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South Korea announces plans to commercialize nanotechnology

A May 4, 2015 article by Jung Suk-yee for Business Korea describes the South Korean government’s nanotechnology investment plans for 2015,

The Korean government will invest 177.2 billion won (US$164.2 million) in the industrialization of nanotechnology this year. The budget goes to seven techniques for industrial applications, including of that for manufacturing 3D nano-electronic devices used in intelligent robots and wearable smart devices, and industry infrastructure for production performance evaluation and the like. Strategic items are also selected so that small firms, which account for 90 percent of the industry, can better compete in the global market.

The Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning and the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy unveiled the plan on April 30 [2015] at the main office of CrucialTec located in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province. “The global nanotech product market is estimated to reach US$3 trillion in size in 2020,” they explained, adding, “We will take up 20 percent of the market by means of large-scale investments.”

An April 30, 2015 news item on the Youhap News Agency website also makes the announcement while providing some context for and new details about the nanotechnology effort in South Korea,

South Korea is already one of the leading countries to have developed the advanced technology. The combined output of the country’s nano-convergence sector came to over 92 trillion won ($86 billion) in 2011, accounting for 6.1 percent of its total production.

The government will spend an additional [to the 177.2 billion won  announced earlier] 55 billion won this year to help develop nano-convergence companies and infrastructure that will include a new evaluation system to check the performance of any nanotechnology product, according to the ministry.

This announcement provides an interesting contrast to relatively recent Canadian announcements. As far as I’m aware the only Canadian research area as opposed to an individual institution such as the TRIUMF, Canada’s National Laboratory for  which benefits from serious infusions of cash is the ‘digital highway’ which merits being mentioned in the 2015 federal budget. The other science initiative specifically mentioned in the budget is TRIUMF (Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics). For all the talk about commercializing science and technology there doesn’t seem to have been any specific mention in the budget although I have no doubt that various agencies received their allocations and are fully aware that they are expected to deliver on the government’s hopes in those respects. (My April 28, 2015 post offers more details about the science funding in the Canadian government’s 2015 federal budget.)

Steep (1) at International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) 2015 in Vancouver, Canada

Our paper (Raewyn Turner, an artist from New Zealand,  and mine, Maryse de la Giroday), Steep (I): a digital poetry of gold nanoparticles, has been accepted for the 2015 International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) to be held in Vancouver, Canada from Aug. 14 – 18, 2015. I last wrote about ISEA 2015 in a Dec. 19, 2014 post where I indicated more information about our project would be forthcoming—the next week. Ah well, better late than never, eh?

Before getting to our project, here’s a little information on the symposium’s theme (from the Theme page),

ISEA2015’s theme of DISRUPTION invites a conversation about the aesthetics of change, renewal, and game-changing paradigms. We look to raw bursts of energy, reconciliation, error, and the destructive and creative forces of the new. Disruption contains both blue sky and black smoke. When we speak of radical emergence we must also address things left behind. Disruption is both incremental and monumental.

In practices ranging from hacking and detournement to inversions of place, time, and intention, creative work across disciplines constantly finds ways to rethink or reconsider form, function, context, body, network, and culture. Artists push, shape, break; designers reinvent and overturn; scientists challenge, disprove and re-state; technologists hack and subvert to rebuild.

Disruption and rupture are fundamental to digital aesthetics. Instantiations of the digital realm continue to proliferate in contemporary culture, allowing us to observe ever-broader consequences of these effects and the aesthetic, functional, social and political possibilities that arise from them.

Within this theme, we want to investigate trends in digital and internet aesthetics and revive exchange across disciplines. We hope to broaden the spheres in which disruptive aesthetics can be explored, crossing into the worlds of science, technology, design, visual art, contemporary and media art, innovation, performance, and sound.

At least two of the speakers are going to be very well aligned with the disruption theme (from the Keynote Speakers page),

TheYesMen Yes Men

Session Title: Tactical and Creative Resistance

The Yes Men, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, have been called “the Jonathan Swift of the Jackass generation” by author Naomi Klein. The Yes Men have impersonated World Trade Organization, Dow Chemical Corporation, and Bush administration spokesmen on TV and at business conferences around the world. They do this (a) in order to demonstrate some of the mechanisms that keep bad people and ideas in power, and (b) because it’s absurdly fun. As the Yes Men, they use humor, truth and lunacy to bring media attention to the crimes of their unwilling employers. Their second film, The Yes Men Fix the World, won the audience award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, the Grierson Award for Most Entertaining Documentary, and went on to become a smash box-office sensation, only just barely surpassed by Avatar. Their main goal is to focus attention on the dangers of economic policies that place the rights of capital before the needs of people and the environment.

connorMichael Connor

Sessions Title: TBD

Michael Connor is the Editor and Curator of Rhizome at the New Museum. Connor’s work focuses on artists’ responses to cinema and new technologies. His past solo and collaborative projects as curator include: ‘Liquid Crystal Palace,’ Honor Fraser, Los Angeles; ‘Street Digital’ (works by artist duo JODI); ‘Wild Sky,’ Edith-Russ Haus, Oldenburg, Germany; ‘Screen Worlds’, ACMI in Melbourne; ‘Essential Cinema’ at the Toronto Film Festival, and ‘The New Normal’ touring exhibition. Connor previously worked as Curator at FACT, Liverpool and Head of Exhibitions at BFI Southbank, London.

