Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category
Posted by Anonymous on November 25, 2014
Posted by Anonymous on October 21, 2014
Ebola can spread by air in cold, dry weather common to the U.S. but not West Africa, presenting a “possible, serious threat” to the public, according to two studies by U.S. Army scientists.
After successfully exposing monkeys to airborne Ebola, which “caused a rapidly fatal disease in 4-5 days,” scientists with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) concluded Ebola can spread through air but likely hasn’t in Equatorial Africa because the region is too warm, with temperatures rarely dropping below 65°F.
“We… demonstrated aerosol transmission of Ebola virus at lower temperature and humidity than that normally present in sub-Saharan Africa,” the 1995 study entitled Lethal Experimental Infections of Rhesus Monkeys by Aerosolized Ebola Virus reported. “Ebola virus sensitivity to the high temperatures and humidity in the thatched, mud, and wattle huts shared by infected family members in southern Sudan and northern Zaire may have been a factor limiting aerosol transmission of Ebola virus in the African epidemics.”
“Both elevated temperature and relative humidity have been shown to reduce the aerosol stability of viruses.”
The study also referred to the 1989 Ebola outbreak at a primate quarantine facility in Reston, Va., in which the virus rapidly spread between unconnected rooms.
“While infections in adjacent cages may have occurred by droplet contact, infections in distant cages suggests aerosol transmission, as evidence of direct physical contact with an infected source could not be established,” the study added.
It is interesting to note this outbreak occurred in December 1989, when temperatures in Reston were usually below freezing, and it’s unlikely the indoor temperature in the vast quarantine facility was much higher.
A 2012 study also by the USAMRIID, which exposed monkeys to an airborne filovirus similar to Ebola, reached a similar conclusion to the 1995 study.
“There is no strong evidence of secondary transmission by the aerosol route in African filovirus outbreaks; however, aerosol transmission is thought to be possible and may occur in conditions of lower temperature and humidity which may not have been factors in outbreaks in warmer climates,” the study entitled A Characterization of Aerosolized Sudan Virus Infection in African Green Monkeys, Cynomologus Macaques and Rhesus Macaques stated.
The study pointed out that filoviruses, which include Ebola and the Sudan virus used in this particular study, have stability in aerosol form comparable to influenza.
“Filoviruses in aerosol form are therefore considered a possible, serious threat to the health and safety of the public,” it added.
And the Pentagon took this threat of airborne filoviruses so seriously that it organized a Filovirus Medical Countermeasures Workshop with the Department of Health and Human Services in 2013.
“The DoD seeks a trivalent filovirus vaccine that is effective against aerosol exposure and protective against filovirus disease for at least one year,” the executive summary of the workshop stated.
The Pentagon’s concern with airborne Ebola runs contrary to health officials who claim the disease can’t spread through coughing and sneezing, but according to the Army studies, that may only be true in tropical climates.
“How much airborne transmission will occur will be a function of how well Ebola induces coughing and sneezing in its victims in cold weather climates,” the web site potlblog.com suggested. “Coughing and nasal bleeding are both reported symptoms in Africa, so the worst should be expected.”
Thought you should know. No doubt governments are weaponizing it.
Posted by Anonymous on October 17, 2014
Targeting a cell cycle inhibitor promotes beta cell replication
One of the factors underlying the development of type 2 diabetes is loss of β cell mass, resulting in decreased insulin production. Once lost, β cell mass cannot be restored. In contrast, infants with focal hyperinsulinism of infancy exhibit rapid expansion of the β cell mass due to a silencing of a region of chromosome 11 that includes the gene encoding the cell cycle inhibitor p57Kip2.
In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Klaus Kaestner and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrate that silencing the gene encoding p57Kip2 in isolated adult human islets promotes β cell replication and that these new cells exhibit many properties associated with β cells.
This study provides an explanation for excessive β cell expansion in children with focal hyperinsulinism and suggests that targeting the p57Kip2 pathway in adults with type 2 diabetes may improve β cell function.
Decreased insulin production is a problem because without enough insulin, sugar can’t be pulled out of the blood for use by cells. High blood sugar results in damage to your organs by oxidation.
Posted by Anonymous on May 8, 2014
It’s an extraordinary claim. But scientists say you can extend your life AND stay fit throughout old age – just by a change of diet that switches on your youth gene…
Professor Kenyon has found out why drastically reducing calories has such a remarkable effect
For centuries man has dreamed of being immortal, fixated on tales of magic fountains that restore youth, the rejuvenating power of a vampire’s bite or asses’ milk.
