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SCI-TECH: Biotech & Medical Archives

Recently in SCI-TECH: Biotech & Medical Category

You Mean Your Appendix Is Useful?

By Joe Katzman at 02:53

Seems that way. If you still have yours.

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  • Joe Katzman: Thanks for the more detailed reference to the argument, Alchemist! read more
  • Alchemist: By the way, if you are interested in understanding the read more
  • lewy14: Next up: Bull tits! read more

August 5, 2009

Tip for Beating Jet Lag in 1 Night

By Joe Katzman at 01:19

SciVee had an interesting video from some biology researchers, who think they may have hit on an important key by watching how some animals do it in nature. This article briefly explains the basic science, then offers a video for further viewing. The tip?

bq. "Simply stop eating during the 12-16 hour period before you want to be awake. Once you start eating again, your internal clock will be reset as though it is the start of a new day. Your body will consider the time you break your fast as your new "morning."... If you are travelling from Los Angeles to Tokyo, figure out when breakfast is served in Tokyo, and don't eat for the 12-16 hours before Tokyo's breakfast time."


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  • mark buehner: Bloody marys. What's the problem? read more
  • Umbriel: My own solution for the lesser lag of trips from read more

August 4, 2009

The World in a Mustard Seed: Climate Change & Evolution

By Joe Katzman at 23:40

Yale Environment 360 blog has a piece about evolution and global warming. Which actually starts from a grounded base of science, rather than politics.

"When a severe drought struck southern California, Weis realized that he could use the extra bucket of seeds for an experiment. In 2004 he and his colleagues collected more field mustard seeds from the same sites that Sim had visited seven years earlier. They thawed out some of the 1997 seeds and then reared both sets of plants under identical conditions. The newer plants grew to smaller sizes, produced fewer flowers, and, most dramatically, produced those flowers eight days earlier in the spring. The changing climate had, in other words, driven the field mustard plants to evolve over just a few years. "It was serendipity that we had the seeds lying around," says Weis."

SoCal has had drought cycles before, of course, but the point that some plants and animals can select/adapt rather quickly to changes in their environment seems to be a replicable result. If so, it's likely to take a good chunk (but not all) of the edge off of biodiversity impacts, if global temperatures do warm appreciably due to solar fluctuation, carbon effects. or whatever. We'll see. I especially liked this bit, which is apparently something many genebanks already do on a less systematic basis:

"Weis is now laying the groundwork for that research with something he and his colleagues call the Resurrection Initiative. They are starting to gather seeds and put them in storage. "Fifty years from now, botanists can draw out ancestors from this seed bank and do much more sophisticated experiments on a much bigger scale," says Weis. "It will answer some very nitty-gritty details about the evolutionary process itself. We want to take the serendipity out of it."

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Without Consent

By David Blue at 15:53

Barriers are falling throughout the Anglosphere. Old legal and moral taboos are being discarded, and a new order is rising to supreme power and prestige.

As America is preparing to elect a president who will have supported abortion rights to an unprecedented extent, as Canada comes to terms with the state having appointed arch-abortionist Henry Morgentaler to the Order of Canada, as Australia is coming to terms with yet more liberalization of its abortion laws, the United Kingdom may be making the most consequential steps of all, on a wide variety of bio-science fronts including getting rid of the barrier of consent in using human tissue from a greater range of human beings than have ever been considered fair game for no-consent medical exploitation in the Anglosphere. (link)

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  • David Blue: TOC, would you like me to do proper italics on read more
  • TOC: #16 from Fred at 2:45 pm on Oct 22, 2008 read more
  • TOC: #16 from Fred at 2:45 pm on Oct 22, 2008 read more

December 11, 2007

Human Genetic Evolution Is Accelerating

By Tim Oren at 23:26

It's been somewhat of a commonplace, among those who worry about such things, that the increase in the power and complexity of human civilization and culture has reduced the forces of evolution on the species. After all, so one argument goes, we now enable diabetics and others afflicted with genetically-linked physical or mental illnesses to survive and reproduce, where they would have perished back before we came down from the trees. Darwin might have been right, but had become steadily less relevant to our future.

Turns out Darwin is still very much relevant. A just released paper (PDF, of highly technical nature) details a study suggesting that mutations have been accumulating in the collective human genome at a rate that has increased since the 'cultural phase' of the species began. The senior author, John Hawks, is a blogger and has a more approachable summary here.

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  • J Thomas: Increasing variability does imply decreased selection. But it doesn't mean read more
  • alchemist: Actually there are a number of organisms at the real read more
  • Mark Buehner: "bell curb" Curve even. read more

November 28, 2007

Synthetic Biology - The Next Proliferation

By Tim Oren at 23:23

Wretchard's famous 3 Conjectures post has long been a topic of discussion on Winds. His original hypothesis of catastrophic and genocidal escalation due to terrorism's reduced threshold of resort to WMDs was framed in terms of nuclear weapons. Certainly current events in Pakistan and Iran show nukes to be the most pressing WMD threat. But being somewhat of a futurist frame of mind, I have kept an eye on events that will eventually and inevitably lead to the feasibility of precision targetable bioweapons being produced by organizations or even individuals equipped with the levels of sophistication and funding already displayed by Islamist terrorists. When that happens, the bell rings and time is out on the Conjectures (if not before). We will find whether they are true, or whether in the intervening time we have collectively learned that "we must love one another or die".


