Tuesday, 22 December 2015

5 Amazing and Alarming Things That May Be Done With Your DNA


Utilisation of Digital Technology – Analyse Humans

Venter’s team at Human Longevity is leading in efforts in the utilisation of digital technology in order to analyse humans in ways which we have never had before and the outcome of it will have a great consequence on society. The latest observations described by him are presently being written for scientific publication.

Venter did not want to assume the publication and hence did not plunge into wide details on how his team had make the breakthrough but shared a concerning and exciting overview of what lay ahead for the human race. To begin considering, there are social, legal as well as ethical implications. Some of the examples of how digitizing DNA could alter human experience are:

1. Solving Crime

Venter defines the forensic implication of DNA as being `massive’ and state that there is a likelihood of developing related product due to the opportunity. His team at Human Longevity had also been capable of predicting the faces of individuals from only their DNA. Should a suspect tend to leave their DNA at the scene of the crime, they could as well be leaving a picture of their face.

This is possible since Venter had built a big database of genetic information together with related body measurements. From the 3D photographs taken in his lab, the human face is cut down to 30,000 distinctive measurements and the computers running sophisticated programs then tends to head the information, recognizing patterns which a human may never see.

 As the database tends to grow bigger, the machines have more examples to learn from and their predictions growmuch better. Presently Venter has 20,000 genomes though speaks of over a million by 2020. However, the facial predictions seem to be blurry presently and Venter hopes on some improvement. Venter explained taking the facial images produced from DNA and also double-checking them against each photo on the internet could hasten the pace of tracking down a suspect. While recommending probable advantage for law enforcement and national security, he cautioned of privacy implications as well as the negative implications for closed dictatorship wherein these services could be utilised for good or bad.

2. Predicating your child’s look

Venter had informed that there had been discussion on screening foetal cells from maternal bloodstream in order to predict the look of the child at the age of 18. However, he stated that the team is concerned on unmasking non-paternity which the biological father may not be who it is believed to be. He informed that he would not desire to be the one conveying the news to the couple.

3. Find Missing persons 

Should a person tend to be missing as a child and the search seems to continue for years with no present image being available, it could hinder the search. However, with the images projected from DNA, improved images could be generated.

4. Age and Height can be predicted from voice recording

Someone could only need to have brief recordings of your speech in order to identify traits in the future and this ability could be of great interest to college sports recruiters or singles on dating sites. This is because individuals tend to have reasons in describing their attributes in the most positive light. Venter has commented that his group could predict a person’s gender, age as well as height from voice recording and also saw a connection with voice and the shape of the face. This was done by enabling 1,000 persons speak for some minutes and also took extensive body measurements like throat and jaw size with MRI machines. Thereafter the team sequenced the persons’ genomes.

With this information the machines were provided with the opportunity of learning and making predictions. Venter informed that the ability of predicting height was a wonder. What is effective here is turning the biological data into digital information in order that the innovative software is applied to it and interpret more than what could done on their own by a human. At Human Longevity, the machine learning team is led by Franz Och who had earlier built the Translate software of Google. The genome is viewed as the software of life which tends to code us all and attempt to predict as much as possible from the genome.

5. Reveal secrets that may be Private

Venter with his sequenced genome on the Internet had commented that he could rethink that decision if he intends redoing the process, considering the rapid growth in what can be already predicted.The task has now been shifted on how he sees a classic argument in psychology – nature against nurture and is our environment or heredity more dominant.Venter who had shifted toward nature since then had commented that he had started out in the 50-50 camp when he did not know anything. The DNA software encodes for who you are though it also tends to decode for the variability as well as the plasticity. A main part of human development is how adaptable it is and those are the strictures which are built in the genetic codes.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Online Brain Training Helps Older Adults With Everyday Tasks


Older People Benefit from Playing Online Games

According to a wide scale study, playing online games which tends to exercise reasoning and memory skills seems to have great benefits for older people. It has been discovered by researchers at King’s College London that brain training or mental exercises could improve the everyday lives of people helping with tasks such as shopping, cooking, managing personal finances and using public transport.

