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Steve Aldrich
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Welcome to the future: Scientists generate fish embryo in the lab.  This can have enormous implications in the growth of artificial organs and tissue.

In a major breakthrough in Stem Cell research, scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have turned embryonic stem cells into a fish embryo, essentially controlling embryonic development.

"(Phys.org) —Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have overcome one of the greatest challenges in biology and taken a major step toward being able to grow whole organs and tissues from stem cells. By manipulating the appropriate signaling, the U.Va. researchers have turned embryonic stem cells into a fish embryo, essentially controlling embryonic development.

The research will have dramatic impact on the future use of stem cells to better the human condition, providing a framework for future studies in the field of regenerative medicine aimed at constructing tissues and organs from populations of cultured pluripotent cells.

In accomplishing this, U.Va. scientists Bernard and Chris Thisse have overcome the most massive of biological barriers. "We have generated an animal by just instructing embryonic cells the right way," said Chris Thisse of the School of Medicine's Department of Cell Biology."

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-04-scientists-barrier-stem-cells.html#jCp

The study: Construction of a Vertebrate Embryo from Two Opposing Morphogen Gradients, Science 4 April 2014: Vol. 344 no. 6179 pp. 87-89 http://www.sciencemag.org/content/344/6179/87

Image: U.Va. scientists Bernard and Chris Thisse have created a zebrafish embryo by instructing stem cells.
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Steve Aldrich

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A sort of visual motivation.
 
Friday Photo of the Week: The periodic table of elements, by nation of discovery. Via Science Porn (https://www.facebook.com/pornscience) and +AsapSCIENCE.
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Steve Aldrich

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Scuba Diver: "Ahhhh, beautiful!"
Mobster with feet in concrete: "Ahhhhh, I see the light... and maybe a shark!"
Ship Wreck Survivor: "Ahhhhh, almost to the surface!"
 
© 2014
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Steve Aldrich

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Who's up for a little string art? Don't just look at the picture...take a look at the text too!
 
A piece of pi

The number pi or π, (approximately 3.14159265) is one of the most important quantities in mathematics. It is perhaps best known in the context of circles: a circle of diameter 1 has circumference equal to π.

This picture, created by Cristian Ilies Vasile, is a graphical representation of the first 10,000 digits of π. Each segment represents a digit from 0 to 9, and within each segment, there are 10,000 positions, one for each digit of π being represented. We write “m:n” as shorthand for “position n of segment m”.

Each of the coloured strands represents a link between two successive digits, so the first two digits of π (3 and 1) are represented by a strand from 3:0 to 1:1; in other words, from position 0 of segment 3 to position 1 of segment 1. The sequence of coloured strands continues according to the sequence 3:0 → 1:1 → 4:2 → 1:3 → 5:4 ...

The sequence of digits of π never terminates and never goes into an endlessly repeating loop. This is because π is an irrational number, which means that it cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction. Sometimes people say that π is equal to 22/7, but this is merely a convenient approximation.

In some sense, π is “more irrational” than numbers such as the golden ratio (approximately 1.618): although neither number is equal to a fraction, the golden ratio is a root of the polynomial x^2 - x - 1, whereas π is not a root of any polynomial with integer coefficients. Mathematicians express this by saying that the golden ratio is an algebraic number, whereas π is a transcendental number.

The upshot of this is that the digits of π are more or less random. However, there is a sequence of six consecutive 9s, called the Feynman point after physicist Richard Feynman, which appears after only 762 decimal places. Feynman once stated during a lecture that he would like to memorise the digits of π until that point, so he could recite them and quip “nine nine nine nine nine nine and so on”, thus implying that π was rational. (“Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman.”)

There is a lot more fascinating π artwork on Martin Krzywinski's web site (http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/pi/art/). Thanks to +Skip Jimroo for telling me about this picture!

#mathematics  #sciencesunday
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Steve Aldrich

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But do it calmly. Carry on.
 
Friday Photo of the Week, via: http://on.fb.me/1dYCWvB
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Flying with a lot camera equipment comes up often with some of my friends. Good info here whether you're shooting scuba or not.
 
New Post: Flying With Your Underwater Camera System – 6 Tips To Ease Travel Stress

Full Post Here: http://scubadiverlife.com/2014/03/24/flying-with-your-underwater-camera-system-6-tips-to-ease-travel-stress/

#scuba   #scubadiving   #underwaterphotography   #travel  
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Combine ideas from two posts to create the title for a myth. For example: take bio-luminescent fish and northern lights and you might get:  "Solar Flares Cause Bio-luminescent Fish to Congregate and Glow Brightly Through the Arctic Ice"

Now you try.
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How to Build an Eye

I came across a paper today with this fantastic image that I simply had to write about. Its another #OpenAccess paper, published in PLOS Biology (http://goo.gl/NmvA9). The image shows an eye from a human, mouse, zebrafish and a fruitfly. It also shows what happens when an important gene in eye development, pax6 is mutated. It's fascinating that despite all these differences between us and such a diverse range of species, we still share the same basic developmental pathways.

✤ The compound eye of a fruit fly is very different to our squidgy gelatinous eyeball. But the embryonic development of our eyes and the fruit fly eye are virtually identical. 

✤ In humans, a gene known as pax6 (in fruit flies it is known as eyeless) is a key player in eye development. As an aside, many Drosophila genes have interesting names because they were historically named after the visible effect of mutating that gene - see here for an old post of mine on funny fruit fly names (http://goo.gl/blIKBm).

pax6 is known as a master control switch, and encodes a transcription factor which goes on to activate many other genes further downstream in the signaling pathway. Because it is crucial for eye development across so many different species, the amino acid sequence for pax6 is highly conserved across these species. For example, the mouse and human pax6 genes have identical amino acid sequences. Even more interestingly, mouse pax6 can trigger eye development in fruit flies. Finally, even though zebrafish and humans diverged over 400 million years ago, 96% of the amino acid sequence between the two genes are identical. 

✤ Injecting pax6 RNA into an early developing frog embryo results in the development of an ectopic eye (see #OpenAccess paper here: http://goo.gl/qFtvR2). 

✤ Given how important pax6 is for eye development, it comes as no surprise that things go drastically wrong if there are mutations in the pax6 gene. In the image below, the top row of images show healthy eyes from a human, mouse, zebrafish and a fruit fly. The bottom row have eyes that failed to develop correctly because of a mutant pax6 or eyeless gene. The human mutations in pax6 may result in aniridia (absence of iris), corneal opacity , cataract (lens clouding), glaucoma, and long-term retinal degeneration. For mouse, the mutants show extremely small eyes with lens/corneal opacity and iris abnormality, and there is a large plug of persistent epithelial cells that remains attached between the cornea and the lens. For zebrafish, the mutants show a decreased eye size, reduced lens size, and malformation of the retina. Drosophila mutations cause loss of eye development. 

✤ The developmental pathway activated by the master switch pax6 is very complex. Research in several labs is directed towards characterizing this complex network of regulatory genes. By studying this essential 'master switch' gene, we can gather important information about congentital defects in babies involving eye development.

Image from http://goo.gl/NmvA9

#ScienceEveryday   #EvoDevo  
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