Gene therapy trial restores hearing

Loosing one of our senses has been a one way street for much of our history, but recent medical breakthroughs are showing very promising results in bringing them back!

Gene therapy restoring hearing

18-month old British girl Opal Sandy has had her hearing restored through a new gene therapy trial. The deafness, in this case, was due to auditory neuropathy, a condition where nerve impulses from the inner ear to the brain are disrupted. To cure her condition a therapy, known as DB-OTO, was used, copying the OTOF gene directly to the ear. Through a minimally invasive procedure, where the gene solution was infused into the inner ear using a catheter, the hearing is potentially restored without any need of repeated treatments.

Future of hearing restoration

While this method was being used in the UK, other parts of the world are doing similar research targeting genetic forms of deafness. Both China and the US are currently working on their own respective delivery method and procedure of targeting the very gene causing deafness.

Not only did the little girl’s life change, but it also makes way for many more people being able to appreciate music, bird’s song, and the voices of our loved ones. Things the hearing of us takes for granted.

2024-06-06 09:05

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  • Gene therapy trial restores hearing

    Loosing one of our senses has been a one way street for much of our history, but recent medical breakthroughs are showing very promising results in bringing them back!

    Read more

    Loosing one of our senses has been a one way street for much of our history, but recent medical breakthroughs are showing very promising results in bringing them back!

    Gene therapy restoring hearing

    18-month old British girl Opal Sandy has had her hearing restored through a new gene therapy trial. The deafness, in this case, was due to auditory neuropathy, a condition where nerve impulses from the inner ear to the brain are disrupted. To cure her condition a therapy, known as DB-OTO, was used, copying the OTOF gene directly to the ear. Through a minimally invasive procedure, where the gene solution was infused into the inner ear using a catheter, the hearing is potentially restored without any need of repeated treatments.

    Future of hearing restoration

    While this method was being used in the UK, other parts of the world are doing similar research targeting genetic forms of deafness. Both China and the US are currently working on their own respective delivery method and procedure of targeting the very gene causing deafness.

    Not only did the little girl’s life change, but it also makes way for many more people being able to appreciate music, bird’s song, and the voices of our loved ones. Things the hearing of us takes for granted.

    Read less

    2024-06-06 09:05 | 0 comments | Gene therapy, Science

  • When wolves became man’s best friend

    I think we can all agree on that man’s best friend – the dog – can trace its ancestry back to the wolves. How this came to be is a completely different story that researchers haven’t entirely come to agree on. Was it humans or wolves that took the first s

    Read more

    I think we can all agree on that man’s best friend – the dog – can trace its ancestry back to the wolves. How this came to be is a completely different story that researchers haven’t entirely come to agree on. Was it humans or wolves that took the first step into the interspecies relationship?

    Timeline

    Today’s dogs have wandered quite far from their original form in the wolf. Even today’s wolves have to some extent devolved into a smaller version of their once larger statures. We’re not entirely certain when this process actually began, but some estimates say it started between 20,000 to 40,000 years ago in Europe and Asia. Studies also suggest that this might have happened in different geographical locations.

    Leading theories

    The Self-Domestication Theory suggests that at some point wolves began to scavange near human settlements, attracted to the delicious remains of hunting trophys. Over time, the wolves who wandered further into the presence of man in his camps were rewarded with more spoils, warmth from the campfire, and a true bond of friendship.

    Another theory, Directed Domestication Theory, suggest that the friendship wasn’t mutual but that early humans captured wolf pups and raised them as their own. They were then selectively breeded for desirable traits.

    Whether one subscribes to the theory of mutual benefit or that it was a forced relationship, we can all probably agree that it has been a good one at that!

    Read less

    2024-05-15 11:57 | 0 comments | Fauna, Nature, Wolves

  • Using AI to talk to whales

    Recently OpenAI released a much improved version of their LLM, called ChatGPT-4o. The main focus seem to have been on language and conversation, where it answers significantly faster, in any language, and with more “human” emotions in speech, text…

    Read more

    Recently OpenAI released a much improved version of their LLM, called ChatGPT-4o. The main focus seem to have been on language and conversation, where it answers significantly faster, in any language, and with more “human” emotions in speech, text, or image. Such an improvement does pose the question where it all ends. Will we be able to translate animal speech with an app on our phones in coming updates?

    Project CETI and Earth Species Project

    Scientists working on Project CETI (Cetacean Translation Initiative) and the Earth Species Project have been working on deepening our understanding of sperm whale language and communication. To this end, they’ve used AI tools in which they’ve created a LLM (Large Language Model) with vast amounts of data on whale talk. The goal is to be able to understand the language of the whales and even to reply to them.

