January 2010 - Posts

 

Typically when a woman is pregnant she is worried about the health of her unborn child, so most women end up having their children in the hospital. If anything goes wrong with herself or the child its only a stretcher's roll away to medical attention. For some pregnant women though, hospital births seem too stressful with all of the fluorescent lights and... well, all of the other things that are terribly stressful about hospitals.

There are a couple of other options, you could have your child at a birth center, you could have your child at home, you could have your child in a tub, you could have your child in a silent chamber, or you could have your child in the freaking ocean with a dolphin.

 

 

(You might not want to watch it, but its really not that bad)

Dolphin assisted birthing is a completely new age technique where there are no doctors, just untamed sea beasts and there is no bed or tub, but instead just the ocean, which is not the safest of all places (remember that movie "Open Water"??).

Regardless of the obvious threats, some people like John Float of Dolphin Essence (read the "testamonials"), a dolphin assisted therapy clinic in Hawaii, suggest that dolphin assisted birthing is the way to go. Why, you ask? This is what John Float has to say:

"Dolphins are not only masterful midwives, but they are elegant programmers of our cellular blueprint for physiological, psychological and spiritual well being through their use of high frequency sonar to transmit and embody to humans states of pure joy, love and wisdom."

That is what you would call an earful. They are elegant programmers of our cellular blueprint for physiological well being? They use their sonar to  manipulate humans' moods? No, they use their sonar, or echolocation to find fish when they're hunting and to communicate with one another. I hope they don't mistake the baby for a fish!

Until there is some scientific proof on dolphin-specific frequencies effecting the outcome of a human fetus, then I don't buy it. Doctors perform ultrasounds at frequencies from 900kHz - 10 MHz, Dolphins emit sounds all the way up to 500kHz, and humans can only hear sounds from 20Hz - 20kHz. This leaves a big 480 kHz gap potential for there to be a particular frequency that would "realign the cells" of your unborn child for more optimum performance, but I find this highly unlikely.

Now, I know that there are plenty of people that love dolphins. I like 'em too. I don't think that any literate person that has access to the internet would argue that they're not incredibly smart, perhaps the second smartest animal on the planet. Even so, they're probably not the safest things to expose your children to.

From a National Geographic Special on Dolphins:

"But beneath the harmony lies a darker side of dolphins. Gangs of strong males pick on younger or smaller dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins are even known to kill for reasons other than hunger.

Cinematographer Paul Atkins, diving in the Bahamas with wild dolphins, heard the first sign of trouble before a particularly intense fight. “Jaw clapping” is a bone-chilling, audible threat to those around. The encounter that ensued–including head ramming, biting, and blows from powerful flukes–is surprisingly violent.

In another hemisphere, Dr. Richard Connor, studying dolphins in Shark Bay in Western Australia, has documented cases of males kidnapping and holding females captive, sometimes for months at a time. “Dolphins are complex, intelligent, social animals and that carries with it a range of behaviors from the nice to the not-so-nice. Just like in our own species.”

So, dolphins are similar to humans in the sense that they are intelligent, cultural, have a strong self-image. Strong self-image meaning that they sometimes do things for themselves... meaning some are good and some are bad, just like with humans. Not only that, but they are wild. One has to ask their self whether or not it would be a great idea to have a child in a room full of chimps? Or a completely random selection of humans even?

 

Some people let their mentally handicapped children swim with dolphins in hopes that it will help them out. Dolphins have even been used to help depression. The thing is, these treatment methods appear to work because OF COURSE YOU'RE GOING TO BE HAPPY YOU'RE SWIMMING WITH A FREAKING DOLPHIN. You'd have to be a donkey missing his tail not to find the pleasure in that.  

The idea to me seems pretty stupid and relatively dangerous, but then again I haven't had my cellular blueprint realigned for optimism. 

Posted Friday, January 29, 2010 1:34 PM by cstanton | 1 comment(s)
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

WHO YA GONNA CALL!? 

