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May 18, 2020

The Biological Singularity

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, robotics/AI, singularity

Circa 2010 what someday we could use crispr to develop a biology singularity to find the epigenetics to evolve at lightning speed.


If you’re a sci-fi reader, you are probably familiar with the idea of the “technological singularity”. For the uninitiated, the Singularity is the idea that computational power is increasing so rapidly that soon there will be genuine artificial intelligence that will far surpass humans. Essentially, once you have smarter-than-human computers, they will drive their own advancement and we will no longer be able to comprehend the technology.

We can debate whether the singularity will or will not happen, and what the consequences might be, for a long time, but that’s not the point of this post. This post was inspired by the final chapter in Denialism by Michael Specter. In that chapter, Specter talks about the rapid advancement in biotechnology. Specifically, he points to the rapid increase in computational power and the resulting rapid increase in the speed of genome processing.

Continue reading “The Biological Singularity” »

May 17, 2020

Intriguing Genetics That Flipped the Food Chain to Allow Carnivorous Plants to Hunt Animals

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, food, genetics

Plants can produce energy-rich biomass with the help of light, water and carbon dioxide. This is why they are at the beginning of the food chains. But the carnivorous plants have turned the tables and hunt animals. Insects are their main food source.

A publication in the journal Current Biology now sheds light on the secret life of the green carnivores. The plant scientist Rainer Hedrich and the evolutionary bioinformatician Jörg Schultz, both from Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany, and their colleague Mitsujasu Hasebe from the University of Okazaki (Japan) have deciphered and analyzed the genomes of three carnivorous plant species.

They studied the Venus flytrap Dionaea muscipula, which originates from North America, the globally occurring waterwheel plant Aldrovanda vesiculosa and the spoon-leaved sundew Drosera spatulata, which is widely distributed in Asia.

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May 17, 2020

Interferon-α2b Treatment for COVID-19

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

The global pandemic of COVID-19 cases caused by infection with SARS-CoV-2 is ongoing, with no approved antiviral intervention. We describe here the effects of treatment with interferon (IFN)-α2b in a cohort of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wuhan, China. In this uncontrolled, exploratory study, 77 adults hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 were treated with either nebulized IFN-α2b (5 mU b.i.d.), arbidol (200 mg t.i.d.) or a combination of IFN-α2b plus arbidol. Serial SARS-CoV-2 testing along with hematological measurements, including cell counts, blood biochemistry and serum cytokine levels, and temperature and blood oxygen saturation levels, were recorded for each patient during their hospital stay. Treatment with IFN-α2b with or without arbidol significantly reduced the duration of detectable virus in the upper respiratory tract and in parallel reduced duration of elevated blood levels for the inflammatory markers IL-6 and CRP. These findings suggest that IFN-α2b should be further investigated as a therapy in COVID-19 cases.

In December 2019, an outbreak of pneumonia was reported in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, resulting from infection with a novel coronavirus (CoV), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 is a novel, enveloped betacoronavirus with phylogenetic similarity to SARS-CoV (1). Unlike the coronaviruses HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43, HCoV-NL63, and HCoV-HKU, that are pathogenic in humans and are associated with mild clinical symptoms, SARS-CoV-2 resembles both SARS-CoV and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), with the potential to cause more severe disease. A critical distinction is that CoVs that infect the upper respiratory tract tend to cause a mild disease, whereas CoVs that infect both upper and lower respiratory tracts (such as SARS-CoV-2 appears to be) may cause more severe disease. Coronavirus disease (COVID)-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, has since spread around the globe as a pandemic.

In the absence of a SARS-CoV-2-specific vaccine or an approved antiviral, a number of antivirals are currently being evaluated for their therapeutic effectiveness. Type I IFNs-α/β are broad spectrum antivirals, exhibiting both direct inhibitory effects on viral replication and supporting an immune response to clear virus infection (2). During the 2003 SARS-CoV outbreak in Toronto, Canada, treatment of hospitalized SARS patients with an IFN-α, resulted in accelerated resolution of lung abnormalities (3). Arbidol (ARB) (Umifenovir) (ethyl-6-bromo-4-[(dimethylamino)methyl]-5-hydroxy-1-methyl-2 [(phenylthio)methyl]-indole-3-carboxylate hydrochloride monohydrate), a broad spectrum direct-acting antiviral, induces IFN production and phagocyte activation. ARB displays antiviral activity against respiratory viruses, including coronaviruses (4).

May 16, 2020

Lizard genome sequence solves a human genetic mystery

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics

Circa 2011


320 million years ago, mammals and reptiles reached an evolutionary parting of the ways. We’ve now sequenced a lizard genome for the first time ever, and it’s vastly different from our own…but in a few crucial ways, it’s shockingly similar.

