New Giant Viruses Further Blur the Definition of Life

Biology

Date: March, 2018

Source: Quanta Magazine

Defining the boundary between living and non-living organism is a difficult matter in science. Conventionally, viruses are regarded as the boundary between the two because although, they have nucleic acids (DNA or RNA), they are very simple and unable to survive outside a host (infected cell). However, scientists have now discovered viruses that are far more complex, which makes them able to do many of the functions attributed to living organisms. This discovery is interesting because it blurs the supposed line separating living from non-living, and may point to the idea that life is an intrinsic property of matter.

 

 

Creating Babies with no Egg or Sperm

Biology

Health and Medicine

Date: April, 2018

Source: New Scientist

A number of discoveries and researches have opened up the possibility of making babies without the use of egg or sperm from the parents. A bioengineer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yue Shao, published in 2017 his findings when he was still at the University of Michigan that the cells he was working with seemed to have assembled themselves into what appeared to be early-stage human. A year before that, Japanese researchers in Kyoto University were able to produce mice babies from eggs that were made from adult skin cells.
 
This has important implications on the possibility of having babies for people who are infertile. Coupled with growing research on the possibility of letting the fetus grow outside the body using artificial sacs, a new way of reproduction seems no longer remote.
 
Hank Greely, a bioethicist and lawyer at Stanford University in California, said, “My guess is this would be a major way of having babies 100 years from now.” 
 
​Source: New Scientist, April 14-20, 2018;​

4 days after death, hundred of genes still active

Biology

Health and Medicine

Date: June, 2016

Source: Science Alert; Science

A team of researchers from the University of Washington found that genes continue to be active in mice and zebra fish even days after their death. This research was triggered by a previous finding that genes in human cadavers were still active more than 12 hours after death. What they noted was that the gene activity after death was not sputtering but rather they became more active after death. In the case of zebra fish, “548 genes retained their function for four whole days after the animals had died before showing any signs of winding down.” This finding raises the question on when really is the time of death. It also has implications on the state of the organs after death when they are being considered for transplant.

What surprised researchers was the fact that the genes which were activated after death were those which were active during the formation of the embryo and which become inactive during one’s lifetime.

Sources:

Estonia to give DNA test and advice to citizens

Biology

Health and Medecine

Date: April, 2018

Source: New Scientist

Estonia plans to test the DNA structure of 100,000 residents and give advice regarding their predispositions to certain diseases so that they could adopt healthier lifestyles and take preventive measures.
“We want to invest in preventing or delaying the onset of common chronic diseases by using genetics to identify people at high risk,” says Jevgeni Ossinovski, Estonia’s minister of health and labour.
The country plans to do it eventually for the entire population.

 

Source: New Scientist, April 7-13, 2018

Why are Animals Altruistic?

Biology

Date: March, 2006

Source: Science Daily

Researchers at the Laboratoire d’Écologie at the University Pierre and Marie Curie (Ecole Normale Supérieure/CNRS) and the Royal Holloway College (London, United Kingdom) have just explained the evolution of altruistic behavior in animals.

In nature animals have been observed cooperating, and the detection of a genetic predisposition to this type of behavior contradicts Darwin’s theory of evolution which predicts a better survival rate for the most selfish animals. The use of mathematic modeling has provided a new explanation for the surprising persistence of this type of behavior which appears, at first sight, to be detrimental to the animal adopting it.

This work is published in Nature on 30 March 2006.

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060404201741.htm

Creativity Linked to Alpha Brain Waves

Psychology
Biology
Humanities
Education
Date: March 2018
Source: New Scientist

If you need to produce your best creative work, try boosting your alpha brainwaves.
Joel Lopata at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and his colleagues have found that people with more synchronised alpha waves are more creative and produce work of higher quality.

Source: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2162646-very-creative-people-have-a-special-kind-of-brain-activity/

Creative People%u2019s Brain Activity