Search: DNA

Can Alcohol Damage our DNA? A New Study Suggests Yes

Can alcohol damage our cells and DNA? Scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge discovered new evidence that suggests alcohol causes damage at a cellular level, with prolonged use leading to permanent damage to DNA. Ketan Patel, FRS FMedSci MRCP, professor and lead author of the study, has observed that alcohol consumption not only leads to permanent DNA damage, but also increases the risk of developing cancer. The research team at MRC Laboratory gave doses of ethanol to mice equivalent to a human drinking a full bottle of whisky in a compressed period of time. Some of these mice had a reduced ability to produce the enzyme that breaks down alcohol coupled with diminished DNA repair pathways. After a few weeks, they studied the DNA of the mice and found the harmful chemical compound acetaldehyde (ALDH) had built up due to the body’s processing of the large quantities of alcohol. This ALDH buildup damaged the DNA within blood stem cells, causing mutations in chromosomes which are known catalysts for cancer and the aging process. This study is being funded by Cancer Research UK. Click here to read more about the findings. Make sure to read “Three Med School Career Paths, and Their Alcoholic Drink Compliments“. A new study from the University of Greenwich’s Journal of Pain suggests that alcohol might be a better pain reliever than Acetaminophen‬‬ and other common pain relievers. The study suggests that alcohol...

Pig DNA is Considered Identical to Human DNA

Scientists at Recombinetics are conducting research on pigs in an effort to accelerate cancer cure development and potentially create a sustainable source of genetically-matched human organs for transplantation. While experiments involving farm animals are nothing new in the world of medical research, the pigs at Recombinetics farm in Minnesota are unique because they have been modified to express human traits using TALENs technology. Cancer has been cured in mice models many times, but the same techniques do not seem to translate well in humans. The company believes the 98% similarity between the human genome and the pig genome may help close the gap between successful cures in animal models and resulting efficacious treatments and/or cures for humans. Click here to read more about this company’s research on CNBC. Earlier this year, researchers were able to identify that DNA Bacteria can store information, like hard drives: Researchers at Harvard Medical School have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to encode five frames of a vintage motion picture into the DNA Bacteria of E. coli bacteria. By reducing each frame into a series of single-color pixels and matching each color to a DNA code, the scientists were able to string together DNA strands that represented the video frames. Non-biological information has been encoded into DNA before, going back as far as 2003. However, this is the first time living organisms have been used as the message’s vessel. Living...

DNA Bacteria Will Be Your New Hard Drives

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to encode five frames of a vintage motion picture into the DNA Bacteria of E. coli bacteria. By reducing each frame into a series of single-color pixels and matching each color to a DNA code, the scientists were able to string together DNA strands that represented the video frames. Non-biological information has been encoded into DNA before, going back as far as 2003. However, this is the first time living organisms have been used as the message’s vessel. Living organisms are in a constant state of movement and flux, making them less stable and less predictable than the synthetic DNA material used in previous encoding experiments. Even though this technology is in its infancy, the research team was able to retrieve approximately 90% of the original message from the E. coli cells, effectively marking a new milestone in the advancement of our information storage methods. According to the research from Methods and applications, edited by Y.E. Khudyakov and W.A. Fields. 2003, for the US National Library of Medicine: Despite the broadness of the biochemical and medical applicability of artificial DNA presented in this book, some important aspects from a more chemical point of view are missing. These include new synthetic DNA constructs, such as locked DNA (LNA), metal-mediated base pairing (M-DNA), artificial DNA bases with or without hydrogen-bonding capabilities, new DNA base pairs for the extension of the...

Can Smartphones Sequence DNA?

Featured From The Doctor’s Channel   Video: Source   Molecular analysis of biological samples is typically outsourced to well-equipped (and cost-intensive) laboratories. However, there are times when sample diagnosis and DNA sequencing is needed quickly, needed in a remote location, or both. For this reason, Professor Mats Nilsson of Stockholm Universitet, Uppsala Universitet, and SciLifelab has led research on creating a smartphone compatible device for rapid, cost-effective molecular analysis.   The 3d-printed smartphone attachment uses a specialized lens and two LED lights to perform its microscopy. One of the first use-cases that Prof. Nilsson envisions for the technology is identifying antibiotic resistance in tuberculosis in developing countries. When the device becomes widely available, it’s estimated that it will cost less than $500.   Click here to read the paper published in the journal Nature Communications.   Featured Image:...

