Archive for April, 2011

Gereat Idea — Because there’s no way it could go wrong

April 22, 2011

BBC News – GM mosquitoes offer malaria hope

Research groups have already created “malaria-resistant mosquitoes” using techniques such as introducing genes to disrupt the malaria parasite’s development.

The research, however, has a great challenge – getting those genes to spread from the genetically-modified mosquitoes to the vast number of wild insects across the globe.

Unless the gene gives the mosquito an advantage, the gene will likely disappear.

Scientists at Imperial College London and the University of Washington, in Seattle, believe they have found a solution.

They inserted a gene into the mosquito DNA which is very good at looking after its own interests – a homing endonuclease called I-SceI.

The gene makes an enzyme which cuts the DNA in two. The cell’s repair machinery then uses the gene as a template when repairing the cut.

As a result the homing endonuclease gene is copied.

It does this in such a way that all the sperm produced by a male mosquito carry the gene.

The idea is really fairly elegant. And getting mosquitos that disrupted the transmission of malaria would be a pretty wonderful idea (even if the cost of the research would probably buy a year’s worth of bed tents for the entire continent).

And yet a tool that guarantees an inserted gene — any inserted gene — will spread fairly rapidly throughout an entire reproductively connected insect population makes me feel just the tiniest bit nervous. Like the biological equivalent of grey goo.


Technological genres and market illogic

April 19, 2011

Poor Colonized Ezra

April 15, 2011

Paul Ryan is not pro-competition, and his critics are not anti-competition – Ezra Klein – The Washington Post

Ryan, Brooks says, believes that “health care costs will not be brought under control until consumers take responsibility for their decisions and providers have market-based incentives to reduce prices.” It’s true that Ryan does believe that. But it’s not true that that’s what’s worrying so many about his budget proposal.

[italics added]

If Ryan actually did believe that old rightwing canard, wouldn’t he, you know, introduce a proposal that made it possible for medical consumers and to actually control their costs, and for effective lower-cost providers to gain share. But unless he’s a complete drooling moron, Ryan knows that’s not what his proposal does, hence he doesn’t really believe the canard (or doesn’t care about his beliefs) and has been pretty much feeding Ezra and all the other young village wonks a charming access-laced line of bullsh*t.

And this comes right after a sentence gently chiding Brook for giving Ryan too much credence.