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December 20, 2007


First Transgenic Kids; Moss genes could help crops; Update on World Biotech Regs


* High lysine corn gazetted
* Trial of yield, stress tolerance gene
* Academy endorses GM crops
* EC proposes authorisation of potato, maize
* France Wants GM Proven Safe
* USDA FAS Biotech Reports
* Moss Genes Could Help World's Hungry
* How Plants Control Leaves and Flowers
* Transgenic Kids With Human Lactoferrin Gene
* Canada's first cloned pigs
* Nanotube-producing bacteria
* Nanomaterials From Trees
* Consumers view nanotech favourably


High lysine corn gazetted

- New Zealand Food Safety Authority (press release) via Scoop, Dec. 20, 2007


High lysine corn is being gazetted today at 1pm. This corn is used as an animal feed, but it has had its safety assessed as if for human consumption. Food containing this GM variety can now be imported and sold in New Zealand, although such products would have to adhere to GM labelling requirements, says NZFSA Director (Joint Food Standards), Carole Inkster.

"Although the corn was assessed as safe some time ago, and was approved by the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council in July, the previous Minister for Food Safety (Minister King) delayed its gazettal in New Zealand while she sought advice as to whether approvals for varieties not intended for human food use are within the scope of the Food Treaty New Zealand shares with Australia. NZFSA has worked through this issue and advice on this legal matter has now been received. It confirms that approvals for this type of variety are within the scope of the Food Treaty."

Carole Inkster says that the delays are not, contrary to some media reports, because of safety concerns.

"The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) assessment process was thorough and included two rounds of public consultation. The final safety assessment was externally peer-reviewed and, to ensure the assessment took into account the New Zealand context, NZFSA commissioned ESR to analyse the science. We are satisfied that this corn is as safe as conventional corn should it ever enter the human food chain."

High lysine corn has been approved as safe by every country asked to assess it as far as NZFSA is aware. It is a high-value animal feed and its use as a human food is allowed in the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and the Philippines. The FSANZ approval for use of high lysine corn as an animal feed does not allow it to be grown in New Zealand. This would require assessment and approval by the New Zealand Risk Management Authority (ERMA) and further public consultation.


Successful third year field trial of Evogene's candidate gene for improving yield and abiotic stress tolerance

Three years of field trials of Evo133 consistently demonstrate yield increases of up to 25% under normal conditions and up to 20% under abiotic stress conditions

- Evogene, Ltd. (press release) via Seedquest, Dec. 19, 2007


Rehovot, Israel - Evogene Ltd. (TASE: EVGN) today announced successful third year field trial results for Evo133, one of its candidate genes for improving plant yield and tolerance to abiotic stress conditions. Transgenic tomato plants over expressing Evo133 demonstrated an increase of up to 25% under normal conditions, and up to 20% under abiotic stress conditions compared to control plants under the same conditions. Results from this third field trial are consistent with two previous field trials conducted in 2005 and 2006.

Evo133 is one of a group of genes discovered by Evogene in 2003, which were predicted to provide improved plant yield and tolerance to abiotic stress conditions, such as drought, salt and heat stress. These genes were predicted in silico using Evogene's unique computational gene discovery platform, the ATHLETE, and then experimentally validated in model plants. Evo133 was further validated in field trials in transgenic tomato plants, and has now successfully completed its third year of such trials.

Evogene has entered into collaborations with leading ag-bio companies for the evaluation of Evo133 in major field crops. To date, these collaborations include Bayer CropScience for rice, Biogemma SAS for corn, Mertec LLC for soybean and CIRAD (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement), a French Research Institute, for cotton. In addition, Evogene is itself further developing Evo133 in canola using recently established "in house" transformation capabilities. Initial results from these efforts by Evogene and its collaborators are expected during 2008 in corn and canola, and 2009 in soybean and cotton.

Abiotic stress conditions, such as drought, salty water, soil salinity and heat stress currently have a massive impact on crop productivity and agricultural supply, and this impact is continuing to increase due to global warming and climate changes. Therefore, developing plants displaying improved tolerance to abiotic stress would have an enormous economic potential, and is one of the main goals for leading seed companies.

"The successful third year field trials for Evo133 are another demonstration of the unique value of Evogene's ATHLETE gene prediction platform, combining plant trait understandings with advanced and proprietary computational biology", said Dr. Hagai Karchi, Evogene's VP development and CTO. "An important feature of ATHLETE is that it is a constantly improving platform. For example, Evogene has already used ATHLETE to complete a second round of gene discovery for improving plant abiotic stress tolerance, with the resulting discovery of a number of additional candidate genes for this important trait", Dr. Karchi concluded.

