Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Gene doping - from my thriller straight into the 2012 Olympics?!

I speculate about this in my thriller THE GENE THIEF - but is this already a reality?

OLYMPIC GENES FOR OLYMPIC DREAMS: Genetically modified athletes: Forget drugs. There are even suggestions some Chinese athletes' genes are altered to make them stronger!

The controversy over Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen’s astonishing gold medal performance in the London olympics has raised concerns about genetic enhancement of athletes and the chilling possibility of Frankenstein athletes - an unbeatable master-race of genetically manipulated super-competitors with enhanced lung-power and heightened strength. While this might appear to belong to the world of science-fiction, the scientists are taking this very seriously.

Dr Ted Friedmann, chair of the genetics panel of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he ‘would not be surprised at all’ if gene enhancement were not now being secretly used by some competitors. Laboratory experiments have already shown that the science can work.

Read more: from the Economist: 

Friday, 20 July 2012

Britain has officially had too much sex! 50 Shades of Grey

novels suffer sharp drop in sales - ... And by the way, genius review of the book by Andrew O'Hogan is here (first found by Clare Conville):

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Want to be forever young? or maybe immortal? According to The Economist (!) getting old is no longer compulsory...

Economist, July 2010: Why do we grow old? And is ageing really compulsory?

"FOR as long as people have been growing old, they’ve been wishing they didn’t have to. The “Epic of Gilgamesh”, one of the most ancient works of literature, chronicles the eponymous hero’s quest for eternal life. Most religions offer an attenuated version of immortality in which some fuzzily defined soul endures even after the body has died. Medieval alchemists hunted in vain for the rejuvenating Philosopher’s Stone; industrial-age quacks got rich off their patent elixirs. Today, cosmetics companies dance around truth-in-advertising laws to imply that their creams and lotions can keep the years at bay.

Yet for all the gloomy fascination that surrounds ageing, precious little research has been done into its causes. The question of why we grow old and die still divides evolutionary biologists. Strictly speaking, ageing does not seem to be inevitable. After all, both cancer cells and some very simple forms of life appear highly resistant to the passage of time. And while we know plenty about the consequences of ageing, we know much less about the exact biological processes involved. The little interest shown was until recently limited to quacks and cranks, leavened with the occasional iconoclastic scientist (such as Peter Medawar, a brilliant British zoologist) with a reputation strong enough to survive developing an interest in a thoroughly disreputable field.

In the past couple of decades that has begun to change. Improvements in technology, particularly the ability to sequence DNA quickly, have made the serious study of ageing possible. [...] Plenty of progress has already been made. Genes have been found that boost the lifespans of laboratory animals by 30% or more, and research into the mechanisms of ageing has fingered some tantalising leads: ageing seems to be associated with a low-level, chronic inflammation of many of the body’s tissues, for instance. Insulin, a hormone that regulates the metabolism of glucose, also crops up.

Most intriguing of all is something that scientists have known for decades: feeding near-starvation diets to laboratory animals such as mice and fruit flies can extend their lifespans by 40% or more, and improve health along the way. If those results translated directly to humans (and there is some preliminary evidence that fasting may confer benefits in people), then the human lifespan could reach 150 years. Many explanations have been offered and discarded to explain the power of dieting: that it reduces production of the harmful chemicals that are a side-effect of respiration, for instance, or that it lowers blood-sugar levels, which seems to have a variety of health benefits. Proponents of this theory are searching for drugs, so-called “calorie-restriction mimetics”, that can produce these effects without requiring aspiring centenarians to endure 100 years of non-stop dieting. Several firms have been set up to capitalise on the findings, in the hope of developing and selling pills that grant longer, healthier lives." For more, read:

Sunday, 15 July 2012

You think it is difficult to finish your novel? Am watching my husband trying to feed our 1 year old - now THAT is hard !
Glass half full: this rain is great - imagine how much harder it would have been to write on a +30 sunny day !