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

Nanomaterials as cancer treatment: overcoming drug resistance in chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment, using drugs to destroy cancer cells. However, cancer cells can develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs by developing “efflux pumps”, pumps in the cell membrane that work to actively expel the chemotherapy drugs from the tumor cells. Shana Kelley and her team in University of Toronto developed nanomaterials that can deliver drugs into cancer cells and suppress their drug resistance. … Continue reading Nanomaterials as cancer treatment: overcoming drug resistance in chemotherapy

Biologists and Physicists Work Together to Image Subcellular Interactions Like Never Before

Antibiotics, while life-saving, can also wreak havoc on healthy systems. The drugs work by attacking the protein-synthesizing center (ribosomes) in bacteria. When the ribosomes in human cells are mistaken for bacterial ribosomes, antibiotics can cause a range of side effects from nausea to kidney failure. To understand what conditions cause healthy cells to be attacked, scientists are implementing novel imagining techniques to study interactions between … Continue reading Biologists and Physicists Work Together to Image Subcellular Interactions Like Never Before

Central Dogma

Our bodies contain numerous cell types that look drastically different and perform various functions that allow us to eat, breathe, move, and reproduce. While all cells have the same DNA as a “blueprint”, their working set of proteins can vary drastically. The process of making protein from DNA is known as the “central dogma”. However, it is not a linear step, but instead requires two … Continue reading Central Dogma

Cellular Secrets: Getting a look at how cells repair DNA

Before cells divide, they have to unwind their chromosomes, copy of all of their DNA, and then wrap the DNA backup into chromosomes. When this process happens, cells often lose a little bit of DNA from the tips of their chromosomes. An enzyme, called telomerase, can help repair chromosomes by adding that DNA back onto the ends. Scientists are interested in telomerase because inhibiting it … Continue reading Cellular Secrets: Getting a look at how cells repair DNA

Building the Smallest Chemical Beaker

Typically, if you want to understand the foundation of something, building from the ground up sounds like a sensible approach. However, researchers in Dr. Ni’s group at Harvard have taken this idea a step further by building molecules one atom at a time. The group’s goal is to better understand the minimal requirements and exact properties of chemical reactions. For comparison, while every chemistry class … Continue reading Building the Smallest Chemical Beaker

The FDA Approves the First Non-Opioid Drug to Ease Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

It is 2018, and we are well on our way towards curing cancer. Yet, as we look around, we find another nightmare haunting our society that is as formidable, if not more so, as it has been for centuries. That nightmare is opioid addiction.  Overcoming opioid addiction is notoriously difficult, because of the excruciating symptoms associated with the withdrawal process, during which the only aid … Continue reading The FDA Approves the First Non-Opioid Drug to Ease Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Viruses to the Rescue: Can we use viruses to find bacteria in our environment?

Is this apple safe to eat? Did that course of antibiotics work? To answer these types of questions we often need to know how to find and count illness-causing bacteria. Several bacteria counting techniques already exist. However, these approaches are slow and sensitive to laboratory conditions. Sam Nugen and his team from Cornell University are streamlining this process using a type of virus called phages, … Continue reading Viruses to the Rescue: Can we use viruses to find bacteria in our environment?

AI advises chemists on how to make complex molecules

What is the hardest thing you think scientists need to do in a lab? Organic chemistry may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but multi-step organic syntheses are easily ranked a top challenge, even among experienced chemists. Nevertheless, computer scientists surprised us again with artificial intelligence (AI) which, despite having less chemistry experience than the average high-schooler, could prescribe recipes with success. … Continue reading AI advises chemists on how to make complex molecules