Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 28 June 2013

Scientists in Japan have cloned a mouse from a single drop of blood -

Scientists in Japan have cloned a mouse from a single drop of blood - 

Scientists in Japan have cloned a mouse from a single drop of blood.

Circulating blood cells collected from the tail of a donor mouse were used to produce the clone, a team at the Riken BioResource Center reports in the journal Biology of Reproduction.

The female mouse lived a normal lifespan and could give birth to young, say the researchers.

Scientists at a linked institute recently created nearly 600 exact genetic copies of one mouse.

Mice have been cloned from several different sources of donor cells, including white blood cells found in the lymph nodes, bone marrow and liver. (QNA)

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Man accidentally paints himself, his dog and his SUV Beige -

Man accidentally paints himself, his dog and his SUV Beige - 

A man accidentally repainted the interior of his SUV beige during a single-vehicle accident in Washington State earlier this week.

Jalopnik reports that the man was driving with his dog and several 5-gallon buckets of paint southwest of Belfair on Tuesday afternoon when he somehow lost control of the vehicle and veered off the road.

The buckets of paint were sent hurtling through the air during the incident, and exploded all over the man, his dog and the inside of the truck.

The man, although shaken up and thoroughly soaked with latex paint, had only minor injuries. He was taken to an area hospital as a precaution.

His paint-soaked dog, meanwhile, was attended to by a Washington state police trooper and a firefighter, who recruited a nearby resident to hose off the dog with some shampoo.

The dog was then taken to an area animal shelter until the owner was able to come and pick him up.

No word on how or if the interior of the SUV will be salvaged (but at least it was a nice, neutral colour).


Researchers Use Video Game Software to Steer Cockroaches - could one day be used as search-and-rescue animals -

Researchers Use Video Game Software to Steer Cockroaches - could one day be used as search-and-rescue animals - 

Cockroach hooked up to a Microsoft Kinect video game console. (Alper Bozkurt/NCSU)

Using video game technology, researchers have figured out how to put the roaches on autopilot, directing them along a pre-designed path. They hope that one day, the technology could be used to send the bugs into areas that are unsafe for humans to enter, such as collapsed buildings or other disaster areas.

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And by fitting the roaches with microphones and speakers, rescuers could detect the voices of individuals trapped in buildings, researchers said.

"We may even be able to attach small speakers, which would allow rescuers to communicate with anyone who is trapped," said co-author Alper Bozkurt, in a statement.

The team of researchers had previously developed technology that allowed users to steer the roaches remotely, but ran into problems because the people operating the controls made mistakes while piloting the insects.

"We used joysticks, like the kind you fly remote airplanes with," Bozkurt told ABC News. "But some of our insects didn't respond well to our commands."

This new step in their research allows the team to create pre-planned paths for the insects to follow.

The researchers used Microsoft's motion-sensing Kinect system to plug in a plotted path for the roach and track its progress. The controls are harnessed to the roaches' bodies, connecting to their antennae and sensory appendages. The researchers use the wires attached to the sensory appendages, or cerci, to spur the roach into motion, while wires attached to the antennae send small electrical impulses that steer the roach in a certain direction, according to the report.

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"We want to build on this program, incorporating mapping and radio frequency techniques that will allow us to use a small group of cockroaches to explore and map disaster sites," Bozkurt said in the statement. "The autopilot program would control the roaches, sending them on the most efficient routes to provide rescuers with a comprehensive view of the situation."

In their experiments, Bozkurt either physically or digitally sketches a path for the roaches, ABC News reported. The Kinect system detects where the cockroach is relative to the path, and can send a signal that is transmitted to a circuit on the roach's back if it veers off track.

Bozkurt also said that the Kinect software brings other advantages, like being able to control the roaches in the dark, according to Slate.

Although the Kinect would not be able to see through rubble and debris in a collapsed building, Bozkurt told ABC News that a colleague of his is creating a different way to visualize the environment, using radio waves to locate the cockroaches.


UK may approve creating babies with DNA from 3 people... -

UK may approve creating babies with DNA from 3 people... - 

Britain may allow a controversial technique to create babies using DNA from three people, a move that would help couples avoid passing on rare genetic diseases, the country's top medical officer says.

The new techniques help women with faulty mitochondria, the energy source in a cell, from passing on to their babies defects that can result in such diseases as muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, heart problems and mental retardation. About one in 200 children is born every year in Britain with a mitochondrial disorder.

For a woman with faulty mitochondria, scientists take only the healthy genetic material from her egg or embryo. They then transfer that into a donor egg or embryo that still has its healthy mitochondria but has had the rest of its key DNA removed. The fertilized embryo is then transferred into the womb of the mother.

