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The West’s First Gene Therapy Goes On Sale Mid-2013

The first gene therapy to be approved in the West will hit the market by the middle of next year, opening the masses to a controversial treatment that directly alters a patient’s own DNA. Dutch biotech uniQure’s Glybera was approved for sale by the European Commission late last month.

Gene therapies emerged–appropriately–about the same time the first human genome was being mapped during the 1990s, though the study of gene therapies goes back as far as the 1970s. They work by actually tampering with a person’s DNA–usually by encoding a functioning gene to replace a mutated one, or by introducing DNA that encodes a therapeutic protein into the body. Clinical trials have gone on for years. Early on, failures caused many to dismiss the idea of tampering with genes. But later–in the following decade–many in the medical community changed their minds after witnessing a series of successes. Among them: China, which approved its first gene therapy in 2003.

In the West, however, gene therapy has been a source of constant debate, and that’s what makes this development notable. Gene therapies carry a lot of promise, including the ability to treat any number of inherited diseases that have few treatment options. They are a way to literally tinker with the fundamental material that tells our cells how to function, so their potential is indeed vast–if we can make them work.

Glybera will treat lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD), an extremely rare inherited disorder affecting the metabolism of certain fat particles. It affects something like one or two people in a million, so it’s not like we’re curing blindness here. Gene therapy is still limited to single-gene disorders–and most common diseases are more complex multi-gene problems.

Still, the acceptance of the first gene therapy into Western medicine could mark a turning point for gene medicine, provided nothing goes wrong. Many labs are still working on gene therapies for a number of conditions, and uniQure itself is working on additional genetic therapies for everything from hemophilia to Parkinson’s. Even limited success there would naturally be a huge leap forward for medical science.

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Science & Technology

Sunlight in a Bottle? Its Real, and its Changing Millions of Lives‏

Alfredo Moser’s invention is lighting up the world. In 2002, the Brazilian mechanic had a light-bulb moment and came up with a way of illuminating his house during the day without electricity – using nothing more than plastic bottles filled with water and a tiny bit of bleach.

In the last two years his innovation has spread throughout the world. It is expected to be in one million homes by early next year.

So how does it work? Simple refraction of sunlight, explains Moser, as he fills an empty two-litre plastic bottle.

“Add two capfuls of bleach to protect the water so it doesn’t turn green [with algae]. The cleaner the bottle, the better,” he adds.

Wrapping his face in a cloth he makes a hole in a roof tile with a drill. Then, from the bottom upwards, he pushes the bottle into the newly-made hole.
“You fix the bottle in with polyester resin. Even when it rains, the roof never leaks – not one drop.”

The inspiration for the “Moser lamp” came to him during one of the country’s frequent electricity blackouts in 2002. “The only places that had energy were the factories – not people’s houses,” he says, talking about the city where he lives, Uberaba, in southern Brazil.

The lamps work best with a black cap – a film case can also be used

“An engineer came and measured the light,” he says. “It depends on how strong the sun is but it’s more or less 40 to 60 watts,” he says.

While he does earn a few dollars installing them, it’s obvious from his simple house and his 1974 car that his invention hasn’t made him wealthy. What it has given him is a great sense of pride.

Following the Moser method, MyShelter started making the lamps in June 2011. They now train people to create and install the bottles, in order to earn a small income.

In the Philippines, where a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, and electricity is unusually expensive, the idea has really taken off, with Moser lamps now fitted in 140,000 homes.

The idea has also caught on in about 15 other countries, from India and Bangladesh, to Tanzania, Argentina and Fiji.

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The sports car that runs on SALTWATER: Vehicle goes from 0 to 60mph in 2.8 seconds

Sports cars may not have the best reputation for being environmentally-friendly, but this sleek machine has been designed to reach 217.5 mph (350 km/h) – using nothing but saltwater.

Its radical drive system allows the 5,070lbs (2,300kg) Quant e-Sportlimousine to reach 0-60 mph (100 km/h) in 2.8 seconds, making it as fast as the McLaren P1.

After making its debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show in March, the saltwater technology has now been certified for use on European roads.

The 920 horsepower (680 kW) Quant e-Sportlimousine uses something known as an electrolyte flow cell power system to power four electric motors within the car.
It works in a similar way to a hydrogen fuel cell, however, the liquid used for storing energy is saltwater.

The liquid passes through a membrane in between the two tanks, creating an electric charge. This electricity is then stored and distributed by super capacitors.

The car carries the water in two 200-litre tanks, which in one sitting will allow drivers to travel up to 373 miles (600km).

Overall, the four-seater is 5.25 metres (0.4ft) long, 2.2 metres wide (7.2ft), the 1.35 metre (4.4ft).

Its 22-inch wheels sit just beneath double gull-wing doors which feature ‘Chrystal Lake Blue’ paint.

Inside is a full-length interactive dash, with wood-theme features and an Android-based entertainment system.

No price or sale date has yet been revealed, but some experts suggest it could cost more than £1 million ($1.7 million)

NanoFlowcell AG, a Lichtenstein-based company behind the drive, is now planning to test the car on public roads in Germany and elsewhere in Europe as the company prepares for series production.

It claims the technology offers five times the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries of the same weight.

‘We’ve got major plans, and not just within the automobile industry,’ says NanoFlowcell AG Chairman of the Board Professor Jens-Peter Ellermann.

‘The potential of the NanoFlowcell is much greater, especially in terms of domestic energy supplies as well as in maritime, rail and aviation technology.’

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Satirical Depictions of Our Technology-Obsessed Culture

Just in case you all aren’t burned out on the satirical art (we’ve been posting quite a bit lately), I have another artist to showcase. Jean Jullien is a French-born artist who depicts our narcissistic obsessions with technology — one to which I am not particularly immune.

The Art:

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See more artwork at Ignant.

The Film:


A Little Film About… Jean Jullien from Handsome Frank on Vimeo.

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