Kingdom-jumping viruses leap from plant to human

Paul Raven @ 14-04-2010

Another pulp skiffy trope turns out to be (possibly) a little less pulpy: is the pepper mild mottle virus making people sick?

Oxygen not a prerequisite for life after all

Paul Raven @ 08-04-2010

Dust off those life-on-other-planets hard sf stories in your trunks, writer-types, because the subgenre might just have had a much-needed shot in the arm: the oddly-named Zoologger is a little multicellular critter discovered in deep mud in the Mediterranean, and it doesn’t need oxygen for its survival or reproduction.

We are all Ponce: The Quest for Longevity

Brenda Cooper @ 10-03-2010

When I was very little, some early-grade teacher lost in the mists of memory told me the story of how Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon spent much of his life searching for the Fountain of Youth. Now that I’m approaching one of those decade birthdays, I can finally relate. Besides, as the leading edge of the baby boom starts retiring, this seems like a good time to take a peek at the science around longevity. Continue reading “We are all Ponce: The Quest for Longevity”

Fab another little piece of my heart now, baby: 3D printing human organs

Paul Raven @ 26-02-2010

The idea of printing replacement biological tissue and organs has been around for a while – we mentioned the development the pressure-assisted spinning system back in 2007, in fact – but it looks like it’s finally reached the point where people think they can make a profit from it on a commercial scale. Via io9, The Economist tells us about Organovo and their US$200,000-a-pop commercially-available bio-printer:

To start with, only simple tissues, such as skin, muscle and short stretches of blood vessels, will be made, says Keith Murphy, Organovo’s chief executive, and these will be for research purposes. Mr Murphy says, however, that the company expects that within five years, once clinical trials are complete, the printers will produce blood vessels for use as grafts in bypass surgery. With more research it should be possible to produce bigger, more complex body parts. Because the machines have the ability to make branched tubes, the technology could, for example, be used to create the networks of blood vessels needed to sustain larger printed organs, like kidneys, livers and hearts.

I can’t wait to see what uses the street will find for this technology once it gets cheaper…

… no, scratch that. I think maybe I can wait after all.

Life on Earth may depend on quantum processes

Tom Marcinko @ 07-02-2010

Not to go all new-age on you, but it is remarkable to consider that something as esoteric as quantum physics has been observed at work in biological processes.

University of Toronto physicist Greg Scholes has published in Nature the strongest evidence yet that photosynthesis itself uses “coherence,” or being in more than one place at a time:

The quantum wizardry appears to occur in each of a photosynthetic cell’s millions of antenna proteins. These route energy from electrons spinning in photon-sensitive molecules to nearby reaction-center proteins, which convert it to cell-driving charges.

Almost no energy is lost in between. That’s because it exists in multiple places at once, and always finds the shortest path.

“The analogy I like is if you have three ways of driving home through rush hour traffic. On any given day, you take only one. You don’t know if the other routes would be quicker or slower. But in quantum mechanics, you can take all three of these routes simultaneously. You don’t specify where you are until you arrive, so you always choose the quickest route,” said Scholes.

Scholes based his findings on studies of common marine algae. His University of Chicago colleague Greg Engel says “There’s every reason to believe this is a general phenomenon.”

These findings have implications for solar-cell and computer design, not to mention being something to wonder about.

[According to scientists, the Earth is by far the sassiest planet in the solar system by internets_diary]

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