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Friday, September 26, 2008

Good-bye, Large Hadron Collider. Hello, Black Mesa.

Good-bye, Large Hadron Collider. Hello, Black Mesa.
That's the reader's choice in Wired Science's Large Hadron Collider Renaming Contest, announced last week to fill the vast gulf between the LHC's scientific magnificence and utterly wonky name.
Since then, an electrical problem has shuttered the mammoth atom smasher until 2009 -- making Black Mesa, a reference to the bestselling computer game Half Life, a timely choice. It won't take long for delays and malfunctions to sour the public on their $8-billion Large Hadron Collider, but Black Mesa sounds scary and intimidating, like a leaked government project. Criticize it, and you'll end up on a watch list.
Black Mesa was submitted separately by Brian Reed and DSA. Finishing second was the Chuck Norris Roundhouse Kick Simulator, submitted by Anonymous. Among my favorite also-rans were Master Blaster Atom Smasher; Atom Smasher +5, Holy Avenger; What Willis Was Talking About; The Big Banger; and The Thing We Play With When We Aren't Playing Warcraft.
All these entries are better than the winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry's winner: Halo.
The least-favorite choice in our contest was The Blesser, submitted by Vincenzo Maggio. Its sheer unpopularity was likely due to its religious overtones, but at this point, the LHC can use a bit of help, divine or not.

It's time to find something else to blame for all the recent strange occurrences in your life: The Large Hadron Collider, which had become a favorite culprit for everything from lost keys to lost jobs, will remain shut down until spring.
On Sept. 18, the news from CERN, the organization that runs the LHC, was that an electrical problem involved with a cooling system caused a helium leak that would keep the mammoth particle accelerator out of commission for a day or so. A couple of days later, the estimate had stretched into two months: The machine would need to be warmed back up, which will take three to four weeks, before a full investigation could be done.
Now the outlook is even more bleak for eager physicists, who have already waited decades for the giant collider to come to fruition, after only a week of tantilizingly successful beam operations.
The warm-up period and ensuing investigations will bump up against the LHC's "obligatory winter maintenance period," according to a statement today from CERN. This brings us into early spring before commissioning can restart.
“Coming immediately after the very successful start of LHC operation on 10 September, this is undoubtedly a psychological blow,” CERN Director General Robert Aymar said. “Nevertheless, the success of the LHC’s first operation with beam is testimony to years of painstaking preparation and the skill of the teams involved in building and running CERN’s accelerator complex. I have no doubt that we will overcome this setback with the same degree of rigor and application.”

Stem cell latest : New Way To Make Stem Cells -It Is Safer

Researcher from Havard University used mouse skin cells and also liver cells from fetal mice and got both types to look and act like iPS cells. They declare their success to make a safer stem cell.
Scientists may have found a safer way of giving a flake of skin the biologically alchemical powers of embryonic stem cells.
They turned adult cells into versatile, embryonic-like cells without causing permanent damage -- potentially solving the central problem of a promising but uncertain field of stem cell science.
"This is certainly a major stem cell milestone," said Advanced Cell Technologies chief scientific officer Bob Lanza, who was not involved in the research. "It’s the first ray of light that iPS cells could soon be used to treat patients."

They have developed a safer way to make powerful stem cells from ordinary skin cells, taking one more step toward so-called regenerative medicine.
They used a common cold virus to carry transformative genes into ordinary mouse cells, making them look and act like embryonic stem cells.
If the same can be done with human cells, it may offer a safe way to test cell therapy to treat diseases such as sickle cell anemia or Parkinson's, Konrad Hochedlinger of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston reported in the journal Science on Thursday.
Stem cells are the body's master cells, giving rise to all the tissues, organs and blood. Embryonic stem cells are considered the most powerful kinds of stem cells, as they have the potential to give rise to any type of tissue.
But they are difficult to make, requiring the use of an embryo or cloning technology. Many people also object to their use, and several countries, including the United States, limit funding for such experiments.
In the past year, several teams of scientists have reported finding a handful of genes that can transform ordinary skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, which in turn look and act like embryonic stem cells.
To get these genes into the cells, they have had to use retroviruses, which integrate their own genetic material into the cells they infect. This can be dangerous and can cause tumors and perhaps other effects.
Hochedlinger's team used a much more harmless virus, called an adenovirus, to carry into the cells the four transformative genes, called Oct4, Sox2, Klf4 and c-Myc.
They used mouse skin cells and also liver cells from fetal mice and got both types to look and act like iPS cells.
"The nice thing about adenoviruses in contrast with retroviruses is they deliver proteins inside the cells but they will never, ever integrate their DNA into the cells," Hochedlinger said in a telephone interview.
As the cells divide, they dilute the virus until it disappears, he said. But the genetic changes remain.
To test the cells they made chimeras --- a blend of two separate animals. They injected their newly made cells into mouse embryos and when the pups were born, they carried visible evidence that the cells had indeed transformed them.
"It results in this stripy pattern of brown fur that comes from the iPS cells and black fur which comes from the host embryo tissue," Hochedlinger said.
And so far, these chimeric mice have not developed any tumors.
"We are in the process already of trying to make integration-free iPS cells in human cells," Hochedlinger said.
"It is a little more tricky because human reprogramming takes a little while longer than mouse reprogramming."
If it works, some day doctors may be able to make tailor-made transplants to treat diseases in people by removing a few cells, transforming them in the lab and transplanting the new tissue or organs back in.

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