Tag: human

Moon Dust Is Super Toxic to Human Cells

In space, they say, no one can hear you sneeze. But Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt was doing a lot of that inside the Challenger command module when he visited the moon in 1972.

One day, after a lunar walk, Schmitt accidentally breathed in some of the abundant moon dust that he and his commander had tracked back in to the Challenger living quarters.

For a full day, Schmitt suffered from what he described as “lunar hay fever.” His eyes watered, his throat throbbed, and he broke into a sneezing fit.

No, Schmitt wasn’t allergic to the moon. NASA scientists now understand that pieces of moon dust — especially the smallest, sharpest particles — pose clear health risks to astronauts.

A recent study published in the April issue of the journal GeoHealth examined exactly how dangerous that dust can be on a cellular level — and the results are as ominous as the dark side of the moon.

In several lab tests, a single scoop of replica moon dust proved toxic enough to kill up to 90 percent of the lung and brain cells exposed to it.




A dusty dilemma

Dust on the moon behaves a little differently than dust on Earth. For starters, it’s sharp. Because there’s no wind on the moon, the dust never erodes.

Instead, grains of moon dust — which are largely the products of micrometeorite impacts — remain sharp and abrasive and can easily slice into an astronaut’s lung cells if breathed in too deeply.

On top of this, moon dust can float. With no atmosphere to protect the moon from constant bombardment by solar winds and the charged particles they carry, lunar soil can become electrostatically charged like clothing with static cling.

This charge can be so strong that the soil particles actually levitate above the lunar surface,” the authors wrote in the new study.

From there, it’s easy enough for dust to cling in the nooks and crannies of an astronaut’s spacesuit and follow him or her back inside living quarters.

These loose particles can clog sensitive equipment, jam zippers, ruin clothing and — as Schmitt discovered — wreak havoc on the human body if accidentally ingested by astronauts.

But as humans explore the moon in future decades, chance exposures are likely, the researchers wrote.

Fortunately, NASA has taken this problem seriously for a long time and is developing several dust-mitigation methods.

One promising strategy: Cover sensitive surfaces with an Electrodynamic Dust Shield — essentially, electrically charged panels that shoot currents through thin wires to zap dust away.

Early lab tests have shown that the shields work well, and some sample panels are currently being tested on the International Space Station. Whether the panels could be incorporated into astronauts’ spacesuits remain to be seen.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

A Functional, Beating Hearts Will Soon Be 3D-Printed Using Patients’ Own Cells

Inside a lab that will open in a couple of months in Chicago, a biotech startup will soon begin perfecting the process of 3D-printing human hearts that could eventually be used in transplants.

The process combines several steps that have been developed by various researchers in university labs. First, a patient’s heart will be scanned using an MRI machine to create a digital image of the heart’s shape and size.

Next, doctors will take a blood sample. Using techniques that have been developed over the last decade, the blood cells will be converted into stem cells–and then converted a second time into heart cells.

Those new heart cells will be combined with nutrients in a hydrogel to make a “bio-ink” that can be used in a specialized 3D printer.

Printing one layer at a time, with a biodegradable scaffolding to keep everything in place, the cells can be formed into the exact shape of the patient’s original heart.

The new heart will be moved to a bioreactor to strengthen it. Amazingly, new heart cells outside a body will begin to self-assemble.

When the heart is strong enough, technicians will raise the temperature to melt the scaffolding around the cells.




The new heart can then be transplanted–and because it is the exact size of a patient’s original heart, and made from the patient’s own cells, it has a greater chance of success than a traditional transplant.

In studies, other researchers have successfully transplanted stem cells in both humans and animals without the need for anti-rejection drugs.

Most people who receive heart transplants now don’t live more than a decade. Their body may reject the organ directly.

The drugs they take to suppress their immune system–in an attempt to prevent the body from rejecting the foreign organ–may also make them unable to fight off another disease, such as cancer.

The Biolife4D heart, in contrast, won’t require patients to take immunosuppressant drugs since it is an exact genetic match.

The company isn’t the only startup in the space. A startup called Prellis Biologics, for example, has another printing process that is optimized for speed, and that includes blood vessels.

A company called Organovo already makes 3D printed human tissue for drug discovery. But Biolife4D may be the only startup to use equity crowdfunding.

