NIH panel to review proposal for first in human test of CRISPR

  • A federal advisory panel  will review a proposal for the first in human test of CRISPR/cas9 gene-editing technology, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania plan to edit two genes in T-cells using CRISPR in a study aimed at targeting myeloma, melanoma, and sarcoma tumor cells, reports MIT Technology Review.
  • The study proposal will be reviewed by the Recombinant DNA Advisory committee (RAC) at its meeting to be held on June 21 and 22.

Read at BioPharma Dive

The MIT lab flushing out a city’s secrets

Researchers in Massachusetts are looking at ways to tackle public health issues by delving into the sewers. Luckily, a robot does all the dirty work…


Here in this small room within the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA, I am making the acquaintance of Luigi. As explorers go, he lacks charisma – not for him a winning smile, witty catchphrase and firm handshake. But then, Luigi isn’t your typical pioneer. He’s a robot. And it isn’t curios he collects. It’s sewage.

At first take, it seems an unlikely subject for Luigi’s creators – the Senseable City Lab – to embrace. Along twisting corridors, sleek black panels showcase the group’s off-the-wall ideas: LED-clad micro helicopters, location-tracked trash, theCopenhagen wheel – a motorised hub for bicycles that won a James Dyson prize. I am almost surprised to find the lab didn’t invent the flat white. “We usually say our top projects should be both in Nature and in MoMA [Museum of Modern Art],” admits the lab’s director, Professor Carlo Ratti, when we meet in his office, a room dominated by a vast table covered with piles of paper.


Read article at The Guardian

‘Earth’s First Animal’ May be Simple Sea Sponge

The first animal to appear on Earth was very likely the simple sea sponge.

New genetic analyses led by MIT researchers confirm that sea sponges are the source of a curious molecule found in rocks that are 640 million years old. These rocks significantly predate the Cambrian explosion — the period in which most animal groups took over the planet, 540 million years ago — suggesting that sea sponges may have been the first animals to inhabit the Earth.

“We brought together paleontological and genetic evidence to make a pretty strong case that this really is a molecular fossil of sponges,” said David Gold, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). “This is some of the oldest evidence for animal life.”

The results are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Gold is the lead author on the paper, along with senior author and EAPS Professor Roger Summons.


Link to article

Will Football Players Someday Take a Concussion Pill?

New research provides a potential pathway to a drug to save people from the progressive damage of severe or repeated concussions


An experimental treatment helps restore normal brain structure and function in mice that have sustained severe concussions, and could lead to a drug that would do the same in humans, according to new research.

The brains of people who suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects people such as boxers and football players with a history of repetitive hard hits to the head, are characterized by fibrous tangles of a protein called tau. It is not known how traumatic brain injury leads to these tangles, which are also found in the brains of people who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.



Read full article at MIT Technology Review

Next Generation: Souped-up Probiotics Pinpoint Cancer

Genetically engineered commensal bacteria help researchers detect cancer metastases in mouse livers.


The technique: Researchers at MIT and the University of California, San Diego, have programmed a probiotic Escherichia coli strain to detect cancer metastases in the liver. The team used these bacteria, described this week (May 27) in Science Translational Medicine, to detect cancer in mice.

“There are so many bacteria in our own bodies,” said lead author Tal Danino, a postdoc in Sangeeta Bhatia’s lab at MIT. “In some ways, they are a very natural delivery vehicle for agents for diagnosis.”

The new diagnostic technique takes advantage of an old finding: bacteria thrive in tumors. Tumors are filled with nutrients released from dying cells and relatively free of immune cells. So the researchers fed the engineered E. coli to mice and found that the bacteria indeed homed to liver tumors and multiplied.

The gastrointestinal tract is connected to the liver through the portal vein system, Danino explained. “If you orally deliver bacteria, a lot of them will end up in the liver.”


Full Story

Apple is reportedly teaming up with scientists to study your DNA

Apple could have a hand in helping researchers learn more about your DNA.

The company is reportedly planning to work with scientists to collect DNA for genetic research, as a part of its ResearchKit platform.

As outlined in MIT Technology Review’s report, Apple has two studies planned (one with the University of California, San Francisco, and the other with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York) that would allow the partners to collect or test DNA via an iPhone app.

“The data would be maintained by scientists in a computing cloud, but certain findings could appear directly on consumers’ iPhones as well,” the report said, citing sources close to the matter. “Eventually, it’s even possible consumers might swipe to share ‘my genes’ as easily as they do their location.”


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New way of using sound waves to find rare cancer cells

The cancer cells that circulate in many patients’ bloodstreams are incredibly rare but potentially dangerous. They break off from existing tumors, traveling to new locations where they can grow into new tumors. Scientists have come up with a better way of looking for these cells—using invisible sound waves.

Existing ways to sort cancer cells out of blood are slow, and they can damage cells, rendering them useless for further tests. Sound waves, however, can gently nudge healthy and cancerous cells apart. Here’s how it works, as explained by MIT’s news office.

The researchers built microfluidic devices with two acoustic transducers, which produce sound waves, on either side of a microchannel. When the two waves meet, they combine to form a standing wave (a wave that remains in constant position). This wave produces pressure nodes, or lines of low pressure. Because the sound waves are tilted so they run across the microchannel at an angle, each cell encounters several pressure nodes as it flows through the channel. As cells encounter each node, they are pushed further to the side of the channel; the distance of cell movement depends on their size and other properties, such as compressibility.

Full Story

See invisible motion, hear silent sounds. Cool? Creepy? We can’t decide

Meet the “motion microscope,” a video-processing tool that plays up tiny changes in motion and color impossible to see with the naked eye.


Video researcher Michael Rubinstein plays us clip after jaw-dropping clip showing how this tech can track an individual’s pulse and heartbeat simply from a piece of footage. Watch him recreate a conversation by amplifying the movements from sound waves bouncing off a bag of chips.


The wow-inspiring and sinister applications of this tech you have to see to believe.

Click here for the video

A Face to Remember

Researchers show that a tuning algorithm can make one’s profile photo more memorable.

Standing out in a crowd—and particularly, the crowded world of social media—may become a little easier as MIT researchers develop a clever way to tweak profile photos to play up a person’s most memorable facial features. Aditya Khosla and others at MIT have found a way to make photographs of faces more memorable or more forgettable, opening new doors in the understanding of memory.

The process was detailed in work presented at the International Conference on Computer Vision in Sydney in December 2013 and earned Khosla a Facebook Graduate Fellowship for further research. According to the researchers, such “feature tuning”—which could be extended from memorability to other qualities, like confidence or trustworthiness—has the potential to change everything from one’s profile photo on Facebook to online dating to political campaigns and advertising strategies.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 12.10.23

Full story at The Scientist


MIT robot may accelerate trials for stroke medications

MIT robot may accelerate trials for stroke medications

The development of drugs to treat acute stroke or aid in stroke recovery is a multibillion-dollar endeavor that only rarely pays off in the form of government-approved pharmaceuticals. Drug companies spend years testing safety and dosage in the clinic, only to find in Phase III clinical efficacy trials that target compounds have little to no benefit. The lengthy process is inefficient, costly, and discouraging, says Hermano Igo Krebs, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.