Monthly Archives: May 2014

The world is getting fatter — a huge problem

A new study published in the Lancet today showed that almost 29% of the world’s population, or 2.1 billion people, are obese. The reason this is such a huge problem is that being overweight increases one’s risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer. New technologies are being developed that will allow people to live longer, but they can only do so much. Obesity is one of the biggest threats to human longevity.

Here’s a few article about the study:

LA Times
WSJ

Learning from girls who don’t age

This is a really well done story about children with ‘syndrome X,’ a condition of severe developmental arrest. Perhaps the most famous of these cases was Brooke Greenberg, who as a teenager still looked like an infant. Genome sequencing will likely reveal the mutations at the core of this disorder, and aging theorists are interested in it since it may offer clues as to how to slow aging.

Self-healing plastics with a ‘vascular system’

Super-interesting use of 3D printing. Self-healing plastic modeled on the human body. The next remake of Robocop should definitely include this tech. From the WSJ:

“In their demonstration, the scientists managed to close the equivalent of a bullet hole more than 35 millimeters in diameter punched through a 3-millimeter piece of plastic parallel to the floor. They did this by using a pair of chemical compounds delivered through microchannels embedded in the plastic, much like human blood vessels.”

[...]

“Such networks can be produced using 3-D printing, said Nancy Sottos, one of the scientists. The group also showed that it could speed up or slow down the chemical reactions depending on the kind of damage to be repaired—a bullet hole, for example, might have cracks radiating out from it.”

Biologists Create Cells With 6 DNA Letters, Instead of Just 4

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has just announced that it has created cells with an expanded genetic alphabet — an X and a Y added to the regular ACTG of DNA. This is a huge win for the field of synthetic biology. Here’s the Wired story.

“We now have a cell that survives and lives with more information in its genome,” said Floyd Romesberg, the synthetic biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California who led the work.

Having more letters to work with potentially opens the door to a huge range of novel molecules. (A rough analogy: Just think how many crazy new words you could spell with 39 letters instead of the usual 26). With further refinements, synthetic cells might one day be used to create–or evolve–proteins that don’t exist in nature, as well as new sequences of DNA and RNA, any of which could be useful for research, diagnosing disease, or creating new therapies. But that’s still a ways off.”

RMF Conference — photo with Dr. Atala

I was honored to be on a panel tonight with tissue engineering pioneer Dr. Anthony Atala, Patient advocate Katie Jackson, and science artist Kelly Milukas. It was a fun panel and a great discussion about how to get more community members involved in supporting life-saving advances in regenerative medicine. Our audience, mainly scientists, wowed me after the discussion with stories of their world-changing work.
Atala