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Strange objects from the sky, killer animals on the rampage, flesh-eating robots, and of course scientists tampering in God's domain - you'll find it all here! More..

Scientists grow fertile animal testes in mice!
(From: the Sydney Morning Herald, 15/8/02; submitted by lyzard)

For the first time, one species has produced the sperm of another species, with mice making goat and pig sperm in miniature testes grown on their backs.

The method might be used in future to restore the fertility of men and boys who have undergone cancer therapy, by grafting some of their testicular tissue onto mice, researchers believe.

It could also help conserve endangered species.

Australian researcher David de Kretser said testes needed to be grown in a cool spot, and the advantage of the mice used in the latest overseas experiment was that they were hairless and had exposed skin on their backs.

A team, led by Ina Dobrinski of the University of Pennsylvania, took a pinhead-sized amount of testicular tissue from newborn pigs and goats and transplanted it just under the skin of the mice. Some grafts grew more than 100-fold in size, with up to eight miniature testes developing.

The sperm appeared to be normal and could fertilise an egg, Professor Dobrinski said. "And the grafts produced as much sperm, gram for gram, as testes in the donor species."

The success using immature tissue from a newborn animal suggested tissue could be taken from boys who had not reached sexual maturity, and then frozen for later sperm production in mice.

But Dr de Kretser, of Monash University, said that before this could ever be carried out, the risks of transmission of mice viruses to any resulting offspring had to be overcome.

The Federal Government is still formulating policy on whether trials of animal and human tissue transplants, known as xenotransplantation, can proceed.

Dr de Kretser's team has succeeded in grafting mice testicular tissue onto other mice and growing sperm-producing testes.

"But we didn't do it on the back [of the mice]. We did it behind their ears."

He said there were many scientific applications for this kind of work.

His team is studying the effect of a gene on sperm production. If the gene is missing in mice, they die soon after birth, but their testicular tissue can be collected and grown in another mouse.

The technique could also be used to produce an unlimited supply of sperm from an endangered species or prize livestock, including immature animals - much more than by simply freezing ejaculates.

Mice that produced human sperm could also be used to test the effects of drugs, including male contraceptives, on sperm production.

Killer ice blocks from the sky!
(From: Yahoo! News, 27/9/02; submitted by Ken Begg)

A Spanish scientist says global warming may be to blame for giant blocks of ice which fall from clear skies and rip gaping holes in cars and houses.

Jesus Martinez-Frias has spent the last two-and-a-half years investigating so-called megacryometeors -- ice meteors -- which tend to weigh more than 22 lb and have been known to leave five feet holes in houses.

He fears the formation of these hailstone-like blocks on clear days could be a worrying symptom of climate change.

"I'm not worried that a block of ice might fall on your head ... but that great blocks of ice are forming where they shouldn't exist," said Martinez-Frias, director of planetary geography at Spain's Astrobiology Center in Madrid.

"Components of the atmosphere, like ozone and water, are changing in different levels of the atmosphere...We think these signs could be evidence of climate change," he said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

While Martinez-Frias said he was far from certain as to why the ice meteors formed, he said they were neither hoaxes nor blocks of ice falling from the bars or bathrooms of passing aircraft, as skeptics have suggested.

"We're not talking about hoaxes," Martinez-Frias said. "It's very easy to tell real and false ice blocks apart."

"It's not water from airplane toilets...Its isotopic composition bears the signature...of Iberian rain."

Ice clouds made from crystallized vapor trails of aircraft are well known to pilots, but Martinez-Frias suggests that because global warming involves one level of the atmosphere getting colder while another gets hotter, some ice clouds now remain longer.

Their centers then fall through the atmosphere, bouncing and gathering mass, to end up smashing through a car windshield or, more usually, landing softly in a field, he suggested.

The first megacryometeor found this year in Spain -- by a startled farmer riding his tractor in Soria -- weighed 35.27 lb.

Three others were found later, bringing the world total over the last decade to more than 50. But Martinez-Frias said only around a fifth of the ice meteors are ever found.

An ice meteor weighing around 440 lb has been found in Brazil, Martinez-Frias said. Other blocks have been found in Mexico and Australia.

The blocks form between two-and-a-half and six miles above ground, he said.

Some scientists doubt whether hail can form on a clear day.

"Solid ice cannot form in the absence of thick, highly visible clouds," Charles Knight, a hail expert at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado was quoted as saying in a supplement of Science journal.

But geologist Roger Buick of the University of Washington in Seattle told the same publication that a model created by Martinez-Frias and his team showing ice can form on a clear day was an "important advance in that it thoroughly documents and provides an explanation for a spectacular phenomenon."