Brian Massumi

Session Title: No One Without Another: Creativity and Decision in the Transindividual Fold

Brian Massumi is professor of communication at the University of Montreal. He specializes in the philosophy of experience, art and media theory, and political philosophy. His most recent books include Politics of Affect (Polity, 2015), The Power at the End of the Economy (Duke UP, 2015), and What Animals Teach Us about Politics (Duke UP, 2014). He is co-author with Erin Manning of Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience (co-written with Erin Manning; University of Minnesota Press, 2014). Also with Erin Manning and the SenseLab collective, he participates in the collective exploration of new ways of bringing philosophical and artistic practices into collaborative interaction, most recently in the frame of the “Immediations: Art, Media, Event” international partnership project.

DMoulon

Dominique Moulon

Sessions Title: TBD

Dominique Moulon studied visual art at the Fine Art School (ENSA) of Bourges and holds a Master’s Degree in aesthetics, science and technology from the University of Paris 8. Member of the Observatory of Digital Worlds in Humanities (OMNSH), of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), of the Opline Prize for online contemporary art and founder of MediaArtDesign.net ; he also writes articles for Art Press, Digital MCD, The Seen and Neural. He is the Artistic Director of the media art fair Variation Paris and currently curator in residence at the art center of the Maison Populaire in Montreuil. Dominique Moulon teaches new media at Parsons (The New School for Design), ECV (Ecole de Communication Visuelle) and EPSAA (Ecole Professionnelle Supérieure d’Arts Graphiques) in Paris. He has also been a regular guest professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), the National School of Fine Arts (ENSBA) in Paris, The Fresnoy (Studio national des arts contemporains) and the University of Paris 8. His book Contemporary New Media Art was published in French by Nouvelles Editions Scala in 2011 and in English as an e-book in 2013. He is doing research at the laboratory Art & Flux (CNRS) of the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne while preparing his next book on the relationships between art, technology and society. As an expert in digital cultures, he has also been sollicited for his input by some companies like Axa, Accenture, Google, Landor or Renault.

Hildegard Westerkamp

Westerkamp_2012

Sessions Title: TBD

Hildegard Westerkamp has lectured on topics of listening, environmental sound and acoustic ecology and has conducted soundscape workshops internationally. By focusing the ears’ attention to details in the acoustic environment, her compositional work draws attention to the act of listening itself and to the inner, hidden spaces of the environment we inhabit. For details check her website: http://www.sfu.ca/~westerka

Her music has been commissioned by CBC Radio, Canada Pavilion at Expo ’86, Ars Electronica (Linz), Österreichischer Rundfunk, Zentrum für Kunst und Medien in Germany…. She received Honorable Mentions in competitions such as Prix Ars Electronica in Austria, Prix Italia, and the International Competition for Electroacoustic Music in Bourges, as well as a Recommendation for Broadcast from the International Music Council’s 4th International Rostrum of Electroacoustic Music. Her articles have been published in Radio Rethink, Kunstforum, Musicworks, MusikTexte and a variety of books… For an extensive exploration into her compositional work see Andra McCartney’s Sounding Places: Situated Conversations through the Soundscape Work of Hildegard Westerkamp, York University, Toronto, 1999, and in the internet at: http://beatrouteproductions.com/Andradiss.pdf

As part of Vancouver New Music’s yearly season she has coordinated and led  Soundwalks for some years since 2003, which in turn inspired the creation of The Vancouver Soundwalk Collective.

A founding member of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE, see: www.wfae.net), and long-time co-editor of its journal Soundscape, Westerkamp was a researcher for R. Murray Schafer’s World Soundscape Project in the Seventies, and has taught acoustic communication at Simon Fraser University with colleague Barry Truax.

Sara Diamond

Biography coming soon

As for the last speaker on the list, Sara Diamond is the president of the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD University). Her professional focus is digital media and prior to heading OCAD University she was the Artistic Director of Media and Visual Art and Director of Research at the Banff Centre. You can find out more about Sara Diamond here.