The company has opened up investment to the public. “We wanted to make [the investment opportunity] available to everybody, not just wealthy people on Wall Street,” Morris says.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Rare Findings Show Mitochondrial DNA Can Be Inherited From Dads

Not all DNA is the same, and science has long held that not all kinds of DNA are passed down from both your mother and your father. But it looks like the time has come to rewrite the textbooks.

While most of our DNA resides within the nucleus of the cell, some of our genetic code is stored inside mitochondria, the so-called ‘powerhouse of the cell’.

The conventional view is this mitochondrial DNA (or mtDNA) is only inherited from mothers, but new evidence suggests that’s not the case at all.

A new study led by geneticist Taosheng Huang from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre shows human mitochondrial DNA can be paternally inherited, in a landmark case that started with the treatment of a sick four-year-old boy.




The child, who was showing signs of fatigue, muscle pain, and other symptoms, was evaluated by doctors, and tested to see if he had a mitochondrial disorder.

The reason Huang was so shocked was because the boy’s results showed a mix – called a heteroplasmy – in his mitochondrial DNA, which was made up of more then just maternal contributions.

While there’s evidence of paternal mtDNA transmission in other species, the existence of the phenomenon in humans has been debated, but has never before been demonstrated like this.

Be that as it may, they suggest their “clear and provocative” evidence should now initiate a broader assessment of the mtDNA possibilities, despite maternal transmission remaining the norm.

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Could We Clone Ourselves?

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Human cloning has been a hot topic since the first mammal, Dolly the sheep, was cloned in 1996. And while no human clones have been made – that we know of – the research into cloning is saving lives through stem cell therapy.

5 Cool Things DNA Testing Can Do

Genes are the foundation of our physiology. They contain the code that determines what we look like and how our bodies function.

Biologist James Watson and physicist Francis Crick realized our DNA molecules form a three-dimensional double helix in 1953. But DNA research dates back to the late 1860s, according to Nature Education.

Friedrich Miescher was the first to identify “nucleic acid” in our white blood cells; his 1869 finding was later named deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.




Others later defined the components that make up DNA molecules, identified RNA (ribonucleic acid, the other type of nucleic acid found in all cells along with DNA) and determined that although DNA differs in each species, it always maintains certain properties.

Those findings led to Watson and Crick’s conclusion, which paved the way for decades of DNA discoveries.

Today we use DNA tests to tell us about all kinds of things. Here are five cool things DNA testing can do:

Map your family tree

A DNA test could give you thousands of new relatives (although if they’re anything like ours, we’re not sure why you’d want them).

There are websites that offers to compare your DNA to those they already have on record in hopes of connecting you to unknown branches of your family tree.They can also tell you your genetic ethnicity.

Solve ancient mysteries

No one knew where Richard III, one of the most famous kings of England, was buried until his remains were discovered in a parking lot in Leicester.

The remains showed evidence of battle wounds and scoliosis, but scientists weren’t sure the skeleton was Richard III’s until DNA extracted from the bones was matched to Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of the king’s sister.

It wasn’t the first time ancient remains had been identified using DNA. If it’s stored in a cold, dry, dark place, DNA can last for thousands of years.

In 2009, a DNA analysis of some bone fragments showed two of Czar Nicholas II’s children were killed along with the rest of the family during the Russian Revolution, despite speculation they could have escaped.

Scientists have even extracted DNA from Neanderthals, who went extinct about 30,000 years ago, in hopes of gaining insight into the evolution of humans.

Distinguish your mutt

“Where does Buddy get his curly tail from? Why does he love digging holes in the backyard? Could I be doing more to make him happier and healthier? Your dog may not be able to tell you the answers — but his DNA can,” claims one dog DNA site.

You’ll probably never figure out why Buddy loves to eat your favorite Italian pumps but you can figure out where he comes from. The website will test your mutt’s DNA against that of more than 190 breeds to determine his genetic background.

“But why?” cat lovers may be asking. “When you understand your dog’s natural tendencies, you can tailor a training, exercise and nutrition program to his needs,” the site explains.

Predict the future

Using blood from the mother and saliva from the father, scientists can now determine whether a fetus has any chromosomal abnormalities that could cause a genetic disorder.

For example, DNA testing can reveal if an unborn baby will have trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.

Researchers are beginning to expand the field of prenatal genetic testing even further, using it to identify potential developmental delays and intellectual disabilities such as autism.

Genetic testing can also reveal risk factors you may have inherited from your parents, such as a high risk for breast or colon cancer.

