n its Jan. 17, 2011 issue, Forbes magazine examines “Jonathan Rothberg’s desktop decoder,” and reports on the potential for hackers to harvest sensitive data generated by “cheap gene scans.” In describing Life Technologies’ Ion Personal Genome Machine, Forbes‘ Matthew Herper calls it “the machine that could change your life.” Rothberg, too, is unabashedly optimistic about DNA sequencing: he expects it will soon catch up to the $100 billion medical imaging industry. “Sequencing is going to affect everything. …This is biology’s century,” he told Forbes. In order to go from a “$4 billion business to a $100 billion one,” Rothberg says that “like radiology, there will be armies of trained physicians using specialized machines, as gene scanning hits the medical mainstream,” as Herper puts it. … rest
NEW YORK — On the top floor of an old bank converted into an artist collective, just past prop design for Bjork’s next music video, the do-it-yourself biotechnology revolution has begun.
A cadre of science entrepreneurs recently opened Genspace, the world’s first government-compliant community biotech laboratory. The bedroom-sized facility was two years in the making and, for a $100-per-month membership, anyone can use the space for whatever experiments they dream up.
“If you work in a university lab, you have to do what your adviser tells you to do,” said Genspace co-founder Dan Gruskhkin, a freelance journalist and self-described science enthusiast. “Here, you work under mentors and can do things you’re interested in immediately.” Rest at Wired.com
Just as plants take in the CO2 required for photosynthesis, they also release gas on a daily basis. Researchers have long wondered how pores in the leaf epidermis control this gas exchange. Now, a team of researchers at Columbia University has provided a first glimpse of an ion channel, called SLAC1, that helps open and close those pores (Nature 2010, 467, 1074). Its X-ray structure, which boasts a never-before-seen protein fold, may one day be useful for breeding or engineering plants that can better survive in arid environments.
“Every single carbon molecule in our bodies, our food, or our furniture has at one time gone through a plant’s pores—so has a significant portion of the water in our atmosphere,” comments Jaakko Kangasjärvi, a plant physiologist at the University of Helsinki, in Finland, whose group initially identified SLAC1. This ion channel controls passage through those pores, as well as plants’ response to drought conditions, changing CO2 levels, or even pathogen attacks, Kangasjärvi adds. “This structure will really help the plant biology community,” he says.
Rest at C&EN
Roche and IBM announced today an agreement to develop a nanopore-based technology that will directly read and sequence human DNA quickly and efficiently. The novel technology, developed by IBM Research, offers true single molecule sequencing by decoding molecules of DNA as they are threaded through a nanometer-sized pore in a silicon chip. The approach holds the promise of significant advantages in cost, throughput, scalability, and speed compared to sequencing technologies currently available or in development.
Many of us dislike the nasty diesel engines in municipal buses, but the next generation of clean tech buses is on its way to fix that problem. I got to take one of the first tours in a Hydrogen Hybrid Bus and it was quite nice. I could see taking it to work and back on a regular basis. Check out their website at www.HydrogenHybridBus.com
I have a GreenGene!
Plant geneticist Pamela Ronald was just tagging along on a kayaking trip with a girlfriend when she met Raoul Adamchak 15 years ago. She spent her days in the lab, trying to figure out how to genetically engineer plants. He was an organic farmer–and genetically engineered crops cannot be organic. They fell in love and got married.
Despite the giant gap in the public mind between organic farming, which bans artificial pesticides and fertilizers, and gene modification, the couple was never exactly star-crossed. From the beginning, Ronald says, they shared this goal: figuring out how to grow crops in a way that could feed the Earth without destroying the environment. Shortly after she met Adamchak, Ronald began looking for a variety of rice that could resist the floods that annually destroy 4 million tons of crops in India and Bangladesh. She produced one, and in 2009 the rice was released to farmers. Rest at Forbes.com.
The principle of quantum coherence in pigment molecules involved in photosynthesis has been demonstrated by Gregory Engel in 2007, but only at a frigid -196 C. Just recently Gregory Scholes at the University of Toronto and his colleagues have demonstrated the same effect at room temperature. Physicists had believed that this quantum effect could not occur at such a temperature, but Engel and colleagues have reproduced the experiment with essentially the same results. An article in New Scientist has the links to the source articles.