 

Now that pretty much all of the 70s movies *worth* remaking are already made, what do you do? If I were a Hollywood idea guy, I would go on to the much classier decade of the 80s, and that's just what they're doing. Just recently, the announcements of Ghostbusters III and Gremlins III coming to the big screen have been made and we shouldn't have to wait too much longer.

A couple of weeks ago Sigourney Weaver decided to go and run her trap to MTV's Josh Horowitz about a new Ghostbusters movie that has been talked about for years. Immediately she opens up with the spoilers, like Bill Murray's character is going to come back as a Slimer, and Oscar, her character's son, becomes a kid Ghostbuster. I'm already pissed at her for the Slimer spoiler; now I have nightmares about nuclear accelerator-ing Bill Murray.

Anyway, if anything good came out of her opening her trap, it was that we now have a definite source, original writer and star Harold Ramis, saying that the movie is scheduled to shoot this summer and will be released in 2011. He also stated Dan Akroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Bill Murray are all going to appear in this new sequel, not necessarily as main characters, but it's awesome that they'll all be back. I just hope that they don't focus on the rumored young buck Ghostbuster too much; the originals were pretty much perfect. Here's the e-mail he wrote to the Chicago Tribune:

"yes, columbia is developing a script for GB3 with my year one writing partners, gene stupnitsky and lee eisenberg. judd apatow is co-producing year one and has made several other films for sony, so of course the studio is hoping to tap into some of the same acting talent. aykroyd, ivan reitman and i are consulting at this point, and according to dan, bill murray is willing to be involved on some level. he did record his dialogue for the new ghostbusters video game, as did danny and i, and ernie hudson. the concept is that the old ghostbusters would appear in the film in some mentor capacity. not much else to say at this point."

On top of that, Ivan Reitman, the original director of the first two movies said that he had received the first draft of the script and that the writers were working on the second draft already.

What I'm not completely 100% stoked about is that Ramis and Akroyd, the original writers, will not be writing the third movie. Instead, they are leaving it to Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, the writers of that movie "Year One." I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm working on it. Unfortunately, from what I've heard, it sucked really hard.

Back to what could be positive. Another rumor about the release is that it may be in stereoscopic 3D. This is just rumored on the MarketSaw blog, with their tipster remaining an anonymous insider of Industrial Light & Magic. I don't really know how much I trust them, but I guess I'll go ahead and go with it. They seem to think that everything's going to be in 3D, including the MUCH ANTICIPATED (at least by me) release of Gremlins 3!

 

Posted Thursday, January 28, 2010 1:41 PM by cstanton | with no comments
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

"One of the few truly new aircraft since the Wright Brothers"  Clive Thompson of The New York Times

Pretty neat quote taken off of FanWing.com

 

The fanwing is an awesome remote controlled aircraft designed for a short take off, high lift, and slow speeds. 


Pat Peebles, the designer of the fanwing brings up a good point in the interview when he says that typically aircraft efficiency is based on how much air an aircraft can take in. To go for maximum efficiency, he just designed the fan to go across the entire wing and to distribute the propulsion as much as possible. It gives the aircraft great stability and allows it to travel at very slow speeds. Like 30km/hour through the air slow. Like floating.

The thing is virtually silent, so unless someone's looking very carefully into the sky, they probably won't even know it's there. The superslow speed, the high lift, and how silent it is make for it to be extremely useful as an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV.

It will only take about 15 minutes for one man to set it up once it is in production, making it practical on the battlefield. The whole thing only weighs about 5.5 kg empty and the maximum takeoff weight is 12.5 kg, pretty easy to carry. When you add the 4kg battery, the MTOW allows for hardly anything but a 2kg payload. I guess a camera or scanner or whatever they use probably weighs less. Though it would be pretty cool, you couldn't really drop bombs with a 2 kg payload.

 Check out the website, its really pretty cool. They have a lot of neat pictures of the development. The flow visualization is pretty neat too.

