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Hervé Musseau
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Hervé Musseau

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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 27/2015.
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Femtosecond photodoping, LiquiGlide Coatings, Quantum dot spectrometer, Doubling fiber data, Microfluidics and colloids, Graphene flexoelectrics, Printable conductive inks, Prions and memory, Functional meshes, Antibodies and CFS. 

1. Femtosecond Semiconductor Photo-Doping
Following on the heels of femtosecond lasers being used for in-air holograms last week we have femtosecond lasers being used in ultrafast photo-doping experiments In this case the femtosecond lasers are being used to controllably alter the electronic properties of semiconductors, using brief high-intensity laser light to mimic the chemical doping of bulk semiconductor materials, temporarily - the electrical properties of a chip might be altered on the fly as needed. 

2. Commercial Launch of LiquiGlide Coatings
The commercial roll-out of LiquiGlide coatings is finally picking up, promising to come to a product near you after launching to some fanfare a number of years ago LiquiGlide typically coats the inner surface of a container for example, and is tailored to allow the contents (such as a viscous sauce) to glide out completely without leaving a residue. The coating is typically tailored to a particular application, which can include foods and condiments, oil and gas pipelines, catheters, de-icing situations, and in the case of foodstuffs is comprised of edible materials. 

3. Quantum Dot Spectrometer
A new spectrometer device is small enough to fit inside a cell phone camera module, and is powered by an array of quantum dots The prototype uses 200 different quantum dots, each tuned to absorb a different wavelength of light spanning a 300nm slice of spectrum, and was made with cost effective solution processing and thin film printing. More dots could be used to cover a wider spectral range, with applications comprising personal medical diagnostics, materials identification, and many others. 

4. Doubling Fiber Optic Data Transmission
Newly developed wideband frequency combs allow an effective doubling of the amount of data that can be carried by a fiber optic cable The comb allows for signal distortions that inevitably occur when piping large amounts of data to be predictable and reversible, and so enables significantly increased power and longer distances for which optical signals can be sent through optical fibers. 

5. Confined Colloids Improve Lab-on-Chip Design
New models have been developed for better optimising the design of microfluidic chips with miniaturised features that hold fluids under superconfinement - where it is meaningful to discuss the size of fluid channels in reference to the size of the particles in the fluid. These models were generated by studying larger colloidal particles (instead of fluid molecules) in small fluid channels The study used 200nm colloidal particles and altered the size of channels to determine and subsequently model behaviour. 

6. Graphene Flexoelectric Straintronics
“Straintronics” is a fascinating field that involves controllably stretching, compressing, and bending a material to induce different electrical properties. The latest work in this space involves stretching and bending graphene into new and novel shapes, particularly cones, with different properties and bandgaps, sometimes called the flexoelectric effect And swelling / shrinking graphene sheets can create a range of novel surfaces

7. Advanced Printable Inks
Printable materials innovations continue to be a hot this week. First, the latest developments in printable silver inks continue to show promise for printable electronics Second, new graphene polymer inks are being used to produce 3D prints of strong, flexible, biocompatible, and conductive scaffolds for tissue engineering and medical applications, and with base properties tunable by modifying the proportions of graphene and polymer Finally, we have a good overview of photopolymer inks and 3D printing advances

8. Prions, Proteins, and Long Term Memory
In a series of new studies functional prion proteins have been found to be critical components underlying the mechanism of long term memory formation When production of this particular protein was interrupted in mice recently formed long term memories were disrupted and lost. Like disease-causing prions, the memory “prion” proteins are made available as a soluble form in the cell and as new synapses are formed by neurons they are recruited to form aggregates that stabilise the synapses and are responsible for their long-term stability. 

9. Functional Mesh Materials
Silver nanowires have been formed into functional, flexible meshes that can securely encase different body parts and apply uniform heating and protection Cheap to manufacture and sandwiched in insulation such meshes or functional textiles might form therapeutic heating bandages or elements in clothes, and applications could expand in future with additional features such as antennas and other electronic interfaces. 

