New Rules Takes the Guesswork out of Human Gene Editing

Researchers have identified two rules that they believe ensure the effects of human gene editing are less unpredictable and random.

Not So Random

There are many good reasons to criticize Chinese researcher He Jiankui for reportedly gene-editing two human babies — not only did his actions violate several accords within the scientific community, but he also undertook the project without proper transparency and oversight, working mostly in secret.

Worst of all, though, is the fact that He’s edits could affect the twin babies in unexpected ways. We don’t yet know how to ensure that CRISPR edits in humans do exactly what we want them to do — but that could be starting to change.

“The effects of CRISPR were thought to be unpredictable and seemingly random,” Francis Crick Institute researcher Paola Scaffidi said in a news release, “but by analysing hundreds of edits we were shocked to find that there are actually simple, predictable patterns behind it all.”

Two Simple Rules for Editing My Genes

In a paper published in the journal Molecular Cell on Thursday, Scaffidi and his Crick colleagues describe a set of simple rules they believe take some of the guesswork out of human gene editing.

The first of those rules involves the region a researcher instructs CRISPR to target. If a certain genetic letter (G) is in a certain place (fourth letter from the end of the target sequence), the edit will likely result in many imprecise deletions. The solution: avoid targeting those regions.

The second involves the target DNA’s degree of “openness” during the CRISPR edit. The team discovered that the use of compounds that forced DNA to open up resulted in more efficient editing.

“We hadn’t previously appreciated the significance of DNA openness in determining the efficiency of CRISPR genome editing,” researcher Josep Monserrat said. “This could be another factor to consider when aiming to edit a gene in a specific way.”

Guiding Hand

While these rules may have arrived too late to protect the twin babies on the receiving end of He’s CRISPR edits, they could put us on the path to a future in which we can edit the genes of humans without worrying about unintended consequences.

“Until now, editing genes with CRISPR has involved a lot of guesswork, frustration, and trial and error,” Scaffidi said, later adding, “This will fundamentally change the way we use CRISPR, allowing us to study gene function with greater precision and significantly accelerating our science.”

READ MORE: Scientists Crack the CRISPR Code for Precise Human Genome Editing [The Francis Crick Institute]

More on human gene editing: Chinese Scientists Claim to Have Gene-Edited Human Babies For the First Time

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New Rules Takes the Guesswork out of Human Gene Editing

This Neptune-Sized Exoplanet Is Being Melted Away By Its Star

A newly-discovered planet, orbiting a distant star, is approximately the size of Neptune — but the red dwarf it orbits is boiling it away.

Melted Away

A newly discovered gas planet, orbiting a distant star, is approximately the size of Neptune — but it’s so close to the red dwarf it orbits that it’s literally boiling away.

“This is the smoking gun that planets can lose a significant fraction of their entire mass,” Johns Hopkins planetary scientist David Sing, who helped find the exoplanet, said in a news release. He added that it’s “losing more of its mass than any other planet we seen so far; in only a few billion years from now, half of the planet may be gone.”

Nature Is Metal

The planet, which is called GJ 3470b and described in a new paper in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, is what’s known as a “hot Neptune.” That means that it’s a gas giant, like our own solar system’s Neptune or Jupiter, but it’s far closer to its host star than either of those planets.

GJ 3470b is so close to its star, in fact, that it’s boiling away into space. To make matters worse, it’s not a very heavy planet, meaning that its gravitational pull on its own atmosphere is comparatively weak.

Mysteries of the Cosmos

The rapidly vanishing GJ 3470b could provide an important clue about the nature of gas planets outside our solar system. Though the Kepler mission has found many smaller “mini-Neptunes” sprinkled throughout the galaxy, hot Neptunes are rare. The new theory: we’re not finding as many hot Neptunes because, like GJ 3470b, they tend to boil away into mini-Neptunes.

“It’s one of the most extreme examples of a planet undergoing a major mass-loss over its lifetime,” University of Geneva astronomer Vincent Bourrier, another researcher on the hot Neptune project, said in the same news release. “This sizable mass loss has major consequences for its evolution, and it impacts our understanding of the origin and fate of the population of exoplanets close to their stars.”

READ MORE: Astronomers Have Detected a Planet That’s Actually Evaporating Away at Record Speed [Science Alert]

More on hot Neptunes: Researchers Found a Treasure Trove of Planets Hiding in Dust

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Porsche and BMW’s New EV Chargers Are 3x Faster Than Tesla’s

BMW and Porsche's new 450 kW

Who’s in Charge?

Driving an electric car (EV) saves money and helps the environment. But charging it is a pain — almost like back when every cellphone needed a different charger.

There are a bunch of different charging standards, power outputs, and EV battery types. Charging at home can take forever, and charging at a roadside stop — if you can even find a compatible station — can take hours.

But Porsche and BMW’s brand new charger could be a game-changer. The FastCharge charger could provide enough juice for 62 miles (100 km) of range in just three minutes. That’s not that much slower than filling up a gasoline tank at the pump — and it’s up to three times faster than Tesla’s Supercharger network.

