Month: June 2008

Amateur Scientists Help Biologists at Glacier National Park

Wildlife monitoring at Glacier National Park in Montana is the daunting responsibility of two biologists, little funding, a whole lot of ground to cover, and hundreds of species to track.

Over the past couple of summers, local volunteers have been trained to travel deep into the backwoods of the park and monitor population levels of animals that are of serious concern. The data collection has been tremedous, and would have otherwise been impossible to organize without the army of amateurs dedicated to supporting the park.

Through the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center  at the park, additional training sessions will be available in July for those interested in participating. Call 406.888.7986 for more information.

“Citizen Scientists to the Rescue for Glacier Park” :: Flathead Beacon :: June 26, 2008 :: [ READ ]

[ VIEW ] Live Webcams at Glacier National Park

Embryonic Stem Cell Coaxed into Functioning Neuron

Only in California. No, really.

With previous failures of converting embryonic stems cells only into supporting glial cells instead of general neurons, Stuart Lipton’s research group at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, CA recently discovered how to convert mice stem cells into neurons. These cells were then transplanted into a mouse brain and they successfullyconnected and functioned within the existing neuron network.

The work is funded from a four-year, $75 million grant (pdf) from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Understanding how stems cells transform into any of the hundreds of types of cells in the human body is still a challenge, but Lipton’s team is focusing on the protein MEFC2 and how it links to the genes in the stem cell to tell it to turn into a neuron.

Although we’re still far far away from doing clinical trials to throw these neurons into human brains and “see what happens”, this research is critical just for further fundamental understanding of neuron cell development, growth, and function. How neurons grow and, in particular, how they interconnect with one another is a major factor in the overall resulting function of the brain. So, watching how a neuron is “born” (and understanding it so well that we can guide the process) and then interconnect will provide more insight into the function of a larger neuron network.

The research is published in The Journal of Neuroscience June 25, 2008 Issue [Read the abstract]

“Repairing damage to brain may be nearer” :: SignOnSanDiego.com :: June 25, 2008 :: [READ]

“Scientists repair brain using GM embryo cells” :: Telegraph.uk.co :: June 24, 2008 :: [READ]

New Implated Micodevice for Wireless Neuron Control

An interesting new technology emerging from the research lab of Dr. Larry Cauller at University of Texas at Dallas might lead to new patient-guided treatments for direct control in pain management.

The work is now being further funded for commercial development through the start-upMicroTransponder, Inc. The device concept is an implanted wireless receiver that can stimulate nerve tissue in order to block pain signals before reaching the brain. This could be a major boon for people with chronic pain issues, which does affect a large percentage of people in the United States.

The group is still fine-tuning the technology and has a way to go for FDA approval, but they are certainly in an interesting position to master a major development for pain relief. How the body and brain responds to this direct internal stimulation might also lead to further understanding of neuron communication and function. It might also result in some interesting–if not undesirable–effects on how the body responds when it doesn’t feel pain when, maybe, it should be feeling pain.

“Tiny Technology Packs a Pain-Relieving Wallop” :: UT Dallas News Center :: June 26, 2008 :: [ READ ]

Amateur Achievement Award from ASP 2008

Congratulations to Steve Mandel of Soquel, California who won the 2008 Amateur Achievement Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific! Starting his project in 2004, Steve worked to catalog images of nebulae in the Milky Way. A significant experimental discovery was that small-aperture telescopes with CCD cameras–something available to any amateur astronomer–is a perfect recording device to detect large nebular clouds high above the galactic plane.

[Learn more about the Mandel-Wilson Unexplored Nebulae Project]

[ READ more about the ASP 2008 Awards ]

Last updated April 5, 2020