Developments to Watch
FARMED FISH: PACKING THEM IN LIKE SARDINES
PICTURE SQUEEZING A FOOT-long fish into a gallon jug. That's the average concentration of fish in the tanks of a new kind of hyperintensive farm. Using special pumps and filters to clean, recirculate, and oxygenate water, these farms have raised hybrid striped bass and tilapia. Such high-priced species won't grow in traditional open-air farm ponds, which mainly grow catfish.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has become a big booster of the new fish farms, for several reasons. Planners at the research consortium figure the farms could use waste heat from power plants to keep the fish warm. And a boom in fish farming would create a new source of steady, predictable electricity demand, both in rural areas and in cities, where fish could be grown in warehouses. EPRI plans to prepare a manual on how to build and operate a farm capable of growing 100,000 pounds of fish at a time. To test out the ideas, it will erect a 4,000-square-foot model farm near the campus of North Carolina State University.EDITED BY NEIL GROSS By Peter CoyReturn to top
A CD PLAYER UNDER GLASS
FOR MUSIC LOVERS WHO are tired of black CD players that swallow and hide disks in a drawer, Bang & Olufsen has done a top-to-bottom redesign. The Danish company has built a sleek player/changer called BeoSound 9000 that lines up six disks behind a glass door. The laser reader shuttles among the disks, playing tracks in any order.
The BeoSound 9000 can lie flat, stand up vertically or horizontally, or hang on a wall. The carriage moves from disk to disk in just 4.5 seconds--about half the time of a regular CD changer. While it's playing one disk, you can open the glass door and replace another. The system, which sells for about $5,000 in Europe, has enough memory to keep track of songs you like, or hate, on about 200 CDs. Once you punch in your preferences, it will recognize each disk you insert, display its name, and play only tracks you like. It also has a built-in radio and an internal alarm clock so you can wake up to Vivaldi--or Nine Inch Nails.EDITED BY NEIL GROSS By Mia TrinephiReturn to top
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NEW AMMO AGAINST CYSTIC FIBROSIS?
CYSTIC FIBROSIS IS AN inherited disease that kills most of its victims in early adulthood. The illness, which results in a heavy buildup of mucus in the lungs, is caused by a defective or absent regulator gene. It affects about 30,000 people in the U.S.
Despite the grim prognosis, cystic fibrosis has long been considered a good candidate for treatment with gene therapy--the insertion of healthy genes into diseased tissue. For one thing, the damage is confined mainly to one organ, the lungs. So inserting healthy regulator genes is relatively straightforward. Unfortunately, in most gene therapy trials with CF patients so far, positive results have lasted only one to three weeks.
The problem seems to be in delivery. To get healthy genes into cells in the lungs, researchers until now have piggybacked them on adenoviruses, which cause respiratory and eye ailments. When the body fights off the virus, it also rejects the good genes. But scientists at Targeted Genetics Corp., a Seattle biotech company, say they can prolong positive results using a type of virus called "adeno-associated virus," or AAV, which isn't a pathogen.
Recent trials at Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University hospitals proved that the AAV concoction can be safely applied to patients' sinuses, nasal passages, and lungs. And the new genes remain in these tissues for as long as 70 days. In October, the National Institutes of Health gave Targeted Genetics $700,000 to scale up production. Phase II human trials will begin late this year to determine effectiveness and appropriate dosage.EDITED BY NEIL GROSS By Seanna BrowderReturn to top