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

Making Steak out of Spinach: How bioengineering could change meat production

by George Touloumes figures by Brad Wierbowski Would you ever consider eating meat that was grown in a lab instead of raised on a farm? What if it were both healthier and more sustainable than conventional meat? Silicon Valley venture capital firms and major meat companies like Tyson Foods are now investing tens of millions of dollars in bioengineering research to produce exactly that kind … Continue reading Making Steak out of Spinach: How bioengineering could change meat production

You are unique – Does your gene editing treatment need to be too?

Many diseases are caused by genetic mutations. Small mutations can cause certain cancers, some cases of blindness, influence heart disease, and many other pathologies. A new and powerful technology called CRISPR-Cas9 aims to correct for these genetic mutations by cutting out a piece of malfunctioning DNA, and replacing it with a piece of genetic material that functions correctly. Biologists first discovered CRISPR-Cas9 in bacteria. Through careful … Continue reading You are unique – Does your gene editing treatment need to be too?

All Wound Up: DNA sequencing reveals the 3D structure of our DNA

by Gemma Johnson figures by Olivia Foster You might remember being in a biology class where molecular biology is often represented by cartoons in bright colors on the pages of a textbook. What’s happening inside our cells, however, is much more complicated than what’s depicted in those caricatures. The DNA molecules that constitute our genetic code look like a twisted ladder (the formal name is … Continue reading All Wound Up: DNA sequencing reveals the 3D structure of our DNA

Expanding the genetic alphabet

Since the beginning of time, the genetic alphabet in all living things has consisted of 4 letters. Now, scientists have discovered a way to expand the genetic code to store and use orders of magnitude more information than ever before. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the cellular instructions for proteins: little machines in your cells that perform important functions. DNA normally contains 4 nucleotides (A, T, … Continue reading Expanding the genetic alphabet