While this genetic risk factor does not guarantee you will get the disease, it does increase your chances; knowing about the risk may help you take preventive steps.

Help you lose weight

A growing body of research suggests that our ability to lose weight — or gain 10 pounds by simply looking at a piece of chocolate — is shaped in large part by our genes.

Scientists have identified several gene variants that may predispose us, and our children, to obesity. Rodent studies have also shown that up to 80% of body fat is regulated by our genes, according to TIME.

That said, we wouldn’t search for a customized DNA Diet just yet. While there is a genetic component to obesity, our understanding of it is limited, says CNN diet and fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis.

Researchers are still trying to figure out how genetics, nutrition and exercise are related so we can help people lose weight and keep it off.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The Art Of Preserving Tattooed Skin After Death

In 2009, retired school teacher Geoff Ostling was showing his tattoos at a seminar at the National Museum of Australia when he was approached by a curator with an unusual request: Would he be open to donating his skin for posthumous display at the museum?

Nearly all of Ostling’s body is covered with floral tattoos, the result of a creative collaboration between him and Australian artist eX de Medici.

There are currently no other tattooed skins on display at the National Museum of Australia, but they do have a collection of 18 other works by eX de Medici, who is now so acclaimed she no longer does tattoos.

And while Ostling is still very much alive, he’s agreed to donate his skin when he dies. A future visitor to the museum will be able to view his taxidermied body presented as a work of art.

The collection, study, and display of tattooed human skin is a practice that goes back hundreds of years.

Modern tattoos preservation is mostly for the sake of saving art: Aside from Ostling, Irish performance artist Sandra Ann Vita Minchin plans to have her back tattoo, a recreation of a 17th Century Dutch artist’s work, preserved and auctioned to the highest bidder after she dies.




There’s also Tim Steiner, who has given consent for his large back tattoo to be preserved by a German collector after his death. In the past, though, preserved tattoos were often saved for criminologists to study.

Dr. Gemma Angel, a tattoo historian and anthropologist in the United Kingdom, told me that “whilst today the focus is often on the artistic value or iconography of tattoos, during the time when these tattoos were being collected, scholars were more interested in deciphering their meaning, and trying to establish a taxonomy of symbols that could tell them something about the individual’s usually ‘criminal’ psychology.”

The largest collection of human skins is at the Wellcome Collection at London’s Science Museum, which has over 300 individual tattoo fragments.

Tattoos over the back of a left hand. Photograph © Gemma Angel, courtesy of the Science Museum, London

Angel notes that there are other substantive collections that similarly display preserved tattooed skin: “The anthropology department of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle has around 56 pieces, very similar to the Wellcome Collection, dating from the 19th Century.

“The Department of Forensic Medicine at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland has 60 tattoos, and the Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal e Ciências Forenses (INMLCF) collections in Lisbon, Portugal, contains 70 specimens.

“And there are many more examples of smaller collections in London, Berlin, and Austria.”

A tattoo typically outlives a person’s body only by as long as burial or cremation arrangements will allow, so for a tattoo to be preserved after someone’s death, special care has to be taken.

The preserved tattoo “Roses and Daggers,” part of the Wellcome Collection. Photograph © Gemma Angel, Courtesy of the Science Museum, London

In most cases, Angel explained, “the skin would simply have been cut away from the cadaver using a scalpel. Depending upon the degree of decomposition and atmospheric conditions, this is a relatively straightforward operation.

“Skin decomposes very quickly, so in most cases removal would have taken place during autopsy.”

As fascinating as it is, public exhibits of preserved tattooed skin are rare and controversial. That’s in part because it’s unclear whether many of these skins were acquired ethically.

The preserved skins in the Wellcome Collection, for example, were all purchased from a single mysterious individual.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Chimpanzees Aren’t Super Strong But Their Muscles Are More Powerful Than A Human’s

Since the 1920’s, some researchers and studies have suggested that chimps are ‘super strong’ compared to humans. These past studies implied that chimps’ muscle fibers, the cells that make up muscles are superior to humans’.

But a new study has found that contrary to this belief, a chimp muscles’ power output is just about 1.35 times higher than human muscle of similar size.

A difference the researchers call ‘modest‘ compared with historical, popular accounts of chimp ‘super strength’ being many times stronger than humans.




chimp

If the long-standing, assumption about chimpanzee’s exceptional strength was true, it ‘would indicate a significant and previously unappreciated evolutionary shift in the force and/or power-producing capabilities of skeletal muscle’ in either chimps or humans, whose lines diverged about 7 or 8 million years ago.

