ramen and pickles

science, technology, and medicine served up with some tasty noodles

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Dogs Catch Yawns From Their Owners. Does That Mean They Empathize with Us?

If you’ve ever spent any time with a dog, you’ve noticed that you can start your dog yawning, although incidentally your dog can start you yawning.  This picture here makes me want to yawn.   Is there a link between that and how well dogs are paying attention and empathizing with humans?    This study in Animal Cognition suggests so:


Is the Purpose of Sleep to Let Our Brains ???Defragment,??? Like a Hard Drive? | The Crux | Discover Magazine

Is the purpose of sleep to allow brains to defragment like a hard drive?  

The Neuroskeptic weighs in:



Reminders of Secular Authority Reduce Believers??? Distrust of Atheists



Atheists have long been distrusted, in part because they do not believe that a watchful, judging god monitors their behavior. However, in many parts of the world, secular institutions such as police, judges, and courts are also potent sources of social monitoring that encourage prosocial behavior. Reminders of such secular authority could therefore reduce believers??? distrust of atheists. In our experiments, participants who watched a video about police effectiveness (Experiment 1) or were subtly primed with secular-authority concepts (Experiments 2???3) expressed less distrust of atheists than did participants who watched a control video or were not primed, respectively. We tested three distinct alternative explanations for these findings. Compared with control participants, participants primed with secular-authority concepts did not exhibit reduced general prejudice against out-groups (Experiment 1), prejudice reactions associated with functional threats that particular out-groups are perceived to pose (specifically, viewing gays with disgust; Experiment 2), or general distrust of out-groups (Experiment 3). These findings contribute to theory regarding both the psychological bases of prejudices and the psychological functions served by gods and governments.


Why people with African ancestry at increased risk of diabetes and those of East Asian ancestry have decreased risk

This paper discusses some of the genetic variants that seem to explain the difference in incidence in diabetes between different ethnic groups.



Many disease-susceptible SNPs exhibit significant disparity in ancestral and derived allele frequencies across worldwide populations. While previous studies have examined population differentiation of alleles at specific SNPs, global ethnic patterns of ensembles of disease risk alleles across human diseases are unexamined. To examine these patterns, we manually curated ethnic disease association data from 5,065 papers on human genetic studies representing 1,495 diseases, recording the precise risk alleles and their measured population frequencies and estimated effect sizes. We systematically compared the population frequencies of cross-ethnic risk alleles for each disease across 1,397 individuals from 11 HapMap populations, 1,064 individuals from 53 HGDP populations, and 49 individuals with whole-genome sequences from 10 populations. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) demonstrated extreme directional differentiation of risk allele frequencies across human populations, compared with null distributions of European-frequency matched control genomic alleles and risk alleles for other diseases. Most T2D risk alleles share a consistent pattern of decreasing frequencies along human migration into East Asia. Furthermore, we show that these patterns contribute to disparities in predicted genetic risk across 1,397 HapMap individuals, T2D genetic risk being consistently higher for individuals in the African populations and lower in the Asian populations, irrespective of the ethnicity considered in the initial discovery of risk alleles. We observed a similar pattern in the distribution of T2D Genetic Risk Scores, which are associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes in the Diabetes Prevention Program cohort, for the same individuals. This disparity may be attributable to the promotion of energy storage and usage appropriate to environments and inconsistent energy intake. Our results indicate that the differential frequencies of T2D risk alleles may contribute to the observed disparity in T2D incidence rates across ethnic populations.


Generation of an HIV-1-Resistant Immune System with CD34+ Hematopoietic Stem Cells Transduced with a Triple-Combination Anti-HIV Lentiviral Vector

Awesome potential application of stem cell therapy.  Doing a bone marrow transplant of HIV-resistant HSC’s into AIDS patients may be able to cure them.



HIV gene therapy has the potential to offer an alternative to the use of current small-molecule antiretroviral drugs as a treatment strategy for HIV-infected individuals. Therapies designed to administer HIV-resistant stem cells to an infected patient may also provide a functional cure, as observed in a bone marrow transplant performed with hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) homozygous for the CCR5-??32-bp allele. In our current studies, preclinical evaluation of a combination anti-HIV lentiviral vector was performed, in vivo, in humanized NOD-RAG1???/??? IL2r?????/??? knockout mice. This combination vector, which displays strong preintegration inhibition of HIV-1 infection in vitro, contains a human/rhesus macaque TRIM5?? isoform, a CCR5 short hairpin RNA (shRNA), and a TAR decoy. Multilineage hematopoiesis from anti-HIV lentiviral vector-transduced human CD34+ HSCs was observed in the peripheral blood and in various lymphoid organs, including the thymus, spleen, and bone marrow, of engrafted mice. Anti-HIV vector-transduced CD34+ cells displayed normal development of immune cells, including T cells, B cells, and macrophages. The anti-HIV vector-transduced cells also displayed knockdown of cell surface CCR5 due to the expression of the CCR5 shRNA. After in vivo challenge with either an R5-tropic BaL-1 or X4-tropic NL4-3 strain of HIV-1, maintenance of human CD4+ cell levels and a selective survival advantage of anti-HIV gene-modified cells were observed in engrafted mice. The data provided from our study confirm the safety and efficacy of this combination anti-HIV lentiviral vector in a hematopoietic stem cell gene therapy setting for HIV and validates its potential