10 revolutionary technologies of 2016

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Last post of the year and it would not be any fun if I didn’t do a roundup of mind blowing discoveries of 2016. These are things that provided solutions to big problems or opened doors for future research. In no particular order but with a bit of bias…

  1. Precise gene editing – If you haven’t picked up anything on science past few years then let it be CRISPR (pronounced crisper). CRISPR involves targeted gene modification at very specific points of chromosomes by crafted molecules.         Besides medical interventions, it could be used to increase food security by increasing crop yield and disease resistance. It also does not fall under GMO regulation as foreign DNA is not detectable in products.

Continue reading “10 revolutionary technologies of 2016”

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They will know you’re lying

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Men lie, women lie…and whatever the rest of that phrase says. But what if during your next interview, the panel could tell whether you were anxious or worse, lying just by using a conventional video camera similar to what is on most smartphones.

Our emotional system, which prepares us on how to deal with different external stimulations such as fear, stress or excitement does so by altering the activations of the Autonomic Nervous System. The nervous system in turn affects blood flow. So, blood flow detection can be used as a fool proof marker for one’s true emotion since it’s almost always beyond conscious control. Continue reading “They will know you’re lying”

Could it be the end of malaria?

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According to WHO, a child dies every minute in Africa due to malaria, that is roughly half a million lives. It is clearly a problem that needs addressing.

Malaria is spread by the Anopheles mosquito when it’s infected by the Plasmodium parasite. Research has shown that disruption of some genes would render the female Anopheles sterile or affect its ability to carry the parasite. But Mendelian laws (remember high school biology Mendel?) restrict the ability of this resistance gene to be inherited to only about half of the mosquito offspring. Gene drive circumvents this and ensures that almost all the offspring and future generations inherit a trait.  This is made possible with the discovery of the century, a technique called CRISPR/ Cas9 that I hope to cover here soon. Continue reading “Could it be the end of malaria?”

Looking to do a postgraduate abroad?

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It is the start of a new academic year for most universities and you may be toying around with the idea of undertaking a postgraduate course abroad. You probably got inspired by interacting with someone who studied abroad, or you feel that the quality of education and training would be better, or you just need a different environment (it is a legitimate reason I promise).

Research 

Do your homework. It will be a longer process than you what you estimate. I learnt the hard way and lost a whole year out. If you’re going to leave your country for studies, go to an above average ranking university. So look for rankings on sites like Times Higher Education and QS Top universities if you’re unsure. You can go a step ahead and look at the institution’s rating for the department you’re targeting. Continue reading “Looking to do a postgraduate abroad?”

Grave future of antibiotics

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John had recently been complaining of abdominal pains and upon hospital examination was scheduled for an appendectomy – removal of the appendix. It is ideally a low risk surgery. However, he did not make it out of the hospital due to a post-surgical bacterial infection.

This is a hypothetical scenario but we are most certainly inching closer to it if the current trend of antibiotic abuse continues. First line drugs for diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis are quickly becoming ineffectual. A small graze on your leg might be the reason for an amputation because there will be no drugs to keep infections at bay. We will drop like flies and leave earth in very undignified ways.

Antibiotic resistance comes about when bacteria mutate; rendering the drugs previously used against them either ineffective or less effective. It is currently classified as a serious threat to global public health by the World Health Organization. In retrospect, no antibiotic has been discovered in the past approximately 25 years. Continue reading “Grave future of antibiotics”

Pears before the tipple

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My first return of sense or recollection was upon waking in a strange, dismal-looking room, my head aching horridly, pains of a violent nature in every limb, and deadly sickness at the stomach. From the latter I was in some degree relieved by a very copious vomiting. Getting out of bed, I looked out of the only window in the room, but saw nothing but the backs of old houses, from which various miserable emblems of poverty were displayed . . . At that moment I do not believe in the world there existed a more wretched creature than myself. I passed some moments in a state little short of despair . . .”

William Hickey’s words in 1768. Hangovers are as old as the Old Testament yet not clearly understood to date.  You will most likely fall into the black hole called a hangover if you managed to get your blood alcohol concentration to above 0.10%. There is actually a group of researchers called Alcohol Hangover Research Group…see your indulgences deviate scientists from solving more debilitating illnesses. Continue reading “Pears before the tipple”

Pack a printer on your next trip

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3D printed hand prototype, by Richard van As, South Africa, 2013.

If you do not identify with minimalist packing like yours truly, then airport luggage checks sit at the very top of your nightmare list. With a few hundred dollars, you can acquire your own 3-D printer and print your own clothes as fashion designer Danit Peleg does. If you have an extra nerdy friend, you may gift them a 3-D tie from 3dtie.com.

At its most basic, 3D printing is exactly as stated – creating a 3-dimensional object from a digital file. Unlike your usual ink jet that produces a single paper, these printers create objects by successively laying down several layers. A virtual model is first created using the modelling programs available or a 3D scanner if you are copying an existing object. Therefore, the possibility of using your smart phone as a 3D scanner in the future can’t be nullified. The modelling software ‘wedges’ the model into horizontal layers that the 3D printer reads and uses to seamlessly create the final object. So instead of ink, we have any of the other possible materials being dispersed from the nozzles onto a platform. There are several methods used to fuse the material together. Continue reading “Pack a printer on your next trip”

Beautiful union of chemistry and tech

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If science was a commodity, Samuel Njoroge would easily sell it. He makes it sound beautiful and he lives for disruptive innovation.

Current position

He is an R&D scientist at Proctor and Gamble (P&G) whose day to day role involves developing upstream technologies and exploiting the emerging technologies to facilitate superior (FCMG) fast moving consumer goods development and to continuously improve P&G’s innovation productivity. If you are in a fancy mood you can call it Front End innovation. Continue reading “Beautiful union of chemistry and tech”

Why it may be a risky period to be pregnant in a tropical country

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I have been silently following the progress of Zika virus and given the prevalence of mosquitoes in the country, it was only a matter of time before it became a public health alert. WHO (I know I mention them often) declared it an internationally public health emergency.

Zika virus discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947, only currently erupted in the Western hemisphere. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which is also responsible for dengue, yellow fever and rift valley fever. It is a slight concern in the country given the cases of dengue fever down in the Coastal region. However researchers at Centre for Virology Research (CVR) – KEMRI are keeping all incidences under watch. Continue reading “Why it may be a risky period to be pregnant in a tropical country”

The stir that is GMO

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One of the few industries reaping profits in the month of January are arguably, fitness centres.  This is for reasons obvious, Christmas holiday’s indulgences and the oh-so-famous New Year resolutions meet in a beautiful union. Do people still make those?

We eat so much we forget that we once fought genetically modified organisms… foods, infamously abbreviated as GMO’s. I say once, because on one of my few occasions to catch national news, politicians were up in arms against it, then the usual social media uproar and then the swift move to the next interesting bit of news. In case you are wondering, the ban on GMO in Kenya was to be lifted as at November 2015 – There are no confirmed sources whether that occurred.  For such a construed topic, GM crops only constitute 10% of the crops worldwide with 90% of them being grown in the US, Canada, Argentina and Brazil. Continue reading “The stir that is GMO”