10. Antibodies Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Rituximab, a drug that wipes out most of the body’s B-cells and is used to treat certain blood cancers and arthritis, has been found to be very effective in treating chronic fatigue syndrome for many patients This seems to be the second human clinical trial exploring this possibility and others are planned. The implication of the result is that CFS is most likely an autoimmune disorder in many cases, triggered by wayward antibodies, and further studies aimed at identifying the antibodies responsible might enable even better treatment options. 

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A grand experiment in a city that could really use it. 
Officials see the technology as a way to make the city-state “even more sustainable and liveable.”
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 25/2015.
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Cheap genomic sequencer, Nuclear batteries, Translating brain signals, Machine learning, Powerful software, Genetic aging programs, Graphene collection, Cellulose 3D printing, Locks control GMOs, Robot hands & legs. 

1. MinION: Quick, Cheap Genome Sequencing
The palm-sized MinION DNA sequencer, which plugs in via USB to a PC and sequences DNA samples using a novel nanopore architecture, continues to make strides with both length and number of sequence reads The device has now passed low-accuracy concerns with better error correction and for the first time can produce complete bacterial genome sequences and should eventually be able to tackle mammalian genomes. 

2. Nuclear D Cell Battery
Some groups are trying to develop 5 watt nuclear-powered regular D-sized batteries that derive their energy from the decay of small amounts of radioisotopes contained within a tungsten casing that provides shielding and generates heat Applications include power sources for mini-satellites and long-lived remote devices. Energy densities are typically 5 - 6 orders of magnitude bigger than for conventional chemical batteries. 

3. Translating Brain Activity to Speech
A new brain-to-text system has been demonstrated that captures the brain signals from an electrocorticography electrode array placed on the surface of the cortex and can decode these signals and reconstruct the basic phonemes, words, and complete sentences to generate corresponding text Error rates remain high but this is still a good proof-of-principle; the immediate hope is to develop the device as a means of communication for locked-in patients. Future possibilities include advanced brain-computer interfaces for people, parallels to DARPA’s neocortical modem project come to mind, and I also wonder if the reverse mechanism could be used in input speech as well. 

4. Trio of Machine Learning Developments
First, Google’s DeepMind has a deep learning system that learns to read and develop an “understanding” of the grammatical links and causal relationships between entities in the text and so summarise key points that aren’t explicitly stated by the text Second, a deep learning system can now beat humans in the verbal reasoning component of IQ tests Third, IBM’s machine learning technology is being open sourced as part of its big push for the Spark cluster computing framework

5. Duo of Powerful Software Tools
Leading on from the machine learning pieces I had to include these additional tools that look very promising. First, the demonstration of a fact-checking algorithm that was trained on Wikipedia data and automatically generated a knowledge graph complete with truth scores assigned to each factual relationship and was able to consistently match the performance of human fact checkers. Second, a new algorithm provides significant improvements in predicting which mutations in a given genome sequence are likely to have the largest effect on the activity of regulatory elements for genes, providing not just insights for disease but also design possibilities for targeted regulatory control via CRISPR for example

6. Aging via Genetic Programming
The theory of aging being due to evolutionary selection and associated genetic programming has been getting a bit more coverage lately with a study looking at simple simulated organisms that consistently demonstrated the emergence of a built-in life expectancy that helped preserve species integrity over time under spatial and resource constrained conditions The result is interesting but not definitive and has attracted critiques and rebuttals from other more mainstream groups such as aging as accumulation of damage. 

7. Graphene NEMS, Dots, & Lights
First up this week we have graphene being demonstrated in the thinnest visible on-chip light source ever Second, a graphene coating on the copper wires or traces that connect components on computer chips boosts transmission speed in these connectors by 17% now and possibly 30% in future Third, graphene electrodes provide significant improvements to piezoelectric MEMS and NEMS resonators Finally, graphene quantum dots can produce LED-type displays with brightness exceeding that of standard devices

8. 3D Printing Cellulose
A new technique allows cellulose (very strong polymer of linked glucose units) from wood to be mixed with a hydrogel and used as a 3D printing material for the first time; drying the final print to remove the water and leave behind the strong scaffold of cellulose is a key step This is interesting in the sense of not being a plastics / hydrocarbon based printing material, and mixing other components can produce cellulose inks with a range of properties such as electrical conductivity. In related news 3D printing in colour is set to get better, and 3D printing inflatable, flexible, stretchable structures is pretty promising

9. Controlling GMOs with Molecular Locks
 A better lock-and-key mechanism allows for better control of genetically modified organisms In addition to the genetic modifications of interest one or more of a number of genes that are essential to the survival of cells are also engineered so as to produce proteins whose functional shape is dependent on the presence of a particular non-natural compound; without this compound as an easily available nutrient the cell reverts to its default state: death. This isn’t perfect or foolproof for a number of reasons but does build on similar mechanisms being employed by CRISPR for example to controllably induce the desired genetic activity. 

