The therapy, which targets a molecule found in 90 per cent of all cancers, could provide a universal injection that allows patients’ immune systems to fight off common cancers including breast and prostate cancer.
Preliminary results from early clinical trials have shown the vaccine can trigger an immune response in patients and reduce levels of disease.
The scientists behind the vaccine now hope to conduct larger trials in patients to prove it can be effective against a range of different cancers.
They believe it could be used to combat small tumours if they are detected early enough or to help prevent the return and spread of disease in patients who have undergone other forms of treatment such as surgery.
Cancer cells usually evade patient’s immune systems because they are not recognised as being a threat. While the immune system usually attacks foreign cells such as bacteria, tumours are formed of the patient’s own cells that have malfunctioned.
Scientists have, however, found that a molecule called MUC1, which is found in high amounts on the surface of cancer cells, can be used to help the immune system detect tumours.
The new vaccine, developed by drug company Vaxil Biotheraputics along with researchers at Tel Aviv University, uses a small section of the molecule to prime the immune system so that it can identify and destroy cancer cells.
A statement from Vaxil Biotheraputics said: “ImMucin generated a robust and specific immune response in all patients which was observed after only 2-4 doses of the vaccine out of a maximum of 12 doses.
“In some of the patients, preliminary signs of clinical efficacy were observed.”
The results are still to be formally published but if further trials prove to be successful the vaccine could be available within six years.
As a therapeutic vaccine it is designed to be given to patients who are already suffering from cancer to help their bodies fight off the disease rather than to prevent disease in the first place.
Cancer cells contain high levels of MUC1 as it is thought to be involved helping tumours grow. Healthy human cells also contain MUC1, but have levels that are too low to trigger the immune system after vaccination.
When a vaccinated patient’s immune system encounters cancer cells, however, the far larger concentration of MUC1 causes it to attack and kill the tumour.
As MUC1 is found in 90 per cent of all cancers, the researchers believe it could be used to combat the growth and spread of a wide range of cancers.
In a safety trial at the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem, ten patients suffering from multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, have now received the vaccine.
Seven of the patients have now finished the treatment and Vaxil reported that all of them had greater immunity against cancer cells compared to before they were given the vaccine.
Vaxil added that three patients are now free of detectable cancer following the treatment.
The findings support research published in the journal Vaccine, which showed the treatment induced “potent” immunity in mice and increased their survival from cancer.
Cancer charities have given the vaccine a cautious welcome, but warned further testing was needed before it could be approved for widespread use.
There are currently a number of other therapeutic vaccines against cancer being tested, but they have met with limited success.
Dr Kat Arney, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “There are several groups around the world investigating treatments that target MUC1, as it’s a very interesting target involved in several types of cancer.
“These are very early results that are yet to be fully published, so there’s a lot more work to be done to prove that this particular vaccine is safe and effective in cancer patients.” …
Archive for April 10th, 2012
Posted by Xeno on April 10, 2012
Posted by Xeno on April 10, 2012
The U.S. Army is dedicating millions of research dollars into discovering building helmets to allow soldiers to telepathically communicate with one another on the battlefield.
The technology, which seems like something out of a science fiction novel, would use electrodes to pick up code words that soldiers were thinking.
Those codewords would then be transmitted back to a computer where the soldier’s position and message- telling, for instance, that it is safe to progress towards a target- which would be transmitted to their peers in the field.
Rumors that army intelligence was determined to use mind control technology to their advantage have been milling around for decades, and have been shrouded in a mix of truth and fiction.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was established in 1958 and was dedicated to expanding the Department of Defense’ technology usage, some of which included state-of-the-art, and top secret, research into the mind.
Delving more into the fiction side of things was the book, and later George Clooney movie, called The Men Who Stare At Goats which depicts the use of New Age concepts, like mind control, used during interrogation exercises in the last three decades.
Now, new details are emerging about the very real $4million research project being conducted across the country on the Pentagon’s dime.
Based largely out of University of California-Irvine, in conjunction with labs in Philadelphia and Maryland, scientists are trying to improve so-called ‘synthetic telepathy’ so that it could be used in a battlefield.
At this point, they have set their sights on 2017 as the year when their plan may turn into silent action.
So far, 45 per cent of the commands that are transmitted from one volunteer to another- like ‘call in helicopter’ or ‘enemy ahead’- are correct. That statistic is expected to improve.
According to a soldier quoted in Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, many of those people who will be the ones utilizing the technology are on board.
These days we learn warfare through video games and shoot with plastic weapons,’ the unnamed soldier said.
