Transcript: Feb 05, 2008 Part 1

Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!
With the mounting negative effects of global warming reaching the terrifying tipping point of ruin-ness no-return, can we really turn the tide against ignorance, cronyism and willful planetary environmental destruction? Yes, we can.

With the future of science, health care and education being weighed against the financial comfort of corporate America – can we, the people, have our voices heard above the rattling of sabers in a din, of lobbyists’ catcalls? Yes, we can.
Can we have the hard work and dedication of countless thousands of researchers flourished with taxpayers’ support instead of floundering under governmental resistance? Yes, we can.
Can we fulfill our scientific destiny in the 21st century by putting education above economics? Research above retaliation? And discovery above destruction? Yes, we can.

Can we do all these even though the University of California Davis, KDVS and its sponsors don’t necessarily agree with the views or opinions of the following hour of programming? Yes, we can.
The words on the lips of every scientist, researcher, inventor, teacher and dreamer throughout century — yes, we can learn.
Yes we can. No. Yes, we can seize our future.
Yes, we can. Listen to This Week in Science. Coming up next.
Justin: Good morning Kirsten!
Kirsten: Good morning Justin! How is it going this morning?
Justin: Good. It seems like a really super Tuesday for some reason.
Kirsten: It seems like super fat Tuesday!
Justin: Huh?
Kirsten: Huh? Yes. Super fat Tuesday is upon us. What is that, may you as? If you don’t know then you are really out of the loop. It’s the biggest preliminary voting.
Justin: Oh yes.
Kirsten: Day of…?
Justin: Is that today?
Kirsten: The next four years. It’s today.
Justin: Wow!
Kirsten: It is today. Yes. And we have the luck to be here to tell everybody that – you know, take advantage of this opportunity to get out and place your votes.
Justin: Don’t be an idiot.
Kirsten: Place your votes.
Justin: Don’t be an idiot. Because idiots I think means – the definition of the actual word – means that you’re not interested in politics in any way, shape or form, not interest in participating.
Kirsten: Not it…
Justin: It’s an idiot.
Kirsten: Non-participants.
Justin: So participate!
Kirsten: [Laugh]
Justin: Unless you’re not right-minded, then don’t. But if you’re listening to this show, chances are – you’re somebody who should be voting.
Kirsten: Maybe. Yes. Yes.
Justin: Yes.
Kirsten: Yes – It’s been quite…
Justin: If you’re…
Kirsten: It’s been quite a weekend.
Justin: Actually if you’re listening in another country, I think it won’t help.
Kirsten: It won’t help so much. That’s right.
Anyway, it’s been quite a week since last Tuesday for me. Today is my first show here in Davis since I moved to San Francisco this last weekend.
Justin: Wow!
Kirsten: Yes. I did the reverse commute this morning.
Justin: That must be nice, watching all the traffic the other way.
Kirsten: [Laugh]. It was rather nice. However – you know this – this week was a little bit rushed. I did have to drive my car which is a little environmentally – not conscious.
Justin: Huh?
Kirsten: Yes. You know, single driver in a vehicle driving down. It’s not – NOT necessarily the most environmentally conscious way to be. However, I am learning about the public transportation options available to me to be able to get myself from the city to Davis every Tuesday.
Justin: Wow!
Kirsten: Yes.
Justin: Sounds pretty cool.
Kirsten: And I’m just going to put this out there, right now. Maybe I’d like to try and figure out if we can go to an afternoon spot.
Justin: Huh?!
Kirsten: [Laugh]
Justin: Oh, my Jesus – yes, we can Kirsten – yes we can.
Kirsten: Maybe I’m just – you know… kind…
Justin: Oh…
Kirsten: This is foreshadowing of things to come in the future for those of you who listen to us.
Justin: Yes.
Kirsten: Every week, in the morning.
Justin: Pull the trigger. Pull the trigger.
Kirsten: [Laugh] I’m going to start putting it out there.
Justin: Sleeping in?
Kirsten: Putting it out there. Maybe it could work a little bit better for everyone involved now if we moved to an afternoon time slot.
Justin: Yes.
