super-science breakthrough compendium thread

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super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby justdrew » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:23 am

This one's a jaw--dropper...

Seems to me this would be the biggest thing since penicillin? Maybe actually FAR BIGGER.
headline worthy story here... If it works on pluripotent stem cells, I would be it can be adapted to work with zygotes or gametes etc

New gene repair technique promises advances in regenerative medicine

Using human pluripotent stem cells and DNA-cutting protein from meningitis bacteria, researchers from the Morgridge Institute for Research and Northwestern University have created an efficient way to target and repair defective genes.

Writing today (Monday, Aug. 12, 2013) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team reports that the novel technique is much simpler than previous methods and establishes the groundwork for major advances in regenerative medicine, drug screening and biomedical research.

Zhonggang Hou of the Morgridge Institute's regenerative biology team and Yan Zhang of Northwestern University served as first authors on the study; Dr. James Thomson, director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute, and Erik Sontheimer, professor of molecular biosciences at Northwestern University, served as principal investigators.

"With this system, there is the potential to repair any genetic defect, including those responsible for some forms of breast cancer, Parkinson's and other diseases," Hou said. "The fact that it can be applied to human pluripotent stem cells opens the door for meaningful therapeutic applications."

Zhang said the Northwestern University team focused on Neisseria meningitidis bacteria because it is a good source of the Cas9 protein needed for precisely cleaving damaged sections of DNA.

"We are able to guide this protein with different types of small RNA molecules, allowing us to carefully remove, replace or correct problem genes," Zhang said. "This represents a step forward from other recent technologies built upon proteins such as zinc finger nucleases and TALENs."

These previous gene correction methods required engineered proteins to help with the cutting. Hou said scientists can synthesize RNA for the new process in as little as one to three days – compared with the weeks or months needed to engineer suitable proteins.

Thomson, who also serves as the James Kress Professor of Embryonic Stem Cell Biology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a John D. MacArthur professor at UW–Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health and a professor in the department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says the discovery holds many practical applications.

"Human pluripotent stem cells can proliferate indefinitely and they give rise to virtually all human cell types, making them invaluable for regenerative medicine, drug screening and biomedical research," Thomson says. "Our collaboration with the Northwestern team has taken us further toward realizing the full potential of these cells because we can now manipulate their genomes in a precise, efficient manner."

Sontheimer, who serves as the Soretta and Henry Shapiro Research Professor of Molecular Biology with Northwestern's department of molecular biosciences, Center for Genetic Medicine and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, says the team's results also offer hopeful signs about the safety of the technique.

"A major concern with previous methods involved inadvertent or off-target cleaving, raising issues about the potential impact in regenerative medicine applications," he said. "Beyond overcoming the safety obstacles, the system's ease of use will make what was once considered a difficult project into a routine laboratory technique, catalyzing future research."
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby justdrew » Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:57 pm

This one is also VERY huge...

say goodbye to the Haber process.

Nitrogen fixing bacteria will enable all plants to get nitrogen without fertilizer

A major new technology has been developed by The University of Nottingham, which enables all of the world’s crops to take nitrogen from the air rather than expensive and environmentally damaging fertilizers.

Nitrogen fixation, the process by which nitrogen is converted to ammonia, is vital for plants to survive and grow. However, only a very small number of plants, most notably legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils) have the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere with the help of nitrogen fixing bacteria. The vast majority of plants have to obtain nitrogen from the soil, and for most crops currently being grown across the world, this also means a reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.

Professor Edward Cocking, Director of The University of Nottingham’s Centre for Crop Nitrogen Fixation, has developed a unique method of putting nitrogen-fixing bacteria into the cells of plant roots



His major breakthrough came when he found a specific strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in sugar-cane which he discovered could intracellularly colonize all major crop plants. This ground-breaking development potentially provides every cell in the plant with the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. The implications for agriculture are enormous as this new technology can provide much of the plant’s nitrogen needs.

A major new technology has been developed by The University of Nottingham, which enables all of the world’s crops to take nitrogen from the air rather than expensive and environmentally damaging fertilizers.
Nitrogen fixation, the process by which nitrogen is converted to ammonia, is vital for plants to survive and grow. However, only a very small number of plants, most notably legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils) have the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere with the help of nitrogen fixing bacteria. The vast majority of plants have to obtain nitrogen from the soil, and for most crops currently being grown across the world, this also means a reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.

