Human serum albumin is used in everything from vaccines to cell culture.
Human blood is in demand these days. Donor blood is required for transfusions, of course, but it also contains human serum albumin, a blood protein used to treat shock, severe burns, and liver injuries that also shows up in vaccines and in cell culture materials. Worldwide, we use about 500 tons of human serum albumin (abbreviated HSA) a year.
Shortages of the protein and the potential for contamination by blood-borne viruses have encouraged scientists to look beyond donor blood for sources. One promising approach, inserting the gene for HSA into plants and then harvesting the resulting protein, has always yielded too little for the method to make sense financially, but a new paper details a way to get around that: get the plant to make HSA in its seeds, which are lean, mean protein-concentrating machines. HSA made up 10% of the soluble protein in the rice seeds produced by the research team, one of the highest yields on record from a transgenic plant. And when the team put it through its chemical paces, it worked exactly like normal, human-grown HSA, indicating that its sojourn in the plant world hadn’t impaired its usefulness. If all goes as planned, the team will be testing rice-grown HSA in people in clinical trials in the next two years, with an eye towards supplanting donor blood as a source.
[via Nature News]
Image courtesy of Borislav Mitel / Wikimedia Commons
What’s the News: An international team of researchers, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, has learned that large magnetic waves are partly to blame for the Sun’s immensely hot corona. The study, published in the journal Nature, also suggests that the waves could be the driving force behind the solar wind.
When Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface in 1969, they did more than make history and utter unforgettable words. They also deployed seismic sensors that would allow scientists back on Earth to monitor the activity on the moon. Crews from the 12th, 14th, 15th, and 16th iterations of Apollo also deployed sensors, the lot of which took measurements until 1977. Using recently developed techniques of analysis, two teams working independently say they have gone back into that catalog of data and sorted through the statistical noise that has confounded researchers, creating a clear picture of the moon’s core.
The new study provides the first confirmation of layering of the moon’s core and suggests that the moon, like Earth, has a solid inner core surrounded by a molten outer core, researchers said. But the moon’s interior also has another layer of partially melted material – a ring of magma – around its outer core, the study found. [MSNBC]
The moon shakes with moonquakes, but those are more scattered and weaker than the quakes we experience here on the home world, and the moon’s busted-up surface made the signals difficult for Apollo seismic monitors to read. Through a statistical technique called waveform stacking, the new teams could better identify how seismic waves move through the moon, and especially how the core affects them. That, in turn, shows the size and density of the core.
If there was a race to see which Large Hadron Collider experiment would provide the first surprise, and the first giddy claims of possible “new physics,” it appears the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) has won. CERN scientists announced this week that the most high-energy proton smash-ups produced an weird effect: particles created in the collision were somehow linked together and flew off in an unexpected direction.
In the new experiment, the CMS team took data on the charged particles produced in hundreds of thousands of collisions. The team observed the angles the particles’ paths took with respect to each other, and calculated something called a “correlation function” to determine how intimately the particles are linked after they separate. The plot of the data ends up looking like a topographical map of a mountain surrounded by lowlands and a long ridge behind it (see below). [Wired.com]