Scientists Improve DNA Data Storage

three DNA strands

Scientists further improve DNA data storage processes.

Data storage is gradually becoming a real problem, as users continue to generate massive quantities that may even outstrip the capabilities of hard drives to capture it. Data centers holding data collected by Facebook and Amazon are already extremely large, but even those are only a short-term solution to a problem getting bigger each day.

However, scientists are trying to discover more innovative ways to store data. One such method involves DNA data storage, which can provide safe long-term storage, or at least as long as humanity is still around. As scientists became increasingly proficient at decoding DNA, they found a way to store data inside it.

Now, two researchers working at the New York Genome Center found a way to expand the capacities of DNA data storage to its theoretical maximum. They used a previous coding scheme meant for noisy communication channels to actually store an entire operating system and several movies into DNA, at an unprecedented density of 215 petabytes per each gram of DNA. This means that the world’s entire data can be stored in one room using this method.

However, the synthesizing and decoding of DNA is not entirely 100 percent accurate, as it eventually leads to some data loss and errors. Therefore, the researchers used Fountain codes, to compensate for the loss of data. The researchers first converted the data into a string of binary information, which was then compressed into a master file and split into shorter strings of binary code.

The code was then packaged into droplets using the Fountain code, which ended up as a digital list of 72,000 DNA strands, each one being 200 bases long. The strands were then sent to Twist Bioscience, the company responsible for synthesizing the data into actual DNA. They were also able to successfully decode the information stored within by using modern technology used in DNA sequencing. The new DNA data storage method worked so well that the decoded information did have any errors.

However, the current problem with DNA storage data is that it costs $7000 to store 2 megabytes of data and $2000 to decode it. While the cost is gradually going to decrease, the synthesizing and decoding processes are quite slow. Nonetheless, DNA data storage may be used for large long-term archives.

Image sourcePublic Domain Pictures

Study Finds Pet Medications Dangerous for Kids

white pet dog

Pet medications pose a danger to children under five years old.

Most parents of young children are aware of the need to store the various household cleaners and medicines out of the reach of their kids. However, a new study has found that pet medications can also pose a danger to small children.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, revealed that around 88 percent of all situations of poisoning with pet medications involves children at the age of five years old or under. The study also found that around one if four cases of poisoning with pet medications happened while a member of the household tried to give the corresponding medicine to the family pet.

According to Kristin Roberts, the co-author of the study, the poisoning in these situations happen mostly due to the fact that the pet spit the medicine and the children ate it, or if the drugs were mixed in other foods like hot dogs or cheese and the kids ate it by accident.

Roberts and her colleagues from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital from Columbus Ohio, recommend to parents that the best safety measure is to store the pet medications out of the reach of children and making sure that the kids are not in the same room as when you administer the drugs to the pet.

For their study, the researchers analyzed the data of more than 1,431 pet medication poisoning cases in Ohio between 1999 and 2013. They found that the vast majority of the calls, 88 percent, were related to medications for dogs, while in the 93 percent of all cases, the children either ate or drank the pet medications. Other 2.3 percent of cases involved children who had eye contact with the medication and 1.1 percent involved skin exposure.

Most of the poisoning cases happened at home and could be treated without a visit to the family’s health care provider. Just 6 percent of cases were treated at a health facility. Among those cases, 60 percent of them were evaluated, treated and the kids released.

The study was limited, as it was performed with data from only one poison center and poison specialist did not always consistently record the source of the poisoning.

Image source: Max Pixel

Prostate Cancer Biopsies Avoidable With MRI Scans

prostate cancer representation

Study finds that prostate cancer biopsies can be avoided thanks to MRI scans.

Prostate cancer has been usually diagnosed after a doctor performs a biopsy on the patient. However, this procedure is invasive and poses several potential dangers. A new study has found that using MRI scan enables doctors to detect the prostate cancer without the need for a biopsy.

The study has found that 27 percent of with potential prostate cancer can avoid a dangerous biopsy by first having an MRI scan, which leads to improved diagnosis and spares men from undergoing the painful process if they do not have an aggressive type of cancer. Furthermore, the study also found that performing an MRI scan also reduces the number of men who are diagnosed with a benign type of cancer by 5 percent.

Doctors usually perform a biopsy on patients who experience either the symptoms of prostate cancer or if they have the prostate specific antigen (PSA) revealed during a blood test. However, the PSA test isn’t always accurate, and in many cases, the patients are required to undergo the painful procedure. Furthermore, not even the biopsy is definitive due to the fact that prostate cancer can have either aggressive or harmless forms, and the procedure takes tissue samples at random.

