The Odd Blog

And when our cubs grow / We'll show you what war is good for

Kewl science stories

Posted by That Other Mike on 07/02/2008

Just a quick one right now, as I’m on a quick tea break at work (note to Americans – we love tea so much we even have drinking it built into our laws and contracts; true story).

Anyway, some cool/interesting science stories of the last few days.

Tattoos may help deliver vaccine

Via BBC News.
A small, barely visible tattooScientists in Germany say that tattoos could be the ideal way of delivering vaccines into the body.

The researchers say that in tests undertaken with mice, tattoos were much more effective in provoking a response from the immune system.

Tattoos could be a useful way of delivering therapeutic vaccines in humans, including for some cancers.

Such vaccines have often failed to produce the expected immune response when delivered using an injection.

Vibrating needle

Tattoos have played a part in human culture for thousands of years.

Just over 100 years ago, the practice became more widely available with the invention of the electric tattoo machine in the United States. The same basic instrument is still in use to create tattoos today.

Now researchers in Germany say that the rapidly vibrating tattoo needle could be a useful way of delivering vaccines under the skin instead of insoluble ink.

In studies with mice, tattooing a vaccine produced 16 times more antibodies than a simple injection into muscle tissue.

The level of antibodies indicates the strength of the immune system’s response.

Dr Martin Mueller, one of the researchers behind this work, says that the greater damage to the body caused by the tattoo needle may explain the better immune response. *

The scientists say that the tattoo needles would never be suitable for preventative vaccines, such as measles, in children as the pain would be too great.

But there may well be a role for the technique in the routine vaccination of animals.

*Emphasis mine.

I did wonder about why it would provoke a greater response when I saw the headline; guess I was right. Good news, really; not to mention that you could also, hypothetically speaking, also combine it with an ink as well. This might have field applications within a military context, for example, or for within refugee camps.

Next one:

Three-parent embryo formed in lab

Scientists believe they have made a potential breakthrough in the treatment of serious disease by creating a human embryo with three separate parents.

The Newcastle University team believe the technique could help to eradicate a whole class of hereditary diseases, including some forms of epilepsy.

The embryos have been created using DNA from a man and two women in lab tests.

It could ensure women with genetic defects do not pass the diseases on to their children.

Read more here.

While the title isn’t very clear (Auntie Beeb has been a bit uneven on science lately, alas), what’s happened here is that the man and one of the women have contributed their DNA in the usual fashion, while another woman has contributed her mitochondria.

Mitochondria are basically little generators inside your cells; the technical name is an organelle, which means a distinct sub-unit of a cell. They have distinctly different DNA (mtDNA) to that of the cells that host them, which leads many people to believe that they may in prehistory have been separate symbiotic prokaryotes, similar to simple bacteria, which were enfolded by more complex organisms. MtDNA does not control any of the characteristics of the host organism, and is largely inherited maternally.

Like any other organism, they can also become sick, and mitochondrial diseases can be pretty nasty and can occur quite frequently due to rapid mutation in mitochondrial DNA.

Effectively, what this procedure did was to create a mitochondrial transplant which could lead to treatments which might alleviate (or even avoid entirely) mitochondrial diseases. This is certainly a noble goal, and given that mtDNA controls nothing but mitochondria, the objections given by Comment on Reproductive Ethics and Human Genetics Alert in the article are rather baffling and probably nothing more than kneejerk reactions. It’s worth noting that both of these organisations are rabidly anti-genetic science: HGE has the screeming meemies about genetics, equating it with eugenics and pimping a host of other slippery slope arguments, while CORE seems extremely right-wing and is definitely a member of the “pro-life” camp. Not trying to poison the well there or anything, but one should also always consider the source.

More to come, possibly.

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2 Responses to “Kewl science stories”

  1. Nectarfizz said

    Um…cool excuse to get a tattoo: but mom I need a vaccination!
    as for the 3 person embryo…Don’t we have enough weirdness already without making another set of genes to blame our childhood on? (lol)

  2. […] The best information on the topic can be found at the source here […]

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