Cancer fighting viruses, Water on Enceladus, Bionic robots #researchsaves #virus #cancer #science #future #space #bionics

The world, well, North America woke up to two things in the media today. The possibility of water and the right conditions for life on Enceladus, a moon of Saturn  and approval by the FDA on the cancer fighting virus produced by the pharmaceutical company Amgen. Has the future really arrived? I think so.

Robot assisted physiotherapy from REX Bionics. Hands free Robotic Device for Rehabilitation
Robot assisted physiotherapy from REX Bionics. Hands free Robotic Device for Rehabilitation

Before we go to space, here on Earth in Dallas, the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine held its annual conference showcasing the latest research in the field. I had a chance to check it out yesterday at the Hilton Anatole, today is the last day to go see some of the coolest innovations. I was particularly impressed by the Robot assisted Physiotherapy device from Rex Bionics. Another company doing very well with its sophisticated yet affordable wheel chairs was Numotion. The representative talked about how the company strives to get their products covered by the various medical insurance companies, changing lives for those patients who are not able to move around. The conference also featured exciting research from universities in Canada, India and USA.

Check out the ACRM conference in Chicago in 2016.

Please check out Numotion.com for more information.
Please check out Numotion.com for more information.

While robots are being designed to help disable people move, there are also robots being made out of viruses to i.e. being designed for a specific purpose.Using viruses, to be more specific, modified viral vectors in research is not anything new. Viral vectors have been used to knockdown genes for a very long time now. Laboratories using shRNA, siRNA, miRNA usually had viral vectors delivering these molecules to the target cell.

Diagram of Herpes simplex virus particle structure. Click on photo to go to link.
Diagram of Herpes simplex virus particle structure. Click on photo to go to link.

So it really was only a matter of time before academic and pharmaceutical research laboratories would figure out a way to design virus cells to hunt down cancer cells. Check out some very cool photos of Herpes Simples viruses here.

http://bryanmbrandenburg.com/herpes-simplex-virus-gallery/#

If you think about it, what is a virus really doing? It is delivering a piece of genetic information in the form of DNA or RNA to the host cell, which then uses it to make more viral particles for the virus. The specificity of viruses with respect to the cells it can attack are very precise. This makes it ideal to design a virus that hunt cancer cells with a very high level of precision. Once the virus infects the cancer cell, according to Amgen, it invokes an immune response in addition to breaking the infected cell apart. I mean at the end of the day, a virus really is a piece of genetic information with a layer of protective coat which can come in many forms.

An electron microscope image of a T-cell
An electron microscope image of a T-cell

Well, when the boys in blue i.e. the Immune system wakes up and finds a way to kill the cancer cells it makes it a way better option than using cancer therapeutics which also do the job of killing the cancer cell but has a wide range of side effects. This article is no way intended to put down the decades of research that has been done to create Cancer medications but I am hoping that Amgen will be able to see this to fruition and also reduce the $60,000 price tag.

There are astrobiologists that believe that life originated on Mars or somewhere else in the Universe and biomolecules may have arrived on Earth on meteors that crashed into earth. Imagine viral particles with genetic information encased in ice on a meteor that crashes on to earth and gets released into the environment. Science fictions- perhaps but not entirely impossible.

NASA has now moved Enceladus, a moon of Saturn to be one of its top choices for conditions for life to exist in the universe. Cassini, the spacecraft orbiting the moon has made a dive into Enceladus to take pictures from just 30 miles above its surface. They have detected organic molecules, water in the form of a hidden ocean, so if the command let there be life is going to happen, it is very likely it will be here on Enceladus.

A new ion engine, a Hall thruster being researched to take us to Mars for a fraction of the fuel it would normally take.http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/apl/107/17/10.1063/1.4932196photo credit: A prototype wall-less Hall thruster firing in a vacuum chamber. CNRS/LAPLACE and CNRS/ICARE
A new ion engine, a Hall thruster being researched to take us to Mars for a fraction of the fuel it would normally take.http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/apl/107/17/10.1063/1.4932196photo credit: A prototype wall-less Hall thruster firing in a vacuum chamber. CNRS/LAPLACE and CNRS/ICARE

We are finally getting there with research done by so many dedicated professionals all adding to the compendium of human knowledge advancing us, rushing us to a bold future. Imagine, a space ship filled with humans traveling to Mars using a new ion engine, who don’t get sick anymore because of highly targeted specific viral therapies they can inject into themselves and even a person who cannot walk can go to space with the aid of bionic robots.

So has the future arrived, yes, most definitely so 🙂 #researchsaves!!!

Have a good day!!

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Viruses, maybe they live!! Also President Obama, Putin and Zarif shakes hands. #Virus #news #Putin #POTUS

Anyone who has studied any level of Biology has been fed the dogma of the definition of the word “alive” or “life”. A virus by definition is not technically “alive” because it can only “come alive” or become active in a specific environment that activate it i.e the inside of a nice cozy nutrition rich cell or body fluids. They are host specific but can be manipulated to infect new hosts if gene re assortment occurs, they can only duplicate using host machinery but till today, they were for all intents and purposes not technically “alive”. Consider this news article that talks about reanimating a 30,000 year old huge Viral particle found underneath the Siberian ice to see how it behaves.( Am I the only one who sees the beginning of yet another zombie movie script with B-actors and even worse cinematography about to happen 🙂 ? )

30,000 year old virus unearthed under the Siberian ice
30,000 year old virus unearthed under the Siberian ice

However a new paper published recently using phylogenmics is forcing scientists to revisit that question along with how, and why viruses have originated. The paper published in Science Advances talks about the evolutionary ancestry of viruses and how they may have come from ancient cell progenitors which harbor segmented RNA.

So, well, that begs the question, what the viral progenitor and the ancient cell progenitor share in common and who belonged to who and when did the break up happen if indeed that is what happened?

Are we finally going to have to change our “life” paradigm about viruses?

Then again, yesterday, President Obama and Prime minister Putin shook hands, President Obama and Iranian Foreign minister Zarif shook hands. The United Nations General Assembly, yesterday was witness to new alliances forming, old ones breaking and political paradigms being tested severely because of certain viruses like ISIS and the unending Syrian conflict putting everybody to the test.

So maybe, change is in the air, in what direction, that is yet to be determined, however as science progresses forward, the most important thing to remember is to never stop asking and questioning.

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