Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Odds n’ Ends (2)

Here are some news reports that caught my attention:


  1. Human-Cow Hybrid Embryo Created. UK's first human-animal hybrid embryos were created. The BBC reported that the Newcastle cybrids lived for three days, and that the largest grew to contain 32 cells, not quite large to be useful for scientific research. The ultimate aim is to grow these for six days, and then to extract embryonic stem cells for use in research. (from Times Online) Under the microscope the round bundles of cells look like any other three-day-old embryos. In fact they are hybrids - part-human, part-animal. They were created by injecting DNA derived from human skin cells into cow eggs taken from its ovaries which have had virtually all their genetic material removed. So what possible justification can scientists offer for doing what the Catholic Church has branded "experiments of Frankenstein proportion"? The Newcastle team said they are using cow ovaries because human eggs from donors are a precious resource and in short supply. The hybrid embryos are purely for research and would never be allowed to develop beyond 14 days when they are still smaller than a pinhead.


  1. Paranoia Exists in One –Third of All People. Exaggerated fears of others afflict as many as one in three people, scientists claim. Wearing headsets to be immersed in the virtual environment, 200 volunteers chosen to be broadly representative of the general population walked around a virtual London underground car in a four-minute trip between station stops.

    The carriage contained what the researchers said were neutral computer people, called avatars, that breathed, looked around, and sometimes met the gaze of the participants. One avatar read a newspaper; another would occasionally smile if looked at. A soundtrack of a train carriage was played.

    Freeman and colleagues found that the participants interpreted the same computer characters very differently. The most common reaction was to find the virtual reality characters friendly or neutral, but almost 40 percent of the participants experienced at least one paranoid thought, said Freeman.



  2. DNA Damage Plays a "Direct Role" in the Process of Aging. The Oxford Journals published a study concluding that the data presented here demonstrate for the first time that longevity correlates with DNA repair capacity in C. elegans (C. elegans are a simple multi-cellular organism that has a nucleus, and it was the first organism to have its genome mapped out). Decline in DNA repair capacity or defects
    in repair factors are thought to contribute to premature aging
    in mammals. The results in this study strongly support the hypothesis that DNA damage plays a direct role in the process of aging. However, additional studies are needed to determine the exact relationship between specific factors that influence life span, stress resistance and DNA repair capacity in C. elegans.


    The unanswered question from this report is how do we help our DNA repair capacity? Does diet and exercise play any role in the repair of DNA? Does beer drinking help J ? Keep your eye out for more stories on this topic.


Anonymous said...

Hey Tom,
Thanks for posting the news reports. I think the question of immortality (or at least longer life) intrigues a lot of people. It's interesting to hear that DNA repair mechanisms are being implicated in aging. It makes sense to me because cancer cells are so long lived and have figured out how to improve their DNA repair mechanisms. Maybe once we figure out how to make ourselves live longer we can make cancer cells live shorter!

tom wolff said...

Thanks Allie for your comment. It looks like you are in a very exciting field.

You have an intriguing idea - how is cancer able to be so long lived through its repair mechanisms? And is there a way our DNA can use cancer's DNA repair mechanism to make our own DNA repair better so that people can live longer lives? Wow! Is it just crazy enough of an idea to work?