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Wed, 26 Oct 2016
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The human genome - Chimeric RNA 'fusions' may not be signs of cancer

© Wikimedia Commons
The human genome is far more complex than thought, with genes functioning in an unexpected fashion that scientists have wrongly assumed must indicate cancer, research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine indicates.

Hui Li, PhD, of the Department of Pathology and the UVA Cancer Center, is a pioneer in a small but emerging field that is challenging fundamental assumptions about human genetics.

He seeks to understand what is called chimeric RNA -- genetic material that results when genes on two different chromosomes produce "fusion" RNA in a way scientists say shouldn't happen.

Researchers have traditionally assumed these chimeric RNA are signs of cancer, of something gone wrong in the genetic transcription process. But Li's work shows that's not always the case. Instead, these strange fusions can also be a normal, functional part of our genetic programming.

"This is actually a double-edged sword for cancer diagnosis and treatment. ... It basically says the old practice of finding any fusion RNA and claiming it's a cancer fusion is over. We can't just say, OK, we found a fusion, it must be a cancer marker, let's translate it into a biomarker [to detect cancer]," Li said.

"That's actually dangerous.

Because a lot of normal physiology also has fusion RNAs. There's another layer of complexity."


Doctors perform successful uterus transplant from living donor - recipient recovering well

© Baylor Scott & White Health
The first successful uterus transplant from a living donor was performed by surgeons at Baylor University. After three previous unsuccessful attempts, the procedure seems to be the most successful by far and could achieve full functionality.

One woman in Texas received a uterine transplant three weeks ago and seems to be on track to become the first successful uterus transplant recipient. On Wednesday, a statement from Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas announced that the patient had passed the three-week benchmark and looks to be recovering successfully.

"We are cautiously optimistic that she could ultimately become the first uterine transplant recipient in the US to make it to the milestone of uterine functionality," the statement said.


Apparently dogs can tell time with their noses

© Karen Kiley-Miller/Getty Images/iStockphoto
From the way a dog will ecstatically greet you at the door when you've returned from your arduous two-minute journey of putting out the garbage or checking the mail, one would assume that dogs have very poor senses of time. You were gone for minutes; your dog reacts as if you've been reunited after months away from each other. Who can explain the mind of a dog?

Alexandra Horowitz can, actually, or at least she shares some fascinating insights into the canine mind by focusing on the way they primarily engage with the world — that is, their extraordinary senses of smell. Horowitz is the founder of Barnard College's Dog Cognition Lab, and she's also written a new book drawing from her research: Being a Dog, which is out this week. In that book, she states plainly her theory concerning dogs and chronology. "As each day wears a new smell, its hours mark changes in odors that your dog can notice,"she writes. "Dogs smell time."

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Bayer and Syngenta knew: Ag giants discovered in secret tests that pesticides severely harmed bees

© Armando Frazao/Shutterstock
Agrochemical giants Syngenta and Bayer discovered in their own tests that their pesticides caused severe harm to bees, according to unpublished documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the environmental group Greenpeace.

The companies conducted the trials on products that used the controversial pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, which have long been linked to rapid bee decline. Neonics are also the world's most commonly used pesticide.

According to their own studies, Syngenta's thiamethoxam and Bayer's clothianidin were found to cause severe harm at high levels of use, although the effect was lessened when used under 50 parts per billion (ppb) and 40ppb respectively, the Guardian reports.

However, as Greenpeace notes, the research "assumes a very narrow definition of harm to bee health and ignores wild bees which evidence suggests are more likely to be harmed by neonicotinoids."

That means the findings may "substantially underestimate" the impact of neonics, Greenpeace said.

Comment: See also: First long-term study confirms that neonic-treated crops are responsible for mass honeybee deaths


Mysterious blackouts hitting satellites might be caused by cosmic thunderstorms

A group of three satellites have been puzzling scientists after regularly suffering GPS blackouts as they passed over the equator. Researchers now believe this may be caused by thunderstorms high in the ionosphere interfering with the GPS signal (illustrated)
They were sent into orbit to measure the Earth's invisible magnetic field. But a cluster of scientific satellites have been suffering mysterious blackouts as they circle the planet.

Scientists were left puzzled about why the three satellites launched by the European Space Agency have regularly lost their navigation signal when passing over the equator above the Atlantic Ocean. Now they believe they may have uncovered the underlying cause of the strange loss in the GPS signal that helps control the satellites - thunderstorms high in the ionosphere.

Professor Claudia Stolle, from the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Postdam, Germany, said the storms can cause the signal to the Swarm satellites to vanish for several minutes at a time. She said: 'These ionospheric thunderstorms are well known, but it's only now we have been able to show a direct link between them and the loss of the GPS.' ... 'This is possible because the Swarm satellites provide high resolution observations of both phenomena at one spacecraft.'

Comment: Seems these scientists are finally glimpsing the importance of understanding the Electric Universe.


Australian entrepreneur creates 'most advanced personal flying machine ever' wows crowds

© JetPack Aviation / YouTube
Personal jetpacks could soon be the new way to commute if the latest test flight in the skies over Monaco is anything to go by.

JetPack Aviation completed its third successful test run in Monaco on Saturday without a hitch.

Company CEO David Mayman took a thrilling jetpack ride around the Statue of Liberty in 2015 and this time his outing on the new JB-10 model saw him lifted into the air at Monaco's Océanograpique Museum's heliport.

The company describes its latest jetpack model as "the most technically advanced personal flying machine ever created."

