Archive for March, 2006

Sticky Ends Online: Virus-Resistant Mosquitoes Can Be Genetically Engineered

March 22, 2006

Sticky Ends Online: Virus-Resistant Mosquitoes Can Be Genetically Engineered

A study led by Colorado State University researcher Ken Olson shows that mosquitoes can be genetically engineered to be weapons against infectious diseases. Researchers triggered a naturally occurring antiviral pathway in the mosquitoes, allowing the researchers to reduce or prevent the mosquitoes’ ability to transmit the virus. The insects were made resistant to the virus, of which there are four types.

“The research results of this study offer promising results for halting the spread of this disease by disarming mosquito’s ability to contract and transmit the dengue type-2 virus, a cause of dengue fever,” says Olson. “It demonstrates that it’s feasible to develop a mosquito that won’t transmit the disease to people by genetically triggering their RNA interference pathway.”

Colorado State University researcher Alexander Franz manipulated the DNA of mosquito embryos by introducing the DNA of a dengue-resistant gene into the embryo. The mosquito was engineered so that it expressed an effector molecule in the mosquito’s gut as the mosquito took in blood containing virus. This effector molecule turned on the RNA interference pathway in gut cells making the cells inhospitable to dengue virus replication. The resulting mosquitoes were resistant to the virus and also were fertile, which lends hope to researchers that they could be introduced into wild mosquito populations and have a widespread impact on the spread of the disease.

During the study, not all of the genetically engineered mosquitoes showed 100% resistance to the virus.“We could potentially replace wild repopulations of mosquitoes with similarly engineered mosquitoes over time, as the wild populations breed with the resistant strains,” Olson says. “For this purpose, the engineered mosquitoes would need to reach 100 percent resistance to the virus.”

More cool stuff from the interface between genetic engineering and molecular parisitology. But then again, who are we to play God?


Video game therapy – a new frontier – Yahoo! News

March 18, 2006

Video game therapy – a new frontier – Yahoo! News

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Doctors pronounced Ethan Myers brain dead after a car accident dealt the 9-year-old a severe brain injury in 2002. After he miraculously awoke from a nearly month-long coma, doctors declared he would never again eat on his own, walk or talk.

Yet, thanks partly to a video game system, Myers has caught up with his peers in school and even read a speech to a large group of students.

I got to try some neural feedback software once. It was just about the coolest thing ever. They strap a bunch of sensors on your head and then you think one way or another to make the cursor move left/right, up/down. Sci Fi become reality.

A Force More Powerful

March 17, 2006

A Force More Powerful

Can a computer game teach how to fight real-world adversaries—dictators, military occupiers and corrupt rulers, using methods that have succeeded in actual conflicts—not with laser rays or AK47s, but with non-military strategies and nonviolent weapons? Such a game, A Force More Powerful (AFMP), is now available. A unique collaboration of experts on nonviolent conflict working with veteran game designers has developed a simulation game that teaches the strategy of nonviolent conflict. A dozen scenarios, inspired by recent history, include conflicts against dictators, occupiers, colonizers and corrupt regimes, as well as struggles to secure the political and human rights of ethnic and racial minorities and women.

That sounds pretty cool. Too bad there is no demo. Or xbox 360 version. But then, the people who need it most are probably not much into games. – Global News Service – News and Press Release Distribution

March 17, 2006

Australian snakes’ venom could provide the next generation of human therapeutic drugs.

A blood-clotting protein in taipan venom has been identified by Queensland University of Technology PhD researcher Liam St Pierre to rapidly stop excessive bleeding during vascular surgery and major trauma.

I smell a sequel for Viral Coat. I could use a trip to Australia. A can visit the Australian Venom Research Unit ( while I’m there.

Icy "super-Earth" found around faraway star – Yahoo! News

March 13, 2006

Icy “super-Earth” found around faraway star – Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A cold, heavy “super-Earth” has been found orbiting a distant star, using a method that holds promise for detecting faraway planets that closely resemble our own, astronomers said on Monday.

The planet weighs 13 times as much as Earth and is orbiting a star about 9,000 light-years away. But instead of circling close to its star, as Earth does, this “super-Earth” is about as distant from its star as Jupiter and Saturn are from the Sun.

An international team of scientists figured the new planet probably has a temperature of minus 330 degrees F (minus 201 C), making it one of the coldest planets detected outside our solar system.

The discovery is billed as a super-Earth because it is thought to be a rocky, terrestrial planet like Earth, even though it is much more massive.

The planet was detected by astronomers using a project called OGLE — short for Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment — which looks for changes in light coming from distant stars.

Cool! A more massive world that is rocky and cold. I’m betting that if life evolved there, they people are short and stocky, strong, and have lots of facial hair. And they live underground. And wield axes. And drink a lot. Also, they speak with a Scottish accent.