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Mar 27, 2020

Immunization against Potential Biological Warfare Agents

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, health, law enforcement, military, terrorism

Circa 2000


The intentional release of biological agents by belligerents or terrorists is a possibility that has recently attracted increased attention. Law enforcement agencies, military planners, public health officials, and clinicians are gaining an increasing awareness of this potential threat. From a military perspective, an important component of the protective pre-exposure armamentarium against this threat is immunization. In addition, certain vaccines are an accepted component of postexposure prophylaxis against potential bioterrorist threat agents. These vaccines might, therefore, be used to respond to a terrorist attack against civilians. We review the development of vaccines against 10 of the most credible biological threats.

Mar 27, 2020

Genome Editing and the Future of Biowarfare: A Conversation with Dr. Piers Millett

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

Most simply, the phrase “genome editing” represents tools and techniques that biotechnologists use to edit the genome — that is, the DNA or RNA of plants, animals, and bacteria. Though the earliest versions of genome editing technology have existed for decades, the introduction of CRISPR in 2013 “brought major improvements to the speed, cost, accuracy, and efficiency of genome editing.”

CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats, is actually an ancient mechanism used by bacteria to remove viruses from their DNA. In the lab, researchers have discovered they can replicate this process by creating a synthetic RNA strand that matches a target DNA sequence in an organism’s genome. The RNA strand, known as a “guide RNA,” is attached to an enzyme that can cut DNA. After the guide RNA locates the targeted DNA sequence, the enzyme cuts the genome at this location. DNA can then be removed, and new DNA can be added. CRISPR has quickly become a powerful tool for editing genomes, with research taking place in a broad range of plants and animals, including humans.

A significant percentage of genome editing research focuses on eliminating genetic diseases. However, with tools like CRISPR, it also becomes possible to alter a pathogen’s DNA to make it more virulent and more contagious. Other potential uses include the creation of “‘killer mosquitos,’ plagues that wipe out staple crops, or even a virus that snips at people’s DNA.”

Mar 27, 2020

Passive Antibody as Defense Against Biological Weapons

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, military, surveillance, terrorism

The potential threat of biological warfare with a specific agent is proportional to the susceptibility of the population to that agent. Preventing disease after exposure to a biological agent is partially a function of the immunity of the exposed individual. The only available countermeasure that can provide immediate immunity against a biological agent is passive antibody. Unlike vaccines, which require time to induce protective immunity and depend on the host’s ability to mount an immune response, passive antibody can theoretically confer protection regardless of the immune status of the host. Passive antibody therapy has substantial advantages over antimicrobial agents and other measures for postexposure prophylaxis, including low toxicity and high specific activity. Specific antibodies are active against the major agents of bioterrorism, including anthrax, smallpox, botulinum toxin, tularemia, and plague. This article proposes a biological defense initiative based on developing, producing, and stockpiling specific antibody reagents that can be used to protect the population against biological warfare threats.

Defense strategies against biological weapons include such measures as enhanced epidemiologic surveillance, vaccination, and use of antimicrobial agents, with the important caveat that the final line of defense is the immune system of the exposed individual. The potential threat of biological warfare and bioterrorism is inversely proportional to the number of immune persons in the targeted population. Thus, biological agents are potential weapons only against populations with a substantial proportion of susceptible persons. For example, smallpox virus would not be considered a useful biological weapon against a population universally immunized with vaccinia.

Vaccination can reduce the susceptibility of a population against specific threats provided that a safe vaccine exists that can induce a protective response. Unfortunately, inducing a protective response by vaccination may take longer than the time between exposure and onset of disease. Moreover, many vaccines require multiple doses to achieve a protective immune response, which would limit their usefulness in an emergency vaccination program to provide rapid prophylaxis after an attack. In fact, not all vaccine recipients mount a protective response, even after receiving the recommended immunization schedule. Persons with impaired immunity are often unable to generate effective response to vaccination, and certain vaccines may be contraindicated for them.

Mar 27, 2020

New satellite views show impact of coronavirus on emissions, China’s night lights

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, satellites

Satellites are studying the impacts on pollution and night lighting of measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Mar 27, 2020

How Metamaterials Could Lead to Invisible Tanks and Super-Stealthy Submarines

Posted by in categories: energy, military

Circa 2019


The development of new so-called metamaterials could lead to dramatic advances in military technology, particularly the ability to hide from sensors—even the human eye. Metamaterials, engineered composites designed to manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum, could lead to “invisible” tanks and armored vehicles, submarines undetectable by sonar, and weapons with improved seekers and guidance systems.

The big caveat though is that metamaterials are currently pretty difficult to manufacture and are still years away from full-scale production.

Continue reading “How Metamaterials Could Lead to Invisible Tanks and Super-Stealthy Submarines” »

Mar 27, 2020

Scientists discover largest bacteria-eating virus. It blurs line between living and nonliving

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, food

Scientists have discovered some of the largest bacteria-infecting virus out there.

Mar 27, 2020

Engineered Metamaterials Make Invisibility Cloaks and More

Posted by in categories: futurism, materials

The most common materials in the world, including plastic, steel, glass or wood have distinct molecular and chemical properties that give them intrinsic qualities, such as strength, flexibility or transparency. But an entirely different class of materials, called metamaterials, are coming onto the scene.

Artificially engineered, these materials have unique geometries and physical structures that can manipulate any mechanical or electromagnetic wave that passes through them. Metamaterials can perform a host of futuristic tricks; they can absorb sound waves to produce silence, bend light to create an invisibility cloak and dampen seismic waves to safeguard a building against an earthquake.

Metamaterial applications are numerous, but here are five of the coolest.

Mar 27, 2020

Destroyed Habitat Creates the Perfect Conditions for Coronavirus to Emerge

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

COVID-19 may be just the beginning of mass pandemics.

Mar 27, 2020

INHABIT: : A Permaculture Perspective : A new docuemntary introducing permaculture: designing a world where and planet can thrive

Posted by in category: futurism

A Permaculture Perspective : A new docuemntary introducing permaculture: designing a world where and planet can thrive.

Mar 27, 2020

Vir Biotechnology reports early progress in antibody treatment for Covid-19

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Vir Biotechnology, a San Francisco-based biotechnology firm, said Wednesday that laboratory testing showed two of its antibody drugs appeared to neutralize the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 and that it would pursue testing them in people.

The company said that human tests of the drugs could begin in three to five months, putting it roughly in line with two other efforts to produce anti-coronavirus antibodies. Regeneron, based in Tarrytown, N.Y., has said that its antibodies could enter trials by early summer — and that its treatment, if it proves effective, could be available for some uses in the fall. Eli Lilly, which is developing anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies with AbCellera, a Vancouver biotech, has said it hopes to begin human tests in four months.

“Stopping this disease will take a combination of prevention and treatment approaches,” Vir CEO George Scangos said in a statement. “At Vir, we are fortunate that our existing antibody platform gave us a running start against COVID-19, and we have the internal and partnered capabilities to work on multiple approaches.”