Ofer Haviv, Evogene's President and CEO added "With respect to our business model, we are delighted that leading seed and ag-biotech companies are recognizing the potential of Evo133 and other genes in our rapidly increasing inventory of gene discoveries for important traits. As we have previously stated, we intend to continue focusing our gene discovery and validation efforts mainly on increasing yield, improving drought tolerance and Nitrogen use efficiency, in addition to our efforts in the field of biofuels."


Academy endorses GM crops

- Jewel Topsfield, The Age, Dec. 18, 2007


GENETICALLY modified crops will play a critical role in alleviating malnutrition, combating climate change and removing allergens from food - and the technology must be embraced in Australia, according to Australia's top scientists.

The prestigious Australian Academy of Science has released a statement strongly endorsing the controversial crops and claiming state-based legislation should be consistent with the national system.

"Sometimes the lack of full certainty, in an environment of manageable risk, should not be used as the reason to postpone measures where genetic modification can legitimately be used to address environmental or public health issues," the statement says.

The endorsement comes a month after Victoria and NSW announced farmers would be free to plant genetically modified canola from early next year, despite appeals from Western Australia and Tasmania not to lift the bans.

The Victorian Government yesterday said it "welcomed the support of mainstream science in the responsible use of gene technologies".

But anti-GM activists branded the statement a "bunch of lies", compiled by scientists who were not independent or objective and merely wanted to be able to continue with their research.

And the Australian Greens called on the Rudd Government to override NSW and Victoria's decision to allow genetically modified canola, saying the crops had not been proven to be safe and could not be controlled.

Australian Academy of Science spokesman T. J. Higgins told The Age the majority of scientists were comfortable with genetically modified plants.

He said Western Australia and Tasmania's opposition to the technology was political rather than scientific.

"From a scientific perspective, we have been eating food from genetically modified products for at least 10 years and there are no known risks associated with that," Dr Higgins said.

"Foods made from genetically modified products are probably safer than some conventional products because they undergo so much more scrutiny during the testing."

The academy's statement said gene technology would play a critical part in Australia's response to the challenges it faced over coming decades, including climate change.

But Bob Phelps, of Gene Ethics, said the report was biased and a "bunch of lies". He said there were no drought-tolerant GM crops, so the technology could not combat climate change, and herbicide-resistant species meant crops were sprayed with more chemicals.

Premier John Brumby said removing the ban would deliver greater choice to farmers and consumers and generate $115 million in economic activity in Victoria over eight years.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said concerns about genetically modified crops included the potential for increased chemical usage, cross-contamination, environmental weeds, loss of markets and increased immune and allergic reactions.


EU Commission sends proposals to ministers for authorisation of GM potato, maize

- Forbes, Dec. 18, 2007


BRUSSELS - The European Commission said it has transmitted proposals to ministers for the authorisation of four genetically modified (GM) maize and potato products.

This is the next step in procedure following the failure of the commission's standing committee on the food chain and animal health -- which comprises officials from all EU member states -- to reach a definitive opinion either for or against the proposed authorisations on Oct 10.

The four GM maize products, produced by US biotech group Monsanto (nyse: MON - news - people ) Corp, are hybrids, produced from combinations of GMOs already authorised at European level. The proposal is to authorise them for food and feed use and for import and processing, but not for cultivation.

The GM potato 'Amflora', produced by German chemicals group BASF (nyse: BF - news - people ) AG, is genetically modified for a higher starch yield, and would be used primarily for industrial purposes. The by-products from the industrial processes would also be allowed for use for animal feed.

All of the authorisations proposed to ministers today would be valid for 10 years, and any products made from these GMOs would be subject to EU labelling and traceability rules.

Ministers have three months to reach a position on these dossiers or they will be sent back to the commission for final adoption.


France Says to Extend GMO Ban Unless Proven Safe

- Sybille de La Hamaide, Reuters via Planet Ark, Dec. 20, 2007


PARIS - France will extend its ban on the use and sale of the only genetically modified crop grown in the country unless a newly set-up committee on GMOs can prove it is safe, senior government officials said on Wednesday.

France said this month it was suspending the commercial use of maize seeds using MON 810 technology developed by US biotech giant Monsanto until Feb. 9. This would give it time to look into the environmental and health implications of its use.

Concrete results, expected ahead of schedule, on Jan. 11 would shape government decisions on the use of MON 810, French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo told a news conference.

If doubts over safety lingered, France would extend its ban by using the so-called safeguard clause which allows European Union members to refrain from applying EU laws on the basis they may put the local population at risk, government officials said.

But if the findings proved extremely positive, France would once again allow farmers to cultivate MON 810 maize, which has been cleared for use by the EU, they said.

