Archive for the ‘San Francisco’ Category

In a trio of studies published Sunday, scientists reported that they reversed aging in the muscles and brains of old mice — simply by running the blood of young mice through their veins.

The papers, from two independent groups in Cambridge and California, used different approaches to begin to unravel the rejuvenating effects of young animals’ blood, in the hopes of eventually developing a therapy that could be tested in people.

Researchers at Harvard University administered a protein found in young blood to older mice, and found that treated mice could run longer on a treadmill and had more branching blood vessels in their brains than untreated mice. A group led by a University of California, San Francisco researcher identified a molecular switch in a memory center of the brain that appears to be turned on by blood from young mice.

“These are the tissues that are really affected by advancing age. Changes in these tissues are responsible for the changes that people worry about the most — loss of cognition and loss of independent function,” said Amy Wagers, a professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University involved in two of the studies.

Wagers said many questions remain about the mechanism of the protein and what the best therapeutic strategy might be, but she is already working to commercialize the protein discovery. The same substance is found in human blood.

Outside scientists cautioned that the findings are limited to one strain of mice and that it is not yet clear that something so simple would have dramatic anti-aging effects in people.

The new studies build on a decade of research that showed that young blood can have a rejuvenating effect on older mice. When scientists stitched together the circulatory systems of pairs of old and young mice, in a procedure called parabiosis, they found beneficial effects on the cells of the spinal cord, muscles, brain, and liver of the older animals. The next question was why — which of the many substances floating around in blood were responsible for the changes, and how did it work?

Last year, Wagers and another Harvard stem cell scientist, Dr. Richard T. Lee, found that a protein called GDF11 could cause a mouse heart thickened with age to revert to a youthful state. No one knew, however, whether the effect was specific to the heart, or would apply to aging in other tissues. Two of the new papers, published online by the journal Science, extend that work to the mouse brain and muscle.

In one study, Wagers and colleagues first connected the blood vessels of old and young mice. They measured profound changes to muscle stem cells in the older mice that made the cells appear more youthful. There were also changes to the structure of muscle. Next, they injected the protein that had been shown to rejuvenate hearts into the older mice. Although some individual mice did not change much, on average, the treated mice could run nearly twice as long on a treadmill as older mice not given the protein. The protein had no effect when injected into younger mice.

In a second study, Dr. Lee Rubin, director of translational medicine at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, found that after parabiosis, the older mice had an increase in the branching network of blood vessels in the brain and in the rate of creation of new brain cells. Treated mice were more sensitive to changes in smell, suggesting the new neurons had an effect on their abilities. The GDF11 protein alone resulted in similar structural changes.

Wagers said that she has begun working with Atlas Venture, a venture capital firm based in Cambridge, to come up with a strategy to turn the insights about GDF11 into potential treatments that could be tested in people.

David Harrison, an aging researcher at Jackson Laboratory, a nonprofit research organization based in Bar Harbor, Maine, who was not involved in the research, said that an important caveat about the research is that it was done on a particular strain of mouse that is inbred. It will be important, he said, to test the protein’s effect in a more genetically diverse population of mice before thinking about extending the work to clinical trials.

Thomas Rando, a professor of neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine who pioneered using the parabiosis technique to study aging, said it is important to try and understand how young blood has its potent effects. But he said it seems very unlikely, given how complex aging is, that reversing it will depend on a single pathway.

“My answer always was and always will be there’s no way there’s a factor,” Rando said. “There are going to be hundreds of factors.”

In the third study published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and Stanford used parabiosis to search for changes in gene activity in the brain that might help point to how young blood had its effects. They found changes in the activity of genes involved in the connectivity of brain cells in the hippocampus, a memory center.

Instead of using a specific protein, the researchers then gave older mice repeated transfusions of blood from young mice and found that the older animals improved on specific age-related memory tasks, such as locating an underwater platform and remembering an environment where they had experienced an unpleasant foot shock.

Saul Villeda, a UCSF faculty fellow who led the work, said that the results of the three studies reinforce one another, but they differ in their approach.

“I’m really interested to see whether GDF11 accounts for everything, or whether it’s going to be a combination of factors that together that has the full effect,” Villeda said.

All the researchers warned that people hoping to reverse aging shouldn’t get any wild ideas about infusing themselves with young blood, although they acknowledged making their share of vampire jokes.

“I am the oldest member of the team here, and I personally understand the sentiment for patients,” Rubin said. But he still wouldn’t try it.

Written by Carolyn Y. Johnson, who can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/science/2014/05/04/blood-from-young-mice-reverses-aging-brain-muscles/iepDMMf7wrLJy6WgXqpdIJ/story.html?rss_id=Top-GNP&google_editors_picks=true

Thanks to Da Brayn for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community

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A pair of scientists at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has found that a compound derived from marijuana could stop metastasis in many kinds of aggressive cancer, potentially altering the fatality of the disease forever.

“It took us about 20 years of research to figure this out, but we are very excited,” said Pierre Desprez, one of the scientists behind the discovery, to The Huffington Post. “We want to get started with trials as soon as possible.”

The Daily Beast first reported on the finding, which has already undergone both laboratory and animal testing, and is awaiting permission for clinical trials in humans.

Desprez, a molecular biologist, spent decades studying ID-1, the gene that causes cancer to spread. Meanwhile, fellow researcher Sean McAllister was studying the effects of Cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-toxic, non-psychoactive chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Finally, the pair collaborated, combining CBD and cells containing high levels of ID-1 in a petri dish.

“What we found was that his Cannabidiol could essentially ‘turn off’ the ID-1,” Desprez told HuffPost. The cells stopped spreading and returned to normal.

“We likely would not have found this on our own,” he added. “That’s why collaboration is so essential to scientific discovery.”

Desprez and McAllister first published a paper about the finding in 2007. Since then, their team has found that CBD works both in the lab and in animals. And now, they’ve found even more good news.

“We started by researching breast cancer,” said Desprez. “But now we’ve found that Cannabidiol works with many kinds of aggressive cancers–brain, prostate–any kind in which these high levels of ID-1 are present.”

Desprez hopes that clinical trials will begin immediately.

“We’ve found no toxicity in the animals we’ve tested, and Cannabidiol is already used in humans for a variety of other ailments,” he said. Indeed, the compound is used to relieve anxiety and nausea, and, since it is non-psychoactive, does not cause the “high” associated with THC.

While marijuana advocates will surely praise the discovery, Desprez explained that it’s not so easy as just lighting up.

“We used injections in the animal testing and are also testing pills,” he said. “But you could never get enough Cannabidiol for it to be effective just from smoking.”

Furthermore, the team has started synthesizing the compound in the lab instead of using the plant in an effort to make it more potent.

“It’s a common practice,” explained Desprez. “But hopefully it will also keep us clear of any obstacles while seeking approval.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/19/marijuana-and-cancer_n_1898208.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ir=Weird%20News

 

French tourist Nathalie Rollandin was filming the sunset from the beach when the bird snatched her GoPro video camera and flew out over the water.

Luckily for Ms Rollandin, the gull chose to land twenty seconds later on a walkway before dropping the camera. After a few pecks at it, the bird appears to lose interest in its plunder and flies off into the sunset.

After managing to track down her camera – intact and still recording outside a yacht club – Ms Rollardin posted the bird’s footage on YouTube, describing it as “a San Francisco sunset I will hardly forget”.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/9550107/Seagull-steals-camera-and-captures-sunset-over-San-Francisco-Bay.html

Scientists have finally found the cause of a mysterious disease that makes snakes tie themselves up into knots, stare off into space, and waste away—the reptiles are infected with an Ebola-like virus, a new study says.

The fatal condition known as inclusion body disease (IBD) was first diagnosed in snakes, particularly pythons and boa constrictors, in the 1980s.

Snakes diagnosed with IBD will often exhibit behavioral abnormalities, including an inability to flip over when turned on their backs and “stargazing,” which involves staring off into space and weaving their heads back and forth as if drunk. They are also more likely to contract other diseases, such as bacterial infections in their mouths.

Infected snakes often refuse to eat, or regurgitate their food when they do.

“They begin to waste away,” said study co-author Mark Stenglein, a biochemist at the University of California, San Francisco.

