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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tasmanian Tiger's gene resurrected: Is Jurassic Park next?

The Jurassic Code: Resurrecting the Planet's Extinct Species -Can It Be Done?

Dingothylacinehead Scientists at the Universities of Melbourne and Texas have successfully resurrected a gene from the extinct Tasmanian Tiger. This certainly isn't Jurassic Park - more like a Jurassic Concession Stand - but it's an incredibly important step forward in the study of animals thought to be lost forever.

Tasmaniantiger_2 The team implanted a gene known as "Col2a1" (or "Colly" to its friends) into a laboratory mouse embryo. Before you're traumatized by images of fearsome predatory tiny white mice (though that would give my girlfriend a proper reason to be scared of them), the wider scientific community would like to channel Morbo in shouting "Genes do not work that way!". Col2a1 is only involved in the production of chondrocytes, the cells which produce and maintain cartilage in various joints around the body. The mouse didn't even get any super-flexible tiger joints; the only visible difference is one the scientists purposefully engineered, including a marker sequence which turned cells affected by the Col2a1 blue. The result? Some wicked awesome/cool/frightening pictures of blue-streaked mice embryos, and while they're at it a massive advance in our access to extinct animal DNA.

What's revolutionary is how the DNA fragments the work is based on were dead. Extremely dead, in fact - we're talking "In a museum" dead which is about as dead as you can get. The original samples had been kept in a jar of ethanol for over a century, and considering how DNA breaks down over time even putting Col2a1 together was a massive success. A massive, tiny, fiddly, "super-complicated 3D jigsaw you can only touch with microscopes and chemicals" success. Rather than study the gene in test tubes and chemical baths (in vitro), the team went the extra mile and got it back into a living organism, presumably so they could stand over the incubator and cry "IT'S ALIIIVE!" while lightning crashed dramatically in the background.

The research is extremely well-timed, with current conservation efforts focusing on salvaging as many species as possible with biotissue cataloguing efforts and seed vaults around the world. While the reconstruction of complete animals is a long way off, if possible at all, this research demonstrates that the basic steps are possible - it's only our time and technology that are lacking. And the latter improves with the former. For now the work can be applied in the study of extinct animals in a slightly more convincing manner than the "staring at the fossils and guessing" which has dominated the field to date. If you can recover a fragment of DNA, you can play the world's most exciting game of "Let's see what this bit does."

Posted by Luke McKinney.

Related Galaxy posts:

Bigger Threat than Global Warming -Mass Species Extinction
Bringing Ancient Human Viruses Back to Life: A Jurassic Park or Salvation?

World's 10 Sexiest Penthouses

Even when it comes to big-dollar penthouses, there's an upper tier. We've scoured the world to find the sexiest summit suites, from high-design, high-tech pads in Vegas to lush high-rise living in New York City. All you need now is that right someone to join you in this alternative Mile-High Club.

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Baseball may try replay in Arizona Fall League

By Jayson Stark

Major League Baseball is making tentative plans to experiment with instant replay in the Arizona Fall League, according to a baseball official with knowledge of those discussions.

If that experiment proves practical and successful, MLB then is likely to continue the experiment next March during the World Baseball Classic and spring training games.

If no insurmountable problems arise, baseball could begin using replay -- though only to decide home run calls -- as soon as next season.

A top baseball official confirmed to The Associated Press Thursday that he will formulate a proposal for instant replay, although he wouldn't put a timetable on a replay plan.

"The times are such that our fans are used to seeing all the high technology and they're used to seeing the other sports that use these systems to make determinations, and the fans are clamoring for all the sports to look at that," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, the sport's executive vice president for baseball operations.

What is yet to be determined is whether calls would be reviewed by a "replay umpire" in each stadium, as the National Football League does, or in the MLB offices in New York, a system that would more resemble the National Hockey League's.

Calls for some kind of instant replay system for home runs have arisen following a string of questionable home run calls by umpires.

On Sunday night, umpires at Yankee Stadium reversed their correct call and concluded a shot by Carlos Delgado of the Mets was foul.

A night later, umps in Houston mistakenly ruled a ball hit by the Cubs' Geovany Soto off a center-field wall was in play when it should have been a home run. Soto turned the hit into an inside-the-park home run anyway.

And on Wednesday night, a ball hit by Alex Rodriguez that struck a stairway beyond the outfield fence and bounced back into the outfield was ruled a double when it should have been a home run.

Last November, general managers voted 25-5 to try replay on boundary calls -- whether possible homers are fair or foul, if balls actually clear fences, whether there's fan interference. The recommendation went to commissioner Bud Selig, but had no binding effect or time frame. Nor did it offer a recommendation on how replay would be implemented.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Yamaha Branded Deus Ex Machina Motorcycle Exoskeleton: A Segway On Steroids

Art Center Pasadena student Jake Loniak has taken everything that is cool about exoskeletons and motorcycles and crammed it into this Yamaha-branded Deus Ex Machina concept motorcycle. The vehicle is powered by ultra-capacitors and doped nano-phoshpate batteries (similar to the ones currently used in hybrid cars) and it is controlled using 36 pneumatic muscles with two linear actuators set along a spine consisting of seven artificial vertebrae. Even the helmet is pneumatically attached.

If constructed, the designer believes that it could achieve a top speed of 75mph (0-60mph in 3 seconds) with a recharge time of 15 minutes and cycle time of one hour. We may never know if that is true, but I say throw some sort of storage compartment on this thing and let's find out. [Art Center Pasadena via Hell For Leather]

5 Child TV Stars that grew up Beautiful

From cute to knockout... where are they now.

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