"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bubbles and a Gilded Cage 

Because of their isolated location in the pancreas, the Islet cells that produce insulin (and whose destruction leads to diabetes), targeting gene therapy to these cells is a serious challenge. Canadian researchers are testing a potential solution: plasmid vectors are injected into the subject's bloodstream in tiny bubbles, which are burst using ultrasound when they reach the pancreas. It seems to be effective, which is great, and is such a creative idea that I just love it!

We all remember the sensational stories about 'Bubble Boy,' whose nonfunctional immune system forced him to live his life in a sterile bubble. Well, Basset hounds bred to share this condition, X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency (XSCID), seem to have been cured using a novel gene therapy technique. They also don't seem to have developed the nasty side effects human subjects experienced that cancelled a 1999 study of a slightly different procedure.

Buckyballs were such unbelievably cool news when discovered, and they remain impossibly cool today. But now they have competition: researchers have found spheres of 16-18 gold atoms, about 6 angstroms across, that can enclose a smaller atom. Lots of cool potential applications here, not to mention new ways to bling!

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