Professor Edward Cocking, Director of The University of Nottingham’s Centre for Crop Nitrogen Fixation, has developed a unique method of putting nitrogen-fixing bacteria into the cells of plant roots. His major breakthrough came when he found a specific strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in sugar-cane which he discovered could intracellularly colonise all major crop plants. This ground-breaking development potentially provides every cell in the plant with the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. The implications for agriculture are enormous as this new technology can provide much of the plant’s nitrogen needs.

Nitrogen pollution is a major global health hazard
A leading world expert in nitrogen and plant science, Professor Cocking has long recognized that there is a critical need to reduce nitrogen pollution caused by nitrogen based fertilizers. Nitrate pollution is a major problem as is also the pollution of the atmosphere by ammonia and oxides of nitrogen.

In addition, nitrate pollution is a health hazard and also causes oxygen-depleted ‘dead zones’ in our waterways and oceans. A recent study estimates that that the annual cost of damage caused by nitrogen pollution across Europe is £60 billion — £280 billion a year.

Speaking about the technology, which is known as ‘N-Fix’, Professor Cocking said: “Helping plants to naturally obtain the nitrogen they need is a key aspect of World Food Security. The world needs to unhook itself from its ever increasing reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers produced from fossil fuels with its high economic costs, its pollution of the environment and its high energy costs.”

N-Fix is neither genetic modification nor bio-engineering. It is a naturally occurring nitrogen fixing bacteria which takes up and uses nitrogen from the air. Applied to the cells of plants (intra-cellular) via the seed, it provides every cell in the plant with the ability to fix nitrogen. Plant seeds are coated with these bacteria in order to create a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship and naturally produce nitrogen.

N-Fix is a natural nitrogen seed coating that provides a sustainable solution to fertilizer overuse and Nitrogen pollution. It is environmentally friendly and can be applied to all crops. Over the last 10 years, The University of Nottingham has conducted a series of extensive research programmes which have established proof of principal of the technology in the laboratory, growth rooms and glasshouses.

It is anticipated that the N-Fix technology will be commercially available within the next two to three years.

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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby slimmouse » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:35 pm

Hey Drew, big heads up for both of the links.
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby justdrew » Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:29 am

New approach assembles big structures from small interlocking pieces

http://phys.org/news/2013-08-approach-big-small-interlocking-pieces.html

great new way to ease robotic construction, this stuff can then be filled with something like polycrete or whatever sorts of building materials to make for really strong long lasting structures, that can be repaired easily.

you could for instance fill spaces in with various sized little clear rocks, then cement them in place with a clear polymer for some incredibly lovely buildings. heck, there's all sorts of possibilities less fancy too. compressed earth, etc.

Should be able to make fairly large structures quickly. So there's how we build all the new stuff and greenhouses etc.
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby justdrew » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:03 pm

ya know, I've followed 'new science/tech' for a long time, the stories are always about some big new thing, that never seems to amount to much in the real world. It's easy to have become jaded. But... in the last year or so it really seems like we're getting some significant developments that are actually close to being put into use. Foundational advances that can really change shit for the better.

anyway, my "something's different here" detector is going off :wink

and here we have controlled demolition of cancer cells... :wink

source
A BREAKTHROUGH treatment that prompts cancer cells to kill themselves is set to revolutionise treatment and could be available within five years.

The medical breakthrough by scientists at the University of NSW came from research into the devastating and deadly childhood cancer neuroblastoma.

However it has also been proven to destroy melanoma cancer cells and is expected to be effective in treating most cancers.

The journal Cancer Research reports today that the compound TR100 targets the protein tropomyosin, which is one of the building blocks of cancer cells. "It is much like what happens when you see a building collapse on the TV news," researcher Professor Peter Gunning, from UNSW Medicine said.

"Our drug causes the structure of the cancer cell to collapse - and it happens relatively quickly."

Other chemotherapies destroy the genes in cancer cells or prevent the cancer cells dividing in two or are directed at signals outside the cancer cell.

"The therapy we have developed takes apart the structure of the cell, we're trying to cause the cell to commit suicide," Professor Gunning said.

Previous attempts to attack the structure of cancer cells have failed because the cell building blocks hit by the cancer drugs were the same building blocks used to keep the heart beating.

