How to Dismantle a Blue Whale: In Chile, a team of volunteers confronts stench and gore to ensure a new life for a dead whale. [Warning: Link contains graphic pictures of whale evisceration]
I’ve been following this project for almost 2 years. Awesome to see how far they’ve come. NinjaPCRis a WiFi enabled, Opensource DNA Amplifier and Thermocycler for Polymerase Chain Reaction developed by 2 hackers in Tokyo.
The world we currently live in would have seemed like science fiction to humans in the not to distant past. Everyday more and advancements transform sci-fi dreams into reality. Most recently gene editing of human embryos has been birthed into the realm of possibility (cheesy pun intended!). In theory gene editing embryos could allow you to choose preferential traits in your soon to be human flesh-blob. That level of ability does not currently exist, but the latest developments in gene editing are still pretty astonishing.
Eggs before gene editing (left), and eggs after gene editing and already undergoing cell division (right) (Photo credit: Ma et al. 2017)
In a recent study scientists took a human embryo and edited a dangerous mutation from the genes of that embryo; human reality, meet science fiction. Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University, with colleagues in California, China and South Korea, edited embryos, fixing a mutation that causes a common heart condition that can lead to sudden death later in life. The biggest hurdles were producing embryos in which all cells, not just some, were mutation-free, while also avoiding creating unwanted extra mutations during the process. The researchers found that when gene-editing components were introduced with sperm to the egg before fertilization, the success of the process was markedly different from previous approaches. If embryos with the repaired mutation were allowed to develop into babies, they would not only be disease-free but would also not transmit the disease to their descendants.
One of the greatest scourges of the mid 20th century, leading into the 21st century, has been the human immunodeficiency virus, better known as HIV, which can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV is a virus that attacks a person’s immune system. Without treatment, over time HIV can completely destroy a person’s immune system leaving them mortally vulnerable to common pathogens that would otherwise be easily dealt with. Since this disease first burst onto the scene in the mid-20th century it has claimed countless lives, and science has struggled to develop a cure given the ability of the disease to rapidly change and hide-out in the body.
I have absolutely no reason to be at sea. I don’t do oceanographic research, don’t work in any way, shape, or form with phytoplankton, and I barely have the time to set up my own research trips let alone take two weeks to help on someone else’s. Yet here I am, my first day aboard the R/V Cape Hatteras on a cruise to the Sargasso to study phytoplankton energetics.
The interwebs are abuzz with glowing reviews for Rebecca Skloot’s new book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”. I’m currently #37 on the library reserve list (sorry, Rebecca, but I’m a poor grad student and I can’t afford to buy it). The book tells the story of the HeLa cell line, which are cells that were taken from a patient without her consent. These cells have led to important medical breakthroughs. But how isolated of an incident is this?