Arrival of Gene-Edited Babies: What lies ahead?

by Valentina Lagomarsino figures by Sean Wilson Nearly four months ago, Chinese researcher He Jiankui announced that he had edited the genes of twin babies with CRISPR. CRISPR, also known as CRISPR/Cas9, can be thought of as “genetic scissors” that can be programmed to edit DNA in any cell. Last year, scientists used CRISPR to cure dogs of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This was a huge step forward for … Continue reading Arrival of Gene-Edited Babies: What lies ahead?

CRISPR-Scanning Towards New Drugs — drug discovery is difficult, but CRISPR might be able to help

by Michael Vinyard figures by Nicholas Lue Most therapeutic drug candidates that are put through clinical trials fail. Given that most of these fail during early development, the cost of bringing a single drug to market is now over $2.5 billion. If we focus on cancer alone, this high cost of drug development, combined with the fact that cancer is one of the leading killers in … Continue reading CRISPR-Scanning Towards New Drugs — drug discovery is difficult, but CRISPR might be able to help

Jellyfish-inspired electronic skin can heal itself under water

Skin is the largest organ in human body, and can sense important information such as pressure, temperature and pain. This waterproof barrier protects us from infections and can heal itself. Electronic skins are soft and flexible electronics that mimic the functions of skin in one or multiple aspects, and can give robots or even prosthetic limbs the sensations of real skin. However, unlike real skin, … Continue reading Jellyfish-inspired electronic skin can heal itself under water

A New Kind of Twin

Researchers in Australia have found the second-ever documented case of semi-identical twins, who share all the DNA from their mother but have different sets of genes from their father. A potential mechanism for such an uncommon occurrence is the fertilization of a single egg by two sperm cells. However, this scenario typically results in an inviable pregnancy, raising the question of what specific conditions allowed for the proper development of these twins. Continue reading A New Kind of Twin

Scientists create an expanded 8-letter DNA genetic code

Each cell in a living organism has an instruction manual known as the genome. These instructions are spelled out using letters, called bases, that pair with one another to form long double-stranded molecules of helical DNA. Life as we know it uses 4 bases called A, C, T, and G. Recently, scientists expanded this alphabet to include 8 bases – 4 natural and 4 artificial. … Continue reading Scientists create an expanded 8-letter DNA genetic code

Lessons from the Human Genome Project

by Rebecca Fine figures by Elayne Fivenson The Human Genome Project, one of the most ambitious scientific projects ever undertaken, achieved a monumental goal: sequencing the entire human genome. Since its completion in 2003, this project has laid the groundwork for thousands of scientific studies associating genes with human diseases. DNA and the genome: a primer First, let’s talk a little bit about terminology. DNA is … Continue reading Lessons from the Human Genome Project

Extracellular DNA, in Plant Health and Hardship

by Sophia Swartz figures by Abagail Burrus It was only three weeks into the fall semester, and I was starting to sniffle. When I had woken up that morning with a tell-tale tickle in the back of my throat, I had tried to deny the obvious. However, by the end of the day, sneezing and sore, I surrendered to my cold and trudged to my local CVS. … Continue reading Extracellular DNA, in Plant Health and Hardship

New Drug May Prevent Mosquitoes From Wanting to Bite You

While you are likely familiar with the annoying experience of being a mosquito’s ‘meal of the day’, more is going on behind the scenes of that insect bite than meets the eye.  Mosquitoes, which are drawn to human scent and breath, require proteins from the blood of their victims to develop their eggs and reproduce. This sounds harmless enough, but mosquitoes also excel at picking … Continue reading New Drug May Prevent Mosquitoes From Wanting to Bite You

The Big Eater: How the immune system alters the pancreas during obesity

by Lara Roach figures by Rebecca Senft In Greek, macrophage means “big eater,” and that is exactly their job. Like a growing teenager or athlete after a big game, macrophages are activated immune cells whose primary focus is to “eat.” But instead of, say, a plate of pasta, macrophages take in and digest pathogenic microbes, unhealthy molecules, and even other cells in the body when they … Continue reading The Big Eater: How the immune system alters the pancreas during obesity

Genetic editing of human embryos in the United States ignites debate

In December 2018, a Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, shocked the world when he revealed the birth of the world’s first genetically edited babies. While it is clear that Jiankui egregiously violated university regulations and ethical standards, his announcement has since ignited a heated international dialogue about the permissibility of human embryonic gene editing. Currently, there are scientists in the United States working in university laboratories, … Continue reading Genetic editing of human embryos in the United States ignites debate