background preloader

Genetic Thinking

Facebook Twitter

'Cellular glue' could help scientists play Legos with your body's building blocks. We can think of cells as the building blocks of living things. Every organ in your body, from your brain to your gut to your skin, is made up of highly specialized cells. But most cells don’t just float freely throughout your body — they’re bound together by proteins to form complex structures.

Now, with the help of molecular engineering, researchers have developed a way to program which types of cells stick to one another, and how strongly. They hope that this “cellular glue” will one day be used to treat a wide range of diseases, including some of the most difficult-to-treat conditions, like nerve damage and cancer. Their results were recently published in the journal Nature.

Here’s the background — Thanks to high school biology class, most people are familiar with the basic structure of a cell: cell membrane on the outside, and a cytoplasm studded with organelles and a nucleus on the inside. Lim likens it to using different adhesives for home improvement. The Pros And Cons Of Gene Editing. Recent advancements in gene editing have introduced a number of exciting possibilities for human advancement and raised difficult ethical questions.

The Onion breaks down the pros and cons of gene editing. Could help eradicate genetic diseases in rich people Would raise level of competition in child beauty pageants No longer need to totally bust ass cultivating inner beauty Will create thousands of high-paying jobs for struggling ethics professors May be capable of creating a family member who doesn’t always fuck everything up Attractive people are better than unattractive people Hereditary gene that causes glaucoma only thing left to remember grandpa by No way the Pope is going to go for this Far fewer inspirational morning show segments about kids beating cancer Would extend the lives of assholes, too What if they make some super-disease and inject a bunch of giant hornets with it or something? What then, hotshot? Mom already dead. CRISPR used to build a biological hard drive out of live bacteria.

Hard drives will one day seem as primitive as punch cards or floppy disks, and it may turn out that the medium that replaces them was inside us all along: DNA. There's a mind-boggling amount of data naturally stored in the genome of every organism, with density and durability far beyond our best efforts. Now a Harvard team has created a biological hard drive, using the CRISPR gene-editing tool to record information to (and retrieve it from) the genome of living bacteria. Scientists have been trying to tap into the storage potential of DNA for years. In 2012, Harvard genetics professor George Church encoded 70 billion copies of his book onto DNA, and later, researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington broke a new record by storing 200 MB of data in DNA. Last year, Church and his team developed a molecular recorder based on the CRISPR system, which makes it easier to read and write information to and from the genome of bacteria.

Source: Harvard View gallery - 2 images. CRISPR gene-editing tool causes unintended genetic mutations. It's not hyperbolic to say that the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique has been a revolutionary breakthrough, allowing scientists the ability to quickly, easily and precisely edit sections of DNA. But questions over how precise the CRISPR tool is have been raised in a new study from Columbia University Medical Center, which shows this gene-editing technology can introduce hundreds of unintended mutations into the genome. CRISPR has sparked a flurry of new avenues of research around the world, from targeting cancer to HIV, with the first human trials involving CRISPR-edited cells already underway in China and a US trial slated for 2018.

But this new study urges caution moving forward, suggesting we are still yet to understand the greater genomic effects of the tool. The team of scientists involved in the study had previously been working with the CRISPR tool to treat a serious eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, which leads to blindness. View gallery - 2 images. Future - China may be the future of genetic enhancement.

Would you want to alter your future children’s genes to make them smarter, stronger or better-looking? As the state of the science brings prospects like these closer to reality, an international debate has been raging over the ethics of enhancing human capacities with biotechnologies such as so-called smart pills, brain implants and gene editing. This discussion has only intensified in the past year with the advent of the CRISPR-cas9 gene editing tool, which raises the specter of tinkering with our DNA to improve traits like intelligence, athleticism and even moral reasoning.

So are we on the brink of a brave new world of genetically enhanced humanity? Perhaps. A recent study of 4,726 Americans found that most would not want to use a brain chip to improve their memory Numerous surveys among Western populations have found significant opposition to many forms of human enhancement. Designer babies Opposition to enhancement, especially genetic enhancement, has several sources.

