Viruses, not all are bad for you

When you think of viruses, the yearly flu or even the Ebola or Swine flu outbreaks may come to mind. However, not all viruses cause disease – some even provide cures! Adeno-associated virus (AAV) can infect humans, but is not known to cause disease. In other words, this virus is good at getting its genetic information (genes) into human cells. What if its genes were … Continue reading Viruses, not all are bad for you

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

How stress can change your DNA

A first link between chronic stress, genetics, and mental illness has recently observed in mice. Researchers have discovered that the genes of mice exposed to chronic stress change over time. Modifications were most associated with genes related to a variety of mental illnesses, such as depression, autism spectrum disorder, and schizophrenia.1-3 How exactly are genetics, stress, and mental illness related? DNA, serves as instructions for cells and is broken up into … Continue reading How stress can change your DNA

CRISPR 2.0: Genome engineering made easy as A-B-C

CRISPR 2.0 is causing quite the ruckus in the scientific community. Why? Imagine that you had written a note in permanent marker, but later decided you wanted to change a single word. Without the ability to erase, your options would be limited, and further changes might make the note illegible. New CRISPR technologies, or “base editors,” behave as molecular erasers. These molecular erasers enable you to very precisely … Continue reading CRISPR 2.0: Genome engineering made easy as A-B-C

Catching Cancer: Blood Test for Early-Stage Diagnosis

What is the difference between a normal cell and a cancer cell? The answer lies in their DNA. Cancer results from the accumulation of genetic mutations, which trigger uncontrolled cell growth. Cancer’s mutated DNA can reveal its presence early on in the disease. Like leaving fingerprints at a crime scene, tumor cells release small pieces of DNA into the bloodstream. This “circulating tumor DNA” can now … Continue reading Catching Cancer: Blood Test for Early-Stage Diagnosis

Moon and Stars

If you look closely at this zebrafish embryo, you will notice bright spots that look like stars covering the entire body. The nuclei of each cell in this embryo has been labeled with a fluorescent protein so when you look at the nuclei under a microscope, they are resplendent. By labeling each individual nuclei, we can visualize changes occurring in each cell throughout development of … Continue reading Moon and Stars

Using your own DNA against you: Bio-control of coral reef pest might be possible

Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) are decimating coral populations along the Great Barrier Reef. Scientists have sequenced COTS genomes in the hopes of turning their own biology against them. Researchers think they have found the peptides the COTS use to communicate with each other. These peptides are released into the water to help the starfish aggregate before spawning events. If true, it’s possible to use these peptides to build several mechanisms for controlling the COTS pests. Continue reading Using your own DNA against you: Bio-control of coral reef pest might be possible