Wednesday, September 26, 2012

3d printed meat in 10 years, leather in 5 years

Lab-grown leather apparel could hit the runways in as little as five years—all without harming a hair on a single animal’s head, according to Andras Forgacs, co-founder and CEO of Modern Meadow, a Missouri-based startup that’s approaching meat-and-leather production from an tissue-bioengineering, rather than farming, point of view. Backed by Breakout Labs, the grant-awarding foundation headed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Modern Meadow seeks to combine regenerative medicine with three-dimensional printing to synthesize leather and ultimately meat. Just one question: Will animal-rights advocates bite?


Modern Meadow is using in-vitro leather production as its starting point for a simple reason: it’s easier to make than meat. “Our emphasis first is not on meat, it’s on leather,” Forgacs told Txchnologist on Tuesday. “The main reason is that, technically, skin is a simpler structure than meat, making it easier to produce.” The company also has to ease the public into the idea of bioengineered products. “Anecdotally, we’ve found that around 40 percent of people would be willing to try cultured meat,” he said. “There’s much less controversy around using leather that doesn’t involve killing animals.”

While regulatory agencies could delay lab-cultured burgers for 10 years, a full-scale leather-production facility could be operational in as little as five.

While the regulatory agencies could keep lab-cultured burgers off lunch menus for another 10 years, a full-scale leather-production facility could be operational in as little as five, he added. The process of of culturing tissues for leather and food, while more humane than the alternative, is far from animal-free—at least in the beginning. Modern Meadow has to first source “starter cells” by taking punch biopsies of donor livestock. After proliferating the millions of extracted cells into billions in a bioreactor or other growth apparatus, the company centrifuges the products to eliminate the growth medium and lump cells together in aggregated spheres. Next comes the 3D bio-printing, which layers cells, rather than inks, into a cohesive structure.
The newly fused cells are finally placed in a bioreactor and allowed to mature into hide. “We create the embryonic precursor and in the bioreactor apply physical cues to let nature take over,” Forgacs explained. “This stimulates collagen production in the case of the cells that will become leather and muscle growth in what will become meat.”
Modern Meadow’s proposed mode of leather production has more advantages than the question of animal welfare. Because the hides do not have hair or tough outer skin on them, for instance, they require fewer toxic chemicals during tanning. Raising livestock also places a significant burden on the environment by consuming vast amounts of resources and energy.
Modern Meadow’s meat and leather would be competing for a share of a combined $2.5 trillion market, according to Forgacs. “If we can come up with a very good product that can be technically superior in some ways and at the same time environmentally more conscious and animal-friendly, then that could mean a significant portion of the global market,” he added.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Draco All-Virus Killer

New drug could cure nearly any viral infection

Researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Lab have developed technology that may someday cure the common cold, influenza and other ailments.

Anne Trafton, MIT News Office
Most bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin, discovered decades ago. However, such drugs are useless against viral infections, including influenza, the common cold, and deadly hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.

Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.

The microscope images above show that DRACO successfully treats viral infections. In the left set of four photos, rhinovirus (the common cold virus) kills untreated human cells (lower left), whereas DRACO has no toxicity in uninfected cells (upper right) and cures an infected cell population (lower right). Similarly, in the right set of four photos, dengue hemorrhagic fever virus kills untreated monkey cells (lower left), whereas DRACO has no toxicity in uninfected cells (upper right) and cures an infected cell population (lower right). | Enlarge image
In a paper published July 27 in the journal PLoS One, the researchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them — including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.

The drug works by targeting a type of RNA produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. “In theory, it should work against all viruses,” says Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory’s Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group who invented the new technology.

Because the technology is so broad-spectrum, it could potentially also be used to combat outbreaks of new viruses, such as the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, Rider says.

Other members of the research team are Lincoln Lab staff members Scott Wick, Christina Zook, Tara Boettcher, Jennifer Pancoast and Benjamin Zusman.

Few antivirals available

Rider had the idea to try developing a broad-spectrum antiviral therapy about 11 years ago, after inventing CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields), a biosensor that can rapidly identify pathogens. “If you detect a pathogenic bacterium in the environment, there is probably an antibiotic that could be used to treat someone exposed to that, but I realized there are very few treatments out there for viruses,” he says.

There are a handful of drugs that combat specific viruses, such as the protease inhibitors used to control HIV infection, but these are relatively few in number and susceptible to viral resistance. 

Rider drew inspiration for his therapeutic agents, dubbed DRACOs (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers), from living cells’ own defense systems.

When viruses infect a cell, they take over its cellular machinery for their own purpose — that is, creating more copies of the virus. During this process, the viruses create long strings of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), which is not found in human or other animal cells.

As part of their natural defenses against viral infection, human cells have proteins that latch onto dsRNA, setting off a cascade of reactions that prevents the virus from replicating itself. However, many viruses can outsmart that system by blocking one of the steps further down the cascade.

