Friday, November 12, 2010

Our Vagabond Minds

Be warned, I'm calling shenanigans on this one.
ScienceDaily (Nov. 11, 2010) — People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they're doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy. So says a study that used an iPhone web app to gather 250,000 data points on subjects' thoughts, feelings, and actions as they went about their lives.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nature Beats Monsanto

In genetics there has been of late considerable interest in a phenomenon known as "horizontal gene transfer". This news release takes that concept to new heights.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 8, 2010) — Genetically modified plants can come about by natural means. A research group at Lund University in Sweden has described the details of such an event among higher plants. It is likely that the gene transfer was mediated by a parasite or a pathogen.
One of the consistent trends of late has been that the idea of "gene transfer" needs to widened because there is increasing evidence that genes are much mobile than we once believed. As it happens just last night I caught some snippets of a documentary about viruses. I was amazed to see that the HINI virus was composed of genes from a number of sources.

Even more amazing was that in a cell infected with two viruses the constant replication, with a relatively high error rate, allowed a mixing and matching of the two viral genomes. Now when you consider the extremely high replication rates that can occur you realise that viruses are emulating a very powerful mathematical strategy against our immune responses.

There was some uproar about the responses to the viral outbreaks in recent years. The strategy is based on the obvious fact when a viral outbreak occurs containment must be the first priority. In many cases we won't have time to determine just how dangerous the pathogen is. While immunology is making some great strides keep in mind that the task is almost herculean in its objectives. So be kind to immunologists, they are very important people.

In this news release the mode of gene transfer was quite odd. About 700,000 years ago part of a  chromosome was incorporated into the genome of another plant, the hypothesis this was probably mediated by a pathogen or sap sucking parasite. It has long been known that bacteria can share their genetic material, and over recent years the Weismann Barrier has been breached on numerous occasions, and we have a much better appreciation of just how mobile genes can be. In that light the diversity of Life is not so surprising.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Bright Side of the Fish Oil Component - DHA

This news release from ScienceDaily directly contradicts the findings of just a a few weeks ago. In my earlier post I was addressing research which indicated DHA can induce a "Th 1 type mediated inflammatory response". In relation to Stroke the conventional wisdom quite literally screams that such a response is the very last thing one would want to treat stroke yet now we have a report asserting remarkable efficacy of DHA in ameliorating damage from stroke.

ScienceDaily (2010-11-08) -- A new study shows that a component of fish oil is a powerful therapeutic agent that can protect brain tissue in a model of stroke, even when treatment is delayed by five hours. These findings not only target a new stroke treatment approach, but also provide vital information about the length of the therapeutic window.
For those so interested you can download the full article at this link. Bit of surprise, Springerlink usually doesn't give stuff away and I suspect this is a website error so be quick!

The findings of this study are remarkable:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Black Man Wins Genius Award

A friend of mine sent me this clip of John Dabiri. Great clip. If you have ever wondered what is the point of studying jellyfish movement and other such seemingly obscure research watch this clip. For some background on Dabiri you can read the following links:

Microglia as Regulators of Neural Transmission

This study, freely available here(4.61MB), has some striking implications. These are listed below. The Science Daily news release can read here. Microglia are typically perceived as the immune cells of the CNS but this study builds on former studies all pointing to the possibility that our current understanding about neural transmission and memory is too constrained. This present study indicates:

  • Microglia regulate the fate the synapses
  • Microglia are constantly on the move and at a rapid pace.
  • Microglia may be regulating memory consolidation.
  • Our conceptual separation of immune processes and neural transmission is a fundamental error.