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Jun 10, 2022

Whole human genome sequencing for $100

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, computing, genetics, health

“When the Human Genome Project began in 1990, it had a projected budget of $3 billion. […] Now, one company claims to have achieved the major milestone of whole genome sequencing for just $100.”


Ultima Genomics, a biotech company based in California, has emerged from stealth mode with a new high-throughput, low-cost sequencing platform that it claims can deliver a $100 genome.

When the Human Genome Project began in 1990, it had a projected budget of $3 billion. Some researchers believed it would take centuries to map all 20,000+ genes and to determine the sequence of chemical base pairs making up DNA, though in the end it took 13 years. Since then, genome sequencing has undergone technology and cost improvements at a rate faster than Moore’s Law (a long-term trend in the computer industry that involves a doubling of performance every two years). What used to require billions of dollars and many years of work is now several orders of magnitude cheaper and possible in a matter of hours.

Continue reading “Whole human genome sequencing for $100” »

Jun 9, 2022

Earth-abundant solar pixels found to produce hydrogen for weeks

Posted by in categories: chemistry, energy

Devices made of readily available oxide and carbon-based materials can produce clean hydrogen from water over weeks — according to new research (Nature Materials, “Long-term solar water and CO2 splitting with photoelectrochemical BiOI–BiVO 4 tandems”).

The findings, co-led by Dr Virgil Andrei, a Research Fellow at St John’s College, University of Cambridge, with academics at Imperial College London, could help overcome one of the key issues in solar fuel production, where current earth-abundant light-absorbing materials are limited through either their performance or stability.

Multiple BiOI and BiOI-BiVO 4 pixels on a device. (Image: Dr Virgil Andrei)

Jun 8, 2022

Researchers say they’ve found the chemistry that gave rise to life on Earth

Posted by in categories: chemistry, space

Researchers believe they’ve found the chemical process that gave rise to RNA, and not only is it remarkably simple, it could have happened on Mars, too.

Jun 7, 2022

Flame-Throwing Tractor Needs No Chemicals to Get Rid of Weeds

Posted by in categories: chemistry, energy, engineering, food

Organic farmers are returning to an unusual tool in the fight against weeds — fire. Called ‘flame weeding’ the process involves either using a small, handheld flamethrower, or installing a pretty hardcore row of flamethrowers onto the front of a tractor and slowly driving through fields of crops singeing the weeds in between the rows.

Flame Engineering, Inc. specializes in developing and selling flame weeding equipment and says the technique is rooted in science. The company’s website explains that the technique is not about blasting the weeds to kingdom come, but rather about focusing on destroying cell structure.

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Jun 7, 2022

New trove of data from Europe’s Gaia mission will lead to best Milky Way map ever

Posted by in categories: chemistry, space

This time, astronomers will see all the way to the Milky Way’s edge.


The upcoming release will add some previously unavailable information, including about the chemical compositions, ages and masses of millions of stars.

Related: 4 big Milky Way mysteries the next Gaia mission data dump may solve.

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Jun 6, 2022

New NASA spacecraft could survive a hellish descent on Venus

Posted by in categories: chemistry, space

NASA will launch a mission that will both fly by Venus and descend through its harsh atmosphere in 2029. Called DAVINCI, the Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry and Imaging mission will be the first to study Venus through both flybys and descent.

The spacecraft is expected to explore the layered Venusian atmosphere and reach its surface by June 2031. The DAVINCI mission will be able to capture data about Venus that scientists have been eager to measure since the early 1980s.

Only two NASA missions have previously visited the second planet from our sun – Pioneer in 1978 and Magellan in the early ’90s.

Jun 4, 2022

Novel method for early disease detection using DNA droplets

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, computing, nanotechnology

Aqueous droplet formation by liquid-liquid phase separation (or coacervation) in macromolecules is a hot topic in life sciences research. Of these various macromolecules that form droplets, DNA is quite interesting because it is predictable and programmable, which are qualities useful in nanotechnology. Recently, the programmability of DNA was used to construct and regulate DNA droplets formed by coacervation of sequence designed DNAs.

A group of scientists at Tokyo University of Technology (Tokyo Tech) led by Prof. Masahiro Takinoue has developed a computational DNA droplet with the ability to recognize specific combinations of chemically synthesized microRNAs (miRNAs) that act as biomarkers of tumors. Using these miRNAs as molecular input, the can give a DNA logic computing output through physical DNA droplet phase separation. Prof. Takinoue explains the need for such studies, “The applications of DNA droplets have been reported in cell-inspired microcompartments. Even though regulate their functions by combining biosensing with molecular logical computation, no literature is available on integration of DNA droplet with molecular computing.” Their findings were published in Advanced Functional Materials.

Developing this DNA droplet required a series of experiments. First, they designed three types of Y-shaped DNA nanostructures called Y-motifs A, B, and C with 3 sticky ends to make A, B, and C DNA droplets. Typically, similar droplets band together automatically while to join dissimilar droplets a special “linker” molecule is required. So, they used linker molecules to join the A droplet with the B and C droplets; these linker molecules were called AB and AC linkers, respectively.

Jun 3, 2022

Breakthrough artificial photosynthesis comes closer

Posted by in categories: chemistry, climatology, solar power, sustainability

Imagine we could do what green plants can do: photosynthesis. Then we could satisfy our enormous energy needs with deep-green hydrogen and climate-neutral biodiesel. Scientists have been working on this for decades. Chemist Chengyu Liu will receive his doctorate on 8 June for yet another step that brings artificial photosynthesis closer. He expects it to be commonplace in fifty years.

In fact, we can already achieve photosynthesis as can. Solar converts CO2 and water into oxygen and chemical compounds that we can use as fuel. Hydrogen for example, but also carbon compounds like those found in petrol. But the costs are higher than the value of the fuel it yields. If that changes, and we can scale up this artificial photosynthesis gigantically, then all our energy problems will be solved. Then CO2 emissions from will become negative.

May 31, 2022

Coffee drinkers have a 29 percent lower risk of death than non-coffee drinkers

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, health

Is it all down to a cup of joe then?

People who drink coffee regularly, with or without sugar, both seem to benefit from the beverage as it cuts down on the risk of early death, * The Guardian* reported.

Grabbing a cup of coffee may just be something you do almost unconsciously as you sit down with your morning newspaper or before you start your workday. As the day wears on, you might be down three cups or maybe even five without giving it a second thought. However, scientists have been very conscious of the world’s coffee consumption.

Continue reading “Coffee drinkers have a 29 percent lower risk of death than non-coffee drinkers” »

May 31, 2022

A world first: for the first time, a human liver was treated in a machine and then successfully transplanted

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry

Background An attempt was made to reprogram peripheral blood cells into human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSCs) as a new cell source for cartilage repair. Methods We generated chondrogenic lineage from human peripheral blood via hiPSCs using an integration-free method. Peripheral blood cells were either obtained from a human blood bank or freshly collected from volunteers. After transforming peripheral blood cells into iPSCs, the newly derived iPSCs were further characterized through karyotype analysis, pluripotency gene expression and cell differentiation ability. iPSCs were differentiated through multiple steps, including embryoid body formation, hiPSC-mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-like cell expansion, and chondrogenic induction for 21 days. Chondrocyte phenotype was then assessed by morphological, histological and biochemical analysis, as well as the chondrogenic expression.

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