Kirsten: Well. This is something that’s going to have to be worked on, so.
Justin: Yes – Yes – Yes. I – I like
Kirsten: [Laugh] If you’d like to join us and Justin’s man crush. [Laugh]
Justin: Yes, you can!
Kirsten: Yes, you can!
Justin: Join with us.
Kirsten: Give us a phone call at (530) 752-2777. Give us a call. Today is the day for having your voice heard. So, we’d like to – in that spirit – invite you to call us.
And let’s talk about science. Let’s talk about science and politics. Let’s talk about all those things.
Justin: Yes. You can talk about – if you want to call and say nice things about my man crush, Barack Obama …
Kirsten: [Laugh]
Justin: By all means.
Kirsten: Yes. We had an…
Justin: Everybody else is going to be censored.
Kirsten: I got an e-mail from – I’m not censoring this e-mail. I got an e-mail from Peter (Furlong) who’s upset at our Australia bashing.
Justin: Oh. He must not be Australian?
Kirsten: He is Australian.
Justin: What?
Kirsten: However, he must not be…
Justin: Not a true Australian?
Kirsten: He must not be a long time listener.
Justin: He must be in Sydney, Australia?
Kirsten: I just – I just – I just want to..
Justin: One of the cities in Australia.
Kirsten: I want people out there to know that Australia bashing is meant in the most fun terms. I mean it’s really – it all came that the Australia bashing has been not so much on the show as often since Justin has been on the air.
But years ago when it was me and Greg and Ted. Greg went to Australia for sometime. He had a fabulous time but when he came back, he was so pro-Australian that we thought that it would be very funny to find any stories that – you know – kind of bash Australia.
Justin: Oh that’s where…
Kirsten: A little bit.
Justin: Oh..
Kirsten: That’s where – That’s where it came from
Justin: I had no idea.
Kirsten: It was all making fun of Greg.
Justin: [Laugh] That’s funny..
Kirsten: Really so I mean…
Justin: Crush on Australia.
Kirsten: I love Australians. I’ve never been to Australia but I’d love to visit someday there. The wild life. The birds. For me going bird-watching in Australia would be a dream come true. So, you know – I’m going to put that out there, also.
Justin: I think one of the only things I’m afraid of more or equally…
Kirsten: Just Peter – don’t be upset at us – please.
Justin: …I think one of the only things I’m afraid of more or equally… the sharks is poisonous snakes and alligator, crocodile.
Kirsten: I know you’ve got the most poisonous things on the planet.
Justin: Yes. I don’t like being eaten by stuff.
Kirsten: I don’t– really? [Laughs] No.
Justin: Well…
Kirsten: Maybe not. Anyway, we’ve got a lot of science news for you.
Justin bring it.
Justin: You know Kirsten, we can put a man on the moon, but can we make an onion that doesn’t make us cry?
Kirsten: I don’t know.
Justin: Yes, we can!
Kirsten: Oh, dear.
Justin: [Laughs]
Kirsten: Oh, dear.
Justin: Thanks to scientists in New Zealand, which I think is right off the coast of Australia there somewhere and Japan. The tear-free onion was developed by switching off the gene behind the enzyme that makes us cry.
One of the leading researchers said — Colin Eady, the Institute’s senior scientist said the project started in 2002 after Japanese scientists located the gene responsible for producing the agent behind the tears.
Eady said that by stopping sulphur compounds from being converted to the tearing agent and redirecting them into compounds responsible for flavor and health, the process could even improve the taste of an onion.
Kirsten: Wooh..
Justin: Making it taste more like a lemony garlic. Right, I made up that part.
Kirsten: [Laughs] Wait a minute, why would – I wanted it to taste like an onion.
Justin: I know. That’s kind of a weird thing, like be less pugnant and [BABABA]. But that’s the whole attraction, it’s the bitterness which is the attraction to the onion. So, they’re going to make – I guess they’re going to make kind of asweeter onion.
Kirsten: That kind of spice – the spicy. Like – there are any sweet onions? Like, there are lots of sugars in onions as they are. So, I mean they’re quite sweet in caramelized onions that wouldn’t be possible if there weren’t so many sugars in the onion naturally. So, they are pretty sweet but there is something about that onion spice zest.