 

Posted Monday, January 25, 2010 4:29 PM by cstanton | with no comments
Filed under: , , , ,
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

 The first Gremlins was an awesome movie and was one of my favorite movies as a kid. Ever since I had seen it, every time I was in Chinatown anywhere I was looking for Mr. Wing to get my mogwai. It was released in 1984, and then rereleased in '85, and then the sequel came out in 1990. It seems like the series had died out, but according to this article this awesome series might add another notch to its belt and we may actually get to see Gremlins 3 in 3D!

Its just a rumor, but it probably means that we will be in for a big treat in the future. There's no cast, no director (though we're pretty sure it won't be Joe Dante), and no script. We don't know if the script is even going to be written by Chris Columbus who wrote the screenplay for the first two, but we know that someone is out there penning it. Steven Spielberg owns the rights to Gremlins, so he will probably produce the third as well. We just have to hope that he doesn't screw it up.

All we can do is hope that they do it right, which is hard to mess up in stereoscopic 3D! I mean Avatar was basically a remake of Pocahontas.. but way more awesome and 3D. 

 The director of the first two, Joe Dante, said that there will more than likely be a Gremlins 3 in 2006, but also said that they would probably not "ask him to do it," since he is attached to the puppeteering in the originals. CGI gremlins most certainly will not suffice.

Now that they're done remaking all of the 70's movies, the 80's movies are ripe for the picking. With Ghostbusters and Gremlins being revisited with sequels, I'm sure we are going to see a lot of 80s remakes coming around. I'm sure the stereoscopic 3D will make all of them gems. I mean hell, even Beowulf was awesome in 3D. It won't be so bad if this movie is a flop, its not like the new CGI gremlins can really take away the nostalgia of those green slimy puppets from the '80s.

Posted Monday, January 25, 2010 3:13 PM by cstanton | with no comments
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

So Chanel made this awesome Samurai style Armor that allows you to show that you're wallet is fatter than everyone elses' while you're out deflecting arrows and slicing enemies up with your samurai sword (sold separately, of course). Feared and stylish you will be.

 

 

Even this guy looks like a high roller!

 


 

 

 VIA

Posted Monday, January 25, 2010 2:41 PM by cstanton | with no comments
Filed under: , , ,
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

 I know I don't typically write about sports, and I'm not going to say I'm the most diehard NFL fan out there... because I'm not. I do watch some of the games though and keep up with a few of the players. Brett Favre is one of those players that you have to know if you were born within the last 20 years because of his career as the Packers QB where he took home a Super Bowl ring in '97, his ridiculous jean commercials, the way that the letters in his name are irritatingly flipped, and from the last few years his gray hair and indecisiveness.

 So since his retirement announcement in 08, he's done a couple of things. He changed his mind and came back to play for the Jets and went 9-7, an average run. Then, in 2009 he decided that he wasn't happy there, and went to the Vikings. Made it all the way to the NFC Championship and unfortunately went out right after throwing an interception in OT, which I believe was the Vikings 5th turnover of the game.

 

I respect the man's 19 year career, but I mean when do you call it quits? Most NFL players decide that they have accumulated enough wealth to stop abusing their bodies and overworking themselves by the time they're 40. Favre's gray head and foot deep wrinkles aren't an indication of anything though because the man just won't stop. He said earlier in the year to Ed Werder that “If you win, you go on. If you lose, you’re done, and for me, that could very well be my last game.” Lets hope so! I mean nobody really wants to see him go out with a back injury or anything. I mean worse comes to WORST I hope the guy leaves after 20 seasons. Anyway, IF he decides to retire, which he doesn't seem too anxious to talk about indicating that it would be "months" before he made a decision, but IF he decides to retire... that opens up another possibility for ole dog fighting Vick to get back in the spotlight.

