Categories
applied science

Something in the blood

A little over a decade ago the world heard the news that connecting the blood systems of an old and young mouse resulted in the old mouse showing signs of rejuvenation. Could it be that there was something in the young blood that was beneficial? Like the fabled Fountain of Youth?

By Lucas Cranach the Elder – Unknown source, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30264218

The flaw in that idea was that the young mice in the study showed signs of aging . . . something in the old blood made the indicators of age appear faster in the young mice.

Well after research it turns out that original FOY point of view is backwards: it’s not something in the young blood being added to the old mouse – it’s things in the old blood being cleaned out by the young mouse or diluted by the larger blood system they shared. Likely detritus, mostly proteins, from cellular decay and aging processes.

This has been shown by removing one of the mice altogether. That mouse was replaced with diluted blood plasma.

They diluted it with saline solution and albumin which “which is needed for overall biophysical and biochemical blood health and was lost when half the plasma was removed

This is something that can be done with humans . . . now. Because there is no new drug or medicine to be approved. Therapeutic plasma exchange is a relatively safe procedure with no to mild side effects. It requires no surgery, blood is drawn, plasma extracted and processed and then put back into the patient’s blood system.

This is article if you want read more about this on ScienceDaily

As I mentally reviewed this piece I found myself wondering how much of a ‘treatment’ would need to be regulated by a health authority if pretty much everything used in, and every action performed during, are simply things used and done as a regular course of affairs in many clinics, hospitals and doctors offices across the world?

What I’m getting at is “therapeutic plasma exchange” is already a valid procedure . . . what’s to stop someone from setting up Fountain Of Youth Retention clinics and capitalizing on this?

Categories
applied science

Composite Creatures

When we look deep into our bodies How much of what we find is Human and how much is . . . something else?

During this COVID-19 crisis a lot of things are posted by many, many people – so much by so many that filtering and actively avoiding too much exposure to this torrent of stuff has become a continuous process for me.

Please don’t get me wrong – I do stay up to date but I do that from reputable news and science sources. Stuff from social media I tend to not pay much attention to. But I do pay some attention and yesterday I was glad that I did.

My friend Richard posted a link to an article on Medium called “Misinformation Goes Viral”. The piece is by Jason Shepherd an Associate Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Utah who specializes in the molecular mechanisms of memory and brain plasticity. He also has his own website (https://shepherdlab.org/) regarding this work:

The Medium article’s main thrust, and my friend’s reason for citing it, was to have a number of the scarier ‘theories’ floating around the internet addressed by someone who knows viruses and human biology. And that part is interesting but . . . the part that got me excited was the two links (1,2) before that part. The ones that he added to show the reader he’s really a working scientist and not some quack flapping his beak.

Those links introduced me to a concept I hadn’t encountered before (I think) that added a whole new chapter to the book of our biology. An essential one that without which we would not exist.

The experience of reading and listening to what his work has revealed was akin to that I felt when I learned that the engines, the Mitochondria, that power every cell in our bodies aren’t human at all.

Mitochondria are Bacteria that colonized an animal cell very far back in the past. That cell and the bacteria were able to coexist in a mutually beneficial arrangement. The cell gave the bacteria a protected environment with nourishment and ‘house cleaning’ while the bacteria provided material the cell could use for power. And it’s been that way ever since. It’s also a reason why we lack the cellular ability to provide our own power – we don’t need to. Almost every cell in our bodies uses them for power. And the same can be said of almost all animals.

Now I find out that it looks like a similar thing happened with our DNA a long time in the past. Possibly more than once.

At some point in the past evolutionary tree we’re part of a cell was invaded by a virus. The invasion by the mitochondria was different matter: an actual fully developed bacteria lives within the cells of our bodies. An invasion by a virus differs from that because a virus has no cell body of its own so the thing it does is to invade the DNA of the target cell inserting its own DNA in the process.

When a disease causing virus does this it turns the cell into a little virus producing factory. The cell begins to spew many new copies of the virus which then go on to attack other cells in the host.