‘One week it’s science fiction- the next it’s on the front line. If it means I don’t have to listen to my sergeant’s voice one more day, then bring it on.’
Others, including civil rights activists, take the opposite view, bringing up concerns about a possible infringement on civil liberties if the technology were to be misused.
For the time being, the research is being focused on learning and applying the short military-based codewords, and not individuals private thoughts and deep secrets.
Posted by Xeno on April 10, 2012
Across the world, scientists are trying to determine where seasons are shifting. Spring arriving earlier, winter arriving later — it’s happening in many countries. Now, the question is, what will be the consequences of that change
In a small park at Wageningen University, biologist Arnold van Vliet points out the signs of spring that are all around — a prunus tree, with nice white flowers, a hazel bush unfolding its leaves.
It’s a lovely sight on a beautiful spring day. The only problem is that these flowers and leaves really shouldn’t be here in the Netherlands yet.
“Everything is now two to three weeks ahead of schedule,” van Vliet said. “Butterflies are appearing very early — extremely early because of the very warm March we had.”
But a warm March here isn’t that much of an anomaly these days. Van Vliet said spring is regularly coming weeks earlier than it used to in the Netherlands. In fact, he said, with temperatures on the rise the whole climate of the country has shifted in the past 10 years to become more like southern France.
Van Vliet has been following this climatic shift for more than a decade as head of an effort here called “Nature’s Calendar.” The program enlists the help of more than 8,000 scientists and ordinary Dutch citizens to track changes in the seasons through what’s known as phenology. That’s an old-fashioned word for the study of the timing of seasonal, life-cycle events, such as the first flowering of a particular plant, or when a species of bird first lays its eggs in spring.
People who work close to nature have been tracking this kind of data for centuries. But environmental scientists in the Netherlands and elsewhere are more concerned about it than ever, because the shifting of the seasons is having real environmental effects.
“We see that the length of our growing season is already one month longer than before 1988, when the temperature started to change,” van Vliet said. “We see already an enormous change in species diversity in the Netherlands—very many southern species that live in Belgium, France and even farther south, that (now) appear in the Netherlands. And the more cold-loving species are significantly decreasing. So we see that signal.”
And the Dutch aren’t alone. As the planet warms up, scientists are seeing a similar trend around the world. Jake Weltzin, an ecologist with the US Geological Survey in Tucson, Ariz., and coordinator of the USA National Phenology Network, said spring has been coming earlier in much of the United States. …
Posted by Xeno on April 10, 2012
Images: Scientists have used brain scan images to record the world’s first video of the female brain as it approaches, experiences and recovers from an orgasm. The animation reveals the steady buildup of activity in the brain as disparate regions flicker into life and then come together in a crescendo of activity before gently settling back down again. – link
Arguably, unraveling the mystery of whether vaginal orgasms exist should be simple: Ask women if they have them. But in practice, it’s a bit harder to tease out the exact sexual stimulation that leads to orgasm.
French gynecologist Odile Buisson argues in her Journal of Sexual Medicine essay, for example, that the front wall of the vagina is inextricably linked with the internal parts of the clitoris; stimulating the vagina without activating the clitoris may be next to impossible. Thus, “vaginal” orgasms could be clitoral orgasms by another name.
Other research, however, would tend to suggest two distinct types of female orgasm. Barry Komisaruk of Rutgers University has conducted multiple studies in which women masturbate while having their brains scanned with a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. The results show which sensory brain areas activate in response to stimulation.
“If the vagina stimulation is simply working via clitoral stimulations, then vaginal stimulation and clitoral stimulation should activate the exact same place in the sensory cortex,” Komisaruk told LiveScience. “But they don’t.”
In fact, Komisaruk reports in the journal, the brain areas for clitoral, cervical and vaginal stimulation cluster together but only overlap slightly, like a “cluster of grapes.”
And then there is other evidence for multiple types of orgasms: Women report that vaginal and clitoral orgasms feel different. Women with spinal cord injury that cuts off all communication between the clitoris and the brain can still have orgasms with vaginal stimulation. Some lucky ladies can even “think” themselves to orgasm with no stimulation at all. (There are also reports of women orgasming from tough abdominal workouts at the gym.)
“[O]rgasm in women is in the brain, it is felt in many body regions, and it can be stimulated from many body regions as well as from imagery alone,” wrote Rutgers University professor emerita Beverly Whipple, one of the discovers of the also-controversial “G-spot,” an area on the front vaginal wall that may be particularly sensitive to sexual stimulation.