Justin: Yes. I guess – I mean who’s really being helped by the non-caring onion. I mean, is that really like a huge problem?
Kirsten: I guess so. I don’t know. I all – one – one trick, breathe through your mouth when you’re chopping an onion.
Justin: [Laughs]
Kirsten: Seriously. Because you don’t – the volatiles in the onion that are vaporized – vaporizing as it sits in the air. They are not light enough to go up from your mouth into your sinuses, so they tend to stay in the mouth as opposed to moving into the nose where they would hit those nerve endings that make you tear up.
Whereas if you breathe through your nose, they go right into your nose. They’re immediately hitting nerve endings. You tear up and you cry.
Justin: Kirsten.
Kirsten: Breathe through your mouth.
Justin: Kirsten.
Kirsten: Be a mouth-breather.
Justin: The problem is – the whole point of our show is to create less mouth breathers out there. And here you go..
Kirsten: [Laughs] Right. Here I go.
Justin: Gosh..
Kirsten: Breathe through your mouth.
Justin: Yes. We’re putting tear-less onion possibly to be on shelves in 10 to 15 years.
Kirsten: That’s not a long wait for a tear-less onion.
Justin: But seriously, the researcher has appeared now on the cover of the trade journal Onion World.
Kirsten: [Laughs]
Justin: And I’m kind of jealous. I’m kind of jealous.
Kirsten: I didn’t know – I didn’t know there was a magazine. A journal called “Onion World.”
Justin: I didn’t either. Otherwise, I’d be doing “Onion World” material all the time, to lobby for myself.
Kirsten: Along other food lines, look – be on the lookout for the anti-cavity lollipop.
Justin: Oh. Okey.
Kirsten: Yes. This out of UCLA, researcher Wenyuan Shi has discovered an ingredient from licorice that actually kills the bad bacteria – the cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth.
This licorice root extract kills streptococcus mutans which is a very common cavity-causing bacteria. Releases acids that eat away the enamel and cause the cavities in your teeth.
This article here says that only 15 milligrams of licorice powder per lollipop eliminates 99.9% of the bacteria in the mouth within 5-10 minutes.
Justin: Yes, it can.
Kirsten: Yes, it can. So, I’m just envisioning, instead of getting an apple or raisins and being upset about it at Halloween, your kid will get the cavity proof lollipop and be like “Yehey!”
Justin: Does that mean like all – like real licorice can do that too?
Kirsten: I love candy.
Justin: I eat a lot of licorice.
Kirsten: Probably it depends on much of that one component is in licorice when you’re eating it in a candy form. I mean this is an extract, so it can be concentrated and then added into other candies. So, I’m guessing that with this lollipop, even with the sugars, it doesn’t matter because its extract would kill the bacteria.
Justin: It’s the sugar just helps what? Feed the bacteria?
Kirsten: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Justin: So licorice flavored toothpaste. There we go.
Kirsten: I think there are a couple of brands out there that are licorice flavored.
Justin: There..
Kirsten: So maybe those do help. They’re thinking that is actually going to be really great for elderly population and children. Children we know love lollipops but also for the elderly..
Justin: But what we didn’t know is that the elderly love them too. [Laughs]
Kirsten: [Laughs] Exactly. That’s very funny.
So I don’t know exactly when this is going to be common candies but there’s a company that’s going to be targeted to special needs people – by the company C3 Jian. They’re selling the lollipop. And – yes, lollipop cavity proof project. [Laughs]
Justin: New insight into underwater mammalian hearing reveals new insight into underwater mammalian hearing.
Kirsten: What? That was like a…
Justin: New echo location?
Kirsten: Did you repeat yourself?
Justin: New echo location? What?
Kirsten: Huh?
Justin: Huh?
Justin: Since the early sixties, it had been thought that noise vibrations traveled through the thin bony walls of toothed whales’ lower jaw and into the fat, that attaches near the ear complex. Now, new research is showing us that the tiny bone walls do not transmit the vibrations.
