Showing posts with label genetics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label genetics. Show all posts

Data And DNA: Encoding Digital Files Into Genetic Material Creates Serious Storage Space

Humanity is accruing data at an unprecedented rate.  All those Tweets, tags, photos, cat videos, terrible novels, decent screenplays, drafts of terrible novels that might eventually become decent screenplays, and everything else we shoot, snap, sing, strum, or smash into a computer is adding up.  There's the possibility of etching literary works into crystals, sure, but what about those of us who need some somewhat-simpler storage?  A new answer might surprise you...because it's also PART of you...

It's just like burning a CD...into genes.
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Re-Up Your Pup: Clone Your Pet And Be Best Friends Forever!

It's a question that's been on humanity's mind since the success of Dolly the sheep.  What if man's best friend (or some genetically-accurate approximation thereof) could stay with him for the duration of the human's longer life?  Now, thanks to cloning, you may be able to have a couple of copies of Fido to follow you through life's long walk.

According to, the Sooam facility in South Korea is the world's only doggie-doubling company, where for $100,000 your precious pooch can live on.  It only requires a somatic cell sample from the original donor dog, which scientists cryogenically freeze while a surrogate dog is prepared for pregnancy.  Immature ovum (oocytes) are flushed from the prospective parent-dog, then the somatic cells are injected into the ennucleated (nucleus-removed) oocytes.  The donor cells and egg are fused by electricity into a new embryo, and then implanted into the surrogate.  Shortly thereafter, your best friend is back!

Fresh piles of's like reverse plastic surgery!
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The process, which was perfected by geneticist Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, has been applied over 550 times since Hwang's first successful attempt in 2005.  Specialty dogs like Tibetan mastiffs and capable police dogs are popular pups, but next year the Sooam company will be expanding to help grow other animals like beef cows and pigs.  The process is the same one that was used to create Dolly the sheep in 1996 (as well as a veritable ark of animals since), and the patent for the process is leased to Hwang from the US company ViaGen.
A whole squad of murderdogs can be yours!
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The Sooam team is currently able to produce 150-200 cloned critters per year, and has captivated clients from veterinarians to Middle Eastern royalty.  One customer even missed his Catahoula leopard dog Melvin so much that he had two of his doting doggies recreated.  However, it is not just canine companionship that drives the company.  Sooam regenerates dogs for scientific testing as well, creating critters with diabetes or Alzheimer's disease so that testing and research may alleviate these diseases (while operating in the comfortable confines of a well-controlled experiment.)

No cure has yet been found for the common pug.  They're just always going to be goofy like that.
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Hwang doesn't want to stop at just a few species, either.  He has been working to clone rare animals like tigers and ibex, and possibly even to reboot extinct creatures like a woolly mammoth (whose frozen cells he believes could be made to gestate in a surrogate elephant.)  And of course, there's the ultimate goal: a handmade human.  “We will keep knocking on the doors,” Hwang says, “not only in South Korea but also in other countries, until we can continue our human stem cell research.”

While the pets are pleasant, there's a world of creatures to concoct.  So how long until we can have disciplined domestic dinosaurs instead of dogs?

Until then, this will have to do.
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Green Genes: Scientists Work On "Hacking" Plants

With global warming now a widely-accepted reality, it's time to make sure that our planet's plant life is able to keep up with the rising temperatures. To drought-proof the world's greenery, scientists have been experimenting on hacking plant genes to improve water retention.

According to, over 2 billion people worldwide have been affected by drought in recent years. The UN's Food And Agriculture Organization reports that over 11 million people have died from drought-related issues (crop failure or unsafe water sources due to scarcity) since 1900. Now, Duke University scientists aim to curtail that trouble, having "hacked" into plant genes to tell them when to conserve the scant amounts of water some of them are only able to obtain.

The "coping methods" are triggered in the plants when their levels of calcium are raised, forcing them to process precious water more slowly. This is encoded into a gene in the plant's cell membranes. To confirm this, the scientists raised both plants with this gene and plants lacking it and studied the results. “Plants that enter drought-fighting mode quickly and then switch back to normal growth mode quickly when drought stress is gone should be able to allocate energy more efficiently toward growth,” concluded associate professor of biology Zhen-Ming Pei.

This discovery will allow scientists to assess how plants in drought-afflicted areas could be made to augment their water retention and thus thrive even under difficult circumstances.  If we can't fix global warming yet, at least we're working on how to deal with it.

Go easy on the drinking there, buddy.