This invasion I’m talking about gave us a gene called ARC. Many animals have an ARC gene but each one is unique to that animal.

When genes are activated they transcribe into RNA molecules which then produce Proteins. In humans the ARC gene only operates in the cells in the brain where it produces a proteins. These proteins are passed from one neuron to another.

In mice bred to not have the ARC gene test show that they cannot lay down long term memories . . . meaning ARC is essential to the process of memory.

These proteins seemed to be far larger than most proteins and they wanted to know why that was. One way to find out was to image them When Sheperd went to look at these proteins he was struck by their appearance – they looked a lot like Viruses. Specifically HIV viruses.

That’s not a coincidence. The team showed that Arc descends from an ancient group of genes called gypsy retrotransposons, which exist in the genomes of various animals, but can behave like their own independent entities.* They can make new copies of themselves, and paste those duplicates elsewhere in their host genomes. At some point, some of these genes gained the ability to enclose themselves in a shell of proteins and leave their host cells entirely. That was the origin of retroviruses—the virus family that includes HIV.
So, Arc genes are the evolutionary cousins of these viruses, which explains why they produce shells that look so similar. Specifically, Arc is closely related to a viral gene called gag, which retroviruses like HIV use to build the protein shells that enclose their genetic material. Other scientists had noticed this similarity before. In 2006, one team searched for human genes that look like gag, and they included Arc in their list of candidates. They never followed up on that hint, and “as neuroscientists, we never looked at the genomic papers so we didn’t find it until much later,” says Shepherd.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/01/brain-cells-can-share-information-using-a-gene-that-came-from-viruses/550403/

It turns out that ARC can also provide an encapsulating protein shield for the RNA. And the protected RNA package is carried to the target neuron where it alters that neuron’s DNA . . . why and what happens as a result we don’t know yet.

Which brings me around to the reason Shepherd started looking at all this in the first place. If Proteins existence can be measure in hours than how are long term memories formed?

If it were encoded in proteins there would have to be a massive refreshing of proteins on a regular basis like computer DRAM memory requires. That would require a lot of energy expenditure and chemical processing, also meaning possible waste byproducts to be processed. So memory can’t be encoded strictly in proteins. If it’s not proteins then what? Which led to the search and the perplexing partial result of ARC.

So it’s possible that memory is only possible because we were hijacked by a virus a long time ago. And that may not be the only process in our bodies that benefits, or is only possible, courtesy of viruses. Over 100 gag type genes have been found within the human genome . . . we’re just beginning to see that there’s a huge hidden viral iceberg of knowledge within the genome we didn’t even realize was there.

Here’s Jason Shepherd in a TedMed talk.

Categories
applied science

Striking Progress In Stroke Research

So they’re taking broken rat brains and inserting human nerve cells . . . what do you think about that?

How about this:

They’re breaking the rat brains on the purpose, giving them strokes, so they can try something out.

What are they trying out?

Is repairing broken brains with new nerve tissue possible?

And this new nerve tissue – it’s not something you can buy or borrow so where does that come from?

It’s actually manufactured from human skin tissue which they have reprogrammed to be nerve cells. Cool, huh?

Did you know they can do that now? I wrote a small piece about that back in 2014.

So are the human nerve cells connecting to cells in the rat brains?

“Six months after the transplantation, we could see how the new cells had repaired the damage that a stroke had caused in the rats’ brains,” says one of the researchers

It gets better. A stroke is an event that causes areas of damaged (dead) cells in the brain. From either too much blood (a bleed from a burst vessel) or not enough blood (a clot blocking blood flow) So there are dead brain cells.

“We have been able to see that the fibres from the transplanted cells have grown to the other side of the brain, the side where we did not transplant any cells, and created connections”

From this article Repairing stroke-damaged rat brains (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200408102150.htm) in ScienceDaily.

Categories
applied science

The closer your mortality gets the more you are willing to compromise

In the past I’ve pointed to society’s reluctance to accept emerging medical technology that might tinker with the stuff that defines our basic biological makeup – our DNA.