This leads to patients with benign cancer to be treated for the disease, which adds nothing to their survival rate. However, the findings of the study promise to change the way the disease is commonly diagnosed by using MRI scans.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet on Friday, reveals that doctors who performed an MRI scan managed to diagnose 93 percent of all aggressive cancer cases, while the biopsy which consists in a probe guided by ultrasound being inserted into the rectum only correctly diagnosed 48 percent. However, an MRI scans can be more expensive as it costs $400 for a scan and can only be performed by a radiologist, not to mention that MRI machines are not readily available in all hospitals.

For their study, the researchers gathered 576 participants suspected of having prostate cancer. They were required to undergo both an MRI scan as well as two type of biopsies.

What do you think about the findings of the study? Did you ever receive a biopsy for this type of cancer?

Image sourceWikimedia

Isle Royale Wolf Population Might Be Saved

Isle Royale wolf

Conservation efforts are being made to save the Isle Royale wolf population.

Managers of the Isle Royale National Park started to consider introducing thirty gray wolves because this predator species is threatened. The officials have three other options, and one of them involves relocating maximum 15 wolves to the park and many other over two decades.

Another option is to do nothing at the moment. Last but not least, the managers might do nothing to facilitate the recovery of the gray wolves. In this case, this species will disappear from the Isle Royale National Park because their numbers dropped down to just two inbred specimens over the past few years.

The four options are included in a report developed by researchers from the National Park Service, outside consultants, and other staff members. The officials will publicly announce their final decision after the three-month comment period which ends on the 15th of March.

Unfortunately, gray wolves are not endemic to the Isle Royale National Park. Furthermore, other species, including the lynx and caribou spent a longer period in this area before they were wiped out.

Wildlife biologists believe that the first gray wolves arrived at the Isle Royale area in the 1940s, after crossing the 15-mile surface of the frozen lake. Also, they might have come from Ontario or Minnesota too.

Most campers and visitors underline that this mysterious species must be preserved. Although this animal is widely popular, the managers said that they wouldn’t take this fact into consideration. They explained that they need to assess the advantages and disadvantages of introducing several gray wolves into the Isle Royale National Park.

Regardless of their decision, wolves have always had a major role in any given ecosystem. Starting from the 1920s, the experts believe that wolves have occasionally roamed in the park, especially during cold winters where the food was scarce.

As such, their presence in the park might have refreshed the gene pool. Still, the scientists underline that inbreeding had some long-term consequences as well. It is worth mentioning that the moose population has increased over the past few years as there are over 1,200 specimens in the park.

In other words, the wildlife biologists point to the fact that the gray wolves would keep the moose numbers in check and prevent them from damaging the trees of the Isle Royale National Park.

Image Source:Wikipedia

Fake Kylie Jenner Lip Kits Are Health Hazards

kylie jenner on the red carpet

The Kylie Jenner lip kits is designed to enhance the natural volume of lips.

The 19 years old member of the Kardashian family has recently posted a video on one of her social media accounts urging fans to stay away from counterfeit beauty products. It seems that somebody created a clone of her cosmetics website selling fake Kylie Jenner lip kits that contain dangerous ingredients such as gasoline and glue.

Kylie Cosmetics are a popular brand of beauty products in the United States. As the popularity of the Kardashian clan grew, so did their business opportunities. In consequence, Kylie is the owner of a successful cosmetics line at only 19.

The publicity that comes with a show like Keeping Up With the Kardashians has its perks. Kylie Jenner, known for her curvaceous figure and sensual lips, managed to win the hearts of millions of viewers and promote her line of beauty products.

Among the most recent releases, the Kylie Jenner lip kits have rapidly become a fan favorite. Featuring a matte liquid lipstick and a lip liner, the kits are a fast and easy way to sensual, volume-filled lips. However, whenever a product becomes popular, copies are bound to appear.

It seems that somebody cloned Jenner’s website by adding the word “outlet” to it. Those who enter the fake website are greeted by the same design and products. Moreover, the fake products cost as much as the real ones.

Jenner declared in her social media video post that some fans have complained of the fake Kylie Jenner lip kits, their health being affected by the products. While some just got a quick sniff of gasoline and decided to discard of the $30 lipstick, others had to apply it to discover that it contained glue or other cheap ingredients.

Some buyers even experienced mild to intense adverse reactions as their lips started to sting, swell, and in some cases, they even got infected.

The celebrity is urging fans to stay away from any third parties as her products can only be found on her website. Furthermore, she declared that her team managed to take a look at the ingredients and discovered that they are extremely harmful to the health of the users.

Jenner is advising her fans to double check the URL when ordering one of her beauty products.

Have you ever had a negative experience with a fake cosmetic?

Image source: Flickr 

Baby Powder Lawsuit Brings Over $70 Million to California Woman

bottles of Johnson's baby powder

This is not the first baby powder lawsuit that Johnson’s loses.

