With Personal Food Computers, nerd farmers are finding the best way to grow

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I’m Caleb Harper, principal investigator and director of the Open Agriculture initiative at the MIT Media Lab. Kent Larson courtesy of MIT Media Lab

In his book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, Barry Estabrook details how grocery store tomatoes are both less nutritious and delicious than those grown decades ago. Industrial farming now grows crops for yield, sacrificing taste and vitamins for an easy-to-harvest, shippable product. It’s why apples at your local supermarket are probably about a year old. Caleb Harper, a principal research scientist at MIT and director of the OpenAg Initiative, wants to use technology to grow food that’s healthier, tastier, and more sustainable.

“Growing for nutrition and growing for flavor, it’s not really something anyone does,” he told Digital Trends at the recent ReThink Food conference in Napa, California.

Continue reading… “With Personal Food Computers, nerd farmers are finding the best way to grow”

Next generation of biotech food heading for grocery stores

WASHINGTON (AP) — The next generation of biotech food is headed for the grocery aisles, and first up may be salad dressings or granola bars made with soybean oil genetically tweaked to be good for your heart.

By early next year, the first foods from plants or animals that had their DNA “edited” are expected to begin selling. It’s a different technology than today’s controversial “genetically modified” foods, more like faster breeding that promises to boost nutrition, spur crop growth, and make farm animals hardier and fruits and vegetables last longer.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has declared gene editing one of the breakthroughs needed to improve food production so the world can feed billions more people amid a changing climate. Yet governments are wrestling with how to regulate this powerful new tool. And after years of confusion and rancor, will shoppers accept gene-edited foods or view them as GMOs in disguise?

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Alarm over talks to implant UK employees with microchips

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Trades Union Congress concerned over tech being used to control and micromanage.

Britain’s biggest employer organisation and main trade union body have sounded the alarm over the prospect of British companies implanting staff with microchips to improve security.

UK firm BioTeq, which offers the implants to businesses and individuals, has already fitted 150 implants in the UK.

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Same-sex mouse parents give birth via gene editing

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Scientists delivered pups with genetic material from two moms and two dads. But only pups with two moms survived to have babies themselves.

BIRDS DO IT, bees do it—even laboratory mice do it. But with science in the mix, actually creating new life may not always require a male and a female.

Using gene editing and stem cells, researchers in China have helped mice of the same sex bear pups. While this feat has been accomplished before with mouse moms, the new study marks the first time that pups from pairs of male mice were also carried to full term.

The technology is far from ready for the leap to humans. Though mice pups born from two females appeared healthy and bore their own young, pups with two papas died soon after birth. Of the 12 born, just two survived more than 48 hours.

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The probiotic that kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria

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Infection with the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus can cause many health problems, including sepsis. Certain strains of this bacterium are resistant to antibiotics, so they are particularly dangerous. However, researchers discover that a probiotic bacterium can destroy this superbug.

Researchers are now investigating the potential of a probiotic bacterium in treating MRSA infections.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is highly resistant to treatment with antibiotics.

These include oxacillin, flucloxacillin, and dicloxacillin.

Continue reading… “The probiotic that kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria”

Scientists grow human retinas and illuminate eye disease targets

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Retinal organoid at 291 days. Red and green cone cells are green in the photo, while blue cone cells are blue.

Scientists were able to grow human retinas from stem cells for 1 year, allowing them to mimic human fetal development of retinas and closely observe how color-detecting cells form.

Why it matters: The information they gathered could be used to prevent or treat eye diseases and disorders like glaucoma, macular degeneration, color blindness and eye problems from premature births, Johns Hopkins University scientists say in a new study published in Science Thursday.

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A stretchy stick-on patch can take blood pressure readings from deep inside your body

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The flexible stamp can collect data that usually requires bulky, invasive equipment.

The last time you had your blood pressure checked, it was probably at a doctor’s office with a bulky cuff wrapped around your arm. One day soon, perhaps, you will just need a simple stick-on patch on your neck, no bigger than a postage stamp.

That’s the goal of Sheng Xu and his team at the University of California, San Diego, who are working on a patch that can continuously measure someone’s central blood pressure—the pressure of blood coursing beyond your aorta, the artery in your heart that delivers blood to all the different parts of the body. It could make it a lot easier to monitor heart conditions and keep an eye on other vital organs like the liver, lungs, and brain.

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The ‘game-changing’ technique to create babies from skin cells just stepped forward

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Scientists in Japan made progress recently in the quest to combat infertility, creating the precursor to a human egg cell in a dish from nothing but a woman’s blood cells. The research is an important step toward what scientists call a “game-changing” technology that has the potential to transform reproduction.

The primitive reproductive cell the scientists created is not a mature egg, and it cannot be fertilized to create an embryo. But researchers have already created eggs out of mouse tail cells and fertilized them to produce viable pups, so outside scientists said the research is on track to one day achieve human “in vitro gametogenesis” — a method of creating eggs and sperm in a dish.

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CRISPR gene editing creates cocaine-proof mice, aims to crack addiction puzzle

Gene editing has already given us malaria-resistant mosquitoes and heat-resistant cows. Now, researchers from the University of Chicago may have topped both of those feats with their latest creation: Cocaine-resistant mice. Using the CRISPR-based gene-editing platform to modify the DNA of skin cells, researchers Xiaoyang Wu and Ming Xu have been able not only to create mice that are less likely to seek out cocaine than their counterparts, but are also immune to cocaine overdoses that killed mice without the same CRISPR-edited cells.

The process builds on previous work involving a modified enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase (BCHE), which is capable of naturally breaking down cocaine very rapidly. Unfortunately, its short half-life makes it ineffective in a clinical scenario, since it disappears before it has any long-term impact on the body’s response to cocaine. BCHE cannot be administered orally, which makes it ill-suited for use as a potential treatment.

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Japan’s new solar-powered “Second Skin” device revolutionizes wearable tech

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It looks more like a band-aid than a watch.

Advances in wearable tech have been pretty impressive lately, but the device described in a new Nature study blows the competition out of the water. While the Apple Watch is now equipped with an FDA-approved EKG sensor and companies like Samsung are going out of their way to make smartwatches look like fashion statements, the device described in the paper, published Wednesday, puts both to shame. This heart-sensing device has no wires, requires no charging, and is so small that it can wrap around a rat’s heart.

Study co-author Kenjiro Fukuda, Ph.D., a research scientist at Japan’s RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science is quick to say that his device represents a big step forward for wearables. It looks more like a band-aid than a watch, and it’s thinner than a piece of cardboard.

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Two people with paralysis walk again using an implanted device

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‘It was like watching fireworks, but from the inside’

After Kelly Thomas’ truck flipped with her inside of it in 2014, she was told that she probably would never walk again. Now, with help from a spinal cord implant that she’s nicknamed “Junior,” Thomas is able to walk on her own.

Thomas and Jeff Marquis, who was paralyzed after a mountain biking accident, can now independently walk again after participating in a study at the University of Louisville that was published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Thomas’ balance is still off and she needs a walker, but she can walk a hundred yards across grass. She also gained muscle and lost the nerve pain in her foot that has persisted since her accident. Another unnamed person with a spinal cord injury can now independently step across the ground with help from a trainer, according to a similar study at the Mayo Clinic that was also published today in the journal Nature Medicine.

Continue reading… “Two people with paralysis walk again using an implanted device”

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