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Tue, 26 Jul 2016
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Gene-editing trial on humans to begin in China

© Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Chinese researchers to perform first ever human trial of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique to fight non-small lung cancer.
A team of Chinese researchers from Sichuan University's West China Hospital is preparing for the first ever trial of CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique on humans next month after receiving ethical approval from the hospital's review board last July 6.

"I hope we are the first," said Lu You, an oncologist at the West Chine Hospital and leader of the trial, in a report from Nature. "And more importantly, I hope we can get positive data from the trial."

Researchers from the United States are also planning to perform the very first CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing on humans to fight against melanoma, sarcoma and myeloid cancers. They have received the green light from the US National Institute of Health but still waiting the approval from the US Food and Drugs Administration and a university review board.

The Chinese team is planning to use the gene-editing tool to patients with metastatic non-small lung cancer that have failed results in chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other treatments.


Surprising mineral formation found by Curiosity Rover in Martian crater - 'last mineral we expected to see'

© Fred Kruijen
A common form of Tridymite, ultra thin colorless tabulars (pictured), a kind of crystal that only forms on Earth as a result of extremely hot, silcic volcanoes
Using the Curiosity Rover, the scientists detected a mineral called tridymite that, until now, they thought could only be created in extremely hot temperatures.

The discovery of this tridymite might rewrite the history of the planet, suggesting that it might once have been hotter than we previously thought, and home to monstrous volcanoes.

The scientists found the tridymite with a special instrument on the rover that shoots x-rays at material to identify the crystal structure of minerals.

"It was the last mineral we expected to see," said Richard Morris, NASA planetary scientist and lead author of this study. "If this stands test of time it has a lot of implications for how Mars evolved. We may have to rethink a few things."

On Earth, tridymite is formed at extremely high temperatures in an explosive process called silicic volcanism. Mt. St. Helens, known for having the deadliest volcanic event in American history, is an example of a silicic volcano.

Comment: The Thunderbolts Project has an interesting commentary on this discovery.


Most accurate map of the human cortex unveiled

© Matthew Glasser, Ph.D., David Van Essen, Ph.D., Washington University
A map showing some of the 180 cortical regions.

The most complete map of the cerebral cortex ever to be charted has been unveiled this week in Nature. No less than 97, distinct, previously undescribed regions have been found.

The cerebral cortex - the outer portion of the mammalian brain - is a 2-4-millimeter thick layer of gray matter.

This densely folded formation of cells is heavily involved in a number of tasks, including attention, memory, perception, consciousness, awareness, thought, and language.

Over the last century, neuroscientists have divided the cortex into ever smaller sections of discrete functionality.

Although the brain is known to function, very much, as a whole, dividing it into bite size chunks helps understand how it can create such complex activity.

Below is a short video, produced by Nature, which briefly explains the new findings:

Comment: Related articles:

2 + 2 = 4

Same genes could make us prone to both happiness and depression

Happy face and sad face. Perhaps some people are just more sensitive to the environment than others.
The same genes that make us prone to depression could also make us prone to positivity, two psychology researchers have suggested.

Professors Elaine Fox, from Oxford University, and Chris Beevers from the University of Texas at Austin reviewed a number of studies for their paper in Molecular Psychiatry. They say that there is a need to combine studies in mental health genetics with those that look at cognitive biases.


New oxygen microparticle designed

© Tech Wench
A team of scientists at the Boston Children's Hospital have invented what is being considered one the greatest medical breakthroughs in recent years.

They have designed a microparticle that can be injected into a person's bloodstream that can quickly oxygenate their blood. This will even work if the ability to breathe has been restricted, or even cut off entirely.

This finding has the potential to save millions of lives every year. The microparticles can keep an object alive for up to 30 min after respiratory failure. This is accomplished through an injection into the patients' veins.

Once injected, the microparticles can oxygenate the blood to near normal levels.

This has countless potential uses as it allows life to continue when oxygen is needed but unavailable. For medical personnel, this is just enough time to avoid risking a heart attack or permanent brain injury when oxygen is restricted or cut off to patients.

Dr. John Kheir, who first began the study, works in the Boston Children's Hospital Department of Cardiology. He found inspiration for the drug in 2006, when he was treating a girl in the ICU who had a severe case of pneumonia. At the time, the girl didn't have a breathing tube, when at the time she suffered from a pulmonary hemorrhage.

