Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Stem cells shown to repair liver after transplantation

Theoretically, stem cells should be able to regenerate all damaged tissues in our body. Basically every organ has its own mature stem cells that are able to produce new cells when needed, although some are more active than others. So far, we have seen limited success with the use of stem cells. A prime example was the generation of an artificial kidney based on stem cells, which was successfully transplanted. Now, scientists have shown capable of growing liver cells out of specific stem cells, and also transplanted them successfully, paving the way for a cure for liver disease.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cold genes promote longer life

It has been known for quite some time that cold blooded animals live longer when they are in a cold environment. Apparently, a cold temperature changes the behaviour of genes and preserves the body, promoting longevity. Scientists have found the genetic program that responds to cold temperatures and correspondingly helps animals to live longer. And the best part is that the temperature sensitive genes found in cold blooded animals are also present in warm blooded animals like ourselves. That means that manipulating these genes may help us live longer.

Higgs boson to explain why universe may collapse

In order to understand the unimaginable vastness of the universe and its mysterious behaviour, it is necessary to study the smallest entities we know to exist. Particles are the foundation of all of physics, and can be used to explain all phenomena we encounter. Recently, scientists discovered the Higgs boson, a particle that is, among other things, expected to explain us why other particles have mass. Astronomers now also believe that the existence of the Higgs boson gives rise to a theory that may eventually result in the universe collapsing in on itself.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Engineers make functional human ears with 3D printer

3D printers have rapidly gained interest from both scientists as well as the general public. Hailed as machines that can make everything, they are especially of interest to researchers in the field of regenerative medicine. Because 3D printers are capable of printing biological material as well, it is possible to create artificial tissues and organs in the lab, and use those for transplantation. In a recent study, scientists from the Cornell University managed to print a complete human ear.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tuning gene expression up and down in individual cells

Control of biological mechanisms starts with modifying the action of genes. Genetics provides the blueprint for the production of all the cell's molecules and therefore determines cellular behaviour to a great extent. Scientists have found ways to shut genes off, or to make them more active. By doing that, we are able to treat diseases, or modify stem cells to behave the way we want them to. But sometimes, this is not enough; it would be handy if we had a mechanism that allowed us to precisely tune how much of an individual gene needs to be expressed in a particular cell. Such a refined piece of equipment has now been made available for human cells.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

First bionic eye now available for sale

Blindness has been impossible to cure for a very long time. More recently, we have begun to understand how the eye turns light into the electrical signals that stimulate the nerves leading to the brain. Because the brain is where our eye sight is actually formed, it is necessary to copy the necessary electrical pulses, should we wish to restore blindness in cases where the normal conduction system in the eye is no longer functional. An implant from the company Second Sight is now available in Europe, and has been shown to restore vision at least partly in transplanted patients.

Creating organs by printing stem cells

Because of a lack of donors it is highly necessary to find an alternative source of organs that can be used for transplantation. Recent studies have shown the success of using stem cells for lab-grown organs, but it is still troublesome to produce such tissues in high quantities. 3D-printing technologies appear to be the solution for this problem, as scientists have shown that such printers can be used for biological material as well. So far, however, stem cells could not be printed because they are too delicate and would die in the process. Researchers have now found a solution for this problem as well, paving the way for 3D-printed organs based on stem cells.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Olive oil helps to keep the blood flowing

Olive oil is popular for cooking, as it is supposedly the most healthy when it comes to oils. While scientific evidence has shown beneficial effects of olive oil consumption, there is a lot of work left to be done to investigate whether the health claims are actually valid. A recent study conducted by the University of Messina revealed that a certain compound that is present in olive oil may help prevent damage to the organs caused by faulty blood supply.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Creating enzymes with artificial evolution

It is impossible to create a functional multicellular organism from ordinary 'dead' matter without having the right set of molecules that allow for chemical reactions in the body, which is called metabolism. In order to be able to convert one product into the other, for example turning food into energy, bodies need enzymes. Because the required chemistry in the body is unlikely to happen by chance alone, enzymes are there to speed up the process, by favouring the conditions for a chemical reaction between specific compounds. Enzymes are therefore important and were created very early in evolution, as without them, it is very hard to produce something that is alive. Scientists have great interest in the artificial production of enzymes, something that would allow us to produce things of our own choice. A group of researchers has found a way to let evolution run its course in the artificial production of enzymes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Doctors perform a double arm transplant

War can leave devastating scars on the bodies of soldiers, and the loss of arms and legs is frequent. As we are unable to regrow organs or limbs, doctors have resorted to transplants from donors. Getting an arm or leg to function again, however, is extremely difficult. Transplanted limbs need to be connected to the brain in order for the recipient to be able to use it. Doctors from the John Hopkins Hospital attempted to give two new arms to an Iraqi war veteran, an operation that has only been attempted a couple of times. The recipient, a 26-year-old, says he can already able to feel his 'new' arms a little bit.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Finding new drugs on the bottom of the ocean

In the search of new drugs to treat diseases, scientists often resort to nature in order to find new compounds with useful biological activity. We have found a lot of medicinal compounds in plants, and used them as the foundation for new drugs by modifications and enhancements through chemistry. As we are constantly looking for novel, interesting compounds, the search sometimes takes us to peculiar places. Such is the case with scientists from the Oregon Health & Science University, who proposed to go look for new drugs on the bottom of the ocean.