July 1, 2015

Woman Gives Birth Using Ovarian Tissue Frozen In Childhood

In a medical first, a woman has given birth to a healthy baby boy from a transplant of her own frozen ovarian tissue preserved when she was just 13-years-old. It's a remarkable breakthrough that's poised to benefit young people who lose their fertility because of cancer treatments.

As reported in The Telegraph, the unnamed 28-year-old woman, who suffers from sickle-cell anemia, had to have her ovary tissue surgically removed prior to chemotherapy. She was only 13-years-old at the time and had never experienced menstruation, but the doctors had the sense to cryopreserve her ovarian tissue (specifically her right ovary and dozens of tissue fragments) with the hopes that it could be used to restore her fertility in the future — which, as a new study published in Human Reproduction point out, is exactly what happened.

Are Limited Lifespans An Evolutionary Adaptation?

Since the time of Darwin, evolutionary biologists have wondered why the lifespans of different species vary so significantly. A new model now suggests that the life expectancy of any given species is a function of evolutionary pressures — a conclusion that hints at the potential for powerful anti-aging interventions in humans.

The new paper, which now appears in Physical Review Letters, challenges popular conceptions about the nature of aging and why it manifests at different rates in different organisms, including species that are closely related.

By running variations of their model hundreds of thousands of times, a research team led by Yaneer Bar-Yam from the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), in collaboration with the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, observed that evolution favors shorter lifespans in environments where resources are scarce and when pressures to procreate are particularly intense. The simulations appeared to show that lifespans of animals — humans included — are genetically conditioned, and not the result of gradual wear-and-tear. It's a surprising result, one that gives added credence to the burgeoning paradigm known as "programmed aging." At the same time, the study shows that current efforts to develop anti-aging interventions may be based on incorrect assumptions.

It's About To Get A Lot Harder To Experiment On Chimps

The Jane Goodall Institute, in collaboration with other animal welfare groups, has successfully petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare a new rule under which all chimpanzees—both wild and captive—must be protected as an endangered species.

Wild chimpanzees have been listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1990, so it seemed odd and inappropriate to a coalition of animal welfare organizations, including the Jane Goodall Institute, that research chimps were not granted the same consideration. According to ESA rules, captive chimps cannot be assigned separate legal status from their wild counterparts owing to their captive state. In an effort to change this, the coalition petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2010 to list all chimps as endangered. This instigated a formal review of the ESA and the new ruling.

Your Children Won't Be Able To Live In Space, Without A Major Upgrade

We all dream of journeying (or living) among the stars. But space is a spectacularly awful place for humans, and we're not suited for life there at all. And yet, it doesn't have to be that way. Here are all the ways we'll need to re-engineer the human body, in order to make space our home.


Sure, Racehorses Are Getting Faster, but at What Cost?

A new study shows racehorses have gotten progressively quicker over the past 160 years, and in sprint races, especially. But given the startling number of race-related deaths each year, it's nothing to be proud of.

US Congress Wants Religious Experts to Weigh in on Three-Parent IVF

Several months ago, the UK approved a groundbreaking reproductive technique in which babies are created from the genetic material of three people. The US is now considering the procedure, but Congress's new spending bill will require religious experts to review a forthcoming report.

Are These "Double-Muscled" Pigs the Future of Meat?

By editing a single gene, researchers from South Korea and China have engineered pigs that produce about twice the amount of muscle as normal pigs. The goal is to produce leaner meat and at higher yields, but early results show it could be a long time before this jacked-up pork appears on your dinner plate.

June 5, 2015

What Would Happen If All Our Satellites Were Suddenly Destroyed?

Since their inception 60 years ago, satellites have gone on to become an indispensable component of our modern high-tech civilization. But because they're reliable and practically invisible, we take their existence for granted. Here's what would happen if all our satellites suddenly just disappeared.

Read the entire article at io9.

How Chess Has Changed Over The Last 150 Years

The rules of chess have remained consistent since the early 19th Century, but that doesn't mean our approach to the game has stayed the same. Here are some intriguing and surprising ways the Game of Kings has changed its shape over the past 150 years.

