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Security

Can Iris-Scanning ID Systems Tell the Difference Between a Live and Dead Eye? (ieee.org) 86

the_newsbeagle writes: Iris scanning is increasingly being used for biometric identification because it's fast, accurate, and relies on a body part that's protected and doesn't change over time. You may have seen such systems at a border crossing recently or at a high-security facility, and the Indian government is currently collecting iris scans from all its 1.2 billion citizens to enroll them in a national ID system. But such scanners can sometimes be spoofed by a high-quality paper printout or an image stuck on a contact lens.

Now, new research has shown that post-mortem eyes can be used for biometric identification for hours or days after death, despite the decay that occurs. This means an eye could theoretically be plucked from someone's head and presented to an iris scanner. The same researcher who conducted that post-mortem study is also looking for solutions, and is working on iris scanners that can detect the "liveness" of an eye. His best method so far relies on the unique way each person's pupil responds to a flash of light, although he notes some problems with this approach.

China

CRISPR: Chinese Scientists To Pioneer Gene-Editing Trial On Humans (theguardian.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A team of Chinese scientists will be the first in the world to apply the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as CRISPR on human subjects. Led by Lu You, an oncologist at Sichuan University's West China hospital in Chengdu, China, the team plan to start testing cells modified with CRISPR on patients with lung cancer in August, according to the journal Nature. CRISPR is a game-changer in bioscience; a groundbreaking technique which can find, cut out and replace specific parts of DNA using a specially programmed enzyme named Cas9. Its ramifications are next to endless, from changing the color of mouse fur to designing malaria-free mosquitoes and pest-resistant crops to correcting a wide swath of genetic diseases like sickle-cell anaemia in humans. The Sichuan University trial, it is important to note, does not edit the germ-line; its effects will not be hereditary. What the researchers plan to do is enroll patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, Nature reported, and for whom other treatment options -- including chemotherapy and radiotherapy -- have failed. They will then extract immune cells from the patients' blood and use CRISPR to add a new genetic sequence which will help the patient's immune system target and destroy the cancer. The cells will then be re-introduced into the patients' bloodstream. The Guardian does note that CRISPR was approved for human trials in the U.S., but if it begins on schedule in August the Sichuan University study will beat them to the punch of being the first of its kind.
Biotech

Scientists Find Chemical-Free Way To Extend Milk's Shelf Life For Up To 3 Weeks (digitaltrends.com) 249

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Digital Trends: Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Tennessee have found a non-chemical way to extend regular milk's shelf life to around 2-3 weeks, and without affecting the nutrients or flavor. The technology they've developed involves increasing the temperature of milk by just 10 degrees for less than a second, which is well below the 70-degree Celsius threshold needed for pasteurization. That quick heat blast is still able to eliminate more than 99 percent of the bacteria left from pasteurization. "The developed technology uses low temperature, short time (LTST) in a process that disperses milk in the form of droplets with low heat/pressure variation over a short treatment time in conjunction with pasteurization," Bruce Applegate, Purdue's associate professor in the Department of Food Science, explained to Digital Trends. "The resultant product was subjected to a taste panel and participants had equal or greater preference for the LTST pasteurized milk compared to normally pasteurized milk. The shelf was determined to be a minimum of two weeks longer than the standard shelf life from pasteurization alone." As for whether or not this method will make its way to store shelves, it won't in the near future. "Currently an Ohio-based milk processor is using this technology and distributing the milk," Applegate says. "The unit is approved for processing milk in Ohio and distribution nationwide. The product is currently being distributed, however it has not been labeled as extended shelf life milk. Once the commercial application is validated the milk will be labelled with the extended shelf life." Scientists from Duke University believe there may be a large source of hydrogen gas under the ocean, caused by rocks forming from fast-spreading tectonic plates.
Government

New Study Shows Why Big Pharma Hates Medical Marijuana (washingtonpost.com) 415

HughPickens.com writes: Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post that a new study shows that painkiller abuse and overdose are significantly lower in states with medical marijuana laws and that when medical marijuana is available, pain patients are increasingly choosing pot over powerful and deadly prescription narcotics. The researchers "found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law... In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication. But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year."