Ultra Charger

Tesla’s Supercharger network only charges at speeds of up to 145 kW — although in many areas it’s a lot slower than that. Other “rapid” — or Type 2 — chargers provide between 43 and 120 kW. To reach 450 kW, Porsche had to develop a special cooling system to make sure every cell remains at an efficient, operable temperature.

It’s not the only charger of its kind: in April, Swiss company ABB Group launched what it called the “world’s fastest” EV charger — a 350 kW charger that can extend your range by 120 miles (193 km) in just three minutes. Bear in mind that ABB likely arrived at those figures by considering different EV battery voltages than Porsche. Futurism has reached out to Porsche to clarify how it arrived at FastCharge’s charging time estimate.

And Tesla’s Superchargers might also get an upgrade to speeds of up to 250 kW some time next year, Electrek reports.

A Charger Near You

So far, only two prototypes of Porsche and BMW’s “FastCharger” exist in Germany.

It’s hard to say whether similar chargers will ever become commonplace at gas stations near you. But if they ever do, EVs could start looking a lot more practical to potential buyers.

READ MORE: Porsche plugs into 450 kW EV charging station [The Verge]

More on EV chargers: EV-Charging Roads Have Arrived. Here’s Why We Do (and Don’t) Need Them.

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Biologists Engineered An Assassin Virus to Kill Bacteria on Command

Listening In

Different viruses attack different types of cells. A flu virus, for example, attacks lung cells, while the HIV virus attacks immune-system cells. Some viruses, known as phages, attack bacteria — and, it turns out, they don’t all do so randomly.

A team from Princeton has discovered that some phages actually “listen” to the conversations that take place between bacteria to identify the ideal time to strike — and we might be able to use this discovery in the battle against antibiotic resistance.

Tiny Spy

We’ve long known that bacteria can communicate through the release of molecules. In a paper published in the journal Cell on Thursday, the Princeton researchers describe a finding that builds on that mechanism: a virus called VP882, which “listens” for those molecules in order to know when there are enough bacteria around to justify attacking, a process that involves creating many replicas of itself.

This eavesdropping is a survival technique — if there aren’t enough bacteria around, the VP882 virus and its replicas will all die after the attack. It turns out, VP882 isn’t unique, either. The Princeton team discovered that other viruses also spy on bacteria in various ways to determine when to strike.

“It’s brilliant and insidious!” researcher Bonnie Bassler said in a press release. It’s also the first known example of such radically different organisms listening to one another’s communications.

Assassins Freed

Once the Princeton team figured out VP882’s eavesdropping ability, it set out to use that ability against bacteria. By re-engineering VP882 in the lab, graduate student Justin Silpe was able to get the virus to attack when it sensed any input he chose, not just the communication molecule that naturally set it off.

And VP882 itself is unique in that it can infect multiple types of cells, unlike the flu and HIV viruses mentioned above. In tests, Silpe manage to get VP882 to attack cholera, salmonella, and E. coli — three very different types of bacteria.

The medical community already knew it could use some phages to treat bacterial diseases. Now that we know we can turn a least one phage into an assassin, we might be able to find a way to use it against the antibiotic-resistant bacteria currently threatening global health.

READ MORE: Biologists Turn Eavesdropping Viruses Into Bacterial Assassins [Princeton University]

More on antibiotic resistance: A World Without Antibiotics? The UN Has Elevated the Issue of Antibiotic Resistance

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Biologists Engineered An Assassin Virus to Kill Bacteria on Command

A Waymo Rider Talked Publicly About the Service — Even Though He Wasn’t Supposed To

Contract, Schmontract

Michael Richardson is one lucky guy.

In mid-September, self-driving car company Waymo accepted the technologist and entrepreneur into its early rider program in Phoenix, Arizona.

Like all riders, Richardson signed a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), a legal contract forbidding him from talking about his experience as a Waymo rider. Now he’s getting away with violating that contract, and what he had to say answers several key questions about the service — while leaving many others unanswered.

Good Guy Waymo

On Wednesday, Richardson agreed to an interview with Ars Technica, telling the publication that Waymo had freed him from his NDA. It turns out he was mistaken — Richardson was still legally bound to keep quiet about the rides he’d taken in the company’s autonomous vehicles.

Nevertheless, Waymo agreed to let Ars run its story. And in a move that surely caused Richardson to breathe a huge sigh of relief, it also promised it wouldn’t pursue legal action against him.

First Impression

That bit of goodwill on the part of Waymo should temper some of the not-so-positive news in the Ars story.

As part of the early rider program, Richarson took two round-trip rides with Waymo: one on September 28 and another on October 6. During his interview, the Waymo rider noted multiple limitations with the service, including a small coverage area, a higher cost than Uber and Lyft, and restricted pick-up and drop-off locations. He also claimed his vehicles took longer routes than necessary to avoid a freeway and a tricky left turn.

