Highlights from Interbike 2014

Genetic engineering

Male medflies that are genetically altered using the RIDL technique don't produce viable f...

Mediterranean fruit flies are responsible for extensive damage to fruit and vegetable crops, not only in the Mediterranean region but also in Australia, North and South America. While existing methods of controlling them include the use of insecticides and sterilization, the University of East Anglia and biotech company Oxitec are pioneering what they claim is a greener and less expensive approach – they're genetically modifying male fruit flies to produce only male viable offspring.  Read More

The super bananas are yellow on the outside (like the regular bananas seen here), but thei...

According to the Queensland University of Technology's Prof. James Dale, 650,000 to 700,000 children die worldwide every year due to pro-vitamin A deficiency. Many of those children live in East African nations such as Uganda. Dale's proposed solution? Take something that's already grown and eaten there, and genetically modify it to produce the needed vitamin. That's what he's done with the Highland cooking banana. The resulting "super bananas" are about to be the subject of human nutritional trials in the US.  Read More

The new technique could allow corn to be grown in caves or on space colonies (Photo:  Ashl...

Scientists at Purdue University have come up with a way of growing corn in caves, but it doesn't involve some bizarre mating of maize and mushroom. Instead, they manipulated artificial light and temperature in such a way that the growth of the corn plants, while stunted, didn't significantly affect the seed yield. The finding could have a significant impact on the future of genetically modified crops by helping prevent genetically modified pollen escaping into the ecosystem.  Read More

DARPA's new Biological Technologies Office division aims to 'merge biology, engineering, a...

From robotics to optics and forgery prevention to solar cells, biomimicry has proven fertile ground for researchers. Recognizing nature's potential in the development of new technologies, DARPA has announced the establishment of the Biological Technologies Office (BTO), a new division that aims to "merge biology, engineering, and computer science to harness the power of natural systems for national security."  Read More

Bioglow's Starlight Avatar plants emit faint light similar in intensity to starlight – hen...

Ever thought the glowing forests from the movie Avatar were pretty cool and wanted one yourself? Bioglow is the latest company to attempt to put such autoluminscent plants in homes with its aptly named Starlight Avatar.  Read More

Genetically modified cells implanted in the body monitor the blood-fat level and produce a...

Most who have tried it would agree that dieting is a generally unpleasant, and an oftentimes ineffective way to lose weight in the long-term. The biggest hurdle for many is the constant hunger that comes from a change in their regular diet. Biotechnologists at ETH-Zurich have created a genetic helper that could one day put an end to the hunger pangs.  Read More

HIH researchers have found that suppressing the expression of a single gene in mice extend...

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found that suppressing the expression of a single gene in mice extends their average lifespan by about 20 percent – the equivalent of humans living an average of 95 years. While modification of the so-called mTOR gene may not lead to the fountain of youth, further study could open up a path to keeping us healthier and more alert in our old age.  Read More

The US Supreme Court has ruled that human genes cannot be patented Image: Shutterstock)

In what is being ballyhooed as a landmark decision likely to set the course of DNA-based diagnostic and therapeutic medicine for the next several decades, the US Supreme Court unanimously decided on June 13 that human genes are not patentable. Rather than objects invented or discovered, human genes are henceforth to be treated as "naturally occurring phenomena," and hence fail the patentability test under 35 USC 101. As is usual in patent cases, however, the ruling contains delicate shades of meaning.  Read More

Using genetic engineering to alter the Aedes aegypti mosquito's sense of smell could revea...

It has long been believed that detecting carbon dioxide was one of the ways that mosquitoes target their human prey. But the fact that mosquitoes tend to favor certain people over others indicates that some other odor also plays a part in the attraction. Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have genetically engineered mosquitoes to alter their sense of smell, which could provide the understanding required to block the pesky pests' attraction to humans.  Read More

Genetically-modified tomatoes and a type of probiotic bacteria have both been claimed to h...

Atherosclerosis, more commonly known as hardening of the arteries, can have very serious consequences such as heart attacks and strokes. While there are medications that remove some of the offending plaque from the inside of the affected arteries, not everyone wants to take drugs unless absolutely necessary. Lifestyle improvements can certainly help, but soon two other options may be available – probiotics and genetically-engineered tomatoes.  Read More

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