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What we're talking about Life, Death, and ERVs Friday, November 21, 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

I recently received the following question from a reader based on a prior blog entry on how a medication used to treat epilepsy also helps reverse memory loss with Alzheimer’s disease. You can see the original blog here Question: “I find it a little confusing as to how it is possible that this medication can improve…

But the University of Hawaii at Mānoa looks to be more broken than others. Christie Wilcox writes about the budget cuts there: the place is being gouged to the bone — the College of Natural Sciences has a cohort of graduate students to whom they are failing to live up to their responsibilities (the university…

Every year in my intro biology course, I try to do one discussion of bioethics. One lecture is not much, but this is a course where we try to introduce students to the history and philosophy of science, and I think it’s an important issue, so I try to squeeze in a little bit. So…

Physical Science

“I am undecided whether or not the Milky Way is but one of countless others all of which form an entire system. Perhaps the light from these infinitely distant galaxies is so faint that we cannot see them.” -Johann Lambert There’s a problem with our view of the night sky: beautiful though it is, we’re incapable…

I’ve decided to do a new round of profiles in the Project for Non-Academic Science (acronym deliberately chosen to coincide with a journal), as a way of getting a little more information out there to students studying in STEM fields who will likely end up with jobs off the “standard” academic science track. Second in…

That’s “Science Online” as in the conference that folded, not “science, online” as in the practice of trying to understand the universe from in front of a networked computer. Specifically, I’m posting about David Zaslavsky’s call for help in putting together a replacement meeting. There was a lot of talk about this right when Science…

Environment

Guest Post: Matthew Heberger Pacific Institute, Oakland, California New monthly water use data for California water utilities shows that residential water use varies widely around the state, and that the response to the drought has been uneven. Moreover, in some areas, residential use averages more than 500 gallons per person per day, indicating that we…

In action that may portend how the 114th Congress will treat science, the House has passed two bills that would limit the EPA’s use of science. The White House is threatening to veto both – and an additional bill that in the White House’s view could weaken the Clean Air Act’s public health and environmental protections.

Please don’t shoot the swans. My new post at 10,000 birds is here.

Humanities

In action that may portend how the 114th Congress will treat science, the House has passed two bills that would limit the EPA’s use of science. The White House is threatening to veto both – and an additional bill that in the White House’s view could weaken the Clean Air Act’s public health and environmental protections.

New report chronicles the low wages of child care workers; Johns Hopkins black lung review still unfinished; California nurses go on strike; and OSHA calls on retailers to protect their workers during Black Friday.

Of course they do. To the extent that genes make you anything in particular, though the role of genetics in human behavior is pretty limited. You’ve probably heard about the newly reported research in which a genetic link was found to homosexuality in a study of gay brothers. Kelly Servick has a good writeup on…

Education

I’ve decided to do a new round of profiles in the Project for Non-Academic Science (acronym deliberately chosen to coincide with a journal), as a way of getting a little more information out there to students studying in STEM fields who will likely end up with jobs off the “standard” academic science track. Second in…

That’s “Science Online” as in the conference that folded, not “science, online” as in the practice of trying to understand the universe from in front of a networked computer. Specifically, I’m posting about David Zaslavsky’s call for help in putting together a replacement meeting. There was a lot of talk about this right when Science…

I recently received the following question from a reader based on a prior blog entry on how a medication used to treat epilepsy also helps reverse memory loss with Alzheimer’s disease. You can see the original blog here Question: “I find it a little confusing as to how it is possible that this medication can improve…

Politics

In action that may portend how the 114th Congress will treat science, the House has passed two bills that would limit the EPA’s use of science. The White House is threatening to veto both – and an additional bill that in the White House’s view could weaken the Clean Air Act’s public health and environmental protections.

As Healthcare.gov welcomes enrollees for 2015 health-insurance plans, we’re seeing far fewer technical problems, modest premium increases overall (but not everywhere), and a continued lack of affordable options for those in the “coverage gap.”