[P]ainkiller drug companies "have long been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana reform, funding research by anti-pot academics and funneling dollars to groups, such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, that oppose marijuana legalization..."

Data Storage

Encrypted DNA Storage Investigated by DOE Researchers (darkreading.com) 42

Biological engineers at a Department of Energy lab "are experimenting with encrypted DNA storage for archival applications." Slashdot reader ancientribe shares an article from Dark Reading: Using this method, the researchers could theoretically store 2.2 petabytes of information in one gram of DNA. That's 200 times the printed material at the Library of Congress... Instead of needing a 15,000 square-foot building to store 35,000 boxes of inactive records and archival documents, Sandia National Laboratories can potentially store information on much less paper, in powder form, in test tubes or petri dishes, or even as a bacterial cell... "Hard drives fail and very often the data can't be recovered," explains Bachand. "With DNA, it's possible to recover strands that are 10,000 to 20,000 years old... even if someone sneezes and the powder is lost, it's possible to recover all the information by just recovering one DNA molecule."
Biotech

Slashdot Asks: Would You Eat Lab-Grown Meat? (dmarge.com) 351

An anonymous reader writes from a report via WIRED: Lab-grown meat appears to be coming to a supermarket near you whether you like it or not. Granted, you have some time before that becomes a reality. Scientists in Belgium and the United States are working on cultured meat substitutes that taste like real meat and cost less than real meat, but don't use as many environmental resources as meat from animals, nor does it involve the slaughtering of animals. They predict such meat substitutes will cost a lot less by the year 2020 when the efficiency of bulk production kicks in. According to a 2014 Pew poll, only 20 percent of Americans would be willing to try cultured meat, while a 2013 survey in Belgium revealed that just 13 percent of 180 subjects knew what cultured meat was. Also, vegetarians surveyed perceived man-made meat to be unhealthy and unfavorable. However, once respondents were told how the meat is grown, most said they might try it. When educated about the environmental benefits, the number of people who were willing to try it nearly doubled. A poll from The Vegan Scholar found that lab-grown meat was much more appealing to vegetarians than to vegans. Similar Reddit and SurveyMonkey polls have come to similar conclusions, but it's important to note that none of these polls were peer-reviewed. Researchers have suggested that the media greatly overestimates the importance of vegetarian and vegan opinions on lab-grown meat. Given the lack of large surveys determining the public's opinion on lab-grown meat, we thought we would pose the question to Slashdotters: Would you eat lab-grown meat?
Medicine

A Medical Mystery of the Best Kind: Major Diseases Are In Decline (nytimes.com) 321

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from the New York Times: Something strange is going on in medicine. Major diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, are waning in wealthy countries, and improved diagnosis and treatment cannot fully explain it...it looks as if people in the United States and some other wealthy countries are, unexpectedly, starting to beat back the diseases of aging. The leading killers are still the leading killers -- cancer, heart disease, stroke -- but they are occurring later in life, and people in general are living longer in good health.
The Times cites one researcher's pet theory that the cellular process of aging itself may be gradually changing in humans' favor.
Biotech

Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes Banned From Owning a Lab (engadget.com) 146

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The Wall Street Journal reports U.S. regulators have devised to ban the owners and operators of Theranos from running a lab for two years. That includes CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes, as confirmed by a press release issued tonight. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revoked the lab's Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certificate and imposed a civil money penalty for an unspecified amount. The ban does not take effect for 60 days, however Theranos says it will not do any testing at the Newark, CA lab CMS investigated, and instead will serve customers from its lab in Arizona. Elizabeth Holmes wrote: "We accept full responsibility for the issues at our laboratory in Newark, California, and have already worked to undertake comprehensive remedial actions. Those actions include shutting down and subsequently rebuilding the Newark lab from the ground up, rebuilding quality systems, adding highly experienced leadership, personnel and experts, and implementing enhanced quality and training procedures. While we are disappointed by CMS' decision, we take these matters very seriously and are committed to fully resolving all outstanding issues with CMS and to demonstrating our dedication to the highest standards of quality and compliance."
Robotics