Back to Steep, this is a project concerning gold nanoparticles. Here’s what Raewyn wrote about it on the homepage of the Steep website,

The general atmosphere is saturated and awash with particles and vibrations that are transpired by living beings and everything on earth. Emerging  into the troposphere, sounds and fragrances arise from cultural, social and political systems that have engineered the landscapes and thus mindscapes into settlements, habitations, fields, factories, front lawns and streets.

In the absence of a visceral sensing of the atmospheric ocean of particles and cues which are in dynamic flux with perception., Steep combines art+ science+ technology to explore sensing gold nanotechnology, where it accumulates, changes over time, and how it may affect living beings and the environment

Raewyn, a visual artist (video, painting, sculpture, interactive installations) and concept and design theatre artist and lighting designer located in Auckland, New Zealand, contacted me, located in Vancouver, Canada, a few years ago after reading some of the material I have on gold nanoparticles. She wanted to make contact with a scientist who was examining gold nanoparticles as they circulate from products into the air, the water, and the soil. Eventually I remembered the Duke University mesocosm project, located in Durham, North Carolina, at the Center for the Environmental Implication of Nano Technology (CEINT) led by Mark Wiesner (first mentioned here in an Aug. 15, 2011 post) and so Raewyn found her scientist and, although she wasn’t looking for one, a writer too. Her longtime collaborator, Brian Harris (located in Auckland, New Zealand), has an electronics background and is an independent designer and inventor who “invents and creates large scale finely tuned adaptive mechatronics and bespoke equipment. His inventions for motion control, stabilising camera mounts for aerial photography and robotic trajectories have been used in local and international tv, commercial and film productions.” (from the Steep About Us page).

For our first Steep project, Raewyn and I are working on a digital poetry installation. Here’s more about the project from the paper,

Steep is an international art/science research project examining the impact gold and gold nanoparticles have had in the past and could have in the future. Designed as a multi-year, multidisciplinary project with a rotating cast of collaborators, Steep is based on the current state of scientific research and its flexibility as a project reflects the uncertain and disruptive state of nanoscience and nanotechnology (as they are sometimes referred to).

    Steep (I) a digital poetry of gold nanoparticles, our first piece, is largely concerned with the elements of air and earth or more fancifully, gold in all its forms: myth, metaphor, and reality as it transitions visibly and invisibly throughout our environment.

The following poetry excerpt and video sample accompanying this submission [the video sample is not included in this posting] are works in progress and a research project within themselves.

Yearning
(excerpt)

shards of sun
hidden in the river’s silted bed
buried beneath the earth’s skin

a beautiful killing
in the cold, cold river
in the darkness underground

opportunities made of gold
wealth beyond Croesus’ and Midas’ imaginings
shining brighter than the sun

The other two parts of the trilogy are titled: Light/Shadow and Discovery respectively. I may have to change that last three lines to:

opportunities of gold
beyond Midas’ and Croesus’ imaginings
brighter than the sun

Raewyn and I are quite excited but there’s still work to do (our reviewers had comments).

What colour is your diagnosis?

Mark Lorch has written an April 16, 2015 piece for The Conversation (h/t the Guardian’s April 17, 2015 posting) about a very appealing approach to diagnostics (Note: A link has been removed),

If you’ve ever sat opposite a doctor and wondered what she was scribbling on her notepad, the answer may soon not only be medical notes on your condition, but real-time chemical preparations for an instant diagnostic test.

Thanks to the work of a team of researchers from California Polytechnic State University, recently published in the journal Lab on a Chip, chemicals formed into pencils can be made to react with one another by simply drawing with them on paper. The team may have taken inspiration from colouring books for their take on a chemical toolkit, but their approach could make carrying out simple but common diagnostic tests based on chemical reactions – for example diabetes, HIV, or tests for environmental pollutants – much easier.

Here’s a picture of the pens,

ReagentPencilsDiagnostics

Courtesy: Lab on a Chip

Lorch provides a good description of the technology giving descriptions of reagents and paper-based microfluidics, as well as, describing how the researchers turned the concept of colouring pencils into a diagnostic tool.

Lorch also provides a description of a specific test (Note: Links have been removed),

The team demonstrated a potential use of the reagent pencil technique by using it in place of a common test used by diabetics to check their blood glucose levels, which involves reacting a pinprick blood sample with a chemical solution and examining the result.

One pencil was constructed with a mixture of enzymes, one called horseradish peroxidase (HRP) and the other glucose oxidase (GOx). A second pencil contained a reagent called ABTS. When combined in the presence of glucose these react together to give a blue-coloured product. Comparing the results from their pencils on the pad with the more traditional dropper method used by diabetics the team found the results were identical.

