Scientist team creates first GM human embryo

Scientists have created what is believed to be the first genetically modified (GM) human embryo.

A team from Cornell University in New York produced the GM embryo to study how early cells and diseases develop. It was destroyed after five days.

The British regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has warned that such controversial experiments cause “large ethical and public interest issues”.

News of the development comes days before MPs are to debate legislation that would allow scientists to use similar techniques in this country.

The effects of changing an embryo would be permanent. Genes added to embryos or reproductive cells, such as sperm, will affect all cells in the body and will be passed on to future generations.

The technology could potentially be used to correct genes which cause diseases such as cystic fibrosis, haemophilia and even cancer. In theory, any gene that has been identified could be added to embryos.

Ethicists warn that genetically modifying embryos could lead to the addition of genes for desirable traits such as height, intelligence and hair colour.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which will have its second reading this week, will make it legal to create GM embryos in Britain.

Read moreScientist team creates first GM human embryo

The REAL brain drain: Modern technology – including violent video games – is changing the way our brains work, says neuroscientist

Human identity, the idea that defines each and every one of us, could be facing an unprecedented crisis.

It is a crisis that would threaten long-held notions of who we are, what we do and how we behave. It goes right to the heart – or the head – of us all.

This crisis could reshape how we interact with each other, alter what makes us happy, and modify our capacity for reaching our full potential as individuals.

And it’s caused by one simple fact: the human brain, that most sensitive of organs, is under threat from the modern world.


Video games are weakening the ability to think for ourselves

Unless we wake up to the damage that the gadget-filled, pharmaceutically-enhanced 21st century is doing to our brains, we could be sleepwalking towards a future in which neuro-chip technology blurs the line between living and non-living machines, and between our bodies and the outside world.

It would be a world where such devices could enhance our muscle power, or our senses, beyond the norm, and where we all take a daily cocktail of drugs to control our moods and performance.

Already, an electronic chip is being developed that could allow a paralysed patient to move a robotic limb just by thinking about it.

As for drug manipulated moods, they’re already with us – although so far only to a medically prescribed extent.

Increasing numbers of people already take Prozac for depression, Paxil as an antidote for shyness, and give Ritalin to children to improve their concentration.

But what if there were still more pills to enhance or “correct” a range of other specific mental functions?

What would such aspirations to be “perfect” or “better” do to our notions of identity, and what would it do to those who could not get their hands on the pills? Would some finally have become more equal than others, as George Orwell always feared?

Read moreThe REAL brain drain: Modern technology – including violent video games – is changing the way our brains work, says neuroscientist

Foreign criminals work at airports unchecked

Thousands of foreigners are being allowed to work in high security parts of Britain’s airports without passing proper criminal record checks, it was disclosed last night.

Despite warnings that terrorists would try to recruit people working “airside” in terminals – with direct access to aircraft and baggage – no attempt has been made to check whether foreign workers have committed any offences abroad.

The vetting process checks only for crimes committed in Britain. Foreign workers – arriving from inside or outside the European Union – are not checked in their country of origin.

This means that someone with a conviction for firearms or explosives offences committed abroad could, for example, take a job loading bags on to aircraft at Heathrow, Gatwick or any other airport, provided they had committed no crimes here.

The security lapse was called “absolutely astonishing” by David Davis, the shadow home secretary, who demanded “full and immediate checks”.

Read moreForeign criminals work at airports unchecked

Scientists to capture DNA of trees worldwide for database

The New York Botanical Garden may be best known for its orchid shows and colorful blossoms, but its researchers are about to lead a global effort to capture DNA from thousands of tree species from around the world.

The Bronx garden is hosting a meeting this week where participants from various countries will lay the groundwork for how the two-year undertaking to catalog some of the Earth’s vast biodiversity will proceed.

The project is known as TreeBOL, or tree barcode of life. As in a similar project under way focusing on the world’s fish species, participants would gather genetic material from trees around the world.

A section of the DNA would be used as a barcode, similar to way a product at the grocery store is scanned to bring up its price. But with plants and animals, the scanners look at the specific order of the four basic building blocks of DNA to identify the species.

The resulting database will help identify many of the world’s existing plant species, where they are located and whether they are endangered. The results are crucial for conservation and protecting the environment as population and development increases, said Damon Little, assistant curator of bioinformatics at the Botanical Garden and coordinator of the project.