 Around 7,000 people in the age group of over 50 had been engaged from the public through BBC Alzheimer’s Society and the Medical Research Council in order to participate in the six month experiment. Some of them were encouraged to play a brain training package of 10 minutes as often as they desired. The package consisted of three reasoning task like balancing weights on a see-saw and three problem solving task like putting numbered tiles in numerical order.

Prior to the study and again after six weeks, three months and six months, cognitive tests were completed by volunteers that comprised of assessments of grammatical reasoning and memory. People over 60 too carried out test of daily living skills like utilising the telephone or shopping.

Arouse Brain with Activities – Puzzles/Crosswords/Learn New Skills

Thereafter a period of six months, those over 60 who participated in the brain training were found to have substantial improvement in performing the daily task while those over the age of 50 proved to have better reasoning as well as verbal learning. The improvement seemed to be very effective when they played brain training games for at least five times in a week.

Earlier study by the same researcher indicated that such types of exercises provided no benefits for those below the age of 50. Scientists from California and Berlin had spoken against brain training industry, last month, stating that `there is little evidence that playing brain games tends to improve underlying cognitive abilities or it enables one to navigate a complex realm of daily life better’.

However there is other research which has shown some promise for brain training for the improved memory but these small scale studies have been unconvincing. It is also portrayed by the scientist that people tend to have complex occupations or arouse their brains with activities like puzzles, crosswords and learn new skills all through their life which can have lower rates of dementia.

Reduce Risk of Decline of Cognitive Function in Later Stage

The research team were of the belief that the new study would be important in preserving mental activities in older people, helping them in reducing the risk of decline of cognitive function in their later stage of life. According to Dr Anne Corbett, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at Kings’ College London, commented that `the impact of a brain training package like this one can be extremely significant for older adults looking for a way to proactively maintain their cognitive health as they age.

The online package can be accessible to large number of people which also has considerable benefits for public health across the UK’. From Alzheimer’s Society, Dr Doug Brown comments that online brain training has been growing rapidly into a multimillion pound industry and studies such as this are important in helping to understand what these games can/cannot do.

He further adds that while this study was not enough to test if the brain training package could prevent cognitive decline or dementia, they are eager to see that it could have a positive impact on how well the older people tend to perform the essential daily chores.

The Water Wars Are Coming: Civilization Will Never Survive Climate Calamity


Delegations Assemble – 21stConference of the Parties – COP-21

Delegations from around 200 countries assembled in Paris, towards the end of November for what seemed as the most important climate meeting that had ever been held. It is known officially as the 21st Conference of the Parties – COP-21, of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris summit have their aim on the adoption of measures which would limit the issue of global warming to less than disastrous levels.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a 1992 treaty which designated the phenomenon as a threat to the planetary health as well as survival of humans. There is a possibility that if it tends to fail, the world temperature in the forthcoming decades would exceed 2 degrees Celsius, which is the maximum amount most of the scientist believe the Earth could endure without experiencing irreversible climate shocks, inclusive of soaring temperatures as well as substantial increase in global sea levels.

Failure to plug carbon emissions warranties another result though one that is less discussed. Eventually it will not only bring about climate shocks but also worldwide instability, insurgency together with warfare.

Latest Scientific Findings – Impacts of Global warming

In this regard, the COP-21 needs to be considered not just as a climate summit but a peace conference, probably peace convocation in history. It needs to comprehend the latest scientific findings on the probable impacts of global warming particularly the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC.

When the report was first published it drew worldwide media coverage in predicting that unchecked climate change would cause severe drought, oppressive heat waves, intense storms, recurring crop failures together with coastal flooding which would result in widespread death and scarcity. The recent event comprising the drought in California and crippling heat waves in Asia and Europe have drawn more attention on these impacts.