Rider had the idea to combine a dsRNA-binding protein with another protein that induces cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell suicide) — launched, for example, when a cell determines it is en route to becoming cancerous. Therefore, when one end of the DRACO binds to dsRNA, it signals the other end of the DRACO to initiate cell suicide.

Combining those two elements is a “great idea” and a very novel approach, says Karla Kirkegaard, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University. “Viruses are pretty good at developing resistance to things we try against them, but in this case, it’s hard to think of a simple pathway to drug resistance,” she says.

Each DRACO also includes a “delivery tag,” taken from naturally occurring proteins, that allows it to cross cell membranes and enter any human or animal cell. However, if no dsRNA is present, DRACO leaves the cell unharmed.

Most of the tests reported in this study were done in human and animal cells cultured in the lab, but the researchers also tested DRACO in mice infected with the H1N1 influenza virus. When mice were treated with DRACO, they were completely cured of the infection. The tests also showed that DRACO itself is not toxic to mice.

The researchers are now testing DRACO against more viruses in mice and beginning to get promising results. Rider says he hopes to license the technology for trials in larger animals and for eventual human clinical trials.

This work is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the New England Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, with previous funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and Director of Defense Research & Engineering (now the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering).

 * 10 years to market

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stem Cells Restore Hearing

Scientists have enabled deaf gerbils to hear again—with the help of transplanted cells that develop into nerves that can transmit auditory information from the ears to the brain. The advance, reported today in Nature, could be the basis for a therapy to treat various kinds of hearing loss
In humans, deafness is most often caused by damage to inner ear hair cells—so named because they sport hairlike cilia that bend when they encounter vibrations from sound waves—or by damage to the neurons that transmit that information to the brain. When the hair cells are damaged, those associated spiral ganglion neurons often begin to degenerate from lack of use. Implants can work in place of the hair cells, but if the sensory neurons are damaged, hearing is still limited.

"Obviously the ultimate aim is to replace both cell types," says Marcelo Rivolta of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, who led the new work. "But we already have cochlear implants to replace hair cells, so we decided the first priority was to start by targeting the neurons."
In the past, scientists have tried to isolate so-called auditory stem cells from embryoid bodie—aggregates of stem cells that have begun to differentiate into different types. But such stem cells can only divide about 25 times, making it impossible to produce them in the quantity needed for a neuron transplant.

Rivolta and his colleagues knew that during embryonic development, a handful of proteins, including fibroblast growth factor (FGF) 3 and 10, are required for ears to form. So they exposed human embryonic stem cells to FGF3 and FGF10. Multiple types of cells formed, including precursor inner-ear hair cells, but they were also able to identify and isolate the cells beginning to differentiate into the desired spiral ganglion neurons. Then, they implanted the neuron precursor cells into the ears of gerbils with damaged ear neurons and followed the animals for 10 weeks. The function of the neurons was restored.

"We've only followed the animals for a very limited time," Rivolta says. "We want to follow them long-term now"—both to assess the possibility of increased cancer risk and to observe the long-term function of the new neurons, he adds.

"It's very exciting," says neuroscientist Mark Maconochie of Sussex University in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the new work. "In the past, there has been work where someone makes a single hair cell or something that looks like one neuron [from stem cells], and even that gets the field excited. This is a real step change."

The question now, he says, is whether the procedure can be fine-tuned to allow more efficient production of the relay neurons—currently, fewer than 20% of the stem cells treated develop into those ear neurons. By combining growth factors other than FGF3 and FGF10 with the stem cell mix, researchers could harvest even more ear progenitor cells, he hypothesizes.

"The next big challenge will be to do something as effective as this for the hair cells," Maconochie adds.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


(from a previous entry) 

I would estimate myself to be somewhere around the esophagus of the circle of life.

I'm just not sure how long the snake is.

Quick cartoon made on 10/12/11

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Report Video Issue DNC vote on Jerusalem in Platform

They called this a 2/3 vote without actual tally?

"You've got to rule and then you've got to let them do what they're going to do."

Antonio Villaraigosa called for three successive voice votes before announcing that Democrats had voted to restore the mention of God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel to the party platform. Sources in the room say even the third vote was a no; however, it seems from the video that Villaraigosa was coached to "rule" by a woman who approached him at the podium after his second failed attempt.


Inmate sex change operations a growing National trend

 According to the NPR spot, this is a trend across the country...

Reported by: Tim Caputo | Follow Tim on Twitter
Posted: 09/04/12 at 12:40 pm    Updated: 09/04/12 at 10:33 pm
Tags: Michelle Kosilek   Robert Kosilek  

BOSTON (WHDH) -- A federal judge, on Tuesday, ordered the Massachusetts Department of Correction to provide a taxpayer-funded sex-change operation for a transgender inmate convicted of murder.

