Technology

New Science Exchange Site Allows Researchers To Outsource

A new startup is changing the way that science is conducted, and may lead to the future of scientific progress.

A new startup is changing the way that science and scientists operate around the world, and it may just become the future of scientific study and advancement. Science Exchange is an eBay-like service providing access and funding to scientists’ equipment and expertise all around the world. Funded by YCombinator and started by cofounders Elizabeth Iorns and Dan Knox in August of last year, the web company has already allowed scientists and research labs to greatly accelerate the speed at which they can pursue their projects, and the efficiency with which their funding is allocated. They do this by using a network of scientists and researchers, also using Science Exchange, to outsource various components of their work.

The service allows scientists to go onto the “Exchange” and find other scientists or researchers that specialize in the area of work that they need completed. They then pay this individual or individuals to complete that portion of the project while they continue on with other areas of the work that are more in line with their own specialties. Likewise, they can increase their own funding for projects by taking on a component of another lab’s work. As reported in Singularity Hub, it’s about opening up access to experts and specialized equipment in various fields. In this age of highly specialized technological and scientific information, many scientists lack the expertise to address certain aspects of a scientific experiment or innovation, and so must find some other professional in the field with those skills. Science Exchange makes this easy and mutually beneficial by carefully vetting members of the exchange, and then giving them access to their worldwide network.

Brain Scans Show Morality And Physical Disgust Closely Linked

fMRI scans show that the moral center of our brains and the physical disgust center show significant overlap, which may explain a lot.

There’s a reason that we have a physical reaction to men like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Anthony Weiner, and John Edwards. There’s a reason why we can dismiss the death of Osama bin Laden with a, “he got what he deserved”, but seethe with hatred for someone like Dominique Strauss-Khan. It’s the same reason that liberals look at photos of Rush Limbaugh or Mitt Romney and become inflamed in the same way that conservatives may physically react to pictures of President Barack Obama. Our perceptions guide our moral and physical “disgust centers” in our brains, and often, those two neural networks overlap.

The widespread use of fMRI (functional magnetic imaging) has allowed researchers to watch as sensory stimuli literally “light up” various areas of the brain, which has lead to some very illuminating understandings of how our brains actually work. One of those areas, our “moral” center, is actually closely connected to the area of our brain in which physical revulsion is located. In other words, according to our brain circuitry, morality and disgust are closely related.

Genetically Modified Silkworms Spin Super-Strong Spider Silks

This stuff is some of the strongest and most elastic material on the planet, and it might just become commercially available.

Perhaps one of the most unusual and provocative ideas coming out of the bio-technology field today is the idea of industrial spider-silk fibers. The strands, or silks, of a spider is nature’s toughest, most durable, and most elastic material. In fact, the silks of some spiders are 10-times more resilient than Kevlar, while still being elastic enough to stretch to twice their original length. Oh, and they’re biodegradable. Being able to mass-produce spider silks would create an epic windfall for both biotechnological advances, as well as investment for the company that was able to do it. Fortunately, we’re making progress in that department.

There have been a few Herculean hurdles in the quest to be able to create spider-silk fibers on a massive scale. Although geneticists have been able to isolate the proteins within a spider’s silks (in fact, they’re so good that they can even genetically customize the silks for different properties), they have not been able to figure out how to turn them into fibers.

Researchers Closer To Locating The Origin Of Schizophrenia

Researchers have found that it's not a defect in the genes, but in the cell housing the DNA.

The new year is starting with some good news for individuals stricken with schizophrenia and a host of other neurological disorders. Schizophrenia, which has been a bit of a catch-all disorder in which victims suffer from extreme paranoia, delusions, dissociative thinking and even hallucinations, has long been thought to be a genetic disorder. After more than a decade of looking for evidence of schizeophrenia in gene, new evidence shows that the disease actually originates in the cell around the gene.

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute have recently found that schizophrenia is not a genetic disorder at all. In fact, it’s an epigenetic disorder, one cause by the structures of the cell that house our DNA. Particular to disorders like schizophrenia, there is a protein that functions a bit like a storage rack in the cell called a histone. The DNA, which would not otherwise fit within a single cell, is wrapped around the histone. However, in order for the DNA to express itself the histone has a tail which undergoes a perpetual chemical reaction called acetylation, which relaxes the DNA and allows it to express. Then acetylation takes place and the DNA once again contracts around the histone. The histones and DNA create chromatin, which manages the constant cycle of relaxation and contraction that allows all the genes of a cell to functions properly.

Top Scientific Breakthroughs Of 2011

From a game-changing AIDS medication to the little Neanderthal we all carry in us, it's been a big year for science.

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ccording to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, there are ten great scientific breakthroughs this year that deserve acknowledgement. The top honor was reserved for a potentially game-changing study for HIV/AIDS patients. The study, called HPTN 052, showed the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) not only slow the progression of the disease in patients already infected, but virtually eliminate transmission to uninfected individuals. In fact, the study was so incredibly effective that four years before it was slated to end, a third party monitoring board declared that all subjects, even the control group, were to be immediately vaccinated with the ARVs. Here, in no particular order, are a few of the highlights. John Cohen, who wrote the covers story in Science, had this to say about the findings.

NASA Launches Special Satellite Watch Weather Patterns On Earth

"Data from the satellite will also help with the control of forest fires."

The goal of the special weather satellite that NASA launched recently is provide detailed data to study climate changes. It is the most advanced satellite for weather data in orbit to date. It is designed to collect more accurate data than other satellites that are currently orbiting the Earth. Scientists also hope that the data provide will help provide more accurate weather forecasts, especially sudden weather events such as tornados and cyclones. Data from the satellite will also help with the control of forest fires.

BioCurious Opens In the Bay Area for DIY Biotechs

(Please no sexual commenting...believe me, it's been done.)

Have you ever had the desire to experiment in a biology lab, replete with all of the necessary tech and equipment? Were you the kind of kid that wanted to try tons of things in the science class labs that were not on the worksheet? Do your hobbies include experimenting with genetic splices? If the answer to any of these is yes (or even ”sure”), you may be excited to learn about DIYBio, a new organization that is designed to attract and support “citizen scientists” as they dabble in the fields of biology and biotechnology. An outgrowth of DIYBio has been BioCurious, a Sunnyvale, CA organization that has mixed the openness and networking from DIYBio into a physical space where people in the Bay Area community can work with equipment, under a code of ethics and a community of experts, and collaborate on others’ ideas and projects in a collaborative atmosphere.

Colorado Clinic Skirts FDA To Provide Stem Cell Treatments

Regenerative Sciences Inc. in Broomfield, CO provides adults with stem cell treatments to repair bones and damaged joints.

The Federal Drug Administration has yet to approve stem cell treatments, which has been heavily politicized in the previous ten years by conservative lawmakers and evangelical activists. Regardless of this fact, Chris Centeno and John Schultz have formed Regenerative Sciences Inc. in Broomfield, Colorado. The clinic, which deals entirely in stem cell treatments called a Regennex procedure, extracts stem cell tissue from the patient's bone marrow, and then injects them in the damaged joint or bone tissues. No surgery needed. The clinic has, so far, treated over 350 patients, using more than 800 injections, reporting that 89% of their knee patients and 75% of their hip patients have shown significant improvements within months.

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