Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from February, 2010

New Brain, New Day, New You

New cells are born every day in the brain's hippocampus . This is the long term memory area, the hard drive for those of us who think better with metaphors. Neuroscientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have discovered that the birth of new cells , which depends on brain activity, also depends on a protein that is involved in changing epigenetic marks in the cell's genetic material. Epigenetic changes are fairly cool to think about as a Fiction writer, for example; Epigenetic changes have also been observed to occur in response to environmental exposure—for example, mice given some dietary supplements have epigenetic changes affecting expression of the agouti gene , which affects their fur color, weight, and propensity to develop cancer The idea of changes in fur color and weight (physical manifestations) because of a epigenetic change, which has been induced by the researcher, and the change being predictable has long reaching possibilities, and certain

Cloning and the copying of beings..

In most fiction (since that is where human clones exist at present), there is always the assumption that a clone is an exact copy. In fact the angst of the young Picard in the movie Nemisis, is that he is a clone a copy of Captian Picard, and therefore not his own person. Going through some of the research on DNA, cells, nueropeptides and epigenetics, I have come across several papers in the search listings which suggest quite positivly that there is no such thing as an exact copy of a clone. That in fact, each clone would be a separate person, and that even the DNA markers used for Criminal Fingerprinting would be different enough to tell which clone murdered the original evil genius responsible for their creation. For me this changes some of the underlying assumptions of what clones would be if they were created, and who they would be as well. Even minor changes to the structure of the brain would alter the chemistry and personality of the brain as a whole, so that the perception o

Critical Mass in San Diego

Regarding the post I made last night about the bicyclist in Downtown, the group is called Critical Mass , which I'm sure I knew, but flaked out on. When I was in San Fransisco I saw them hit the downtown area with a much larger group. It was, brilliant, to put it mildly. Critical Mass is all over the world now. Of course, not everyone thinks they are as cool as I do. Critical Mass is an idea that started in San Francisco in 1992 and was originally called Commut Clot. The idea was to show that they are no longer going to take the effects that automobile transportation has on the environment and the world. In order to emphasize this point the riders would take to the streets clogging up lanes, making commuters frustrated and protesting live on the streets in a disorganized but brilliant fashion. Soon after its conception in the U.S., Critical Mass begun to catch like wild fire and eventually spread to over 325 cities world wide. Even Budapest has Critical Mass twice a year where

The things that change our DNA

The possible factors that can change the human DNA are being discovered all the time. These changes mostly affect the Germline DNA. Germline cells are immortal, in the sense that they can reproduce indefinitely. This is largely due to the activity of the enzyme known as telomerase. This enzyme extends the telomeres of the chromosome, preventing chromosome fusions and other negative effects of shortened telomeres. Somatic cells, by comparison, can only divide around 30-50 times due to the Hayflick limit. That little tid-bit I found rather interesting for several other reasons... Changes in the DNA due to Diabetes That article is an example of a change occuring through 'natural causes', however, by using retro-viral vectors that infect a wide range of cells in a wide range of tissue types, changes are theoretically possible as well. Problem is, most such vectors target fairly specific cell types. Retrovirus vectors are the agent most commonly used to insert, or change, gene

Alterations in the ID of a DNA Fingerprint

Of course the panacea of DNA Fingerprinting for criminals, is to be able to alter the existing DNA finger print, either for the duration of the crime, or for the investigation afterward. Just the idea of mucking about with your core DNA areas, sounds like an invitation for primate mutation (and an ape appetite for vegetation), the thought of actually doing it is, well ... fairly creepy. But then, some criminals are fairly creepy... A study titled: Changes in DNA induced by toxic agents ( Forensic Sci Int. 1996 Apr 23;78(3):169-78, Sawaguchi T , Wang X , Sawaguchi A . Department of Legal Medicine, Tokyo Women's Medical College, Japan.) Seems to suggest that it is possible, although from this publication, most of the methods would be fatal. This is a preliminary report on significant alterations in the DNA profile caused by toxic substances which potentially has profound implications for the use of DNA techniques in identification. Acute DNA changes in the globus pallidus o

