Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for February 10, 2020

in rsslog •  5 months ago 

Trials to reduce aging-related diseases move from mice to dogs; A TED talk describing the use of African bees to keep people and elephants from coming into conflict; The first US trial using CRISPR gene editing to treat cancer finds that the technique is safe; An argument that a quick retraction of an Open Access preprint shows science working as it should; and a Steem essay reports that music with a fast, strong, steady beat is best at enhancing exercise

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First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt, SteemPeak*, StemGeeks.


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  1. An ‘anti-aging’ gene therapy trial in dogs begins, and Rejuvenate Bio hopes humans will be next - An experimental suite of gene therapies to reduce age-related disease has already been tested in mice by George Church's lab at the Wyss Institute of Harvard University. Now, the scientist's firm, Rejuvinate Bio has launched a trial in dogs. They have also published the details of the mechanism for the first time by describing their mouse trial in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The technique makes use of three gene therapies in the form of viruses that carry instructions for making proteins that have been tied to aging. The proteins are, "αKlotho, fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21), and soluble form of mouse transforming growth factor-β receptor 2 (sTGFβR2)—which sequesters TGFβ, a protein linked to aging and inflammation." The shell-virus that is used to produce these proteins has an affinity for the liver, and once it finds its way there, it sets up shop producing the proteins and secreting them into the blood stream. Other researchers are quoted suggesting that the novelty of the technique is in the combination of multiple gene therapies into a single injection, but that there is no synergy among the three proteins, and that it shouldn't really be called "anti-aging", since the mouse study didn't report on lifespans. Rejuvinate Bio's co-founder, Noah Davidsohn responds that they're not really focused on aging, but on reversing age-related disease, thus improving a concept that the team refers to as, Healthspan. They chose this approach, in part, because regulatory approval for therapies that are explicitly intended to extend lifespans would require multi-decade trials. -h/t Daniel Lemire

  2. How bees can keep the peace between elephants and humans | Lucy King - This TED talk by Lucy King was posted in December of 2019 and came across the site's RSS feed on February 7. In the talk, King talks about her work studying the complexity of elephant society, her efforts directed towards stopping the ivory trade, and her research into interactions between humans and elephants. In particular, she notes that the elephants are not threatened just by poaching for ivory, but that conflict between humans and elephants is now leading to many additional elephant killings. One method for keeping people and elephants apart is through the use of fences, but separating large swathes of land is not great for either humans or elephants, so her team has been looking for natural ways to keep the two species apart. For her PhD thesis, she studied the interaction of elephants and African wild bees, and she found that, despite their thick skins, the elephants consider the bees to be a threat - probably because of the bees propensity to swarm and inflict a plethora of stings all in the same location. As a result, her team has been successful at using bee hives and motion-sensing cameras to reduce the frequency when elephants infringe on human agriculture by up to 80%, and the bees also aid local humans by producing honey and fertilizing crops. Another direction that they're pursuing to maintain separation between humans and elephants is through the identification of crops that bees like and elephants don't.

  3. The first US trial of CRISPR gene editing in cancer patients suggests the technique is safe - The first US trial studying the use of CRISPR in treatment of cancer has found that the technique is safe. The study is also the first study, anywhere, to publish results from using CRISPR to treat cancer. Three patients were injected with gene-edited T-cells that were programmed to be better at recognizing a cancer protein and killing the cancer cells that produced it. Before the study, concerns with the technique included the notions that the edited T-cells might trigger the immune system or that they might cause other cells to turn cancerous. Neither result was observed in the trial, however. The study was successful, in the sense that it accomplished its goals and determined that the technique is safe. However, the treatment did not lead to lasting improvement in any of the patients who participated. The trial has now been halted because the 2016 technology that it uses is now considered obsolete, but the promising safety results pass an important milestone and may lead to the possibility of rapid advancement in the use of CRISPR for treating cancer.

  4. Quick retraction of a faulty coronavirus paper was a good moment for science - A paper titled, Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag was published on a preprint server on Friday, and claimed to find similarities between the Wuhang coronavirus and the HIV virus that causes AIDS. It went on to argue that the similarities were unlikely to occur by chance. If true, the paper would have been an alarming indication of potential engineering behind the virus. Twitter and the preprint server both errupted quickly, however, with criticisms of the work and it was promptly retracted. Critics of open access methods have seized on the opportunity to claim that it illustrates why the age-old bureacratic "peer review" process is better, but these authors argue that mistakes and incomplete works happen with that method, too, and the speed with which this was retracted reflects an agility that eludes most scientific publications. When these sorts of errors crop up in the formal literature, it can often take months or even years to get a paper retracted. -h/t Retraction Watch

  5. STEEM High Energy Music Can Help To Boost Your Exercise Results - In this post, @doitvoluntarily discusses recent research into the effect of music on working out. While the most common choices for music listening when working out are hip-hop, pop, and rock, research suggests that dance music is best suited for strength training exercises, and rap is better for stretching or running. Surprisingly, rock music is likely worse than the others because frequent tempo changes can impact the rhythm of the workout. As with stretching and running, recent research also found that high-tempo music is ideal for jogging or walking, resulting in a coupling of higher heartbeats and lower degree of perceived exertion. In addition to influencing the rhythm of a workout, music can also distract from feelings of discomfort and enhance motivation. The post concludes by noting that there is no ideal music, because individual preferences vary, but high-tempo music with strong beats seems to provide the most benefit. (A beneficiary setting of 10% has been applied to this post for @doitvoluntarily.)

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