More recently came claims that injections of monkey glands or hormone supplements would make us live longer.
But so far, what’s actually worked are medical advances such as vaccines and better living conditions. Over the past century these have boosted average life expectancy by far more than 50 per cent, from 50 to 88.
The problem is that this longevity does not mean a healthier life. Indeed, thanks to chronic diseases such as diabetes and arthritis, we’re becoming like the Struldbruggs — the miserable characters in Gulliver’s Travels who were immortal, but still suffered from all the diseases of old age.
Gradually they lost their teeth, their hair, their sense of smell and taste. All their diseases got worse and their memory faded, so they had no idea who their friends and relations were. At funerals they wept because they couldn’t die.
But now a U.S. geneticist is thought to have discovered the secret to a long life, full of health and energy. And the answer might be as simple as cutting down on carbohydrates.
Professor Cynthia Kenyon, whom many experts believe should win the Nobel Prize for her research into ageing, has discovered that the carbohydrates we eat — from bananas and potatoes to bread, pasta, biscuits and cakes — directly affect two key genes that govern youthfulness and longevity.
She made her remarkable breakthrough after studying roundworms, specifically the C.elegans, a worm just a millimetre in size that lives in soil in temperate climates all over the world.
By tweaking some of their genes she has been able to help these worms live up to six times longer than normal. ‘Not only that, but we also know how to make them stay healthy all that time as well,’ she told an audience at the Wellcome Collection in London earlier this month.
So, what do worms have to do with us?
A great deal, it seems. Professor Kenyon’s work has been successfully repeated in labs around the world — the genes she found controlling ageing in worms do the same thing in rats and mice, probably monkeys, and there are signs they are active in humans, too.
This work has revolutionised our understanding of ageing, explains Jeff Holly, professor of clinical sciences at Bristol University.
‘Ten years ago we thought ageing was probably the result of a slow decay, a sort of rusting,’ he says. ‘But Professor Kenyon has shown that it’s not about wear and tear, but instead it is controlled by genes. That opens the possibility of slowing it down with drugs.’
So how does a worm hold the key to human ageing?
At 18 days old the average roundworm is flabby, sluggish and wrinkled. Two days later it will probably be dead.
The carbohydrates we eat directly affect two key genes that govern youthfulness and longevity
However, Professor Kenyon, based at the University of California, San Francisco, found that damping down the activity of just one of their genes had a dramatic effect.
‘Instead of dying at about 20 days, our first set of mutant worms carried on living to more than 40 days,’ she says.
‘And they weren’t sluggish and worn out — they behaved like youngsters. It was a real shock. In human terms it was the equivalent of talking to someone you thought was about 30 and finding they were actually 60.’
With more sophisticated genetic manipulation, she now has some worms that have lived for an astonishing 144 days. An increase of that proportion would allow humans to live to 450.
Scientists already knew how to make laboratory animals live longer and healthier lives — you just cut back their calories to about three-quarters of their normal amount.
It’s not a practical solution for humans, because you feel cold and hungry all the time.
But what Professor Kenyon found out was why drastically reducing calories has such a remarkable effect.
She discovered that it changed the way two crucial genes behaved. It turned down the gene that controls insulin, which in turn switched on another gene, which acted like an elixir of life.
‘We jokingly called the first gene the Grim Reaper because when it’s switched on, the lifespan is fairly short,’ she explains.
The second ‘elixir’ gene seems to bring all the anti-ageing benefits — its proper name is DAF 16, but it was quickly nicknamed ‘Sweet Sixteen’ because it turned the worms into teenagers.
‘It sends out instructions to a whole range of repair and renovation genes,’ says Professor Kenyon.
‘Your supply of natural antioxidants goes up, damping down damaging free radicals.’
These are the compounds produced by our body and the environment, which are linked to a host of diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s.
The Sweet Sixteen gene also ‘boosts compounds that make sure the skin and muscle-building proteins are working properly, the immune system becomes more active to fight infection and genes that are active in cancer get turned off,’ she adds.
Kenyon had stumbled on the genetic equivalent of Shangri-La, the fictional valley where people could live for years without really ageing.
