From Genes to Disease: the release of the UK Biobank

by Layla Siraj figures by Rebecca Senft Imagine if you could tell, through some combination of your environment and your genetics, what illnesses you might develop. This could give you the ability to either prevent these illnesses before they even happen or catch and treat the illnesses early enough to prevent long-lasting effects. This reality is one step closer with the release of the UK … Continue reading From Genes to Disease: the release of the UK Biobank

Force for a Cure: How sensing pressure could protect you against malaria

by Tess Whitwam figures by Daniel Utter Imagine for a moment that you’re at a concert, standing close to a large loudspeaker—you can feel the vibrations from the loud music coursing through your body. Then, your friend behind you taps your shoulder, so you turn around, just as someone walks by and steps on your foot, causing you to jump back in pain. All the while, … Continue reading Force for a Cure: How sensing pressure could protect you against malaria

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

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

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

Understanding Ownership and Privacy of Genetic Data

by Julian Segert figures by Aparna Nathan In Mountain View, California, near the headquarters of Facebook and Google, lies 23andMe, a company that set out to make genetic testing approachable and affordable for the general public. The company started with the goal of providing risk assessments for genetic diseases, but has recently gained more popularity by offering insights into geographical ancestry. 23andMe is unique among … Continue reading Understanding Ownership and Privacy of Genetic Data

Bacteria may live naturally inside the human brain

Over the past decade, the gut microbiome and its effects on human health have become a topic of considerable interest in the scientific community and popular media. The gut microbiome is composed of bacteria that naturally reside in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which have an effect on various biological processes such as digestion, metabolism, regulation of the immune system and protection against pathogens. Interestingly, researchers … Continue reading Bacteria may live naturally inside the human brain

Facing Facts: Why a transmissible facial cancer is decimating Tasmanian devil populations

by Garrett Dunlap figures by Aparna Nathan Perhaps no animal is better suited to its name than the Tasmanian devil. While it might look cute and cuddly, in reality this animal is quite the opposite. With the strongest bite of any mammal and an infamous blood-curdling scream, the Tasmanian devil is a fierce and formidable creature known to attack animals many times its size. But … Continue reading Facing Facts: Why a transmissible facial cancer is decimating Tasmanian devil populations

Vaccines for World’s Most Deadly Infectious Diseases Unlikely

Infectious diseases — including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria — are a leading cause of death worldwide, particularly in low income countries and among young children. A new study found that the vaccines aimed to prevent many of the world’s most deadly diseases may not be developed any time soon. The study, funded by the Gates Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, focused on 538 … Continue reading Vaccines for World’s Most Deadly Infectious Diseases Unlikely