A fast way to get a start on forecasting is to look around for a relevant experience curve. In its original formulation, an experience curve related the decrease in production costs of a good to cumulative units of production. As now used informally, it often links drops in unit costs to elapsing time. The most famous experience curve in this sense is Moore's Law of progress in computing. which now has 40+ years of successful forecasting to its name.

Moore's is of course no law of nature. It's actually a statement about collective human behavior. By substituting time for units in its formulation, such an experience curve elides the technological and market systems behind production. But doing this successfully is actually a very strong statement. It shows that an exponential feedback loop of user demand, capital investment and technical progress is so strongly established that it may be taken as constant. In fact, such a 'law' may become a self-reinforcing vision, as it sets an implicit schedule for the next steps to be taken by each involved party.

Carlson curves graphThe closest analog in genomics are the so-called Carlson Curves, first described (but not named) by Rob Carlson of the University of Washington. These show the experience curves for the costs of sequencing (analysis) and creation of genetic bases assembled into DNA, the raw material of genes. While the Carlson curves do not have the longevity of Moore's Law, the longest running curve is now up to twenty years experience, and the recent rate of advance is notably faster than in semiconductors.

Carlson himself is cautious about interpretation, pointing out that his observations relate to "improvements in productivity in the lab" rather than "multi-billion dollar integrated circuit fabs" and eschewing any "quantitative prediction of the future". Nonetheless, a stable experience curve running for this period inevitably indicates that the demand, finance and innovation cycle is well established. Carlson further points out that biology "is cheap, and change should come much faster".

The Game Is Changing

There is a problem with Carlson's curves, though. While suggestive of overall rates of progress, they measure the wrong thing.

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  • Nortius Maximus: Brian: I think you'll find that every one of your read more
  • Brian H: Concerning "wet" nano, only now is work beginning on how read more
  • Tim Oren: It wasn't meant as a slam, just a slightly flip read more

June 16, 2007

The Business of Abortion: fiscal year 2005-2006

By David Blue at 13:57

Update / Warning! Check out post #66 by DW, and my reply in post #68: it's essential to click through to the .pdf report and look at the original data for yourself.

According to the CNS news report Planned Parenthood Reports Record Abortions, High Profits (link), "During its 2005-2006 fiscal year, the nonprofit Planned Parenthood Federation of America performed a record 264,943 abortions, attained a high profit of $55.8 million and received record taxpayer funding of $305.3 million."

"For the year July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006, Planned Parenthood received $345.1 million in clinic income, $305.3 million in taxpayer funding and $212.2 million in donations. Total income reached $902.8 million while total expenses came to $847.0 million, leaving a profit of $55.8 million."

"Cybercast News Service previously reported that Planned Parenthood has faced financial struggles for the past several years. The organization's 2003-2004 fiscal year report showed it was performing more abortions at fewer clinics than in the past." (link to report)

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  • David Blue: Summary of Financial Services: that would be page 14 of read more
  • avedis: SUMMARY OF FINANCIAL SERVICES page shows that PP actually loses read more
  • David Blue: OK, I updated the top post, now let's keep going read more

January 28, 2007

Brain Injury Removes Desire to Smoke

By Joe Katzman at 22:15

M. Simon will love this one...

"The finding, which appears in the journal Science, is based on a small study. But experts say it is likely to alter the course of addiction research, pointing researchers toward new ideas for treatment..."

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  • Glen Wishard: They just take out whatever part of your brain Hitler read more
  • Joe Katzman: Truthprobe - Personally, I'd rather have a bottle in front read more
  • J Aguilar: I think there was the astounding case of a depressed read more

Conduct Unbecoming: Fumento and the Atala Stem Cell Paper

By Joe Katzman at 01:18

Here on Winds of Change.NET, one of the important things our commenters do is error checking. Andy X did just that when he looked at a statement Michael Fumento made in "New York Times Stem Cell Coverup". Here's what Fumento said:

"Wade is flat-out wrong. Although I have read the full paper, you need go no further than the online abstract at PubMed to read that the amniotic stem cells were differentiated "into cell types representing each embryonic germ layer, including cells of adipogenic, osteogenic, myogenic, endothelial, neuronal and hepatic lineages." Translation: The amniotic cells carry the same potential as embryonic stem cells to become each of the 220 cell types in the human body."