This new ‘pencil kit’ diagnostic technology is easy to use and features a big improvement over the current diagnostic tests,

This is of course extremely easy to set up. Traditional diagnostic tests require training, while this pad and pencil system requires no more than skill than required to colour within the lines. The reagents are extremely stable once made into pencils – usually they would degrade in a matter of days as liquids, limiting how and where the tests can be made. However the reagent pencils showed no sign of degrading after two months.

Being able to use the pencils for two months as opposed to liquids that remain viable for a few days? That’s a huge jump and it makes me wonder about using these kits in harsh conditions such as desert climates and/or emergency situations. Materials that don’t need to be refrigerated and could be used for up to two months and don’t require intensive training could be very helpful. Lorch suggests some other possibilities as well,

… There’s scope to monitor environmental pollutants, carry out diagnostic tests in remote locations – not to mention teach chemistry in primary schools.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the study on the ‘colouring pencil kit’,

Reagent pencils: a new technique for solvent-free deposition of reagents onto paper-based microfluidic devices by Haydn T. Mitchell, Isabelle C. Noxon, Cory A. Chaplan, Samantha J. Carlton, Cheyenne H. Liu, Kirsten A. Ganaja, Nathaniel W. Martinez, Chad E. Immoos, Philip J. Costanzo, and Andres W. Martinez. Lab Chip, 2015, Advance Article DOI: 10.1039/C5LC00297D First published online 08 Apr 2015

This paper is open access but you do have to register on the site unless you have another means of access.

How do I get on these mailing lists? Casting call for a dating reality show

I received this casting call yesterday, April 2, 2015. It’s not the first one I’ve received from these folks but that is all I can offer in the way of legitimacy. The information is being posted here because it amuses me that a reality show casting agency has somehow gotten a science blog on its mailing list and a Canadian at that.

Here’s the casting call,

NBC GOES ON 8 ‘FIRST DATES’ AS NETWORK ORDERS POPULAR U.K. FORMAT TO SERIES BEGINS CASTING

Ellen DeGeneres-Executive Produced Series Will Explore All of the Simple Wonder of a First Date.  Online casting has begun in and around Chicago, Nashville, New York and Seattle at www.FirstDatesCasting.com

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — March 31, 2015 — NBC has ordered 8 episodes of “First Dates,” an observational documentary series from executive producer Ellen DeGeneres and Shed Media that takes a peek at what happens when a couple meets for the first time and love may be in the air.

Whenever a prospective couple goes on a first date, the same question always arises: Will the date blossom into a long-term love affair? It’s the moment when sparks often fly and our imaginations run wild — when two people realize they may have found their soul mate.

Based on a hit U.K. format, this unique hour-long series offers an authentic look at a variety of real first dates happening over one night at the same restaurant. The audience will be along for the full ride in a relatable viewing experience that plays like a real romantic comedy. Viewers will judge for themselves about how the couple is interacting and whether they are a good fit for one another. Is there a palpable sense of chemistry? Will there be an ever-elusive second date, or will it be back to love’s drawing board?

Production will begin in July in Chicago. No premiere date is set.

Apply now: www.Firstdatescasting.com

***Popular Productions, inc. We are a full service casting and development company with nationwide casting and production contacts. Numerous worldwide network and cable television programs. Producing partners, branding and packaging deals. Independent Films, Commercials, Music Videos, Internet, Broadband, Mobile content and Studio Films.

This is an online casting call.
Online Application at: www.Firstdatescasting.com

Please share and re-post this opportunity!
If you are interested in any of our other current television casting opportunities they can be found on our main casting site. Doron Ofir Casting is a legitimate television casting company and our credits can be found on IMDB. We never charge for casting EVER!

Good luck either on your reality tv show and/or dating future!

Making 3D patches for the brain

They’re not ready to start patching any brains yet but the research seems promising. From an April 1, 2015 news item on ScienceDaily,

Damage to neural tissue is typically permanent and causes lasting disability in patients, but a new approach has recently been discovered that holds incredible potential to reconstruct neural tissue at high resolution in three dimensions. Research recently published in the Journal of Neural Engineering demonstrated a method for embedding scaffolding of patterned nanofibers within three-dimensional (3D) hydrogel structures, and it was shown that neurite outgrowth from neurons in the hydrogel followed the nanofiber scaffolding by tracking directly along the nanofibers, particularly when the nanofibers were coated with a type of cell adhesion molecule called laminin. It was also shown that the coated nanofibers significantly enhanced the length of growing neurites, and that the type of hydrogel could significantly affect the extent to which the neurites tracked the nanofibers.

