Genetic editing of human embryos in the United States ignites debate

In December 2018, a Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, shocked the world when he revealed the birth of the world’s first genetically edited babies. While it is clear that Jiankui egregiously violated university regulations and ethical standards, his announcement has since ignited a heated international dialogue about the permissibility of human embryonic gene editing. Currently, there are scientists in the United States working in university laboratories, … Continue reading Genetic editing of human embryos in the United States ignites debate

A Joint Effort: Inheritance of Mitochondrial DNA from Both Parents

Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have found evidence in three families for inheritance of mitochondrial DNA from both mothers and fathers, in contrast to the conventional belief that this genetic transmission is exclusively maternal. This discovery opens new doorways in molecular biology and genetics to understand this inheritance pattern, and properly harnessing the process could dramatically reduce chances of inheriting mitochondrial disorders. Continue reading A Joint Effort: Inheritance of Mitochondrial DNA from Both Parents

The Actual Master of Disguise: The Flu

Influenza A is the virus responsible for the Spanish Flu pandemic, which wiped out 3-5% of the human population in the early 20th century. The annual influenza outbreak occurs in the autumn and winter, although it is not normally deadly for healthy adults. There is currently no vaccine providing permanent protection against influenza A because the virus mutates and changes so often, requiring a yearly … Continue reading The Actual Master of Disguise: The Flu

China’s Genetically Edited babies: What really happened?

A Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, shocked the world two weeks ago when he revealed that the world’s first genetically edited babies had been born. Jiankui claimed to have edited embryos before implanting them into the mother as part of an otherwise routine in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. Since his bold announcement via YouTube, the scientific community at-large – both in the United States and in … Continue reading China’s Genetically Edited babies: What really happened?

A Tall Order: Using Machine Learning to Predict Height from Genetic Variation

A machine learning algorithm trained using 500,000 genetic profiles can predict the height of an individual within about one inch based solely on their genes. Such an algorithm shows great promise for accurate risk assessment of complex diseases and identifying targets for therapy. However, further validation is required to evaluate how the tool will extend to more genetically diverse populations, and standardized methods for assessing genetic variation are necessary. Continue reading A Tall Order: Using Machine Learning to Predict Height from Genetic Variation

The Chemistry Nobel: Evolving proteins into better medicines and biofuels

It’s that time of year – Nobel Prize season! This year, the Chemistry Nobel prize was awarded to three scientists: one half to Frances Arnold “for the directed evolution of enzymes,” and the other half to George Smith and Sir Gregory Winter “for the phage display of peptides and antibodies.” What exactly are these award-winning technologies and how have they impacted society? ‘Directed evolution of … Continue reading The Chemistry Nobel: Evolving proteins into better medicines and biofuels

It Takes Two: Twins may be the key to understanding human biology in space

by Aparna Nathan Graphics by Nicholas Lue Space: It has been the final frontier ever since Captain Kirk and Starfleet shot into space at warp speed in the 1960s. But are humans really made for space? We did not evolve for the environment of space and we don’t know how space travels affects our biology. Now, NASA has a powerful new tool to tease out … Continue reading It Takes Two: Twins may be the key to understanding human biology in space

Transposons: Your DNA that’s on the go

by Francesca Tomasi figures by Olivia Foster Rhoades Argonaut. Idéfix. Flamenco. These words invoke movement: the ancient Greek Argonauts were a band of adventurous sailors famous for their epic quests. Meanwhile, Idéfix is the name of an adventure-loving dog in the French Astérix comic book series. And finally, flamenco conjures images of vivacious dancers. You would think the similarities between Greek mythology, French comic books, and … Continue reading Transposons: Your DNA that’s on the go

Zombie genes help eradicate elephant cancer in early stages

Let’s consider a paradox of probabilities. If all cells have the same risk of becoming cancerous, then the likelihood of developing cancer is proportional to the number of cells in an animal. This argument generally holds true for the incidence of cancer and body size for individuals within a given species. However, when comparing across different animal species, there is no constant proportionality between body … Continue reading Zombie genes help eradicate elephant cancer in early stages

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!