Scientists have long suspected a virus was behind IBD because the disease can be transmitted between snakes and is characterized by the buildup of proteins in cells, a feature of a number of viral diseases, Stenglein said.

But direct proof that a viral agent is responsible has been lacking-until now.

(Also see: “Python Hearts Double in Size—Now We Know Why.”)

Decoding the Snake Virus

Stenglein and his team analyzed the genetic material of snakes infected by IBD at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco during a recent outbreak.

In addition to the known snake genome, they found genetic material belonging to a previously unknown virus. (See snake pictures.)

It appears to be most closely related to a class of viruses known as arenaviruses, that have only been known to infect mammals, namely rodents and people. However, the new virus doesn’t fit into the two categories of arenaviruses-New World and Old World-that are currently known.

The snake virus also contains a gene closely related to one found in the Ebola virus, which belongs to a different class known as filoviruses. Ebola, one of the most contagious known viruses, causes death through severe hemorrhaging when it infects humans.

The fact that that the new snake virus contains aspects of two completely different classes could mean that its origins stretch back tens of millions of years.

If that’s true, the snake virus is at least 35 million years old, said Stenglein, whose study appeared in August in the journal mBio.

Another possibility, the team says, is that the snake virus was created by a more recent merger of an arenavirus and a filovirus.

(See “‘Zombie Virus’ Possible via Rabies-Flu Hybrid?”)

David Sanders, an Ebola researcher at Purdue University in Indiana, called the new discovery “exciting,” but said he does not think the new virus is likely to provide any new information about Ebola, which is itself a very mysterious disease with murky origins. (Read why scientists can’t cure Ebola.)

As for IBD, said Stenglein, there’s still no treatment or cure.

But the new discovery means that vets and zookeepers could soon have a diagnostic test to genetically screen snakes for the disease before introducing them to a collection.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/08/120822-snakes-virus-ibd-ebola-animals-science/

Thirty five years ago artist Scott Weaver began work on this complex kinetic sculpture, Rolling through the Bay, that he continues to modify and expand even today. The elaborate sculpture is comprised of multiple “tours” that move pingpong balls through neighborhoods, historical locations, and iconic symbols of San Francisco, all recreated with a little glue, some toothpicks, and an incredible amount of ingenuity. He admits in the video that there are several toothpick sculptures even larger than his, but none has the unique kinetic components he’s constructed. Via his website Weaver estimates he’s spent over 3,000 hours on the project, and the toothpicks have been sourced from around the world:

I have used different brands of toothpicks depending on what I am building. I also have many friends and family members that collect toothpicks in their travels for me. For example, some of the trees in Golden Gate Park are made from toothpicks from Kenya, Morocco, Spain, West Germany and Italy. The heart inside the Palace of Fine Arts is made out of toothpicks people threw at our wedding.

See the sculpture for yourself at the Tinkering Studio through the end of June. Photos courtesy of their Flickr gallery.

Update: Rolling Through the Bay has been moved to the American Visionary Art Museum through September 2012.

http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2011/04/one-man-100000-toothpicks-and-35-years-scott-weavers-rolling-through-the-bay/?src=footer

Thanks to T.L. for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

Jonah Falcon was at the San Francisco International Airport  preparing to travel from San Francisco to his home in New York City when he was stopped and questioned by Transportation Security Administration agents because they noticed a large and suspicious bulge in the front of his pants.

The agents questioned Falcon about the contents of his pants, and whether he was hiding something in his pockets.  Falcon told the TSA agents that the only thing he was transporting in his pants was his enormous penis.

From the San Francisco Chronicle

Jonah Falcon, 41, who has been featured in several documentaries about the world’s biggest penises, was returning from a trip in San Francisco on July 9 when he was stopped at security by TSA agents who spotted something out of the ordinary hanging to the left in his pants, he said.

“They wanted to know if I had something in my pockets, and when I said no, they asked if I had some sort of growth,” he said.

When he replied that it was just his penis, they “checked the area around it” but didn’t frisk him too severely, he said. They also wiped his hands to check for explosive powder.

Falcon’s penis is 9.5 inches when flaccid, and 13.5 inches when erect.

https://twitter.com/jonahfalcon?ilink=1