10. Better Robotic Hands and Legs
The bebionic small prosthetic hand for amputees was announced this week, billed as the “world’s most lifelike hand” and using miniaturised components to mimic the functions of a real hand Meanwhile the new Durus robot has demonstrated ultra-efficient walking abilities after a large research project aimed at optimising the efficiency of every possible aspect of robotic walking, and ending up with a far more human-like gait that is 20x more efficient than ATLAS and currently allowing the 80kg robot to walk 10km with just the on-board 2.2 kWh battery

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Early estimates of CO2 emissions from energy use In 2014, CO2 emissions in the EU estimated to have decreased by 5% compared with 2013

Eurostat estimates that in 2014 carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel combustion decreased by 5.0% in the European Union (EU), compared with the previous year. CO2 emissions are a major contributor to global warming and account for around 80% of all EU greenhouse gas emissions. They are influenced by factors such as climate conditions, economic growth, size of the population, transport and industrial activities. Various EU energy efficiency initiatives aim to reduce emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. It should also be noted that imports and exports of energy products have an impact on CO2 emissions in the country where fossil fuels are burned: for example if coal is imported this leads to an increase in emissions, while if electricity is imported, it has no direct effect on emissions in the importing country, as these would be reported in the exporting country where it is produced.

Full text available on EUROSTAT website
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 24/2015.
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Advanced brain interfaces, Seawater lithium mining, Better streaming gaming, Body on chip, Portable lab tests, Synthetic immune organoids, Quantum random numbers, Faster tissue regeneration, Pushing Moore’s Law, Vagus nerve stimulators.

1. Brain Interface via Injectable Nanoparticles & Meshes
Magnetoelectric nanoparticles can be injected into the brains of mice (each receiving 20 billion nanoparticle in the experiment) and when stimulated by an external magnetic field they induce an electric field that interacts with neuronal networks and the electric field they produce, as confirmed via EEG Very interesting platform for interfacing with the brain, especially if it can be shown to work in reverse to pick up discrete brain signals. In related news nanoscale electronic meshes can be injected into the body and brain as intimate sensors and interfaces able to connect to other devices

2. Mining Lithium from Seawater
A new, early prototype system is able to efficiently extract lithium from seawater using a dialysis-like system with a superconducting membrane that only lets lithium ions pass through If it scales it could be timely given the projected demand for lithium batteries against current reserves. Interesting that this was from Japan, which has previously demonstrated a similar uranium-from-seawater system. 

3. Improving Streaming Gaming Bandwidth
A new collaborative rendering process called Kahawai shares rendering between the server and the user’s device to cut down the required network bandwidth by 83%, and is mainly applicable to interactive game-streaming in which a remote server does most of the number-crunching and sends updated video to the user, which enables very “light” user device hardware but suffers with poor bandwidth. 

4. The Latest Body on a Chip
The latest human-on-a-chip or body-on-a-chip device comprises specific spherical micro-tissues loaded into microfluidic compartments that are connected by tiny tubes, allowing circulation of nutrients, drugs, and importantly drug metabolites throughout the system It was tested with (i) liver and tumour tissue, (ii) liver, tumour, heart, nervous tissue, and (iii) developed an eight tissue system for future testing; such devices will transform drug development in future. 

5. Portable Handheld Lab Tests
The latest portable handheld laboratory testing device is the Sceptre from a company called Qloudlab, spun out of the EPFL and currently testing the device at a major hospital The device will use interchangeable connectors to take small patient blood, urine, and saliva samples and will be able to run a battery of tests before sending the data to a mobile phone or cloud service; the first test application will be for certain lipids but if successful will expand to others. Once mature we’d all ideally have one of these devices at home. 

