Biology and Biotech

A new Zika vaccine may be just around the corner, with incredibly promising results recently published in Nature Medicine.

A team from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the Instituto Evandro Chagas at the Ministry of Health in Brazil published findings of a new Zika mutant that elicits an immune response that is very similar to an actual infection. 

But, what makes this vaccine so exciting, in and among the other reports of progress on Zika vaccines over the past year, is that this study is the first on a live-attenuated vaccine. That distinction is important because a live, attenuated vaccine typically provides the best protection.

The reason lies...

23andMe, founded in 2006, is a personal genetics company with the mission to "help people access, understand and benefit from the human genome."

Up until 2013, 23andMe was selling home DNA testing kits that gave genetic information to consumers. After submitting a sample of saliva, customers could have access to their genetic results online - related to both ancestry and health information. However, after years of back and forth with the FDA, 23andMe was told to stop selling their kits that allow disease detection. The letter from the FDA stated, 

“because you are marketing the 23andMe Saliva Collection Kit and Personal Genome Service (PGS) without marketing clearance or approval in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and...

One in 10 people have a major depressive disorder (MDD) during their lives, which makes depression the most common mental illness. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. Like many ailments, it is known that depression has both a genetic component and environmental factors.

The genetic component has been difficult to determine. Researchers from Erasmus University Medical Centre in The Netherlands published a new study, in the journal Biological Psychiatry, which may shed some light on this, They identified one gene implicated in MDD called NKPD1. 

How did they find this gene? The researchers took advantage of a genetically ...

Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to Washington, D.C. to attend the Congressional Luncheon hosted by the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) in an effort to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The event included the presentation of the Senator Joseph I. Lieberman award for Outstanding Achievement in Science by the Senator himself along with remarks by prominent bipartisan congressional and senatorial figures like Ted Cruz.

CEE’s flagship program is the Research Science Institute (RSI) through which many notable scholars matriculated, for example: Ben Silbermann (co-founder of Pinterest), Feng Zhang (CRISPR) and Terence...

"Ew, what was that?" is perhaps the most common refrain uttered by people as they drive past roadkill. Most people find these carcasses repulsive, as they glide their cars carefully around the bloody remains. But a team of microbiologists and chemists from the University of Oklahoma hope that roadkill will prove to be a biomedical gold mine.

Because of widespread antibiotic resistance and a dwindling pipeline for new drugs, scientists are in a global hunt for new antibiotics. A potential source is the microbiome of humans. The bacteria that live in and on our bodies are adept at keeping pathogens away. One reason is competition for resources, but another likely reason is that they produce molecules that are poisonous to unfriendly bacteria. Some strains of E. coli...

Reputations are a funny thing. It takes years to build them but mere seconds to destroy them.

Cargill, a company that provides all manner of agricultural products and services, has managed to ruin its reputation with farmers and science writers in a single tweet. On March 17, the company announced its partnership with the thoroughly wretched Non-GMO Project*, an anti-biotech organization that sticks a goofy "non-GMO verified" label on everything from water to kitty litter.

Here's the tweet:

And the flood gates swung open wide. The backlash was swift, brutal, and...

You might notice Dr. Norm Borlaug, Nobel Laureate and "Father of the Green Revolution" in our Founder's Circle. He was a big believer in advancing an evidence-based, pro-science approach to food, and he saw the need for debunking the myths that a generation of environmental groups began creating in the 1960s: Those groups believed that science was doing more harm than good, and we simply had to resign ourselves to famine and starvation and Draconian measures might need to be taken to control the population.

The year before the American Council on Science and Health was founded, Drs. Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren, along with Anne Ehrlich, who was on the boards of groups like Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club, founded...

The existence of human pheromones is hotly debated. Ask any woman who has lived in a college dorm and she is likely to tell you that they exist because the women synced their menstrual cycles when living together. But, anecdotal evidence not withstanding, the scientific evidence for pheromones in humans is lacking. 

However, just because human pheromones have not been identified yet does not mean that they don't exist. Most other species use them for social cues such as mating - why not humans? Following that line of thinking, scientists are still looking for them - using interesting experimental setups to do it.

A recent study,...

Scientific experiments require subjects - which are infrequently humans for many (obvious) reasons.

Although closely related, non-human primates are expensive and have serious ethical questions. Other, smaller mammals are used more regularly, but are limited as they are expensive to house and its hard to use a large number of them at the same time. In experimentation, more "n" or data points is almost always better. 

Because of this, researchers look to a host of alternatives. One of the most popular is the roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans).

It may seem strange that many important, scientific questions are being answered using a worm that is the size of a comma on this page, but it is indeed, an incredibly powerful experimental system...

So are baldness and height related? 

When one considers the category of bald men, are there more Dwayne Johnsons, Steve Ballmers and Samuel L. Jacksons out there ... or would we find the majority of hairless men to be like Jason Alexander, Andre Agassi and Danny Devito? 

German researchers from the University of Bonn are now giving us the answer – or more appropriately, shall we say ... the low down.

After studying the genetic material of more than 22,500 adult males from seven countries, they determined that "short men have an increased risk of becoming bald prematurely," according to a statement announcing today's publication of the...