New Font: DNA.

16 09 2009

Forget 10 pt fonts… this is 10nm! Using PCR and some complicated techniques, researchers at BYU have developed a way to string DNA together in complex branching patterns in a deliberate manner.  The potential utility has to do with nanotechnology, but the proof of concept is pretty nifty in and of itself! Check out the press release here.

Abstract: “Designs for DNA origami have previously been limited by the size of the available single-stranded genomes for scaffolds. Here we present a straightforward method for the production of scaffold strands having various lengths, using polymerase chain reaction amplification followed by strand separation via streptavidin-coated magnetic beads. We have applied this approach in assembling several distinct DNA nanostructures that have thin (10 nm) features and branching points, making them potentially useful templates for nanowires in complex electronic circuitry.”

[via MedGadget]

Placebos Getting Stronger… No, Seriously…

8 09 2009

Wired has an interesting article about the recently-identified trend that placebos are getting more and more effective at treating targeted disorders.  Some results they cite were really quite surprising.  Excerpt:

“The upshot is fewer new medicines available to ailing patients and more financial woes for the beleaguered pharmaceutical industry. Last November, a new type of gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease, championed by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, was abruptly withdrawn from Phase II trials after unexpectedly tanking against placebo. A stem-cell startup called Osiris Therapeutics got a drubbing on Wall Street in March, when it suspended trials of its pill for Crohn’s disease, an intestinal ailment, citing an “unusually high” response to placebo. Two days later, Eli Lilly broke off testing of a much-touted new drug for schizophrenia when volunteers showed double the expected level of placebo response.

It’s not only trials of new drugs that are crossing the futility boundary. Some products that have been on the market for decades, like Prozac, are faltering in more recent follow-up tests… But if these same drugs were vetted now, the FDA might not approve some of them. Two comprehensive analyses of antidepressant trials have uncovered a dramatic increase in placebo response since the 1980s. One estimated that the so-called effect size (a measure of statistical significance) in placebo groups had nearly doubled over that time.

It’s not that the old meds are getting weaker, drug developers say. It’s as if the placebo effect is somehow getting stronger.

The fact that an increasing number of medications are unable to beat sugar pills has thrown the industry into crisis. The stakes could hardly be higher. “

I believe the important thing to take away from this article is that you and I should patent ‘Placebo’ and bring it to market it ASAP.

[Source: Wired]

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