May 16, 2020

The claustrum coordinates cortical slow-wave activity

Posted by in categories: genetics, neuroscience

During sleep and awake rest, the neocortex generates large-scale slow-wave (SW) activity. Here, we report that the claustrum coordinates neocortical SW generation. We established a transgenic mouse line that enabled the genetic interrogation of a subpopulation of claustral glutamatergic neurons. These neurons received inputs from and sent outputs to widespread neocortical areas. The claustral neuronal firings mostly correlated with cortical SW activity. In vitro optogenetic stimulation of the claustrum induced excitatory postsynaptic responses in most neocortical neurons, but elicited action potentials primarily in inhibitory interneurons. In vivo optogenetic stimulation induced a synchronized down-state featuring prolonged silencing of neural activity in all layers of many cortical areas, followed by a down-to-up state transition. In contrast, genetic ablation of claustral neurons attenuated SW activity in the frontal cortex. These results demonstrate a crucial role of claustral neurons in synchronizing inhibitory interneurons across wide cortical areas for the spatiotemporal coordination of SW activity.

May 14, 2020

Tiny RNA that should attack coronavirus diminish with age, disease

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

A group of tiny RNA that should attack the virus causing COVID-19 when it tries to infect the body are diminished with age and chronic health problems, a decrease that likely helps explain why older individuals and those with preexisting medical conditions are vulnerable populations, investigators report.

MicroRNAs play a big role in our body in controlling gene expression, and also are a front line when viruses invade, latching onto and cutting the RNA, the genetic material of the , says Dr. Sadanand Fulzele, aging researcher in the Department of Medicine and Center for Healthy Aging at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

But with age and some chronic medical conditions, the attacking microRNA numbers dwindle, reducing our ability to respond to viruses, says Dr. Carlos M. Isales, co-director of the MCG Center for Healthy Aging and chief of the MCG Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism.

May 14, 2020

CRISPR plants: new non-GMO method to edit plants

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, food, genetics

An NC State researcher has developed a new way to get CRISPR/Cas9 into plant cells without inserting foreign DNA. This allows for precise genetic deletions or replacements, without inserting foreign DNA. Therefore, the end product is not a genetically modified organism, or GMO.

CRISPR/Cas9 is a tool that can be used to precisely cut and remove or replace a specific genetic sequence. The Cas9 serves as a pair of molecular scissors, guided to the specific genetic target by an easily swapped RNA guide. Basically, it seeks out a specific genetic sequence and, when it finds that sequence, cuts it out. Once the target DNA is snipped, it can be deleted or replaced.

The CRISPR/Cas9 system has tremendous potential for improving crops by changing their genetic code. That does not necessarily mean inserting foreign DNA, but the systems used to deliver CRISPR/Cas9 into a plant’s cells often do, which means the relevant crop is a GMOs undergo through a rigorous evaluation process and many consumers prefer non-GMO products.

May 12, 2020

Epigenetic changes during aging and their reprogramming potential

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, genetics, life extension

If you are interested in age reversal, and you haven’t read Dr David Sinclair (Harvard Medical School) yet, then I’d recommend this research paper.

“Excitingly, new studies show that age-related epigenetic changes can be reversed with interventions such as cyclic expression of the Yamanaka reprogramming factors. This review presents a summary of epigenetic changes that occur in aging, highlights studies indicating that epigenetic changes may contribute to the aging process and outlines the current state of research into interventions to reprogram age-related epigenetic changes.”


The aging process results in significant epigenetic changes at all levels of chromatin and DNA organization. These include reduced global heterochromatin, nucleosome remodeling and loss, changes in histone marks, global DNA hypomethylation with CpG island hypermethylation, and the relocalization of chromatin modifying factors. Exactly how and why these changes occur is not fully understood, but evidence that these epigenetic changes affect longevity and may cause aging, is growing. Excitingly, new studies show that age-related epigenetic changes can be reversed with interventions such as cyclic expression of the Yamanaka reprogramming factors. This review presents a summary of epigenetic changes that occur in aging, highlights studies indicating that epigenetic changes may contribute to the aging process and outlines the current state of research into interventions to reprogram age-related epigenetic changes.

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May 11, 2020

Blood Factors Reverse Epigenetic Age

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, life extension

Crucially, plasma treatment of the old rats reduced the epigenetic ages of blood, liver and heart by a very large and significant margin, to levels that are comparable with the young rats. According to the six epigenetic clocks, the plasma fraction treatment rejuvenated liver by 73.4%, blood by 52%, heart by 52%, and hypothalamus by 11%. The rejuvenation effects are even more pronounced if we use the final versions of our epigenetic clocks: liver 75%, blood 66%, heart 57%, hypothalamus 19%. According to the final version of the epigenetic clocks, the average rejuvenation across four tissues was 54.2%.


Researchers have demonstrated that epigenetic age can be halved in rats by using signals commonly found in the blood.

Epigenetic changes

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May 11, 2020

Stem cell treatment in the UAE sees ‘favorable’ outcomes for coronavirus patients

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

Stem Cell Neurotherapy sends therapeutic messages, e.g., “your stem cells are transforming into new cells for the lungs, liver, and kidneys” to the DNA inside the nucleus of stem cells. Inside the nucleus, the DNA receives the message and transmits it to the RNA, which translates the message into genetic code.

The genes inside the stem cells transmit the coded message to the proteins, which are converted by the mitochondria into ATP, which provides the energy for the coded message to transform the stem cells into a new set of lung cells, as well as new cells for the kidneys and liver.

These new cells in the lungs, kidneys, and liver will replace the cells that were infected by the COVID-19 virus. This results in the elimination of the coughing, fever, headaches, diarrhea, and breathing problems.

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