Science Ahoy!

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Archive for the ‘Biomed’ Category

Worm Story

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Did anyone ever know that the earthworm can have sixteen (16, XVI) hearts?

Did anyone know eating eating earthworms can reduce cholesterol?

Did anyone know that earthworms hatch from cocoons smaller than a grain of rice?

Does the word “Worm Grunting” bring weird images to your mind?

Read about the king and queen of worms here.


Written by Elgie Shepard

October 16, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Biomed, Science

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So how many cells does it take to screw a light bulb?

One, it seems.

Monkeys taught to play a computer game were able to overcome wrist paralysis with an experimental device that might lead to new treatments for patients with stroke and spinal cord injury.

Remarkably, the monkeys regained use of paralyzed muscles by learning to control the activity of just a single brain cell.

Written by Elgie Shepard

October 16, 2008 at 2:50 pm

The Contraceptive Song

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And you thought testing various secretions of the body and measuring temperature at various times of the month can tell you the “safe” period for that date with hot dude?

Here is an alternative.

A woman raises the pitch of her voice during her most fertile period of the month in an unconscious boost to her femininity, according to a US study. […]

An analysis of the recordings revealed the closer a woman was to ovulation the more she raised her pitch.

The increase in tone was only slight – it wasn’t Minnie Mouse on helium – but the peaks were enough to be picked up by the voice decoder and presumably by the male ear, as well.

Aha !

Written by Elgie Shepard

October 11, 2008 at 11:33 am

Your Destiny Costs Five Thousand Dollars

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We have come a long way from the discovery of the gene to the current status of complete genome sequencing for five thousand bucks.

Starting next spring, a complete human-genome sequence can be ordered for just $5,000, thanks to a new sequencing service announced by Complete Genomics, a startup based in Mountain View, CA. The stunning price drop–sequencing currently costs approximately 20 times that amount–could completely change the way that human-genomics research is done and open up new possibilities in personalized medicine. Researchers say that a $5,000 genome would enable new studies to identify rare genetic variants linked to common diseases, and it could open up the sequencing market to diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies, making genome sequencing a routine part of clinical drug testing.

Written by Elgie Shepard

October 10, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Cancer Stem Cell

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It has always puzzled me why some people are cured (at least temporarily) of cancer through various treatmnets, with no remission for extended periods of time, while a few others succumb to the disease despite medical intervention.  This could be why.

A growing body of evidence indicates that only certain cancer cells are capable of generating and maintaining a tumor. Dubbed cancer stem cells, they can divide indefinitely to perpetuate the cancer over time. They may also be the reason why some therapies fail to wipe out a cancer entirely: cancer stem cells seem to be particularly resistant to standard cancer treatments and can remain behind like the roots of a weed.

Identifying the root is half the battle won.

A team of researchers at Harvard Medical School has now developed a new way to find drugs that selectively kill cancer stem cells or prevent them from dividing.

Written by Elgie Shepard

October 9, 2008 at 4:40 am

Robot in my Stomach

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This is the latest it seems –

Now a consortium of European researchers is testing a way to connect several swallowable devices to create a surgical “robot” that would self-assemble inside the stomach.


A collaboration of researchers from Italy, France, Switzerland, and Spain, called ARES, is testing a way for multiple capsules to automatically snap together. Each would be swallowed individually before assembling into a more complex device once safely in the stomach.

Pretty smooth I should say, although for some reason it reminds me of some gross scifi movie (forget which one, pretty sure it was a blockbuster) where some alien lifeform (?) gets into the body of a space traveler, and bursts open the stomach of our spacewalker in a highly nauseous, gross, nightmarish scene.  Just imagine – “doctor, there is something gnawing inside my small intestine” “Oh, it must be the robot performing daily ablutions”.

That aside, I am not sure I will be too happy about having robots handling me.  I would much rather have a human being prodding my innards, human error and all including.  But, who cares about my preference anyway?  Robotic surgery – the type where robots perform the surgery from OUTSIDE the patient, not INSIDE as the earlier reference describes – is perhaps almost in the horizon.

Written by Elgie Shepard

September 30, 2008 at 9:04 am

Posted in Biomed, Science

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Nano Shot

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Can you fool the cell?  Apparently you can.

Stellacci and his colleagues incorporated properties of the cell-penetrating peptides into their synthetic material. They coated gold nanoparticles six nanometers in diameter with alternating stripes of hydrophobic and hydrophilic molecules, mimicking the ordered structure of the peptides researchers have tried to use in the past. They then labeled the gold nanoparticles with fluorescent dye and tested them on mouse immune cells. The group found that the nanoparticles entered the cells and distributed themselves throughout the cytosol, the cell’s internal fluid, without killing the cell. The researchers published their findings in a recent edition of Nature Materials[].

I have not read the original paper in Nature, but I wonder what the longterm impact on the cell is.  Coated or not, the nanoparticle is a foreign body, and I wonder if the cell gets a whiff of the trick soon enough.  Once cradle-to-grave studies are done, we could potentially find cure for diseases such as cancer.

Using nanoparticles for disease monitoring/detection is pretty hot in Europe –

The cost is prohibitive, I am sure.  But may be some day the technology will be perfected enough to be made accessable to all.

Written by Elgie Shepard

September 30, 2008 at 2:45 am