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UNC Scientists Open Source Their Genomic Research 10

ectoman writes: The human genome specifies more than 500 "kinases," enzymes that spur protein synthesis. Four hundred of them are still mysteries to us, even though knowledge about them could spark serious medical innovations. But scientists at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have initiated an open source effort to map them all—research they think could pioneer a new generation of drug discovery. As members of the Structural Genomics Consortium, the chemical biologists are spearheading a worldwide community project. "We need a community to build a map of what kinases do in biology," one said. "It has to be a community-generated map to get the richness and detail we need to be able to move some of these kinases into drug facilities. But we're just doing the source code. Until someone puts the source code out there and makes it available to everybody, people won't have anything to modify."

More Cities Use DNA To Catch Dog Owners Who Don't Pick Up Waste 171

dkatana writes: For many cities one of the biggest cleaning expenses is dealing with dog poop. While it is impossible to ask the birds to refrain from splattering the city, dogs have owners and those owners are responsible for disposing of their companion's waste. The few who shirk their duty create serious problems for the rest. Poop is not just a smelly inconvenience. It's unsanitary, extra work for cleaning crews, and in the words of one Spanish mayor, on a par with vandalism. Cities have tried everything from awareness campaigns with motorized poo videos, to publishing offenders names to mailing the waste back to the dog owner. In one case, after a 147 deliveries, dog waste incidents in the town dropped 70 percent. Those campaigns have had limited effect and after an initial decline in incidents, people go back to their old ways. Which has left many cities resorting to science and DNA identification of waste. Several European cities, including Naples and one borough in London, are building DNA registries of pets. Offending waste will then be tested and the cost of the analysis charged to the dog owner, along with a fine.

Is a Universal Flu Vaccine On the Horizon? 96

sciencehabit writes: Two groups of researchers have created vaccines that may lead to a universal flu shot that could protect against every type of flu. Every year millions get a flu shot but with thousands of strains that mutate and evolve across seasons, no one shot can protect against them all. Sciencemag reports on the research: "When the teams vaccinated mice, both groups saw full protection against H5N1, a lethal influenza strain distantly related to H1N1. In both studies, mice that did not receive the stem-derived vaccine died, but vaccinated mice all survived. In further experiments, the nanoparticle-anchoring vaccine showed partial protection in ferrets, whereas the other vaccine showed partial protection in monkeys. Two of the six vaccinated ferrets fell ill and died, compared with a 100% mortality rate for the unvaccinated ferrets. None of the monkeys died, but those that were vaccinated had significantly lower fevers than their nonvaccinated companions."

Chinese Scientists Discover Structural Basis of Pre-mRNA Splicing 48

hackingbear writes: On August 21st, the research team led by Prof. Yigong Shi from School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University in China published two side-by-side research articles in Science, reporting the long-sought-after structure of a yeast spliceosome at 3.6 angstrom resolution determined by single particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), and the molecular mechanism of pre-messenger RNA splicing. Until now, decades of genetic and biochemical experiments have identified almost all proteins in spliceosome and uncovered some functions. Yet, the structure remained a mystery for a long time. The works, primarily performed by Dr. Chuangye Yan, and Ph.D students Jing Hang and Ruixue Wan under Prof. Yigong Shi's supervision, settled this Holy Grail question and established the structural basis for the related area. This work was supported by funds from the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

MIT Researchers Discover "Metabolic Master Switch" To Control Obesity 380

New submitter ahbond writes: The meme of the chubby nerd alone in the basement may be a thing of the past. Well, at least the chubby part, if recent work at MIT pans out and we're able to use a biological "master switch" to "dial-in" a persons metabolic rate. “Obesity has traditionally been seen as the result of an imbalance between the amount of food we eat and how much we exercise, but this view ignores the contribution of genetics to each individual’s metabolism,” said senior author Manolis Kellis, a professor of computer science and a member of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and of the Broad Institute.

Intel's Collaborative Cancer Cloud, an Open Platform For Genome-Based Treatments 16

Lucas123 writes: Intel and the Knight Cancer Institute have announced what will be an open-source service platform, called the Collaborative Cancer Cloud. The platform will enable healthcare facilities to securely share patient genomic data, radiological imagery and other healthcare-related information for precision treatment analysis. Key to averting HIPAA privacy issues will be Intel's Trusted Execution Technology, its embedded server encryption hardware that tests the authenticity of a platform and its operating system before sharing data. Intel said it will be opening that technology up for use by any clinic that want to take part in the Collaborative Cancer Cloud or to build its own data-sharing network with healthcare partners. Dr. Brian Druker, director of the Knight Cancer Institute, said the Trusted Execution Technology will allow healthcare centers to maintain control of patient data, while also allowing clinics around the world to use it for vastly faster genomic analysis.