Bicycle Protesters hit San Diego

Just after 8:00pm a group of bicycle protesters emerged downtown, numbering well over 500. I wasn't able to count them as they went by, but considering my first estimate was 1000(based on the amount of times the traffic lights cycled as they road through the intersection of 4th and Broadway), I'm betting "over 500" is at the very least, accurate. Three groups of bicycle cops were in the garden area of Horton Plaza (is the front of Horton Plaza an eye-sore these days or what?) when the protesters emerged. The bike-cops where ineffectual, as were the squad cars which were attempting to stem the tide as the cycles poured on through. After the first group, a second group emerged which continued on down 4th street, turning left on Fst and into the Gas-lamp main area, disrupting traffic, to the cheers of hundreds as they passed by. Most of the drivers who were paused in their travel to find parking and start their Friday night revelry cheered the bicyc

A Introduction look at DNA Finger Printing

I've posted a few "overview" looks at DNA Finger Printing so far on this blog, this time the link is to an article on JSTOR, An Introduction to DNA Finger Printing Personally, getting the same information from different authors helps my writing on the subject. While the information is basically the same, the choice of words, vocabulary and the focus of importance is often different between two different authors, which not only provides me with a larger vocabulary, but often a new set of search criteria for further information. This is one of the methods I developed working as a Google Researcher , to speed up the absorption of a new topic, and develop answers, and a technique that is invaluable as a freelance writer .

Passing the Buck - Homeless in San Diego

The Museum of San Diego History, for its NOW! program starting Feb 25th is showing the Passing the Buck: Homeless in San Diego exhibit. "Although there is great concern for assisting the homeless, where to house them in San Diego is a political hot button." Time for the show is 6:00pm - 7:30pm Admission is Free, and promises to be an informative look at what is really being done for the homeless in San Diego.

The Chimera

In Greek mythology, " chimera ," derived from the Greek word for "billy goat," referred to a fire-breathing she-demon that was part lion, part goat, and part dragon or snake. Getting rid of this killer was quite an achievement, and Bellerophon was heaped with praise and riches for his courageous and clever dispatch of the beast. The term "chimera" has come down to us through the ages with 3 definitions: the original monster, an impossible and fanciful creation of the imagination (eg, Woody Allen's malefactor with the body of a crab and the head of social worker), and an organism containing tissues from at least 2 genetically distinct parents . It is this last definition that is of compelling medical interest, based largely on the work of Ray Owen.

The Chimera and the Crime

There is a fantastic paper on the subject of the Chimera as directly related to Crime Scene investigation. CHIMERAS: DOUBLE THE DNA-DOUBLE THE FUN FOR CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATORS, PROSECUTORS, AND DEFENSE ATTORNEYS? (This Link is to a PDF File) One thing she doesn't address, which does come up in the Winter's Harvest novel, is the idea of triplets or ... more... in the make up of the Chimera. Despite this, Catherine Arcabascio has written one of the best papers I've read on the subject so far, and just about all of the information presented is current science.

DNA Uses in Crime Investigation

A report issued by the Justice Department in 2002 indicated that two-thirds of chief prosecutors in the United States rely on DNA testing during investigations and trials. The use of DNA evidence has exonerated at least ten individuals who were wrongly convicted of murder and faced the death penalty, while the sentences of more than 100 others convicted of lesser crimes were overturned based upon DNA evidence. The FBI maintains a database that may be used to compare DNA samples from unsolved state and federal crimes. Since its inception in 1992, the FBI's database has made more than 5,000 matches, thus allowing law enforcement officials to solve crimes that might not have been solved without the use of DNA. The FBI crime laboratory dominated research in forensic sciences for much of the 1980s and 1990s. However, allegations surfaced in 1995 that suggested scientists at the crime lab had tainted evidence related to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. A form

DNA Fingerprinting - An Overview

For the novel Winter's Harvest I have had to spend quite a bit of time looking into the techniques of DNA fingerprinting. This is a basic overview of how a DNA fingerprint is extracted from evidence at a crime scene, produced by the Encyclopedia Britannica.