Buckle Up for Gene Drives of the Future!

by Jessalyn Ubellacker figure by Jovana Andrejevic Between September 1999 and June 2000, the first human genome was sequenced. Since then, scientists have learned not only to read the human genome, but also to manipulate it, offering unprecedented opportunities to improve human health through genetic alterations. One example of this is gene drive technology, which circumvents classical inheritance patterns to ‘drive’ the presence of particular … Continue reading Buckle Up for Gene Drives of the Future!

Successful treatment of a rare genetic disorder in the womb

For the first time, an inherited disorder has been reversed in babies before birth. “There are a number of conditions for which we would seek treatment in utero, but traditionally these have been non-genetic, non-inherited conditions,” Dr. Maisa Feghali, an assistant professor of maternal fetal medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in this study, told STAT. The disease, X-linked hypohidrotic ectodermal … Continue reading Successful treatment of a rare genetic disorder in the womb

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Thirsty Plants: Can plants be genetically modified to need less water?

In order to feed every human being on the planet by 2050, the world will need to produce far more food. One difficulty farmers face is finding enough fresh water. A group of scientists led by Katarzyna Glowacka, from the University of Illinois, Urbana, may have found a potential way to save farmers water. The group’s technique hinges on the stomata of plants. Stomata are … Continue reading Thirsty Plants: Can plants be genetically modified to need less water?

Crowdsourced Data Helps Scientists Construct the World’s Largest Family Tree

We cannot predict how long we each live, but can our genes? For as long as longevity has been a desirable good, it has never been equally distributed across humanity, not even within families. The role of heritable traits in longevity is still debated. Previous genomic studies have reported a low heritability for longevity. However, inadequate sample sizes prevent these studies from examining the influence of … Continue reading Crowdsourced Data Helps Scientists Construct the World’s Largest Family Tree

Scientists have created sheep that are 0.01% human

For as long as humans have conceived of making hybrid organisms, an ethical debate has been waged over whether or not we should. The pros and cons are vast and poignant. Each new scientific advancement towards making hybrids stokes the fire of controversy. This year, researchers presented work at a conference detailing the most recent hybrid: a sheep-human chimera. To create these chimeras, scientists used … Continue reading Scientists have created sheep that are 0.01% human

Monkey see, monkey do: scientists have created the first cloned primates

No, we won’t be seeing designer babies anytime soon. But scientists have successfully cloned monkeys for the first time, establishing a technique that could be used to create better disease models using primates, the closest animals to humans. These cloned monkeys, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, are alive and well in China. They were created using the same technology (somatic cell nuclear transfer) used to … Continue reading Monkey see, monkey do: scientists have created the first cloned primates

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