Discovering the Grim Reaper gene has prompted the professor to dramatically alter her own diet, cutting right back on carbohydrates. That’s because carbs make your body produce more insulin (to mop up the extra blood sugar carbs produce); and more insulin means a more active Grim Reaper. …
This was interesting enough to bring me out of blog hibernation for a new post. Time to start exercising again. Less sitting every day too! I picked up a blood sugar meter and my fasting level is 114 on my last test. My dad says the safe range used to go up to 120 but they changed it to sell more drugs. That may be, but after reading the above article, I’d like to work on getting down to 90 or so.
A normal fasting blood glucose target range for an individual without diabetes is 70-100 mg/dL (3.9-5.6 mmol/L). The American Diabetes Association recommends a fasting plasma glucose level of 70–130 mg/dL (3.9-7.2 mmol/L) and after meals less than 180 mg/dL (10 mmol/L).
9//25/14 Update: It turns out I have an “incurable” autoimmune disease that will destroy my pancreas and lead to type 1 adult onset diabetes where I’ll have to inject insulin to stay alive for the rest of my life. Good thing I stopped blogging because I’ve needed all the spare time to research options. Even if I can’t win, I can put up a hell of a fight. My fasting blood sugar was 111 this morning. Not great, but not horrible. Over the past few months I’ve had some really bad days where I’m over 150. I’ve learned so much, and will be sharing it in book form if possible. Do what you can to get your blood sugar down if it is high, because high blood sugar causes a lot of damage, and some of this damage causes even higher blood sugar. In other words, high blood sugar causes high blood sugar.
Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2014
Senator David Zuckerman and Representative Carolyn Partridge describe the amazing efforts, which spanned more than a decade, resulting in this unprecedented, game-changing new law…. Here’s the quick facts:
1. Starting July 1, 2016, products sold in Vermont that contain more than 0.9% GMO content contamination will require a statement on the label indicating that genetic engineering was used.
2. Products that contain GMOs and are labeled can NOT also label their products as “natural.”
3. The bill does not apply to labels for milk, eggs, and meat from animals fed GMOs.
4. Unlike the bills passed in Connecticut and Maine, Vermont’s bill does not require other states to pass similar legislation before it is enacted.
5. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
Great start. What happens next?
How Vermont plans to defend the nation’s first GMO law
Expect two things to happen now that Vermont’s legislature has passed H.112.
Any day now, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) is expected to make history by signing that bill into law as he has suggested, making his the first state to require genetically modified food to be labeled as such. Then, maybe not too long after that, expect the state to be sued over it.
There’s no guarantee of legal action, but legislators, officials and advocates are preparing for it. Earlier this month, state Attorney General Bill Sorrell told Vermont Public Radio that he would be “very surprised” if the state isn’t sued over the law. And officials were so sure of a challenge that the measure itself creates a $1.5 million legal defense fund, to be paid for with settlements won by the state. They think it’s coming, but they also say they’re ready.
“The threat of a lawsuit worked for a while, but now it doesn’t work anymore,” says Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, whose organization has for years worked with activists and lawmakers in Vermont on the issue. “I think they may go ahead and sue and do it rather quickly in the hopes that it may gather momentum,” he added, referring to biotech industry groups.
Other states have pursued similar measures, but Vermont’s law will be the first of its kind. Connecticut and Maine passed labeling requirements, but with trigger clauses requiring multiple other states to pass labeling requirements before their own go into effect. At least 25 states have considered such legislation, according to a Monday report on labeling requirements from the nonprofit Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. And advocates are hopeful they will get a measure on the Oregon ballot this year.
Despite widespread use of the weed killer glyphosate, and the prevalent myth that it is harmless, this pesticide is tied to acute human health effects and linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is found in two Monsanto products, available over the counter, RoundupTM and RodeoTM, making glyphosate one of the most widely used and well-known herbicides on the market.
For those still catching up, there are many types of genetically modified organisms in our stored today. Industry influence has allowed this without legitimate safety testing. Private labs indicate serious potential health risks including cancer.
Most commonly GMO plants are designed to survive high applications of pesticide/herbicide. The most common, glyphosate, kills beneficial organisms and damages the soil. It traps minerals so they can’t be used by plants, which is why you get LESS crop yield after the first year when you go GMO as a farmer. What you get when you eat GMO foods are those pesticides which then kill or damage beneficial microbes in your gut, organisms we need to extract nutrients from food and which are part of a normal healthy human immune system. You get sick, or you get allergies and you spend money on allergy medicines. You’d be less miserable if you just spend the money up front on non-GMO foods. This is the main way that GMO foods weaken you.
