Friday, February 27, 2009
Though research into algae as a source for biodiesel is not new, the current oil crises and fast depleting fossil oil reserves have made it more imperative for organizations and countries to invest more time and efforts into research on suitable renewable feedstock such as algae.Algae have emerged as one of the most promising sources especially for biodiesel production, for two main reasons they are (1) The yields of oil from algae are orders of magnitude higher than those for traditional oilseeds.
(2) Algae can grow in places away from the farmlands & forests, thus minimising the damages caused to the eco- and food chain systems. There is a third interesting reason as well: Algae can be grown in sewages and next to power-plant smokestacks where they digest the pollutants and give us oil.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
King's approach uses a tiny tubelike device coated with the proteins that could hypothetically be implanted in a peripheral blood vessel to filter out and destroy free-flowing cancer cells in the bloodstream. To capture the tumor cells in the blood, King used selection molecules proteins that move to the surface of blood vessels in response to infection or injury. Selectin molecules normally recruit white blood cells which "roll" along their surfaces and create an inflammatory response but they also attract cancer cells, which can mimic the adhesion and rolling process. Once the cancer cells adhered to the selectin on the microtube's surface, King exposed them to a protein called TRAIL (for Tumor Necrosis Factor Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand), which binds to two so-called "death receptors" on the cancer cells' surface, setting in motion a process that causes the cell to self-destruct. The TRAIL then releases the cells back into the bloodstream to die; and the device is left free to work on new cells.It's a little more sophisticated than just filtering the blood, because we're not just accumulating cancer cells on the surface. King's research showed that the device can capture and kill about 30 percent of cancer cells flowing past it a single time, with the potential to kill more in the closed-loop system of the body. Used in combination with traditional cancer therapies, King said, the device could remove a significant proportion of metastatic cells ,and give the body a fighting chance to remove the rest of them.
The team also showed that a system in which the cancer cells "roll" over the target molecules presenting their entire surface to the molecules is four times more effective than a static setup in which the cells and proteins make contact at a single point. King's group tested the device on prostate and colon cancer cells, but noted that it could also be customized with additional peptides or other proteins to target other types of cancer cells and if you could reduce or prevent metastasis, pretty much any cancer would be treatable. But translating the research into a clinical application will take time, and is still likely years away.
A version of the device used in King's experiments is shown below. In the body, the inlet and outlet would connect to an artery and vein, respectively
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Scientists have discovered more than 1,000 species in Southeast Asia's Greater Mekong region in the past decade, including a spider as big as a dinner plate.
The species were all found in the rainforests and wetlands along the Mekong River, which flows through Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.
These included the world's largest huntsman spider, with a leg span of 30 centimetres, and the "startlingly" coloured "dragon millipede", which produces the deadly compound cyanide.
One species of pitviper was first noted by scientists after it was found in the rafters of a restaurant at the headquarters of Thailand's Khao Yai National Park in 2001.
A rat thought to have become extinct 11 million years ago and a cyanide-laced, shocking pink millipede were among creatures found.
The new species highlighted in the report include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, four birds, four turtles, two salamanders and a toad - an average of two previously undiscovered species a week for the past 10 years.