New Genes May Arise From Junk DNA 110

An anonymous reader writes: Junk DNA (or noncoding DNA) is a term for section of a DNA strand that doesn't actually do much. Huge tracts of the human genome consist of junk DNA, and researchers are now finding that it may be more useful than previously thought. "For most of the last 40 years, scientists thought that [gene duplication] was the primary way new genes were born — they simply arose from copies of existing genes. The old version went on doing its job, and the new copy became free to evolve novel functions. Certain genes, however, seem to defy that origin story. They have no known relatives, and they bear no resemblance to any other gene. ... But in the past few years, a once-heretical explanation has quickly gained momentum — that many of these orphans arose out of so-called junk DNA."

Mice Brainpower Boosted With Alteration of a Single Gene 105

Zothecula writes: By altering a single gene to inhibit the activity of an enzyme called phosphodiesterase (PDE4B), researchers have given mice the opportunity to see what an increase in intelligence is like. "They tended to learn faster, remember events longer and solve complex exercises better than ordinary mice. For example, the “brainy mice” showed a better ability than ordinary mice to recognize another mouse that they had been introduced to the day before (abstract). They were also quicker at learning the location of a hidden escape platform in a test called the Morris water maze. However, the PDE4B-inhibited mice also showed less recall of a fearful event after several days than ordinary mice." While many people would welcome such a treatment, the scientists say their research could lead to new treatments for those with cognitive disorders and age-related cognitive decline.

Implanted Optogenetic Light Switch Lets Scientists Flip Neurons On and Off 26

the_newsbeagle writes: Optogenetics is a fairly new (and fairly awesome) research tool for neuroscientists: By using light to jolt certain neurons into action, they can study how those neurons function in the mouse brain. But getting the light to those neurons has been difficult. Previous systems have required either fiber optic cables that tether the mouse to a computer, or heavy head-mounted receivers. Now Stanford's Ada Poon has invented a tiny and fully implantable system that wirelessly receives the signal to stimulate, and uses a micro-LED to activate the neurons. The device will let researchers study brain function while mice are running around, interacting socially, etc.

'Drinkable Book' Pages Clean Dirty Drinking Water 89

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists have developed what they're calling the "Drinkable Book," which contains pages that can be torn out and used to effectively filter drinking water. The book has just completed a series of field trials in a few African countries, and it successfully removed more than 99% of the bacteria in water taken from contaminated sources, bringing it in line with U.S. tap water. The book's pages are imprinted with nanoparticles of silver and copper, which sterilize a wide range of microorganisms. The lead researcher says each page can filter about 100 liters of water before needing to be discarded. The team currently makes all the pages by hand, so their next step will be to find a way to automate production.

Octopus Genome Sequenced 43

An anonymous reader writes: A large, international team of researchers has completed the full sequencing of the octopus genome. "The researchers discovered striking differences between the genomes of the octopus and other invertebrates, including widespread rearrangements of genes and a dramatic expansion of a family of genes involved in neuronal development that was once thought to be unique to vertebrates." Among other things, the data allows scientists to more deeply analyze the creature's unique nervous system. "The central brain surrounds the esophagus, which is typical of invertebrates, but it also has groups of neurons in the arms that can work relatively autonomously, plus huge optic lobes involved in vision." Their study has been published in Nature.

Chemical Treatment Transforms Skin Cells Into Neurons 25

An anonymous reader writes: Two teams of researchers have independently succeeded in turning skin cells into neurons using a chemical cocktail. One group used human cells from healthy individuals and Alzheimer's patients, and the other used cells from mice. Sciencemag reports: "Molecular and cell biologists say the technique could become an important player in personalized medicine, specifically in using a patient's own cells to develop therapies for their disease or even to provide a source of transplantable cells for treatment."

Video REMzen Claims They Can Help You Sleep Better (Video) 21

Meet Jeremiah Scott, Co-Founder & CEO of Portland, OR, based Remzen. Their first product -- crowdfunded, of course -- is supposed to ship this October. It's an "intelligent sleep mask that collect sleep lab-type data but it also wakes you with light rather than sound, which Jeremiah says is more natural and better for you. Remzen started as a student project at Portland State University, but it is obviously moving toward the big time. Open Source? You'd think so, since Timothy met Jeremiah at OSCON. But there's apparently a financial backer or two who still need to be convinced that this project should be 100% open source instead of only halfway there.

Note: The transcript contains more material than the video. Even if you prefer video to text, you may want to read it.