6. Synthetic Functional Immune Organs
A synthetic immune system organoid has been produced out of gelatin-based hydrogels reinforced with silica nanoparticles and seeded with immune cells; mimicking the microenvironment of lymphoid tissue the organoid and demonstrated the ability to proliferate and activate B cells and induce the production of antibodies against invaders Such organoids might be used in future to rescue a patient’s immune system or otherwise employed industrially to optimise production of therapeutic antibodies. 

7. Quantum Random Number Generator
The fastest quantum random number generator has been unveiled, able to generate 68 billion random numbers per second (compared to only 1 million per second with current systems) by creating a highly sensitive interferometer that that converts fluctuations in the phase of emitted photons into intensity changes and so allowing conventional faster photodetectors to be used Immediate applications include quantum cryptography. 

8. Triggering Faster Tissue Regeneration
A new drug shows promise in inducing latent tissue stem cells to repair damaged tissues more quickly and across many different tissues at once and hopes to soon enter human trials Animal models showed massively damaged livers healing twice as fast as normal, while a model of chronic ulcers was healed and further ulcerative symptoms prevented. We could all do with this at various points in our lives, even if just to heal scrapes and strains. 

9. Pushing Moore’s Law with Better Semiconductors
New work from IBM has successfully fabricated single crystal nanostructures and 3D stacked nanowires with III-V materials (indium, gallium, & arsenide alloys) and for the first time integrated these with silicon in an economically viable process compatible with standard chip fabrication technology Such materials are considered important for enabling further Moore’s Law style performance gains from conventional silicon chips. 

10. Vagus Nerve Stimulator for Brain Health
A company called Microtransponder has developed an implanted vagus-nerve stimulator to induce targeted relearning in the brain, for example, to treat tinnitus and stroke by retraining the brain to route around damage that causes these diseases Future targets will include post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, while others are pursuing epilepsy and migraine. 

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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 23/2015.
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Immune system discoveries, DNA click-chemistry, Human reference genome, Metal plating prints, CRISPR vs viruses, Bioengineered limbs, Carbon nanotube RAM, WiFi powers sensors, Amazing robots, Crunching regulatory networks. 

1. Immune System Discoveries & Innovations
Decades of anatomy have been overturned with the discovery that the brain has subtle but direct lymphatic connections to the immune system, throwing up new questions and opportunities for the role this plays in diseases of the brain and therapies that might be developed Meanwhile a new blood test costing $25 called VirScan can determine every single virus the person has ever been exposed to Finally, a new immunotherapy retrains the immune system to not attack specific proteins in the body that lead to rheumatoid arthritis and shows promise as a platform for treatment against autoimmune diseases

2. Nanostructures from DNA Click-Chemistry
Continuing the strong DNA origami theme in recent weeks we have a modification of DNA building blocks that (i) form interlinked catenane chainmail ring structures and (ii) exploit functionalised oligonucleotides that undergo click-chemistry reactions to lock and stabilise the structure against high temperatures and further chemical / enzymatic modification; this comprises a structural platform for nanostructures with the possibility for non-enzymatic gene synthesis

3. A More Sophisticated Human Reference Genome
The human reference genome is getting a significant and overdue boost with the help of graph theory that will combine many thousands of human genomes into a single, annotated reference source able to draw far more accurate and meaningful comparisons to the differences that individual genomes possess

4. Metal Plating for 3D Prints
The Orbit1 is a tabletop electroplating device for 3D printed objects in which (i) the object is spray-coated with conductive paint, (ii) placed on a rack in the Orbit1, (iii) the device electroplates the object and applies a metallic (copper, nickel, palladium, or gold) coating 0.1mm - 0.2mm thick Make your own utensils, circuit boards, glasses frames, etc. 

5. CRISPR Suppresses Hepatitis B Virus
A construct comprising a number of distinct CRISPR gene therapy vectors against conserved regions across HepB viral genotypes has proven effective in enabling robust suppression of viral expression and replication in mice CRISPR is ideal for this purpose and I’ve been waiting to hear someone do this - I also expect this method to deliver effective cures for not only Hepatitis but HSV, HPV, and other genome-integrating viruses. 