Robot Stingray Is Powered By Rat Heart Cells (ieee.org) 35

An anonymous reader writes: Harvard researchers report in the journal Science this week that they've built a "bio-inspired swimming robot that mimics a ray fish [and] can be guided by light." The robot's body consists of "a cast elastomer body with a skeleton of gold, along with a single layer of carefully aligned muscle fibers harvested from neonatal rat hearts." The fibers were genetically modified to respond to pulses of blue light and structured along the body of the robot such that contractions result in a repetitive undulating motion, propelling the robot forward. "About 200,000 live rat heart cells form the muscle layer that powers the robot, which has a body 16.3 mm long and weighs just over 10 grams," reports IEEE. "At full tilt, it can swim at a speed of 3.2 mm/s, which isn't bad for such a tiny thing." You can watch the video that shows the robot being led through a 250 mm long obstacle course.
Biotech

Researchers Develop Electronic Nose To Sniff Out Pesticides and Nerve Gas (phys.org) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Researchers from KU Leuven have now built a very sensitive electronic nose with metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). "MOFs are like microscopic sponges," postdoctoral researcher Ivo Stassen explains. "They can absorb quite a lot of gas into their minuscule pores." "We created a MOF that absorbs the phosphonates found in pesticides and nerve gases. This means you can use it to find traces of chemical weapons such as sarin or to identify the residue of pesticides on food. This MOF is the most sensitive gas sensor to date for these dangerous substances. Our measurements were conducted in cooperation with imec, the Leuven-based nanotechnology research centre. The concentrations we're dealing with are extremely low: parts per billion -- a drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool -- and parts per trillion." The chemical sensor can easily be integrated into existing electronic devices, Professor Rob Ameloot adds. "You can apply the MOF as a thin film over the surface of, for instance, an electric circuit. Therefore, it's fairly easy to equip a smartphone with a gas sensor for pesticides and nerve gas." Professor Ameloot continues, "MOFs can measure very low concentrations, so we could use them to screen someone's breath for diseases such as lung cancer and MS in an early stage. Or we could use the signature scent of a product to find out whether food has gone bad or to distinguish imitation wine from the original. This technology, in other words, offers a wide range of perspectives."
Biotech

Stop Bashing GMO Food, Say 109 Nobel Laureates (nytimes.com) 470

The New York Times reports: More than 100 Nobel laureates have a message for Greenpeace: Quit the G.M.O.-bashing. Genetically modified organisms and foods are a safe way to meet the demands of a ballooning global population, the 109 laureates wrote in a letter posted online and officially unveiled at a news conference on Thursday in Washington, D.C...

"Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production," the group of laureates wrote. "There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity."

Slashdot reader ArmoredDragon writes: As an echo to that comment, one of the key benefits of GMO is increased crop yield, which means a reduced need for deforestation to make way for farmland. GMO food such as Golden Rice, which improves the micronutrient content of rice, and Low Acrylamide Spuds, which are potatoes engineered to have reduced carcinogen content compared to their natural counterparts, can possibly solve many health problems that are inherent with consuming non-GMO produce. And for those concerned about patent-related issues, many of these patents have recently expired, which means anybody can freely grow them and sell the seeds without the need to pay any royalties.
Power

Ultra-Thin Solar Cells Can Be Bent Around A Pencil (computerworld.com.au) 51

angry tapir quotes a report from Computerworld: Scientists in South Korea have developed solar cells thin enough they can be bent around a pencil. The cells could help usher in the use of solar energy in small portable gadgets where space is at a premium. The cells are fabricated onto a flexible substrate that is just a micrometer thick -- one-half to one-quarter the thickness of other "thin" solar cells and hundreds of times thinner than conventional cells. [The team at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea managed to reduce the thickness by directly attaching the cells to the substrate without the use of an adhesive. They were stamped onto the substrate and then cold welded, a process that binds two materials together through pressure, not heat. The scientists tested the cells and discovered they can almost be folded in half -- wrapped around a radius as small as 1.4 millimeters. A paper describing the work was published on Monday in Applied Physics Letters, a journal of the American Institute of Physics.]
Biotech