The meaning of an orgasm
If the origin of the orgasm is controversial, so, too, is the purpose of this reflex. Whipple’s research has suggested that the sensitive G-spot has a pain-blocking function during labor; when the baby’s head is stretching out the vaginal walls, it might be advantageous to have a little relief. Her studies have found that when pressure is applied to the G-spot, a woman’s pain threshold shoots up 47 percent. In other words, it takes a lot more pain before the woman says “ouch.”
If the G-spot stimulation is pleasurable, Whipple and her colleagues found, the pain threshold increases by 84 percent compared with no stimulation, and during orgasm, that threshold hits a whopping 107 percent.
Most provocatively, some research links vaginal-only orgasms with both physical and mental health.
For instance, one study found women who have vaginal orgasms have a lower resting heart rate than those who don’t. Other research has found women who orgasm without clitoral stimulation are less likely on average to use certain maladaptive psychological coping mechanisms, said Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of West Scotland who has conducted this research. Among these mechanisms are somatization (psychological symptoms manifesting as physical complaints), displacement (displacing an emotion about one person or object onto another), and isolation of affect (disconnecting emotions from experiences).
“Impairment of specifically vaginal orgasm is associated with a variety of other psychological impairments,” Brody told LiveScience. The findings aren’t meant as a value judgment on women who don’t experience vaginal orgasms, he said. But given that some research suggests teaching women that orgasms originate only with the clitoris results in fewer vaginal-only orgasms, Brody argues that this kind of anti-vaginal sex advice could count as “malpractice.” …
Posted by Xeno on April 10, 2012
When food is in short supply women are more likely to bear daughters than sons, suggests an analysis of one of the most disastrous famines in modern history.
Shige Song, a sociologist and demographer at the City University of New York, analysed data from more than 300,000 Chinese women who gave birth between September 1929 and July 1982. This period included the Great Leap Forward famine, which resulted in millions of deaths and was linked to efforts by Chinese leaders to boost industrial productivity by means including ordering workers off the land.
Starting just over one year after the beginning of the famine, Song found a sharp dip in the proportion of boys being born — falling from 109 boys born for every 100 girls in April 1960 to 104 boys for every 100 girls by October 1963, about two years after the famine ended. The ratio did not return to pre-famine levels until around July 1965.
Song’s analysis, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B1 today, supports the sex-ratio adjustment hypothesis — the idea that species alter the sex of their offspring in response to environmental conditions. Unhealthy, poorly nourished males tend to have fewer offspring than similarly undernourished females, so the hypothesis predicts that, to keep populations up in times of famine, women should give birth to fewer boys.
Studies in animals including red deer2 have already lent weight to the hypothesis, but until now the evidence in humans has been “much less clear”, says Song. Findings from earlier studies of famines — the 1944–45 Dutch Hunger Winter3, 4 and the severe food shortages during the siege of Leningrad in the Soviet Union in 19425 — have been inconsistent.
Song thinks that he was able to observe the effect clearly in the Chinese famine because the food shortage was more severe, ran for longer and, crucially, affected many more people than previously studied famines, giving him a much larger data set to work with. The analysis also gives an insight into the time required to trigger the effect — about a year at minimum, he says. …
Posted by Xeno on April 10, 2012
Idan Ginsburg, a graduate student in Dartmouth’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, studies some of the fastest moving objects in the cosmos. When stars and their orbiting plants wander too close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, their encounter with the black hole’s gravitational force can either capture them or eject them from the galaxy, like a slingshot, at millions of miles per hour.
Although their origin remains a mystery and although they are invisible, black holes found at galaxy centers make their presence known through the effects they have on their celestial surroundings. The Milky Way’s black hole, a monster with a mass four million times that of the Sun, feeds on some of its neighbors and thrusts others out into the intergalactic void.
It’s the expelled objects that “become hypervelocity planets and stars,” say Ginsburg. “What we learn from these high-speed travelers has significance for our understanding of planetary formation and evolution near the central black hole.”
Ginsburg, along with his doctoral adviser Professor Gary Wegner, and Harvard Professor Abraham Loeb are publishing a paper in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. It describes how the team constructed computer simulations of these hypervelocity bodies as a means to understanding the dynamics involved. “The paper is a ‘call to arms’ for other astronomers to join the search,” Ginsburg announces. …
Posted by Xeno on April 10, 2012
A controversial new study of honeybee deaths has deepened a bitter dispute over whether the developed world’s most popular pesticides are causing an ecological catastrophe.