: Yes. In fact, the vibration enters through the throat and then passed to the bony ear – the bony ear via complex, unique little fatty channel. That’s up in there.
So researchers from San Diego State University, University of California using computer mammal – mammals? Computer mammals? Yes. They actually did use computer mammals. To model the mimic – mimic the model of the effects of underwater noise.
Kirsten: ma- ma- ma- ma-
Justin: Oh my goodness.
Kirsten: [Laughs]
Justin: Using computer models to mimic the effects of underwater noise on an unusual whale species, discovered a new pathway entering into the head nearest from the throat. It’s actually interesting if I just do this and I sort of tap on my..
Kirsten: Tap on your Adam’s apple?
Justin: I can kind of..
Kirsten: Which he’s doing right now. Tap – tap – tap – tap.
Justin: I’m doing it right now but you can’t see. But I can kind of in a weird way hear that. That’s kind of a – maybe we could train ourselves to have echo location underwater.
Kirsten: [Laughs]
Justin: If we just practice tapping on our throat when we’re swimming.
The research paper published, let’s see, February 4th — that would be yesterday — in the Institute of Physics Journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, is a catalyst for future research that could end years of speculation about the effects of underwater sound on marine animals.
Now they actually, they borrowed this whole technique. This is a technique that they used of creating models and then testing the models in the computer. This is normally done with like building – with architecture. They’ll build a building into the computer with all the data sets on the materials and then they’ll put it through an earthquake or hurricane and see how the computer model stands up.
Kirsten: Right.
Justin: And they’ve done this and they’ve actually done the scans – CT scans of large whales to come out with these models. But they picked the Cuvier’s beaked whale to do the study on because they noticed how sensitive it is to sounds. Because these whales can actually be completely stranded after an exposure to an intense sound.
So their pathway, it seems like they’ve got really sensitive hearing. So when they did this test and they found this new pathway they went – “ah huh!, that must — “ So they’re going to go look at other underwater..
Kirsten: Under..
Justin: Mammalian..
Kirsten: Right.
Justin: Whale-ey..
Kirsten: See if it’s a more common adaptation than – more common feature I should say.
Justin: [whale sound]
Kirsten: [Laughs] Yes. I would talk like that too if I went underwater a lot.
Justin: Yes?
Kirsten: Yes.
Justin: I can talk like that sometimes just for the heck.
Kirsten: Talk like a whale. If you want to give us a call and talk like a whale, give us a call at (520) 752-2777.
From Ed Dyer, a wonderful story here about the Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna). The Anna’s Hummingbird, high speed footage has revealed that it chirps not with its vocal parts but with its tail.
Justin: What?
Kirsten: [Laughs] Yes. Yes. The Anna’s Hummingbird – originally the chirp was attributed to the tail. But on a study that came out a little while ago, some researchers said “No. No. No. It’s a vocalization.” This is actually something– the birds are actually vocalizing.
So the researchers – some other researchers went back and said let’s look at the high speed footage. Let’s get these birds in dives. Let’s manipulate their tail feathers. Maybe – you know – cut some feathers – add some feathers and see how that affects the chirp and whether or not it happens.
And lo and behold, the dive causes a change in the shape of the feathers that produces a chirping sound as the birds dive. This report is in the proceedings of the Royal Society B and was reported on by a group out of UC Berkeley.
Justin: It’s awesome.
Kirsten: They put an end to the uncertainty around the source of the Hummingbird chirp.
Justin: It can be distracting – like if you’re in the dive and it’s like, “oh somebody’s falling.”
Kirsten: Oh. It’s kind of – I think of it as like – you know – dive and [sound effect]…
Justin: [Laughs] Huh!
Kirsten: But you know sped up really fast because Hummingbirds go really fast. So, I think …[laughs] Sorry.
Justin: The Pope – the Pope Benedict
Kirsten: Yes.
Justin: Last Thursday
Kirsten: Oh. Pope Benedict..
Justin: Announced that embryonic stem cell research, artificial insemination and the prospect of human cloning had shattered human dignity.
Kirsten: Ouch.