Want To Fight Climate Change? Stop Cows From Burping 299

sciencehabit writes: A simple supplement to a cow's feed could substantially decrease a major source of methane, a planet-warming greenhouse gas, a new study suggests. Each year worldwide, the methane produced by cud-chewing livestock warms Earth's climate by the same amount as 2.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a little more than 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions related to human activity. That makes cows tempting targets for methane reduction efforts. In a new study, researchers added the chemical 3-nitrooxypropanol, also known as 3NOP, to the corn-and-alfalfa-based feed of 84 milk-producing Holsteins and monitored their methane production for 12 weeks—the largest and longest such trial of its type in lactating cows, the scientists say. For cows whose feed included 3NOP, methane emissions dropped, on average, by 30%.

The Biohacking Movement and Open Source Insulin 66

szczys writes: Since early last century, insulin has been produced from the pancreas of animals. In the late 1970s we figured out how to synthesize insulin using bacteria or yeast. As the biohacking movement has grown, insulin production has been a common target, but for some reason we're not there yet. Dan Maloney looked into the backstory (including the amazing story of the Saxl family who produced life-saving insulin during WWII) and a new startup that is trying to get Biohackers working on the problem. Update: 07/30 21:56 GMT by T : That's WWII above, not WWI; mea culpa.

Genetically Modified Rice Makes More Food, Less Greenhouse Gas 295

Applehu Akbar writes: A team of researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences has engineered a barley gene into rice, producing a variety that yields 50% more grain while producing 90% less of the powerful greenhouse gas methane. The new rice pulls off this trick by putting more of its energy into top growth. In countries which depend on rice as a staple, this would add up to a really large amount of increased rice and foregone methane.

Study: Certain Vaccines Could Make Diseases More Deadly 195

sciencehabit writes: New research suggests that vaccines that don't make their hosts totally immune to a disease and incapable of spreading it to others might have a serious downside. According to a controversial study by Professor Andrew Read these so-called "imperfect" or "leaky" vaccines could sometimes teach pathogens to become more dangerous. Sciencemag reports: "The study is controversial. It was done in chickens, and some scientists say it has little relevance for human vaccination; they worry it will reinforce doubts about the merits or safety of vaccines. It shouldn't, says lead author Andrew Read, a biologist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park: The study provides no support whatsoever for the antivaccine movement. But it does suggest that some vaccines may have to be monitored more closely, he argues, or supported with extra measures to prevent unintended consequences."

Eye Drops Could Dissolve Cataracts 70

An anonymous reader writes: As Slashdot readers age, more and more will be facing surgery for cataracts. The lack of cataract surgery in much of the world is a major cause of blindness. Researchers at University of California San Diego have identified lanosterol as a key molecule in the prevention of cataract formation that points to a novel strategy for cataract prevention and non-surgical treatment. The abstract is freely available from Nature. If you have cataracts, you might want to purchase a full reprint while you can still read it.

Studies Find Genetic Signature of Native Australians In the Americas 103

Applehu Akbar writes: Two new research papers claim to have found an Australo-Melanesian DNA signal in the genetic makeup of Native Americans, dating to about the time of the last glacial maximum. This may move the speculation around the Clovis people and Kennewick man to an entirely new level. Let's hope that it at least shakes loose some more funding for North American archaeology. Ars reports: "The exact process by which humanity introduced itself to the Americas has always been controversial. While there's general agreement on the most important migration—across the Bering land bridge at the end of the last ice age—there's a lot of arguing over the details. Now, two new papers clarify some of the bigger picture but also introduce a new wrinkle: there's DNA from the distant Pacific floating around in the genomes of Native Americans. And the two groups disagree about how it got there."

How Drug Companies Seek To Exploit Rare DNA Mutations 93

An anonymous reader writes: With so many people in the world, humanity can't help but generate a large amount of genetic outliers. Most random mutations are undetectable, and many of the rest lead to serious diseases. But there's another class of mutation that has drug companies salivating. For example: a few dozen people worldwide have a condition that prevents them from feeling any pain. Another condition called sclerosteosis affects less than 100 people, giving them incredibly dense bone structure. Both of these conditions have serious downsides, but drug companies are beginning to see the dollar signs behind isolating these mutations and making them safe.

"People with sclerosteosis lack a protein that acts as a brake on bone growth. Without that protein, bones grow abnormally thick. It stood to reason, researchers thought, that a drug that could block the protein in patients with osteoporosis would encourage bone regrowth. Amgen's scientists created hundreds of antibodies that they tested to determine which might be able to get in the way of the protein. It took them three and a half years of research before they were able to identify the best antibody to inhibit the protein. Then NASA came calling." It's an unfortunate situation for those with the rare conditions; there's a lot more potential profit in finding a way to genetically prevent pain for billions of people than it is to cure the handful with the condition.