"The decree to suspend (GMO use) will shift to a safeguard clause if opinion reflects reservations," said Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the secretary of state for ecology.

"Otherwise, the decree will be lifted if opinion proves extremely positive in favour of the (MON) 810."

Germany lifted its own ban on use of the MON 810 technology on the day France announced its suspension. Germany's move came after Monsanto agreed to additional monitoring of its use.

Just 22,000 hectares -- or 1.5 percent of France's cultivated land -- was sown with Monsanto GMO maize last year. Some farmers have urged greater use of GMOs to boost yields.

Borloo said a new law outlining a framework for GMO use in France would be submitted to parliament in early 2008, when a High Authority overseeing GMOs would also be set up.

The proposed law, adopted by French ministers on Wednesday, requires farmers growing GMO crops to take steps to avoid the dissemination of GMO seeds in the wider environment.

Farmers will also need to take out insurance to compensate for any financial losses linked to traces of GMOs in another farmer's field, according to the proposed legislation.

Anti-GMO lobby groups in France have decried the proposed law, saying it effectively legalises the dissemination of GMOs.

Radical French farmer, Jose Bove, who made global headlines for his campaign against junk food, said last week that he would stage a hunger strike to try and secure a one-year ban on GMOs.


USDA FAS Biotech Reports

- US Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service, Dec. 18, 2007



SPAIN -- Spanish corn farmers increased biotechnology corn plantings during marketing year 2007 at a near record-setting pace, while total corn planted increased (first time in recent history) ever so slightly. Farmers in regions with known infestations of the very destructive corn borer increasingly planted biotechnology corn, while corn farmers in regions where infestations are more inconsistent (weather dependent) also chose biotechnology as a means of minimizing risk, increasing productivity and corn quality, reducing their environmental footprint, and maximizing profit.

Read This Report: http://www.fas.usda.gov/scripts/gd.asp?ID=146292646


Agricultural Biotechnology Report

CANADA -- This report updates CA6036. 2006/2007 data on crop average sown and crop size dedicated to genetically modified varieties was largely unavailable. Data based on planting surveys suggest that the amount of acreage planted to GM corn and soybeans in Quebec and Ontario in 2007 increased from 2006 levels. In addition, the provincial acreage dedicated to GM crops has also increased in those provinces. In Western Canada, acreage seeded to canola in 2007 also increased from 2006 levels. Areas of this report have been updated to include data on crops submitted for regulatory approval, field trial submissions, and approved biotech crops.

Read This Report: http://www.fas.usda.gov/scripts/gd.asp?ID=146292649


Agrisure MIR604 Corn Receives Taiwan Approval

TAIWAN -- Taiwan grants an approval license to Agrisure MIR604 corn for food, feed and processing use. The license is valid for five years, effective October 22, 2007. Taiwan biotech regulations require a renewal process before the license expires. Licenses for RRS40-3-2 and MON810 corn have been renewed for another five years until 2012.

Read This Report: http://www.fas.usda.gov/scripts/gd.asp?ID=146292850


Federal Law sets Biotech Labeling Threshold at 0.9 Percent

RUSSIAN FEDERATION -- On October 25, 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed Federal Law #234-FZ titled "On Amendments to the Federal Law of the Russian Federation On Protection of Consumer Rights" and to the "Second Part of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation". Russia's new law is consistent with European Union regulations, and raises the threshold for mandatory labeling of food ingredients made from genetically engineered material (GMOs) to 0.9 percent. Prior to the amendment, trace amounts of GMO food ingredients required labeling.

Read This Report: http://www.fas.usda.gov/scripts/gd.asp?ID=146292887


Registration Procedure for GMO Feeds

RUSSIAN FEDERATION -- This report provides an unofficial translation of the procedure to register feeds produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In accordance with the resolution of the Russian Government that transferred the testing and registration of biotechnology feeds from the Ministry Of Agriculture to the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (VPSS), VPSS developed the administrative statute (procedure) for registration. The draft was posted on the Ministry of Agriculture's website for comments and discussion at the end of August 2007. Sources report that VPSS has already accepted applications based on the procedures described in the draft.

Read This Report: http://www.fas.usda.gov/scripts/gd.asp?ID=146292888



PORTUGAL -- Portuguese authorities just established their first agriculture biotechnology-free zone. The Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries reportedly claims that the biotechnology-free declaration is the first of its kind in Europe in that it is based on an European Union-approved national legislation. Farmers in the zone produce mostly citrus so the declaration appears to be more symbolic, possibly an enticement by the local authorities to bring in more Northern tourists.

