Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New bionic photosynthesis "leaves" plants in the dust

     Photosynthesis is one of the most simple and widely used sources of energy in nature and scientists have finally found a way to improve upon the design. The improved design isn't just a good thing for plants though. Using an alloy of cobalt and phosphorus as a catalyst, a leaf now could create isopropanol and isobutanol alcohol at rates ten times that of a normal, unaltered leaf. These types of alcohol could then be used as a fuel for everyday machines. It was not the first time that biologists took up the task, however.  
     Just last year the scientists from Harvard created a similar catalyst, nickel-molybdenum-zinc. That catalyst would have worked just fine if it hadn't killed the very cells that it was helping to run more efficiently. That small success helped to convince the team to continue their search for a better catalyst and brought them to where they are today.
     The setup that was tested by the scientists was powered by a set of solar panels that fed electricity to the system. The fact that it was powered by the sun, something you would expect from a photosynthesis invention, means that it can be used almost anywhere across the world. The versatility of this design could possibly provide a fuel source for remote tribes and civilizations that have little access to gasoline and other more common power sources.
     Bio fuels seem to be something that we have been hearing about for a long time. I for one have been seeing quite a bit about algae based fuels online and how great they would be for the environment because their only byproduct was water. This type of fuel appears to be the closest we have come to a totally environmentally friendly source of power, so if it can be made into something that creates alcohol on a large scale then the world of cars, motorcycles and planes may actually be helped out by a little booze for once. (Sorry airline pilots.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chinese scientists to pioneer first human CRISPR trial

     A cure for cancer. Something that everyone would love to see but most have little hope for. With recent breakthroughs in DNA modification it may be a more attainable goal than ever before. In China, gene editing is at a forefront in my labs and they lead the pack when it comes to gene "snipping". This amazing new development allows scientists to extract immune cells, T cells according to Lu You, and edit the very genetic code within them using enzymes, just like our biology class did when using the enzymes on E.coli. Then once their internal code is changed, they are added back into the patients blood stream where they will, if everything goes according to plan, multiply and help to make other cells immune.
     This type of treatment would be a type of last resort for patients who show no signs of improvement when chemo therapy and other methods are used. The fact that this type of treatment is still in the early stages however, means that it will not be very easily available to patients. The study has been approved by the U.S. National Institute of Health, the first step in gaining FDA approval. United States research teams are even set to begin clinical trials by the end of the year. People all across the country and world have high hopes for the revolutionary type of treatment but it isn't a 100% cure for cancer.
      The gene editing, scientifically known as CRISPR, is known to sometimes cut genes at the wrong point which can have very devastating results. At such a small scale it's hard to be completely accurate even with all the research done before hand. Japanese scientist Tetsuya Ishii was quick to criticize the way the Chinese team went about extracting the T cells. She believes that the cells should be taken out of the tumor itself because they are already set up for attacking cancer. Even so, the new type of cancer treatment is gaining momentum everywhere and will hopefully be very successful.
     The fact that a cure for cancer in humans could be within our grasp is shocking. My entire life I've been wondering how long it would take for scientists to pinpoint it. I always believed that one would be discovered and now that it may have been done it makes me feel like one of the biggest medical advancements in human history is going to happen within my lifetime.