The authors of the study concluded that, contrary to some long-standing hypotheses, evolution has not altered the basic force, velocity or power-producing capabilities of skeletal muscle cells to induce the marked differences between chimpanzees and humans in walking, running, climbing and throwing capabilities.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Spontaneous Human Combustion – Could You Burst Into Flames?

Spontaneous human combustion – the act of a human being bursting into flames for no reason – has been a trope of the paranormal for hundreds of years. Explanations have been chalked up to demonic possession, alcoholism, and even ball lightning.

But how likely is it, really?

 

Check out AnomalyInfo’s page for a thorough history of Spontaneous Human Combustion:

http://anomalyinfo.com/Topics/spontan…

 

Special thanks to Nick Turnbow for his help editing this video!

Elon Musk Says We’re Probably Characters In Some Advanced Civilization’s Video Game

I don’t want to freak you out here, but there’s a chance you’re not the only ‘you’ in existence.

I’m not talking about the possibility that you might actually have two different brains, which means it’s virtually impossible to tell which one is ‘you’.

I’m talking about the fact that there could well be countless parallel universes, and each one contains a slightly different version of you.

Within that parallel universe construct, our own reality might not be as ‘real’ as you think. Are some of the most massive objects in our Universe nothing but holograms?

Is our Universe itself a hologram? Is this whole thing one giant simulation and we’re just characters in the most advanced video game ever? I swear I’m not high.




Everything I just mentioned is part of actual thought experiments that have been devised and debated over by the world’s best thinkers for years now, because one way or another, we have to make sense of this very strange and incredibly unlikely reality we’ve found ourselves in.

At Recode’s annual Code Conference this week in California, billionaire tech genius Elon Musk was asked about the possibility of us humans being unwitting participants in a giant simulation built by some alien civilization that’s far more advanced than our own.

His argument is pretty simple, if we look at our own history of video games. Forty years ago, video games meant stuff like Pong and Space Invaders.

Now we have photorealistic, three-dimensional stuff that looks like this, and we could have millions, potentially even billions, of people all playing the same game online at the same time.

Sure, there’s a certain ‘uncanny valley‘ quality to our video game counterparts right now, but think of what things are going to look like in another 40, or even 20 years’ time, with virtual and augmented reality already trying to inch its way into our living rooms.

Musk explains:

“If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let’s imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale.

So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions.”

It might not be the most comforting thing in the world to think about – our reality isn’t at all what we think it is – but Musk says all of this being one big video game is about the best option we could hope for, given the alternatives.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

DNA Proves ‘Alien’ Was Actually Human Girl—Who Was She?

The mummified fetus from the Atacama region of Chile.

Before the media frenzy, before the documentary about aliens, before her bone fragments were ground up for DNA analysis, she was a girl.

She was tiny when she died. Six inches. Perhaps she was stillborn or died very young.

Her body was reportedly found wrapped in cloth with a purple ribbon and buried—with intentionality, it would seem—near a church in La Noria, an abandoned town in the Atacama desert in northern Chile.

As for everything else, well, it went like this. In 2003, a local man who regularly scavenged La Noria for historical trinkets found her body. He noted the unusual conical shape of her head.




Almost immediately, photos of her began to circulate, and ufologists eager for evidence of aliens came calling. A businessman bought her body and brought it to Spain.

She featured prominently, as the “Atacama humanoid,” in a documentary called Sirius, which alleges, among other things, contact between aliens and ancient civilizations.

On screen, the filmmakers are shown cutting her skull open, and removing a rib fragment for DNA analysis.

That DNA analysis was published last week—in Genome Research, a legitimate journal, and authored by a team of legitimate biologists led by Garry Nolan of Stanford University.

Museums were mad for skeletons around the turn of the 20th century.

That Nolan came to work with the makers of an alien-conspiracy documentary is unorthodox, to say the least.

But it was an opportunity to study rare mutations that could explain her unusual bones as well as an opportunity to restore to her a small measure of dignity.

The DNA analysis proved what scientists had been saying all along: She is human. She could have died as recently as decades ago based on the preservation of her DNA.

In interviews, Nolan told journalists he believed her body should be returned to Chile.

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Pass it on: Popular Science