However, the IPCC report recommended that the global warming could result in devastating impacts of political as well as social nature, inclusive of state collapse, civil strife, economic decline, mass migrations and probably resource wars. These predictions have not been taken into consideration and the possibility of such a future can be apparent since human institutions such as natural systems seem to be susceptible to climate change. Economies could be affected when vital commodities like crops, fish, timber and livestock would tend to become scarce, are destroyed or fail.

Climate Changes – Damage/Destroy Natural Systems

Societies will be gripped under the strain of economic decline and huge refugee flows. IPCC notes that armed conflicts would not be the immediate consequence of these changes but with the combination of the effects of climate change with the prevailing poverty, resource scarcity, hunger, incompetent as well as corrupt governance, together with ethnic, religious or national resentments, one would probably end up with intense conflict with regards to access to food, water and the other essentials of life. Climate changes would damage or destroy several natural systems those under that are under stress which the human depend for their survival.

Under the burden of rising temperature as well as gradually severe droughts, the southern border of the Sahara desert for instance is now being converted into an empty wasteland from grasslands capable of sustaining nomadic herders, compelling local nomads away from their ancestral lands. Several of the prevailing farmlands in Asia, Africa and the Middle East would be suffering the same fate. Rivers which once provided water all through the year would run only occasionally or dry up, leaving the populations with unpleasant options.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD – Type of Depression

Seasonal Affective disorder – SAD, is also known as seasonal adjustment disorder, a kind of depression which can take place at a certain time of a year. It was first described by Dr Norman Rosenthal from the US in 1984. A UK organization – Mind, tends to provide advice and support to individuals with mental health issues, noting that the majority of the people with SAD tend to experience the condition in winter climate. Some of them may get affected in reverse and face depression during the summer months though it seems very rare. As per the head of information at Mind, Beth Murphy, the condition is generally undiagnosed which makes it difficult to distinguish how many could be suffering from this disorder.

Those with symptoms of SAD usually experience two or three years of the conditions prior to their diagnosis. Murphy however states that estimates indicate that about 10% of the population in Northern Europe tend to experience slighter symptoms of the condition and 2% experience much severe symptoms.

As per the Cleveland Clinic, almost 500,000 people in the US experience SAD and about 10-20% of the population of the US suffer from milder forms of this ailment.

Doctors Lack Awareness of the Condition

Irrespective of the number of people who tend to suffer from SAD worldwide, experts are of the opinion that doctors seems to lack the awareness of the condition. Chair of the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association – SADA, Helen Hanson, in the UK as well as a victim of SAD, informed Medical News Today that `she would say that they are still searching that the medical profession does not seem to have sufficient awareness of the illness and particularly of its complexity.

A pattern of presentation with depression should be noticed prior to diagnosis and general practitioners who do not have SAD on their agenda could still miss it completely’.

What could be the signs we should look for SAD?Murphy states that SAD could start at any age but it is more likely to progress before the age of 21 and could be twice likely to progress in women rather than in men.

Symptoms of the Ailment

Several of the symptoms of SAD seem similar to those connected with ordinary depression like anxiety, panic attacks and mood swings. Some of the symptom comprise of –
  • Irritability
  • Weakened immune system
  • Overeating and weight gain
  • Sleep problems
  • Lack of concentration
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Reduced libido
  • Feeling of guilt and worry
  • Social and relationship problems

Impairment in Brain System – Releases/Absorbs Serotonin

The precise cause of SAD is not known but earlier research had indicated that since the ailment tends to take place during the change in seasons, changes in light could cause the disorder.

Murphy clarifies that when the light seems to hit the retina towards the back of the eye, messages are sent to the hypothalamus, the area of the brain which is responsible for sleep, appetite, temperature, mood and activity. She adds that if there is insufficient light, these functions tends to slow down and gradually tend to stop. It is also presumed that levels of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain, could also be responsible for the cause of SAD.

