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Showing posts from December 1, 2015

Ethicists square off over editing genes in human embryos

By Julie Steenhuysen WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Debate over the use of powerful new gene editing tools in human eggs, sperm and embryos grew heated on Tuesday as scientists and ethicists gathered at an international summit to discuss the technology, which has the power to change the DNA of unborn children. Several groups have already called for restrictions on use of the technology known as CRISPR-Cas9, which has opened up new frontiers in genetic medicine because of its ability to modify genes quickly and efficiently. Hille Haker, chair of Catholic Moral Theology at Loyola University Chicago, argued on Tuesday in favor of a two-year international ban on research that involves changing human reproductive cells, also known as germline cells.

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U.S. bill ends legal quandary over mining rights in space

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - - A new law clears U.S. companies to own what they mine from asteroids and other celestial bodies, ending a legal quandary that had overshadowed technical and financial issues facing the startups, industry officials said on Tuesday. The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, signed by President Barack Obama last week, includes provisions that authorize and promote exploration and recovery of space resources by U.S. citizens, although no one can claim ownership of a celestial body. "It's not unlike fishing vessels in international waters," said Bob Richards, chief executive of Moon Express, a lunar transportation and mining company.

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Diagnosing malaria with a cell phone

By Ben Gruber COLLEGE STATION, TX (Reuters) - New technology that transforms a cell phone into a mobile polarized microscope can diagnose malaria in a Rwandan village with the same level of accuracy as a hi-tech lab in a major Western city, according to Texas A&M University biomedical engineers developing the device. "The way they diagnose malaria now is with a microscope but it is with a big bench top microscope that is relatively complicated to use, takes a trained technician, and you have to have the facility for that scope in a centralized lab somewhere. The device images a blood sample using polarized light that can detect a malaria parasite byproduct called Hemozoin crystals which appear as very bright dots in the image and are an accurate indicator of infection.

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Amid Controversy, Japanese Whaling Ships Return to Antarctic Ocean

Japan sent two whaling ships back to Antarctica's Southern Ocean today (Dec. 1) after a one-year hiatus, resuming seasonal whale hunts that have come under increasing scrutiny and censure from the international community. Under a revised whaling plan, Japan proposes to kill 333 minke whales this year for research purposes — significantly fewer than past years' annual kill limit of 935 whales. Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), which oversees the country's whaling program, stated on its website that researchers will study the whales' fish consumption and measure their competition with fisheries, creating ecosystem models for managing marine resources.


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'Dinosaur disco' footprints reveal lifestyle of Jurassic giants

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - On a platform of rock jutting into the Atlantic on Scotland's Isle of Skye, hundreds of newly discovered dinosaur tracks are changing the way scientists view the lifestyle of some of the largest creatures ever to walk the Earth. Scientists on Tuesday said they found the vast collection of Jurassic Period footprints, some reaching 28 inches (70 cm) in diameter, made when dinosaurs called sauropods waded through shallow water in a brackish lagoon 170 million years ago. "There were clearly lots of sauropods moving all around this lagoon.


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Satellite launch to test Einstein's idea on space and time delayed

A European satellite launch to find ripples in space that can be caused by merging black holes has been delayed due to a technical problem with its Vega rocket, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Tuesday. The European-built spacecraft, known as LISA Pathfinder, was due to be launched from French Guiana at 0415 GMT on Wednesday. Such delays due to technical issues or poor weather are not unusual.

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The Science Behind the Power of Giving (Op-Ed)

Jenny Santi is a philanthropy advisor to some of the world's most generous philanthropists and celebrity activists, and was the head of philanthropy services (Southeast Asia) for the world's largest wealth manager. A Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy, Santi is a frequent commentator on the topic and has been quoted in The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, on Channel NewsAsia, and on BBC World News. The morning of Dec. 26, 2004, Czech model Petra Nemcova, then age 25, and her fiancé, photographer Simon Atlee, 33, were vacationing in the resort town of Khao Lak, Thailand.