Read This Report: http://www.fas.usda.gov/scripts/gd.asp?ID=146292979


Syngenta's Corn MIR604 Approved

PHILIPPINES -- The Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry recently approved Syngenta's Corn MIR604 making it the 26th Transformation Event approved for food, feed and/or processing in the Philippines.

Read This Report: http://www.fas.usda.gov/scripts/gd.asp?ID=146292988


Moss Is A Super Model For Feeding The Hungry

Science Daily, Dec. 14, 2007


One of the simplest plants on the planet could help scientists create crops to survive the ravages of drought. The moss Physcomitrella patens is a primitive plant, similar to the first plants which began to grow on land around 450 million years ago. Just one cell thick, these early plants had to adapt to withstand cold, heat and drought without roots or complex leaves. The ability of mosses to survive severe dehydration and then regrow when watered could be of enormous use in crops grown in drought-stricken areas of the developing world.

Scientists from the University of Leeds, with colleagues from Germany, Japan and the USA, have sequenced the genome for Physcomitrella -- the first non-flowering or 'lower' plant to be sequenced -- and their findings are published in the December 14 issue of the journal Science.

Now that they have sequenced the moss's DNA, scientists will be able to identify which genes control these survival tactics and adapt crops to do the same.

"Physcomitrella is a really useful plant to study," explains Dr Cuming. "In addition to being the link between water-based algae and land plants, it also has many important characteristics which make it special. By sequencing the genome, we can start to identify their genetic basis and use the knowledge for crop improvement."

Physcomitrella has a single 'haploid' genome -- rather than a double genome from male and female parents -- which makes it easier to identify which characteristics link to which gene. The moss is also able to integrate new DNA into a defined target in the genome -- unlike most plants which integrate new DNA randomly. This means that modification of the moss genome is far more controlled than with other plants and allows the moss to be adapted as a 'green factory' to produce pharmaceutical products.

"If we can discover what mechanisms cause the Physcomitrella genome to integrate DNA in this way -- we may be able to transfer those to other plants, to allow more controlled modification of their genomes," said Dr Cuming. "However, we also believe many of the useful genes in Physcomitrella are probably still present in 'higher' crop plants, but are no longer active in the same way. So rather than adding new DNA -- we'll just be activating what's already there to create the properties we want."

"Physcomitrella is to flowering plants what the fruit fly is to humans; that is, in the same way that the fly and mouse have informed animal biology, the genome of this moss will advance our exploration of plant genes and their functions and utility," said Eddy Rubin, DOE JGI Director. "Traits such as those that allow plants to survive and thrive on dry land, will be useful in the selection and optimization of crops that may be domesticated for biomass-to-biofuels strategies."

Physcomitrella, with a genome of just under 500 million nucleotides and possessing nearly 36,000 genes (about 50% more than are thought to be in the human genome), is the first bryophyte to be sequenced. Bryophytes are nonvascular land plants that lack specialized tissues (phloem or xylem) for circulating fluids. Rather, they possess specialized tissues for internal transport. They neither flower nor produce seeds, but reproduce via spores.

"The availability of the Physcomitrella genome is expected to create important new opportunities for understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in plant cell wall synthesis and assembly," said Chris Somerville, Director of the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), the partnership between Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, U.C. Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the global energy company BP. "The ease with which genes can be experimentally modified in Physcomitrella will facilitate a wide range of studies of the cell wall, the principal component of terrestrial biomass. Additionally, the moss has fewer cell types than higher plants and has a much more rapid lifecycle, which also greatly facilitates experimental studies of cell walls. Thus, the completion of the genome is an important step forward in facilitating basic research concerning the development of cellulosic biofuels."

"There is a clear connection with this work and the intensifying interest in the global carbon cycle," said Mishler, a U.C Berkeley Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Director of the University and Jepson Herbaria. "The moss system is proving quite useful for studies of photosynthesis among many other processes."

Quatrano said, "unlike vascular plant systems, we can target and delete specific moss genes to study their function in important crop processes, and replace them with genes from crop plants to allow us to study the evolution of gene function. In addition to the genome, extensive genomic tools are now available in Physcomitrella to study comparative gene function and evolution as related to bioenergy and other processes of importance to crops." These tools can be found at: www.mossgenome.org.

The sequencing has been carried out at the Joint Genome Institute in Berkeley, California, which invites scientists around the world to compete each year to use their sequencing facilities for a particular genome. Physcomitrella patens 'won' the competition in 2005. The work has been coordinated by the University of Leeds, the University of Freiburg in Germany, the National Institute for Basic Biology in Japan, Washington University at St Louis, Missouri and the University of California at Berkeley.