Glyphosate is believed to operate by disrupting the shikimate (pronounced shə kih mut) pathway in plants, a process for manufacturing a group of amino acids called aromatic (though the term has nothing to do with odor). These include phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. Aromatic amino acids are required for a plant’s survival.
It’s been assumed that glyphosate is harmless in humans because the shikimate pathway does not exist in any animal. However, the shikimate pathway does exist in bacteria, including those in the mammalian gut. Until fairly recently, the importance of gut biota in health has largely been ignored. However, it’s now understood to be key in many aspects of the body’s function.
Gut bacteria are in a symbiotic relationship with the body. They digest food, synthesize vitamins, detoxify foreign substances, and are key in immune system function and gut permeability. Thus, anything that interferes with the shikimate pathway has the potential of causing severe harm. – link
Another GMO product came with a different danger.
The biotech industry is fond of bragging about their genetically modified (GM) crops that “resist pests.” This conjures up images of insects staying away from GM fields.
But resisting pests is a euphemism for contains its own pesticide. When bugs take a bite of the GM plant, the toxin from the plant splits open their stomach and kills them.
The idea that we consume that same toxic pesticide in every bite is hardly appetizing. But the biotech companies insist that the pesticide, called Bt-toxin, has a history of safe use.
Organic farmers, for example, have used solutions containing the natural form of Bt-toxin—produced from Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria—as a method of natural insect control.
Genetic engineers simply remove the gene that produces the Bt in bacteria and insert it into the DNA of corn and cotton plants. Moreover, they claim that Bt-toxin is quickly destroyed in our stomach; and even if it survived, it won’t cause reactions in humans or mammals.
Studies show otherwise.
If GMO genes that make a pesticide get incorporated into organisms in your gut through horizontal gene transfer, you end up with pesticide factories in your body. We do know that DNA transfer between different species happens in gut bacteria:
The modern science of genome analysis provides abundant evidence that movement of genes and gene-fragments between species are universal features of life on earth. – link to industry disinformation site, which nevertheless agrees about gene transfer between species
Horizontal gene transfer is the primary reason for bacterial antibiotic resistance, and plays an important role in the evolution of bacteria that can degrade novel compounds such as human-created pesticides and in the evolution, maintenance, and transmission of virulence. This horizontal gene transfer often involves temperate bacteriophages and plasmids. Genes that are responsible for antibiotic resistance in one species of bacteria can be transferred to another species of bacteria through various mechanisms (e.g., via F-pilus), subsequently arming the antibiotic resistant genes’ recipient against antibiotics, which is becoming a medical challenge to deal with. This is the most critical reason that antibiotics must not be consumed and administered to patients without appropriate prescription from a medical physician. Most thinking in genetics has focused upon vertical transfer, but there is a growing awareness that horizontal gene transfer is a highly significant phenomenon and among single-celled organisms perhaps the dominant form of genetic transfer.
Can transgenes from gut bacteria then get incorporated into our own human DNA? This study says there is evidence that this could happen:
There are 10× more bacterial cells in our bodies from the microbiome than human cells. Viral DNA is known to integrate in the human genome, but the integration of bacterial DNA has not been described. Using publicly available sequence data from the human genome project, the 1000 Genomes Project, and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), we examined bacterial DNA integration into the human somatic genome. Here we present evidence that bacterial DNA integrates into the human somatic genome through an RNA intermediate, and that such integrations are detected more frequently in (a) tumors than normal samples, (b) RNA than DNA samples, and (c) the mitochondrial genome than the nuclear genome. Hundreds of thousands of paired reads support random integration of Acinetobacter-like DNA in the human mitochondrial genome in acute myeloid leukemia samples. Numerous read pairs across multiple stomach adenocarcinoma samples support specific integration of Pseudomonas-like DNA in the 5′-UTR and 3′-UTR of four proto-oncogenes that are up-regulated in their transcription, consistent with conversion to an oncogene. These data support our hypothesis that bacterial integrations occur in the human somatic genome and may play a role in carcinogenesis. We anticipate that the application of our approach to additional cancer genome projects will lead to the more frequent detection of bacterial DNA integrations in tumors that are in close proximity to the human microbiome.