This Thursday, a St. Louis jury found Johnson and Johnson’s guilty for negligent conducts in the marketing and fabrication processes. The baby powder lawsuit brought the Californian woman, who claimed that the product caused her to develop ovarian cancer, over $70 million in damages.

The trial started on the 26th of September when Deborah Giannecchini filed a motion claiming that her 2012 ovarian cancer diagnosis was due to her regular use of Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder. This is the third instance when the company is found guilty in a baby powder lawsuit.

Another St. Louis jury awarded $55 million in damage to a South Dakotan ovarian cancer survivor on Monday. In February, the relatives of an Alabama victim received $72 million.

There were other cases when the company won the trials. In these cases, the jury considered that the evidence was not reliable enough. There is no 100% accurate proof to determine that the talc used by Johnson and Johnson’s in their products leads to the development of ovarian cancer.

The Baby Powder Trial Is Based On Inconclusive Evidence

According to the statistics, from the approximately 1.7 million yearly cancer diagnoses, only 22,000 prove to be ovarian cancer. The disorder is rather rare, but it is deadlier than other types because it is usually diagnosed during its later stages. When discovered late, surgery and chemotherapy are not enough to beat the disease.

The link between baby powder and ovarian cancer was thoroughly researched throughout the years. Most studies did not find anything. The majority of health institutions declared talc as being a safe ingredient for both beauty and hygiene products. That is one of the reasons why Johnson and Johnson’s continue to fight to clear their name.

However, Jim Onder, the attorney for all three winning plaintiffs, used a study from the 1970’s as evidence in his cases. It seems that the paper found that adult women who use talc powder regularly have up to 40 percent more chances of developing the disorder.

Onder accused the company of deliberately marketing its products toward Hispanic, black, and overweight women. Incidentally, the same groups have been found to be more at-risk of developing the disease.

Talc is labeled as possibly carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The substance is the powder form of the softest mineral on Earth, a key ingredient in most beauty products.

Image source: Flickr 

Movidius Announces AI-enhanced Security Cameras

smart security camera

Movidius will integrate its Myriad VPU chip with Hikvision security cameras.

Movidius has recently announced that they will bring their artificial intelligence and computer vision technology to a new generation of security cameras. The company will only contribute the AI software to the cameras produced by Hikvision, one of the largest sellers of online security cameras.

Movidius is a well-known AI technology firm which has developed the Myriad chip which is used to power the spatial awareness of Google’s VR headset among other Project Tango devices, as well as in the DJI’s Phantom 4 Drone, in which it provides the sense and avoid features. The company has recently been bought by Intel and they promise to bring the AI-enhanced technology to the Hikvision security cameras.

What makes Movidius’ Myriad chip so amazing is the fact that it can perform deep learning techniques to avoid overwhelming the small batteries and processors found on mobile devices. This is quite an improvement in bringing deep learning to mobile devices despite the technology requiring a lot of onboard or cloud processing power.

The company is focused on computer vision, so much so that they’ve dubbed the Myriad chip a vision processing unit (VPU). This means that a lot of image analysis and processing can be done by the device without a lot of useless information being transmitted back. A Myriad-equipped smart security camera can transmit only short clips of the video when it detects a problem or a threat.

Hikivision security cameras claim to have achieved a 99 percent accuracy in identifying car models, spotting suspicious baggage, detecting intruders, spot drivers who are texting, and more. The new Myriad VPU chip will include all these functions in the camera itself while managing to reduce the number of false alarms.  Movidius also claims that their technology uses 10,000 times less internet bandwidth and even decreases the latency by 1,000 times.

Although this new technology for security cameras can prove to be extremely beneficial to law enforcement, it can also be an intrusive instrument in people’s life. It can also be used for an accurate and autonomous mass surveillance of a population by a government. It remains to be seen how will this technology actually be used.

What do you think about these new smart security cameras?

Image source: Hikvision

Carla Denise Garrison Lawsuit Against Target Awarded Her $4.6 Million

 

Target needs to pay $4.6 million to Carla Denise Garrison

Carla Denise Garrison is being given more than $4.6 million in damages after being stung by a needle in Target ‘s parking lot

After being stung by a needle in a Target parking lot, Carla Denise Garrison is being given more than $4.6 million in damages. The amount that the women received after the lawsuit is one of the biggest in the records of Anderson County.

The documents filed by Carla mentioned that her eight-year-old daughter picked up a hypodermic needle in the parking lot of Target. The concerned mother immediately took her daughter’s hand and while trying to remove the needle, it got stuck in her right hand. After the incident, she instantly went into the market and shared the happening.

After the occurrence, the South Carolina women had to make sure she did not contract hepatitis or HIV. She was treated at AnMed Health, but all the procedures rendered her incapacitated. Because of Carla’s condition, Clint, her husband, had to take time off work to assist his wife.