"It was a good idea, you just had to get around the problem of killing the patient as well as their cancer," Professor Gunning said. Five candidate drugs made from the compound are currently being tested on animals in the United States to determine whether they cause any toxicity.

It will be used in conjunction with other chemotherapies.

Researchers hope to test the drug on a dozen Australian children with high-risk neuroblastoma in 2015 but need $1 million to get the trial under way.

"Inevitably it will have side effects, but we've solved the problem of the heart," Professor Gunning said.

The research to date has been funded by the Kids' Cancer Project and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Zoe Emin was diagnosed with an aggressive neuroblastoma cancer in her stomach when she was 14 months old.

She has just completed gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments that have pushed her cancer into remission.

Neuroblastoma has a survival rate of just 40 per cent for high-risk patients and Zoe's mother Alison describes the prospect of a new treatment as "unbelievable".

"Neuroblastoma has a high relapse rate and to have a new treatment available in two years is fantastic," Alison said.

The local community around the Emin family's farm in York, in Western Australia's wheatbelt, has raised $130,000 towards the research into the new cancer drug.

Kids' Cancer Project chief executive Peter Neilson paid credit to the tenacity of the researchers.

"This research opens up a door on something the pharmaceutical industry and the majority of science gave up on 25 years ago," he says.
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby coffin_dodger » Fri Sep 13, 2013 5:51 am

Not sure if this is super-science, but it made me feel good

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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby justdrew » Fri Sep 13, 2013 3:03 pm

very cool coffin_dodger! grats to you both.




and related with the N-Fix technology above, take a look at Solid State Ammonia Synthesis.

This is a really big deal. These two things together will destroy a huge amount of demand for fossil fuels.

Synthesis of ammonia directly from air and water at ambient temperature and pressure
The N≡N bond (225 kcal mol−1) in dinitrogen is one of the strongest bonds in chemistry therefore artificial synthesis of ammonia under mild conditions is a significant challenge. Based on current knowledge, only bacteria and some plants can synthesise ammonia from air and water at ambient temperature and pressure. Here, for the first time, we report artificial ammonia synthesis bypassing N2 separation and H2 production stages. A maximum ammonia production rate of 1.14 × 10−5 mol m−2 s−1 has been achieved when a voltage of 1.6 V was applied. Potentially this can provide an alternative route for the mass production of the basic chemical ammonia under mild conditions. Considering climate change and the depletion of fossil fuels used for synthesis of ammonia by conventional methods, this is a renewable and sustainable chemical synthesis process for future.


http://nh3fuelassociation.org/

http://nhthree.com/ssas.html
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby coffin_dodger » Fri Sep 13, 2013 3:18 pm

justdrew wrote:very cool coffin_dodger! grats to you both.


:oops: Gah, *bit embarrassed* - that's not my wife, Drew - I just saw it on yt and thought it was lovely. Sorry I didn't make it clearer!
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby slimmouse » Fri Sep 13, 2013 3:59 pm

Hey Drew, CD, thanks for the updates. That ammonia conversion story is worth keeping an eye on.
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby justdrew » Sat Oct 26, 2013 6:36 am

New microscopes reveal live, developing cells in unprecedented 3-D clarity

Researchers at NIH have developed two new microscopes, both the first of their kind. The first captures small, fast moving organisms at an unprecedented rate and the second displays large cell samples in three dimensions while decreasing the amount of harmful light exposure to the cells. Both microscopes surpass in clarity any other currently on the market.

The first microscope allows researchers to obtain fast moving images at double the spatial resolution of a conventional microscope. This provides a vastly clearer picture, enabling cell components that were once quite blurry to now become sharply defined; the difference is similar to that of a 1990's-era standard TV set versus today's high-definition TVs. The microscope is also 10 to 100 times faster than traditional technologies.

"It's always helpful to look at smaller and smaller things," said Hari Shroff, Ph.D., at NIH's National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) lab chief of NIBIB's section on High Resolution Optical Imaging (HROI.) "Looking at a fixed cell at high resolution can tell you where different parts of the cell are at any given moment; but because much of biology depends on the movement of very small proteins finding each other and interacting, we really needed to look at how things move in a live cell."

The problem is that the higher the resolution, the harder it is to eliminate the blur from both light diffraction (the glow that sometimes occurs as light bends around objects) and the motion going on inside the live cell. Traditional linear structured illumination microscopy (SIM) cannot maintain the high resolution desired by researchers when the sample is moving quickly.