How Plants Control The Size of Leaves and Flowers

- Science Daily, Dec. 18, 2007


The beauty of nature is partly due to the uniformity of leaf and flower size in individual plants, and scientists have discovered how plants arrive at these aesthetic proportions.

Researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich have discovered that cells at the margins of leaves and petals play a particularly important role in setting their size.

"The remarkable uniformity of leaves and flowers helps us to tell different species apart, such as daisies and marguerites, which look very similar otherwise. We are now uncovering how the genetic blueprint of a species tightly controls the size of leaves and flowers", says Dr. Michael Lenhard, who led the research.

The cells at the margins seem to secrete a mobile growth signal that keeps the cells throughout the leaf dividing. The more of this signal is produced, the larger the leaves and flowers get.

Surprisingly, this signal seems to be distinct from the classical and well-studied plant hormones that are known to influence growth and development.

"As the signal only seems to come in from the margins, we suggest it gets diluted as the leaf or petal grows. Once the concentration falls below a certain threshold, the cells in the leaf or petal stop dividing. This would be a simple way of measuring the size of a growing organ", says Dr. Lenhard. "It's a bit like adding more and more tonic to a gin and tonic until you can no longer taste the gin."

Strikingly, animals seem to use the same principle of dilution for measuring size, for example of the wings in a fly, although the molecules used are very different.

Efforts are under way to use this discovery to increase leaf growth in biofuel crops for the generation of sustainable energy and to boost the yield of fruits and seeds.

This research was performed in collaboration with Dr Christian Fleck and his group at the Physics Department, University of Freiburg, Germany, and was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the BBSRC. It will be published in Developmental Cell on 3 December, 12:00 PM Noon Eastern Time US.


First Transgenic Kids With The Human Lactoferrin Gene

- Medical News Today, Dec. 15, 2007


Human beings consume lactoferrin with breast milk since the very birth. Lactoferrin protects the baby from bacteria and viruses until the infant's own immunological protection mechanism is formed. Since not all mothers have milk nowadays, human lactoferrin addition into the artificial feeding mixtures will assist in health care of new-born children. Their enteric infection death-rate will decrease by several times. Besides, lactoferrin possesses multiple other extremely useful properties, including the ability to suppress anticancer activity.

Unfortunately, a woman's organism produces only 4-5 grams of lactoferrin per liter of milk, besides, donor milk can be infected by HIV or other dangerous viruses. So, it is impossible to fully rely on female donor milk. As the researchers failed to get lactoferrin with the help of transgenic microorganisms (the main manner of production of multiple protein drugs), there is an opportunity to make a transgenic animal which produces human lactoferrin with its own milk.

"The idea of getting lactoferrin from the milk of transgenic animals awoke our interest about ten years ago. We started our experiments with genetic construction, made great progress, after which we received transgenic mice. As a result of lengthy and laborious efforts with more than 5,000 transgenic mice, it was ascertained that the transgene was inherited by posterity, and the lactoferrin concentration is several times higher than that in the feminine breast milk. The "record-holder" mice produced up to 40 grams of human lactoferrin per liter of their milk. At that, human lactoferrin obtained from the mouse milk has turned out to be absolutely identical to the natural protein of feminine milk. Drugs and medical cosmetics based on human lactoferrin will be developed jointly with colleagues from other organizations," says the initiator of the work I.L. Goldman, Director of Transgenebank, Institute of Biology of Gene, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Human lactoferrin industrial production is planned to be based on transgenic she-goats. A good she-goat produces as much milk as a bad cow 1,000 liters per lactation. That is why successful efforts on creation of transgenic goats are being undertaken all over the world, their milk containing certain useful proteins. "Experiments on she-goats are limited by three circumstances: the goat is a seasonal animal in terms of the type of reproduction, the pregnancy period lasts for almost half a year. Besides, dairy goat-faming in Russia and Belarus is absent as a stock-raising branch," says E.R.Sadchikova, Head of Transgenosis Laboratory, Institute of Biology of Gene, Russian Academy of Sciences.

The researchers from the Institute of Biology of Gene, Russian Academy of Sciences, have for the long time strived to obtain funding of this work from the Government of the Russian Federation, however, they failed. Instead, they have managed to establish a special BelRosTransgene program of the Federal State of Russia and Belarus. In 2003, the Biotechnological Center was set up in the scope of this program at the farm of the Scientific and Practical Center of the National Academy of Sciences for stock-raising in the town of Zhodino. Within four years of operation, the Belarus and Russian researchers jointly carried out a large number of experiments on creation of transgenic she-goats via "implantation" of the human lactoferrin gene into them. In the beginning, a lot of failures occurred. Finally, in late autumn of 2007, first transgenic kids were born at the biotechnological farm in the town of Zhodino, the kids were called Luck 1 and Luck 2.

