Cloaked DNA devices fool your body’s immune system

Virus naturally-cloaked L — lipid-coated DNA nanodevices R

Researchers from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed a cloaked DNA nanodevice capable of evading the body’s immune defenses. The design was inspired by real world viruses and could be used to diagnose cancer and better target treatments to specific areas of tissue.

The researchers used a method known as “DNA origami” to construct the nanoscale device. This method involves folding a long strand of DNA into three-dimensional shapes and programming them to carry molecular instructions to specific cells. In 2012, researchers from Wyss demonstrated the potential of this approach by constructing a barrel-shaped robotic device, loading it with an antibody and programming it to home in on leukemia and lymphoma cells. Once located, the antibody activated the cells’ “suicide switch,” causing them to self-destruct through what is known as apoptosis.

While this delivery mechanism could prove useful in treating a variety of diseases, one significant obstacle is that in testing, the nanorobots are quickly digested after being injected into the bloodstream of mice. This led the researchers at Wyss to explore how they could prevent the particles from being chewed up before performing their task.

“We suspected that a virus-like envelope around our particles could solve our problem,” says Wyss Institute Core Faculty member and lead author of the study, William Shih, Ph.D…

In testing the resilience of the nanodevices in the body, the team loaded them with fluorescent dye and injected them into mice, some with the phospholipid coating and some without. The uncoated devices were quickly broken down, with whole-body imaging revealing a concentrated glow in the bladder. Those receiving the coated version showed a full-bodied glow, indicating that the devices remained in the bloodstream for hours after being injected.

The team also observed a link between the presence of the coated nanodevices in the bloodstream and activation of the immune system. Two particular immune-activating molecules were found to be 100-fold lower in mice administered the coated devices as opposed to those given the uncoated versions.

Such manipulation of the immune system could prove beneficial for treating certain conditions, such as activating the immune system to fight cancer cells or conversely, suppressing it to allow transplanted tissue to become established. Despite these potential applications, the researchers are mindful of the potential for adverse effects.

As Mike noted when he suggested this post, “…what could POSSIBLY go wrong?”

Just as an aside, the first big thing that could go wrong in my experience is a group of fascist-minded bastards in the CIA or Pentagon deciding to test any number of military attacks on the human body – from the inside.

Thanks, Mike

Three cheers for the Chicken Lady

A Florida woman has been taking advantage of a guarantee that the Publix grocery store chain makes to its customers and has scored herself more than 300 free rotisserie chickens in the last year.

Janet Feldman is able to use the “Publix Promise” policy to get the chickens for free because their actual weights don’t match their labels.

When the 57-year-old finds an underweight bird, she simply lets the store manager know and gets the chicken for free.

“I’m known as the Chicken Lady,” Feldman said…“I could pick them blindfolded. I haven’t paid for chicken in almost a year.”

She doesn’t actually eat the chickens herself and instead donates them to animal rescue organizations who feed them to hungry cats and dogs

Publix has pledged that they are going to fix the problem with the labels.

When I lived in a public housing project in Bridgeport, one year the nearest chain store that specialized in ripoff pricing in low income neighborhoods – did a deal at all their stores offering double your money back if your Thanksgiving turkey wasn’t the best you’d ever eaten.

Lots of happy folks in that project the day after Thanksgiving. We all enjoyed the birds we cooked; but, would you be surprised to find out they weren’t the very best anyone had ever prepared for the holiday?

U.S. won’t agree to a deal with Germany to end spying

The effort to remake the intelligence relationship between the United States and Germany after it was disclosed last year that the National Security Agency was tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone has collapsed, according to German officials, who say there will be no broad intelligence sharing or “no-spy” agreement between the two countries when Ms. Merkel visits the White House on Friday.

The failure to reach a broader accord has led to some bitter recriminations on both sides, with sharply diverging accounts from officials in Berlin and Washington about who was responsible for what was supposed to be a political solution to an embarrassing disclosure. But it also raises broader questions at a moment that President Obama and Ms. Merkel will attempt to show that they are in general accord on a strategy for both punishing Russia for its actions in Ukraine and containing President Vladimir V. Putin in the years ahead…

While the disclosure that the N.S.A. had listened to Ms. Merkel’s conversations for more than a decade was a passing story in the United States — one of many from the files that Edward J. Snowden took with him when he left Hawaii with the agency’s crown jewels — it has remained an issue in Germany. After the disclosure, Mr. Obama said the United States would not monitor Ms. Merkel’s communications, but he made no such commitment for any other German officials. And he said nothing about the future of the N.S.A.’s operations in Germany, including whether a listening station based in the American Embassy in Berlin, would stay intact.

For a number of months, German officials said the chancellor could not visit Washington until there was a resolution, including what they called a “restoration of trust” between the allies.

But the talks hit the rocks as soon as they began. Germany demanded a no-spy agreement that would ban the United States from conducting espionage activities on its soil. That led to a series of tough exchanges between the president’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, and her German counterpart, Christoph Heusgen.

Ms. Rice, according to American officials, said that the United States did not have no-spy agreements with any of its close allies, even with the other members of the so-called Five Eyes — the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — which share virtually all of their intelligence. She said any such agreement with Germany would set a precedent that every other major European ally, along with the Japanese, the South Koreans and others, would soon demand to replicate.

American officials said that in January, the Germans terminated…talks, saying that if an accord could not include a no-spy agreement — a political necessity for Ms. Merkel — it was not worth signing.

Democracy, transparency, constitutional freedoms. Big words used so often by our politicians – who haven’t the slightest inclination to honor them other than by deceit and arrogance – rejecting their meaning.

Godzilla endureth forever!

There have been hundreds of monster movies over the years, but only a handful of enduringly great movie monsters. Of those, only two were created for the screen: King Kong, the giant ape atop the Empire State Building, and his Japanese heir, Godzilla, the city-flattening sea monster who’s a genuinely terrific pop icon. He not only stars in movies — Hollywood is bringing out a new Godzilla on May 16 — but he’s even played basketball with Charles Barkley in a commercial for Nike.

It’s been six decades since Godzilla first hit the screen, and to celebrate the big guy’s birthday, Rialto Pictures is releasing Ishiro Honda’s 1954 original — in a restored, 60th-anniversary edition — in theaters. I’ve seen Godzilla many times since I was a kid, but watching it again, I was struck that it might be the best single film about the terrors of the nuclear age…

That said, Godzilla’s real strength lies not in its effects — impressive for the time — but in its underlying emotional and cultural seriousness. It’s not simply that the music is often doleful rather than exciting or that we see doomed children set off Geiger counters. The movie has a gravity that comes from being created in a Japan that knew what it was to have children die from radiation poisoning and to see its capital city in flames. Both drawn to and terrified of the monster’s power, the movie is steeped in Japan’s traumatic historical experience. It has weight. It means something.

Godzilla’s resonance is also inseparable from something else that once defined the best monster movies — a sense of compassion for the monster. Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein may have been scary, but we also felt his frailty and fear at being hunted. King Kong was dangerous, sure, but his eyes were charged with almost human feeling when he gazed at Fay Wray. The same is true of Godzilla, who starts out wreaking havoc but, by the film’s end, takes on a melancholy, sad-faced grandeur.

These monsters always seem to become part of that noble savage myth Westerners love to believe in. You don’t mind him destroying all of contemporary society in a quest to return to natural glory. Contradictions which all too often reappear in populist politics.

Just in case you thought I might skip the parallel. 🙂

Thanks, Mike