Infographic: Growing Human Organs in a Pig

There’s still a great demand for human organs all the world. And there aren’t enough donors to meet that demand. That’s why scientists are working hard to alternatives to meet the demand and even spare individuals for giving up their own to save another life.

One such research is led by Juan Carlos Izpisรบa Belmonte from the Salk Institute, which had made progress in growing human organs in pigs. The process is explained in the nifty infographic below:

grow human organs in pig

If you’re squeamish, you’d never look at pork chops the same way again. Still, it’s a fascinating way of growing organs. There are other ideas being researched on, like growing organs in the lab, or even using 3D printers which have been a trend of late. How it all turns out, the future has good promise for those who are or would need a new organ.

Source: Scientific American

A step towards creating renewable petroleum

In the vampire vs werewolves sci-fi movie Underworld, vampires have developed the technology to create artificial blood, thus eliminated or minimized their need to go after humans whenever they needed to feed.

Humans and vampires had managed to live in a peaceful co-existence. Or so it appeared.

The same thing could arise once the US has fully developed the technology to create artificial petroleum. Such a technology has now taken root from the study of researchers from the University of Minnesota in the US, led by graduate student Janice Frias whose team has just figured out how to create ketones using bacteria, sunlight and carbon dioxide.

The U of M team is using Synechococcus, a bacterium that fixes carbon dioxide in sunlight and converts CO2 to sugars. Next, they feed the sugars to Shewanella, a bacterium that produces hydrocarbons. This turns CO2, a greenhouse gas produced by combustion of fossil fuel petroleum, into hydrocarbons.

Their study funded by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-energy will appear in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

And even as this news is spread in print and on the Internet, the University of Minnesota is filing patents on the process.

If the study would progress as it is envisioned, perhaps within a decade or two, the US would now have a technology to produce its own petroleum thanks, again, to bacteria, sunlight and CO2.

Perhaps by then, the American thirst for oil would be tamed. This would then minimize the need for their active involvement in the Middle East, assuming by that time that the region’s oil reserves have not yet run dry.

Though I am uncertain how OPEC members would react to such a situation that the US with its artificial petroleum technology would become one of their competitors. I am also uncertain as to whether the US would be willing to share such a technology (wishful thinking, I know) with the rest of the world but since a patent for it has already been filed, then it would become another way for them to maintain their global economic dominance.

Nevertheless, it’s still good news that renewable petroleum is much closer to becoming a reality than fiction. As more sources of alternative energy become available, the more chances we have of saving our plant from destruction while we continue on with our civilization.

E. coli strain engineered to produce biodiesel directly from biomass

We commonly know the E. coli (Escherichia coli) as the bacteria that can cause serious food poisonings and a PR and marketing disaster for food manufacturers. But this only caused by a strain of E. coli called O157:H7, the rest of other strains are harmless and in fact have been living inside the intestines of warm-blooded organisms like cattle and humans.

Just recently, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered a strain of E. coli to produce bio diesel fuel directly from biomass without the aid of additional chemical modifications.

“Biosynthesis of microbial fatty acids produces fatty acids bound to a carrier protein, the accumulation of which inhibits the making of additional fatty acids,” Steen says. “Normally E. coli doesn’t waste energy making excess fat, but by cleaving fatty acids from their carrier proteins, we’re able to unlock the natural regulation and make an abundance of fatty acids that can be converted into a number of valuable products. Further, we engineered our E. coli to no longer eat fatty acids or use them for energy.”

After successfully diverting fatty acid metabolism toward the production of fuels and other chemicals from glucose, the JBEI researchers engineered their new strain of E. coli to produce hemicellulases — enzymes that are able to ferment hemicellulose, the complex sugars that are a major constituent of cellulosic biomass and a prime repository for the energy locked within plant cell walls.

Plant waste, such as those from the food industry can now be a source of bio diesel fuel thanks to this engineered strain of E. coli. Another use would be to directly farm plant matter, the kind that we humans don’t use for food, and we have ourselves a source of bio diesel that is renewable, sustainable and potentially cheaper.

Hopefully, this would not lead into a genetic nightmare or be used by the West to retain control over the fuel-producing industry. Then again this might be just another exercise in wishful thinking.

Bio fieldtrip photos, WordPress 2.1 and Cutline 1.1

It’s been quite a long while since I last posted anything new on this blog which could be attributed to the following:

Busy, busy at the university

The mid-term examinations have just passed and with that some major school stuff has kept my hands full since the last time I updated this blog. A Biology field trip of which the photos below were taken and the upcoming student elections are what have kept me away from blogging.

We visited the Carfel Vistamar Marine Museum at Anilao, Batangas. There, we took photos of marine life in its various forms, shapes, sizes and colors. From coral crabs to sea fans to conch shells, from sea urichins to the jaws of a shark; we had the chance of taking an up-close and quite personal look at all of them.

Carfel Marine MuseumAt the Carfel Marine MeseumCoral crabPuffer fish

After visiting the Carfel Museum, we then took a 30-minute bus then jeepney ride to Planet Dive Resort to do what all of us have been waiting for, to swim and do some snorkling! ๐Ÿ˜€

1st snorkling groupHuman bio students at the dockDog

More photos could be found here, and if you’re one of the Bio or Envi students who were with me during the fieldtrip, you’re free to download the photos for your personal use. Just don’t forget to mention that I took those photos okay? ๐Ÿ˜‰

It’s WordPress 2.1 under the hood baby! ๐Ÿ˜†

Yup! The Four-eyed Journal has finally made the switch to join the other WordPress blogs to sport its latest version, WordPress 2.1. The upgrade has been postponed mainly because of the plugin compatibility issues, crappy broadband connection and of course free time. It was just this morning that I finally had the time, the will and patience to push through with the upgrade.