The history of chess dates back 1,500 years, but it wasn't until the introduction of competitive chess in 1834 that the rules were solidified. Since that time, players of all calibers have diligently worked to find new and better ways of winning.

Read the entire article at io9.

The White House Supports A Proposed Ban On Editing The Human Germline

In the wake of news that scientists in China modified the DNA of human embryos, a number of scientists and bioethicists have called for a global moratorium on experiments that could alter the human germline. The White House has come out in support of such a ban — for now.

Animals Are Now "Sentient Beings" According To New Zealand Law

Earlier this month, a change was made to New Zealand's Animal Welfare Amendment Bill stating that animals — like humans — are "sentient" beings.

An Artificial Intelligence Is Being Taught To Simulate Anger

Data scientists from New Zealand are teaching an AI to learn anger. Sounds crazy, but the idea is to help companies deal with common customer complaints.

Tech firm Touchpoint Group is using machine learning to help its AI system recognize — and even simulate — anger. Called Radiant (a name taken from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series), the purpose of the AUD $500,000 project (USD $404,000) is to develop an automated system that can defuse angry customer service calls. Once complete, the system will be capable of generating over a hundred million (!) angry interactions. Touchpoint's data scientists are hoping to build a system that can autonomously find the best response to typical customer complaints.

May 8, 2015

Watch for me in an upcoming episode of Al Jazeera's Fault Lines

As reported in Al Jazaeera America:

In "The Death of Aging," Fault Lines looks at what happens when for-profit companies set their sights on helping humans live healthier longer. The film airs on Monday, May 11, at 10 pm Eastern time/7 pm Pacific on Al Jazeera America. 

They turned our interview into a nice little feature, which you can find here.

This Animated Explanation Of The Fermi Paradox Is Fantastic

The Great Silence is a vexing problem we all love to speculate and argue about, but it's not the most intuitive concept. This wonderful animated video by Kurz Gesagt explains the problem that is the Fermi Paradox and why our apparent isolation in the galaxy is so damned weird.

China's Manufacturers Are Shifting Towards Zero-Labor Factories

A company in South China's Guangdong province is building the city's first zero-labor factory. It's an effort to address worker shortages and rising labor costs, but the rise of semi-autonomous "smart factories" could be a sign of things to come, in China and elsewhere.

Read more at io9.

Your Doctor Probably Has A DNR. Here's Why You Should Consider One, Too.

Most patients receiving end-of-life care want to avoid aggressive attempts to prolong their life, but medical culture and practices often contradict these wishes. Part of the problem is due to confusion surrounding do-not-resuscitate orders. Here's what patients really need to know about the "no code."

Read the rest of the article at io9.

May 3, 2015

9 Bizarre Jobs That Will Redefine Our Lives In The 2050s

The fields of biotechnology and medicine are rapidly evolving, and with them their associated employment opportunities. Here are nine biomedical professions to look for in the coming decades.

Read the entire article at io9.

April 30, 2015

New Test Suggests NASA's "Impossible" EM Drive Will Work In Space

Last year, NASA's advanced propulsion research wing made headlines by announcing the successful test of a physics-defying electromagnetic drive, or EM drive. Now, this futuristic engine, which could in theory propel objects to near-relativistic speeds, has been shown to work inside a space-like vacuum.

Read the entire article at io9.

Journal Defends Its Publication Of Controversial Human Embryo Study

The science world was rocked last week by news that geneticists in China had modified the DNA of human embryos. In the face of mounting criticism, science journal Protein & Cell has issued a formal response explaining why it chose to publish the controversial study.

Read the entire article at io9.

This "Liver On A Chip" Lets Researchers Forgo Animal Testing

Testing new drugs on animals can be costly, cruel, and ineffective. In the quest to identify an alternative, a U.K. biopharmaceutical company has developed a "liver on a chip," an important advance in the effort to minimize, and even put an end to, animal experimentation.

Read the entire article at io9.