Cancer Is An Evolutionary Mechanism To 'Autocorrect' Our Gene Pool, Suggests Paper (sciencealert.com) 262

schwit1 quotes a report from ScienceAlert: Two scientists have come up with a depressing new hypothesis that attempts to explain why cancer is so hard to stop. Maybe, they suggest, cancer's not working against us. Maybe the disease is actually an evolutionary 'final checkpoint' that stops faulty DNA from being passed down to the next generation. To be clear, this is just a hypothesis. It hasn't been tested experimentally, and, more importantly, no one is suggesting that anyone should die of cancer. In fact, it's quite the opposite -- the researchers say that this line of thinking could help us to better understand the disease, and come up with more effective treatment strategies, like immunotherapy, even if a cure might not be possible. So let's step back a second here, because why are our bodies trying to kill us? The idea behind the paper is based on the fact that, in the healthy body, there are a whole range of inbuilt safeguards, or 'checkpoints,' that stop DNA mutations from being passed onto new cells. One of the most important of these checkpoints is apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Whenever DNA is damaged and can't be fixed, cells are marked for apoptosis, and are quickly digested by the immune system -- effectively 'swallowing' the problem. No mess, no fuss. But the new hypothesis suggests that when apoptosis -- and the other safeguards -- don't work like they're supposed to, cancer just might be the final 'checkpoint' that steps in and gets rid of the rogue cells before their DNA can be passed on... by, uh, killing us, and removing our genetic material from the gene pool.
Space

Finnish Scientist Provides Another Explanation For The 'Impossible' EM Drive (examiner.com) 299

MarkWhittington quotes a report from Examiner: Ever since the EmDrive entered the news about a year or so ago, it has sparked considerable controversy. The device is alleged to work by using microwaves that produce, in some fashion as yet unknown to science, thrust. Many scientists suggest that the EM drive is impossible as it violates known physics. However, a number of tests conducted in Great Britain, Germany, China, and at NASA's Eagleworks at the Johnson Spaceflight Center have resulted in thrust that cannot, as yet, be explained by experimental error. The International Business Times reported that a Finnish scientist has published an article in a peer-reviewed science journal with a possible explanation as to how the drive works. International Business Times writes, "A new peer-reviewed paper on the EmDrive from Finaland states that the controversial electromagnetic space propulsion technology does work due to microwaves fed into the device converting photons that leak out of the closed cavity, producing an exhaust. The research, entitled "On the exhaust of electromagnetic drive," is published in the journal AIP Advances 6 and is the brainchild of Dr Arto Annila, a physics professor at the University of Helsinki; Dr Erkki Kolehmainen, an organic chemistry professor at the University of Jyvaskyla; and Patrick Grahn, a multiphysicist at engineering software firm Comsol."
Medicine

WHO: Drinking Extremely Hot Coffee, Tea 'Probably' Causes Cancer (usatoday.com) 274

An anonymous reader writes from a report via USA Today: The World Health Organization reports that drinking coffee, tea and other beverages at temperatures hotter than 149 degrees Fahrenheit may lead to cancer of the esophagus. These hot beverages can injure cells in the esophagus and lead to the formation of cancer cells, said Mariana Stern, an associate professor of preventative medicine and urology at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. But scientists did say that if you drink coffee at cooler temperatures, it is not only safe but it may decrease of the risk of liver cancer by 15%, according to research published in Lancet Oncology. Previously, the International Agency for Research on Cancer ruled coffee was a "possible carcinogenic" in 1991. The research involved Stern and 22 other scientists from 10 countries, who examined about 1,000 studies on more than 20 types of cancer.
Medicine

