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Archive for the ‘biological’ category: Page 93

Sep 2, 2008

Threats to humanity – the old and the resurgent

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, geopolitics

Following is a discussion of two potential threats to humanity – one which has existed for eons, the second we have seen recently resurfacing having thought it had been laid to rest.

First, a recent story on PhysOrg describes the work researchers at Vanderbilt University have performed in isolating antibodies from elderly people who had survived the 1918 flu pandemic. This comes three years after researchers at Mount Sinai and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C isolated the same virus which caused this outbreak from the frozen bodies of people in Alaska who had died in the pandemic.

In addition to being an impressive achievement of biomedical science, which involved isolating antibody-secreting B cells from donors and generating “immortalized” cell lines to produce large amounts of antibodies, this research also demonstrates the amazing memory the immune system has (90 years!), as well as the ability scientists have to use tissue samples from people born nearly a century ago and fashion them into a potential weapon against future similar outbreaks. Indeed, these manufactured antibodies proved effective against 1918 flu virus when tested in mice.

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Aug 27, 2008

Vote online for American Express support for life extension

Posted by in categories: biological, futurism

Something to post to your websites and to vote online.

Aubrey de Grey can get $1.5 million for the Methuselah Foundation if enough people vote.

Voting ends September 1st, take a second to vote now.
Any US Amex cardmember or US resident (who makes a guest account) can vote.

Here is the page where you can vote “nominate”

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Jul 30, 2008

30 days to make antibodies to limit Pandemics

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, defense, existential risks, lifeboat

Researchers have devised a rapid and efficient method for generating protein sentinels of the immune system, called monoclonal antibodies, which mark and neutralize foreign invaders.

For both ethical and practical reasons, monoclonals are usually made in mice. And that’s a problem, because the human immune system recognizes the mouse proteins as foreign and sometimes attacks them instead. The result can be an allergic reaction, and sometimes even death.

To get around that problem, researchers now “humanize” the antibodies, replacing some or all of mouse-derived pieces with human ones.

Wilson and Ahmed were interested in the immune response to vaccination. Conventional wisdom held that the B-cell response would be dominated by “memory” B cells. But as the study authors monitored individuals vaccinated against influenza, they found that a different population of B cells peaked about one week after vaccination, and then disappeared, before the memory cells kicked in. This population of cells, called antibody-secreting plasma cells (ASCs), is highly enriched for cells that target the vaccine, with vaccine-specific cells accounting for nearly 70 percent of all ASCs.

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Jul 30, 2008

Preventing flu fatalities by stopping immune system overreaction

Posted by in categories: biological, defense, existential risks, futurism, lifeboat

Researchers from Imperial College in London, England, isolated the receptor in the lungs that triggers the immune overreaction to flu.

With the receptor identified, a therapy can be developed that will bind to the receptor, preventing the deadly immune response. Also, by targeting a receptor in humans rather than a particular strain of flu, therapies developed to exploit this discovery would work regardless of the rapid mutations that beguile flu vaccine producers every year.

The flu kills 250,000 to 500,000 people in an average year with epidemics reaching 1 to 2 million deaths (other than the spanish flu which was more severe

This discovery could lead to treatments which turn off the inflammation in the lungs caused by influenza and other infections, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Immunology. The virus is often cleared from the body by the time symptoms appear and yet symptoms can last for many days, because the immune system continues to fight the damaged lung. The immune system is essential for clearing the virus, but it can damage the body when it overreacts if it is not quickly contained.

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Jul 11, 2008

Metabolomics Could be Part of a BioShield

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical

What is metabolomics?

Genes are similar to the plans for a house; they show what it looks like, but not what people are getting up to inside. One way of getting a snapshot of their lives would be to rummage through their rubbish, and that is pretty much what metabolomics does. […]

Metabolomics studies metabolites, the by-products of the hundreds of thousands of chemical reactions that continuously go on in every cell of the human body. Because blood and urine are packed with these compounds, it should be possible to detect and analyse them. If, say, a tumour was growing somewhere then, long before any existing methods can detect it, the combination of metabolites from the dividing cancer cells will produce a new pattern, different from that seen in healthy tissue. Such metabolic changes could be picked up by computer programs, adapted from those credit-card companies use to detect crime by spotting sudden and unusual spending patterns amid millions of ordinary transactions.

This could be used for traditional medicine, both to prevent pathologies and to detect those that are already present so they can be treated. But another use would be as part of an early-detection system to defend against pandemics and biological attacks. As mentioned previously, network-theory can help us better use vaccines. But once you have a cure or antidote, you also need to identify people that are already infected but haven’t died yet, and the earlier you can do that after the infection, the more chances they have to live.

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Jul 5, 2008

Using Vaccines more Effectively to Stop Pandemics

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, information science

If a pandemic strikes and hundreds of millions are at risk, we won’t have enough vaccines for everybody, at least not within the time window where vaccines would help. But a new strategy could help use the vaccines we have more effectively:

Researchers are now proposing a new strategy for targeting shots that could, at least in theory, stop a pandemic from spreading along the network of social interactions. Vaccinating selected people is essentially equivalent to cutting out nodes of the social network. As far as the pandemic is concerned, it’s as if those people no longer exist. The team’s idea is to single out people so that immunizing them breaks up the network into smaller parts of roughly equal sizes. Computer simulations show that this strategy could block a pandemic using 5 to 50 percent fewer doses than existing strategies, the researchers write in an upcoming Physical Review Letters.

vaccine-targeting.jpg

So you break up the general social network into sub-networks, and then you target the most important nodes of these sub-networks and so on until you run out of vaccines. The challenge will be to get good information about social networks, something not quite as easy as mapping computer networks, but there is progress on that front.

