Bioengineers Build Open Source Language for Programming Cells

Drew Endy wants to build a programming language for the body.

Endy is the co-director of the International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology — BIOFAB, for short — where he’s part of a team that’s developing a language that will use genetic data to actually program biological cells. That may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but the project is already underway, and the team intends to open source the language, so that other scientists can use it and modify it and perfect it.

The effort is part of a sweeping movement to grab hold of our genetic data and directly improve the way our bodies behave — a process known as bioengineering. With the Supreme Court exploring whether genes can be patented, the bioengineering world is at crossroads, but scientists like Endy continue to push this technology forward.

via Bioengineers Build Open Source Language for Programming Cells | Wired Enterprise |


Scientists map elusive 3-D structure of telomerase enzyme, key actor in cancer, aging

Like finally seeing all the gears of a watch and how they work together, researchers from UCLA and UC Berkeley have, for the first time ever, solved the puzzle of how the various components of an entire telomerase enzyme complex fit together and function in a three-dimensional structure.

The three-dimensional electron microscopy structure of the complete Tetrahymena telomerase enzyme complex, with previously solved high-resolution structures modeled in. (Credit: Jiansen Jiang, Edward Miracco/UCLA Chemistry and Biochemistry)

Continue reading “Scientists map elusive 3-D structure of telomerase enzyme, key actor in cancer, aging”

Scientists ‘read dreams’ using brain scans

Scientists have found a way to “read” dreams, a study suggests.

Researchers in Japan used MRI scans to reveal the images that people were seeing as they entered into an early stage of sleep.

Writing in the journal Science, they reported that they could do this with 60% accuracy.

The team now wants to see if brain activity can be used to decipher other aspects of dreaming, such as the emotions experienced during sleep.


via BBC News – Scientists ‘read dreams’ using brain scans.

Autism Rate Rises To 1 In 50 Children – Cause Still A Mystery

In 2002 the Center for Disease Control estimated that autism affected about 1 in 150 children. By 2012 the CDC estimate had increased to 1 in 88. Now, according to the latest revision of the estimate recently released, autism affects 1 in 50 children. That’s a phenomenal 300 percent increase in 11 years. But do the numbers reflect a real increase in the incidence of autism or are previously undiagnosed cases now being diagnosed? The authors of the study tend to think it’s the latter, but others question whether the increase can be explained entirely by wider diagnoses.

In recent decades there has been a consistent increase in the reported prevalence of autism. Two National Health Interview Surveys, national telephone surveys conducted by the CDC, showed prevalence to increase almost four-fold between a 1997 – 1999 survey and a 2006 – 2008 survey. Concurrently, the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network showed a 78 percent increase in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), that includes all variants of disease related to autism, between 2002 and 2008.

via Autism Rate Rises To 1 In 50 Children – Cause Still A Mystery | Singularity Hub.

Brains as Clear as Jell-O for Scientists to Explore

The visible brain has arrived — the consistency of Jell-O, as transparent and colorful as a child’s model, but vastly more useful.

Scientists at Stanford University reported on Wednesday that they have made a whole mouse brain, and part of a human brain, transparent, so that networks of neurons that receive and send information can be highlighted in stunning color and viewed in all their three-dimensional complexity without slicing up the organ.

Credit: Deisseroth Lab

A three-dimensional rendering of a “clarified” brain, as seen from below.

via Brains as Clear as Jell-O for Scientists to Explore –

Painted turtle gets DNA decoded

Scientists have decoded the genome of the western painted turtle, one of the most abundant turtles on Earth, finding clues to their longevity and ability to survive without oxygen during long winters spent hibernating in ice-covered ponds.

Understanding the natural mechanisms turtles use to protect the heart and brain from oxygen deprivation may one day improve treatments for heart attacks or strokes, the researchers say. Both can lead to severe disability or death within minutes in patients deprived of oxygen.



Turtles have evolved slowly, a new study confirms. Decoding the genome of the western painted turtle reveals new clues to turtles’ longevity and the ability to survive without oxygen during long winters.

via Painted turtle gets DNA decoded | Newsroom | Washington University in St. Louis.

Study Points to New Culprit in Heart Disease

Dr. Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic, who led the study, and his colleagues had accumulated evidence for a surprising new explanation of why red meat may contribute to heart disease. And they were testing it with this early morning experiment.

The researchers had come to believe that what damaged hearts was not just the thick edge of fat on steaks, or the delectable marbling of their tender interiors. In fact, these scientists suspected that saturated fat and cholesterol made only a minor contribution to the increased amount of heart disease seen in red-meat eaters. The real culprit, they proposed, was a little-studied chemical that is burped out by bacteria in the stomach after people eat red meat. It is quickly converted by the liver into yet another little-studied chemical called TMAO that gets into the blood and increases the risk of heart disease.

via Study Points to New Culprit in Heart Disease –

Rally for Medical Research

The Rally for Medical Research will unite millions of Americans across the country to call on our nations policymakers to make life-saving medical research funding a national priority. This unified call to action will raise awareness about the critical need for a sustained investment in the National Institutes of Health to improve health, spur more progress, inspire more hope and save more lives.



via Welcome – Rally for Medical Research.

Bacteria find key to treating obesity without surgery

Weight loss after gastric band surgery may be partly caused by changes to micro-organisms that live in the gut, say US researchers.A study in mice has shown that surgery causes different types of bacteria to colonise the gut.Transferring samples of those bacteria into healthy mice caused them to rapidly lose weight without surgery.But the Harvard University researchers said they could not yet explain the mechanism behind their results.There are differences in the bacteria in the stomachs and intestines of obese people compared with those who are of a normal weight.

via BBC News – Bacteria find key to treating obesity without surgery.