Back in the 90’s then-president Clinton put a ban on stem cell research using cell lines derived from human and fetuses. The argument was that it might promote pregnancies for cell production not babies. That their might arise a business that could prey on the financially strapped women in society to give up fetuses much as blood donors sell their blood. Oh, and the whole fetuses are babies played a part as well because it doesn’t matter how arcane and out of date your beliefs might be – you still have a vote. And politicians are very conscious of that.
While the amendment did not specify placentas the controversial nature of the technology brought a lot of things into discussion and many non-technical people don’t recognize the difference, politicians and voters among them. The controversy still exists.

Now we’re fighting COVID-19. Many people are dying. Economies are crumbling. A vaccine is a year or more away by best estimate.

Then there’s this: “Israeli COVID-19 treatment shows 100% survival rate – preliminary data”

100% Survival (in 6 out of 6 test patients)

That’s Great! The USA which now has the worst infection crisis in the world must be really happy, right?

Maybe. We’ll see.

Will it become available in the USA if it actually works?
Will Americans take it if it becomes available?

Why in the world would he ask that question you’re wondering. Of course they will.

Well if they stand by their convictions a whole bunch of the conservative, anti-abortion, religions people will find themselves in a quandary because this treatment is derived from STEM cells taken from placentas.

Will they take it?
If their loved ones have taken sick and this is offered as an option will they reject it based on principles?
Will they take it and then go ahead and still vote for the same short-sighed politicians pandering to their base with lies and fear? (of course you might think I’m talking about the GOP . . . but politicians of all stripes will go there)

Will Trump allow it?
He professes to love Israel but also backs the right-to-life movement back home. He’ll probably say its okay because it was placentas and not fetuses – an argument I expect a lot will use on themselves.

The company, Pluristem, was allowed to try this out because there is a compassionate use out in the healthcare laws in Israel. If the patients are looking like they will die anyway then there is a use case. Here is a link to the PDF of their press release on this.

It’s not a vaccine – it won’t keep you from catching the disease. But if you get sick with it this can keep you from dying. I hope this works out and people can get an effective treatment for when they get the disease. To keep them from dying.

Categories
applied science

Aerosolizing Bugs

As you encounter people indoors please think of them as large, ambulatory, infection sprayers.
Because that’s what we all are.

When you Yell or Cough or Sneeze and the crap coming out of your mouth circulates in the air. Every drop holding millions of little bug bombs if you’re sick. Bacteria. Viruses.

The Japanese have done some studying of this and can show you just how many and how far and long these droplets go.

So unless your indoor setting has good ventilation with good air exchange to the outside you’re sitting in a hot box for bug transmission.

How long can you hold your breathe?

Categories
applied science

Trying UVC Disinfection

NOTE: There’s an Update below.

It’s Pandemic time and we’re all concerned about our health and safety. And the health and safety of those around us.

What if you have a retail store? How do you keep that clean?

My partner has a small retail store and until they tell her that her store has to close, or one of our household comes down with symptoms, it will stay open. If we have to do deliveries and not have an open door we will do that. Because it’s part of the Supply Chain – there is only one office supply outlet in our town and this is it. Local government, businesses and services get certain supplies from it. Even though their public serving face may be shut the internal operations don’t stop. Until they run out of things like printer paper, ink, toner, laminating pouches, staples, file folders . . . the mundane things that keep the system functioning. That’s where office supplies come in . . . essentially.

The problem: customers come in and as they look for what they need they will touch things . . . and unless someone follows them around and notes / cleans everything they touch those surfaces will be potential points of contact infection. Seeing as it’s a single owner/proprietor serving customers in person, by phone and email, dealing with vendors and running a store . . . she’s not going to do that. Or employ another person to do it pushing the constraints of physical distancing in a small store. Going around with disinfecting wipes after hours would use a lot of wipes and time . . . if there were wipes to be had (these are one of the things that disappear of the shelves regularly)

Even after this period of trying to flatten the curve is past in the long run COVID-19 is likely going to be in the wild forever. Like the Flu or the common cold.

