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Sep 30, 2023

Promising malaria vaccine clears clinical hurdle, could get WHO endorsement next week

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

The new shots could make malaria protection more plentiful and affordable.

Sep 30, 2023

Researchers find high concentrations of microplastics in cave water and sediment

Posted by in category: futurism

In two recent papers, Saint Louis University researchers report finding high concentrations of microplastics present in a Missouri cave system that had been closed to human visitors for 30 years.

Elizabeth Hasenmueller, Ph.D., associate professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and associate director of the WATER Institute at SLU, and her team published findings in the journals, Science of the Total Environment and Water Research, finding significant levels in Cliff Cave in Saint Louis County, Missouri.

The research, which originated from Hasenmueller’s research group and Karst Hydrology class, allowed students on the team to participate in and publish their findings.

Sep 30, 2023

We May Have Just Found Evidence of a Cosmic String: a ‘Crease’ in The Universe

Posted by in categories: physics, space

A strange pair of galaxies several billion light-years away could be evidence of a hypothetical ‘crease’ in the Universe’s fabric known as a cosmic string.

According to an analysis of the properties of the pair, the two galaxies may not be distinct objects, but a duplicate image caused by a trick of the light. And the reason the light is duplicated could be because of a scar in the space between us and the galaxy, creating a gravitational lens.

A paper describing this cosmic string candidate, led by Margarita Safonova of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, has been accepted in the Bulletin de la Société Royale des Sciences de Liège, and is available on preprint server arXiv.

Sep 30, 2023

Futurism, Life-Extension, & Transhumanism (Q&A)

Posted by in category: transhumanism

Sep 30, 2023

The blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) genome reveals a recent accumulation of LTR retrotransposons

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

The effect of a TE on its host can be classified analogous to the effect of point mutations. In the majority of cases, the consequences of a TE their activity (transposition to a new genomic site) is either neutral or deleterious. The latter occurs, when TEs disrupt genes and their functions, or when, they trigger de-novo genomic instability by transposition or TE-mediated chromosomal rearrangements, which can lead to disease1, 3. TEs can occasionally have a positive impact on the host genome, for example, by impacting gene regulatory networks. In the British peppered moth (Biston betularia), a TE inserted within the first intron of the cortex gene, resulted in increased transcription levels, subsequently affecting cell cycle regulation during wing-disc development through the amount of cortex protein product, resulting in the iconic melanic form4. However, more research is needed to understand these different evolutionary impacts that TEs can have when interacting with their host genome.

The increased accessibility to high throughput sequencing technologies has greatly increased our ability to analyse genetic differences caused by changes at the nucleotide level, and patterns of natural selection on coding sequences, and simultaneously allowed us to disentangle phenotypic differences at the nucleotide level. Mounting evidence has started to shed light on non-coding regions having important effects on genomic variation3. While TEs can be found in the genomes of virtually all organisms, large proportions of TEs are often absent from reference genomes, as their repetitive nature impedes their assembly and can result in collapsed regions within the reference genome2, 5. These difficulties have led to an increased demand for reference genomes that are of a higher quality and are more complete. More importantly, a new demand for high-quality annotations of non-coding regions in reference genomes has surfaced. Annotations of non-coding regions are imperative to study the evolution of these regions between and within species. Improvements in sequencing techniques, especially the addition of long-read sequencing, and improved bioinformatic analytical tools are resulting in the assembly of increasingly gapless reference genomes, enabling the curation of high-quality TE annotations.

The current efforts of large consortia, such as the VGP6 and the B10K7 to create high-quality references for a wide variety of organisms provide invaluable data to improve our endeavours for a better understanding of TEs. With these new resources we can take our research into TEs and their effects on host genomes further, for example, to better understand the evolution of complex traits across phylogenomic scales. One such a complex trait is seasonal bird migration and recent research across a migratory divide in willow warblers identified a diagnostic TE correlated with migratory direction8. Here we focus on the Eurasian blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), another iconic model species for bird migration, and consequently, the resource published here may be able to add insight to the quest to resolve the genetic background of migratory behaviour.

Sep 30, 2023

Examining the genesis of CRISPR’s molecular scissors

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical

Genome engineering may be the future of medicine, but it relies on evolutionary advances made billions of years ago in primordial bacteria, the original masters of gene editing.

Modern day genome engineers like Columbia’s Sam Sternberg are always looking forward, modifying these ancient systems and pushing them to perform ever more complex feats of gene editing.

But to uncover , it sometimes pays to look backward in time to understand how bacteria first created the original systems, and why.

Sep 30, 2023

John Carmack foresees a breakthrough in artificial general intelligence by 2030

Posted by in categories: innovation, robotics/AI

Forward-looking: While AI has been at the forefront of most tech industry conversations this year, the new wave of generative AI is still far off the concept of an artificial general intelligence (AGI). However, legendary developer John Carmack believes such a technology will be shown off sometime around 2030.

Carmack, of course, is best known as the co-founder of id Software and lead programmer of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. He left Oculus in December last year to focus on Keen Technologies, his new AGI startup.

In an announcement video (via The Reg) revealing that Keen has hired Richard Sutton, chief scientific advisor at the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute, Carmack said the new hire was ideally positioned to work on AGI.

Sep 30, 2023

Newly engineered CRISPR enzyme for editing DNA could improve patient treatment

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

A new CRISPR-based gene-editing tool has been developed which could lead to better treatments for patients with genetic disorders. The tool is an enzyme, AsCas12f, which has been modified to offer the same effectiveness but at one-third the size of the Cas9 enzyme commonly used for gene editing. The compact size means that more of it can be packed into carrier viruses and delivered into living cells, making it more efficient.

Researchers created a library of possible AsCas12f mutations and then combined selected ones to engineer an AsCas12f with 10 times more editing ability than the original unmutated type. This engineered AsCas12f has already been successfully tested in mice and has the potential to be used for new, more effective treatments for patients in the future.

By now you have probably heard of CRISPR, the gene-editing tool which enables researchers to replace and alter segments of DNA. Like genetic tailors, scientists have been experimenting with “snipping away” the genes that make mosquitoes malaria carriers, altering food crops to be more nutritious and delicious, and in recent years begun to overcome some of the most challenging diseases and genetic disorders.

Sep 30, 2023

These flying origami-inspired robots change shape in mid-air

Posted by in categories: drones, robotics/AI, solar power, sustainability

Scientists at the University of Washington have developed flying robots that change shape in mid-air, all without batteries, as originally published in the research journal Science Robotics. These miniature Transformers snap into a folded position during flight to stabilize descent. They weigh just 400 milligrams and feature an on-board battery-free actuator complete with a solar power-harvesting circuit.

Here’s how they work. These robots actually mimic the flight of different leaf types in mid-air once they’re dropped from a drone at an approximate height of 130 feet. The origami-inspired design allows them to transform quickly from an unfolded to a folded state, a process that takes just 25 milliseconds. This transformation allows for different descent trajectories, with the unfolded position floating around on the breeze and the folded one falling more directly. Small robots are nothing new, but this is the first solar-powered microflier that allows for control over the descent, thanks to an onboard pressure sensor to estimate altitude, an onboard timer and a simple Bluetooth receiver.

Sep 30, 2023

MIT’s Superconducting Qubit Breakthrough Boosts Quantum Performance

Posted by in categories: computing, quantum physics

This NISQ era of quantum computing is also the age where multiple approaches to quantum emerge. It’s akin to the moment before we decided to follow mostly through the x86 path. New research on fluxoni.

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