A March 31, 2015 Institute of Neural Regeneration & Tissue Engineering press release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, describes the thinking underlying this research and future research plans,

“Neural stem cells hold incredible potential for restoring damaged cells in the nervous system, and 3D reconstruction of neural tissue is essential for replicating the complex anatomical structure and function of the brain and spinal cord,” said Dr. McMurtrey, author of the study and director of the research institute that led this work. “So it was thought that the combination of induced neuronal cells with micropatterned biomaterials might enable unique advantages in 3D cultures, and this research showed that not only can neuronal cells be cultured in 3D conformations, but the direction and pattern of neurite outgrowth can be guided and controlled using relatively simple combinations of structural cues and biochemical signaling factors.”

The next step will be replicating more complex structures using a patient’s own induced stem cells to reconstruct damaged or diseased sites in the nervous system. These 3D reconstructions can then be used to implant into the damaged areas of neural tissue to help reconstruct specific neuroanatomical structures and integrate with the proper neural circuitry in order to restore function. Successful restoration of function would require training of the new neural circuitry over time, but by selecting the proper neurons and forming them into native architecture, implanted neural stem cells would have a much higher chance of providing successful outcomes. The scaffolding and hydrogel materials are biocompatible and biodegradable, and the hydrogels can also help to maintain the microstructure of implanted cells and prevent them from washing away in the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

McMurtrey also noted that by making these site-specific reconstructions of neural tissue, not only can neural architecture be rebuilt, but researchers can also make models for studying disease mechanisms and developmental processes just by using skin cells that are induced into pluripotent stem cells and into neurons from patients with a variety of diseases and conditions. “The 3D constructs enable a realistic replication of the innate cellular environment and also enable study of diseased human neurons without needing to biopsy neurons from affected patients and without needing to make animal models that can fail to replicate the full array of features seen in humans,” said McMurtrey.

The ability to engineer neural tissue from stem cells and biomaterials holds great potential for regenerative medicine. The combination of stem cells, functionalized hydrogel architecture, and patterned and functionalized nanofiber scaffolding enables the formation of unique 3D tissue constructs, and these engineered constructs offer important applications in brain and spinal cord tissue that has been damaged by trauma, stroke, or degeneration. In particular, this work may one day help in the restoration of functional neuroanatomical pathways and structures at sites of spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, tumor resection, stroke, or neurodegenerative diseases of Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Patterned and functionalized nanofiber scaffolds in three-dimensional hydrogel constructs enhance neurite outgrowth and directional control by Richard McMurtrey (Journal of Neural Engineering Volume 11 Number 6) 2014 J. J. Neural Eng. 11 066009 doi:10.1088/1741-2560/11/6/066009

This paper is open access.

A little unusually for me, here’s the abstract for the paper,

Objective. Neural tissue engineering holds incredible potential to restore functional capabilities to damaged neural tissue. It was hypothesized that patterned and functionalized nanofiber scaffolds could control neurite direction and enhance neurite outgrowth. Approach. A method of creating aligned electrospun nanofibers was implemented and fiber characteristics were analyzed using environmental scanning electron microscopy. Nanofibers were composed of polycaprolactone (PCL) polymer, PCL mixed with gelatin, or PCL with a laminin coating. Three-dimensional hydrogels were then integrated with embedded aligned nanofibers to support neuronal cell cultures. Microscopic images were captured at high-resolution in single and multi-focal planes with eGFP-expressing neuronal SH-SY5Y cells in a fluorescent channel and nanofiber scaffolding in another channel. Neuronal morphology and neurite tracking of nanofibers were then analyzed in detail. Main results. Aligned nanofibers were shown to enable significant control over the direction of neurite outgrowth in both two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) neuronal cultures. Laminin-functionalized nanofibers in 3D hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogels enabled significant alignment of neurites with nanofibers, enabled significant neurite tracking of nanofibers, and significantly increased the distance over which neurites could extend. Specifically, the average length of neurites per cell in 3D HA constructs with laminin-functionalized nanofibers increased by 66% compared to the same laminin fibers on 2D laminin surfaces, increased by 59% compared to 2D laminin-coated surface without fibers, and increased by 1052% compared to HA constructs without fibers. Laminin functionalization of fibers also doubled average neurite length over plain PCL fibers in the same 3D HA constructs. In addition, neurites also demonstrated tracking directly along the fibers, with 66% of neurite lengths directly tracking laminin-coated fibers in 3D HA constructs, which was a 65% relative increase in neurite tracking compared to plain PCL fibers in the same 3D HA constructs and a 213% relative increase over laminin-coated fibers on 2D laminin-coated surfaces. Significance. This work demonstrates the ability to create unique 3D neural tissue constructs using a combined system of hydrogel and nanofiber scaffolding. Importantly, patterned and biofunctionalized nanofiber scaffolds that can control direction and increase length of neurite outgrowth in three-dimensions hold much potential for neural tissue engineering. This approach offers advancements in the development of implantable neural tissue constructs that enable control of neural development and reproduction of neuroanatomical pathways, with the ultimate goal being the achievement of functional neural regeneration.