I have dry eyes and have tested positive for Sjogrens-B Anti-Nuclear Antibody. I would not be surprised if Monsanto is to blame. Perhaps I should get my genes sequenced. I’ve been waiting for the price to come down and I’d also like my data to remain private. My view is that we each own the rights our own DNA.
Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2014
The loss of a tooth is a minor deformity and a major pain. Although dental implants are available, the healing process can take months on end, and implants that fail to align with the ever-growing jawbone tend to fall out. If only adult teeth could be regenerated, right?
According to a study published in the latest Journal of Dental Research, a new tissue regeneration technique may allow people to simply regrow a new set of pearly whites.
Dr. Jeremy Mao, the Edward V. Zegarelli Professor of Dental Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, has unveiled a growth factor-infused, three-dimensional scaffold with the potential to regenerate an anatomically correct tooth in just nine weeks from implantation. By using a procedure developed in the university’s Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, Dr. Mao can direct the body’s own stem cells toward the scaffold, which is made of natural materials. Once the stem cells have colonized the scaffold, a tooth can grow in the socket and then merge with the surrounding tissue.
Dr. Mao’s technique not only eliminates the need to grow teeth in a Petri dish, but it is the first to achieve regeneration of anatomically correct teeth by using the body’s own resources. Factor in the faster recovery time and the comparatively natural process of regrowth (as opposed to implantation), and you have a massively appealing dental treatment.
Columbia University has already filed patent applications in regard to the technology and is seeking associates to aid in its commercialization. In the meantime, Dr. Mao is considering the best approach for applying his technique to cost-effective clinical therapies.
I don’t recommend doing this at home just yet. If you don’t know what you are doing you might accidentally grow an ear, a toe, a nostril, or even a vagina in there, but the cool
thing is that the success with animals was four years ago so they may have secret trials with humans going on already.
Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2014
To implant the lab-grown vaginas, surgeons first had to create a canal in the women’s pelvic areas. The surgeons then sutured the biodegradable scaffold to the patients’ already existing reproductive structures. In the weeks following the operation, the women’s nerves and blood vessels gradually expanded and started integrating themselves into the engineered tissue. As this was happening, the women’s bodies were slowly absorbing the scaffolding. By the time the scaffolding had completely disappeared, it was no longer needed — the cells had laid down their own permanent support structure.
More about the announcement:
… a miraculous scientific advancement was announced: The long-term success of lab-made regenerative human tissue! Between June 2005 and October 2008, laboratory generated vaginas were implanted in four teenage girls born with a rare genetic disease. The results of the procedures were published yesterday in the science journal the Lancet, and it was announced that up to eight years later, the women are doing quite well. The patients can now have painless sex and even orgasm!
The women were all born with the genetic disease Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome, which affects one in 4,500 girls. The syndrome causes women to be born with either an underdeveloped or absent vagina and uterus. The lab-grown vaginal organ was implanted in women ages 13 to 18. Eight years later they all have normal organ function, according to Atlantida-Raya Rivera, who was a lead author of the study.
“Tissue biopsies, MRI scans and internal exams using magnification all showed that the engineered vaginas were similar in makeup and function to native tissue,” Rivera said. Dr. Rivera is also the director of the HIMFG Tissue Engineering Laboratory at the MRKH in Mexico City, the location of the surgeries….
Scans of the pelvic region were used to design a tube like 3D-scaffold for each patient
Four women have had new vaginas grown in the laboratory and implanted by doctors in the US.
A tissue sample and a biodegradable scaffold were used to grow vaginas in the right size and shape for each woman as well as being a tissue match.
They all reported normal levels of “desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction” and painless intercourse.
Experts said the study, published in the Lancet, was the latest example of the power of regenerative medicine.
In each woman the vagina did not form properly while they were still inside their mother’s womb, a condition known as vaginal aplasia.
Current treatments can involve surgically creating a cavity, which is then lined with skin grafts or parts of the intestine.
The scaffold is made of a biodegradable material
Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina used pioneering technology to build vaginas for the four women who were all in their teenage years at the time.
Scans of the pelvic region were used to design a tube-like 3D-scaffold for each patient.
A small tissue biopsy was taken from the poorly developed vulva and grown to create a large batch of cells in the laboratory.
Muscle cells were attached to the outside of the scaffold and vaginal-lining cells to the inside.
