China’s Genetically Edited babies: What really happened?

A Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, shocked the world two weeks ago when he revealed that the world’s first genetically edited babies had been born. Jiankui claimed to have edited embryos before implanting them into the mother as part of an otherwise routine in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. Since his bold announcement via YouTube, the scientific community at-large – both in the United States and in … Continue reading China’s Genetically Edited babies: What really happened?

The Secret to a Spider’s Superpowered Silk

If you have ever swatted a spider web away from a dusty corner of the house, congratulations—you have unknowingly dismantled one of the toughest materials known to man. The silk which spiders use to spin their webs and capture prey is five times stronger than steel, yet lightweight and more flexible than rubber. Because of these remarkable properties, scientists have been trying for years to … Continue reading The Secret to a Spider’s Superpowered Silk

Your Brain on tACS: Electrical Stimulation Can Alleviate Chronic Back Pain

An investigation of individuals with chronic low back pain revealed that a disruption of normal brain activity patterns is related to worse perceived pain. Use of targeted electrical stimulation showed an increase in normal brain activity and reduced pain severity. While these results are only preliminary, they show promise for use of a noninvasive therapy for chronic pain that can be tailored to an individual’s specific brain activity. Continue reading Your Brain on tACS: Electrical Stimulation Can Alleviate Chronic Back Pain

HIV-Infected T Cell

PrEP: Preventing HIV Infection Before It Starts

We have come a long way in treating HIV over the past two decades. By following a strict drug regimen, an HIV positive patient can stave off the onset of AIDS for many years. These drugs are expensive, however, and they come with side-effects. Furthermore, noncompliance with the drug regimen can have serious and long-lasting impacts on the patient’s health. Preventing HIV infection is both … Continue reading PrEP: Preventing HIV Infection Before It Starts

Probiotics prevents dangerous pathogen infection by making the bacteria ‘deaf’

If you’ve visited a supermarket recently, you might have noticed that yogurts and kombucha are taking up more shelf space. These products are two popular examples of probiotics: living bacteria touted to provide human health benefits. It’s not just a millennial fad – the probiotics market is projected to be over $60 billion by 2023. The accepted belief is that good bacteria drive out bad … Continue reading Probiotics prevents dangerous pathogen infection by making the bacteria ‘deaf’

The Quest for Better Bandages Turns to Nanofibers

Our skin is a protective barrier to bacterial infection, but damage to the skin allows bacteria to enter. Normally, our immune system kills the bacteria and allows wounds to heal. However, certain diseases can overload the immune system and lead to heavy infection. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat heavy bacterial infection, but bacteria can develop drug resistance after too much exposure. A team at … Continue reading The Quest for Better Bandages Turns to Nanofibers

A Tall Order: Using Machine Learning to Predict Height from Genetic Variation

A machine learning algorithm trained using 500,000 genetic profiles can predict the height of an individual within about one inch based solely on their genes. Such an algorithm shows great promise for accurate risk assessment of complex diseases and identifying targets for therapy. However, further validation is required to evaluate how the tool will extend to more genetically diverse populations, and standardized methods for assessing genetic variation are necessary. Continue reading A Tall Order: Using Machine Learning to Predict Height from Genetic Variation

The Chemistry Nobel: Evolving proteins into better medicines and biofuels

It’s that time of year – Nobel Prize season! This year, the Chemistry Nobel prize was awarded to three scientists: one half to Frances Arnold “for the directed evolution of enzymes,” and the other half to George Smith and Sir Gregory Winter “for the phage display of peptides and antibodies.” What exactly are these award-winning technologies and how have they impacted society? ‘Directed evolution of … Continue reading The Chemistry Nobel: Evolving proteins into better medicines and biofuels

Make No Bones About It: Human skeletal stem cells discovered for first time

Human stem cells are specialized cells that can be harvested from the body and engineered to turn into various tissues and organs. Perhaps the greatest potential use of stem cells is the generation of new tissues for organ transplants. Unfortunately, scientists have long struggled to find skeletal stem cells that can reliably turn into bone, cartilage, and supportive tissues of the skeleton. In a study … Continue reading Make No Bones About It: Human skeletal stem cells discovered for first time

Your Personality May Determine How You Respond to Placebo Pills

The placebo effect is a puzzling phenomenon. Placebos (sugar pills or saline solutions secretly substituted for actual drugs) are commonly used in clinical trials to set a baseline against which to measure the effects of a drug. However, people in the placebo group will often show improvements alongside the treatment group. The fact that an inactive substance, such as a sugar pill, can lead to … Continue reading Your Personality May Determine How You Respond to Placebo Pills