living thing that, depending on the materials used to create it, produces various types of material including fiberglass and even magnetic nanoparticles.

Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara are continually tweaking the original DNA combinations used in these things to produce not only materials which we are currently using but to produce new types of materials that hadn’t even existed before.

Remember when your grandma would crochet a sweater for you that you’d never wear? In about ten years time you’ll be crocheting a Kevlar-like sweater for your grandchildren except that instead of rolls of yarn? You’ll have a bunch of THESE things producing all your Kevlar in different colors sitting in an adorable little basket covered in holograms of geese wearing bonnets.

[ARSTechnica"]

Sperm Banks Refusing Redhead Donors

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Because supply was far outweighing demand, Cryos, the worlds largest sperm bank has been turning away redheaded donors.  Ole Schou, the director, has said that usually the demand comes from a couple in which a sterile male has red hair or a lonely woman who has a preference to red hair.  However, Ireland has a huge demand for semen from redheaded donors.

[Telegraph.co.uk]