Shroff and his research fellow Andrew York, Ph.D., found an answer to these problems with their new instant linear structured illumination microscopy (iSIM), described in a paper published in Nature Methods on October 6th. Building on traditional SIM technology, the iSIM allows real-time, 3-D super resolution imaging of small, rapidly moving structures—such as individual blood cells moving through a live zebrafish embryo. This kind of imaging is impossible with other microscopes; the ones that are fast enough to record rapid movement do not have a high enough resolution to see inside the cells; and other microscopes with similar resolution are just too slow to capture that amount of motion clearly.


(more at link)




oh and this one... :wink

Researchers have finally worked out where the noise that makes kettles whistle actually comes from – a problem which has puzzled scientists for more than 100 years.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-10-kettle.html
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby elfismiles » Sat Nov 09, 2013 11:22 am

New invention 'harvests' electricity from background radiation and could be used to beam power to remote locations or recharge phones wirelessly
Device captures microwaves and converts them into electricity
Future versions could harvest satellite, sound or Wi-Fi signals
Technology could be used to recharge phones without cables or beam electricity to mountaintops
By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 18:51 EST, 8 November 2013 | UPDATED: 19:21 EST, 8 November 2013
Image
...
Image
Proud: Alexander Katko (left) and Allen Hawkes (right) pioneered the breakthrough. 'It's possible to use this design for a lot of different frequencies and types of energy, including vibration and sound energy harvesting,' said Katko

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... Wi-Fi.html
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby DrEvil » Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:09 pm

http://nextbigfuture.com/ is worth keeping an eye on. Updated constantly, and covers the latest in anti-aging, fusion, materials, nano-tech, etc., with lots of links to relevant papers.
Just keep in mind that the guy in charge, Brian Wang, is somewhat of a techno-optimist, and pro-nuclear.
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby cptmarginal » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:59 pm

justdrew » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:23 am wrote:Seems to me this would be the biggest thing since penicillin? Maybe actually FAR BIGGER.
headline worthy story here... If it works on pluripotent stem cells, I would be it can be adapted to work with zygotes or gametes etc



Exclusive: 'Jaw-dropping' breakthrough hailed as landmark in fight against hereditary diseases as Crispr technique heralds genetic revolution

This is a triumph of basic science with huge implications. Crispr technique breaks the mould

There are occasions in science when something comes along that breaks the mould. A decade or so ago, in my field of research, it was a technique called RNA interference, a highly effective way of turning down the activity of genes, rather like the dimmer switch of a light.

In the past year, something equally amazing has come along and, in many ways, it is even better than RNA interference. This discovery, known by the acronym Crispr, can permanently alter the genome of essentially any organism with extreme precision and high efficiency.

This is a triumph of basic science, a tremendous breakthrough with huge implications for the science of molecular biology and molecular genetics. Crispr enables us to get incredibly efficient targeting of the genes that we wish to mutate and we can induce these changes in both “alleles”, the two copies of each gene that we inherit from our mothers and fathers.

We can do that by directing the editing “scissors” – a DNA-cutting enzyme called a nuclease – to any part of the genome simply by changing the sequence of the RNA guiding molecule we attach to it.

It’s one of those things that you have to see to believe. I initially read the scientific papers on Crispr like everyone else, but when I saw it working in my lab my jaw dropped. A total novice in my lab got it to work.

There are obvious applications in medicine, but in a laboratory setting this is absolutely transformational. You can move so much more rapidly in understanding gene function and so should accelerate the pace of research. But the wider applications are tremendous. Crispr is absolutely huge. It’s incredibly powerful and it has many applications, from agriculture to potential gene therapy in humans.

But in terms of germline gene therapy on human IVF embryos, I would caution against it, certainly for any time in the near future. There are still potential “off-target” effects that could lead to unintended consequences. The safety issue has to be weighed against the medical need and here you are talking about the medical need of an unborn individual.

However, having said that, Crispr does lower the barrier to germline gene therapy tremendously. It’s much easier now to engineer a DNA molecule of an embryo.

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone at some time does suggest using Crispr on human IVF embryos because the technology is so easy to do. But I certainly think this kind of germline gene therapy should continue to be banned for the foreseeable future. There are so many other great ways to use Crispr for the common good.

