Synthetic biology enables microbes to build muscle

Researchers at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a synthetic chemistry approach to polymerize proteins inside of engineered microbes. This enabled the microbes to produce the high molecular weight muscle protein, titin, which was then spun into fibers. In the future, such material could be used for clothing, or even for protective gear. Credit: Washington University in St. Louis

Would you wear clothing made of muscle fibers? Use them to tie your shoes or even wear them as a belt? It may sound a bit odd, but if those fibers could endure more energy before breaking than cotton, silk, nylon, or even Kevlar, then why not?

Don’t worry, this muscle could be produced without harming a single animal.

Researchers at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a synthetic chemistry approach to polymerize proteins inside of engineered microbes. This enabled the microbes to produce the high molecular weight muscle protein, titin, which was then spun into fibers. 

Their research was published Monday, August 30 in the journal Nature Communications.

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Scientists Have Found a Way to Break the Limit of Human Longevity

Schematic illustration of loss of resilience along aging trajectories.

By GERO

The research team of Gero, a Singapore-based biotech company in collaboration with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo NY, announces a publication in Nature Communications, a journal of Nature portfolio, presenting the results of the study on associations between aging and the loss of the ability to recover from stresses.

Recently, we have witnessed the first promising examples of biological age reversal by experimental interventions. Indeed, many biological clock types properly predict more years of life for those who choose healthy lifestyles or quit unhealthy ones, such as smoking. What has been still unknown is how quickly biological age is changing over time for the same individual. And especially, how one would distinguish between the transient fluctuations and the genuine bioage change trend.

The emergence of big biomedical data involving multiple measurements from the same subjects brings about a whole range of novel opportunities and practical tools to understand and quantify the aging process in humans. A team of experts in biology and biophysics presented results of a detailed analysis of dynamic properties of the fluctuations of physiological indices along individual aging trajectories.

Healthy human subjects turned out to be very resilient, whereas the loss of resilience turned out to be related to chronic diseases and elevated all-cause mortality risks. The rate of recovery to the equilibrium baseline level after stresses was found to deteriorate with age. Accordingly, the time needed to recover was getting longer and longer. Being around 2 weeks for 40 y.o. healthy adults the recovery time stretched to 6 weeks for 80 y.o. on average in the population. This finding was confirmed in two different datasets based on two different kinds of biological measurements — blood test parameters on one hand and physical activity levels recorded by wearable devices on the other hand.

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The New Science Of “Micro Self-Care”

Taking small steps for our well-being can help us combat virtual fatigue and burnout.

By Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

For many people, burnout from virtual fatigue has been a built-in feature of the pandemic. A new study from Superhuman found “email fatigue” to be the cause of rising dissatisfaction with remote work.More than one-third of employees said email and message overload may lead them to quit their jobs. The survey found half of remote workers (50%) spent their own money on tools to help manage their productivity, and another 17% plan to do so in the future. Plus, new Stanford research reveals how the shift from in-person meetings to virtual ones has taken its toll, particularly among women. Overall, one in seven women (13.8%) compared with one in 20 men (5.5%) reported feeling “very” to “extremely” fatigued after Zoom calls. Researchers found what contributed most to the feeling of exhaustion among women was an increase in what social psychologists describe as “self-focused attention” triggered by the self-view in video conferencing.

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Israeli smokable cannabis sticks to hit US market in January

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StickIt CBD sticks

The main upside to these smokable sticks is their consistency. The sticks allow for accurate, measured doses of cannabis extracts, making them much easier to regulate worldwide.

The Israeli start-up industry could be taking over an unexpected new market: smokable cannabis sticks.

Last month, an Israeli start-up, TrichomeShell, which makes a smokable cannabis toothpick called “moodpicks,” smashed fundraising goals as they prepared to enter the Canadian cannabis market.

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This electronic patch can monitor, treat heart disease, say scientists

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According to the scientists, while pacemakers and other implantable devices are used to monitor and treat irregular heartbeats, these are mostly made with rigid materials that can’t move to accommodate a beating heart.

The patch has been developed with rubbery electronic materials compatible with heart tissue

Researchers have developed a patch made from rubbery electronics that can be placed directly on the heart to collect information on its activity, temperature, and other indicators — an innovation that may help look out for cardiac arrest in vulnerable individuals.

According to the scientists, including those from the University of Houston (UH) in the US, while pacemakers and other implantable devices are used to monitor and treat irregular heartbeats, these are mostly made with rigid materials that can’t move to accommodate a beating heart.

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Don’t drop your diet yet, but scientists have discovered how CRISPR can burn fat

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A personalized therapy for metabolic conditions that are linked to obesity could involve removing a small amount of a person’s fat, transforming it into an energy-burning variation using CRISPR gene-editing, and then re-implanting it into the body, according to researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

In tests involving mice, the implanted human fat cells helped lower sugar concentrations in the blood and decrease fat in the liver. When the mice were put on a high-fat diet, the ones that had been implanted with the human beige fat only gained half as much weight as those that had been implanted with regular human fat.