Researchers led by biologist Chensheng Lu of Harvard University report a direct link between hive health and dietary exposure to imidacloprid, a so-called neonicotinoid pesticide linked to colony collapse disorder, the mysterious and massive die-off of bees across North America and Europe.
The study isn’t without critics, who say doses used in the study may be unrealistically high. But the level of a realistic dose is also a matter of controversy, and even critics say the findings are troubling.
“Our result replicates colony collapse disorder as a result of pesticide exposures,” said Lu, who specializes in environmental exposures to pesticides. “We need to look at our agriculture policy and see if what we’re doing now is sustainable.”
Developed in the 1990s as a relatively less-toxic alternative to pesticides that seriously harmed human health, neonicotinoids soon became the world’s fastest-growing pesticide class and an integral part of industrial agricultural strategy. In the United States alone, neonicotinoid-treated corn now covers a total area slightly smaller than the state of Montana.
Like earlier pesticides, neonicotinoids disrupt insects’ central nervous systems. But unlike earlier pesticides, which affected insects during and immediately after spraying, neonicotinoids spread through the vascular tissues of plants. They’re toxic through entire growing seasons, including flowering times when bees consume their pollen.
The first reports of colony collapse disorder came in the mid-2000s from commercial beekeepers, who depending on region have experienced colony losses ranging from 30 to 90 percent. Commercial pollination costs have since skyrocketed, and as wild bees are also afflicted, even naturally occurring pollination is threatened.
Measuring bee declines, however, proved much easier than explaining them. Among a lineup of potential culprits including fungus, mites, viruses, bacteria and pesticides, studies failed to find an obvious, smoking-gun cause — but, piece by piece, evidence against neonicotinoids has steadily accumulated.
Honeybees are clearly exposed to them throughout the year and through multiple environmental routes. At certain times, especially in spring, death often follows exposure, and even non-lethal exposures may disrupt bee learning and navigation. Neonicotinoids also appear to make bees especially vulnerable to certain parasites and may interact similarly with other stressors.
Some European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, have even banned neonicotinoids, though pesticide companies vehemently defend their ecological safety and say concerns are based on inconclusive and premature science.
Lu’s study, released April 5 and scheduled for publication in the June Bulletin of Insectology, attempts to replicate the life history of commercial bees, which are often fed dietary supplements of high-fructose corn syrup that may contain neonicotinoid residues that survive processing.
“We tried to mimic commercial beekeepers’ practices. I believe one reason that commercial beekeepers are experiencing the most severe colony collapse disorder is because of the link between high-fructose corn syrup and neonicotinoids,” Lu said.
In the spring of 2010, the researchers set up four groups of commercially purchased colonies. Each contained five hives, and during the summer months were fed a diet containing either no imidacloprid, what Lu considered a small dose of 20 parts per billion, or a much higher dose of 400 parts per billion.
Colony collapse disorder is characterized in part by bees abandoning their hives during winter, and that’s precisely what Lu’s team reported in 15 of 16 imidacloprid-receiving hives. While other colony collapse disorder symptoms, such as queens that stay in the hive while workers flee, were not reported, Lu considers the experimentally induced collapse to be realistic.
Reaction to the study was swift and varied.
Bayer, the chemical and pharmaceutical giant that manufactures imidacloprid, issued a formal statement denouncing the findings as “spectacularly incorrect” and “based on artificial and unrealistic study parameters that are wildly inconsistent with actual field conditions insecticide use.”
But Jeffery Pettis, a bee biologist at the United States Department of Agriculture, called the results “tantalizing but not conclusive.” With only four colonies used per dose level, the study’s statistical significance is limited, “but I would love to see this study replicated such that the trends … they observed could be actually validated,” wrote Pettis in an email.
Among Bayer’s criticisms is that imidacloprid, a first-generation neonicotinoid, is little-used in the United States. It’s largely been replaced by newer formulations — but these, said pesticide expert Charles Benbrook of The Organic Center, an organic food research consultancy, are chemically similar to imidacloprid.
“Virtually all our corn seed has been treated with a very similar neonicotinoid,” said Benbrook. If the study had been conducted with clothianidin, another controversial neonicotinoid, “they’d almost certainly have found the same thing.”
According to Bayer, “analysis from actual field grown corn samples have shown no detectable imidacloprid residues” in high-fructose corn syrup. But Benbrook said that extensive testing by the Organic Center found traces of imidacloprid, but they were impossible to quantify.“It’s very difficult to test for this particular chemical in high-fructose corn syrup. A lot of labs have spent lots of time trying to do it, but high-fructose corn syrup is a very sticky, dense matrix that basically gums up the testing machines,” said Benbrook. “That’s why relatively little is known about imidacloprid in high-fructose corn syrup.” ….