Perhaps most troubling, he also initially told Ars that he saw safety drivers take control of the vehicles on multiple occasions. According to Waymo’s records, however, a safety driver only took over once, and Richardson later admitted that he may have misremembered.

More to Come

Of course, if Richardson got one part of his story wrong, there’s a chance the rest of it isn’t airtight. He also hasn’t ridden with Waymo since it launched its commercial service, Waymo One, meaning the company could have already worked out some of the kinks he noticed two-plus months ago.

Waymo does plan to lift the NDA restriction on riders who transition to Waymo One, so we should be getting a wider range of views on the company’s vehicles in the near future.

Still, this is our first look inside one of Waymo’s cars from the perspective of a Waymo rider, and it certainly wasn’t all negative.

“I’m impressed by what the vehicle can do and how well it gets around,” Richardson told Ars. “It’s very, very impressive.”

READ MORE: We Finally Talked to an Actual Waymo Passenger—here’s What He Told Us [Ars Technica]

More on Waymo One: Waymo Has Officially Launched a Self-Driving Taxi Service

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A Waymo Rider Talked Publicly About the Service — Even Though He Wasn’t Supposed To

Scammers Sent Hoax Bomb Threats Worldwide Demanding Bitcoin

This week, scammers have started emailing hoax bomb threats to schools and hospitals, demanding bitcoin payments in exchange for not setting off explosives.

Bomb Threats

Ransomware that demands cryptocurrency payments in exchange for releasing infected computers is an old phenomenon.

Now that practice has a dark new twist. This week, scammers have started emailing bomb threats to hundreds of schools, hospitals, businesses and other public and private institutions in multiple countries, demanding bitcoin payments in exchange for not setting off seemingly made-up explosives. The threats caused mayhem. Entire blocks were shut down in several cities — a dark testament to the power of online anonymity.

No Terrorism Here

Emergency responders were dispatched in multiple cities across North America to investigate the threats — including a dozen threats in DC alone. Not a single bomb has been found at press time, leading authorities to believe the threats were an elaborate bluff.

The advice from the U.S. government: tell the FBI, and do not pay the ransom of $20,000 U.S. in Bitcoin.

The cryptic emails demanded that victims send the payment to a bitcoin address.

“If you are late with the transaction,” the email says, “the bomb will explode.”

Hitting Bitcoin While It’s Down

The value of Bitcoin took a substantial hit in the wake of the bomb threats. That’s bad news, since Bitcoin was already slouching. Bitcoin Cash also fell 13 percent, and many other major cryptocurrencies followed.

The takeaway: advocates have long predicted that blockchain technology is about to go mainstream, but to date the technology hasn’t strayed far from its early roots in crime and drug sales. Only time will tell whether the tech will eventually shed that identity.

READ MORE: Bitcoin scammers send bomb threats worldwide, causing evacuations [The Verge]

More on bitcoin: Here’s The Conspiracy Tearing Bitcoin Crypto Communities Apart

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Scammers Sent Hoax Bomb Threats Worldwide Demanding Bitcoin

Richard Branson: Future of Work Is “Three and Even Four Day Weekends”

In an interview with CNBC's Making It, billionaire Richard Branson said that three or four day weekends could be a reality for

Work Hard, Play Hard

British billionaire Richard Branson — the Virgin CEO who drove a tank through New York City and crossed the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle — thinks we’re all working a bit too hard.

If we all worked “smarter, we won’t have to work longer,” he tweeted Wednesday. In an accompanying blog post, he argued that innovations like self-driving cars and drones will cause more jobs to be taken over by robots.

“Could people eventually take three and even four day weekends?” he wrote. “Certainly.”

Billionaire Club

Branson isn’t the only one who believes the future of work will be less demanding. Google co-founder Larry Page has also called for the end of the 40-hour work week.

“The idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people’s needs is not true,” Page told Vinod Khsola, a billionaire venture capitalist, as quoted by Computerworld in 2014.

All Work and No Play

Other big names take a darker tone about automation. Elon Musk has repeatedly warned of automation and the future of employment.

“A lot of people derive meaning from their employment. If you’re not needed, what is the meaning? Do you feel useless?” he told an audience at the World Government Summit in Dubai back in 2017. One option: universal basic income — the concept of distributing a basic income to every citizen of a nation. In fact, he argues, it would be a necessity.

But just because our billionaire overlords think it’s a great to axe hours and give us more holidays, it’s still pretty unlikely that will happen any time soon.

READ MORE: Billionaire Richard Branson: The 9-to-5 workday and 5-day work week will die off [CNBC]

More on job automation: Robots Are Coming for Service Jobs

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Richard Branson: Future of Work Is “Three and Even Four Day Weekends”

All New Public Buses in California Have to Be Electric by 2029

California became the first state to mandate that all new mass transit buses have to be electric by 2029. All buses will have to electric in 2040.