Professor Craig Mello, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, shared the 2006 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine for the joint discovery of RNA interference.
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby justdrew » Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:47 pm

David Nutt is a brilliant psychopharmacologist who once served as the UK's drug czar, until he was ousted for refusing to suppress the data that showed that many legal drugs were as bad or worse for you than illegal drugs, and that the war on drugs was a losing battle that wasn't reducing abuse or crime.

Now he's back in industry, and he's got an awesome idea he's trying to get funded: a tailored variation on alcohol that has exactly the same intoxicating effect but inflicts none of the physical damage of booze, and lets you get instantly, totally sober just by taking an antidote.

http://boingboing.net/2013/11/12/david-nutt-wants-to-make-non-a.html#more-267750


about time.
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Re: super-science breakthrough compendium thread

Postby justdrew » Fri Nov 15, 2013 7:09 am

Apocalypse: Canceled

Researchers create a low-cost, long-lasting water splitter made of silicon and nickel

Stanford University scientists have created a silicon-based water splitter that is both low-cost and corrosion-free. The novel device – a silicon semiconductor coated in an ultrathin layer of nickel – could help pave the way for large-scale production of clean hydrogen fuel from sunlight, according to the scientists. Their results are published in the Nov. 15 issue of the journal Science.

"Solar cells only work when the sun is shining," said study co-author Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. "When there's no sunlight, utilities often have to rely on electricity from conventional power plants that run on coal or natural gas."

A greener solution, Dai explained, is to supplement the solar cells with hydrogen-powered fuel cells that generate electricity at night or when demand is especially high.

To produce clean hydrogen for fuel cells, scientists have turned to an emerging technology called water splitting: Two semiconducting electrodes are connected and placed in water. The electrodes absorb light and use the energy to split the water into its basic components, oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen is released into the atmosphere, and the hydrogen is stored as fuel.

When energy is needed, the process is reversed: The stored hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen are combined in a fuel cell to generate electricity and pure water.

The entire process is sustainable and emits no greenhouse gases. But finding a cheap way to split water has been a major challenge. Today, researchers continue searching for inexpensive materials that can be used to build water splitters efficient enough to be of practical use.

Silicon solution

"Silicon, which is widely used in solar cells, would be an ideal, low-cost material," said Stanford graduate student Michael J. Kenney, co-lead author of the Science study. "But silicon degrades in contact with an electrolyte solution. In fact, a submerged electrode made of silicon corrodes as soon as the water-splitting reaction starts."

In 2011, another Stanford research team addressed this challenge by coating silicon electrodes with ultrathin layers of titanium dioxide and iridium. That experimental water splitter produced hydrogen and oxygen for eight hours without corroding.

"Those were inspiring results, but for practical water splitting, longer-term stability is needed," Dai said. "Also, the precious metal iridium is costly. A non-precious metal catalyst would be desirable."

To find a low-cost alternative, Dai suggested that Kenney and his colleagues try coating silicon electrodes with ordinary nickel. "Nickel is corrosion resistant," Kenney said. "It's also an active oxygen-producing catalyst, and it's earth abundant. That makes it very attractive for this type of application."

Nickel nanofilm

For the experiment, the Dai team applied a 2-nanometer-thick layer of nickel onto a silicon electrode, paired it with another electrode and placed both in a solution of water and potassium borate. When light and electricity were applied, the electrodes began splitting the water into oxygen and hydrogen, a process that continued for about 24 hours with no sign of corrosion.

To improve performance, the researchers mixed lithium into the water-based solution. "Remarkably, adding lithium imparted superior stability to the electrodes," Kenney said. "They generated hydrogen and oxygen continuously for 80 hours – more than three days – with no sign of surface corrosion."

These results represent a significant advance over previous experimental efforts, added Dai . "Our lab has produced one of the longest lasting silicon-based photoanodes," he said. "The results suggest that an ultrathin nickel coating not only suppresses corrosion but also serves as an electrocatalyst to expedite the otherwise sluggish water-splitting reaction.

"Interestingly, a lithium addition to electrolytes has been used to make better nickel batteries since the Thomas Edison days. Many years later we are excited to find that it also helps to make better water-splitting devices"

The scientists plan to do additional work on improving the stability and durability of nickel-treated electrodes of silicon as well as other materials.
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