Justin: What then of Galileo’s forced admission to heresy and recantation of his great life’s work before the church and the threat of being burned at the stake? Has there ever been an age when science hadn’t gone too far for the Catholic church, I’m wondering?
Kirsten: No.
Justin: No. There has never been a time.
Kirsten: Never.
Justin: When we – when science wasn’t shattering something important to the church. So, the Pope went on to say – and actually this is a statement I could almost agree with.
“When human beings in the weakest and most defenseless state of their existence are selected, abandoned, killed or used as pure biological material, how can one deny that they are being treated not as someone but as something?”
He said that the practices like that questioned the very concept of the dignity of man. If only he was speaking about the young men and women enlisted in military service, and not of tensile blastocysts and petri dishes, I would actually agree with him, completely.
I think that most people who are signed up to do military service anywhere in the world are in a state where they’re a little bit defenseless and a little bit weak.
He found little opposition to his words from the members of Vatican Department on doctrinal matters – the choir to which he was speaking. But what impact – I wonder what is the impact would be of those words if that had been in front of an audience of paraplegics? Would the children’s cancer ward of a hospital receive the message of the shattering of human dignity with as much enthusiasm?
And would a spouse or a parent of a person suffering from a condition that science is pursuing an end to agree with the message that their dignity is being shattered by blastocysts in research?
Last week he warned against the seductive powers of science. Saying it was important that science not become the sole criteria for goodness.
Good advice, Your Holiness.
Science for science’s sake does not goodness make. But the same can easily be set of holiness.
We’re going to get some hate mail now.
Kirsten: Yes. Probably.
Justin: And a couple of emails.
Kirsten: You’re acting bored again.
Justin: Justin, don’t hate God.
Kirsten: [Laughs]
Justin: I don’t. No. You don’t understand. I like science.
Kirsten: That’s right.
Justin: Get your peanut butter out of my chocolate or your chocolate on my peanut butter and we’ll be fine.
Kirsten: [Laughs]
Justin: Don’t go all rhesus on me. Okey, people okey?
Kirsten: Monkey?
Justin: Huh?
Kirsten: Rhesus monkey? Listen..
Justin: I got monkey..
Kirsten: [Laughs] Rhesus. Every once in a while..
Justin: I got the Rhesus monkey – I was like – Rhesus monkey. What is a monkey, oh God.
Kirsten: [Laughs] Researchers in Hamburg, Germany have found a protein in semen that makes HIV 100,000 times more virulent than it is on its own.
Justin: Woo!
Kirsten: Yes. Which explains why the majority of HIV is transmitted sexually.
Justin: Yes?
Kirsten: Yes. So the scientists set out to determine whether semen contains factors that inhibit HIV infection but they found instead, that fragments of prosthetic acidic phosphatase isolated from semen form these tiny, tiny fibers called amyloid fibrils.
They capture HIV particles and help them to penetrate target cells increasing the infection rate by 100,000 times. I mean, that’s massive – massive. Published in the research journal Cell, these researchers injected both naked virus and treated HIV into the tails of rats that hae been given human immune system cells. The HIV with the semen component was five times more effective at transmitting the virus.
Yes. And it says that in situations where low levels of the virus were transferred, as during intercourse, SEVI can make HIV up to 100,000 times more likely to spread when compared with the virus alone.
It’s just – that’s just incredible. That’s just incredible. It just goes – protection. Protection, protection, protection.
Justin: Huh?
Kirsten: Just don’t – protection. [Laughs]
Yes. It’s just this research is huge.
Justin: You know.
Kirsten: I mean – if it’s – if this is what..
Justin: Kirsten, you shatter human dignity when you wear the Jimmy hat.
Kirsten: No.
Justin: No. Not you but I mean..
Kirsten: Yes.
Justin: Never mind.
Kirsten: I’m just looking at this story and thinking of the massive increase in infection rate with the contact – with semen and so..
Justin: But – but Kirsten…
Kirsten: So, if a person have..
Justin: It’s the foreskin is the problem. It has nothing to do with science. It’s the..
Kirsten: No.
Justin: It’s that devil foreskin.