Scientists grow pig teeth in rats!
(From: Yahoo! News, 26/9/02; submitted by Ken Begg)

The tooth fairy may soon have a new line of business.

U.S. doctors said on Thursday they have managed to grow living pig teeth in rats, a feat of biotechnology that experts said could spark a dental revolution.

Researchers at Boston's Forsyth Institute said their successful experiment suggests the existence of dental stem cells, which could one day allow a person to replace a lost tooth with an identical one grown from his or her own cells.

"The ability to identify, isolate and propagate dental stem cells to use in biological replacement tooth therapy has the potential to revolutionize dentistry," said Dominick DePaola, president and CEO of the institute that focuses on oral and facial science.

The experiment involved taking cells from immature teeth of 6-month-old pigs, treating them with enzymes and then placing the cell clusters on biodegradable "scaffolds" -- tiny bits of polymer designed to act like a mold for the forming tissue.

The researchers implanted the scaffolds into the abdomens of rats and within 30 weeks small recognizable tooth crowns -- containing enamel and dentin, a bone-like material found under the enamel -- had formed.

The researchers said they hope that within five years they will have developed techniques to grow teeth of a specific size and shape, and that within 10 years it will be possible to regenerate human teeth.

Louis Terracio, associate dean for research at New York University's College of Dentistry, said the research signals that the days of synthetic dental implants -- dentures, bridges and crowns -- are numbered.

"Right now they do wonderful things with implants," Terracio said after reading the Forsyth research. "Implants work pretty well but it's not a natural tooth."

Terracio predicted there was no danger of dentists being put out of business if people are able to grow their own substitute teeth, noting that American dentistry has typically been at the forefront of technology.

"The profession will adapt and help people grow teeth," he said. "This will probably be a boon to oral surgeons who will be doing this sort of surgery."

Scientists create their own anti-matter!
(From: Yahoo! News, 20/9/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

European scientists say they have created enough antihydrogen — a type of the mirror-image, antimatter stuff that fictionally powers spaceships on Star Trek — to test a widely held basic model of the universe.

While antihydrogen has been made before, the more than 50,000 atoms created at the CERN particle accelerator in Geneva are "by far, the most produced," said Jeffrey Hangst, a leader of the ATHENA collaboration, one of two groups of physicists working on antihydrogen at CERN.

The quest to understand and manipulate antimatter is one of the most competitive and esoteric pursuits in science. Not all particle physicists — even within CERN — agree with the new finding.

A spokesman for the competing ATRAP Collaboration at CERN said he doubts that antihydrogen had been produced in the latest experiment. The ATHENA group relied on indications of the simultaneous destruction of antihydrogen's two atomic particles — the positron and the antiproton — to show it had been produced, said Harvard physicist Gerald Gabrielse, spokesman for the ATRAP group.

"Our long experience with these very difficult experiments warns that observing simultaneous positron and antiproton annihilation does not ensure that antihydrogen has really been produced," Gabrielse said.

ATHENA researchers, whose work appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, plan to make more antihydrogen to test the Standard Model, equations that explain the nature of matter and energy.

If the antihydrogen doesn't behave the same as normal hydrogen "the textbooks would have to be rewritten," said Hangst, who is a physicist at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, along with his CERN work.

"It would imply that we have overlooked something fundamental about how nature works," Hangst said. "Such a discovery certainly wouldn't help you to build a better computer or TV, but it might shed some light on why we have a universe that looks the way it does."

Killer hornets invade Florida!
(From: Local6 news, Sorrento, 16/9/02; submitted by Sildenafil)

Giant Hornet's Nest Terrorizes Neighborhood; Sheriff’s Department Pays To Remove Nest

SORRENTO, Fla. -- A giant hornet's nest on a deceased neighbor's porch has terrorized a Sorrento neighborhood for months, according to Local 6 News.

The 4-foot-high, 3-foot-wide nest formed on the abandoned property of a neighbor who died three years ago. Recently, the nest has become a nuisance for neighbors, Local 6 News reported.

"It's been really bad," neighbor Mike Roden said. "You come out here in the early morning and you find out they are swarming everywhere."

Roden and other neighbors reportedly asked city, county and state agencies for help to remove the nest earlier this year but did not get a reply.

"It looks like a big blob," neighbor Cindy Rice said.

After Local 6 News inquired about the nest, the Lake County Sheriff's office called wildlife specialist Jack Allen to remove it.

Allen said that the nest was the largest exposed nest he had ever seen.

"A nest that size, if somebody got too close to it they could have easily been stung to death," Wildlife specialist Jack Allen said.