6. Transplantable Bioengineered Limbs
The first transplanted bioartificial replacement limb has been demonstrated in a process that took a limb from a rat, decellularised it, incubated the matrix in a bioreactor, added vasculature & muscle progenitor cells, electrically stimulated muscle development, confirmed the development of limb vasculature and muscles, added a skin graft, and then transplanted the limb onto another rat in which blood flow was restored Next step is to include bone and nerves. 3D printed hydrogel structures are also getting better and more sophisticated for tissue engineering applications

7. Nantero’s Carbon Nanotube RAM Chips
Nantero claims to have installed its carbon nanotube memory NRAM process in multiple production fabs and promises to be 100s of times faster than NAND, very low power, low cost, scalable down below 5nm and hinting at a range of future device possibilities Although apparently there are already microSD cards with 512GB of storage

8. Camera Powered by Ambient WiFi
New chip design, signal-processing software, and updates to existing routers result in a system in which low-power sensors and devices can be powered remotely via WiFi To prove the concept they wirelessly powered a small surveillance camera that captured images, and also wirelessly recharged a fitness tracker, however all devices currently have to be less than seven or so meters away from the router. 

9. The World’s Best Robots
As you all should know and should already be following, the DARPA Robotics Challenge is on this weekend where we get to see the most advanced robots in the world make their way through a tough obstacle and task course; CMU’s CHIMP robot performed well early on but the final winner and best performer overall was the Korean Hubo team Also this week, robots are learning to push and pull heavy objects with their bodies, and Amazon has just run its Warehouse Challenge competition for robots

10. Regeneration Model Discovered by Smart Software
The regeneration mechanism of a type of small worm has been reverse engineered by a software system based on evolutionary algorithms Fed a dataset of 16 key regeneration experiments the algorithm discovered and returned the regulatory network that correctly predicted all 16 experiments and is the most comprehensive model of regeneration in this worm to date. I’m thinking systems like these could be a boon to unravelling the complex regulatory networks at play in many human diseases and phenotypes. 

I couldn’t pass this one up: Bolt Threads emerges from stealth with a lot of cash to scale production of bacterial synthesised spider silk threads for a range of purposes

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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 26/2015.
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Square bacterial division, Nanoscale geometric grids, Functional artificial neuron, Free-air holograms, Digital microfluidics, Memory in synapses, Heart powered pacemakers, Lithium battery fabrication, Nuclear spin computing, Ultra-high-res 3D prints. 

1. Squaring Bacteria: Mechanisms of Division
New techniques allow bacteria to be confined and grown into unusual shapes that they would never normally assume, including squares, triangles, and perfect circles, and related methods allow or force the bacteria to grow 30 times larger than normal Such bacteria can still find their midlines for cell division by using proteins that sense cell shape via a mechanism originally proposed by Alan Turing. This is important foundational work for understanding how cells organise their internal architectures. 

2. Multimaterial Nanoscale Geometric Grids
I like this new fabrication method involving sweeping lasers (laser zone annealing) to accelerate the self-assembly of multi-layered multi-material nanoscale geometric grids For example the team can form deep lattices comprised of nanowire arrays embedded with different functional properties to create a wide range of different functional materials for many different purposes. Applications include custom coatings, photovoltaics, touch surfaces and many others. 

3. Building a Functional Artificial Neuron
A new organic bioelectronic device made of conductive polymers is able to mimic the key function of natural mammalian neurons,c9796303. The device can sense chemical changes from neurons in one area, convert this into an electrical signal that travels to the other end of the device, which then releases neurotransmitters that can stimulate subsequent neurons. Future work hopes to miniaturise and implant the device into animals. 

4. Free-Air Holograms from Femtosecond Lasers
Femtosecond high-intensity lasers can now be used to render in-air volumetric displays and graphics by inducing localised plasma production and the emission of light in arbitrary 3D positions The proof-of-concept produces images within a cubic centimeter volume although there is a clear path to scale-up; the images can currently be rendered at between 4,000 and 200,000 dots per second. Be sure to check out the videos; this is magical technology and not something I ever expected to see. 