Kirsten: No. I’m looking at this and now that they have found something that increases the infection rate, does..
Justin: We can keep our foreskins now. Right?
Kirsten: No. Maybe yes, maybe.
[Laughs] That will actually give us a target to go after. So we can go after, but who knows what it will do to – I don’t know…
Justin: No. No. I think that’s huge.
Kirsten: It’s huge.
Justin: Yes. Because it’s proving that it is – you know – it’s not the friction that causes a little transfer here and there.
Kirsten: Well, no. No.
Justin: It’s the 100,000 times more…
Kirsten: It’s probably – yes – it’s a combination of everything I’m sure, but this is one massive component.
Justin: Yes.
Kirsten: Massive..
Justin: Massive. So – foreskins of the world, at ease.
Kirsten: [Laughs] Give me another story.
Justin: Okey. Introducing the baby three way.
Kirsten: Excuse me.
Justin: Embryos created with DNA from three people.
Kirsten: Whoa..
Justin: Yes.
Kirsten: Really?
Justin: Yes. This is hot off the…
Kirsten: People? Is this human or is this like mouse or..
Justin: Mouse people?
Kirsten: No.
Justin: British scientists have – let me read – I haven’t read the story yet. I just have the headline.
Kirsten: Read me the story.
Justin: British scientists have created human embryos containing DNA from two women and one man.
Kirsten: Wow.
Justin: Presumably human right? So far.
Procedure that could potentially prevent conditions including epilepsy, diabetes and heart failure while shattering human dignity.
Kirsten: You’re just going to keep going with that, aren’t you?
Justin: I just – it makes me mad that somebody would talk about science that way.
Through the preliminary research has raised concerns about the possibility of genetically modified babies -– that would be fun –- the scientists say that the embryos are still only primarily the product of one man and one woman.
“We’re not trying to alter genes, we’re just trying to swap a small proportion of the bad ones for some good genes.” said Patrick Chinnery, Professor of Neurogenetics at Newcastle University.
The process aims to avoid passing on to children bad mitochondria genes, which are contained outside the nucleus in a normal female egg. Mitochondria are cells’ energy sources. But mistakes in their genetic code can result in serious diseases like epilepsy, strokes, mental retardation.
Hmmm, that doesn’t – if you can fix epilepsy, stroke and mental retardation. It seems like you’d be not too much shattering human dignity as preserving it for a lifetime.
In their research, Chinnery and colleagues used normal embryos created from one man and one woman that had defective mitochondria in the woman’s egg. Then they transplanted that embryo into an emptied egg donated from a woman who had healthy mitochondria.
“The proportion of genes in mitochondria is infinitesimal,” said Francoise Shenfield a fertility expert with the European Society for Human Fertility and Reproduction, not connected to the research. Only trace amounts of a person’s genes came from mitochondria and experts said it would be incorrect to say that the embryo has three parents.
Kirsten: Right.
Justin: Most of the genes that make you who you are inside the nucleus. We’re not going anywhere..
Kirsten: Now, how did you pronounce that?
Justin: Nucleus?
Kirsten: There you go.
Justin: Is that right?
Kirsten: Nucleus. Yes.
Justin: Nucleus? How do you..
Kirsten: Keep going, nucleus.
Justin: Now you make me think about – now, I’ll do it wrong next time.
So far, ten sets of embryos had been created though they’ve not been allowed to develop for more than five days.
Kirsten: Right.
Justin: Chinnery hopes that after further experiments in the next few years, process might be available to parents undergoing in-vitro fertilization. Similar research has been conducted in animals in Japan, has already lead to the birth of healthy mice who had their mitochondria genes corrected.
It seems like every medical breakthrough just benefits mice more and more.
Kirsten: [Laughs] Absolutely.
Justin: Shenfield said that further tests to assess the safety and ef-es..
Kirsten: Effectivi-si-sity?
Justin: Yes. Efi-cie? Efi-si-si – efeciacy? I can’t – I know…
Kirsten: Efficacy?
Justin: Yes!
Kirsten: You getting there?
Justin: Yes. Efficacy. That’s the word.
Kirsten: Gees..