The Lake County Sheriff's Department paid $500 to remove the nest late Sunday.

Two-headed turtle found in Florida!
(From: CNN, 11/9/02; submitted by Chris Holland)

What started as a routine day for sea turtle monitor Mary Toro turned out to be one of her most memorable after she found a baby turtle with two heads.

"I was shocked. I couldn't believe it," Toro said after finding the creature Thursday morning near Naples Cay.

Toro's boss, 20-year sea turtle monitoring veteran Maura Kraus, said she comes across two-headed turtle embryos every couple of years but had never seen one survive.

"This is the first time I've ever seen one alive, fully developed and hatched," Kraus said.

Toro found the turtle as she dug up a nest that had hatched three days earlier. Monitors routinely dig up old nests of the protected turtles to count the number of hatched and unhatched eggs and rescue any stragglers.

Anne Meylan, a researcher with the Florida Marine Research Institute in St. Petersburg, said the two-headed creature likely is a natural occurrence, not caused by chemicals or any other outside influence.

After consulting with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Kraus released the two-headed loggerhead into the Gulf of Mexico.

"We didn't want it to become a freak in a freak show," she said.

Killer bees invade California!
(From: ABC News, Los Angeles, 4/9/02; submitted by Arthroslug)

There's disturbing news for residents of Santa Barbara County. Killer bees have arrived.

Recent samples taken from two swarms of bees in Goleta have now been identified as the aggressive Africanized honeybees. This marks their first confirmed sighting in the county.

They've already been found in San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Kern Counties. The so-called "killer bees" have been blamed for the deaths of 12 people in recent years, mostly in Texas and Arizona.

But agriculture experts say people should not be scared. Residents can prevent attacks by removing containers that bees can nest in and close any openings in their homes to keep bees from entering.

The Tingler lives!
(From: Yahoo! News, 23/8/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

Swedish scientists have found a tiny, mysterious particle in the spinal marrow fluid which may be a new form of life and which could help explain the cause of schizophrenia.

"They may be involved in the development of the disease or may result from the disease process in brains of schizophrenic patients," the researchers said in an abstract of the study published on Friday.

Schizophrenia is a widespread and debilitating form of mental disease with symptoms ranging from delusions and an altered sense of self to apathy and social withdrawal. It affects around one percent of people.

Lennart Wetterberg, professor of psychiatry at Stockholm's St. Goran Hospital and one of the co-authors of the study, said the full significance of the findings was not yet clear and more research was needed.

"We have viruses, bacteria and prions -- this could be an entirely new form of life," he told Reuters.

But he said this was just one theory, and it was still uncertain what form of life the particles, which are bigger than ordinary viruses but smaller than bacteria, represented.

The study, published in Neuroscience Letters, was made on the basis of spinal fluid obtained by lumbar puncture from 22 schizophrenic patients and 38 control patients.

The study found spherical particles -- only 100,000th of a millimeter in size -- in the spinal fluid of 20 of the 22 patients with schizophrenia against only two of the 38 controls, it said.

The particles did not include bacterial DNA material and had so far not replicated in culture.

"They are not any of the usual viruses or bacteria that have been found," Wetterberg said.

"They are more like something like the prion which is causing mad cow disease -- but it took 15 years until it was found out what that really was."

He said it was too early to speculate whether the particles were a cause of schizophrenia or whether the disease caused them, and a bigger number of people would have to be studied.

"We have found the first link in a chain, and whether my excitement increases or decreases depends on the answer to the next step," he said.

Killer fish invade Maryland!
(From: The Washington Post, 27/6/02; submitted by MikeC)

Freakish fish causes fear in MD; Carnivore can move on land, survive 4 days without water.

At first, reports of the strange-looking creature with the head of a snake and a gaping saw-toothed maw were dismissed as just another fish tale. A bowfin, most likely. Or some other kind of exotic fish that outgrew its tank and was tossed into the pond by its owner. But two weeks after an unidentified angler caught the thing in a drainage pond behind a Crofton shopping center, state officials solved the mystery. An exotic fish expert in Florida identified the creature from a photo as a northern snakehead, prized as a delicacy in China and Korea where it originates, but a nasty Frankenfish, as far as U.S. officials are concerned.

It grows to nearly three feet, eats whatever it wants -- mostly other fish -- can live through icy winters and survives even in oxygen-deprived waters.

But there's more: It can crawl out of the water and wiggle across land, surviving up to four days.

Dreaded by fish biologists, it is capable of clearing out a pond of all living creatures and then wriggling on to new hunting grounds on its belly and fins.