So the value of disinfecting public spaces is just being brought more into focus.

I wondered about other means – and I went looking for UV as one of those. UV is the invisible (to us) part of the light spectrum beyond violet. It’s the stuff that gives you radiation damage every summer – you call that sun tan but it’s really mild radiation burn.

UV covers a wide spectrum of frequencies.

The ‘black light’ we all have seen that causes some material to fluoresce into light is the closest to visible violet and we call it UV-A.

UV-B is a bit further away from visible light and this is the stuff that gives you sun burn . . . and skin cancer.

UV-C is even further from visible and thankfully is blocked by the upper atmosphere acting as a protective filter. The concern about holes in the Ozone layer has to do with UV-C – we really don’t want that penetrating down to the surface because it can be very harmful to living things. If can break down the Oxygen molecules in the air causing them to reform as Ozone which is also a harmful-to-living-things substance.

I was researching to find out if UV-C technology could be useful in disinfecting spaces. It turns out that this is exactly where industry and medicine have been going.

This is a small vlog about my UVC lamp purchase and why I think it was a good score.

I offer this for information purposes only.
I DO NOT RECOMMEND YOU USE THIS IF YOU ARE UNTRAINED OR UNSURE.
YOU COULD GET HURT

No one paid me to talk about the product I talk about in this video
https://www.swordfishuv.com/HowItWorks/HowItWorks/tabid/73/Default.aspx

The CNET video I borrowed from is here

A PowerPoint on “How to UV Ozone Cleaning”
https://chem.uiowa.edu/sites/chem.uiowa.edu/files/people/shaw/Scarlett-How%20to%20UV-OZONE%20Sep_15th.pdf

A Wiki on UV Germicidal Irradiation
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolet_germicidal_irradiation

Disinfection Robots

Wellwit
Hipac
Skytron


UPDATE MARCH 26

I put the lamp to work last night . . . just a first try with a very temporary setup.

The unit is taped to the top of a pair of empty printer paper boxes which sit on a small wheeled platform. The power cord is plugged into a long extension cord which is plugged into a power bar with an On/Off switch.

NO OZONE

I mentioned in my first video that it generates Ozone – apparently this particular brand of lamp is ‘ozone free. My bad though I suspect it’s not completely without some ozone generation. Here is a link to their FAQ page where they talk about that.

During my test when the lamp had been running in place for 5 minutes I noticed a mild smell – likely a minimal amount of ozone is generated in the space around the tube. It’s not in a moving air column so the ozone doesn’t dissipate that fast.

My first idea was to leave it in place for 5 minutes then moved it a small distance (a meter or two) and leave it there for 5 minutes. After some research I’ve come to think that this is excessive – too much time would lead to bleaching of the colors in the packaging of products exposed to the light for that long. Repeated daily use would show this up eventually. So I’ll have to consider how long is needed to perfor mthe disinfecting role adequately.

The second aisle, a narrow one, I changed tactics. For the first half I stood around the corner at the end cap and slowly dragged the unit along the aisle. Really slowly. The second half saw me as far as possible from the lamp unit while I pulled on the extension cord. Very primitive.

This time I was manually moving the unit but in an ideal situation the unit would move on its own. Or there would be some sort of external mechanical system to pull it along evenly.

This is giving me ideas . . . but I have to rein in my imagination and try and limit it to how do I pull or push this thing around in some semi-automatic fashion?

It’s April 1st and in the intervening time I’ve put a lot of thought into this . . . and I’m going to curtail exploring this publicly for a while because I’m now trying to figure out something that might be a business idea as well and I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag just yet.

I’ll post things and updates as and when I can without letting certain things out too soon.

Categories
applied science Uncategorized

When the Killer Robot Has You Dead To Rights – Do the Watusi

I’m not saying that that is an actual viable tactic that would work but after reading this article you might consider it to be a viable last ditch attempt, a hail Mary pass as they say, to save your life from an AI with a weapon.