Justin: I don’t even know where the sentence – so anyway it’s going to destroy him in dignity by making people stronger.
Kirsten: [Laughs]
Justin: Healthier. Better. Stronger.
Kirsten: Another – another way that the future might make the people stronger is with..
Justin: Exercise.
Kirsten: Artificial DNA.
Justin: Oh – yes.
Kirsten: There is this little known wing of synthetic biology that involves creating more letters for the DNA code. So, DNA normally has four base acids and they are Adenine, cystine, tyrosine and guanine? That’s off the top of my head.
But researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla have added two more artificial building blocks to the four. And this research – this article is in New Scientist at the moment. I had this last week but I didn’t get a chance to report on it. So, thanks Logan for sending it to me and letting me have it again so I could remember to report on this.
They created a library of almost 200 potential genetic bases that are slight variations on the natural ones. So, they’ve taken the chemical make-up of the natural ones to kind of change the comprising atoms slightly so that they become – the molecule itself becomes slightly different.
They tweaked all of them and then tested them to see if they were similar enough to be able to be copied by the normal DNA copying mechanism. And they found two that the polymerase enzyme actually copies accurately from the 200.
Here’s some new tricks – the researchers used new tricks from drug development companies to be able to get at these. They used large scale experiments that generated lots of potential bases at random and that they then screened to see as supposed to the method that they had been using of just creating one base at a time.
With the help of graduate student, Aaron leconte, the group synthesized and screened 3600 candidates getting down to those 200. And then the two different screening approaches turned up the same pair of molecules that are called dSICS and dMMO2.
Romesberg said “We got it and said, ‘Wow!’. It would have been very difficult to have designed that pair rationally.” So if they had actually designed it, it probably would not have come out with the pair. That’s kind of an interesting point to be made.
The dSICS base paired with itself more readily than it does with its intended partner, so they had to make some more chemical tweaks so that they behaved correctly and would pair with their partners. So, in DNA base pairing, you normally have the A – the Adenine that partners on the opposite DNA strands with a tyrosine and – or, I think – it might…. [Laughs]
Justin: [Laughs]
Kirsten: I think it’s A and T that partner and the other two partners as well, so that it allows the DNA strands to line up like a zipper and pair very accurately because these pairs only partner with their exact – with the opposite.
Justin: So it’s going to be – it’ll have to move like computer technology will have to double – will have to go from four to eight, from eight to 16, 16 to 32.
At one point Bill Gates had said – was on the record saying – something along the lines of 32 megabytes is plenty of computing power for anyone.
Kirsten: Oh huh?
Justin: Long time ago he said that.
Kirsten: Great.
Justin: So maybe — maybe we are working in the commodore 64 of genetic make-up.
Kirsten: Right.
Justin: And in the future, we’ll have a lot more of options.
Kirsten: Yes. I think that’s a really – that’s a really..
Justin: Wings! I want wings.
Kirsten: I want to be able to see in the dark.
Justin: I want to breathe underwater and have wings.
Kirsten: Right. With the whole – the whole…
Justin: And I want to – I want to lower my voice.
Kirsten: [Laughs]
Justin: And I was – started talking like that.
Kirsten: I know. Well, It’s just a – such a – the synthetic biology is such a fascinating area of research. Because by opening up the genetic code and being able to add to it like you just said, the computing power instead of – you know four times four, you get maybe six now and the exponential combinatory power goes up and up and up.
The DNA then can form new genes, they can form new proteins that could have completely new functions that have never been seen before or that are even more efficient at doing things that – you know – so they can replace jobs of current proteins.
I think it’s an extremely fascinating area of research. Maybe we got to get someone in here for an interview.
Justin: Yes.
Kirsten: Yes. But in the meantime, it’s time for a break. We’re late for our break. So, without further ado.
Justin: We got a couple of minutes. Go out and vote during the break.
Kirsten: That’s right.
Justin: It’s you. Got a shot. Okey..
Kirsten: [Laughs] And in this wonderful cold and flu season, I leave you in the first half with the flu pandemic. Stay tuned for more in This Week in Science after these messages.
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