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Comment P-Z viruses as a tool? (Score 3, Interesting) 74 74

It is not clear how the new nucleotides act when transcribing proteins but assuming its at least as efficient as the 4 letter code it could be a very interesting option for artificial viruses. A virus engineered to be totally dependent on the new nucleotides could be used much more safely even inside humans where there is no supply of them, they could infect the cells, produce proteins and a huge immune response but not a single copy of their genetic material could be produced. Also in a controlled environment they would thrive (cheap production?) but without P-Z no danger of new virus production so safety would not need to be as strict.

Applications on real organisms probably will take much longer time, but the simplicity of virus would make it a natural first step.

Comment Solving the delivery bottleneck (Score 3, Insightful) 39 39

There are a lot of medical interventions that are very nice on paper but useless in practice because of the difficulty of delivering something fragile to a specific point in the body. This super-vesicles seem to be still too limited to address this problem perfectly but they seem like a big step forward, a couple of generations later this could very well make gene-therapy, siRNA inhibition, cell-specific drug therapies, etc. practical enough to be used as therapy.

Comment Is this really useful? (Score 1) 57 57

I mean, how many of the latest big epidemics has been transmitted by rodents? and even then how many of those depend on other factors not taken in account with this approach (arbovirus, change in ecology, etc.) Even if they really have a good model, putting as risky more than 150 species and a territory under heavy risk including half of the world would not be exactly useful to redirect resources.

Comment Re:I'll bet the effect is very mild. (Score 1) 187 187

I would be also interested in the number of participants, how they were divided, if the effect in dose-dependent, the statistical analysis and so on, unfortunately I have seen too many psychology papers that barely reach the P=0.5 but still are confident about their conclusions.

Comment Re:The thousand genes we don't know if are needed. (Score 1) 111 111

Because having a copy of a gene is only one possibility of compensation, in processes like innate immune response it is common to have more than one pathway of activation, and to a certain point the presence of one protein can compensate the lack of another even if they are not structurally similar. A blast search can't be used in that case to rule out the need of that specific gene in other people. I am simply saying that proving that some people can survive without some genes without really having studied them to a certain degree is not enough to say that is apparently unnecessary for survival, it may be so only on certain populations (the sample in the studio is understandably biased).

That is of course even without going into genes that could not be necessary all the time but increase the possibility of survival to specific events, for all we know the sample of individuals could represent only the 10% that survive a gene deletion because of a specific diet, certain amount of exercise, lack of exposure to a type of pathogen not common on Iceland, etc.

Comment Re:The thousand genes we don't know if are needed. (Score 4, Insightful) 111 111

Any of those genes could encode a protein whose function can be done by another protein that other people may or not express. Obviously the people identified did not need "that" specific protein to do its work but it may be completely possible that a majority of people do not have the compensating gene.

Until experimentation is done to evaluate the need of those genes you can say that those "may" not be indispensable, but saying that apparently they are not needed is too strong a conclusion for the work done.

Comment Re:FDA == slow progress too (Score 1) 80 80

Sorry but this is just not believable, a large part of the cost of developing a drug is to put in place clinical trials in humans, the "rudimentary research" that this medical researcher did actually would be exactly this. First he had to finish a large number of toxicity tests on cells and animals just to give a single dose to a human, and if he treated patients then he already had to finish the safety test (done on completely healthy volunteers) on top of that he already got to test humans for at least a year? he would have already paid most of the cost of putting the drug into the market. Any kind of money they could get from it would be best than just losing everything because they did not want to expend in the final paperwork (not to mention any other possible uses for the same compound to be discovered later, the propaganda value for the company, etc.)

Either the story is just fabrication or the "researcher" is a completely unethical rogue who should be in Jail.

Comment All your base are belong to us (Score 4, Insightful) 74 74

I may be too optimistic but this could become a really nice laboratory tool once the exact mechanism of genetic transfer is known and replicated, gene cloning independent from plasmid or simplified transfection would be very useful for genetic engineering. Imagine easily cultured cells that not only can accept various genetic materials but actively incorporate them into their genome, "gene cloning for dummies" kits for one-step protein expression.

Comment Re:Plenty of other creatures haven't "evolved" (Score 2) 138 138

I have always interpreted the "need" or "necessary" as the requisites that have to be fulfilled in order to find a certain organism in a certain place today (or whatever time they are talking about). So yes, the organism or the species don't "need" adaptations, they just survive or not, but you "need" the adaptations in order to explain how they can survive there. This kind of place "need" very few explanations because there is not real change and any organism that could survive at the beginning could just keep doing it.

Nevertheless, this finding assumes quite a lot of things, they compared the morphology of fossils with modern organism and propose that the lack of visible differences means no adaptations, also they compared bacteria from two distant geographical places and assumed that this means genetic isolation (likely but not certain). I would prefer if they waited until they could report on both modern bacterial genomes (trivial task nowadays) before making such bold conclusions.

Comment Interesting approach (Score 5, Interesting) 183 183

Making the treatment directly with mRNA sidestep a lot of dangers of promoting cell replication, the immune system would not have any foreign proteins to recognize and so multiple doses are feasible, the RNA is degraded over time so the replication goes back to normal instead of keeping forever in an artificial state and it was demonstrated that the cells grow "old" again after the treatment.

Still, it feels like its going to be much more a lab tool than a anti-aging treatment for a few more decades, RNA treatment is very tricky to do in vivo and even the most promising candidates for treatment (vaccines and so on) only produce very limited success, unless some revolutionary vector is invented in the near future it will pass a lot of years before this can be safe and efficient enough to be commercialized.

Comment Re:Until... (Score 1) 130 130

Evolution would not (realistically) happen because bacterial leaks would have too little time to undo all the changes and re-adapt to natural-only aminoacid environments, the adaptive pressure against synthetic aminoacids would go from zero in the lab to 100 in the wild immediately.
The possibility would had to be taken account if there was a natural way to keep the bacteria in gradually decreasing concentrations of synthetic aminoacids, you would then give a chance for the reversion to take place slowly and over many generations.

In these matters the only certainty is that there is nothing certain. -- Pliny the Elder