Electric Fleet

California became the first state to require all new homes to offset their electricity needs with solar energy earlier this month. And it’s planning to tackle emissions from public transit vehicles next.

By the year 2029, all new mass transit buses in the whole state will have to be fully electric, according to a new rule adopted unanimously by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) yesterday — a powerful arm of the Californian government dedicated to maintaining healthy air quality since 1967. All mass transit bus fleets will have to be electric by 2040.

“[A zero-emission public bus fleet] dramatically reduces tailpipe pollution from buses in low-income communities and provides multiple benefits especially for transit-dependent riders,” says CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols in an official statement.

Say No to the Pump

But there’s another advantage that could help motivate the roughly 200 mass transit agencies to adopt exclusively electric buses in the future: significant savings from switching from expensive gasoline to electricity. “Putting more zero-emission buses on our roads will also reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases, and provides cost savings for transit agencies in the long run,” Nichols goes on to say.

The move could massively reduce carbon emissions in the state, despite the fact that many of the largest transit agencies are already in the process of switching to electric buses — although, the transition has only begun. Only about 150 buses are electric out of 12,000 in the state, according to the New York Times.

A Steep Hill to Climb

So far, the transition has been a little rough. The LA Times reports that many electric buses in California’s largest city are plagued by “stalls, stops, and breakdowns.” San Francisco city officials are worried that electric buses might not have enough oomph to get a full load of passengers up its famously steep hills.

Despite these roadblocks, switching to exclusively electric buses has a ton of benefits — from cleaner air, much quieter streets, and savings in fuel costs.

READ MORE: California Requires New City Buses to Be Electric by 2029 [New York Times]

More on electric buses: By 2019, There Will be Electric School Buses

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All New Public Buses in California Have to Be Electric by 2029

McDonald’s Exec: “We’re Keeping Our Eye” on Meatless Burgers

The iconic hamburger chain McDonald's could start serving up high-tech meatless burgers alongside its Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets. 

McProtein

The iconic hamburger chain McDonald’s could start serving up high-tech meatless burgers alongside its Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets.

That’s according to Lucy Brady, the fast food giant’s senior vice president of corporate strategy, during Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit in California this week. In reference to high-tech meatless patties like the Impossible Burger, Brady said that “plant-based protein is something we’re keeping our eye on.”

Impossible Burger

It’s not clear whether the burger chain would spring for an off-the-shelf vegetarian burger, like those made by Impossible Foods, or develop its own in-house. With the fast food market’s race-to-the-bottom pricing, a home brew option would probably be attractive: an Impossible Burger patty typically retails for about three dollars.

If it did add a meatless burger to the menu, McDonald’s wouldn’t be the first fast food chain to experiment with vegetarian cuisine. Burger King has offered a MorningStar Farms veggie burger for years, and White Castle debuted an Impossible-branded slider this year that Eater hailed as “one of America’s best fast-food burgers.”

Fake Meat

Important to note: though the terminology is still evolving, meat substitutes like those made by Impossible and MorningStar are still “fake meat” — typically based on hearty proteins like soy, gluten, or pea — rather than lab-grown.

The latter, which is grown from cells harvested from a real animal, could be the real game-changer from a consumer point of view — and some producers have teased releasing it for sale by 2019. But don’t expect to see it on a fast food menu soon: though the cost per ounce has fallen precipitously since the first lab-grown meats were developed several years ago, their price point is still substantially higher than conventionally-farmed meat.

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SpaceX Smashed the Record for Commercial Space Launches This Year

SpaceX has shattered the record for commercial rocket launches in a year, at 20. That beats the prior record of 18 launches in a year — which it also set.

Launch Box

As humankind ventures farther into the Earth’s gravity well, it’s been a banner year for Elon Musk’s commercial spaceflight venture SpaceX.

Case in point: Business Insider reports that SpaceX has shattered the record for commercial rocket launches in a year, at 20. That beats the prior record of 18 launches in a year — which was also set by SpaceX, in 2017. Before that, the figure stood at 16, set by United Launch Alliance in 2009.

21 Pilots

SpaceX has one more launch scheduled for 2018 — a satellite called GPS Block IIIA, which will improve location tracking services for the U.S. Air Force — bringing the company’s total tally of launches to 21.

It’s worth noting, though, that the 21 launches falls short of Musk’s most optimistic prediction for the company in 2018: that it would launch more rockets than any country on Earth. That honor, Business Insider found, went to China, which has launched about 35 rockets this year.

Starboy

Musk has had a tough year in the press, with drama as his electric car company, Tesla, struggled to bring its Model 3 compact to market. But the launch record comes as a bright cap to a year — and just weeks after Tesla reportedly managed to churn out 1,000 Model 3 vehicles per day.

“Life cannot just be about solving one sad problem after another,” Musk tweeted earlier this year after launching a Tesla Roadster into space. “There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning and be part of humanity. That is why we did it. We did for you.”