People who may suffer from depression tend to have low serotonin levels especially during winter months. This indicates that people with SAD could have impairment in the brain system which releases as well as absorbs serotonin.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

In Search of the Perfect Sweetener

Miracle Berry – Synsepalum Dulcificum

Michael Mosley writes that too much of refined sugar is the cause of obesity and ill-health and hence the search is on for the right sweetener, though it is not an easy task. Mosley was fascinated when the team making a new series for BBC One, Tomorrow’s Food, had invited him to try the extract of an African fruit named the miracle berry.

The same had been derived from a plant called Synsepalum dulcificum and is unlike any artificial sugar tried before because it works not by making foods sweeter but make them taste sweeter.The miracle berries comprise of a molecule known as miraculin that binds to receptors on the tongue changing their shape which makes sour food taste sweeter.

One benefit of temporarily changing the taste buds instead of the food itself could be the effect this could have on the gut bacteria. Strong debates whether the utilisation of sugars would help to lose weight or not, have been going on for several years.

Several Conflicting Studies

Recent meta-analysis that viewed the results of over 100 various human studies concluded that when artificial sweeteners had replaced sugar in the diet, could have led to weight loss. However, the Harvard School of Public Health points out that there seems to be plenty of conflicting studies inclusive of those which indicate that drinking artificially sweetened drinks could increase the risk, not only of weight gain but of type 2 diabetes as well.

It is unknown how artificial sugars could do this though a study conducted by a group in Israel recommends that it could be through the impact of artificial sugar on the gut bacteria. The Israeli researchers, in a study published last year in the science journal Nature, had asked a group of lean and healthy volunteers who did not generally use artificial sweeteners to consume maximum amount of acceptable dose for a week.

Towards the end of the week, half of those who had participated showed indications of glucose intolerance, which is the initial step in type 2 diabetes. The researchers presumed that this could be due to the bacteria in their guts reacting to the artificial sugars by secreting substance causing inflammation. This was what they had observed in animals.

Miraculin Molecule - Genetically Engineering Tomato Plants

When they had collected the faeces samples from the volunteers, they observed changes in the gut bacteria of those who had responded badly to the sweeteners with no change in those who had not. One of the researchers Dr Eran Elinav had mentioned that `relationship with our own individual mix of gut bacteria is a huge factor in determining how the foods we eat affects us’.

Not a fan of artificial sweeteners, he adds that there should be a reassessment of today’s massive, unsupervised consumption of these substances. Consumers are cautious of whatever the health effects or otherwise of artificial sweeteners which is where those who have been promoting the joys of natural miracle berries brings some hope.

The issue is that the berries tend to be expensive to grow and does not last long. Hence the scientists in Japan, where the berry seems to be popular, are now making attempts to produce the important miraculin molecule by genetically engineering tomato plants. Presently the cheapest and the simplest option to get a dose of miraculin is to get tablets containing the dehydrated pulp of the fresh berries.

Things to Know About Cetyl Myristoleate

As happens often and unexpectedly, research on one particular point of interest can lead to the discovery of something else just as fascinating. That's how a scientist working in the 1970s discovered the importance of cetyl myristoleate. The cetyl myristoleate supplement and topical cream appear to have benefits for people with arthritis.


In the 1970s, the National Institutes of Health was testing anti-inflammatory drugs on animals by first inducing arthritis in them with an injected antigen solution. Swiss albino mice turned out to have immunity against arthritis because of a substance in their bodies known as cetyl myristoleate. The NIH learned that injecting other animals with this material gave them protection against arthritis as well.


This natural component found in certain animals and plants is a beneficial fatty acid ester. Chemically, it consists of cetyl alcohol and myristoleic acid.

Cetyl myristoleate is not an essential fatty acid, as are the more familiar omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil. Nevertheless, many people find it to be a beneficial addition to their health regimen. The substance has anti-inflammatory properties and it appears to help lubricate joints and increase flexibility.