    Whale communication

    Sperm whales apparently have a very complex communication system with sequences of clicks (called codas), of which the researchers have identified several distinct sequences, believed to function like an alphabet. Their language and “way of speaking” also isn’t random, but very dependant on the context of their interaction.

    Conclusion

    If we can learn how to communicate with sperm whales, there’s no reason to believe we cannot learn to communicate with other animals. Or plants and fungi, for that matter.

    The interesting question here is, whether this will open up to new kinds of deeper knowledge about our environment.

    Will we be able to continue to eat animals that we can communicate “meaningfully” with? What does your cat really think of you? Do you really want to know what the crows and seagulls are screaming about?

    Read less

    2024-05-14 11:43 | 0 comments | AI, Animal interaction, Technology

  • You become what you eat: Junk food causes long lasting damage to the brain

    Have you ever felt kind of numb or sluggish in the head after eating junk food? As it turns out, junk food really does that to you. Problem is, the effect might be long lasting, perhaps indefinite.

    Read more

    Have you ever felt kind of numb or sluggish in the head after eating junk food? As it turns out, junk food really does that to you. Problem is, the effect might be long lasting, perhaps indefinite.

    The study

    Researchers at University of Southern California have tested the effects of junk food, specifically high-fat, sugary diet, on rats from a young age. Besides the negative effect on memory, that doesn’t seem to go away, even after getting off junk food, diets of unhealthy and processed foods can be linked to e.g. Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

    Studies in the same field often show these findings, even when the junk food is eaten only occationally.

    Reservations

    While rat studies often are used as a proxy for human studies, since the response is quite similar, mostly, we can’t draw too many conclusions from it. We do know that unhealthy foods are bad for us and that they dome with negative effects. What those negative effects are are not always easy to figure out since human studies are extremely expensive and hard to do, and control.

    Conclusion

    Alzheimer’s and similar diseases are quite common in humans, and especially since the introduction of junk foods in our diet (correlation might not be causation, though). We are what we eat, after all, and if you’ve ever felt energised after a good meal or moody and comatose after eating junk, I bet you can relate too.

    We might not loose the ability to memorise or remember things by eating the occasional hamburger, but it does seem to have an effect!

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    2024-05-13 11:03 | 0 comments | Diet, Health

  • The rise of synthetic coffee

    Synthetic food products are becoming increasingly more common, whether we like it or not. the most recent example being synthetic coffee. Is this the future, or is it some kind of Frankenstein’s caffeinated monstrosity that no one will accept?

    Read more

    Synthetic food products are becoming increasingly more common, whether we like it or not. the most recent example being synthetic coffee. Is this the future, or is it some kind of Frankenstein’s caffeinated monstrosity that no one will accept?

    Why synthetic coffe?

    According to some people the climate can’t handle the growing of coffee beans so we need to stop the natural production of them to be able to get our caffeine fix.

    Coffee isn’t something that Western civilisation, or any civilisation for that matter, will accept to be cut off from. It’s just too ingrained into our culture by now, being consumed by rich and poor alike. If one were to accept the premise that we need to stop, or reduce the production of coffee beans, there must be a good alternative to take its place. Enter synthetic, laboratory- made coffee.

    Making synthetic coffee

    Currently, at least three startups are working on creating coffee alternatives in slightly different methods.

    Atomo Coffee in Seattle are using upcycled plant-based materials to extract molecular compounds to create their beanless coffee. According to them, their coffee generates over 90% fewer carbon emissions and uses 94% less water than conventionally grown, real coffee.

    In the next-door neighbour to Sweden, Finland, also the world’s largest coffee consumers per capita at 12 kg per person and year, the next startup is working on abolishing the bean.

    Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre are taking a slightly different route, growing coffee from cell cultures in their bioreactors. This method requires no pesticides and much less water and is expected to become approved in Europe and US within about four years.

    The nutritional value of the soil and food products

    While climate change might be a good excuse since it’s already at everyone’s lips, it’s not the main motivation behind these efforts. An increasing population puts an increasing demand on the food production chains, and specifically on the land that produces the food.

    There are studies suggesting that you have to eat about 8 times as much of any given grown food product today than you had to 100 years ago to get the same nutritional value. This is mainly due to overproduction and the impoverishment of the soil.

    Conclusion

    So, while we have a problem that require drastic solutions, it’s not certain that the general public would accept the solutions. I, for one, am not craving lab-grown coffee, or any other lab-grown food product for that matter.

    If you have any suggestions or thoughts about this issue, please comment below! Would you drink synthetic coffee?

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    2024-05-12 01:49 | 0 comments | Science, Synthetic food