Video: Humans Could Engineer Themselves for Long-Term Space Travel. To brave the conditions of microgravity, thin air and harsh ionizing radiation for any length of time, humans may need to borrow genes from some of the hardiest organisms on the planet, Lisa Nip, a doctoral candidate at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a recent TED Talk. Using the tools of synthetic biology, scientists could genetically engineer humans, and the plants and bacteria they bring with them, to create Earth-like conditions on another planet — known as terraforming, Nip said.

This would be much more efficient than other proposed terraforming methods, such as hauling all of the tools to create a hermetically sealed environment, she added. [7 Most Mars-Like Places on Earth] Human limitations Humans are the ultimate homebodies. Having evolved for hundreds of thousands of years on our verdant, oxygen-rich, temperate planet, humans are uniquely well adapted to Earth's gentle conditions.

But space explorers will face much harsher conditions. Superspeed evolution. Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming - Issue 34: Adaptation. Lev Landau, a Nobelist and one of the fathers of a great school of Soviet physics, had a logarithmic scale for ranking theorists, from 1 to 5. A physicist in the first class had ten times the impact of someone in the second class, and so on. He modestly ranked himself as 2.5 until late in life, when he became a 2. In the first class were Heisenberg, Bohr, and Dirac among a few others. Einstein was a 0.5!

My friends in the humanities, or other areas of science like biology, are astonished and disturbed that physicists and mathematicians (substitute the polymathic von Neumann for Einstein) might think in this essentially hierarchical way. Apparently, differences in ability are not manifested so clearly in those fields. I have even come to believe that Landau’s scale could, in principle, be extended well below Einstein’s 0.5. The possibility of super-intelligence follows directly from the genetic basis of intelligence. It is not at all clear that IQ scores have any meaning in this range. Does ‘humanizing’ mice for drug experiments pose ethical challenges? (This was originally published at the Genetic Literacy Project by Danielle Young) Biomedical research has discovered the value of humanizing rodents and using genetics to better predict the after-effects of many drugs and procedures. And, while we might feel sorry for the little lab mice, these little creatures are helping us better understand disease so we can cure serious illnesses.

For years, scientists relied on animals as models for human disease. Initially, we used fruit flies and roundworms as models because they’re genetically similar to humans. But, mice were more so — sharing 97.5 percent of their working DNA with human beings. The mouse was also the first non-human creature to have its genome fully mapped. Researchers found that there were only 21 genes that humans had that mice didn’t. Some companies are attempting to ‘humanize’ mice — that is to say — to make them more like us on the genetic level. This could revolutionize how drugs are studied. Non-animal testing Related. Why is the X chromosome so odd? Traffic analogy helped us crack the mystery.

You may not be aware of it, but one of your chromosomes – the X chromosome – is considerably different from the rest and has posed a puzzle for scientists for over a decade. Early in mammalian evolutionary history, what is now the X chromosome was just like any of our other chromosomes. But at some point it evolved to be different. Unlike all other chromosomes, one of the two X chromosomes in women is inactivated in nearly all cells. It also has an extremely low mutation rate and – most perplexingly – the genes that are found on it are active in relatively few of our tissues. Now a study we recently published in PLOS Biology, has begun to shed light on what’s going on – by using a traffic analogy.

Battle of the sexes In humans, each cell normally contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. Like all other chromosomes, the X chromosome carries genes that are used to create proteins that go on to produce observable traits. Traffic jams There are also some practical applications from this research. Williams syndrome. Williams syndrome (WS) is a developmental disorder that affects many parts of the body.[4] Facial features frequently include a broad forehead, short nose, and full cheeks, an appearance that has been described as "elfin".[4][3] Mild to moderate intellectual disability with particular problems with visual spatial tasks such as drawing and fewer problems with language are typical.[4] Those affected often have an outgoing personality and interact readily with strangers.[4][3] Problems with teeth, heart problems, especially supravalvular aortic stenosis, and periods of high blood calcium are common.[4][2] Treatment includes special education programs and various types of therapy.

Surgery may be done to correct heart problems. Dietary changes or medications may be required for high blood calcium.[2] The syndrome was first described in 1961 by New Zealander John C. P. Signs and symptoms[edit] Individuals with Williams syndrome[1] Physical[edit] Nervous system[edit] Developmental[edit] Cause[edit] Huffingtonpost. Geneticists reconstruct population history of New York City. In addition to supplementing historical and census data, these sorts of findings can inform biomedical and public health efforts in New York and other locations, the study authors said. “New York City is an important point of entry and immigration, and has long been one of the major ‘melting pots’ of the world. The population structure there is complex and interesting from a variety of perspectives, including the genetic one,” said Gillian Belbin, MS, a graduate student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) and first author on the study.

