Medicine

Legal horn trade could save rhinos from cliff of extinction, experts argue

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 28, 2013   View Article

Surging demand for rhino horn to decorate daggers and treat everything from hangovers to cancer is driving the iconic animals to the brink of extinction. The only way to save them is to humanely harvest rhino horn and sell it legally, scientists argue in a controversial new paper.

Only 5,000 black rhinos and 20,000 white rhinos remain, mostly in South Africa and Namibia, the scientists note. The western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011.

The paper, published Thursday in the journal Science, is a bid to spark “serious discussions around establishing a legal trade” at an international conference on the trade in endangered species that starts Sunday in Bangkok, lead author Duan Biggs told NBC News.

Hydrogel acts like Velcro at molecular level

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 6, 2012   View Article

At some point in the future, ripped contact lenses may heal themselves, thanks to a new stretchy material that behaves like Velcro at the molecular level, bioengineers reported today.

For now, the so-called self-healing hydrogel only works in highly acidic environments, such as our stomachs, where it can be used as a medical suture or a high-tech drug delivery device.

Robot surgeons may get upgraded

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 13, 2012   View Article

Surgical robots named Ravens are flocking to university labs around the U.S. where researchers will be encouraged to hack their software.

This reprogramming could accelerate innovation in surgical robotics, which is stifled due in part to a lock on the market held by the only company with a FDA-approved robot, according to Blake Hannaford, the director of the Biorobotics Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle.

‘Unnatural’ bugs to enhance our lives?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 22, 2011   View Article

Scientists have successfully added multiple “unnatural” amino acids to a strain of bacteria, a breakthrough on the path to genetically engineered microbes that create useful things for people such as life-saving medicines and biofuels.

“We are adding components to the bug so that the bug can do something that a natural bug usually can’t do,” Lei Wang at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies told me today. “We are trying to make it do new tricks.”

Caterpillar Fungus Making Tibetan Herders Rich

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 27, 2011   View Article

Harvesting of a parasitic fungus that grows high on the Tibetan Plateau in China is infusing hordes of cash into rural communities, scientists say.

The fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, takes over the bodies of caterpillar larvae then shoots up like finger-size blades of grass out of the dead insects’ heads.

Known as yartsa gunbu—or “summer grass winter worm”—by Chinese consumers, the nutty-tasting fungus is highly valued for its purported medicinal benefits, for instance, as a treatment for cancer and aging and as a libido booster. Far away in the booming cities of Beijing and Shanghai, demand for the fungus has soared.

‘Humanized mouse’ among student science prizes

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 9, 2011   View Article

A “humanized mouse” is among four innovations honored this year with the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, an annual invention contest that comes with a $30,000 check.

The mouse has been outfitted with a liver that was engineered to be human-like, a step that could improve the safety and efficiency of the drug discovery process.

Sharks Carrying Drug Resistant Bacterial Monsters

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 23, 2010   View Article

Our leftover medicines are spawning drug-resistant “bacterial monsters” that thrive inside sharks, scientists say.

The finding suggests antibiotics such as penicillin may be leaching into the environment and spurring drug-resistant bacteria to evolve and multiply in the oceans.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach