ISSUE 50: Free genome sequencing, mini-brains, google health is back, and more

Startup Wants to Sequence Your Genome for FREE and then pay you 
George Church and his hella dope beard

Famed Harvard scientist is in the news again for a new startup that wants to sequence your DNA for free and then pay you when your results are used by research companies. The startup –– Nebula Genomics –– will sequence your ENTIRE genome unlike 23&me which only does a fraction of the genes in genome. Church claims that some people with rare traits may get paid anywhere between $10-$10,000 if researchers think their DNA is interesting. Chuch is pretty much the king of science to startup clout as he has founded several other successful biotech companies in the past including Veritas Genomics which does full genome sequencing for $1000. Hopefully Nebula Genomics will also shake things up.

Scientists make a mini-brain 
slice of human brain organoid tissue. Image Credit: UCSD

Hot damn the future is exciting. Neuroscientists at UCSD have created a mini-brain that is capable of sending electrical signals similar to that of premature babies. What they did is they took human stem cells and transformed them into cortical tissue. They plated out the cells and grew them for 10 months. They also attached EEGs to the plated cells to measure electrical firing patterns. After 6 months their organoids were firing faster than normal baby brains are more akin to premature babies. Although far from being actual brains (the cortical tissue is not connected to other types of brain cells yet) –– researchers hope these little organoids will help in studying the pathology behind epilepsy.

Google Health is Making a Comeback

dilapidated logo from 2008 before it got resurrected

If you think you remember Google Health from 2008, I hope you also know that it closed down in 2011. It was looking for volunteers to upload their data. Yea, you can see why that didn't work out. This time, Google is trying to get back on the game. It enthroned a new leader, David Feinberg, a hospital executive from Geisinger health system that touts its IT-friendly healthcare system. And now, the DeepMind arm of Google is under Google Health. By the way, bought by Google in 2014, DeepMind uses the most advanced AI and machine learning tools to predict diseases and much more using United Kingdom's National Health Service. All the juicy data is going to get forked over to Google. Of course expect some data security activist group to complain about this. Meanwhile, China is a lawless totalitarian regime that advances AI by making data sharing a nonissue.

Mitochondria want all the smoke with bacteria

The powerhouse of the cell. Image credit: UW Madison.

If there’s one thing we’ve all managed to retain from our science classes, it’s that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. But we’ve recently also found out that mitochondria can deliver a pretty mean sucker punch to bacteria’s (metaphorical) gut! In particular, when MRSA invades the body, macrophages act to amplify mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that destroy bacteria. Of course these ROS can damage our own cells too, but good ol’ mitochondria are pretty smart! They neatly wrap the ROS up into little mitochondrial vesicles that are delivered to phagosomes to help make alphabet soup of the poor bacteria that are stranded in there. Take that, bacteria!

Virtual clinical trials reduce costs
The man who said "software is eating the world"
The homie Mark Andreessen famously once said "software is eating the world". Well –– turns out that's hella true and software has even found a way to gobble up medical research. A new article in Scientific American looks at how researchers at Harvard and MIT are using virtual environments to test everything from drugs to medical devices. Using virtual patients has allowed one group of researchers to lower their initial clinical trials costs by more than a million dollars. The article is really interesting and you can check it out HERE.

African research journals apparently have problem with plagiarism 

Image Credit: Sacred Heart University

Bruh we gotta talk about this –– a saying attributed to popular hip hop news YouTuber DomisLive –– see I am giving credit and not plagiarizing unlike some people *cough* *cough*. A report by NATURE noted that many African researchers are guilty of plagiarism. According to a survey of 500 papers from 100 African journals, around 63% had signs of plagiarism –– stealing other scientists work without giving the proper credit. What's more is that only 26 of the 100 journals had a policy on plagiarism and only 16 said they checked for plagiarism.