Some groups oppose artificial reproduction techniques and believe the destruction of eggs or embryos to be immoral. British tabloids jumped on the procedure when it was first announced in 2008 and labeled it the creation of a three-parent baby -- the mother, the donor and the father -- a charge scientists claim is inaccurate because the amount of DNA from the donor egg is insignificant.

"Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these diseases being passed on," Britain's chief medical officer, Dr. Sally Davies, said in a statement on Friday. "It's only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can."

Similar research is going on in the U.S., where the embryos are not being used to produce children.

Earlier this year, the U.K.'s fertility regulator said it found most people supported the new in vitro fertilization methods after a public consultation that included hearings and written submissions. Critics have previously slammed the methods as unethical and say there are other ways for people with genetic problems to have healthy children, like egg donation or tests to screen out potentially problematic embryos.

In a response to the public consultation, the charity Christian Medical Fellowship said the techniques were unethical. "We do not consider that the hunt for `therapies' that might prevent a small number of disabled children (with mitochondrial disease) being born justifies the destruction of hundreds if not thousands of embryonic human lives," the group said. It also said there were lingering concerns about the safety of the techniques.

British law forbids altering a human egg or an embryo before transferring it into a woman, so such treatments are currently only allowed for research. The government says it plans to publish draft guidelines later this year before introducing a final version to be debated in the U.K. Parliament next year. Politicians would need to approve the use of the new techniques before patients could be treated.

If British lawmakers agree, the U.K. would become the first country in the world where the technique could be used to create babies. Experts say the procedures would likely only be used in about a dozen women every year.

"Many of these (mitochondrial) conditions are so severe that they are lethal in infancy, creating a lasting impact upon the child's family," said Alistair Kent, director of the charity, Genetic Alliance U.K., in a statement. "An added option for families at risk of having a child with such a condition is welcome."

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7 million college students will see their borrowing costs double next week - to 6.8 percent up from 3.4 percent -

7 million college students will see their borrowing costs double next week - to 6.8 percent up from 3.4 percent - 

senate student loan

Some 7 million college students will see their borrowing costs double next week after Republicans and Democrats paid little attention to the issue for 11 months, then spent the past month vainly squabbling over a solution.

Senate Democrats on Thursday rallied against a potential bipartisan compromise ahead of Monday’s deadline. Republicans ruled out a temporary one-year delay. The White House played both sides in the hopes of avoiding blame for the interest rate hike.

“Students across this country would rather have no deal than a bad deal,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

If the political stalemate holds, during the upcoming school year more than 7 million undergraduates from lower- and middle-income households will take out subsidized Stafford loans that will carry interest rates of 6.8 percent, rather than 3.4 percent. Though the federal government pays the interest while borrowers remain enrolled in school, the increase will lead to an extra $1,000 owed over the typical 10- to 12-year life of the average borrower's loan.

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'Happy Endings' Now Legal In China -

'Happy Endings' Now Legal In China - 

A recent ruling by a court in Guangdong province is sure to be welcome news for Chinese men looking for a little something extra with their massages.

Last year, the Intermediate People's Court in the city of Foshan ruled that performing masturbation on another person in exchange for money is not illegal and those who perform such acts should not face prosecution, according to a Nandu Daily report translated by the Global Times.

Prostitution is still illegal in China, as it has been since it was banned by the Communist Party in 1949. However, the Foshan court ruled that manual masturbation and "breast massage," in which a woman massages a man with her breasts, are not sex acts, and therefore do not constitute prostitution, Nandu Daily notes.

The case arose in July 2011 when four men were busted for running a massage parlor in Guangdong province that offered “happy endings” and “other erotic massage services” to customers, according to the South China Morning Post. The men were convicted of “organizing prostitution” and spanked with five-year sentences by the Foshan Court of First Instance.

Hoping to beat the charge, the men appealed their convictions to the Intermediate People's Court, where they were found “not criminally responsible” due to “unclear facts and improper application of the law” and granted a quick release.

Masturbation, which is referred to colloquially in Chinese as "hitting the airplane," "playing with little brother," and "visiting Miss Five," has long been an offering at some massage parlors in China. A 1999 Xinhua report found that one in five Chinese massage parlors were involved in prostitution, the Associated Press notes.

In Guangdong, locals were nonplussed by the new ruling on happy endings. "Girls come up to you and ask if you need it," Zhang Qian, a resident in Shenzhen, told the Global Times. "Of course, it should not be counted as prostitution because there is no actual sex involved."

The ruling did rub some people in China the wrong way. According to the Global Times, Beijing police released a statement Thursday clarifying that massage parlors providing happy endings in the capital city would still be prosecuted based on a 2001 decree that oral sex and masturbation count as prostitution.

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