The vaginas were carefully grown in a bioreactor until they were suitable to be surgically implanted into the patients.
One of the women with an implanted vagina, who wished to keep her name anonymous, said: “I believe in the beginning when you find out you feel different.
“I mean while you are living the process, you are seeing the possibilities you have and all the changes you’ll go through.
“Truly I feel very fortunate because I have a normal life, completely normal.”
All the women reported normal sexual function.
Vaginal aplasia can lead to other abnormalities in the reproductive organs, but in two of the women the vagina was connected to the uterus.
There have been no pregnancies, but for those women it is theoretically possible.
The scaffold is placed in an incubator
Dr Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest, told the BBC News website: “Really for the first time we’ve created a whole organ that was never there to start with, it was a challenge.”
He said a functioning vagina was a “very important thing” for these women’s lives and witnessing the difference it made to them “was very rewarding to see”.
This is the first time the results have been reported. However, the first implants took place eight years ago.
Are the cells, and thus tissues and organs, grown this way the same biological age (in terms of number of times the cells can divide) as the donor or younger? Next up: replacement organs to prolong life.
Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2014
Used as a sugar substitute and often marketed as Nutrasweet and Equal, aspartame is an excitotoxin that destroys the brain and body. Its use has been a controversial subject since the 1980s when the CEO of Searle, Donald Rumsfeld, pushed for it’s approval to be sold on the market. Now, its name is being changed, with FDA approval, to try to dupe millions into purchasing and consuming this toxin once again.
Aspartame, even renamed Amino Sweet, is not safe. This substance is made using genetically modified bacteria in the US, but according to a Monsanto source, the UK market does not have to eat genetically modified bacteria excrement. Many ‘low-calorie’ foods contain GMO aspartame, however, even overseas. Aspartame may cause blindness, cancer, and brain tumors.
Just as a reminder of who is pushing this excrement – quite literally – on the consumers of the United states, it was Mr. Rumsfeld who went on to become George W. Bush’s secretary of Defense, and crony-Capitalist agenda-pusher. This one substance has continually been shown to cause harm to human health, so why is the FDA renaming it instead of banning it completely from the food supply? There is considerable evidence that artificial sweeteners cause cancer, including aspartame specifically – so why not name it something more appropriate at least? ‘Sickeningly Sweet’ might be more appropriate.
Even saccharin eventually had to be made with a label, mandated by Congress, that says, “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals”. The FDA’s own toxicologist, Dr. Adrian Gross told Congress that without a shadow of a doubt, aspartame can cause brain tumors and brain cancer and that it violated the Delaney Amendment.
Slowly poisoning someone is totally legal in the USA … as long as you make money from doing it. ;-)
Posted by Anonymous on March 16, 2014
I’ve joked that humans are an invention of water for the purpose of moving itself from place to place.
This video, based on a book, proposes that we are are being used by certain plants.
Posted by Anonymous on March 11, 2014
The pesticide producers are one of the most powerful industries on the planet, the influence they possess is enormous. You have probably heard that an Elsevier journal has retracted the Seralini study which showed evidence of harm to rats fed a GMO diet, despite admitting they found no fraud or errors in the study.
This journal had also just recently appointed an ex-Monsanto employee as an editor – one could only guess the value of this strategy for the pesticide industry. Expect Seralini to sue as this story develops, as it appears he has a very strong case.
Alas, the scientific ground on which the genetic engineering of plants is built may now be shakier than ever, thanks to GMO promoting scientists like Dr. Pamela Ronald. A recent article in Independent Science News1 questions whether she’ll be able to salvage her career, as two of her scientific papers (published in 2009 and 2011 respectively) were recently retracted.
With the loss of her credibility, and the domino effect these retractions are likely to cause within the scientific field, the entire chemical technology industry stands to suffer a great blow to its scientific integrity.
“Her media persona… is to take no prisoners,” Jonathan Latham, PhD writes.2 “After New York Times chief food writer Mark Bittman advocated GMO labeling, she called him ‘a scourge on science’ who ‘couches his nutty views in reasonable-sounding verbiage.’ His opinions were “almost fact- and science-free” continued Ronald.
In 2011 she claimed in an interview with the US Ambassador to New Zealand: ‘After 14 years of cultivation and a cumulative total of two billion acres planted, GE crops have not caused a single instance of harm to human health or the environment.'”