"Unfortunately, since January 1, 2007, when the term of BelRosTransgene program funding expired, the Scientific and Practical Center for stock-raising of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus had to undertake further financing of work to support the goat flock. It is assumed that when he-goats come into the "virile strength", the first posterity will be received from them," says Alexander Budevich, head of laboratory of the Center.

Now, the researchers are preparing a new BelRosTransgene-2 program of the Federal State of Russia and Belarus to ensure financial support for the work in the next ten years. The goats should be fed, kept warm, guarded, and the lactoferrin drugs should be developed and tested, their patents should be protected. Only after these obstacles have been overcome, it can be assumed that she-goats, which provide milk with the unique human protein, will be able to start earning their living, and that the next break-through of the native science will also turn out to be the break-through in high-technologies business of the 21st century.


Guest ed. note: What are the odds that this technology will be persecuted as comprehensively as Ventria's lactoferrin rice?


Canada's first cloned pigs born at McGill

Long-term cloning program will aid in research on treating human diseases

- McGill University (press release), Dec. 6, 2007


Researchers in McGill University's Department of Animal Science have successfully produced three litters of cloned pigs, a Canadian first that will eventually contribute to advancing biomedical research into human ailments such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"This is an important intermediate step toward generating transgenic animal models for research because it gives us the opportunity to create animals from cell lines that can be easily manipulated in vitro; it could even lead to the development of new cell therapies for genetic diseases in humans," explained Dr. Vilceu Bordignon, director of the Large Animal Research Unit at McGill's Macdonald Campus in Ste. Anne de Bellevue.

The 17 piglets were produced from cells collected from a single pig. The cells were cultured in vitro and then injected into matured germ cells whose nuclei were removed. Developing embryos were later inserted into three female pigs - the same approach that gave birth to Dolly, a sheep that in 1996 was the first mammal to be cloned in this manner, Dr. Bordignon said.

Of the 17 - all male, because the original cells were harvested from a male pig - seven were euthanized and underwent autopsies to determine any abnormalities as a result of the cloning. The remaining 10, now several weeks old, are developing normally.

"We're monitoring their growth rate, but they're not receiving any special treatment," said Dr. Bordignon. "They are feeding, growing and developing just like normal pigs."

After monkeys, pigs are the most appropriate animal models to use in researching human disease because their physiology so closely resembles our own, he explained. Pigs were first successfully cloned in the United States in 2000.

"Because we are the first in Canada, I've already been contacted by researchers from McGill and other Canadian universities interested in developing specific animal cells to study a variety of human diseases," Dr. Bordignon said.

The research was funded with approximately $1-million in grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies (FQRNT) and McGill University.


Nanotube-producing bacteria show manufacturing promise

Nanotubes may have high-tech applications, study involving UCR engineers reports

- University of California - Riverside (press release) via EurekAlert, Dec. 7, 2007


RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Two engineers at the University of California, Riverside are part of a binational team that has found semiconducting nanotubes produced by living bacteria - a discovery that could help in the creation of a new generation of nanoelectronic devices.

The research team believes this is the first time nanotubes have been shown to be produced by biological rather than chemical means. It opens the door to the possibility of cheaper and more environmentally friendly manufacture of electronic materials.

Study results appear in today's issue of the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team, including Nosang V. Myung, associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering in the Bourns College of Engineering, and his postdoctoral researcher Bongyoung Yoo, found the bacterium Shewanella facilitates the formation of arsenic-sulfide nanotubes that have unique physical and chemical properties not produced by chemical agents.

"We have shown that a jar with a bug in it can create potentially useful nanostructures," Myung said. "Nanotubes are of particular interest in materials science because the useful properties of a substance can be finely tuned according to the diameter and the thickness of the tubes."

The whole realm of electronic devices which power our world, from computers to solar cells, today depend on chemical manufacturing processes which use tremendous energy, and leave behind toxic metals and chemicals. Myung said a growing movement in science and engineering is looking for ways to produce semiconductors in more ecologically friendly ways.

Two members of the research team, Hor Gil Hur and Ji-Hoon Lee from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), Korea, first discovered something unexpected happening when they attempted to remediate arsenic contamination using the metal-reducing bacterium Shewanella. Myung, who specializes in electro-chemical material synthesis and device fabrication, was able to characterize the resulting nano-material.

The photoactive arsenic-sulfide nanotubes produced by the bacteria behave as metals with electrical and photoconductive properties. The researchers report that these properties may also provide novel functionality for the next generation of semiconductors in nano- and opto-electronic devices.