“These days, other cities such as London and Shanghai are reaching the same levels of diversity as New York, and many of our methods and findings can be applied to those cities’ populations as well,” added Eimear Kenny, PhD, Assistant Professor at ISMMS and senior author on the study. Ms. The researchers are now conducting preliminary analyses of neighborhood-level data. 'Deep learning' reveals unexpected genetic roots of cancers, autism and other disorders. In the decade since the genome was sequenced in 2003, scientists and doctors have struggled to answer an all-consuming question: Which DNA mutations cause disease? A new computational technique developed at the University of Toronto may now be able to tell us.

A Canadian research team led by professor Brendan Frey has developed the first method for 'ranking' genetic mutations based on how living cells 'read' DNA, revealing how likely any given alteration is to cause disease. They used their method to discover unexpected genetic determinants of autism, hereditary cancers and spinal muscular atrophy, a leading genetic cause of infant mortality. Their findings appear in today's issue of the leading journal Science. Think of the human genome as a mysterious text, made up of three billion letters. What was Frey's approach? Unlike other machine learning methods, deep learning can make sense of incredibly complex relationships, such as those found in living systems in biology and medicine. Dr. Genomics is about to transform the world – Dawn Field. In case you weren’t paying attention, a lot has been happening in the science of genomics over the past few years. It is, for example, now possible to read one human genome and correct all known errors.

Perhaps this sounds terrifying, but genomic science has a track-record in making science fiction reality. ‘Everything that’s alive we want to rewrite,’ boasted Austen Heinz, the CEO of Cambrian Genomics, last year. It was only in 2010 that Craig Venter’s team in Maryland led us into the era of synthetic genomics when they created Synthia, the first living organism to have a computer for a mother. Two years after the ‘birth’ of Synthia, sequencing was so powerful that it was used to extract the genome of a newly discovered, 80,000-year-old human species, the Denisovans, from a pinky bone found in a frozen cave in Siberia.

Popular now Let’s ditch the dangerous idea that life is a story Why boring streets make pedestrians stressed and unhappy Ban the burqa? Daily Weekly Related video What next? New DNA construct can set off a “mutagenic chain reaction” A technique for editing genes while they reside in intact chromosomes has been a real breakthrough. Literally. In 2013, Science magazine named it the runner-up for breakthrough-of-the-year, and its developers won the 2015 Breakthrough Prize. The system being honored is called CRISPR/Cas9, and it evolved as a way for bacteria to destroy viruses using RNA that matched the virus' DNA sequence. But it's turned out to be remarkably flexible, and the technique can be retargeted to any gene simply by modifying the RNA.

Researchers are still figuring out new uses for the system, which means there are papers coming out nearly every week, many of them difficult to distinguish. That may be precisely why the significance of a paper published last week wasn't immediately obvious. In it, the authors described a way of ensuring that if one copy of a gene was modified by CRISPR/Cas9, the second copy would be—useful, but not revolutionary. New developments The CRISPR/Cas9 system is remarkably simple. Family violence leaves genetic imprint on children -- ScienceDaily.

A new Tulane University School of Medicine study finds that the more fractured families are by domestic violence or trauma, the more likely that children will bear the scars down to their DNA. Researchers discovered that children in homes affected by domestic violence, suicide or the incarceration of a family member have significantly shorter telomeres, which is a cellular marker of aging, than those in stable households. The findings are published online in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics. Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes that keep them from shrinking when cells replicate. Shorter telomeres are linked to higher risks for heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline, diabetes, mental illness and poor health outcomes in adulthood. Researchers took genetic samples from 80 children ages 5 to 15 in New Orleans and interviewed parents about their home environments and exposures to adverse life events. Is the Will to Work Out Genetically Determined?

First monkeys with customized mutations born. Black Death Likely Altered European Genes. Error catastrophe. Immune cells chow down on living brain | Body & Brain. Genes are regulated by microRNA sponges. The search for a genetic killer.