She may have to turn down her criticism a notch, considering the fact that not one but two of her own studies were found to contain sizeable scientific errors, rendering her findings null and void. Questions have also been raised about a third study published in 2011, according to the featured article.
Public Face of GMOs Loses Scientific Credibility
Ronald’s research group claimed to have identified a molecule used by rice plants to detect pathogenic rice blight, as well as a quorum sensing molecule (meaning a molecule that can coordinate gene expression according to the density of the local population).
These two studies, both of which are now retracted,3, 4 formed the basis of her research program at the University of California in Davis, which is investigating how rice plants detect certain pathogenic bacteria.
Ronald blamed the erroneous work by long gone lab members from Korea and Thailand, referring to the errors as a “mix-up.” She didn’t name her bungling colleagues, however. And while media coverage applauded Ronald for “doing the right thing” by retracting the studies, the featured article5 questions whether she really deserves such accolades:
“[S]cientific doubts had been raised about Ronald-authored publications at least as far back as August 2012… German researchers had been unable to repeat Ronald’s discoveries… and they suggested as a likely reason that her samples were contaminated.
Furthermore, the German paper also asserted that, for a theoretical reason, her group’s claims were inherently unlikely. In conclusion, the German group wrote: ‘While inadvertent contamination is a possible explanation, we cannot finally explain the obvious discrepancies to the results…’
Pamela Ronald, however, did not concede any of the points raised by the German researchers and did not retract the Danna et al 2011 paper. Instead, she published a rebuttal.
The subsequent retractions, beginning in January 2013, however, confirm that in fact very sizable scientific errors were being made in the Ronald laboratory. But more importantly for the ‘Kudos to Pam’ story, it was not Pamela Ronald who initiated public discussion of the credibility of her research.
… Ronald’s footnotes [in the explanation that accompanied the retraction of her second article6 admit two mislabelings, along with failures to establish and use replicable experimental conditions, and also minimally two failed complementation tests. Each mistake appears to have been compounded by a systemic failure to use basic experimental controls.
Thus, leading up to the retractions were an assortment of practical errors, specific departures from standard scientific best practice, and lapses of judgment in failing to adequately question her labs’ unusual (and therefore newsworthy) results.”
The Snowball Effect of Retracted Studies
According to data from Thomson Reuters,7 the numbers of scientific retractions have climbed more than 15-fold since 2001. What many don’t realize is that even a small number of retracted studies can wreak absolute havoc with the science-based paradigm. Other scientists who have based their research on the results from studies that, for whatever reason, end up being retracted, are now perpetuating flawed science as well. In one example, two retracted medical studies led to the retraction of another 17.
In this case, the first of Dr. Ronald’s retracted studies has been cited eight times.8 The second? 113 times.9 That sounds like an awfully large cleanup job in a field that’s already heavily criticized for its preponderance of “lousy science,” to use the words of award-winning geneticist Dr. David Suzuki.
The Problem with GMO Plant Science
It’s important to realize that genetically engineered plants and animals are created using horizontal gene transfer (also called horizontal inheritance). This is in stark contrast to vertical gene transfer, which is the mechanism in natural reproduction. Vertical gene transfer, or vertical inheritance, is the transmission of genes from the parent generation to offspring via sexual or asexual reproduction, i.e., breeding a male and female from one species.
Horizontal gene transfer, on the other hand, involves injecting a gene from one species into a completely different species, which yields unexpected and often unpredictable results. Proponents of genetically engineered crops assume they can apply the principles of vertical inheritance to horizontal inheritance, but according to Dr. David Suzuki, this assumption is flawed in just about every possible way and is “just lousy science.”
Genes don’t function in a vacuum — they act in the context of the entire genome. Whole sets of genes are turned on and off in order to arrive at a particular organism, and the entire orchestration is an activated genome. It’s a dangerous mistake to assume a gene’s traits are expressed properly, regardless of where they’re inserted. The safety of genetically modified food is based only on a hypothesis, and this hypothesis is already being proven wrong.
The kind of horizontal gene transfer that is currently used to create new crop seeds tends to produce highly inflammatory foreign proteins. As one would expect, were there a connection, inflammation-based chronic diseases have indeed increased right alongside with the proliferation of GMO foods in the US. Clearly, Dr. Ronald never bothered to look at such data, and her declaration that “GE crops have not caused a single instance of harm to human health or the environment”10 is as lacking in scientific support as her retracted research.