“I didn’t know any successful actors in Kenya, so I felt like I could get away with going to college to study film more easily than I could with saying, ‘I want to be an actor.’ That’s what I did.” -Lupita Nyong’o There’s nothing that gets me excited quite like… completely fabricated, unnecessary bickering on…

Medicine

Here we go yet again. I’ve been interested in the Ebola outbreak that’s been going on for months in west Africa for a number of reasons. First, it’s a bad disease, and this is the largest outbreak in history. over 5,000 people have died. Second, there’s been a lot of unreasonable fear mongering about the…

I recently received the following question from a reader based on a prior blog entry on how a medication used to treat epilepsy also helps reverse memory loss with Alzheimer’s disease. You can see the original blog here Question: “I find it a little confusing as to how it is possible that this medication can improve…

It was a long day in the operating room again, albeit unexpectedly so as a case that I had expected to be fairly straightforward turned out to anything but. Let’s just say, when I’m peeling tumor off of a major blood vessel, my anal sphincter tone is such that if someone were to stick a…

Brain & Behavior

I recently received the following question from a reader based on a prior blog entry on how a medication used to treat epilepsy also helps reverse memory loss with Alzheimer’s disease. You can see the original blog here Question: “I find it a little confusing as to how it is possible that this medication can improve…

Of course they do. To the extent that genes make you anything in particular, though the role of genetics in human behavior is pretty limited. You’ve probably heard about the newly reported research in which a genetic link was found to homosexuality in a study of gay brothers. Kelly Servick has a good writeup on…

  A recent review published by Dr. Graziana Colaianni (University of Bari, Italy) and colleagues in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, has summarized recent research on the role of the hormone oxytocin in the regulation of bone mass. Bone remodeling and rebuilding are constantly occurring in our bodies. Osteoporosis…

Technology

A reader sent me the following question: “How does a lizard grow a new tail?” This was a very timely question as new research has shed light on this very phenomenon. A team of experts at Arizona State University led by Dr. Kenro Kusumi and colleagues have been studying limb regeneration in lizards.   The…

Dear Readers, Find below an interesting press release I may as well share verbatim: The rapidly melting ice sheets on the coast of West Antarctica are a potential major contributor to rising ocean levels worldwide. Although warm water near the coast is thought to be the main factor causing the ice to melt, the process…

With Ubuntu’s release a few weeks ago of Ubuntu 14.10, Mate has now become an official flavor of Ubuntu. There are two pieces of bad news that relate to this that we’ll get out of the way. First Ubuntu’s default distribution, which uses the Unity Desktop by default, broke a key Linux feature. If you…

Information Science

I’ve decided to do a new round of profiles in the Project for Non-Academic Science (acronym deliberately chosen to coincide with a journal), as a way of getting a little more information out there to students studying in STEM fields who will likely end up with jobs off the “standard” academic science track. Second in…

Science Journals Have Passed Their Expiration Date — It’s Time for the Publishing Platform An interview with Anurag Acharya, Google Scholar lead engineer (2006) Google Scholar pioneer on search engine’s future Google Scholar Is Doing Just Fine, Says Google What if Google killed Scholar? Making the world’s problem solvers 10% more efficient: Ten years after…

Guest Post: Matthew Heberger Pacific Institute, Oakland, California New monthly water use data for California water utilities shows that residential water use varies widely around the state, and that the response to the drought has been uneven. Moreover, in some areas, residential use averages more than 500 gallons per person per day, indicating that we…

Jobs

I’ve decided to do a new round of profiles in the Project for Non-Academic Science (acronym deliberately chosen to coincide with a journal), as a way of getting a little more information out there to students studying in STEM fields who will likely end up with jobs off the “standard” academic science track. Second in…

I’ve decided to do a new round of profiles in the Project for Non-Academic Science (acronym deliberately chosen to coincide with a journal), as a way of getting a little more information out there to students studying in STEM fields who will likely end up with jobs off the “standard” academic science track. First up…

New report chronicles the low wages of child care workers; Johns Hopkins black lung review still unfinished; California nurses go on strike; and OSHA calls on retailers to protect their workers during Black Friday.