Dazzling Knowledge

Friday, May 29, 2009

Freaky Friday science links

Scientists have altered mouse communication by giving them the human version of a gene called FOXP2. FOXP2 is required for human speech. The chimp version of the FOXP2 protein differs from the human version by only two amino acids. The mouse version differs by only three amino acids. Normal mouse pups call for their mother with a high-pitched squeak. Pups with the human version of FOXP2 said, “Gimme some cheese.” Well, they actually squeaked at a lower pitch. Still kinda cool. Whole NY Times article here.

Stem cell breakthrough. Scientists at Harvard have reprogrammed human skin cells to become pluripotent stem cells by exposing the cells to four proteins. They used these cells to culture a variety of adult tissue types. These cells appear to have the same developmental potential as embryonic stem cells, and can be made without destroying human embryos. Plus, they offer the potential for patient-specific cell lines. This was a significant improvement over a previous method that used viruses to turn adult cells into stem cells. Yeah, it sounds scary. I wonder if you could inject someone with that virus and turn him into Benjamin Button. Anyway, we're still a long ways from any potential therapies from this stuff. Whole Reuters article here.


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