Can Hobbyists and Hackers Transform Biotechnology?

For most of us, managing our health means visiting a doctor. The more serious our concerns, the more specialized a medical expert we seek. Our bodies often feel like foreign and frightening lands, and we are happy to let someone with an MD serve as our tour guide. For most of us, our own DNA never makes it onto our personal reading list.

Biohackers are on a mission to change all that. These do-it-yourself biology hobbyists want to bring biotechnology out of institutional labs and into our homes. Following in the footsteps of revolutionaries like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who built the first Apple computer in Jobs’s garage, and Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who invented Google in a friend’s garage, biohackers are attempting bold feats of genetic engineering, drug development, and biotech research in makeshift home laboratories.

In Biopunk, journalist Marcus Wohlsen surveys the rising tide of the biohacker movement, which has been made possible by a convergence of better and cheaper technologies. For a few hundred dollars, anyone can send some spit to a sequencing company and receive a complete DNA scan, and then use free software to analyze the results. Custom-made DNA can be mail-ordered off websites, and affordable biotech gear is available on Craigslist and eBay.

via Can Hobbyists and Hackers Transform Biotechnology? – Technology Review.

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Scientists ferret out a key pathway for aging

For decades, scientists have been searching for the fundamental biological secrets of how eating less extends lifespan.

It has been well documented in species ranging from spiders to monkeys that a diet with consistently fewer calories can dramatically slow the process of aging and improve health in old age. But how a reduced diet acts at the most basic level to influence metabolism and physiology to blunt the age-related decline of tissues and cells has remained, for the most part, a mystery.

Now, writing in the current online issue (Nov. 18) of the journal Cell, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their colleagues describe a molecular pathway that is a key determinant of the aging process. The finding not only helps explain the cascade of events that contributes to aging, but also provides a rational basis for devising interventions, drugs that may retard aging and contribute to better health in old age. Continue reading “Scientists ferret out a key pathway for aging”

Scientists identify new longevity genes

Scientists at the University of Washington and other institutions have identified 25 genes regulating lifespan in two organisms separated by about 1.5 billion years in evolutionary change. At least 15 of those genes have very similar versions in humans, suggesting that scientists may be able to target those genes to help slow down the aging process and treat age-related conditions.

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Aging gracefully requires taking out the trash

Suppressing a cellular cleanup-mechanism known as autophagy can accelerate the accumulation of protein aggregates that leads to neural degeneration. In an upcoming issue of Autophagy, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies report for the first time that the opposite is true as well: Boosting autophagy in the nervous system of fruit flies prevented the age-dependent accumulation of cellular damage in neurons and promoted longevity.

 

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10-fold life span extension reported in simple organism

Biologists have created baker’s yeast capable of living to 800 in yeast years without apparent side effects. The basic but important discovery, achieved through a combination of dietary and genetic changes, brings science closer to controlling the survival and health of the unit of all living systems: the cell.
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A longer-living, healthier mouse that could hold clues to human aging

A study by scientists at UCL (University College London) shows that mice lacking the insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 are more resistant to ageing than normal mice. The research adds to a growing body of work showing the importance of insulin signalling pathways as an ageing mechanism in mammals – and potentially humans.

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Research identifies sirtuin protein instrumental in fat production and metabolism

A new Joslin Diabetes Center-led study has identified a protein found in fat cells that may play a major role in how fat is produced and stored, offering a new target for treatments to prevent obesity and reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. This latest research appears in the August 2007 issue of Cell Metabolism.

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