This means her lungs had begin to fill up with blood, and she finally went into cardiac arrest. It took doctors about 25 minutes to remove enough blood from her lungs to allow her to breath. Though, the girl's brain was severely injured due to being deprived of oxygen for that long and she eventually died.


Dark matter is still missing in action despite exhaustive search

© Lawrence Berkeley Lab
Lux, a xenon-based dark matter detector.
Today, the team behind one of the most sensitive dark matter detectors announced its full experimental run had failed to turn up any of the particles it was looking for. The LUX detector (Large Underground Xenon) is designed to pick up signs of weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, when they engage in one of their rare interactions with normal matter. The null result doesn't rule out the existence of dark matter, but it limits its potential properties.

As their name implies, WIMPs don't interact with normal matter often, but they should on occasion bump into an atom, imparting energy to it. LUX provides a tempting target in the form of 370kg of liquid xenon. The detector is flanked by photodetectors to pick up any stray photons from the interactions, as well as hardware that picks up any stray charges knocked loose.

Comment: The Case of the Missing Dark Matter


China builds world's largest amphibious aircraft

© CCTV News / YouTube
After seven years of construction China has unveiled the AG600, the world's largest amphibious aircraft. Half boat and half airplane, the craft can take off at a staggering weight of 53 tonnes and can pick up 12 tonnes of water in an impressive 20 seconds.

Intended for marine missions and fighting forest fires, the AG600 was unveiled in Zhuhai in the southern Guangdong province on July 23. The plane - which can take off from land or water - is seen as an aviation "milestone" for the country, according to Xinhua News.


Solar Impulse 2 begins last leg of round-the-world trek

© Jean Revillard / Reuters
Solar Impulse 2 over the pyramids of Giza.
An airplane which solely relies on solar energy has taken off on the last leg of its round-the-world-trip. It is expected to reach its final destination in some 48 hours, which would make it the first solar-powered aircraft to circle the globe. On Sunday at 1:30am local time, the one-of-a-kind plane took off from Cairo and is now heading towards Abu Dhabi - the city from which it started its long journey last year. It is expected to reach the city within the next 48 hours.

Last week, the aircraft made a landing in Egypt after a flight from Seville, Spain. The pilots were forced to postpone the following takeoff from Cairo to the UAE due to extreme heat in Saudi Arabia. On the Solar Impulse blog, the Mission Control Center team said they "identified a weather window that could allow us to overcome the challenging high temperatures across Saudi Arabia and hopefully land in Abu Dhabi after 48 hours."

"We want to share with you the suspense of an attempted takeoff for this last leg of the round-the-world adventure. If we manage to get Si2 airborne, this will be Solar Impulse's last flight, so come with us!"


The Atir-Rosenzweig-Dunning Effect: How being an expert in an area can make one claim knowledge they couldn't possibly know

© Shutterstock
Remember the Dunning-Kruger Effect? The finding by David Dunning and Justin Kruger that incompetence leads to inflated beliefs of competence. If you need a refresher, the concept is succinctly explained below by John Cleese:

Dunning has now conducted a new study with colleagues Stav Atir and Emily Rosenzweig, finding that expertise has its own pitfalls. In a series of experiments conducted at Cornell University, the researchers found that people with greater knowledge in a particular domain were more likely to claim knowledge that they could not possibly know.

Comment: See also:


Self-driving shuttle to start operations in Lyon, France in September

Just this week a truck driver informed me that autonomous trucks are at least "decades away".

It's 2016, six to eight years away from my target date, and self-driving shuttles will hit Lyon, France this September.

Via translation from LyonMag.Com, please consider Free Autonomous Shuttle Starts September.
It was only a matter of time. And it is now official. Two Navya Arma shuttles arrive in the Confluence district in September.

These shuttles driverless, 100% autonomous and fully electric task will be to carry passengers between the leisure division and Confluence shopping and the tip of the peninsula, up to the GL Events seat.

Navya Arma has "lasers that sweep space, cameras and precise GPS". The Navya should be able to circulate in the Lyon area starting early September, from 7:30 to 18:30. Despite the absence of a driver, the shuttle can reach 25km/hour, safe for passengers or pedestrians.