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What we're talking about Life, Death, and ERVs Wednesday, November 26, 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’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. Fifth in…

Brandenburg is a physicist who submitted a paper to the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference a few years ago. It’s way outside my area of expertise, but it postulated an interesting scenario from the ratios of rare isotopes in the atmosphere of Mars: that there was evidence of a natural nuclear reactor, like Oklo…

Jeff Cremer, a nature photographer, discovered mysterious tiny glow worms (~0.5 inches long) in Peru near the Tambopata Research Center a couple of years ago. Scientists still have not identified the species of these glow “worms”, but suspect they are actually click beetle larvae. Entomologists Aaron Pomerantz, Mike Bentley, and Geoff Gallice from the University of…

Physical Science

When you think about cosmology and the fundamental questions scientists are trying to address, you inevitably wind up thinking about dark matter, dark energy and black holes as the three biggest topics that shape our view of the Universe. But there are plenty of other aspects to this branch of science that deserve at least…

When you think of the origin of life, you probably think about the atoms coming together to make molecules, the molecules coming together to make self-replicating, information-encoded strands, and how all that took place here on Earth. But you might want to consider a different point of view! Instead, try thinking about the fact that,…

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” -William Shakespeare But in the case of Orion, it’s great because of not only how it was born, but where and when: recently, and so close to us! And that makes our views of not only the…

Environment

Watch as documentary filmmaker Vanessa Black visits the Gulf of Mexico to learn more about Big Oil.

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. Fifth in…

Yes, I have to post the “stay off the ice” post early this year. There have been several instances over recent weeks of folks wandering onto the ice and needing to be rescued (the most recent, here). This is not yet ice season. That hardish water you see on the surface is like that one…

Humanities

Months before the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in Texas, the state’s public health laboratory had begun preparing for the disease to reach U.S. shores. And while the virus itself is an uncommon threat in this country, the response of the nation’s public health laboratory system wasn’t uncommon at all — in fact, protecting people’s health from such grave threats is exactly what they’re trained to do.

Spent the weekend in Florida getting together with some friends from college, which was a much-needed recharge for me at the end of a brutal term. It’s probably fitting to ease back into routine with a return to my blogging roots, and talk a bit about a book. Specifically, the new William Gibson novel, The…

The OHS Section’s annual meeting at APHA brings together the best of public health: solid research, community-based methods, policy and politics, social justice and solidarity.

Education

By participating as a Sponsor in the upcoming Festival, your organization will be aligned with the nation’s leading science and engineering institutions that recognize the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and its impact on our country. In our most recent Festival in 2014, more than 1,000 organizations participated, including our Festival…

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. Fifth 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. Fourth in…

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

Months before the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in Texas, the state’s public health laboratory had begun preparing for the disease to reach U.S. shores. And while the virus itself is an uncommon threat in this country, the response of the nation’s public health laboratory system wasn’t uncommon at all — in fact, protecting people’s health from such grave threats is exactly what they’re trained to do.

I realize that I risk getting repetitive by writing about this again, but it’s a rich vein that just keeps on producing and producing. It also demonstrates that, for every tragedy as huge as the ongoing Ebola outbreak that has killed over 5,000 people in West Africa thus far, there always exist well-meaning people who…

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…

Brain & Behavior

Jeff Cremer, a nature photographer, discovered mysterious tiny glow worms (~0.5 inches long) in Peru near the Tambopata Research Center a couple of years ago. Scientists still have not identified the species of these glow “worms”, but suspect they are actually click beetle larvae. Entomologists Aaron Pomerantz, Mike Bentley, and Geoff Gallice from the University of…

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…

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

As you all have no doubt noticed over the years, I love highlighting the best science books every year via the various end of year lists that newspapers, web sites, etc. publish. I’ve done it so far in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. And here we are in 2014! As in previous years,…

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. Fourth in…

Shawn otto Shawn is the screenwriter and coproducer of the Oscar-nominated film House of Sand and Fog starring Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly. He has also written for several of film and TV’s top studios. A few years back he started Science Debate 08, an effort to get a real debate over science policy issues…

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. Fifth 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. Fourth 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. Third in…