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SpaceX Smashed the Record for Commercial Space Launches This Year

This New $5,800 Headset is the Rolls Royce of Virtual Reality

VRgineers's $5,800 virtual reality headset called XTAL features a pair of quad HD displays and a generous 180 degree field of view.

High-End VR

The future of VR is bright. Virtual reality headsets are becoming increasingly affordable, and the technology has come a long way over the last eight years.

And today, we get to experience the newest and greatest the VR world has to offer —if you can afford it: the $5,800 XTAL headset by VR startup VRgineers.

We first heard about the XTAL earlier this year, but a new and improved version is about to make its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show — the world’s biggest tech show — in January, TechCrunch reports.

The XTAL

The Prague-based startup’s headset features some amazing specs: two Quad HD (2560 x 1440 resolution) OLED (organic LED) displays, and an impressive 180-degree field-of-view.

VRgineers touts the XTAL’s lenses and displays to be “best-in-class” on its website, while promising “no blurring” thanks to the headset’s new-and-improved 180 degree field of view.

Blurring around the edges of the lenses is a common issue with conventional VR headsets. By increasing the field of view to 180 degrees, the XTAL could reduce that effect substantially.

Users will also be able to track their hands while wearing the headset thanks to integrated Leap Motion sensors. Did I mention the headset itself is an absolute unit?

VR Luxury

$5,800 is pretty steep for a virtual reality headset these days — Oculus Rift is planning to sell a standalone, but far less impressive headset for just $399 as soon as next year.

So who’s it for? But at such a high price point VRgineers is targeting a professional audience, not your average gamer. The startup suggests that the XTAL could be used by automotive designers, and engineers on its website.

Will there be a future for high-end VR headsets? That will mostly be up to the enterprise market to decide.

READ MORE: VRgineers looks to set a new gold standard with their $5,800 VR headset [TechCrunch]

More on VR headsets: Facebook’s Oculus Just Patented a Retina-Resolution VR Display

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This New $5,800 Headset is the Rolls Royce of Virtual Reality

NASA’s Lunar Orbiter Could Assist Commercial Missions to the Moon

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that launched in 2009 could assist future commercial and international lunar landers.

Lunar Helper

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) launched in 2009. And it’s still orbiting the Moon to this very day — almost ten years later.

And it still has a decent amount of fuel left in its tank — about 44 pounds (20 kilograms) worth according to LRO project scientist Noah Petro. “That may not seem like a lot, but we don’t go through much fuel on an annual basis,” he said at last month’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) meeting, as quoted by SpaceNews. In fact that remaining fuel could be enough for the next seven years of operation, according to Petro.

Moon Assistance

On November 29, NASA announced it is planning to buy space on board commercial landers for future scientific missions.

NASA is also offering to use the LRO to assist those landers — and other international missions to the Moon as well.

For instance, it could help identify safe landing sites, and help out during landing. “We want to observe the plumes as the landers land and kick up dust and disturb the environment,” says Barbara Cohen, LRO associate project scientist, at the announcement, as quoted by SpaceNews.

Off to the Moon

And the LRO is already on standby. It will observe the landing of two upcoming (non-commercial) lunar landers: the Israeli SpaceIL lander, and India’s Chandrayaan-2 lander, SpaceNews reports. Both missions are slated to land on the Moon early next year.

The move could build a lot of trust between the flourishing commercial, and international space exploration sector. But why China’s space agency was absent from the discussions remains to be seen.

READ MORE: NASA lunar orbiter now supporting commercial and international missions [SpaceNews]

More on lunar landers: China to Land First-Ever Rover on Dark Side of the Moon

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NASA’s Lunar Orbiter Could Assist Commercial Missions to the Moon

Breathing in Moon Dust Could be Even More Toxic Than We Thought

A new study from scientists at Stony Brook University found that moon dust particles could react with human cells — and potentially lead to cancer.

Uninviting Environment

Space agencies are working hard to get humans back to the surface of the Moon. But it’s not exactly the most inviting place.

Astronauts during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 may not have had any health incidents while they were gleefully bouncing around on the lunar surface, as a NASA mission report from the time points out. But they knew that lunar dust wasn’t their friend — it could irritate their lungs, cause their Moon buggies to overheat — it even started degrading their spacesuits.

Hydroxyl Radicals

And now, scientists have collected even more evidence that Moon dust could be really terrible for us. By studying samples of dust — or regolith — from the lunar surface, scientists at Stony Brook University in New York found that it could react with human cells to create so-called “hydroxyl radicals” — highly reactive particles that have have been linked to lung cancers in the past, New Scientist reports.

“It’s a major health concern for future astronauts,” Donald Hendrix, leader of the study at Stony Brook University, tells New Scientist.

Lunar Cancer

And it gets worse. A different study has found that lunar dust could cause damage to cells’ DNA, which could eventually lead to cancer. The study exposed mouse brain cells, and human lung cells to simulated lunar soil. The results were discouraging: 90 percent of human lung cells and mouse neurons died, according to Universe Today.