Why does this matter? Because the AFS cells in question were not harvested from a fetus, but from routine amniocentisis tests. If Fumento's characterization is true, the practical rationale for allowing fetal harvesting in future would be gravely damaged. Andy X, however, replied that Fumento was deliberately misrepresenting "Isolation of amniotic stem cell lines with potential for therapy" by Atala et. al., a paper that had received notable media coverage of late (though Fumento is correct, not in the New York Times). Andy X also upheld standards here, and went one step further - he brought evidence to that effect.

If true, that's a very serious charge to make against a science writer, whose credibility in faithfully and accurately reporting scientific developments must remain untarnished. I now have a copy of the full research paper that Fumento says he read, and so we can take a look at Andy X's charge.

Bottom line: what Fumento did certainly looks like misrepresentation to me. Here's why...

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  • AMac: The AP had a story on Dec. 11, 2006 about read more
  • Joe Katzman: AndyX (#41-42) - Still seeing the same argumentation problems. As read more
  • Joe Katzman: AMac (#43) - Yes, Fumento's numerical cite would mislead readers read more

January 20, 2007

Newsweek blows the Atala stem cell paper, too

By Michael Fumento at 23:21

Newsweek International in its 22 January edition says of the Atala amniocentesis stem cell paper in Nature Biotechnology, "What's more, the stem cells are also found in the placenta, which is thrown away after birth - so doctors may obtain them from all infants, not just those subject to amniocentesis." It proceeds to tell us, however, that "Many scientists are quick to emphasize that comprehensive human trials are still many years away." Really? Then "many scientists" are unaware that if you go to the government's clinical website you'll find that there's already a trial underway using placental cells against multiple sclerosis. Too bad many editors don't realize they have science writers who don't understand - or worse, misrepresent - science.

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  • Robin Roberts: Michael, you are not really doing yourself any good here. read more
  • Andy X: The reason you didn't respond to me the first, second read more
  • goy: The link above points to a trial related to treatment read more

New York Times Stem Cell Coverup

By Michael Fumento at 18:15

A reader wrote in to the "Public Editor," an online ombudsman at the The New York Times, asking why a study of the potential of amniotic stem cells (and their potential to make embryonic stem cell research obsolete) didn't appear in the newspaper, notwithstanding write-ups on the front pages of The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.

In fact, virtually everybody who was anybody wrote about it. The Times responded that its "genetics reporter, Nicholas Wade,

. . . looked at the Atala paper last week and deemed it a minor development. Nicholas noted: "It reports finding 'multipotent' stem cells in amniotic fluid. Multipotent means they can't do as much as bona fide embryonic stem cells (which are called 'pluripotent'). So the cells really belong in the adult stem cell category, even though the authors claim an 'intermediate' status for them." Nicholas further noted that there had been previous reports of multipotent stem cells, which were much heralded at the time but then seemed to go nowhere."

I posted the following response:

Wade is flat-out wrong. Although I have read the full paper, you need go no further than the online abstract at PubMed to read that the amniotic stem cells were differentiated "into cell types representing each embryonic germ layer, including cells of adipogenic, osteogenic, myogenic, endothelial, neuronal and hepatic lineages." Translation: The amniotic cells carry the same potential as embryonic stem cells to become each of the 220 cell types in the human body. As to "similar cells," Wade is right but not in the way he'd have you believe. Amniotic stem cells are the same as those from placenta. Almost six years ago, scientists at Anthrogenesis Corporation announced they'd discovered stem cells that were readily harvestable in great numbers from placenta and convertible into all germ layers. PubMed now lists over 500 articles concerning "placenta" and "stem cells," indicating that a tremendous number of scientists find amniotic/placenta cells to be of tremendous interest even if Nicholas Wade and The New York Times do not.

I could also have added that this was the same newspaper that in 2004, in a Gina Kolata article, declared of adult stem cells "The problem is in putting them to work to treat diseases. So far, no one has succeeded." In fact there were about 70 ASC cures or treatments at the time, dating back to the late 1950s. The bottom line is the Grey Lady supports increased federal funding for ESC research - research that has yet to even be tested on a human being - to the point of outright lying over advances in alternative stem cell therapy. They don't call it "The Slimes" for nothing, folks.

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  • Mary A. Hamilton: Actually, though the inner cell mass from an intact embryo read more
  • AMac: I looked back at the August 24, 2004 Gina Kolata read more
  • M. Simon: #21, Thanks for the update. Progress in research at least read more

Fido is fat (and so are we)

By Michael Fumento at 19:00

t's enough to make you arf. The obesity epidemic has now gone to the dogs. We've got chubby Chihuahuas; fat foxhounds, pot-bellied poodles, butterball beagles, porcine pit bulls, and rotund Rottweilers. Labradors need liposuction. Read why in my latest article in the American Spectator

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  • Molon Labe: A better way to phrase the diagnosis, I think, is read more
  • Nicholas: I took my friends' dog to the park today. She read more
  • Glen Wishard: Maybe dog-whistle politics could solve this problem. Play a tape read more
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