Science: Theoretically ... Dinosaur-speak/ Mouse urine/ Mussel power/ Mir walks again
Tuesday 06 January 1998
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History put the sound on its Web site - http://www.nmmnh-abq. mus.nm.us/nmmnh/nmmnh.html - early last month. The following weekend, the site was so overloaded, with four times more visitors than usual, that it crashed four times.
A team in New Zealand is trying to synthesise a protein produced by mussels, in the hope that it can be used to close human wounds without stitches. It's the same protein that the shellfish use as their natural glue to stick them on to rocks and survive the battering of waves, and is secreted by a gland in the "foot". The key question is whether the body rejects the protein: if not, then it could make stitches redundant.
The amino acid components of the protein were first identified in 1985, but mis-sequenced - a mistake not realised until 1994. The key is dihydroxyproline, one of the rarest amino acids and not available commercially. Manufacturing that will be the team's biggest task; then they will try testing it on humans.
Things are back to normal on Mir: the computer keeps breaking down. The crew of two Russians and one American spent Sunday fixing a problem with the main computer which had shut down on Friday, and caused the failure of the gyroscope system that keeps Mir ideally oriented to catch the sun's rays to generate power.
With that done, yesterday was occupied with checking spacesuits before two spacewalks this week. The first, planned for Thursday, will try to install a new airtight rubber seal on the exit hatch of Mir's Kvant-2 module, which failed to close properly after their spacewalk last November. The resulting partial loss of pressure has affected only Kvant's docking chamber. The other spacewalk, planned for 14 January, is to retrieve American scientific equipment on the outside of the station.
Drinking mouse urine doesn't sound pleasant, but it could turn out to be good for you - if you choose the right mouse. Specifically, those genetically engineered to produce human proteins in their urine, such as the ones produced by a team at the US Department of Agriculture and the New York University Medical School.
We already have transgenic sheep that produce useful human proteins in their milk, but the advantage of animals which generate useful chemicals in their urine is that both males and females could secrete it virtually from birth.
The work is reported in the January issue of Nature Biotechnology; the mice were given a gene to produce human growth hormone. If the idea were to be used commercially, scientists would plant the gene for a particular protein into bigger animals, such as cattle.
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
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Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 Sussex couple die in suspected Christmas Day 'suicide pact'
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
Vagina canoe artist defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
Doctor Who Christmas special, review: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
The Interview film review: Controversial gross-out satire is broad, bawdy and bad - but undeniably entertaining
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'