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  • October 30, 2014
  • 03:45 PM
  • 21 views

Zombies: Science Fiction vs. Fact

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Well in the spirit of Halloween I thought I would make a nice little zombie post. Zombies, those brain loving little guys, [and girls] are everywhere. From shows like The Walking […]... Read more »

Lafferty KD. (2006) Can the common brain parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, influence human culture?. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 273(1602), 2749-55. PMID: 17015323  

Vyas A, Kim SK, Giacomini N, Boothroyd JC, & Sapolsky RM. (2007) Behavioral changes induced by Toxoplasma infection of rodents are highly specific to aversion of cat odors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(15), 6442-7. PMID: 17404235  

Thomas, F., Schmidt-Rhaesa, A., Martin, G., Manu, C., Durand, P., & Renaud, F. (2002) Do hairworms (Nematomorpha) manipulate the water seeking behaviour of their terrestrial hosts?. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 15(3), 356-361. DOI: 10.1046/j.1420-9101.2002.00410.x  

W. Wesołowska T. Wesołowski. (2014) Do Leucochloridium sporocysts manipulate the behaviour of their snail hosts?. Journal of Zoology , 292(3), 151-155. info:/10.1111/jzo.12094

  • October 29, 2014
  • 03:19 PM
  • 42 views

More Genetic Links Behind Autism

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Vaccines do NOT cause autism. One more time, vaccines DO NOT cause autism. So what does cause autism, that problem has been plaguing scientists for awhile now. Thankfully two major genetic studies of autism and involving more than 50 laboratories worldwide, have newly implicated dozens of genes in the disorder. The research shows that rare mutations in these genes affect communication networks in the brain and compromise fundamental biological mechanisms that govern whether, when, and how genes are activated overall.... Read more »

Iossifov, I., O’Roak, B., Sanders, S., Ronemus, M., Krumm, N., Levy, D., Stessman, H., Witherspoon, K., Vives, L., Patterson, K.... (2014) The contribution of de novo coding mutations to autism spectrum disorder. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13908  

De Rubeis, S., He, X., Goldberg, A., Poultney, C., Samocha, K., Ercument Cicek, A., Kou, Y., Liu, L., Fromer, M., Walker, S.... (2014) Synaptic, transcriptional and chromatin genes disrupted in autism. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13772  

  • October 28, 2014
  • 04:11 PM
  • 51 views

Scientists resurrect 700-year-old viruses, Just in time for Halloween!

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

You know how some zombie movies start with a discovery of a virus, it gets loose, and things quickly spiral out of control from that? Well in breaking news a team of researchers have found two 700-year-old viral sequences in frozen caribou dung in an arctic ice patch. The group isolated part of a viral RNA genome and the complete genome of a DNA virus. Then they infected living plants with the DNA virus, what could go wrong?... Read more »

Ng, T., Chen, L., Zhou, Y., Shapiro, B., Stiller, M., Heintzman, P., Varsani, A., Kondov, N., Wong, W., Deng, X.... (2014) Preservation of viral genomes in 700-y-old caribou feces from a subarctic ice patch. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1410429111  

