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What we're talking about Life, Death, and ERVs Thursday, October 23, 2014

Life, Death, and ERVs

I read an interesting article in Scientific American that discussed the so-called Peto’s Paradox. Dr. Richard Peto (University of Oxford) came up with the idea that if every cell has an equal probability of becoming cancerous, then larger animals would be predicted to develop cancer at higher rates than smaller animals. As it turns out,…

For quite a while, now, there has been a connection between Endogenous Retroviruses and HIV. For some unknown reason, some of the young ERVs in humans, the ones that can still code for a protein here and there, are reactivated in HIV+ patients. Scientists have found ERV RNA in HIV+ patient plasma, and they have…

In a phenomenon known as Peto's paradox, large mammals do not develop cancer more often than small mammals, despite having more cells that could go haywire. On Life Lines, Dr. Dolittle writes "Some researchers suggested that perhaps smaller animals developed more oxidative stress as a result of having higher metabolisms. Others proposed that perhaps larger animals have more genes that suppress tumors." But a new hypothesis argues that large mammals have evolved to minimize the activity of ERVs, which are ancient viral elements integrated into our DNA. Active ERVs can cause cancer and possibly other diseases; mice exhibit about 3300 active ERVs, while humans exhibit about 350. On the blog known as ERV, Abbie Smith writes "some of the young ERVs in humans, the ones that can still code for a protein here and there, are reactivated in HIV+ patients." Researchers are considering targeting these ERVs in order to combat HIV; as Abbie writes, "You could train the HIV+ individuals immune system to ‘see’ the ERV components in an HIV infected CD4+ T-cell, and BAM! Kill the HIV infected cell!" But she warns that other ERV components are expressed in many normal human cells, and teaching our immune system to target them might be a very bad idea.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

The image below is a phylogram, illustrating the degree of variation in a sequence of mitochondrial DNA. The concept is fairly simple: if two DNA samples are from individuals that are evolutionarily distant from one another, they’ll have accumulated more differences in their mitochondrial DNA, and will be drawn farther apart from one another. If…

The title of this article by Answers In Genesis is a good question: Where Did Ebola Come From? *shrug* Look, I love making fun of Creationists, but this is a great question! Ebola is not ‘supposed’ to be a human pathogen. Like many emerging infectious diseases, the natural reservoir for ebola is bats. Specifically, fruit bats.…

I have to admit that my first response to these reports out of Britain that stem cells had been successfully used to repair a complete spinal cord transection was skepticism — incredulity even. They’re reporting that a man with a completely severed spinal cord at level T10-T11 is able to walk again! The Guardian gushes!…

Physical Science

Over at Backreaction, Bee has a nice piece on our current age of virality. Toward the end, she discusses some of the ways this applies to science, specifically a quote from this Nature article about collaborative efforts to measure “big G”, and a story about a Chinese initiative to encourage collaboration. She writes of the…

“We were marching down the street, & we were at the head of the troops. We went on marching, & the troops went off to the left.” -Geoffrey Burbidge It’s such a part of our cosmic and scientific history, that it’s difficult to remember that it’s only been for the past 50 years that the…

“The anthropic principle – the idea that our universe has the properties it does because we are here to say so and that if it were any different, we wouldn’t be around commenting on it – infuriates many physicists, including [Marc Davis from UC Berkeley]. It smacks of defeatism, as if we were acknowledging that…

Environment

Some time in the 1970s. I keep hearing about this 17 year long pause in global warming. So I went and looked. I did a regression analysis of the last 17 full years of surface temperatures from the GISS database. There is an upward trend in warming during this period and it is statistically significant.…

Last summer we were driving up north, in our Prius, and one of those coal rollers tailgated us for a while, then passed us. On the right. On the median. Jerk. When we were trying to decide whether or not to buy a Prius, last winter, I looked into the usual things one looks into.…

Its at The Conversation and a retweet near you, no doubt. By

Humanities

Sins of Our Fathers, by Shaw Otto, is coming out shortly but can be preordered. JW, protagonist, is a flawed hero. He is not exactly an anti-hero because he is not a bad guy, though one does become annoyed at where he places his values. As his character unfolds in the first several chapters of…

Article series investigates lead poisoning at the nation’s gun ranges; autopsy shows coal miner was wrongly denied black lung benefits; health care workers take part in mass protective gear training; and a Wells Fargo employee sends a big email about income inequality.

Recent pieces address healthcare workers’ safety and the research behind controlling Ebola’s spread; end-of-life planning; contraception; and more.

