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Genetics

Biofuels excreted by genetically re-engineered bacteria may become part of the solution to...

August 2, 2007 If you ever doubt the creativity of modern science, just throw a serious challenge at it and watch the myriad responses you receive. Rising oil prices and historical data are signifying that Hubbert’s “peak oil” may be upon us, and the rush is on all over the world to find viable alternative energy sources to replace the dwindling crude that’s powered us into the technology age. But what if we could just ‘grow’ more oil? The deadly bacteria E. coli, might seem like an unlikely ally, but scientists in California are claiming they have successfully genetically manipulated the deadly bug and a host of other bacteria to produce pure hydrocarbon chains that can be processed into biofuels. In fact, they’re getting so good at it that they can coax the bacteria into producing a substance that’s exceptionally close to crude oil – minus the sulfur impurities that taint the oil we pump out of the ground - and ready to be put through a standard refinery to produce petrol, diesel, jet fuel or any other petroleum product. There’s also talk of other, far more pure and powerful fuels that need no further refinement before they go to the pump. Could the next great oil barons be bug farmers?  Read More

Gene expression analysis shows several different genes expressing in circadian rhythms.

June 19, 2007 Ever wondered exactly why eating at night makes you put on weight, why some people are "night owls" or what controls your metabolic energy levels through the day? Instead of only 15% of our genes being regulated by circadian rhythms, as previously thought, researchers have discovered that ALL mammalian genes are affected by nature's daily clock - our entire bodies are regulated by genes whose expression oscillates on a daily cycle. What's more, if we're not exposed to a proper daily cycle of light and darkness, our genes don't have a reference point to synchronise to - and they can gradually get more and more out of sync with one another, causing organs to function ineffectively.  Read More

Clostridium Botulinum spores

May 28, 2007 Botulism toxin is the deadliest poison on the planet. 2kg of it is enough to kill every person on the planet - although this doesn't stop the rich and tasteless from injecting it into their faces as Botox, where it stops nerves from working and has a slight smoothing effect on wrinkles. The toxin is produced by the Clostridium Botulinum bacteria - and scientists at the UK's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have just completed some fascinating genome research on the development of this incredibly effective killer and its survival mechanisms. Where some bacteria use complex and even elegant methods to dance around our immune systems, C. Botulinum goes for the direct hit with a "microbial sledgehammer." More please, just around the jawline.  Read More

Skimmed milk and spreadable butter - straight from the cow

May 28, 2007 Genetically selecting for superior produce has been a staple of farming for hundreds of years. The dairy industry is now looking at how it can selectively breed dairy cows to bring their output closer to the way consumers are choosing to use it. In particular, they're having good results identifying cows that can produce tasty low-fat 'skim' milk - which accounts for 75% of milk sold in some countries. What's more, they've also found a cow whose butter is spreadable right out of the fridge. Her name? Marge.  Read More

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