The New Trojan Horse: Using tumor cells to kill tumors

Cancer immunotherapy exploits our immune system to kill cancerous cells. Recently, researchers have discovered a novel way to do this. They engineered cells that are programmed to die and injected them into tumor. They have successfully shown that the dying cells is able to kill tumor cells via recruitment of the immune system. This strategy might be a potential new method to improve the efficacy of current cancer immunotherapy methods. Continue reading The New Trojan Horse: Using tumor cells to kill tumors

Genetic tools create new opportunities for decoding protein structures

Proteins are made up of linear sequences of amino acids but understanding how these amino acids fold to form a three-dimensional structure is notoriously difficult. Knowing what a protein looks like in 3D is often necessary for understanding how it functions and how it can be manipulated. For instance, understanding how proteins such as antibodies bind to viruses like the flu would enable scientists to … Continue reading Genetic tools create new opportunities for decoding protein structures

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

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

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

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

The spreading confusion: Rethinking Alzheimer’s disease

by Danielle Heller Proteins are molecular machines. They perform an incredible diversity of tasks that enable all living cells to function.  Like any machine, a protein must be properly assembled in order to carry out its specific task, and if something goes awry, the cellular consequences can be dire. Take Alzheimer’s disease for example. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disorder, affecting over 5 … Continue reading The spreading confusion: Rethinking Alzheimer’s disease