Head Tilt Mouse
Ever since Mario Capecchi, Martin Evans, and Oliver Smithies created the first knockout mouse in 1989, genetically engineered animals have steadily increased in popularity for all kinds of biology research: simply pick a gene, turn it off in the mouse, and see what happens.
Just the sound of a dentist's drill is enough to send most people into a panic. Add to that the awful inconvenience of walking around for a day with half your face numb, and it's easy to see why getting a cavity filled or a tooth replaced is one of life's most annoying chores. Fortunately, some new research may make the common drill-and-fill a thing of the past.
The next time someone tries to argue that all M&Ms are the same, no matter the color, you can tell them about the blue M&M. The candy (like Gatorade and other products) gets its color from a food dye similar to Brilliant Blue G (BBG) -- a compound that, as it turns out, is medically useful. Building on earlier research, scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found that injections of BBG can relieve mice of secondary spinal cord injuries. In September, they will start conducting human clinical trials.
Chinese scientists have created live mice from mature skin cells that had reverted to an embryonic-like state. The scientific success could further defuse controversy over harvesting embryonic stem cells, but also raises new ethical issues about potentially making clones selected for specific traits.
Four years ago, a team of researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland switched on Blue Brain, a computer designed to mimic a functioning slice of a rat's brain. At first, the virtual neurons fired only when prodded by a simulated electrical current. But recently, that has changed.
Apparently, the simulated neurons have begun spontaneously coordinating, and organizing themselves into a more complex pattern that resembles a wave. According to the scientists, this is the beginning of the self-organizing neurological patterns that eventually, in more complex mammal brains, become personality.
If there's one thing the world doesn't need more of, it's rats. But try telling that to the researchers at France's Institute for Intelligent Systems and Robotics (ISIR) who have thrown themselves into designing a realistic ratbot capable of scuttling around on tiny wheels, seeking food, avoiding dangers and presumably scaring the bejeezus out of innocent humans.
When the words "Baltimore" and "rat" appear together, they usually involve a discussion of the fate of The Wire's Wallace or a DVD featuring Carmelo Anthony. However, unlike the alleged turncoats, it seems that actual rodents really do hold down their block. According to a new study in Molecular Ecology by a team of Johns Hopkins scientists, Norwegian rats are as neighborhood-oriented as any of the bipedal residents of Charm City.