Web Poll: Do you agree with the judge's order forcing the state to pay for a convicted killer's sex-change operation? Vote here!

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled in the case of Michelle Kosilek, who used to be Robert Kosilek until she changed her name in prison and began receiving court-ordered hormone treatments.
Kosilek is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in connection with the murder of his wife Cheryl in Mansfield in 1990.

The victim’s family is outraged about the ruling.

“I never thought in a million years a judge would be that stupid to allow something like this to happen. It’s sickening,” said Laura Brandel, victim’s niece. “So we have to pay twice. Once for her death and once again to pay for this.”

Kosilek, who maintains she suffers from a gender identity disorder, took the Department of Corrections to court in an effort to receive a taxpayer-funded sex change operation.
Wolf is believed to be the first federal judge to order prison officials to provide the surgery for a transgender inmate.

“It’s a precedent-setting decision. It’s a monumental decision,” said Thomas Hoopes, 7News legal analyst.

In his decision, Judge Wolf writes, “Kosilek has proven that his eighth amendment rights have been violated by the DOC’s refusal to provide the sex reassignment surgery prescribed by its doctors.”
“What he’s really saying is this particular prisoner has a right because this particular prisoner has a mental issue illness that results from being, as the judge puts it, a woman in a man’s body, and so for this particular prisoner -- not all prisoners -- the taxpayers are going to pay,” Hoopes explained.
The response to the ruling has been overwhelmingly negative. Senator Scott Brown called it an “outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

“I think him getting a sex change is a privilege. It is not fair that he goes to jail, murders somebody, and then he gets what he wants and then we have to pay for it.,” said Mollena Burton.
The DOC issued a statement saying they are reviewing the judge’s decision before they decide whether or not they will appeal the ruling.

If Kosilek undergoes a sex change, she will likely move to an all-women prison, a decision which would be made by the DOC.

A sex change can cost upwards of $25,000.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

fun with words


Google Wallet Drivers License

Google ups the ante in wallet wars

By Quentin Fottrell 

Consumers have been slow to cut up their credit cards and turn on their mobile wallets. But this week, Google Wallet announced a string of features that—to make the proposition more enticing—let mobile wallets do things plastic credit cards don’t. 

Google Wallet product managers say they will provide I.D. verification so people can check in for a flight, download virtual boarding passes, and even keep their driver’s license on their mobile phone. 

(Google GOOG +0.50%   declined to say when these features would become available or how many people have downloaded the app thus far.)

Through its location-based GPS technology, it already sends shoppers coupons and real-time offers from nearby stores. Experts say these features should finally drive demand for the app. “It offers compelling convenience for consumers and retailers,” says Ben Woolsey, spokesman for credit-card comparison site

Just like the Apple’s AAPL +0.21%   forthcoming Passbook app, which is due for release with the iPhone 5 next month, Google Wallet will allow consumers to download loyalty cards, money-off coupons and movie and concert e-tickets directly to the phone. Currently, the app supports MasterCard, Visa and Discover debit and credit cards and works in 200,000 locations nationwide.
“We want you to be able to leave your leather wallet at home,” Robin Dua, Google Wallet’s head of product management, told a Web conference this week. 

Even when it comes to just making purchases, experts say Google Wallet has key advantages over most traditional plastic credit cards. For a start, Google Wallet can carry multiple credit, debit and store cards from different issuers, says Michelle Barnhart, assistant professor of marketing at Oregon State University College of Business. 

And because it’s a smartphone app, it also has the potential to be a virtual guide for customers in stores, directing them to the best bargains based on their previous purchases.
To be sure, the convenience of the e-wallet could also encourage shoppers to splurge. Previous studies have shown that people spend more when they use credit cards instead of cash because they think less about the value of their item. “Mobile wallets are even more abstract than cards,” Barnhart says. “They are one step farther away from the reality of handing over cash.” Google Wallet’s “single tap” feature—similar to Amazon’s “one click” buy button—could also encourage more impulse purchases, she says. 

That said, it’s still early days for services like Google Wallet. Thousands of merchants are still not set up for mobile payments, making it more difficult for smartphone users to cut up their plastic. What’s more, consumers are still concerned about security issues. One U.K. survey found that 44% of people were reluctant to adopt mobile wallets due to fears of phone hacking; only 17% of those surveyed say they would use mobile wallets. (Google declined to comment.) 

But not everyone agrees with that assessment. It’s simply a case of technology trumping security, says independent retail analyst Jeff Green. “Those using this technology, the bulk of whom are under 40 years of age, care less about who knows their whereabouts or their buying habits,” he says.
Woolsey of says that most people are also prepared to trade privacy for convenience. “In the digital age, privacy is becoming a quaint and fleeting notion,” he says, “unless we all go back to cash and pay phones.”

Pink Five

All videos on their youtube channel

Ep. 1

Ep. 2

Ep. 3

Ep. 4

Buick Riviera Boattail 71-73