Mayman enjoyed a leisurely ride above the sea as people watched in what the entrepreneur described as "the culmination of years of work," adding that "today is just the beginning."


Researchers find 'significant increase' in Arctic methane gas emissions

'The area of spread of methane mega-emissions has significantly increased in comparison with the data obtained in the period from 2011 to 2014.'
New expedition in Laptev Sea suggests increase in the rate of underwater permafrost degradation.

The findings come from an expedition now underway led by Professor Igor Semiletov, of Tomsk Polytechnic University, on the research vessel 'Academic M.A. Lavrentyev' which left Tiksi on 24 September on a 40 day mission.

The seeping of methane from the sea floor is greater than in previous research in the same area, notably carried out between 2011 and 2014.

'The area of spread of methane mega-emissions has significantly increased in comparison with the data obtained in the period from 2011 to 2014,' he said. 'These observations may indicate that the rate of degradation of underwater permafrost has increased.'

Detailed findings will be presented at an international conference in Tomsk on 21 to 24 November. The research enables comparison with previously obtained data on methane emissions.

Dr Semiletov and his team are paying special attention to clarify the role of the submarine permafrost degradation as a factor in emissions of the main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide and methane - in the atmosphere.

The team are examining how the ice plug that has hitherto prevented the exit of huge reserves of gas hydrates has today 'sprung a leak'. This shows in taliks - unfrozen surface surrounded by permafrost - through which powerful emissions of methane reach the atmosphere.

Scientists are eager to determine the quantity of methane buried in those vast areas of the Siberian Arctic shelf and the impact it can have on the sensitive polar climate system.

Comment: Recently scientists found new, strange 'methane bubbles' in a field on a Russian island. Here's a small sample we've collected of other recent natural outgassing-related events: It is likely that outgassing of methane (and other natural gases) is coming up from deep below the earth's surface. See also:

SOTT Exclusive: The growing threat of underground fires and explosions


And the Nobel Prize goes to...Yoshinori Ohsumi for autophagy

© AP
Yoshinori OhsumiImage copyrightAP
Image caption
Yoshinori Ohsumi has been a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology since 2009
The 2016 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine goes to Yoshinori Ohsumi of Japan for discoveries about the secrets of how cells can remain healthy by recycling waste.

He located genes that regulate the cellular "self eating" process known as autophagy.

Dr Ohsumi's work is important because it helps explain what goes wrong in a range of illnesses, from cancer to Parkinson's.

Errors in these genes cause disease.

Last year's prize was shared by three scientists who developed treatments for malaria and other tropical diseases.


Sun goes spotless for fourth time in 2016 - Ice Age a matter of 'when', not 'if'

The sun without any sunspots
As the sun's spots get blanked out for the fourth time in 2016, it becomes totally blank, which may herald a mini Ice Age

Shivers! Yesterday, NASA images showed that the sun has gone "blank" without any sunspots for the fourth time this year. The solar surface shows complete inaction. It could lead us to the Ice Age, say climate experts.

Usually, our sun doesn't have a pleasant face, but looks burning hot, pocked by sunspots. But now, it looks smooth, with sunspots at the lowest rate for 10,000 years. Solar activity too has slowed down.

However, the sun's pleasant face isn't too pleasant for the earth. Such blank faces, without sunspot activity could usher in a cold spell, just like the Maunder Minimum, which began in 1645 and went on till 1715. That was called the Little Ice Age and even became well-known because of the winter frost fairs that became popular on the frozen surface of the Thames.

The warning was issued by meteorologist and renowned sun-watcher Paul Dorian in his report, which spread some tension: "The blank sun is a sign that the next solar minimum is approaching and there will be an increasing number of spotless days over the next few years," said Dorian. "At first, the blankness will stretch for just a few days at a time, then it'll continue for weeks at a time, and finally it should last for months at a time when the sunspot cycle reaches its nadir. The next solar minimum phase is expected to take place around 2019 or 2020."

Eye 1

Australia may become first country to begin microchipping its public

Australia may become the first country in the world to microchip its public. NBC news predicted that all Americans would be microchipped by 2017, but it seems Australia may have already beaten them to it.

Back in 2010, CBS news reported that the Australian government had a potential RFID microchipping plan in the works related to the health care system.

Now, it seems that this plan is beginning to unfold but the push is not a result of mandated health care reforms, but rather a clever propaganda campaign that equates RFID microchipping with becoming superhuman, and people are begging for it.

Under the headline Australians embracing super-human microchip technology, Australia's premier media outlet news.com.au (News Corp Australia) reports:
It may sound like sci-fi, but hundreds of Australians are turning themselves into super-humans who can unlock doors, turn on lights and log into computers with a wave of the hand.

Shanti Korporaal, from Sydney, is at the centre of the phenomenon after having two implants inserted under her skin.

Now she can get into work and her car without carrying a card or keys, and says her ultimate goal is to completely do away with her wallet and cards.
She told news.com.au:
You could set up your life so you never have to worry about any password or PINs; it's the same technology as Paypass, so I'm hoping you'll be able to pay for things with it.

With Opal you get a unique identification number that could be programmed into the chip. Any door with a swipe card ... it could open your computer, photocopier. Loyalty cards for shops are just another thing for your wallet.
The microchips, which are the size of a grain of rice, can act like a business card and transfer contact details to smartphones, and hold complex medical data.

Comment: And, so it begins.... maybe. They're still only at the stage of trials; they'll need 'catastophic and catalyzing events' to push it on everyone.