Readers of this blog might be forgiven for thinking I’ve drunk the AI Kool-Aid because I guess I have in a way but nothing is perfect and that goes for AI’s, even the AIs that train themselves.

What the article gets to essentially is that the new crop of AIs that are self-trained may not suffer from the same vulnerabilities to corrupted data in the training set because they don’t have a training set of data but they still can be attacked another way. Self-training AIs develop what we’re calling policies and those help it deal with what it might encounter out there in the real world. Think of a policy as a way to handle a generic type of situation that it might find itself in. Much as a fencer learns all the standard attacks and ripostes and AI, and we, learn by experience what to expect.

If an AI is confronted with completely unexpected behavior it gets confused and the current crop of AIs exhibit confused responses which can lead to unexpected behaviors and outcomes. If this happens on the road with a self-driving car AI or in the battlefield for instance with a self-propelled killer robot AI then the consequences could be catastrophic for the AI. And for any people around it.

So my tongue in cheek title hilarious is not 100% joke or jest – it just might work in the right conditions and under those conditions you may not have any other alternative.

Categories
applied science

Nanomaggots Chomp Down on Plaque and Dead Cells

In this ScienceDaily article you’ll learn about nanoparticles custom built to influence immune system cells to scavenge dead tissue such as you get in atherosclerosis plaques.

These MSU and Stanford researchers call their particle Trojan Horses because of the way they work:

the nanoparticle that homes in on atherosclerotic plaque due to its high selectivity to a particular immune cell type — monocytes and macrophages. Once inside the macrophages in those plaques, it delivers a drug agent that stimulates the cell to engulf and eat cellular debris. Basically, it removes the diseased/dead cells in the plaque core. By reinvigorating the macrophages, plaque size is reduced and stabilized.

I call them nanomaggots because they’re doing the job that maggots have traditionally had: consuming dead tissue.

The future uses look promising, if a little gruesome to describe:

scientists have invented a nanoparticle that eats away — from the inside out — portions of plaques that cause heart attacks

All silliness aside – advances like this will prolong and improve the lives of many people. And that’s a good thing.

Wait – how about this for an alterante name: Plaque-man – it scurries around the tunnels of your body chomping and chomping . . .

Categories
applied science

Wasps can do Facial Recognition

After you read this article come back and watch the video. And think about what you are seeing.

Can these wasps recognize each other?

I know when I was working on that video I was struck by the markings on the wasps and how they all looked the same with very slight differences. Almost like they were all wearing a uniform with just a teeny little bit of self-expression or individuality.

Categories
applied science

Could We Finally Have A Handle On The Cause Of Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia
It’s a hidden scourge that affects millions.
Turns their minds into personal horror parks.
Destroys a lot of futures, pushing people to the margins of society.
And we don’t know in advance who will develop it.
Or why it happens.
Or how to cure it.

Maybe someone has figured out what is happening, if not exactly why.

As reported in this IFLScience article researchers have finally zeroed in on a key difference between the neurology of schizophrenics and non-schizophrenic people.

Researchers have suspected for decades that dysfunctional Synapses are the problem and a protein called Synaptic Vesicle Glycoprotein 2A (SV2A) might be the cause. But the only way they had to study this was brain tissue from dead people. Finally they have developed a way to study this in the brains of living patients:

Researchers administered a new type of tracer that binds to SV2A, before putting their brains under the gaze of a positron emission tomography (PET) brain scan, which produces detailed 3D images of inside the body. The scans picked up on the lower levels of SV2A in the brains of people with schizophrenia.

So why are there reduced levels of SV2A in some people but not others?
Is SV2A not being produced correctly? – Is there a problem with the coding of the genes that build SV2A?
Or is there something in the environment that affects the process of gene -> protein expression?

Whichever it is you can bet that researchers are trying to figure it out. Knowing the particulars of a problem goes a long way to finding a fix or cure. And maybe 2020 is the year that we can look back on as when we got to say goodbye to Schizophrenia on the list of major issues facing humanity. Like we might be doing with Cancer.