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Your Brain Is a Mosaic of Male and Female

There is no such thing as a "male brain" or a "female brain," new research finds. Instead, men and women's brains are an unpredictable mishmash of malelike and femalelike features, the study concludes. "Our study demonstrates that although there are sex/gender differences in brain structure, brains do not fall into two classes, one typical of males and the other typical of females, nor are they aligned along a 'male brain–female brain' continuum," the study researchers wrote today (Nov. 30) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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'Last-Resort' Antibiotics Fail Against New Superbugs

Some bacteria have finally breached the last wall of humans' antibiotic stronghold, according to a new study from China. In the study, researchers found a gene in one strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli) that protects these bacteria against one of the antibiotics considered to be a last resort. The results are "extremely worrying," study author Jian-Hua Liu, a professor at South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, said in a statement.


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European satellite to test method to find ripples in space, time

From a vantage point 93 million miles (1.5 million km) from Earth, the European-built spacecraft, known as LISA Pathfinder, is expected to break ground in the search for the ripples, known as gravitational waves, caused by fast-moving, massive celestial objects such as merging black holes. Black holes are so dense with matter that not even photons of light can escape the powerful gravitational effects. God knows what we will learn," said European Space Agency deputy mission scientist Oliver Jennrich.


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High Cholesterol Rate Dropping in America, Says CDC

Americans are moving in the right direction when it comes to cholesterol levels, a new report finds. The percentage of adults with high total cholesterol decreased from 18 percent in 1999 to 2000 to 11 percent in 2013 to 2014, according to the findings, published today (Dec. 1). HDL cholesterol is considered the "good" type of cholesterol, so lower levels are considered less healthy.

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New from the biotech store: an improved gene editing tool

Scientists have developed an improved gene editing tool that significantly reduces potentially dangerous "off-target" edits, promising an even more precise and efficient system for manipulating human DNA. Tuesday's news that U.S. researchers have re-engineered the so-called CRISPR-Cas9 system to slash editing errors comes as experts meet in Washington for a three-day summit to discuss the ethical and policy issues surrounding the field.

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Angry Birds? Seagulls Implicated in Baby-Whale Deaths

Hundreds of baby whales died off the coast of Argentina between 2003 and 2014, and seagulls may have played a role in their deaths, a new study suggests. Gull harassment of right whales off Argentina's Península Valdés has been observed since the 1970s. Since then, researchers from universities and conservation institutions in Argentina and the United States have monitored the gulls' behavior.


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Amazon Unveils Its Delivery Drone of the Future

Amazon unveiled a prototype drone yesterday that could one day deliver packages to online shoppers' doorsteps just minutes after they press the "buy" button. The new drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), was created for Prime Air, a same-day delivery service that Amazon first announced in 2013. In the new YouTube video yesterday (Nov. 29) describing this futuristic service, the company said that its small drones (they weigh just 55 pounds, or 25 kilograms) could deliver packages in 30 minutes or less.


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Hawaii's Majestic Mauna Kea Stars in '3D' Photo from Space

Mauna Kea, Hawaii's tallest volcano, is circled by clouds in a photo taken by an International Space Station astronaut. The setting sun cast dark shadows along the volcano’s eastern flank, lending a depth to the image which is unusual in satellite views of Earth. A tiny ring of white specks at the volcano's summit represents the Mauna Kea astronomical observatory, the largest observatory in the world.


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Supersize Me: Atom Smasher Reaches Highest Energies Yet

The world's largest atom smasher has supersized its collisions, crashing heavy lead atoms into one another at the highest energy levels yet.


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Scientists debate boundaries, ethics of human gene editing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rewriting your DNA is getting closer to reality: A revolutionary technology is opening new frontiers for genetic engineering — a promise of cures for intractable diseases along with anxiety about designer babies.


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