The document, which was leaked to a Colorado beekeeper, shows that the EPA has ignored warnings about the use of clothianidin, a pesticide produced by Bayer that mainly is used to pre-treat corn seeds. The pesticide scooped up $262 million in sales in 2009 by farmers, who also use the substance on canola, soy, sugar beets, sunflowers, and wheat, according to Grist.
The leaked document (PDF) was put out in response to Bayer’s request to approve use of the pesticide on cotton and mustard. The document invalidates a prior Bayer study that justified the registration of clothianidin on the basis of its safety to honeybees:
Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis. Although EFED does not conduct RQ based risk assessments on non-target insects, information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects.
The entire 101-page memo is damning (and worth a read). But the opinion of EPA scientists apparently isn’t enough for the agency, which is allowing clothianidin to keep its registration.
Suspicions about clothianidin aren’t new; the EPA’s Environmental Fate and Effects Division (EFAD) first expressed concern when the pesticide was introduced, in 2003, about the “possibility of toxic exposure to nontarget pollinators [e.g., honeybees] through the translocation of clothianidin residues that result from seed treatment.” Clothianidin was still allowed on the market while Bayer worked on a botched toxicity study [PDF], in which test and control fields were planted as close as 968 feet apart.
Clothianidin has already been banned by Germany, France, Italy, and Slovenia for its toxic effects. So why won’t the EPA follow? The answer probably has something to do with the American affinity for corn products. But without honey bees, our entire food supply is in trouble. …
Posted by Xeno on April 10, 2012
Earlier this week, the rotting corpse of a discarded dinosaur idea rose from the depths. Brian J. Ford, a television personality and self-styled independent researcher, decided that Apatosaurus, Allosaurus and kin just looked wrong ambling about on land. Unfettered by the accumulation of scientific evidence about how dinosaurs moved and the environments they lived in, Ford decided to set scientists straight by floating an idea that had been sunk decades ago—that all large dinosaurs spent their lives in water. And, like the bad science it is, the idea strained to explain everything about dinosaur biology. Not only did the idea supposedly explain why non-avian dinosaurs went extinct—their watery homes dried up, of course—but the aquatic setting also explained the small arms of the tyrannosaurs. The great tyrants, Ford said, would catch fish and hold them close for visual inspection before downing the sashimi. Ford’s speculation is a buffet of nonsense. There is so much wrong with it, it’s hard to know where to start.
Ford certainly has a right to his opinion. The weight of the evidence absolutely crushes his ill-formed idea, but there’s no rule against making poorly substantiated claims on the internet. Heck, much of the web is sadly founded on such sludge. But I was taken aback by how many news sources not only took Ford seriously, but cast him as a kind of scientific underdog. In a BBC4 Today interview—which helped spread this swamp of insufficient evidence and poor reasoning—host Tom Feilden cast Ford as a Galileo-type hero, boldly defending his revolutionary idea while the stodgy paleontological community refused to budge from its orthodoxy. Despite Natural History Museum paleontologist Paul Barrett’s admirable attempt to set Feilden straight, the radio host concluded that Ford’s idea was a new and exciting notion, even though the image of wallowing sauropods was part of the old image of dinosaurs that had been cast out in the 1960s. As artist Matt van Rooijen highlighted in his latest Prehistoric Reconstruction Kitteh cartoon, it would seem that the old is new again.
Other news sources followed Feilden’s lead. At the Daily Mail, a source not exactly known for reliable science coverage, reporter Tamara Cohen recapitulated Ford’s argument. Paul Barrett again offered a dissenting view at the bottom of the article, but the article promotes Ford’s idea anyway. “Dinosaurs DIDN’T rule the earth: The huge creatures ‘actually lived in water’ – and their tails were swimming aids,” the headline gasped. Hannah Furness did much the same in the Telegraph, summarizing Ford’s statements at length before, in the last line, plunking down a quote from Barrett saying that Ford’s idea is nonsense. Elsewhere, FOX News and Australia’s Sky News ran a syndicated version of the story that followed the same form, and the Cambridge News didn’t even bother to get a second opinion on Ford’s work. But my favorite howler came from the internet-based TopNews, which concluded that “it had [sic] become all the more imperative that further research is done on [Ford's] theory so that some sort of conclusive findings can be presented.” No, it isn’t imperative at all. Ford’s idea is not even close to a theory, or even science. Ford’s evidence-free approach doesn’t make any testable predictions, and there is no actual scientific debate to be had here. Repeating “Dinosaurs look better in water” ad infinitum isn’t science, no matter how many journalists are enamored with the idea.
