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DNA

Scientists at Caltech have created the world's first DNA-based artificial neural network

One of the things that our brains excel at is the ability to recognize what things are, even when presented with an incomplete set of data. If we know only that an animal is sold in pet stores and stuffs food in its cheeks, for instance, we can be pretty certain that the animal in question is a hamster. Now, for the first time ever, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have created a DNA-based artificial neural network that can do the same thing ... albeit on a very basic level. They believe that it could have huge implications for the development of true artificial intelligence.  Read More

DNA rendering by ynse via Flickr

While scientists have long had the ability to edit individual genes, it is a slow, expensive and hard to use process. Now researchers at Harvard and MIT have developed technologies, which they liken to the genetic equivalent of the find-and-replace function of a word processing program, that allow them to make large-scale edits to a cell’s genome. The researchers say such technology could be used to design cells that build proteins not found in nature, or engineer bacteria that are resistant to any type of viral infection.  Read More

Micrograph showing prostatic acinar adenocarcinoma - the most common form of prostate canc...

Using a virus containing a ‘library’ of DNA, researchers from the University of Leeds in the U.K., working with the Mayo Clinic in the U.S., have developed a vaccine that was able to destroy prostate cancer tumors in mice, while leaving healthy tissue untouched. Because the virus contains multiple fragments of genes, the vaccine is able to produce many possible antigens thereby boosting its effectiveness. The technique could be used to create vaccines to treat a wide range of cancers, including breast, pancreatic and lung tumors.  Read More

Do we earthlings share some DNA with Marvin the Martian (Image: Ken's Oven via Flickr)

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. That's one theory ... another is that all life on Earth descended from organisms that originated on the Red Planet before hitching an interplanetary journey aboard meteorites to Earth. In an effort to provide a definitive answer, researchers at MIT and Harvard are developing an instrument to compare the genetic makeup of Martian microbes with that of terrestrial life. If they find correlations between the two it could prove that we are all descended from Martians, which would make us invaders from Mars.  Read More

Scientists have identified the mechanism responsible for driving the internal clock of alm...

A group of Cambridge scientists have successfully identified the mechanism that drives our internal 24-hour clock, or circadian rhythm. It occurs not only in human cells, but has also been found in other life forms such as algae, and has been dated back millions of years. Whilst the research promises a better understanding of the problems associated with shift-work and jet-lag, this mechanism has also been proven to be responsible for sleep patterns, seasonal shifts and even the migration of butterflies.  Read More

Woolly mammoths in a late Pleistocene landscape in northern Spain (Image: Mauricio Anton v...

The last known mammoth lived around 4500 years ago, but if scientists in Japan are successful then we might be able to meet one soon! Research to resurrect these awesome creatures was shelved when cell nuclei taken from a sample from Siberia were found to be too badly damaged, however a scientific breakthrough in Kobe successfully cloned a mouse from 16 year old deep frozen tissue, and the research began again in earnest...  Read More

Theobroma cacao genome sequenced: Yummier chocolate on the way!

If DNA sequencing never held much relevance for you, consider the benefits likely to flow from the recent sequencing and assembly of the chocolate tree genome. The Theobroma cacao plant is generally regarded as producing the world's finest chocolate, but is particularly vulnerable to disease and not particularly productive, and is hence shunned by risk averse growers. It is hoped the research will not only lead to hardier trees by altering the genes, but will also enable the percentages of cocoa butter, flavonoids, antioxidants, terpenoids and hormones to be regulated. The end result is likely to be smoother, more flavorsome, better smelling and even healthier chocolate. Now that's progress!  Read More

One of the DNA-reading chips, displayed against the prototype device (Photo: Imperial Coll...

Sequencing an entire genome is currently a highly complex, time-consuming process – the DNA must be broken down into segments and replicated, utilizing chemicals that destroy the original sample. Scientists from Imperial College London, however, have just announced the development of a prototype device that could lead to technology capable of sequencing a human genome within minutes, at a cost of just a few dollars. By contrast, when sequencing of the genome of Dr. James Watson (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) was completed in 2007, it had taken two years and cost US$1 million.  Read More

Life Technologies has announced the release of Ion Torrent's Personal Genome Machine, whic...

Having just recently snapped up Ion Torrent, Life Technologies has now announced the availability of a benchtop DNA sequencing device based on its PostLight semiconductor technology. The company says that this ground-breaking and disruptive platform creates a direct link between chemical bases and digital information, and negates the need for light-based detection technology currently used in other sequencing solutions.  Read More

The GFAJ-1 bacteria, grown on arsenic

In a press conference held today, scientists working with NASA announced the discovery of a new microorganism right here on Earth that employs a survival strategy never seen before in any other life form. Found in Northern California’s highly-saline Mono Lake, the GFAJ-1 bacteria exists in an environment that has very little phosphorous, an element that had previously been considered essential for all living things in order to build DNA. To cope with this problem, the bacteria is able to substitute highly-toxic arsenic for phosphorous, in its cell components. The fact that a microbe is able to survive in such a fashion opens up the possibilities for where life could exist on other planets, and will require a rethink on NASA’s part regarding its search for extraterrestrial life forms.  Read More

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