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Wearable sensors can be printed directly onto skin at room temperature

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An example of the new wearable sensor developed at Penn State University

Flexible electronics have opened up some interesting possibilities when it comes to wearable sensors that can be applied to the skin, taking the form of tattoo-like films and sleeves that monitor various aspects of human health. Scientists at Penn State University have now developed one they say can be safely printed directly onto the skin, where it can track things like body temperature and blood oxygen levels, before being washed off once the job is done.

The new printable sensors build on earlier work by the same researchers, in which they developed flexible circuit boards for use in wearable sensors. But a key part of this process involved bonding some of the metallic components together at the kinds of temperatures not well tolerated by the human body, at around 572 °F (300 °C).

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This extremely slippery VR treadmill could be your next home gym

The Virtuix Omni One is supposed to ship next year

Virtual reality startup Virtuix is building a VR treadmill for your home. The Omni One is an elaborate full-body controller that lets you physically run, jump, and crouch in place. Following an earlier business- and arcade-focused device, it’s supposed to ship in mid-2021 for $1,995, and Virtuix is announcing the product with a crowdfunding investment campaign.

The crowdfunded Virtuix Omni started development in 2013. It’s not a traditional treadmill — it’s a low-friction platform that’s used with special low-friction shows or shoe covers and a harness. (You may remember the overall VR treadmill concept from Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.) As an Omni One prototype video demonstrates, the device basically holds you in place while your feet slide across the platform, and that movement gets translated into a VR environment. We’ve tried earlier iterations of the Omni, and it’s an awkward yet fascinating experience.

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The future is cyborg: Kaspersky study finds support for human augmentation

 

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LONDON (Reuters) – Nearly two thirds of people in leading Western European countries would consider augmenting the human body with technology to improve their lives, mostly to improve health, according to research commissioned by Kaspersky.

As humanity journeys further into a technological revolution that its leaders say will change every aspect of our lives, opportunities abound to transform the ways our bodies operate from guarding against cancer to turbo-charging the brain.

The Opinium Research survey of 14,500 people in 16 countries including Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain showed that 63% of people would consider augmenting their bodies to improve them, though the results varied across Europe.

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3D printing a meatless world: Self-medication with 3D printed food

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As we’ve seen previously in this series, 3D printing could have a significant impact on the burgeoning meatless meat industry. Moreover, everything is surimi is everything, and everything is surimi. These two claims of mine could have a substantial effect on 3D printing as an industry and our world in general, if they turn out to have substance.

We are however, in the initial stages of a food revolution. The bigger picture sees the Industrial Revolution (which created the current food system of supermarkets, chains, and brands), the Green Revolution (which expanded agricultural production in the 1950’s), bioindustry development (which saw the dawn of AFOs, hormones in meat, caged chickens in their millions, etc.) be joined by another paradigm shift in food production: Lab Food.

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As telemedicine replaces the physical exam, what are doctors missing?

Video call with doctor

Virtual medical appointments are more common since the coronavirus pandemic began. But without physical exams, doctors may miss certain diagnoses and miss out on building relationships with patients.

Despite a foothold in medicine that predates Hippocrates himself, the traditional physical exam might be on the verge of extinction. The coronavirus crisis has driven more routine medical appointments online, accelerating a trend toward telemedicine that has already been underway.

This worries Dr. Paul Hyman, author of a recently published essay in JAMA Internal Medicine, who reflects on what’s lost when physicians see their patients almost exclusively through a screen.

A primary care physician in Maine, Hyman acknowledges he’d already begun second-guessing routine physicals on healthy patients as insurance requirements pushed doctors away from them.

But while Hyman is now providing mostly telemedicine, like many doctors during the pandemic, he writes that he has gained a clearer sense of the value of the age-old practice of examining patients in person. He notes the ability to offer reassurance, be present for his patients and find personal fulfillment as a doctor.

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The surprising upsides of worrying

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Anxiety can be exhausting, but there is often a reason for it – and there are some surprising benefits to certain kinds of worrying.

“I’m a near-professional worrier,” admits Kate Sweeny ruefully. She’s struggled for much of her life with anxiety over things she can’t entirely control – including, these days, whether her parents are following social-distancing guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A constant hum of low-grade worry affects many people, but what’s distinct about Sweeny is that it partly motivated her career choices. As a health psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, she specialises in understanding worry and stress.

“Not everybody uses their own life as fodder for research,” she laughs, but she’s found inspiration in her own experiences. One of her surprising findings has been that worrying can be beneficial in a variety of situations, from waiting for exam results to safeguarding health.

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