The toxicity of lunar dust is going to be a big problem for any human planning on wandering around on the surface of the Moon in the future. “Dust is the number one concern in returning to the Moon,” says Apollo astronaut John Young, as quoted by New Scientist. But it likely won’t hold us back completely.

READ MORE: Breathing in moon dust could release toxins in astronauts’ lungs [New Scientist]

More on Moon dust: Scientists Are 3D Printing Fake Moon Dust Into Useful Objects

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Breathing in Moon Dust Could be Even More Toxic Than We Thought

Molecular Medicine | USF Health

Our Mission

To Discover, apply and disseminate knowledge of the molecular basis of health and disease.

To Translate, this knowledge into innovative tools for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.

To Train, and mentor future scientists and health care professionals.

To Provide, a collegial and scholarly environment where students, faculty and staff thrive.

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Molecular Medicine | USF Health

Molecular Medicine – Graduate School of Biomedical …

The Department of Molecular Medicine in the Institute of Biotechnology (IBT) was established in 1994 to administer a program to train graduate students at the interface of basic and clinical sciences with an emphasis on biomedical research focused on discovering the molecular mechanisms underlying human disease and to serve as a platform for the development of novel treatment or prevention approaches. To date, our program has awarded over 120 doctoral degrees. Our graduates are placed in top-tier research universities and pharmaceutical companies across the United States and Europe. Our faculty have been successful in securing tens of millions of dollars from private and federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense.

Now also located in the South Texas Research Facility (STRF), we offer a research-oriented, interdisciplinary program of study in the areas of cancer and aging and their prevention. Specific areas of study include: cell (and hormone) signaling, gene expression, epigenetics, cell cycle and checkpoint controls, DNA damage repair and associated stress responses, and regulated protein turnover. Under new leadership, Dr. Tim Huang is expanding our research to include a Systems approach to molecular medicine that offers students an integrated training program spanning molecular and cellular biology, quantitative biology, computational biology, and genomics.

Our goal is to educate and train the next generation of graduate students who will change the face of biomedical research and invent new ways to treat and prevent human diseases.

Molecular Medicine in the News

Graduate School Launches a New Masters in Personalized Molecular Medicine

The Masters program in Personalized Molecular Medicine (PMM) will uniquely position new graduates to join the work force with the skills necessary to participate fully in the next generation of patient-powered research and treatment. The PMM program will train students in current personalized medicine approaches as well as teach students the knowledge and skills required to explore molecular medicine pathways that will be targeted in the future to expand and refine personalized treatment strategies.

For more information, click here.

Dr. Thomas Boyer awarded NIH grants to study uterine fibroids

Thomas G. Boyer, Ph.D., professor of molecular medicine at UT Health San Antonio, has received two related NIH R01 grants to study uterine leiomyomas, also called uterine fibroids.

The first grant was for $1.56 million; the most recent, a five-year award for $3.8 million, was a multi-PI grant to Dr. Boyer and Ayman Al-Hendy, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Both awards have been made possible by a productive, ongoing collaboration with Dr. Robert Schenken and his team in the Department of OB/GYN here at UT Health San Antonio, said Dr. Boyer.

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Uncovering clues in BRCA1 breast cancer gene

Dr. Rong Li and his colleagues are changing the paradigm of how BRCA1 suppresses tumors

When Rong Li, Ph.D., transferred his laboratory to UT Health San Antonio, he finally felt he was making real progress in breast cancer research.

I was trained as a molecular biologist, and I studied the fundamental cellular processes in a lab setting, says Li, a professor of molecular medicine who left his faculty position at the University of Virginia in 2007. But I felt unsatisfied because I wanted to connect my lab findings more closely to human health.

At UT Health, he found the opportunity to collaborate with physician scientists, both at the international level and closer to home. UT Health breast oncologists Ismail Jatoi, M.D., and Richard Elledge, M.D., as well as plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Howard Wang, M.D., have offered cross-disciplinary support, and some of their patients donate breast tissue samples for Lis research.

The story is continued here.

Recent Publications with High Impact Factors

*L. Hulea, *S.P. Gravel, *M. Morita, M. Cargnello, O. Uchenunu, Y.K. Im, C. Lehud, E.H. Ma, M. Leibovitch, S. McLaughlan, M.J. Blouin, M. Parisotto, V. Papavasiliou, C. Lavoie, O. Larsson, M. Ohh, T. Ferreira, C. Greenwood, G. Bridon, D. Avizonis, G. Ferbeyre, P. Siegel, R.G. Jones, W. Muller, J. Ursini-Siegel, J. St-Pierre, M. Pollak, I. Topisirovic. (2018) Translational and HIF-1-Dependent Metabolic Reprogramming Underpin Metabolic Plasticity and Responses to Kinase Inhibitors and Biguanides, Cell Metabolism. 2018 September 20. Online. *Co-First authors.