Supplements containing this natural ingredient are available from suppliers such as EHP Products. In addition, cetyl myristoleate is provided in a topical cream that can be applied directly over sore joints.

Research with this material has focused on osteoarthritis, but people report good results for reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis as well. Products are also available specifically designed for dogs, cats and horses.

Cetyl myristoleate is generally not associated with any side effects. However, some individuals don't tolerate oil supplements well and may experience some digestive upset with the oil softgels. For those consumers, capsules containing powder offer a suitable alternative.

Concluding Thoughts

People who want to avoid taking prescription drugs or over-the-counter pain relief medication for arthritis may want to try these supplements. They may not be able to stop taking medication entirely, but they may be able to substantially reduce the dosage and the frequency. Supplements that are safe for canine, feline and equine companions also are important since these animals are not supposed to take many of the medications designed for humans.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Why Do We Yawn


Why Do We Yawn – A Mystery

Scientists have been puzzled about yawning for over two millennia. However a new theory has provided some insight regarding the same. David Robson explores and while he was in mid conversation with Robert Provine, he had a compelling urge from deep within his body and the more he tried to suppress it, the more it seemed to spread till it ultimately consumed his entire body.

Ultimately it led him to wonder on how he could stop himself from yawning. He was informed by Provine that this seems to occur often when people talk to him, during presentation. Probably the first person to study yawn was the Greek physician, Hippocrates almost 2,500 years ago who believed that yawning was helpful in releasing noxious air, especially during fever.

He wrote that `just like the large quantities of steam which escape from cauldrons when water boils, the accumulated air in the body is violently expelled through the mouth when the body temperature rises. Various examples of the idea prevailed till the 19th century when scientist projected that yawning supported respiration, activating a rush of oxygen in the blood supply while flushing out carbon dioxide. If this seems to be true, we would expect people to yawn more or less regularly based on the oxygen and carbon dioxide absorption in the atmosphere.

Several Theories Focussed on Contagious/Strange Nature of Yawning

However, when Provine requested some of the volunteers to breathe various combinations of gases, he did not come across any change. Several theories have focussed on the contagious, strange nature of yawning. He commented that around 50% who tend to observe a yawn would yawn in response. It seems so contagious that anything connected with it would trigger one, seeing or hearing another person or even reading about yawning.

It is for this reason that some of the researchers have been speculating if yawning could be a primitive type of communication and if so, what kind of information could it be transmitting? According to Christian Hess, at the University of Bern in Switzerland, the most likely signalling role of yawning is to assist in synchronizing the behaviour of social group. With the same routine, a group could work efficiently together all through the day.With several contradictory and competing concepts an emerging theory of yawning could seem to be vague.

Yawning – Chilling Brain/Stop Overheating

However, for the last few years, a fundamental mechanism has developed which could probably settle all the superficial contradictions. Andrew Gallup, presently at the State University of New York at Oneonta, had been motivated first with the idea during his undergraduate degree when he recognised that yawning could probably help in chilling the brain and stop it from overheating.

 He claimed that the forceful movement of the jaws moved the blood flow around the skull and helped to carry away the excess heat. At the time of deep inhalation, it brought cool air in the sinus cavities and around the carotid artery leading it back into the brain. Moreover, the active movement also flexed the membranes of sinuses, blowing a soft breeze through the cavities which could cause the mucus to evaporate, causing a chilling effect like air-conditioning.

The obvious test was to observe if people were more or less likely to yawn in different temperatures. Gallup observed that in normal conditions, around 48% felt the urge to yawn though when he asked them to hold a cold compress to their foreheads, only 9% succumbed to it.

Take Care of Your Teeth the Right Way

You need to have good oral hygiene if your teeth are going to last you for your entire life. Unfortunately, many people do not do the things they need to in order to keep their gums healthy and their teeth looking great. The sad things is that taking care of your teeth is not a difficult thing to do. It does not require much time and effort on your part. Therefore, there is no reason to neglect your teeth. One of the biggest problems is that many people were not instructed about how to properly care for their teeth when they were young. This leads to them having serious problems with their teeth and gums in adulthood. Here are a few tips to take care of your teeth the right way.

