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The Handicapped, from The Age of Intelligent Machines

October 25, 2002

Filed under: Assistive Technology

The Age of Intelligent MachinesNext on my reading list: The Age of Intelligent Machines, by Ray Kurzweil. There’s an excellent essay taken from the book about the future application of technology for the disabled reprinted at Neuroprosthesis News.

Together PCs forecast fold

October 22, 2002

Filed under: Genetics

200,000 people donated 2,000 total years of computing time over the past two years in a distributed computing effort to simulate the folding of a single protein.

Trying to anticipate how the many atoms within a protein interact as it crumples up is a mind-bending problem – involving near a billion steps.

In silico experiments such as this may eventually shed light on treatments for other diseases caused by mis-folded proteins.

U.S. Senate passes rare disease research measures

October 18, 2002

Filed under: Uncategorized

The House (last month) and the Senate (this Thursday) approved legislation that would double annual federal authorization for grants to companies to do research on rare diseases.
Call me cynical, but I think the administration did this to take the heat off them for not authorizing federal spending for stem cell research. Also, it’s peanuts, really. Double of practically nothing is still practically nothing. The bill authorizes expenditures of $25 million (up from $12 million) to research 6000 diseases that affect 25 million people. That’s $1 per person. Even MDA raises more than that: $58.3 million last year. (I’m not agitating for a larger slice of the pie here, mind you; I’m advocating a larger pie.)

‘Miracle’ gene therapy trial halted

October 4, 2002

Filed under: Gene Therapy

A gene therapy trial patient developed leukemia as a direct consequence of the experimental treatment, and the study was halted immediately. Apparently the altered gene inserted itself next to an oncogene, and when the two-and-a-half year old boy developed a case of the chicken pox, the gene was activated and he began to produce excess quantities of white blood cells. The boy is responding well to chemotherapy, and trials will continue because some people will undoubtedly die without gene therapy treatment. I believe this just illustrates the fact that every new treatment is bound to have some risks, especially when we don’t yet understand exactly how the human genome works.

MIT Gives Out Free Education

Filed under: Miscellaneous

As a public service, MIT is starting to put nearly all of their course materials online, free and open to the public. The first courses have been posted, and the rest will follow over a period of ten years. You don’t get an MIT diploma for following along with the courses, but you can bet I’m going to take advantage of this to learn more about genetics and other topics that interest me. Boy, the academic world has come a long way since I was in college…