  • October 27, 2014
  • 03:40 PM
  • 69 views

Real Zombie-Making Parasites Among Us

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

The mummified cat and the rat in the crypt of Christ Church in Dublin. Photo by Adrian Grycuk at Wikimedia Commons.The Happening, M. Night Shyamalan’s worst panned movie of all time, is a science fiction thriller about people going into a mysterious trance and committing suicide as a result of other mind-hacking species. One of the leading criticisms raised against this movie is the ridiculousness of the premise. One species can’t cause another to willingly commit suicide! …Or can they? Toxoplasma gondii (we’ll call it T. gondii) is a protozoan parasite that has developed just such mind-hacking abilities! As far as we can tell, T. gondii only reproduces in the digestive tract of cat species, where it lays fertile eggs that are pooped out into the environment. From there, T. gondii eggs can contaminate any number of things that are consumed by other animals, such as rodents, birds, or even humans. When cats eat prey animals that are infected with T. gondii, another generation of parasites is now positioned to reproduce and the cycle continues.However, prey animals can be pretty good at avoiding cats, in part by avoiding the smell of cats. This is a problem for the reproductive plans of T. gondii. The tiny protozoan has responded to this problem with remarkable biological sophistication: They alter the behavior of their rodent hosts so that the infected rodents find the smell of cat urine so irresistible that they run straight towards their predators! Now, researchers have found that T. gondii-infected rats don’t only like the smell of cat urine, but they even prefer the smell of wild cat urine over the smell of urine of weaker domesticated cats.A rat checks out odor-soaked papers in a Y-shaped apparatus. Image from Kaushik, et al. (2014) in Integrative and Comparative Biology.Maya Kaushik, Sarah Knowles and Joanne Webster at the School of Public Heath at the Imperial College of London compared the responses of rats that were either infected with T. gondii or not to urine produced by domestic cats or wild cats. To do this, they put infected or uninfected rats into a Y-shaped apparatus. For each trial, tissue paper soaked in domestic cat urine or wild cat (cheetah or puma) urine was placed in two of the three arms and nothing was placed in the third arm. The researchers then measured how much time the rats spent in each of the three arms and how much they moved.As expected, the T. gondii-infected rats avoided the cat-urine-soaked arms less than the uninfected rats did. Furthermore, when presented with a choice between arms with wild cat urine versus domestic cat urine, the infected rats (but not the uninfected rats) preferred the smell of the predatory wild cats over the domestic cats! Infected rats also moved more slowly around the wild cat urine compared to domestic cat urine, as if just begging any wild cats that may be around to eat them. It appears that T. gondii have developed a mechanism to turn rats into mindless zombies that practically run into the mouths of the nearest, most vicious cat they can find.These mind-hacked rat-zombies may not be the only victims of T. gondii. People (particularly those that change their kitties’ litter boxes) can also become infected with the parasite. Some estimates suggest that nearly one-third of all people are already infected! Furthermore, people that test positive for T. gondii infection find the smell of cat urine more attractive than people who test negative! Although we are not likely to run to be eaten by our house-bound kitties, we may be more likely to change the litter box (or get more cats and become a crazy cat lady). So it looks like many of us are mind-hacked zombies too! Want to know more? Check this out:Kaushik, M., Knowles, S., & Webster, J. (2014). What Makes a Feline Fatal in Toxoplasma gondii's Fatal Feline Attraction? Infected Rats Choose Wild Cats Integrative and Comparative Biology, 54 (2), 118-128 DOI: 10.1093/icb/icu060 ... Read more »

  • October 27, 2014
  • 03:37 PM
  • 57 views

Research Shows Synapses are Always Ready to Go

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

The inner workings of the brain are quick, but really they have to be. Neurons need to be able to rapidly propagate information in their interior via electrical signals and they communicate with each other at special contact points known as the synapses. These chemical messenger substances (known as neurotransmitters) are stored in vesicles at the synapses. When a synapse becomes active, some of these vesicles fuse with the cell membrane and release their contents. To ensure that valuable time is not lost, synapses always have some readily releasable vesicles on standby.... Read more »

Imig, C., Min, S., Krinner, S., Arancillo, M., Rosenmund, C., Südhof, T., Rhee, J., Brose, N., & Cooper, B. (2014) The Morphological and Molecular Nature of Synaptic Vesicle Priming at Presynaptic Active Zones. Neuron, 84(2), 416-431. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.10.009  

  • October 26, 2014
  • 03:58 PM
  • 80 views

The Cause Behind Seizures post-Vaccination

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

The anti-vaccination movement is a dangerous one. Children are falling ill (and in certain cases dying) over nothing more than fear and misinformation. The problem is science doesn’t have all the answers and it is tempting to look to someone — or in this case a group of someones– who claim to have those answers, true or not. Well science eventually gets the answers we need and now scientists have found genetic clues to explain why a small number of children have febrile seizures—brief convulsions—after receiving the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.... Read more »

Bjarke Feenstra et al. (2014) Common variants associated with general and MMR vaccine–related febrile seizures. Nature Genetics. info:/dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.3129

  • October 25, 2014
  • 02:59 PM
  • 68 views

The Oceans Link to Climate Change

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Hold on to your hats folks, we can all agree that most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. But in a new study a group of researchers have found that circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating the earth’s climate. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean global warming isn’t a man-made problem, please.... Read more »

Woodard SC, Rosenthal Y, Miller KG, Wright JD, Chiu BK, & Lawrence KT. (2014) Antarctic role in Northern Hemisphere glaciation. Science . PMID: 25342658  