1. Use the right motion

One of the most common mistakes that people make when it comes to brushing their teeth is the motion they use. You need to brush your teeth in a circular motion. Do not simply go straight back and forth. This could cause grooves to form in your gums. It is also important that you avoid using too much force when you are brushing your teeth. You do not need to press overly hard on your toothbrush in order to do a good job brushing your teeth. Allow the toothbrush to do most of the work.

2. Brush your gums

People often neglect their gums because they are so concerned about taking care of their teeth. However, your gums are equally important. You could develop very serious gum diseases if you fail to give your gums the amount of attention they deserve. Gently brush your gums in an upward and downward motion. Avoid pressing too hard because you might cause bleeding if you do this. You can visit periclean.com for info on receding gum treatment.

3. Floss regularly

Flossing is another important dental hygiene task that gets neglected by far too many people. The bristles of a toothbrush can't adequately clean the areas between your teeth the same way that dental floss can. Food particles that remain stuck between your teeth will eventually begin to decompose. This will allow bacteria to form. This bacteria could eventually cause a huge problem if is gets into an open wound in your gums. It could also help to contribute to tooth decay. Flossing daily is a good habit to get into.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Mutant Mosquitoes Resist Malaria


Genetically Modified - Resist Malaria Infection

US Scientist have informed that they have bred a genetically modified – GM mosquito which can resist malaria infection. It could provide a new way of stopping the biting insects from spreading malaria to humans if the lab technique tends to work in the field.

The scientists have put a new resistance gene in the DNA of the mosquito utilising a gene editing method known as Crispr. According to the PNAS journal it was reported that when the GM mosquitoes reproduces, their offspring inherit the same resistance. In theory, when these mosquitoes tend to bite people, they should not be capable of passing on the parasite which causes malaria.

Almost half of the world’s population is at risk of being affected by malaria. Precautions like bed nets, insecticides as well as repellents could help in stopping the insect bites and drugs could be given to those affected by the infection.

 The disease still tends to kill around 580,000 people a year. Scientist has been probing for new means of fighting malaria. The team at the University of California are of the belief that their GM mosquito could play an essential role, breeding resistant offspring to substitute the endemic, malaria carrying parasites.

Anopheles Stephensi

For the experiment, they took a kind of mosquito that is found in India, an Anopheles stephensi. Dr Anthony James together with his team showed that they could give a new DNA code to the insect, in order to make it a poor host for the malaria parasite.

The DNA that codes for antibodies which fight the parasite had been inherited by around 100% of the mosquito offspring and through three generations. According to the researchers, the findings provide hope that the same system could work also in the other mosquito species. They state that though it would not be the only solution to this malaria issue, it would be a useful additional weapon.

UK expert from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Prof David Conway, said that it was not the finished product yet though it certainly looks promising and it does look like the genetic editing, works. At the University of California-Irvine, molecular biologist Anthony James is developing what he calls "sustainable technologies" -rather than killing mosquitoes, rendering them unable to infect people.

Sustainable Technologies

However some other experts have the apprehension that eliminating them entirely could have unexpected as well as unsolicited significances. Substituting disease carrying mosquitoes with inoffensive breeds could be a possible alternative.

At the University of California-Irvine, Anthony James, molecular biologist is working on what he calls `sustainable technologies’ instead of killing mosquitoes rather than making them unable to infect people. He engineered immune system genes which could spur a mosquito’s body to cultivate antibiotics to attack parasite so that it would be unable to transmit the infection.

This new genes tends to work as intended when it is injected into the eggs of a certain malaria spreading mosquito species. Gene driven experiments could be controversial and one concern could be the possibility of altered organisms escaping the laboratory prior to the scientist knowing how to utilise them.

The California team took precautions in special lab security and used mosquito species which could not survive in the climate of California.