Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/09/fixing-dna-damage-modular-synbio.html
Fixing DNA damage, Modular synbio pellets, Towards head transplant, Custom acoustic holograms, Advanced drone systems, Wireless emotion detection, Atomically precise molecular syntheses, Metastasis gene therapy, Wireless MEMS, Sewing robot.
1. Compensating for DNA Damage
New work by the SENS Research Foundation has successfully achieved stable allotropic expression (in the nucleus), import (into mitochondria), and assembly into functional protein complexes able to rescue the cell and metabolism from mutations in the mitochondrial copies of these genes http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/09/04/nar.gkw756.full. With some additional work and tricks the group hope the demonstration will allow all 13 mitochondrial genes to be moved to the nucleus and so solve one of the seven causes of aging damage, which will be important for things like sarcopenia https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/09/mitochondria-in-muscle-aging-and-sarcopenia/. In related work human cells engineered to contain a copy of the Dsup gene from tardigrades suffered 50% fewer DNA mutations as a result of prolonged exposure to X-rays http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en/utokyo-research/research-news/demystifying-the-resilience-of-water-bears.html; the group hope to discover related protective genes that grant tardigrades their resilience and the possibility is open to gene therapies to reduce DNA mutation rates in humans.
2. Modular DNA Expression Pellets
You can now produce bulk freeze-dried pellets containing the key cellular components needed for translating DNA to proteins - all of the enzymes, ribosomes, tRNA, etc that you need to do this basic protein production process http://news.mit.edu/2016/to-produce-biopharmaceuticals-on-demand-just-add-water-0922. The idea is that you’d have a supply of these pellets (room temp shelf-life > 1 year) and when you needed to conduct a test or produce a protein you’d synthesise your gene or DNA of interest and add it to a pellet in some water. Such cell-free synthesis is an exciting technology, another tiny step towards atomically-precise synthesis, and something that would be immediately useful for remote or at-home applications above and beyond those demonstrated: protein vaccines, antimicrobial peptides, multi-enzyme production for metabolic pathway to create a complex organic drug molecule, antibodies for diagnostics, etc.
3. Towards Human Head Transplant
Recent previous work in mice and recent work in dogs a modified solution of polyethylene glycol has been used to at least partially restore the neural connections in animals whose spines have been almost completely severed https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106382-head-transplant-teams-new-animal-tests-fail-to-convince-critics/. In the recent dog experiment the dog apparently regained the ability to walk after about three weeks. Surgeon Sergio Canavero plans to use these result to press forward with the first ever human head transplant next year, using the technique to help reconnect the severed spine of the patient’s head with the donor body. Others demand that at the lack of detailed histology data of the supposedly repaired spinal interface damages the case for proceeding in humans.
4. Custom Acoustic Holograms
Three dimensional acoustic holograms take a big step forward with a new system that uses a single powerful ultrasound transducer onto which is placed a 3D printed block that has been precisely patterned to form an acoustic hologram; ultrasound passing through the block is forced into the desired custom waveform, to levitate objects for example http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/hardware/3d-printed-plastic-blocks-generate-complex-acoustic-holograms. Such a device produces an acoustic hologram with a resolution 100 times greater than previously possible with separate transducer systems. While working in air or water it can’t produce a dynamically changing waveform to move objects, although movement along fixed paths is possible. One possible way around this is to encode multiple sound fields at different frequencies to add some dynamic options.
5. Delivery, Security, Navy, Surveillance Drones
First, a cool new long range delivery drone combines a biplane design with VTOL and fixed-wing capabilities to get the best of both worlds http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/tu-delft-tailsitter. Second, Aptonomy is launching a large security drone to monitor protected areas and intercept tresspassers https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602412/drone-security-guard-scolds-intruders-from-the-sky/. Third, the Navy’s Blackwing drone platform is designed to be launched by submarine to provide wide-area surveillance and control of other drone and communications assets https://www.avinc.com/resources/view/press-releases/united-states-navy-demonstrates-cross-domain-communications-command-and-con. Finally, DARPA’s Aerial Dragnet system is being designed to provide persistent wide-area surveillance of areas such as cities via networked drone swarms http://www.kurzweilai.net/darpas-plan-for-total-surveillance-of-low-flying-drones-over-cities.
6. Detecting Emotions with Wireless Signals
EQ-Radio is a system that uses wireless signals and reflections to measure subtle changes in a person’s breathing and heart rhythms in order to determine their emotional state http://news.mit.edu/2016/detecting-emotions-with-wireless-signals-0920. In recent tests the system was able to correctly predict whether the person was excited, happy, angry, or sad 87% of the time. Capturing human emotional states in such a way, particularly when not visibly obvious, would have uses in a wide range of different areas including security monitoring crowded events, entertainment, health care, consumer preferences, etc. The system measures heartbeats as accurately as an ECG monitor with an error margin of 0.3%.
7. Atomically Precise Molecular Chains
The size of alternative atomically precise materials that can be synthesised keeps getting larger with this recent creation of atomically precise gold nanoparticles enshrouded with a functional molecular shell and linked via a precise molecular bridge https://www.jyu.fi/en/news/archive/2016/09/tiedote-2016-09-22-15-15-43-527149. Progressively building up such units would allow the creation of ever-larger precise crystalline materials with novel electrochemical properties given that the electron clouds of the metal cores become coupled. There are also efforts to build more sophisticated catalysts by precisely combining palladium with ruthenium in different mixed or shelled structures http://phys.org/news/2016-09-combining-elements-palladium-ruthenium-industry.html.
8. Gene Therapy Stops Cancer Metastasis
A gene therapy technique involving the delivery of microRNAs of a specific sequence into cancer cells is successful in preventing those cancer cells from undergoing metastatic spread through the body http://news.mit.edu/2016/gene-therapy-technique-prevent-cancer-metastasis-0919. These microRNAs specifically regulate and block the expression of the Palladin protein that helps drive metastasis, and was delivered in this case from microRNAs embedded in nanoparticles that were loaded into a hydrogel scaffold that was subsequently implanted into the mice. Such a tool is a viable approach to cancer treatment in combination with other cancer-killing approaches. In related gene editing news, Synthego launches a CRISPR kit for labs and DIYers to make CRISPR editing easier http://synbiobeta.com/news/synthego-announces-first-kind-crispr-kit/.
9. Wireless MEMS
A microelectromechanical device has been built that can be turned on and off with a nanowatt of power from three feet away, with the concept being to use the nanoresonator itself as the antenna for the device http://www.bu.edu/research/articles/wireless-microelectromechanical-systems/. The device achieved an efficiency of 15% and the group believes it might find application in optogenetics to provide a route for wireless power and communications to devices implanted in and interfaced to the brain. But such wireless MEMS could be used everywhere: for example a modified router might monitor wireless MEMS sensors placed on movable objects all over the house.
10. A Sewing Robot
Sewbo has launched a robot to automate garment sewing, such as the sewing that typically takes place en masse in sweatshops https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602423/a-robot-that-sews-could-take-the-sweat-out-of-sweatshops/. It doesn’t have the versatile flexibility of human sewing of course, and the key innovation is a method to temporarily hold the garment fabric in solid sheet form (it uses off-the-shelf sewing machines and robotic arms) that can be more easily picked up and guided by automated systems, but which when plunged into warm water removes the polymer to return it back to the soft flexible garment for sale and use. This gets us towards fully automated garment production.
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