5. Powerful Digital Microfluidics
New digital microfluidics devices represent a powerful platform for investigating chemical synthesis and biological processes Digital microfluidics involves shuttling tiny droplets of liquid around a surface patterned with a checkerboard of small electrodes that provide the means for induced voltages to move multiple droplets around different intersecting paths - YouTube has lots of interesting videos. The demonstration in this case was to rapidly and sequentially expose cells to different chemicals and test their reactions. A related, powerful microfluidic chip design automates the process of constructing plasmids, transfecting cells, and testing / confirming genetic modifications

6. More Confirmation for the Synaptic Foundation of Memory
New microscopy techniques able to examine the spines and connections formed by deep neurons in the hippocampus of mice have allowed for the first time for confirming that (at least episodic) memory is founded on the synaptic connections between neurons Imaging analysis confirmed that synapse-forming neuronal spines were turned over every 30 days or so, which is the same time that episodic memories are stored in the hippocampus of mice - if retained the memories have been moved to the neocortex by this time. 

7. Implanted Pacemakers Powered by the Heart
Two new pacemaker designs offer promise for implanted pacemakers that no longer need batteries and costly replacement surgeries but rather are able to use novel piezoelectric elements to directly harvest energy from the beating of the heart itself The first concerns a conventional pacemaker that connects to the heart via leads, but the most promising is the newer, tinier, leadless pacemaker that nestles inside the heart itself; proof-of-concept studies confirm that both generate more than enough power to keep the heart properly beating. Human trials will be needed; I’ll be interested to see if other implanted medical devices might also be powered in this way. 

8. Halving the Cost of Lithium Ion Batteries
I rarely include battery technologies but any new manufacturing process promising to slash the cost of lithium ion batteries by half is worthy of note This entailed a redesign of the basic battery to incorporate features of both flow and solid batteries, resulting in a  semisolid colloidal suspension of particles for the electrodes and a battery that uses fewer, thicker electrodes, reduces nonfunctional materials, and is flexible, robust, and cheaper to manufacture. 

9. Computing with Nuclear Spins
A new optical technique allows room temperature control over electron spins in certain crystals of silicon carbide to indirectly control the spins of certain atomic nuclei in silicon carbide, which can then be used to store and process information In tests 99% of targeted nuclear spins were controlled. Applications include ultra-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging, advanced gyroscopes, quantum computing, maybe even ultra-high density data storage one day. In related spintronics news we have a great overview of the development of magnetoelectric RAM

10. 3D Printing: High-Res and Glass Materials
A new 3D printing technique has been developed in the lab that can produce ultra-high-resolution 3D printed patterns with structures measuring one micron in size and forming features smaller than a blood cell Meanwhile company Micron3DP has demonstrated a new 3D printing method that can use glass as a feedstock material, melting glass filaments and depositing precise layered patterns

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As a result of its prevalence all around the world, scientists are looking for new ways to control Aedes mosquitoes – and thus dengue transmission.
An Australian group has infected mosquitoes with bacteria that prevent the dengue viruses from taking up residence in the mosquito.
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Genetic modification of mice embyros approaching 100% efficiency using CRISPR CAS9 gene therapy
Mice embryos can be genetically modified with CRISPR gene therapy. The procedure is approaching 100% efficiency already. Prof Perry said the technique could one day be performed during fertility treatment. Dr Tony Perry believes genetic diseases like cystic...
Mice embryos can be genetically modified with CRISPR gene therapy. The procedure is approaching 100% efficiency already. Prof Perry said the technique could one day be performed during fertility treatment. Dr Tony Perry belie...
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Google+ 's new design is really fucked up, they removed the quick link top right to post; I spent a while looking for a way to simply post!
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The MRL mouse lineage is capable of unusual levels of tissue regeneration for a mammal, an entirely accidental discovery that emerged from an unrelated research program some years ago. Since this came to light, research groups have been chasing down the potential mechanism, and for much the same reason as scientists are interested in the details of salamander regeneration: the possibility of developing therapies to enhance human healing processes. Last I heard, the gene p21 was involved in MRL mouse regenerative capacity, but here researchers are proceeding down a different track, one that seems to have a fairly direct path to a first pass at a regenerative therapy for humans
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  • Électricité de France
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Paris, France
Hervé Musseau's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
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