Looking for the fountain of youth? Scientists may have found it.

Scientists led by Johan Auwerx from the EPFL, in collaboration with the Netherlands and the US, have found that the mitochondria play an important role in the aging process and that it can be influenced using antibiotics. Mitochondria are responsible for transforming nutrients into proteins, which are used by muscles as energy. The research has identified the exact genes involved in the process and the consequences of varying the amount of protein they encode for. The less protein, the longer the life span.

The study has been carried out on mice and worms, showing that three genes situated on chromosome number two can be manipulated to extend life. A 50% reduction in the expression of these genes led to a 60% increase in life span for both the mice and the worms.

Still a long way to go before it can be tested on humans, but nonetheless, a breakthrough that can revolutionize the world.

For more information, please refer to: Houtkooper, R, Mouchiroud, L, Ryu, D, Moullan, N, Katsyuba, E, Knott, G, Williams, R, & Auwerx, J (2013), ‘Mitonuclear protein imbalance as a conserved longevity mechanism’, Nature, 497, 7450, p. 451

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Professor Jack Gallant, a UC Berkeley neuroscientist, and his colleagues published a study in 2011 in the journal Current Biology, where they presented a new motion-energy encoding model that largely overcomes the limitations of slow BOLD signals in fMRI. The model describes fast visual information and slow hemodynamics by separate components. The authors recorded BOLD signals in occipitotemporal visual cortex of human subjects who watched natural movies and fit the model separately to individual voxels. Visualization of the fit models reveals how early visual areas represent the information in movies. They also constructed a Bayesian decoder which provides remarkable reconstructions of the viewed movies. These results demonstrate that dynamic brain activity measured under naturalistic conditions can be decoded using current fMRI technology.

This could have tremendous implications for stroke, coma patients or blind patients by creating artificial retinas, for instance.

For the full article, please click here

Youtube movie: Brain Activity Reconstruction

The Biological Internet

October 2, 2012

Bioengineers from Stanford University have used the parasite M13 to create what could be the roots of biological internet: “Bi-Fi”. M13 packages genetic messages: it reproduces inside its host, taking strands of DNA, wrapping them up and sending them, encapsulated in proteins produced by M13, to infect other cells. The strands of DNA can be controlled by engineers, in such a way that, the channel is isolated from the content. This cell-cell communication platform might lead the way to cell programming and even regeneration of tissue organs, according to the authors. For more information, click here

 

The number of movies in “3D” has increased a lot in the last couple of years, but not only in the cinemas is 3D becoming important. More and more researchers and medical companies are trying to create 3D visualization of medical images in order to help physicians reconstruct in their minds the organ they are seeing as a 2D representation. This is called spatial cognition and there are big differences in the spatial cognition capabilities of different people. Some companies such as Echopixel technologies and Infinite Z, are already working to integrate 3D visualization into the clinical practice by developing advanced visualization and manipulation tools to be used within well-defined clinical protocols.

 

Nanotechnology and cancer

January 26, 2011

In the last few years, nanotechnology has gained in popularity. Particularly, in cancer research, where it holds great promise for the development of targeted, localized delivery of anticancer drugs, in which only cancer cells are affected. Nowadays, anticancer drugs are distributed through the whole body, damaging healthy cells as well as cancerous ones.

Researchers at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have carried out a study where they demonstrate that mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs), tiny particles with thousands of pores, can store and deliver chemotherapeutic drugs in vivo and effectively suppress tumors in mice.

The study also showed that MSNs circulate in the bloodstream for extended periods of time and accumulate almost exclusively in tumors after administration and that the nanoparticles are excreted from the body after they have delivered their chemotherapeutic drugs.According to the researchers, the tumor accumulation could be further improved by attaching a targeting moiety to MSNs.

There is still a long way to go before this technology can be used in humans, with safety tests and many more studies to follow in different animal models, but so far, the results are very positive.