 

Right now, Vick plays for the Eagles, basically because they were the only ones that would pick him up after he got out of prison for *impersonally I'm sure* the torturing and killing of lots and lots of dogs. I really don't forgive him for what he did, and I don't think that he's a good guy at all... I mean football players are pretty wealthy and famous and it's ridiculous and offensive the kind of things that money and fame can get you out of, but its pretty much widely accepted. It's not the first time a football player has gotten off with a slap on the wrist for murder. I mean, he's certainly convinced me with his above picture that he's changed his ways.

Anyway, He's got a new show called "The Michael Vick Project" coming out on BET that will hopefully "show America what life was really like" for Vick and how he's repented for all of the misdeeds he's done. This will probably open up the door for more teams to look into having Vick as their QB.

If Favre leaves the Vikings, Vick would be a great match because of his strong arm and the superfast receivers already on the team. If he's gonna be in the league making a copious amount of money he may as well go and play for a team that I don't care about. Vick has expressed mixed feelings on whether or not he would like to stay with the Eagles again. They paid him $1.7 million for the 2009 season and there is a team option for $5.2 million if he stays on. He says "It would be hard" in excerpts released by NBC and that "every day would be a struggle," so the likelihood of him switching to another team is good. He's also stated that he doesn't want to be stuck like chuck as a sidekick QB when he knows that he can play on a starting level. 

So nobody really knows what's going on right now with either of their decisions, but if Favre decides to get his big gray head out of the helmet and into the golf course or yacht or whatever rich retired NFL QBs do, then the Vikings wouldn't be a bad place for Vick. Not that I wouldn't prefer him to be in prison.

Posted Monday, January 25, 2010 1:03 PM by cstanton | with no comments
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

 Remi Gaillard Celebrates 10 years of hilarious pranks with this video, posted on January 12th.

 Remi Gaillard is a 35, almost 36 on Feb. 7th, year old man from Montpellier, France. He ended up being a member of the Football Club Lorient-Bretagne.

After his time with the Lorientais, he worked at a shoe store, until one day he was fired. He didn't go look for another job though. Instead, he decided to run around doing whatever he wanted.

He decided to be a professional prankster in 2002 and video record his sketches. The Football Club Lorient also happened to be in the French Championship, so he decided to dress up as one of the team, since he still had the gear, and get on the field with them when they won. He managed to breach security completely and celebrate with the team, he even managed to get his hands on the cup!

His exploits do a number of things... like bring back memories from childhood video games with live action renditions of Mario and Pac Man, show his footwork as a football player (his aim is ridiculously awesome), and antagonize all the out of shape police officers.

I've been looking at this guy's stuff for a couple of years now and I don't really know which videos are the best, but I've posted a few of my favorites here at the bottom. I hope you enjoy.

 

Posted Friday, January 15, 2010 2:49 PM by cstanton | 3 comment(s)
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

I've always been kind of a nerd and had a weird little fascination with microscopes. When I was little I owned one of the little ones that got its light from a mirror you had to aim at the light.

 

Anything is interesting under a microscope, from spiders' eyes to microchips to pond water. The world around us, when viewed in detail, is so complex and beautiful all the way down to the smallest unit. Suddenly it is easy to find beauty in the world around us, even in pesky little ants. This Wireless USB Microscope allows you to capture all of the little things with ease.

It's built in Li-ion batteries are conveniently charged at the microscope's little USB station. All you need is a free USB port and you have a nice little nerdy addition to your office space.

Its got a zoom from 20X-200X so you can look at a wide variety of things. It's great for examining jewelry, insects, building models, its good for any type of hobbying really, and any situation where you may need to examine small parts, like breaking into a supervault at a bank. .

The package includes the microscope, the base, USB cable, USB charging cable, two focusing rings, software CD, and a user guide. 

The only thing I'd be worried about is getting it to focus at 200X without a stand. The base doesn't really have a stand on it or anything and the "in use" pics just show a guy holding it. It would be really good for hobbying though and looking at small parts. The software is really cool too because it allows you to record your findings and store really cool images. Other than that it's great! Also, it's not available for the Mac, which is pretty weak... so there's a link to... pretty much a better deal at the bottom of the page, but it's got wires.

Available at ThinkGeek for $99.99

There's another awesome microscope on ThinkGeek for 89.99, but its all wired up. It does have an optical lens that goes to 60x which I think is pretty cool, and works with Macs.

Posted Thursday, January 14, 2010 8:13 AM by cstanton | with no comments
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web


Netflix Watch Instantly streaming for the Wii is finally here! It's been available for the Xbox 360 forever and came to the PS3 at the beginning of November, but its out now and ready for action on the Wii. The setup is just like the PS3 and you will need to order a disc from the Netflix backoffice.

The Wii only has flash video capabilities but the picture should be comparable.

Now I just need to go out and buy one of those things. I love Tiger Woods Golf.

Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010 12:52 PM by cstanton | with no comments
Filed under: , , ,
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

 

So, marrying your first cousin seems like its all fine and dandy these days.

I don't see why people of the same sex shouldn't be allowed to get married anymore. At first I thought it was because... you know, marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman and all that jazz. I personally don't mind if gay people want to get married, but you know, I take both sides of the argument and I had basically come to the conclusion that things should just stay the way they are because I didn't get the importance of the actual title. Also, who's gonna be the wife?

After seeing this though, I've changed my mind. I would much rather people of the same sex be reaping the tax, estate planning, consumer, health, government, employment, death, and family benefits than first cousins who are going to end up reproducing and popping out some mutative offspring with a hair-lip. No offense to anyone who's mom and dad are cousins.

Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2010 12:39 PM by cstanton | with no comments
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

 

 Echochrome is a game available for the PS3 and the PSP on the PlayStation Network in which you solve puzzles by walking a mannequin around different level where perception is key.

Not only do the levels look like the kind of warped walkways in Escher's paintings, but the way that the mannequin, called a Walker, moves is dependent upon the perception of your camera, which you rotate around with the analog stick, to get him over gaps, holes, and to make him fall or jump onto other walkways so that he can walk through 4 checkpoints, or echoes, complete the level. The game has five simple rules or laws, each of which you are given examples of :

Rule 1: Don't talk about Echochrome.

No, only kidding. But here are the laws: 

1. The Law of Perspective Travelling - When two separate pathways appear to be touching, they are.

2. The Law of Perspective Landing - If one pathway appears to be above another, it is.

3. The Law of Perspective Existence - When the gap between two pathways is blocked from view and the pathways appear to be connected, they are.

4. The Law of Perspective Absence - When a hole is blocked from view, it does not exist.

5. The Law of Perspective Jumping - When the Walker jumps, he will land on whatever appears to be beneath him. This law has some bullshit tendencies, but for the most part it is true.

The time for completion of each of the 56 levels is limited to 3 minutes, so not only do you have to figure out how to complete the path to get the mannequin to each of the echoes, but you must do it quickly and precisely. By pressing the square button the camera will line up adjacent paths if you are close enough so that pixel perfect accuracy is not required. This is a useful trick to know about because otherwise if even a pixel of a gap or hole is showing the mannequins route will be affected. That, and the rotation of the camera goes just a little too slow at times. Some of the first levels however are a little boring if you quickly grasp the concept and you can speed up the mannequin by pressing and holding X.

 

Echochrome is definitely a workout for the brain and the perceptual concepts can be tricky for some to grasp at first. The simplicity of Echochrome's black and white pencil line graphics brings 2D drawings and 3D worlds together and quite well confuses the heck out of the brain. All to a score of classical string music. 

Echochrome's simplicity and unique concept that not only provides fun, frustrating, somewhat addictive, but still potentially quick session gameplay makes it well worth the $9.99 price tag.

It is also possible to edit your own levels and upload them to the PlayStation Network. The user levels give Echochrome even more replay ability than the 56 challenging puzzles.

The game kind of reminds me of Portal but on a much simpler platform. The simpler platform doesn't make for a simpler game though and will probably leave you with a few headaches to work through for that "eureka!" gratification. 

 

Posted Friday, January 8, 2010 1:57 PM by cstanton | with no comments
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

 

Ever since Flipper came out its been apparent that dolphins are very smart creatures. By the looks of it you would assume their intelligence quotient lies somewhere between that of a monkey and a fish. Assuming that would put one very far off though. According to the research of Diana Reiss and Lori Marino, they're actually smarter than chimps, and soooo smart that these seemingly intelligent oceanographers say that they should be considered "non-human people."

Fanatics as they more than likely are, they might have something there. After all, its been discovered that they can talk, have sex for pleasure, and... isn't that all you need to be a person? I mean... we have humans that can't even do that and we consider them people. 

“Many dolphin brains are larger than our own and second in mass only to the human brain when corrected for body size,” is what Marino of Emory University told the UK Times. She's been using magnetic resonance imaging to take pictures of dolphin brains and compare them to that of primates and humans. She's found that when you correct for body size, dolphins brains are second in mass only to humans.

She also found that their brains share a lot of common traits, including intricate folds in the cortex, which expands the volume of the cortex and allows, at least in humans, the ability for better memory recall and faster neurological transactions. 

Apparently each dolphin has a sense of self, has its own personality, and can think about the future. That's more than a lot of humans can say for themselves. 

Diana Reiss has done some studying of her own on the bottlenose dolphins and has discovered that they can recognize themselves in mirrors and inspect different parts of their bodies, an ability that we thought was limited to humans and great apes. 

“Despite evolving along a different neuroanatomical trajectory to humans, cetacean brains have several features that are correlated with complex intelligence,” Marino said.

Marino also observed some behavior that suggests that they are cultural creatures, easily learning from one another. A rescued dolphin was taken to a dolphinarium in Australia where it was nursed back to health. The dolphin had injured flippers and could not swim without reinjuring them, so the caretakers taught it to "tail-walk" along the bottom and come straight up for air when it needed. When the dolphin was released, the tail-walking spread like wild-fire and they observed many other dolphins displaying the same behavior in the wild. 

Thomas White, the professor of ethics at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles suggests that it is only ethical, and that's his specialty, to give dolphins rights as individuals. “The scientific research . . . suggests that dolphins are ‘non-human persons’ who qualify for moral standing as individuals," he said.

All three of these dolphin enthusiasts will be speaking at a conference in San Diego next month and making public all of their studies.

Over 300,000 cetaceans, dolphins and whales alike, are killed annually in fishing accidents or in horror renditions of Free Willy. This is horribly unethical and I don't think that we should kill mammals with a means of communication or emotion or animals that have sex for pleasure, but I really don't see how us admitting that they're so smart they should be people will really stop any of the killing. And they can't really be represented as people with rights or anything because they don't have the means to speak, we don't have ears to understand them, and they don't really have any hands to write anything down with.

 Basically all that this has me feeling is guilty that dolphins are dying and that they're smart enough to undergo the stress of us top-dwellers slowly wiping them out. SAVE THE CETACEANS!

From the UK TIMES

Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2010 3:23 PM by cstanton | with no comments
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web

Viruses have a special talent for mutating extremely quickly, some hundreds of thousands of times faster than humans, which makes them especially hard to kill. Too much of anything is never good though, and scientists have turned this mutative madness on the virus itself, causing it to evolve itself into extinction. 

Viruses need the ability to evolve quickly to survive. In order for a virus to properly occupy its host it has to have the ability to spread into different types of tissue. Survival of the fittest comes into play because not all virus are equipped to make the transition. For example, when a virus like mononucleosis moves from the lymph glands through the blood stream to the liver or spleen it will need to adapt to the different kinds of tissues by evolution, some of the virus will die off when it reaches the new tissue, but the strong will survive and continue to reproduce.

Most of the mutations of viruses are negative and result in the new mutated virus dying off. Some of the mutations cause the offspring to have a slower rate of reproduction and some just have no effect at all. Since most of these mutations result in the virus dying or reproducing at a slower rate, increasing the the rate of mutation seems like a good idea.

The idea is not a new one. In fact, over a decade ago in 1998, Dr. Lawrence A. Loeb, a geneticist at the University of Washington, published a study in which he and his colleagues had stopped the reproduction of HIV in vitro by introducing promutagenic nucleoside analogs. He chose the group of deoxynucleoside analogs since they aren't very toxic to humans and because of their resistance to repair so they the effects can be observed. Out of the analogs tested, 5-hydroxydeoxycytidine (5-OH-dC) was the best choice. The study showed that in 7 out of 9 controlled environments, the HIV virus was eliminated. On the other hand, the same result was not observed in any of the 28 control experiments nor the experiments where the other analogs were tested. In the report of his findings, he dubbed the acceleration of the mutation rate to a fatal point, "Lethal Mutagenesis."

Over 10 years have passed since this study, but we still have yet to see any lethal mutagenesis drugs in pharmacies. The main question is whether or not these drugs are really safe for humans. One of the main concerns is that the mutation boosting drugs may speed up the mutation of the human cells and not just those of the virus. If on the off-chance that it does, the drugs may increase the risk of cancer.

The health risks aren't the only reason that these drugs have not become more widely known. The adaptability of viruses is very unpredictable, and it seems as if it is possible for some viruses to evolve immunity to the mutagens themselves.

In one study, the T7 virus, which infects only E. Coli cells, was grown in a mutagen and was expected to die off with the high rate of mutation. After 200 generations, the virus offspring replicated at a much faster rate but remained. This case somewhat desolidifies the theory of lethal mutagenesis and proves that it is possible to have an adaptive virus even at amplified mutation rates.

 

Dr. Mansky of the University of Minnesota has been inspired over the years by studies on a protein produced by the human body called apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzyme; catalytic polypeptide-like3G, or APOBEC3G, of the superfamily of proteins APOBEC. This protein is the human's response to retroviruses like HIV. This protein actually fights off the virus by adding mutations. The reason that APOBEC3G doesn't just kill the HIV virus itself is because of something called the Viral Infectivity Factor, which is a protein present in the HIV that targets APOBEC for modification after it is transcribed to DNA (scary to know these things can modify our proteins like that) and for cellular degradation. 

“To me that was important,” Dr. Mansky said to the New York Times. “It said that cells have evolved a mechanism for fending off viruses with lethal mutagenesis.”

Dr. Mansky and his colleagues conducted an experiment in November and the results give hope. His study shows that an approved drug can eliminate HIV in vitro with a drug called 5-AZC, an already approved drug for precancerous blood disorders. Now that he has this study under his belt, he is moving for trials on humans. Hopefully the same results will be seen.

An even better way might be to reduce the population of the virus by using a reproduction inhibitor and THEN increasing the mutation rate. This worked for Dr. E. Domingo in a study of lethal mutagenesis with the help of an inhibitor on foot-and-mouth disease. When the study was conducted there was a controlled environment in which the inhibitor was administered first, followed by the the mutagen, as well as a controlled environment where the inhibitor and the mutagen were delivered simultaneously. The study proved that the sequential administration had an advantage in eliminating the virus.

Scientists have faith that the obstacles with the lethal mutagenesis drugs can be overcome. With the discovery of 5-AZC working in vitro and being an approved drug, a way to stop HIV might just be around the corner. Many people have put forth many years of effort in hopes to find a way to eliminate viruses, and this seems to be a plausible way. There are still a few kinks to work out though. Lets just hope that there aren't any lab leaks with some potentially human-harming virus that had results like the T7 experiment.

Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2010 10:54 AM by cstanton | with no comments
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web