After following the upgrade steps: back-up all blog files and data, deactivate the plugins, install the new WP 2.1 files, install the updates to the plugins, doing the actual upgrade then finally, logging in to your WP 2.1-powered blog. Ella just sings to the right tune so far and I’m liking it.

Lastly, the upgrade to WP 2.1 has led many others before me to sport the latest version of this uber cool theme, Cutline 1.1 by Chis Pearson. You may notice little no to difference in the site’s appearance but most of the upgrades are under the hood. Some new features were added to the Four-eyed Journal but more on that in a later post. :mrgreen:

Quick links: bacteria, viruses and fungi

This is the very first “quick links” post on this blog and I plan to do this at least three times a week, it’s part of breaking the isolationism the Four-eyed Journal has been in since like ever. So it’s time to spread the link loves! ๐Ÿ˜€

Ed Yong has a piece about how bacteria in our guts could be linked to obesity. Have read something about this issue before, too bad I lost the links, none the less Ed makes a good point in that this is just another positive step in understanding the workings of our bodies and we should not stop here.

On Neatorama, Alex asks what could go wrong now that scientists have revived the Spanish Flu virus. Excellent question, though I’m sure (and hope) that the scientists have lots of good reasons why they resurrected another mass-killer bug. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

chez mistral makes a connection between Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and tries to look at how global warming is affecting wine growing. Wine enthusiasts would probably get interested in global warming once they realize that it directly affects the quality and price of wine.

Well that’s it for now, more link loves coming soon.

Genetically-modified peanut butter

peanut butterWell it’s a guess, that would probably come true in the next 3-5 years from now. The go signal has been given to scientists to create genetically-modified peanuts that are more nutritious, more resistant to pests, less allergic to those who are allergic to peanuts and easier to grow and cultivate.

The signal came from the peanut industry led by the American Peanut Council, (Yes, such organization does exists.) They say that competitors from China and India have been working a lot lately on genetically modified peanuts, it’s now America’s time to do it. The beauty of the free economy; in the quest for more profits certain things would have to fly out the window, like social and health concerns about GMOs or genetically-modified organisms.

Now genetic engineering per se is not bad, heck; we’re using it right now to treat certain cancers and birth-defects. Scientists just have to do their homeworks better so that decision makers can make the best of out them. You never know what GMOs can do to your body or to other creatures on this planet, so it will be greatly beneficial to be extra careful about tinkering with the genes of any living organism.

That includes peanuts, and in turn its derivative peanut butter. That yummy brown paste that is the essential ingredient of the peanut butter and jelly sandwhich, and for us Filipinos Kare-kare.

We may think that this is only the first instance where science and genetic engineering will work on peanuts. We better guess again as not so long ago, the Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program (P- CRSP) which is funded by the US Agency for International Development (AID) has worked with the National Food Authority/Food Development Center (NFA/FDC) and University of the Philippines (UP) to put peanut butter in a better social use. They developed a technology to fortify peanut butter with Vitamin A so as to make the delivery of this important vitamin to the people, particularly among children. Lack of Vitamin A is a leading cause of blindness amongst them. Noble isn’t it? Let’s just hope and remind scientists that after they have tinkered with the peanuts, it better be good for all of us.

New paint kills microbes with spikes

Got this from the Discovery Channel website: Spiky Paint Kills Bugs on Contact

Klibanov’s coating is made up of microscopic polymer spikes, rather than chemicals. The polymer spikes are mixed into a solvent. When the solvent is applied to a surface, it evaporates, leaving behind a clear, spiky coating.

When a bacterium lands on the polymer, the spikes poke holes into the pathogen’s protective outer membrane.

In an experiment, 99 percent of bacteria that were exposed to a coated surface died.

So with this new kind of anti-microbial coating, your walls and ceilings would become literally a ‘bed of nails’ for bacteria and viruses that would land on them.

Aside from home benefits this would be great for hospitals and other facilities that get exposed to high levels of bacterial or viral count. I just wonder though if this would have any effect on Spiderman’s ability to crawl on walls and ceilings? Kidding aside, this kind of new technological innovations are great and I wish that these would be made available to developing countries like ours, the Philippines. It would save the government lots of money from massive pesticide sprays and become more environment-friendly in the process and ultimately lead to healthier Filipinos.

In 2002 alone, the third leading cause of illness in the county is Bronchitis/Bronchiolitis. Which is caused by certain air-borne pathogens like the viruses Rhinovirus, Adenovirus and the bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae among others aside from air pollutants like smog, dust and cigarette smoke.

Now I wonder if this spike-laden coating material could also be used to prevent mosquitoes from landing on house walls and ceilings where they wait to find the person to come along and be bitten, thus further preventing malaria, and dengue fever from spreading. House flies would be next on the list as these irritating insects carry many pathogens as well.

Wait a minute, aren’t insect-repelling products like these already commercially available?