Education

Teachers in the D.C. Metropolitan area- we are now accepting applications for the Nifty Fifty (x4) Program! Click here to apply NOW to host a speaker at your school during the 2014/2015 school year. Nifty Fifty talks will take place during the months of February, March and April of 2015. The deadline to apply is Friday, November…

The ‘Nifty Fifty (times 4)’, a program of Science Spark, presented by InfoComm International, are a group of 200 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the Washington, D.C. area in the 2014-2015 school year to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools. Meet Nifty Fifty Speaker Nick Schneider When NASA’s…

According to a new statement from the CDC, while Ebola is deadly to humans and animals, it is very difficult to catch. Therefore, they concluded that pets are not at significant risk of Ebola in the US. Moreover, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill in Africa. For more information, visit…

Politics

More thread.

According to a new statement from the CDC, while Ebola is deadly to humans and animals, it is very difficult to catch. Therefore, they concluded that pets are not at significant risk of Ebola in the US. Moreover, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill in Africa. For more information, visit…

This is an endorsement by Climate Hawks Vote, which I support. Climate Hawks Vote is delighted to endorse Scott Peters in California’s 52d Congressional District of San Diego for his strong climate leadership and for taking first place in our August 2014 survey. And his approach just may break partisan gridlock in Congress. Scott Peters…

Medicine

Never thought I would write this: Maastricht University is organizing a conference on the intersection of denialism and human rights. Here is a link to the conference description and the call for papers can be downloaded here.

The antivaccine movement and conspiracy theories go together like beer and Buffalo wings, except that neither are as good as, yes, beer and Buffalo wings. Maybe it’s more like manure and compost. In any case, the antivaccine movement is rife with conspiracy theories. I’ve heard and written about more than I can remember right now,…

Supporters of science-based medicine and keeping pseudoscience out of medicine have a few years to prepare for an onslaught of crappy studies “proving” the value of “integrative” oncology. No doubt at this point you’re wondering just what the heck Orac is talking about. I will tell you. It involves an institution we’ve encountered before and…

Brain & Behavior

According to a new statement from the CDC, while Ebola is deadly to humans and animals, it is very difficult to catch. Therefore, they concluded that pets are not at significant risk of Ebola in the US. Moreover, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill in Africa. For more information, visit…

I have. So I surfed the web and found this neat video from Smithsonian that explains it all.

When it comes to substance abuse disorders, public health and the public at-large are hardly on the same page — in fact, they’re not even reading the same book. And that’s a serious problem for sustaining and strengthening efforts to treat addiction and advancing effective public health policy.

Technology

Last summer we were driving up north, in our Prius, and one of those coal rollers tailgated us for a while, then passed us. On the right. On the median. Jerk. When we were trying to decide whether or not to buy a Prius, last winter, I looked into the usual things one looks into.…

My whole housing development recently changed Internet Service Providers. We now have optical fibre from Ownit, offering hundreds of megabits per second. It works just fine. But there’s a security issue and Ownit aren’t taking it seriously. All over Sweden, Ownit are deploying wifi routers that work out of the box. If you want to…

According to a new statement from the CDC, while Ebola is deadly to humans and animals, it is very difficult to catch. Therefore, they concluded that pets are not at significant risk of Ebola in the US. Moreover, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill in Africa. For more information, visit…

Information Science

I find the whole idea of a “sharing economy” where people barter and exchange and free up excess capacity in their own lives and situations to make others’ lives a little easier and cheaper an interesting notion. And worthwhile. After all broadly speaking the open access and open source movements do partake of this same…

Science Online was an amazing annual unconference that started a few years back and grew and became part of the reshaping of public communication about science. This year, the people running the conference started out with the plan to move the conference to a new venue, Atlanta, and last week abruptly announced that the conference…

So what do I mean by Big Deals. In the world of academic libraries, a Big Deal is when we subscribe to the electronic versions of all (or almost all) of a journal publisher’s offerings. Usually for it to qualify as a Big Deal, the publisher in question is going to be one of the…

Jobs

Article series investigates lead poisoning at the nation’s gun ranges; autopsy shows coal miner was wrongly denied black lung benefits; health care workers take part in mass protective gear training; and a Wells Fargo employee sends a big email about income inequality.

This week’s snapshot of just one work-related fatality in the U.S. This one occurred on October 7 at a Kia Motors manufacturing plant.

Too bad Murray’s Chicken doesn’t care as much about working conditions for its employees, as it does about the living conditions for its birds.