Repurposing Drugs To Tackle Cancer (theguardian.com) 53

sackvillian writes: Many Slashdotters are aware of the infamous thalidomide birth defect crisis. What might come as a surprise is the incredible success that thalidomide and some analogs have recently found as treatments for cancer, ulcers, lupus, and more. In fact, thanks in part to their success, there's a growing research movement that's attempting to treat cancer with other existing drugs that are commonly used for totally unrelated conditions. Drugs as common as aspirin, which is in the early stages of a clinical trial that will involve over 10,000 cancer patients, are being used. As described in the article written by The Guardian, at least one major international collaboration has taken this approach: The Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project. However, as most of the drugs are long since off-patent, researchers are having to be creative in obtaining funding for their work. Last week, Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a public database for clinical data on cancer that aims to help researchers and doctors better tailor new treatments to individuals.
Biotech

Walgreens Cuts Ties With Blood-Test Startup Theranos (theverge.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes: Walgreens has announced that it's terminating its partnership with blood-testing startup Theranos. All 40 of the "Theranos Wellness Centers" in Walgreen's Arizona drugstores will be shut down immediately, closing what has been a primary link between Theranos and would-be consumers, and further wounding the troubled startup's revenue. "In light of the voiding of a number of test results, and as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has rejected Theranos' plan of correction and considers sanctions, we have carefully considered our relationship with Theranos and believe it is in our customers' best interests to terminate our partnership," said Walgreens senior vice president Brad Fluegel in a press statement.
Biotech

23 Seriously Ill MS Patients Recover After 'Breakthrough' Stem Cell Treatment (telegraph.co.uk) 74

schwit1 quotes a report from The Telegraph: Multiple sclerosis patients who were severely disabled are walking, working and even downhill skiing again following a breakthrough therapy which completely destroys, then rebuilds, the immune system. The trial, which is the first in the world to show complete long-term remission from the debilitating disease has been hailed by experts as "exciting" "unprecedented," and "close to curative." Although it is unclear what causes MS it is thought that the immune system attacks the protective coating which surrounds nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord leading to inflammation, pain, disability and in severe cases, early death. [The new technique, which is a treatment usually used to fight leukemia, involves using chemotherapy to entirely eradicate the damaged immune system, before rebooting it with a transfusion of bone marrow cells. Out of the 24 patients who were given the treatment at least seven years ago, the majority have seen significant improvements. 70 per cent of patients saw a complete stop to the progression of the disease, while 40 per cent saw a reversal in symptoms such as vision loss, muscle weakness and balance loss.] Last week, it was reported that a wheelchair-bound stroke victim was able to walk again after an "unprecedented" stem cell trial at Stanford.
Biotech

Scientists Announce Plans For Synthetic Human Genomes (washingtonpost.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes: After it was reported three weeks ago that scientists have held a secret meeting to consider creating a synthetic human genome, the participants of that meeting have officially published their plans. They announced a plan to launch a project that would radically reduce the cost of synthesizing human genomes -- a revolutionary development in biotechnology that could enable technicians to grow human organs for transplantation. The Washington Post reports: "The announcement, published Thursday in the journal Science, is the latest sign that biotechnology is going through a rapidly advancing but ethically fraught period. The promoters of synthetic genomes envision a project that would eventually be on the same scale as the Human Genome Project of the 1990s, which led to the sequencing of the first human genomes. The difference this time would be that, instead of 'reading' genetic codes, which is what sequencing does, the scientists would be 'writing' them. They have dubbed this the 'Genome Project-write.'"
United States

Antibiotic-Resistant E Coli Reaches The US For The First Time (reuters.com) 203

New submitter maharvey writes: A woman in Pennsylvania has contracted a strain of E Coli that is unaffected by all known legal antibiotics, including the antibiotics of last resort. We have had bacteria that were resistant, but this is the first bacteria that is completely immune. Such bacteria were known in China, but since the woman has not traveled recently it means she contracted it in the wild in the USA. This is a major step toward the terrifying post-antibiotic world.

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