Biology and Biotech

Actually, I want more than just having Golden Rice — I want it to be widely available to people who eat rice as a staple food. And I want to see the results of that consumption in the decrease in the number of children worldwide who go blind because of vitamin A deficiency.

To recap briefly, vitamin A deficiency causes not only blindness, but also increased susceptibility to infectious diseases because of its impact on the immune system. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, and although excess doses of vitamin A can be damaging, there has been no toxicity associated with beta-carotene.

Some have argued that the way to deal with lack of vitamin A is periodic supplementation with high-dose vitamin A, and this route is already in place in many developing countries, but...

Left-handed people are a bit of an anomaly. Relatively speaking, there aren't many of them, yet they've been around for thousands of years.

If there was a solid evolutionary advantage to being left-handed, we would expect the frequency of left-handedness to increase in the population. But that isn't occurring. Instead, we observe a low but persistent prevalence of left-handedness, just around 8% to 10%. One explanation is the notion of negative frequency-dependent selection, which means that the trait is beneficial only if it remains rare.

To shed light on this hypothesis, sport scientist Florian Loffing from the University of Oldenburg in Germany examined the prevalence of left-...

Astronauts do not live glamorous lives. Though tumbling about in low gravity looks fun, there are perils to the job. Their muscles atrophy. They are exposed to higher levels of radiation. They have to eat lousy food. They re-enter Earth in a blazing fireball.

Now, researchers have added yet another potential health risk: Astronauts' core body temperature increases by roughly 1° C (1.8° F) on long-duration missions.

Our brains, via the hypothalamus, tightly regulate our body temperature. The average person's body temperature is 37° C (98.6° F). Eliminating heat is vital to maintaining a proper temperature. That's why, for instance, we sweat during exercise; as the water evaporates, our bodies cool off.

Such natural cooling mechanisms don't work as well in space. The...

If you are ever in need of an impressive biological story, look no further than the examples of mutualism, when two totally unrelated species not only coexist, but both benefit from the relationship. One recently discovered example of this is particularly impressive.

In a new paper published in CellDrastic Genome Reduction in an Herbivore’s Pectinolytic Symbiont, the discovery of a new type of bacteria and the symbiotic relationship with its beetle host (the leaf beetle Cassida rubiginosa) is described.

This new bacteria, Candidatus Stammera capleta (referred to as simply Stammera) was named after Hans-Jurgen Stammer, an ecologist who made some of...

In March of 2016, a game called "Tom Clancy's The Division" was released. Unlike other "shooter" games such as "Destiny" and "Call of Duty", "The Division" has a compelling science story.(1) And the plot began on "Black Friday", the busiest shopping day of the year.

Since Black Friday is in two days, I did an analysis of what it would take for the eco-terrorists to really win a big one; killing off humanity using the thing they they believe humans love most - money. The game revolves around activation of Executive Directive 51, a "continuity of government" plan in case of a catastrophic emergency. In the game, it is invoked because a deadly virus has...

In the 1996 film Multiplicity, Michael Keaton plays an overworked construction worker who gets cloned so that he can spend more time with his family. Eventually his clone gets cloned, but this clone is defective, with a low IQ and weird personality. As might be expected, the movie was a total flop at the box office*.

Silly as it was, the movie does raise an interesting question: How healthy are clones? What about clones of clones?

Dolly the sheep, the world's first cloned animal, died young at the age of six. This, along with other data, suggested that cloned animals may not be entirely healthy, specifically that they may have shorter lifespans. However, a follow-up study that...

For the most part, algae, that green ooze found floating on various bodies of water, has long been considered a temporary issue. It blooms into an annoyance and eventually dissipates, and disappears.

Unfortunately, just because summer is long gone, that doesn't mean algae is gone, too. On bodies and waterways large and small, it's hardly disappearing. It's a very real problem that isn't going anywhere, posing health risks to those living nearby who interact with these waters. Drinking water is also being affected, and significant efforts being taken on both federal and local levels to halt the risks are failing to solve the problem.

A special investigation just published by the Associated Press shows that despite tens of billions of dollars being spent for...

A review paper (1) recently found that organic crop yields are 19-25% lower than conventional systems.

However, in a recent visit to the University of Guelph, Carlo Leifert of Newcastle University noted that organic wheat yields at their Nafferton Farm were beyond the conventional wheat yields of the 1980s. He suggests that while organic yields may be lower at any given date, they also keep rising. If more science was applied to organic agriculture, scientists and famers could develop specific varieties and methods to enhance organic yields, as well as attendant ecological benefits. 

Could organic food be a version of Aesop’s fable, in which the hare bounds ahead of the tortoise and then takes a snooze because he is so far ahead, allowing the persevering tortoise to win...

Alzheimer’s Disease is so frustrating to its victims, their caregivers and to physicians and scientists looking, at this point, vainly for effective treatments. In an “out of the box” moment researchers at Stanford, in conjunction with Silicon Valley start-up Alkahest, are reporting on the effects of infusing the plasma of younger, healthier individuals into patients with Alzheimer's. Before we begin the comparisons to the master scientist, Dracula, let’s take a few moments to consider both the study results and the thought to be underlying mechanism, derived from studies involving parabiosis. Study first. There are no written reports currently available of the presentation last weekend at a conference on Clinical Trials in Alzheimer's. I, like all media reports, am basing my reporting...

A salmon that grows slightly faster than other salmon, an apple that doesn't start turning brown the minute you cut it into pieces and a way to use nature to keep mosquitoes from giving developing nations horrific diseases. What they all share in common is onerous scientific development, but in the case of the mosquito they don't share the onerous approval cycle.(1) 

That is the struggle science faces in a regulatory environment that has increasingly put the precautionary principle over benefit, and government bodies that increasingly cater to environmental groups...