(No way that this is only about identifying the species and finding out weather they are endangered or not.
What could a scientist possibly do with DNA?
Why have massive, high level security ‘Doomsday’ Seed Vaults been built just recently?
Just in case you have missed these articles:

‘Doomsday’ seed vault opens in Arctic

Investors Behind Doomsday Seed Vault May Provide Clues to Its Purpose (Part 2)

Hungary to start the world’s first wild seed bank

African seed collection first to arrive in Norway on route to Arctic seed vault

Maybe, just maybe, could it be that this is more than a coincidence? …and there are no coincidences.
Maybe some of the – socially accepted – most powerful people in the world are expecting a catastrophe of epic proportions.
– The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreScientists to capture DNA of trees worldwide for database

Surgeons give hope to blind with successful bionic eye operations

Surgeons have carried out the first operations in Britain using a pioneering “bionic eye” that could in future help to restore the sight of the blind.

Two successful operations to implant the artificial electronic device into the eyes of two blind patients were conducted last week at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, it emerged today.

The device — the first of its kind in the world — incorporates a video camera and transmitter mounted on a pair of glasses.

This is linked to an artificial retina, which transmits moving images along the optic nerve to the brain, and enables a patient to discriminate rudimentary images of motion, light and dark.

The operations at Moorfields were conducted as part of an international clinical trial of the technology, known as the Argus II retinal implant, which has already proved successful in restoring rudimentary vision to blind patients with common causes of sight loss such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa.

Read moreSurgeons give hope to blind with successful bionic eye operations

Lasers used to make female flies act like males

Scientists have used a laser to control a female fly’s mind and make it sing “love songs” which are only ever sung by males. The ground-breaking research, which suggests the difference between the sexes may be much subtler than thought, was conducted using radical new technology which allows scientists to turn individual brain cells on and off by shining a light on them.

The research is predominantly the work of Gero Miesenböck, an Austrian scientist formerly of Yale University who has recently moved to Oxford. Nicknamed “Lord of the Flies” by contemporaries, Professor Miesenböck specialises in controlling fly movements by genetically modifying certain brain cells to make them sensitive to light.

This is the first time an animal’s sexual behaviour has been modified by such “mind control” techniques.

Read moreLasers used to make female flies act like males

Earth’s Hum Sounds More Mysterious Than Ever

Earth gives off a relentless hum of countless notes completely imperceptible to the human ear, like a giant, exceptionally quiet symphony, but the origin of this sound remains a mystery.

Now unexpected powerful tunes have been discovered in this hum. These new findings could shed light on the source of this enigma.

The planet emanates a constant rumble far below the limits of human hearing, even when the ground isn’t shaking from an earthquake. (It does not cause the ringing in the ear linked with tinnitus.) This sound, first discovered a decade ago, is one that only scientific instruments – seismometers – can detect. Researchers call it Earth’s hum.

Read moreEarth’s Hum Sounds More Mysterious Than Ever

Holographic storage ships next month!


Even since astronaut Dave Bowman disconnected the HAL 9000’s holographic memory in 2001: A Space Odyssey techies have been wondering when we could buy real holographic storage. Now we know: May, 2008.

Promising super-high density and excellent media flaw resistance, holographic storage has been an ever-receeding technology for years. You can buy nifty 3D skull and crossbones holograms – technically a form of storage – but no one had figured out how to turn a lab project into a product. Until now.

Read moreHolographic storage ships next month!

Biologists join the race to create synthetic life

Researchers will gather in London this week to outline plans to promote one of the most audacious, and controversial, scientific ideas of the 21st century – synthetic biology.

The new discipline, established by scientists such as human genome pioneer Craig Venter, involves stripping microbes down to their basic genetic constituents so they can be reassembled and manipulated to create new life forms. These organisms can then be exploited to manufacture drugs and fuels or to act as bio-sensors inside the body.

However, some researchers warn that synthetic biology – which is accelerating at a dramatic pace – also poses dangers. In particular, they fear it may already be possible to create deadly pathogens, such as polio or smallpox viruses, from pieces of synthetic DNA ordered over the internet. In future, completely new – and highly dangerous – microbes could be made this way.

Read moreBiologists join the race to create synthetic life

Solar Cycle Heats Up and Threatens Satellites

Solarflare

Solar radiation reaches an 11-year high again in 2011, making things interesting for those reliant on satellites — the U.S. military included.

As Inside the Air Force notes this week, the solar cycle — “the frequency in which sun spots and solar flares occur” — waxes and wanes every 11 years. The last one reached its apex in April 2000, so it’s gonna get warm again soon. And while solar flares can and do damage satellites even in non-peak times, 2011 still looms big.

Read moreSolar Cycle Heats Up and Threatens Satellites