I have a few comments, this work was performed in vitro and I imagine it will be several years before it is attempted in human clinical trials. As well, the ethics issues raised by this work are interesting. While the doctors are talking about repairs to injured tissues, it’s only a matter of time until someone tries to improve on the brain or human enhancement. After all, modern plastic surgery was developed as a form of repair for soldiers and others who were disfigured. These days, much of the practice is concerned with preserving youth or enhancing someone’s looks. Not altogether coincidentally, I wrote about the second volume of a report from the US Presidential Bioethics Commission in my April 2, 2015 post titled: Gray Matters volume 2: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society issued March 2015 by US Presidential Bioethics Commission.

Finally, you can find out more about the Institute of Neural Regeneration & Tissue Engineering here.

Chemistry jokes for April Fool’s Day 2015

The American Chemistry Society (ACS) has released a follow up to its 2014 video of chemistry jokes according to an April 1, 2015 news release on EurekAlert,

Last year, Reactions shook up the comedy world with a video featuring nothing but chemistry jokes. After overwhelming public acclaim, we’re back for this April Fools’ Day with round two, featuring a number of fan submissions. If you’re looking for a laugh, or maybe a groan or two, check out the video here: https://youtu.be/QbxBsD_tDQw.

Subscribe to the series at http://bit.ly/ACSReactions, and follow us on Twitter @ACSreactions to be the first to see our latest videos.

You can also see the video here,

Happy April Fool’s Day 2015!

For those who can’t get enough chemistry jokes, here’s a link to my April 1, 2014 post featuring the first round.

#MuseumWeek starts March 23, 2015

For the second year in a row museums from all over the world are going to be meeting for a week long programme via Twitter hashtag #MuseumWeek. A March 20, 2015 news item on phys.org describes the event,

The Louvre, New York’s MoMA, the National Gallery of Australia, the Tokyo National Museum, Shakespeare’s Globe in Britain and more than 1,400 [1800 as of March 19, 2015 Pacific Timezone] other museums around the world are coming to Twitter next week.

From Monday, art institutions in 50 countries will be tweeting under the hashtag #MuseumWeek to publicise their collections and to highlight reactions, the US-based social network said in a statement.

French museum officials backed by Twitter and the French culture ministry are steering the week-long event, which seeks to engage with Twitter users worldwide.

A March 12, 2015 report on the press conference, ,which can be found on the #MuseumWeekwebsite noted this,

On Thursday 5th March 2015 at 5 pm, a press conference was held for the launch of the second #MuseumWeek in the Salon des Maréchaux at the Ministry of Culture and Communication. Present were the Minister, Fleur Pellerin, and Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter.

Benjamin Benita (Universcience), Coordinator of #MuseumWeek 2015, presented its main concepts: the 7 days, 7 themes and 7 hashtags that can be found here. He also spoke about the event’s mode of governance: a steering committee made up of French museum professionals, accompanied by Mar Dixon and backed by Twitter and the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. He reminded all those present of this #MuseumWeek’s dual ambition: to roll out the operation all over the world and attract an even wider public. We are delighted to be able to announce that #MuseumWeek 2015 has already attracted 1,000 participating institutions in 44 countries! The list of participants can be found here.

Innovatory initiatives

Finally, the great innovation of this second #MuseumWeek, new initiatives were presented: a time capsule that will store all the tweets and be kept by the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie, along with a digital work created by the BRIGHT studio and artist Marcin Ignac, based on tweets sent during the operation.This work will be displayed at the Cité de l’architecture & du patrimoine.

There’s a pretty healthy list of Canadian museums and cultural institutions as a March 17, 2015 Global report notes,

Go ahead, tweet a selfie at your favourite museum. It will be encouraged during MuseumWeek, a Twitter event that runs from March 23 to 29.

Inaugurated last year in Europe, the celebration has gone global, with museums around the world planning to tweet about their treasures and inviting visitors to post their own pictures and thoughts on various themes.

More than 55 museums across Canada, large and small, say they will participate, ranging from Science World British Columbia and the Royal Alberta Museum to the Royal Ontario Museum, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Army Museum in Halifax Citadel.

The National Gallery of Canada “jumped at the chance” to get involved, gallery director and CEO Marc Mayer said in a press release. He called the event an opportunity to engage with Canadians “in an authentic way that not only educates but celebrates art.”

All of the national Canadian science museums are represented.