  • October 24, 2014
  • 05:20 PM
  • 72 views

The Genetics of Congenital Heart Defects Slowly Emerge from Down Syndrome Study

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Down syndrome, of all the genetic defects people are born with, is the most common (as far as chromosomal abnormalities go). Down syndrome involves having a third copy of all or part of chromosome 21 (for those who do not recall we are typically born with 23 pairs of chromosomes). In addition to intellectual disability, individuals with Down syndrome have a high risk of congenital heart defects. However, not all people with Down syndrome have them – about half have structurally normal hearts.... Read more »

Ramachandran D, Mulle JG, Locke AE, Bean LJ, Rosser TC, Bose P, Dooley KJ, Cua CL, Capone GT, Reeves RH.... (2014) Contribution of copy-number variation to Down syndrome-associated atrioventricular septal defects. Genetics in medicine : official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics. PMID: 25341113  

  • October 23, 2014
  • 05:58 PM
  • 69 views

The Genes Responsible for Immune System Reset after Infection

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

We’ve all been sick before, the aches and pains that come with it– most of the time including a fever — are all responses to our immune system kicking into high gear. But what if your body didn’t reverse course and go back to a, let’s call it” relaxed state.” Once the battle is won, the body’s efforts would be wasted on energy costing defense. A bad thing when the body really should be focusing on repairing the damage done by the foreign invaders.... Read more »

Brian Head,, & Alejandro Aballay. (2014) Recovery from an Acute Infection in C. elegans Requires the GATA Transcription Factor ELT-2. PLoS Genetics. info:/10.1371/journal.pgen.1004609

  • October 22, 2014
  • 03:55 PM
  • 82 views

Converting Skin Cells to Neurons: A Fight Against Huntington’s

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Neurological diseases are some of the hardest to fight against (in my opinion). The big reason is the brain, we still know so little about it and treatment for anything effecting it can be difficult to say the least. Take Huntington’s disease, an ultimately fatal neurodegenerative disorder. There is no cure and no real treatment, but that might change relatively soon thanks to a new discovery.... Read more »

Victor, M., Richner, M., Hermanstyne, T., Ransdell, J., Sobieski, C., Deng, P., Klyachko, V., Nerbonne, J., & Yoo, A. (2014) Generation of Human Striatal Neurons by MicroRNA-Dependent Direct Conversion of Fibroblasts. Neuron, 84(2), 311-323. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.10.016  

  • October 20, 2014
  • 04:50 PM
  • 96 views

A Venusian Mystery Explored Once More

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Venus, the place where women are from... supposedly. To say Venus has a harsh climate would be an understatement, this is one of many reasons why we will never (or maybe not soon) see a "long lasting" Venus rover counterpart to our Mars rover missions. Still, the planet (much like all the other plants) can teach us a lot about not just our own origins, but the origins of the universe. Also like all our neighbor planets Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds, a mystery that might be soon solved, all thanks to a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old spacecraft data.... Read more »

Harrington, E. et. Al. (2014) The puzzle of radar-bright highlands on venus: a high-spatial resolution study in Ovda regio. Geological Society of America. info:other/136-4

  • October 19, 2014
  • 01:43 PM
  • 85 views

DNA Nanotech: The First Large DNA Crystals

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

DNA is the stuff of life as we know it, but it is the potential as a programmable material platform that could spawn entire new and revolutionary nanodevices in computer science, microscopy, biology, and more. Researchers have been working to master the ability to coax DNA molecules to self assemble into the precise shapes and sizes needed in order to fully realize these nanotechnology dreams. A dream that been going on for 20 years now and was just realized.... Read more »

Ke, Y., Ong, L., Sun, W., Song, J., Dong, M., Shih, W., & Yin, P. (2014) DNA brick crystals with prescribed depths. Nature Chemistry. DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2083  

  • October 18, 2014
  • 02:55 PM
  • 95 views

New Genetic Test to help Solve Rare Disease Diagnosis

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

My sister suffers from a rare disease which causes small fiber polyneuropathy, or the killing of nerves in her hands and feet. As it progresses she has trouble standing or using her hands. If that was the worst of it, then it might be liveable given the time between severe attacks is years or more. Unfortunately, it also causes intense and mostly constant pain and burning sensations, pain so bad that conventional narcotic painkillers have trouble controlling it. After some time working with the hospital I narrowed it down to autoimmune mediated. Her Doctors finally agreed, but only after first dismissing it as anything from she was faking it, all the way to lupus.... Read more »

