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Lose Weight by Exhaling Fat July 8, 2009

Posted by Matt Brown in Genetics.
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No this is not a joke.  A study published in Cell Metabolism shows that genetic alterations in mice allowed them to convert fat into carbon dioxide.   Let me say that again.  Convert fat into carbon dioxide.

When I first read that my jaw dropped and I shouted “what the fuck” probably louder than I should have.  Even to a science nut like me who thinks that proper application of technology is the answer to most of the worlds problems and that the singularity is only decades away, this sounds crazy.   But on further reading and retrospection it’s actually not too far fetched.

According to the article the researchers injected DNA from bacteria into cultured human cells.  In bacteria the DNA coded for enzymes that converted fat into sugar but in the human cells they found the enzymes converted fat into carbon dioxide.  They then injected the genes into the livers of lab mice and found the same effect.  Fat was converted not into sugar but into CO2, and the mice who had the new genes stayed thin and athletic despite being on a high fat, high calorie diet.  Many more tests need to be run to determine if there are any side effects but at first glance it seems safe.

Now I realize this sounds pretty far fetched, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.  Fat is made up of essentialy just three molecules: hydrogen, carbon and oxygen.   As a matter of fact, most food is made up of those three molecules plus nitrogen.  If two substances are made out of the same stuff, all you really need to do to change one into the other is rearrange the structure of the molecules (think coal and diamonds.)  Since the raw material are already in place, the right enzyme could certainly manage to do the trick.  Perhaps someday all you’ll need to do to lose weight is take a deep breath.

http://www.hplusmagazine.com/articles/health-medicine/inhale-exhale-diet

New Technique Kills Cancer By Cutting Off It’s Food June 15, 2009

Posted by Matt Brown in Genetics, Longevity.
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Cancer is the number one killer in the United States, is responsible for 13% of all human deaths, and even for those it doesn’t kill it leads to a drastic decrease in quality of life.  As such, any serious discussion about improving human longevity has to start with treating and curing cancer.  Thankfully scientist don’t need us to remind them of that and have been hard at work looking for better and better ways to stop this deadly disease.  One such group is a team at the University of Florida, who have developed a new gene therapy which treats cancer by cutting of the supply of blood to the tumor.

To do this, the researchers developed what they call a “fusion protein” which was delivered into the cells by a transposon they call Sleeping Beauty.  The imbedded protein does two things: first, it promotes thrombosis, or blood clotting, and second it reduces blood vessel density inside the tumor.  Both of these effects result in the tumor receiving less nutrients.  The researchers found that in their test mice tumor volume decreased 53 percent and cancer cell growth slowed by 49 percent.

http://www.physorg.com/news163989319.html

Gene Doping August 5, 2008

Posted by Matt Brown in Genetics.
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The doping of the future as it has been called.  It has the potential to create a new breed of athletes, faster and stronger than they could ever be without it.  Oh, and it’s impossible to trace.  You can see why some are very worried about the possiblities of gene doping, especially with the Olympics around the corner.  But when you get right down to it, is genetic engineering (lets drop the pejorative “doping” for now) really all that bad.  Not according to an article written in The Economist.  You can find it in the link below but here’s the synopsis.  The author’s main point is that our resistance to performance enhancement stems from two beliefs: it’s not safe and it’s not fair.  The first goes without saying.  If a product is harmful for the person taking it, regardless of it performance enhancement capabilities, it should be banned.  The second one is a bit more tricky.  Is it fair that some people are born with genes that allow them to produce more EPO than the average person or allow them to build muscle faster?  Frankly, no it isn’t.  In fact, genetic engineering could actually be a way to encourage fairness, leveling the playing field by providing everyone with the same genetic advantages so that the only things that determine the winner are training and hard work.  There are other points made but you can read them for yourself.  I encourage everyone to do so because this is a debate that is not going away anytime soon.

 

http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11848309