This week: Exercise in a bottle, Nobel Prizes are being announced and awarded, looking back at our exploration of exoplanets, looking for future risks of asthma in newborns, and and custom gene-edited pets.
Breakthrough Research May Lead to “Exercise in a Bottle”
New research from the University of Sydney reveals around 1000 molecular reactions to exercise, opening the door for drug treatments to mirror the health benefits of exercise.
Drugs that mimic the benefits of exercise could soon become a reality thanks to breakthrough research from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Center.
Published in Cell Metabolism, the research exposed a thousand molecular changes that occur in our muscles when we exercise, providing the world’s first comprehensive exercise blueprint.
Congratulations to both the nominees and winners of the 2015 Nobel Prizes.
From 0 to 5,000 Planets in 20 Years
Twenty years ago today, an invisible object circling an obscure star in the constellation Pegasus overturned everything astronomers knew about planets around other stars. No, the fallout was even bigger than that. The indirect detection of 51 Pegasi b—the first planet ever found around a star similar to the sun—revealed that they had never really known anything to begin with.
At the time, even the most adventurous minds blithely assumed that our solar system was more or less typical, a template for all the others. 51 Peg b threw a big splash of reality in their faces. The newfound world was bizarre, a Jupiter-size world skimming the surface of its star in a blistering-fast “year” that lasted just 4.2 days. Its existence ran counter to the standard theories of how planets form and evolve. It answered one big question: Yes, other planetary systems really do exist. But it raised a thousand others.
Newborns’ Gut Microbes Signal Asthma Risks
In the last 30 years, the number of people with asthma has risen sharply in Western countries like the U.S. and Canada. Today, it’s the most common pediatric disease in the developed world, affecting over 300 million people worldwide – and now researchers say it may be influenced by four bacteria that live in our intestines.
Asthma is an immune-mediated illness, which means that it happens because something is wrong with the body’s normal immune response, but doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes it. Like other immune-mediated illnesses, asthma is partly genetic, but environmental factors also play a big role in whether someone develops the disease.
Custom Genetically Modified Pigs Made To Order
By nearly any measure, the Beijing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen is the premier genetics powerhouse. In 2010, for example, their 500-node supercomputer was processing and analyzing over 10 terabytes of raw sequencing data every 24 hours. They now produce a quarter of the worlds genomic data, dwarfing the output of places like Harvard and the NIH. Whether BGI is also the undisputed champion at turning this data glut into useful knowledge, on the other hand, is perhaps a matter of opinion.
A recent report in Nature hints at a tantalizing new creation that BGI is set to unleash on the open market: Made-to-order, programmable “micropigs.” Although the pigs were developed by simply knocking out a receptor for growth hormones using well-established TALEN gene-editing techniques, creating radically modified body morphologies without compromising some essential physiology may be more of a challenge. The law of unintended consequences becomes all the more acute when you are simultaneously tinkering with other critical design features, like the major pigment pathways. To that point, BGU will be offering custom pets in a rainbow of colors, with the base model starting at 10,000 yuan (US$1,600).
Know any interesting stories we missed?Let us know in the comments!