Lee, H., Deignan, J., Dorrani, N., Strom, S., Kantarci, S., Quintero-Rivera, F., Das, K., Toy, T., Harry, B., Yourshaw, M.... (2014) Clinical Exome Sequencing for Genetic Identification of Rare Mendelian Disorders. JAMA. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2014.14604  

  • October 18, 2014
  • 09:34 AM
  • 107 views

Merit’s Liquidity

by nooffensebut in The Unsilenced Science

The latest SAT and ACT data suggest that America’s cognitive elite have been enjoying new geographic mobility, but difficult economic times push them out of the elite strata, contrary to a prediction of The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray.... Read more »

nooffensebut. (2014) Parents’ Income is a Poor Predictor of SAT Score. Open Differential Psychology, 1-19. info:other/

  • October 17, 2014
  • 04:02 PM
  • 105 views

A look at Air Pollution and Your Body

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

We have all probably seen stories from China on the horrid air pollution there. Accompanying those reports of course are the statistics for air pollution that deaths have caused. For the record, the World Health Organization estimated that ambient air pollution caused 3.7 million premature deaths (worldwide) in 2012 alone – yet what exactly happens to your body when it encounters pollutants?... Read more »

  • October 16, 2014
  • 05:20 PM
  • 117 views

The “New” Roots of our Friends the Mitochondria

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Mitochondria, the proverbial “powerhouse” of the cell. Mitochondria are found in virtually all eukaryotic cells, plant or animal and we thought that was pretty much the end of the story. It wasn’t a great explanation but it was Now new research is turning the idea– that our ancestor cells simply “swallowed up” bacterial cells that eventually became mitochondria– on its head.... Read more »

Zhang Wang, & Martin Wu. (2014) Phylogenomic Reconstruction Indicates Mitochondrial Ancestor Was an Energy Parasite . PLoS ONE. info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0110685

  • October 16, 2014
  • 04:18 PM
  • 155 views

Inherited Memories: Too Good To Be True?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

In December last year, researchers Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler made a splash with a paper seeming to show that memories can be inherited. This article, published in Nature Neuroscience, reported that if adult mice are taught to be afraid of a particular smell, then their children will also fear it. Which is pretty wild. […]The post Inherited Memories: Too Good To Be True? appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

  • October 15, 2014
  • 02:22 PM
  • 131 views

You can tell [my mood] by the way I walk

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Ever see a guy walking down the street and know he’s depressed? Or how about someone happy, with a little bounce in their step? The way we walk says a lot and by some estimates roughly 90% of what we are telling people isn’t coming out our mouth, it’s all body language. Our walk says a lot about the kind of mood we are in, but in the question of what came first our mood or our walk, researchers have now shown that it works both ways.... Read more »

  • October 14, 2014
  • 04:58 PM
  • 96 views

Carbon’s Place in a Silicon World

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Everything is silicon based, well mainly your computer, your TV, your ipad, and pretty much every piece of electronics in existence. Still the world turns and so does technology; at a similarly fast pace no less. Even as the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics has enshrined light emitting diodes (LEDs) as the single most significant and disruptive energy-efficient lighting solution of today, scientists around the world continue unabated to search for the even-better-bulbs of tomorrow. In this search we are now ditching silicon for new carbon-based electronics.... Read more »

Sharon Bahena-Garrido, Norihiro Shimoi, Daisuke Abe, Toshimasa Hojo, Yasumitsu Tanaka, & Kazuyuki Tohji. (2014) Plannar light source using a phosphor screen with single-walled carbon nanotubes as field emitters. Review of Scientific Instruments. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4895913

  • October 13, 2014
  • 05:27 PM
  • 103 views

Free Radicals and Wound Healing

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Free radicals, said in the right crowd and you might hear someone scream for their life. Of course, to be perfectly transparent antioxidants have already shown to be bad in plenty of cases, so maybe it’s just bad PR. Still they were long assumed to be destructive to tissues and cells causing a host of age related problems with them. Well new research is showing that “free radicals” generated by the cell’s mitochondria—the energy producing “powerhouse” structures in the cell—are actually beneficial to healing wounds.... Read more »

Suhong Xu,, & Andrew D. Chisholm. (2014) C. elegans Epidermal Wounding Induces a Mitochondrial ROS Burst that Promotes Wound Repair . Developmental Cell. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.devcel.2014.08.002

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