Paleontologists quickly jumped on the idea. Dave Hone and Mike Taylor called out Ford’s idea as old-school nonsense. Scott Hartman dug in at length in his post “When journalists attack!” and Michael Habib wrote a takedown of the bog-dwelling sauropod idea from a biomechanical perspective. And, earlier today, Don Prothero rightly cast the controversy as yet another media failure in reporting science. Prothero writes:
Once again, we have a glorified amateur playing with his toy dinosaurs who manages to get a gullible “journalist” to print his story with a straight face and almost no criticism. Feilden didn’t bother to check this guy’s credentials, consulted with only one qualified expert and then only used one sentence of rebuttal, and gave the story the full promotion because it was a glamorous topic (dinosaurs) and challenged conventional wisdom.
Poor reporting is entirely to blame here. “Amateur, armed with dinosaur models, says all of dinosaur paleontology is wrong” would be a more accurate way to cast the story, and seen that way, it isn’t really worth talking about. But it seems that merely having a controversial, unfounded opinion can be the price of admission for wide media attention. …
Posted by Xeno on April 10, 2012
In a study released last week, computer scientist Selim Akl of Queens University demonstrated that slime mold is fantastically efficient at finding the quickest route to food. When he placed rolled oats over the country’s population centers and a slime mold culture over Toronto, the organism grew its way across the Canadian map, sprouting tentacles that mimicked the Canadian highway system. It’s an experiment that’s been replicated globally several times now — in Japan, the UK, and the United States — all with a similar outcome.
So what is slime mold, and how does it do this?
Slime mold is not a plant or animal. It’s not a fungus, though it sometimes resembles one. Slime mold, in fact, is a soil-dwelling amoeba, a brainless, single-celled organism, often containing multiple nuclei.
Slime molds were likely an inspiration for the 1958 science-fiction film, “The Blob,” scientists say. And it’s in these plasmodial, “blob” states that they spread like highway networks and even solve mazes.
When ripped in half, the halves continue to grow independently and the nuclei in each half continue to divide and develop in sync. This makes the organism uniquely appealing to cancer drug research, said Jonatha Gott at Case Western University, because it provides researchers with multiple identical samples dividing at the same time.
Plus, unlike other organisms, the amoeba’s genetic information makes an uncommonly large number of corrections during the RNA editing phase, Gott said. She compared it to a contractor continually making changes to an architect’s plans.
“As it’s making a copy of the DNA, it changes it,” Gott said, “It’s incredibly precise and incredibly accurate. If it doesn’t do this, it dies. It’s a really crazy way to express genes.”
Computer scientists like Akl also study slime mold to better understand how nature “computes.” The hope is that these amoebas will teach them how to develop better algorithms for delivering information.
The highway experiments, for example, show that slime mold is capable of computing optimal coverage of the map while using the least amount of energy, Akl said.
Nature, in this case, was able to compute an efficient network in less time than humans could. If we could harness the algorithm to do so, we could build more efficient systems, he added.
“We are always searching for the best way to connect people…yet here is this lowly species that can do it,” Akl said.
Posted by Xeno on April 10, 2012
Two weeks ago it was “Pasty-gate”. Last week it was “Big Brother-gate”, the storm which erupted over reports that the Government is planning to set up a £2 billion cyber-surveillance centre at GCHQ, to monitor data on all electronic exchanges, through emails, Facebook, Skype and mobile phones.
As readers of this column will know, whenever the Government comes up with some proposal which is hugely unpopular and the justification for which is not immediately clear – from charging VAT on hot pies to creating a high-speed rail service from London to Birmingham – it is always worth inquiring as to whether there is some hidden European dimension at work. This Snoopergate furore is no exception.
Clues as to what is going on here proliferate in all directions. Last November, the Government announced that it would spend £650 million on beefing up British cyber-security as part of its Strategic Defence and Security Review; and that top British firms were to be offered the chance to buy top-secret security software from GCHQ.
Last week, GCHQ announced that it would be paying eight UK universities to set up Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber-Security Research. The minister in charge of cyber-security, Francis Maude, makes no secret of the importance the Government attaches to this issue, although of course he makes no mention of Europe, but only claims that it wishes “to make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business”. …