In a process that is not yet fully understood, the Shewanella bacterium secretes polysacarides that seem to produce the template for the arsenic sulfide nanotubes, Myung explained. The practical significance of this technique would be much greater if a bacterial species were identified that could produce nanotubes of cadmium sulfide or other superior semiconductor materials, he added.

"This is just a first step that points the way to future investigation," he said. "Each species of Shewanella might have individual implications for manufacturing properties."


Fibrils, Super Strong Reinforcing Nanomaterials That Are Completely Natural and Made by Trees

- Azonano.com, Dec. 12, 2007


Their day job is to keep trees upright. But now the forest's tiniest building blocks are on their way into fancy products for the future.

Imagine a packaging material that kills bacteria and keeps food longer in good condition. Or a disposable duvet cover that keeps infection away from you when you lie in a hospital bed.

Scientists in Trondheim believe that a lot of exciting new products can be created if we can manage to make use of some of Nature's tiniest construction materials. They are called "fibrils"; a word you have probably never heard of. But in fact, there are millions of them in the paper you have in your hands just now.

A wonder of Nature

Midsummer night, 2005: a steady stream of print journalists and TV teams arrive on the SINTEF/NTNU campus, where they are greeted by proud metallurgists in lab-coats and safety helmets. They have achieved large-scale production of carbon nanotubes, a material with a tensile strength ten times as high as the strongest steel, but weighing only one tenth as much.

This super-material was created in a 30 000 degree plasma arc.

Little do the reporters know of what is going on in the building next door, which belong to the Paper and Fibre Institute (PFI). There, and in the adjacent laboratories, a handful of busy people from PFI, SINTEF and NTNU are working on fibrils - nanocomponents that Nature creates all by itself, with the help of sunlight, air and water.

Fibrils form continuously in all growing trees. In terms of strength, they cannot be compared with carbon nanotubes, but they are strong enough for SINTEF's Bjørn Steinar Tanem to regard them as potential reinforcement materials in plastics, as he sits and admires them in the electron microscope.

Reinforcement rods of sugar

Fibrils are Nature's own mini-mini-reinforcement rods. They consist of long sugar molecules (cellulose), arranged in bundles These bundles make up the wall of the drinking straw-like wood cells that tree-trunks consist of.

It is the tough strength of the fibrils that keeps the giants of the forest swaying but upright in the strongest gusts of wind. The material has evolved in one of the world's biggest nano-laboratories: the forest.

"And Nature has taken millions of years to perfect the process," says Tanem.

In paper mills, the cells are beaten and squashed flat, to re-appear in the form of paper fibres; or by boiling them, they can be turned into cellulose.

It is already quite possible to separate the fibrils from wood cells, and to extract bundles of molecules that are measured in nanometres; i.e. millionths of a millimetre. But the process is expensive.

Now scientists in many laboratories in the western world, including Trondheim, are trying to make the process more energy- and cost-efficient. But this is no easy job, according to Kristin Syverud of the Paper and Fibre Institute.

"It has taken a lot of energy to build up these wood cells in Nature, and then we come along and want to use as little energy as possible to tear them apart again."

Valuable strength

PFI has been working for three years on a basic research project on fibrils, with financial support from the Research Council of Norway and in close cooperation with scientists from SINTEF and NTNU. According to Syverud, there is no lack of scientific challenges, but she believes that the topic is worth a bit of effort, since fibrils possess many qualities that fascinate the scientists, one of them being their strength.

Fibrils are long in comparison with their diameter, which makes them good at absorbing forces. According to SINTEF's Tanem, they are therefore very suitable as reinforcements for plastics. He predicts, for example, that they could enable plastics to be used in automotive components.

The Trondheim scientists wish to use fibrils in biopolymers; materials produced from natural products such as maize starch. The aim is to develop composite structures whose life cycle will have the least possible impact on the environment.

"Fibrils can give biopolymers new, improved properties which, in conjunction with good design, could form the basis of thinner-walled moulded products, for example, thus reducing the amount of raw material needed," says Tanem.

However, the first necessity is for more research. For one thing, getting the fibrils into plastic is no simple task. But according to Tanem, the group has already made progress in this aspect.

As a parallel activity, PhD student Martin Andersen at NTNU and SINTEF's Per Martin Stenstad have been manipulating the surface of the fibrils, producing the alterations that are needed to make them "comfortable" within the plastic matrix.

PFI's Kristin Syverud is particularly taken by the results of a quite different application.