The woman’s attorney asked for $12,000 from Target last February instead of going to trial. Carla said she only wanted the money so that she could cover her husband’s time off work and her medical expenses.

While Target accepted some responsibility, it rejected the women’s initial request of $12,000 and agreed to pay $750. In the hope of the women agreeing to the costs, Target was not worried about the incident going to trial. However, the shop was wrong, because the jury established an expense that was much greater that the original one.

The final fee has not yet been decided although the court approximated it would be around $4.6 million. It is known that the South Carolina law can limit the punitive damage under some circumstances.

Nonetheless, Target disagrees with the high amount established by the jury for damages and is contemplating an appeal.

Like expected, people on social media are sharing their opinions. Many of them believe that the mother should have held her daughter’s hand the entire time and this way the incident could have been avoided.

Moreover, the general opinion seems to mention that Target should not be held responsible for the occurrence because it’s impossible to assure that the parking lot is clean at every moment.

What do you think about this incident and who do you think is responsible for it? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Image source: Wikipedia

New Fabric Could Cool Our Bodies

new fabric will help us decrease body temperature in summer

Stanford University experts have created a new fabric that actively draws heat from the body.

In the hope that its cooling impact will help to reduce the dependence on tools such as air-conditioning, Stanford University experts have created a new fabric that actively draws heat from the body.

Staying warm in winter is a reasonably straightforward matter: as the temperatures drop, more clothes are used to maintain a comfortable temperature. But what is the solution when we encounter those summer days along with the sun that beats down and the humidity that increases, and we find ourselves hopeless in search of a cooler place? Undressing can only accomplish so much before modesty starts to kick in. So, we begin readjusting our conditions and pumping up the air-conditioning.

Researchers mentioned that the high-tech material could distribute body heat better than other conventional fabrics and obstruct the sun’s rays. When the material was wrapped on a mannequin that mimicked the answer of human skin through remarkably warm temperatures, the synthetic skin’s temperature increased by only 0.8 degrees Celsius.

It was much less than in the case of cotton when a 3.5 degree Celsius rise occurred. In the event of polyethylene, also known as the fabric sportswear is made of, there was an increase of 2.9 degrees Celsius.

Blending photonics, nanotechnology, and chemistry to enable the body to release heat more quickly than conventional textiles, the new fabric would cause the wearer to be about 4 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. It is known to do so by enabling not just the evaporation of sweat but also by letting the bodies’ infrared radiation move through.

A Stanford professor and co-author of the research, Shanhui Fan, mentioned that forty to sixty percent of our body heat is dispersed as infrared radiation when we are resting in an office. Nonetheless, until now, there has been no examination on creating the thermal radiation properties of textiles.

The polyethylene which is usually used in the kitchen as the transparent plastic food wrapping already enables infrared radiation to cross through. Nevertheless, being see-through, scientists believed that it is not the most functional fabric for clothing. They discovered a similar alternative of polyethylene, which still lets infrared radiation move through, but this time is opaque.

Image source: Pixabay

Zika May Also Affect Adults and Damage Brain Cells

Zika damages brain cells

Zika virus might also damage brain cells in adults

The recent study has proved that the Zika virus might also damage brain cells in adults. The affected adult neurons are those used to replace lost and damaged neurons in adult brains which are highly important when learning.

Until now, the focus of the Zika virus was only on how it affects the fetal brain development and on how pregnant women should avoid getting infected by canceling their visits to areas where the virus was installed.

The study that was conducted on mice was the first one to analyze the effects that the virus has on the adult brain. As the finding reveal, getting infected with the Zika virus might not be as harmless as people believe. The infection with the mosquito-borne Zika virus may injure adult brain cells.

However, more studies must be conducted to find out how this damage on adult brain cells has long-term biological implications or how it can potentially affect a person’s behavior.

Sujan Shresta, a professor at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology believes that it is a certainty that the virus can enter the brain cells of the adult and have a destructive effect.

Researchers focused on the early forms of brain cells that go on to become neurons, called neural progenitor cells and often considered them the stem cells of the brain. By attacking these neural progenitor cells in children, Zika causes microcephaly which leads to babies being born with unusually small heads, brain damage, and disabilities.

Adult brains also contain some of the niches of these neural progenitor cells which fill up neurons in parts of the brain linked to learning and memory.

By using fluorescent biomarkers in mice, researchers saw that the adult neural progenitor cells were vulnerable to the Zika infection and were killed by the virus. It is still unclear what could be the effect the virus has on the adult human brain over time.

During previous studies, researchers proved that the key to the brain’s ability to adapt and change is integrating new neurons into learning and memory circuits. Without this process, the cognitive evolution declines and could lead to Alzheimer’s disease or other similar conditions.

Image source:Wikipedia