Six Ways Our Cells Can Turn Against Us

by Catherine Weiner figures by Elayne Fivenson Every cell in our bodies is constantly on the edge of danger. Our DNA, the molecular blueprints that tell our cells how to function, brought us to life. But it is also just one error away from catastrophe. Our cells are constantly fighting to preserve this fragile balance, for if they fail, they send us down a path … Continue reading Six Ways Our Cells Can Turn Against Us

Finding What Sticks

by Christopher Gerry Our DNA influences our height, eye color, affinity for sky diving and other extreme thrills, sleep habits, disease risk factors, and more. It’s no surprise, then, that scientists have found another job for our reliable genetic ledger: as a tool to aid the discovery of new medicines. The hope is that these DNA-based tools will enable researchers to find better starting points … Continue reading Finding What Sticks

Pigs & Immortality: A Step Towards Reversing Death

Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine have developed a system capable of sustaining certain aspects of brain function for several hours, even if the host animal has been dead for up to four hours beforehand. While this by no means suggests that complete restoration of neurological function is on the horizon, it reveals the surprising resilience of post-mortem brain tissue, introduces a promising technique that could allow scientists to study certain biological functions outside of live animals, and highlights the important ethical considerations that must be discussed before any potential complete resuscitation of neurological activity is achieved. Continue reading Pigs & Immortality: A Step Towards Reversing Death

The Computer Science behind DNA Sequencing

by Alex Cabral figures by Sean Wilson In 2003, with the completion of the Human Genome Project, the entire human genome was sequenced for the first time. The sequencing cost nearly $1 billion and took 13 years to complete. Today, the human genome can be sequenced for about $1000 in less than two days. Industry leaders hope to bring that cost down to just $100 within … Continue reading The Computer Science behind DNA Sequencing

Fossil Fuel Companies Invest in Removing Carbon Dioxide Directly from Air

In the Canadian town of Squamish, there’s a small building with a massive fan on its purple roof. The fan is rapidly pulling outside air into the facility. The air enters the outdoors again, but it’s not quite the same. About 75% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) is gone. Run by the company Carbon Engineering (CE), the building is the pilot plant for their technology … Continue reading Fossil Fuel Companies Invest in Removing Carbon Dioxide Directly from Air

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

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