Even worse, the fisherman -- perhaps thinking it was a rare native species -- released it.

Biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service mobilized, setting out to sandbag the pond, which sits in the floodplain of the Little Patuxent River.

"The fear is: This thing could hop from the pond, across the floodplain and into the river, and then all bets are off," said Bob Lunsford, a biologist with the department. "It's the baddest bunny in the bush. It has no known predators in this environment, can grow to 15 pounds, and it can get up and walk. What more do you need?"

Living robot escapes from lab!
(From: The Age, Melbourne, 20/6/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

Scientists running a pioneering experiment with "living robots" which think for themselves said they were amazed to find one escaping from the centre where it "lives".

The small unit, called Gaak, was one of 12 taking part in a "survival of the fittest" test at the Magna science centre in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, which has been running since March.

Gaak made its bid for freedom yesterday after it had been taken out of the arena where hundreds of visitors watch the machines learning as they do daily battle for minor repairs.

Professor Noel Sharkey said he turned his back on the drone and returned 15 minutes later to find it had forced its way out of the small make-shift paddock it was being kept in.

He later found it had travelled down an access slope, through the front door of the centre and was eventually discovered at the main entrance to the car park when a visitor nearly flattened it with his car.

Sharkey said: "Since the experiment went live in March they have all learned a significant amount and are becoming more intelligent by the day but the fact that it had ability to navigate itself out of the building and along the concrete floor to the gates has surprised us all."

And he added: "But there's no need to worry, as although they can escape they are perfectly harmless and won't be taking over just yet."

Motorist Dan Lowthorpe, 27, from Sheffield, who nearly prematurely terminated Gaak said: "I have visited Magna a couple of times in the past but came on this occasion especially to see the new robots.

"You can imagine how surprised I was when I nearly ran over one on my way in. I knew the robots interacted with each but didn't expect to be personally greeted by one."

Reptilicus lives!
(From: Reuters, 20/3/02; submitted by Chris Holland)

Scientists Soak Meat in Liquid to Make It Grow

Scientists have managed to make chunks of fish grow bigger by soaking them in a broth of nutrients, suggesting meat could be manufactured, a science magazine said on Wednesday.

Chunks of goldfish muscle grew 14 percent after a week immersed in a nutrient-enriched liquid extracted from the blood of unborn calves, the New York-based scientists found.

"This could save you having to slaughter animals for food," project leader Morris Benjaminson was quoted as saying by the New Scientist magazine.

Benjaminson, who is working on a more varied diet for astronauts, said the enlarged fish chunks had been fried with olive oil, lemon, garlic and pepper.

"We wanted to make sure it'd pass for something you could buy in the supermarket."

But the United States Food and Drug Administration would have to give approval before the enlarged chunks could be eaten.

Benjaminson had also tried but failed to grow meat chunks in liquid mushroom extract, conceding people might be afraid of the transmission of mad cow disease through calf serum.

Robot solves Rubik’s cube!
(From: the website of J. P. Brown, 2001 – 2002; submitted by Fr Freex)

A scientist has built a robot out of Lego capable of solving a Rubik’s cube: http://jpbrown.i8.com/cubesolver.html

Scientists create flesh-eating robot!
(From: CNN, 21/7/00; submitted by Dr Freex)

Man really is in danger of being swallowed up by technology after U.S. scientists announced on Wednesday they had designed a robot that runs on meat.

Dubbed Chew Chew the "gastrobot," a 12-wheeled train-like robot runs on a microbial fuel cell, which breaks down food with bacteria and converts it into electrical energy, according to a report in New Scientist magazine.

The cell works by producing enzymes that break down carbohydrates, releasing energy, inventor Stuart Wilkinson of the University of South Florida in Tampa told the magazine.

"The ideal fuel in terms of energy gain, is meat. Vegetation is not nearly as nutritious," Wilkinson said. "Changing food into electricity isn't unique. What I've done is to make it small enough to fit in a robot.

Chew Chew eats sugar cubes but early applications for gastrobots may include lawnmowers which eat grass clippings, New Scientist said.

But Chew Chew's diet is refined compared to that of a gastrobot being developed at the University of the West of England -- it eats slugs.

Wilkinson is jokingly aware of the dangers of giving gastrobots a taste for meat: "Otherwise they'll notice there's an awful lot of humans running about and try to eat them."

The Home Of The Original Green Mouse!
(From: the website of Osaka University; first published in FEBS Lett., 1997; submitted by Sildenafil)

Scientists create fluorescent green mice: http://kumikae01.gen-info.osaka-u.ac.jp/tg/tg-ad.cfm

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