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Apr 15, 2008

$153 million/city thin film plastic domes can protect against nuclear weapons and bad weather

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, defense, existential risks, habitats, lifeboat, military, nanotechnology, nuclear weapons, sustainability

Cross posted from Nextbigfuture

Click for larger image

I had previously looked at making two large concrete or nanomaterial monolithic or geodesic domes over cities which could protect a city from nuclear bombs.

Now Alexander Bolonkin has come up with a cheaper, technological easy and more practical approach with thin film inflatable domes. It not only would provide protection form nuclear devices it could be used to place high communication devices, windmill power and a lot of other money generating uses. The film mass covered of 1 km**2 of ground area is M1 = 2×10**6 mc = 600 tons/km**2 and film cost is $60,000/km**2.
The area of big city diameter 20 km is 314 km**2. Area of semi-spherical dome is 628 km2. The cost of Dome cover is 62.8 millions $US. We can take less the overpressure (p = 0.001atm) and decrease the cover cost in 5 – 7 times. The total cost of installation is about 30–90 million $US. Not only is it only about $153 million to protect a city it is cheaper than a geosynchronous satellite for high speed communications. Alexander Bolonkin’s website

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Mar 14, 2008

Dreamers of a Better Future, Unite!

Posted by in categories: biological, futurism, geopolitics, space

[Crossposted from the blog of Starship Reckless]

Views of space travel have grown increasingly pessimistic in the last decade. This is not surprising: SETI still has received no unambiguous requests for more Chuck Berry from its listening posts, NASA is busy re-inventing flywheels and citizens even of first-world countries feel beleaguered in a world that seems increasingly hostile to any but the extraordinarily privileged. Always a weathervane of the present, speculative fiction has been gazing more and more inwardly – either to a hazy gold-tinted past (fantasy, both literally and metaphorically) or to a smoggy rust-colored earthbound future (cyberpunk).

The philosophically inclined are slightly more optimistic. Transhumanists, the new utopians, extol the pleasures of a future when our bodies, particularly our brains/minds, will be optimized (or at least not mind that they’re not optimized) by a combination of bioengineering, neurocognitive manipulation, nanotech and AI. Most transhumanists, especially those with a socially progressive agenda, are as decisively earthbound as cyberpunk authors. They consider space exploration a misguided waste of resources, a potentially dangerous distraction from here-and-now problems – ecological collapse, inequality and poverty, incurable diseases among which transhumanists routinely count aging, not to mention variants of gray goo.

And yet, despite the uncoolness of space exploration, despite NASA’s disastrous holding pattern, there are those of us who still stubbornly dream of going to the stars. We are not starry-eyed romantics. We recognize that the problems associated with spacefaring are formidable (as examined briefly in Making Aliens 1, 2 and 3). But I, at least, think that improving circumstances on earth and exploring space are not mutually exclusive, either philosophically or – perhaps just as importantly – financially. In fact, I consider this a false dilemma. I believe that both sides have a much greater likelihood to implement their plans if they coordinate their efforts, for a very simple reason: the attributes required for successful space exploration are also primary goals of transhumanism.

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Mar 6, 2008

The Global Viral Forecasting Initiative

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical

The Economist has a piece on the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative (GVFI):

Dr [Nathan] Wolfe, [a virologist at the University of California, Los Angeles], is attempting to create what he calls the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative (GVFI). This is still a pilot project, with only half a dozen sites in Africa and Asia. But he hopes, if he can raise the $50m he needs, to build it into a planet-wide network that can forecast epidemics before they happen, and thus let people prepare their defences well in advance. […]

The next stage of the project is to try to gather as complete an inventory as possible of animal viruses, and Dr Wolfe has enlisted his hunters to take blood samples from whatever they catch. He is collaborating with Eric Delwart and Joe DeRisi of the University of California, San Francisco, to screen this blood for unknown viral genes that indicate new species. The GVFI will also look at people, monitoring symptoms of ill health of unknown cause and trying to match these with unusual viruses.

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Feb 18, 2008

Using Lasers to Detect Diseases via Breath

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry

Today, the University of Colorado at Boulder made an announcement regarding a very promising technology:

Known as optical frequency comb spectroscopy, the technique is powerful enough to sort through all the molecules in human breath and sensitive enough to distinguish rare molecules that may be biomarkers for specific diseases

Combined with other rapid-response technologies, this could be part of the detection side of a BioShield, a technological immune system for humanity.

The optical frequency comb is a very precise laser for measuring different colors, or frequencies, of light, said Ye. Each comb line, or “tooth,” is tuned to a distinct frequency of a particular molecule’s vibration or rotation, and the entire comb covers a broad spectral range — much like a rainbow of colors — that can identify thousands of different molecules.

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