Seol JH, Holland C, Li X, Kim C, Li F, Medina-Rivera M, Eichmiller R, Gallardo IF, Finkelstein IJ, Hasty P, Shim EY, Surtees JA, Lee SE. (2018) Distinct roles of XPF-ERCC1 and Rad1-Rad10-Saw1 in replication-coupled and uncoupled inter-strand crosslink repair. Nat Commun. 2018 May 23;9(1):2025. doi:10.1038/s41467-018-04327-0. PubMed PMID: 29795289.

Patel MJ, Tripathy S, De Mukhopadhyay K, Wangjam T, Cabang AB, Morris J, Wargovich MJ. (2018) A Supercritical Co2 Extract of Neem Leaf (A. indica) and its Bioactive Liminoid, Nimbolide, Suppresses Colon Cancer in Preclinical Models by Modulating Pro-inflammatory Pathways. Mol Carcinogenesis. 2018 Apr 26. doi: 10.1002/mc.22832. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 29697164

Park MJ, Shen H, Spaeth JM, Tolvanen JH, Failor C, Knudtson JF, McLaughlin J, Halder SK, Yang Q, Bulun SE, Al-Hendy A, Schenken RS, Aaltonen LA, Boyer TG. (2018) Oncogenic exon 2 mutations in Mediator subunit MED12 disrupt allosteric activation of cyclin C-CDK8/19. J Biol Chem. 2018 Mar 30; 293(13):4870-4882. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.001725. Epub 2018 Feb 13.

Chen H, Shen F, Sherban A, Nocon A, Li Y, Wang H, Xu MJ, Rui X, Han J, Jiang B, Lee D, Li N, Keyhani-Nejad F, Fan JG, Liu F, Kamat A, Musi N, Guarente L, Pacher P, Gao B, Zang M. (2018) DEP domain-containing mTOR-interacting protein suppresses lipogenesis and ameliorates hepatic steatosis and acute-on-chronic liver injury in alcoholic liver disease. Hepatology. 2018 Feb 19. doi: 10.1002/hep.29849. [Epub ahead of print]

Recently Awarded Grants

Dissecting the Interplay Between Proteasome Dysfunction, Proteostasis and Alzheimers DiseaseNIH – National Institute on Aging, 9/30/2018, $1,484,893Andrew Pickering, Ph.D.

Early Detection of Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer by Assessing Interactions Between Circulating Tumor Cells and Accompanying Immune CellsDOD (CDMRP-PCRP), 9/1/18, $915,000Tim Huang, Ph.D., Maria Gaczynska, Ph.D.

A Novel Anti-BCR-ABL Approach for Leukemia TherapyCancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas, 8/31/2018, $200,000Hai Rao, Ph.D.

Mechanisms of Error Prone Repair of DNA breaksNIH – National Institute of General Medical Sciences, 8/1/2018, $1,250,500Sang Eun Lee, Ph.D.

2018 Young Investigator AwardThe Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund, 6/30/2018, $450,000Myron Ignatius, Ph.D.

Molecular Basis of MED12 in the Pathogenesis of Uterine FibroidsNIH – National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 5/1/2018, $1,562,323Thomas Boyer, Ph.D.

Combating Protein-misfolding DiseasesWilliam & Ella Owens Foundation of America, 3/1/18, $100,000Hai Rao, Ph.D.

Hypovitaminosis D Promotes MED12-associated Genomic Instability in Uterine FibroidsNIH National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2/15/18, $3,819,365Thomas Boyer, Ph.D.

Excerpt from:

Molecular Medicine – Graduate School of Biomedical …

Molecular medicine – Wikipedia

Molecular medicine is a broad field, where physical, chemical, biological, bioinformatics and medical techniques are used to describe molecular structures and mechanisms, identify fundamental molecular and genetic errors of disease, and to develop molecular interventions to correct them.[1] The molecular medicine perspective emphasizes cellular and molecular phenomena and interventions rather than the previous conceptual and observational focus on patients and their organs.[2]

In November 1949, with the seminal paper, “Sickle Cell Anemia, a Molecular Disease”,[3] in Science magazine, Linus Pauling, Harvey Itano and their collaborators laid the groundwork for establishing the field of molecular medicine.[4] In 1956, Roger J. Williams wrote Biochemical Individuality,[5] a prescient book about genetics, prevention and treatment of disease on a molecular basis, and nutrition which is now variously referred to as individualized medicine[6] and orthomolecular medicine.[7] Another paper in Science by Pauling in 1968,[8] introduced and defined this view of molecular medicine that focuses on natural and nutritional substances used for treatment and prevention.

Published research and progress was slow until the 1970s’ “biological revolution” that introduced many new techniques and commercial applications.[9]

Some researchers separate molecular surgery as a compartment of molecular medicine.[10]

Molecular medicine is a new scientific discipline in European universities.[citation needed] Combining contemporary medical studies with the field of biochemistry, it offers a bridge between the two subjects. At present only a handful of universities offer the course to undergraduates. With a degree in this discipline the graduate is able to pursue a career in medical sciences, scientific research, laboratory work and postgraduate medical degrees.