You can keep up-to-date with the latest doings for #MuseumWeek here on this temporary Twitter account. If the temporary feed is anything to go by, this will be a multilingual experience.

Carbohydrates could regulate the toxicity of silver nanoparticles

According to a Jan. 22, 2015 news item on Azonano, you can vary the toxic impact of silver nanoparticles on cells by coating them with carbohydrates,

The use of colloidal silver to treat illnesses has become more popular in recent years, but its ingestion, prohibited in countries like the US, can be harmful to health. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Germany have now confirmed that silver nanoparticles are significantly toxic when they penetrate cells, although the number of toxic radicals they generate can vary by coating them with carbohydrates.

A Jan. 21, 2015 Spanish Foundation for the Science and Technology (FECYT) news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, describes colloidal silver and its controversies and the research on limiting silver nanoparticle toxicity to cells,

Silver salts have been used externally for centuries for their antiseptic properties in the treatment of pains and as a surface disinfectant for materials. There are currently people who use silver nanoparticles to make homemade potions to combat infections and illnesses such as cancer and AIDS, although in some cases the only thing they achieve is argyria or blue-tinged skin.

Health authorities warn that there is no scientific evidence that supports the therapeutic efficiency of colloidal silver and in fact, in some countries like the US, its ingestion is prohibited. On the contrary, there are numerous studies which demonstrate the toxicity of silver nanoparticles on cells.

One of these studies has just been published in the ‘Journal of Nanobiotechnology‘ by an international team of researchers coordinated from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (Germany). “We have observed that it is only when silver nanoparticles enter inside the cells that they produce serious harm, and that their toxicity is basically due to the oxidative stress they create,” explains the Spanish chemist Guillermo Orts-Gil, project co-ordinator, to SINC.

To carry out the study, the team has analysed how different carbohydrates act on the surface of silver nanoparticles (Ag-NP) of around 50 nanometres, which have been introduced into cultures of liver cells and tumour cells from the nervous system of mice. The results reveal that, for example, the toxic effects of the Ag-NP are much greater if they are covered with glucose instead of galactose or mannose.

‘Trojan horse’ mechanism

Although not all the details on the complex toxicological mechanisms are known, it is known that the nanoparticles use a ‘Trojan horse’ mechanism to trick the membrane’s defences and get inside the cell. “The new data shows how the different carbohydrate coatings regulate the way in which they do this, and this is hugely interesting for controlling their toxicity and designing future trials,” points out Orts-Gil.

The researcher highlights that there is a “clear correlation between the coating of the nanoparticles, the oxidative stress and toxicity, and thus, these results open up new perspectives on regulating the bioactivity of the Ag-NP through the use of carbohydrates”.

Silver nanoparticles are not only used to make homemade remedies; they are also increasingly used in drugs such as vaccines, as well as products such as clothes and cleaning cloths.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Carbohydrate functionalization of silver nanoparticles modulates cytotoxicity and cellular uptake by David C Kennedy, Guillermo Orts-Gil, Chian-Hui Lai, Larissa Müller, Andrea Haase, Andreas Luch, and Peter H Seeberger. Journal of Nanobiotechnology 2014, 12:59 doi:10.1186/s12951-014-0059-z published 19 December 2014

This is an open access paper. One final observation, David Kennedy, the lead author, is associated with both the Max Planck Institute and the Canada National Research Council and, depending on which news release (SINC news site Jan. 20, 2015) you read, Guillermo Orts-Gil is identified as a Spanish chemist and coordinator for SINC (Science News and Information Service).

CRISPR gene editing technique and patents

I have two items about the CRISPR gene editing technique. The first concerns a new use for the CRISPR technique developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine described in a Jan. 5, 2015 Johns Hopkins University news release on EurekAlert,

A powerful “genome editing” technology known as CRISPR has been used by researchers since 2012 to trim, disrupt, replace or add to sequences of an organism’s DNA. Now, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine have shown that the system also precisely and efficiently alters human stem cells.

“Stem cell technology is quickly advancing, and we think that the days when we can use iPSCs [human-induced pluripotent stem cells] for human therapy aren’t that far away,” says Zhaohui Ye, Ph.D., an instructor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “This is one of the first studies to detail the use of CRISPR in human iPSCs, showcasing its potential in these cells.”

CRISPR originated from a microbial immune system that contains DNA segments known as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. The engineered editing system makes use of an enzyme that nicks together DNA with a piece of small RNA that guides the tool to where researchers want to introduce cuts or other changes in the genome.

Previous research has shown that CRISPR can generate genomic changes or mutations through these interventions far more efficiently than other gene editing techniques, such as TALEN, short for transcription activator-like effector nuclease.

