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Volume 3, Number 2, Spring, 1985

Future File

Recent developments of long term significance as selected bv JANE TALISMAN and ERIC GEISLINGER, editors of Claustrophobia.

GENE MACHINE "lmpact of 'Gene machine' Growing as Researchers Expand Capabilities" Medical World News, Sept. 24, 1984.

THE POLYNUCLEOTIDE SYNTHESIZER IS starting to have its predicted impact. (Perimeters #49) in applications related to genetic screening, carcinogenesis, birth defects, and viral mutations. Although primarily a research tool, the machine’s ability to perform the 54 complex chemical operations needed to synthesize genes of any desired base sequence in 20 minutes (one fifth of the time taken by top scientists) is expected to lead to large-scale clinical applications. The machine’s impact on genetic engineering has been compared to the printing press’s impact on writing.

DRY LIFE "Sugar/Water Switch Allows Dry Life" Science News, Sept. l5, 1984.

CERTAIN ORGANISMS SUCH AS BRINE SHRIMP. baker’s yeast, and a microscopic worm called a nematode can survive complete dehydration and resume normal life when reconstituted with water. John Crowe and colleagues at the University of California at Davis believe they have discovered bow this is accomplished. During the drying process, nematodes produce an abundance of the sugar trehalose. The sugar replaces the water that had been maintaining the cell structure. Crowe has been able to completely dehydrate lobster cell membranes and avoid all the usual membrane-disrupting events by adding trehalose before dehydration. Crowe states that using the method for drying and storing organs and embryos for transplant "is a long, long way off."

SOFT X-RAYS "Lasing Plasma Makes 'Soft' X-Rays" Science News, Nov. 3, 1984.

California scientists Find LongSought X-Ray Lasers. Oregonian News Nov. 14 1984. DENNIS MATTHEWS AND A 40-MEMBER TEAM at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have produced lasers with wavelengths of 209 and 155 angstroms using ionized gases of selenium and yttrium as the lasing materials. (Medical x-rays are usually in the [garbled. --Ed] angstrom region.) If practical x-ray lasers become possible: they would find immediate applications in areas ranging from CAT scans to holograms of DNA to microcircuit production.

COOLING MAMMALS "Recent ALCOR research" Cryonics, September, 1984

THE ALCOR LIFE EXTENSION FOUNDATION of Los Angeles reports the completion of a successful total body washout and recovery of a dog. As far as is known, this is the first such experiment to succeed in cooling a large, non-hibernating animal to a temperature of 4.2 degrees C. carrying out blood washout with a very "alien" nonphysiologic perforate, perfusing for one hour, and then rewarming to a full recovery. The experiment was carried out as part of Alcor’S studies of perfusing animals with cryopreservation.

JAPANESE SPACE TRADERS Japanese Study Space Commerce" Aviation Week & Space Technology, August 20, 1984.

AT LEAST FOUR LARGE MULTI-BILLION dollar Japanese trading companies are forming teams of up to 50 firms each to examine commercial space endeavors. In several cases, the trading companies have offered funding to U.S. commercial space companies having difficulty obtaining financing in the U.S. At least six new American space commercialization companles have been contacted by Japanese business officials. Two major differences in attitude are noted by one of the companies involved: 1) the Japanese investors came looking for the company instead of the reverse, and 2) there is far less concern about long lead times for returns on investment. Meanwhile, NASA Administrator James Beggs is trying to come up with a policy that will maintain all or most of the advantages of obtaining Japanese funding with none or little of the disadvantages of technology transfer and Japanese competition.

SHOCKINGLY FAST "A Fast Way to Solve Hard Problems" science, September 21, 1984.

NARENDRA KARMARKER, A YOUNG MATHEMATICIAN at Bell Laboratories has discovered a new algorithm for solving linear programming problems (one of the most common types of problems put on computers) that is so much faster than existing methods that mathematicians and other experts in the field are "shocked" Using the new method to solve a problem with 5000 unknowns (a typical size problem) Karmarker reached the solution in 1/50 the time spent by the previously fastest method. (This was with Karmarker’s method implemented in Fortran.) The advantage of the new method gets larger as the number of unknowns increases.

TRANSPLANT NEWS "Antigen-specific Immunosuppressive Induced by Liver Transplant in the Rat." Transplantation. September 12, 1984.

IT HAS LONG BEEN KNOWN THAT LIVER transplants can have dramatic results in rejection of subsequent grafts, but it has been hard to quantify the effects because of the number of unknowns involved. A recently developed, highly reliable (over 95%) rat liver transplantation technique has allowed Maoshi Kamada and D.C. Wight of the University of Cambridge to virtually eliminate surgical variables from the data. They were subsequently able to demonstrate that not only did simultaneous liver transplants completely protect heart transplants from rejection. but that even if the liver transplant followed the heart transplant by several days, it was able to stop or reverse all early signs of rejection. Six of the 13 rats survived indefinitely with healthy hearts, The other 7 died of liver transplant rejection but still showed zero signs of heart transplant rejection. The immunosuppressive effect observed was far more powerful than that of the immunosupressive agent cyclosporine.

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