Core subjects are similar to biochemistry courses and typically include gene expression, research methods, proteins, cancer research, immunology, biotechnology and many more. In some universities molecular medicine is combined with another discipline such as chemistry, functioning as an additional study to enrich the undergraduate program.

Read this article:

Molecular medicine – Wikipedia

Faculty Research – Department of Molecular Medicine …

Rong Li, Ph.D.

Professor

Profile and Contact Information | Research | Laboratory

RESEARCH

Our laboratory addresses the following three fundamental questions concerning breast cancer treatment and prevention.

1. How does BRCA1 suppress tumor development in a gender- and tissue-specific manner? Women who carry cancer-predisposing germ-line mutations in BRCA1 have significantly increased chance of developing breast and ovarian cancers. While the BRCA1 activity in DNA repair is clearly important to the etiology of BRCA1-associated cancers, it is not clear whether the DNA repair function alone is sufficient to account for the gender- and tissue-specific tumor suppression by BRCA1. We previously identified a BRCA1-binding protein COBRA1, which is identical to the B subunit of NELF involved in pausing of RNA polymerase II. Using mouse genetics and clinical samples from BRCA1 mutation carriers, we are investigating whether a crosstalk between BRCA1 and COBRA1-regulated transcription machinery contributes to the tissue-specific function of BRCA1 in breast epithelium.

2. How can the antitumor activity of estrogen receptor (ER) be mobilized?In contrast to the tumor-promoting activity of ER, ER inhibits tumor growth in breast cancer. Because ER is present in a significant percentage of breast cancer cases, rallying its antitumor activity could serve as a potential therapeutic approach. Our pioneer discovery of a phosphotyrosine switch for the antitumor activity of ER enables us to mobilize ER function with unprecedented precision. We are testing the hypothesis that turning on this molecular switch of ER can inhibit triple negative breast cancer and circumvent hormonal resistance of ER-positive breast cancer, two clinically pressing areas where therapeutic potential of ER has been previously demonstrated.

3. How do adipose stromal cells (ASC) promote breast cancer progression?ASC is a major constituent of the breast and a source of tumor-promoting factors including estrogens. We recently discovered a new mechano-transducing pathway that links mechanical phenotype with the endocrine/paracrine output of ASCs. This pathway is initiated by a cell surface receptor called discoidin domain receptor 1 (DDR1). Combining three-dimension cell culture systems and animal models, we are exploring novel therapeutic approaches to disrupt this stroma-tumor communication.

Selected Publications

Complete list of published work.

Read more:

Faculty Research – Department of Molecular Medicine …

Molecular medicine – Wikipedia

Molecular medicine is a broad field, where physical, chemical, biological, bioinformatics and medical techniques are used to describe molecular structures and mechanisms, identify fundamental molecular and genetic errors of disease, and to develop molecular interventions to correct them.[1] The molecular medicine perspective emphasizes cellular and molecular phenomena and interventions rather than the previous conceptual and observational focus on patients and their organs.[2]

In November 1949, with the seminal paper, “Sickle Cell Anemia, a Molecular Disease”,[3] in Science magazine, Linus Pauling, Harvey Itano and their collaborators laid the groundwork for establishing the field of molecular medicine.[4] In 1956, Roger J. Williams wrote Biochemical Individuality,[5] a prescient book about genetics, prevention and treatment of disease on a molecular basis, and nutrition which is now variously referred to as individualized medicine[6] and orthomolecular medicine.[7] Another paper in Science by Pauling in 1968,[8] introduced and defined this view of molecular medicine that focuses on natural and nutritional substances used for treatment and prevention.

Published research and progress was slow until the 1970s’ “biological revolution” that introduced many new techniques and commercial applications.[9]

Some researchers separate molecular surgery as a compartment of molecular medicine.[10]

Molecular medicine is a new scientific discipline in European universities.[citation needed] Combining contemporary medical studies with the field of biochemistry, it offers a bridge between the two subjects. At present only a handful of universities offer the course to undergraduates. With a degree in this discipline the graduate is able to pursue a career in medical sciences, scientific research, laboratory work and postgraduate medical degrees.

Core subjects are similar to biochemistry courses and typically include gene expression, research methods, proteins, cancer research, immunology, biotechnology and many more. In some universities molecular medicine is combined with another discipline such as chemistry, functioning as an additional study to enrich the undergraduate program.

More:

Molecular medicine – Wikipedia

Molecular Medicine | USF Health

Our Mission

To Discover, apply and disseminate knowledge of the molecular basis of health and disease.

To Translate, this knowledge into innovative tools for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.

To Train, and mentor future scientists and health care professionals.

To Provide, a collegial and scholarly environment where students, faculty and staff thrive.

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Molecular Medicine | USF Health