Combating bacteria

The surface of fibrils makes it easy to link them to other active substances, and here too, surface scientists Andersen and Stenstad have been using their expertise. Stenstad, in fact, has worked on similar projects with the famous "Ugelstad microspheres". For this "fibrils with attachments" variant, the Trondheim scientists selected a chemical that kills micro-organisms, which they have managed to make stick tightly to the fibrils.

"This is important, for substances of this sort must not leach out and end up in the wrong place," says Syverud.

She explains that these results have spawned exciting product concepts within the project group, including the idea of using fibrils to make bactericidal food wrappings, disposable duvet covers and water filters.

The list of potential applications for fibrils is long, ranging over several branches of industry (see fact-box). However, the scientists still have a good deal to work on before fibrils are ready to hit the shelves.

Processing fever

"Controlling the size distribution of the fibrils once they have been separated out is one of the challenges that still make us tear our hair," says Syverud, who has been leading the project together with Per Stenius, an adjunct professor at NTNU.

Two different mechanical techniques are in use today to extract the fibrils from the wood cells: a mill, and a nozzle that produces a large pressure drop. Both are energy-intensive. However, according to Syverud,there is already know-how, for example at PFI's Swedish owners, that will significantly reduce energy consumption. She is also quite certain that this research will lead to commercial products.

"However, which of all the potential areas of application will take off is something we don't know yet. And I am sure that not all of our ideas will end up as products."

The western world's cellulose industry is the driving force behind fibril research. The industrialised world has realised that it is difficult to compete on price for traditional cellulose, and is looking around for applications for processed cellulose. Kristin Syverud believes that the global focus on the environment will contribute to the demand for fibrils.

"They are a renewable resource that is being created by Nature around us every day. And they are certainly cheap," she says.

As for me, I will be looking at trees with a bit more respect next time I am walking in the woods.


The majority of consumers view the development of nanotechnology favourably

The BfR study does, however, reveal that the majority are against nanoparticles in food

- Newsfood.com, Dec. 19, 2007


The majority of consumers view the development of nanotechnology favourably, however, many are against the use of nanoparticles in food, this is one of the results of a representative survey of 1,000 consumers commissioned by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) which has just been presented in Berlin.

66 percent of the respondents believe that nanotechnology offers more benefits than risks. But they do not accept nanotechnology to the same degree in all application areas. «We observed that consumers use emotional criteria rather than facts when judging nanotechnology. The so-called perceived risks play a major role in how consumers see the new technologies», said BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. The study also revealed that over the last three years consumers have become far more familiar with nanotechnology. When it comes to seeking out information, they do not however place the same amount of trust in all information providers. The respondents felt that they got the most reliable information from consumer associations and the least reliable from politicians.

Consumers are now more familiar with the term nanotechnology. In 2004 15 percent of respondents in a survey indicated that they had already heard of the term. In the 2007 survey this figure has risen to 52 percent. The respondents appreciate nanotechnology as a technical development that will lead to improvements in many areas of life. Two-thirds expect more benefits than risks from nanotechnology and are in favour of its further development. However, they also stipulate that research should be carried out on potential risks.

This positive attitude towards nanotechnology does not, however, extend to all application areas. The respondents expect the most benefits from nanotechnology in the field of medicine. Support for consumer applications dwindles as consumer contacts with products grow. 86 percent approve of the use of nanoparticles in paints and varnishes to increase their scratch and abrasion resistance. There is a similarly high degree of acceptance for textiles being given a dirt-repellent finish through nanotechnology. Nanoparticles are also accepted in packaging materials and sunscreen products. However, only 53 percent are in favour of using nanoparticles to improve the action of other cosmetic products. The majority are against the use of nanotechnology in food: 69 percent of the respondents reject the use of nanoadditives in spices to prevent them from becoming lumpy. 84 percent do not want any foods whose appearance has been rendered more appealing for longer through the use of nanoparticles.

According to the results of the study, consumers source information from all the major media - TV, daily newspapers, magazines- but to a lesser degree from the radio. The amount of trust which consumers place in information about nanotechnology depends on where the information comes from. The highest level of trust is enjoyed by consumer associations like the consumer advice centres, Stiftung Warentest and scientific sources (92 percent respectively). The business community and politicians are at the lower end of the trust scale. They are deemed to be trustworthy sources of information by 32 and 23 percent of the respondents respectively.

The study commissioned by BfR was divided into two sections. The first section - a basic psychological study with qualitative interviews with 30 people - examined consumer attitudes to nanotechnology and the image of nanotechnology amongst consumers. The second section involved the quantitative survey of 1,000 people. The final report on the study is to be published in the spring of 2008 and will also be available on the BfR website.

*by Andrew Apel, guest editor, andrewapel*at*wildblue.net