Despite CRISPR’s advantages, a recent study suggested that it might also produce a large number of “off-target” effects in human cancer cell lines, specifically modification of genes that researchers didn’t mean to change.

To see if this unwanted effect occurred in other human cell types, Ye; Linzhao Cheng, Ph.D., a professor of medicine and oncology in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and their colleagues pitted CRISPR against TALEN in human iPSCs, adult cells reprogrammed to act like embryonic stem cells. Human iPSCs have already shown enormous promise for treating and studying disease.

The researchers compared the ability of both genome editing systems to either cut out pieces of known genes in iPSCs or cut out a piece of these genes and replace it with another. As model genes, the researchers used JAK2, a gene that when mutated causes a bone marrow disorder known as polycythemia vera; SERPINA1, a gene that when mutated causes alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency, an inherited disorder that may cause lung and liver disease; and AAVS1, a gene that’s been recently discovered to be a “safe harbor” in the human genome for inserting foreign genes.

Their comparison found that when simply cutting out portions of genes, the CRISPR system was significantly more efficient than TALEN in all three gene systems, inducing up to 100 times more cuts. However, when using these genome editing tools for replacing portions of the genes, such as the disease-causing mutations in JAK2 and SERPINA1 genes, CRISPR and TALEN showed about the same efficiency in patient-derived iPSCs, the researchers report.

Contrary to results of the human cancer cell line study, both CRISPR and TALEN had the same targeting specificity in human iPSCs, hitting only the genes they were designed to affect, the team says. The researchers also found that the CRISPR system has an advantage over TALEN: It can be designed to target only the mutation-containing gene without affecting the healthy gene in patients, where only one copy of a gene is affected.

The findings, together with a related study that was published earlier in a leading journal of stem cell research (Cell Stem Cell), offer reassurance that CRISPR will be a useful tool for editing the genes of human iPSCs with little risk of off-target effects, say Ye and Cheng.

“CRISPR-mediated genome editing opens the door to many genetic applications in biologically relevant cells that can lead to better understanding of and potential cures for human diseases,” says Cheng.

Here’s a link to and citation for the paper by the Johns Hopkins researchers,

Efficient and Allele-Specific Genome Editing of Disease Loci in Human iPSCs by Cory Smith, Leire Abalde-Atristain, Chaoxia He, Brett R Brodsky, Evan M Braunstein, Pooja Chaudhari, Yoon-Young Jang, Linzhao Cheng and Zhaohui Ye. Molecular Therapy (24 November 2014) | doi:10.1038/mt.2014.226

This paper is behind a paywall.

Not mentioned in the Johns Hopkins Medicine news release is a brewing patent battle over the CRISPR technique. A Dec. 31, 2014 post by Glyn Moody for Techdirt lays out the situation (Note: Links have been removed),

Although not many outside the world of the biological sciences have heard of it yet, the CRISPR gene editing technique may turn out to be one of the most important discoveries of recent years — if patent battles don’t ruin it. Technology Review describes it as:

    an invention that may be the most important new genetic engineering technique since the beginning of the biotechnology age in the 1970s. The CRISPR system, dubbed a “search and replace function” for DNA, lets scientists easily disable genes or change their function by replacing DNA letters. During the last few months, scientists have shown that it’s possible to use CRISPR to rid mice of muscular dystrophy, cure them of a rare liver disease, make human cells immune to HIV, and genetically modify monkeys.

Unfortunately, rivalry between scientists claiming the credit for key parts of CRISPR threatens to spill over into patent litigation …

Moody describes three scientists vying for control via their patents,

[A researcher at the MIT-Harvard Broad Institute, Feng] Zhang cofounded Editas Medicine, and this week the startup announced that it had licensed his patent from the Broad Institute. But Editas doesn’t have CRISPR sewn up.

That’s because [Jennifer] Doudna, a structural biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, was a cofounder of Editas, too. And since Zhang’s patent came out, she’s broken off with the company, and her intellectual property — in the form of her own pending patent — has been licensed to Intellia, a competing startup unveiled only last month.

Making matters still more complicated, [another CRISPR researcher, Emmanuelle] Charpentier sold her own rights in the same patent application to CRISPR Therapeutics.

Moody notes,

Whether obvious or not, it looks like the patent granted may complicate turning the undoubtedly important CRISPR technique into products. That, in its turn, will mean delays for life-changing and even life-saving therapies: for example, CRISPR could potentially allow the defective gene that causes serious problems for those with cystic fibrosis to be edited to produce normal proteins, thus eliminating those problems.

It’s dispiriting to think that potentially valuable therapies could be lost to litigation battles particularly since the researchers are academics and their work was funded by taxpayers. In any event, I hope sanity reigns and they are able to avoid actions which will grind research down to a standstill.