The DNA of Discovery: The Living Legacies of Rosalind Franklin and Barbara McClintock

The 20th century would prove nothing short of historic for humanity’s fervent quest to discover its biological origins. In 1953, Watson and Crick solved the mystery of DNA’s structural identity. However, a nearly unknown Rosalind Franklin significantly contributed to the research leading to this monumental discovery. During this same decade, Barbara McClintock  “defied the common wisdom of molecular biology,” by introducing the phenomenon of “mobile genetic elements.” Subsequently, widespread skepticism over the legitimacy of her research and theories discouraged McClintock from any further publishing of her data. These two women scientists certainly differ in various aspects. Nevertheless, they undoubtedly share an incredible dedication to their work which was instrumental to the advancement of genetics and biology in 20th century (Papers). The academic tracks of both scientists follow straight paths from undergraduate to doctoral degrees. McClintock earned all her degrees from Cornell University in botany, in stark contrast to Franklin who never formally studied biology, let alone botany. Franklin earned her PhD in Physical Chemistry from Cambridge University. Before and during McClintock’s time at her alma mater, from 1919-1927, Cornell University did not permit female students to pursue a genetics major. Ironically, just eighteen years after she received her PhD in botany, the Genetics Society of America elected McClintock as its first female president; the same year Franklin earned her PhD. Franklin and McClintock performed post-doctoral work abroad in Paris...

Is the Answer to Cancer an Immune Defense Enhancer?

Traditional cancer therapies such as chemotherapy are effective in obliterating tumor cells; however, their destruction is not selective. The death of normal, healthy tissue results in the adverse side effects we’re familiar with such as vomiting, hair loss, infection, and anemia. Radiation, on the other hand, is more localized but nearby normal cells are commonly affected. What if we could exclusively target cancerous cells, leaving the healthy surrounding tissue intact? Immunotherapy is a promising technique that is being analyzed both in laboratory and clinical settings to do just that. Particularly, researchers have been experimenting with cancer vaccines containing specific oncogenic antigens to train the immune system to attack its own tumor. Immune system evasion is one of the many hallmarks of cancer; therefore, activating the host’s effector cells through antigen exposure will result in enhanced tumor recognition and destruction. Similar to vaccines for the chicken pox or the flu, cancer vaccines boost the body’s natural defense mechanisms. However, instead of acting as a preventative measure, immunotherapy will treat the already acquired cancer at various stages. Breast cancer in particular has proven to be an effective target for vaccine therapy given the clear evidence of the immune system in breast cancer pathogenesis. There are several known self- and tumor-specific antigens associated with breast cancer including HER2, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), and mucin-1 (MUC-1) that have been used to construct therapeutic vaccines....

What’s All The Buzz About CRISPR?

It’s inevitable— genetics is the future of medicine. With the discovery of certain diseases linked to specific gene mutations, the science community became engrossed in DNA manipulation. Precisely, CRISPR gained global recognition in the past few years as a promising therapeutic strategy in human genetic diseases. CRISPR could provide a means to directly alter mutations that underlie single-gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis or more complex diseases such as cancer. So, what is the mechanism behind this novel genome editing technique? “CRISPR,” an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is part of the bacterial adaptive immune system to combat invading viruses. In short, these DNA segments or CRISPR arrays are created upon the first invasion as a means for the bacteria to “remember” the virus. Upon subsequent attacks, the bacteria can then transcribe RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to direct enzymes such as Cas9 to a target sequence of the viruses’ DNA. Cas9 or a similar nuclease can then cut the DNA and kill the virus. Just five years ago, the CRISPR-Cas9 system was utilized for the first time in a laboratory setting. In January 2013, the Zhang lab published CRISPR-Cas9 as a genome modification tool in eukaryotic cells (Cong et al., 2013). In the same way as the bacterial defense system, researchers can generate RNA sequences that attach to specific target locations of DNA. These...

Harnessing Brainwaves to Treat Dyslexia: Fact or Fiction

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disorders in America, but also one of the most mysterious and under-diagnosed. Estimates put the rate of dyslexia in the U.S. at 10%, but because it often goes undetected, the rate may be as high as 17% of the population. Dyslexia may be detected even before a child learns to read, if she is exhibiting behaviors such as struggling to learn rhyming words or to develop letter recognition at the same rate as her peers. However, there are interventions and strategies that can be implemented at any age. With such a high incidence rate, it’s understandable that neuroscientists are searching high and low for the causes and effects of dyslexia. Although there have been incredible advances in research around learning disorders it is still unclear just how brainwaves are associated with the brain activity used for reading. Over the last two decades, researchers have used MRIs and fMRIs to monitor the activity of a dyslexic brain. They have found that in dyslexic patients, the areas typically used in reading, writing, visual recognition, or often a combination of all of these, are underdeveloped. But with intensive training or tutoring, other areas of the brain can essentially grow to compensate for these underdeveloped areas. Thus, in young students with intensive reading tutoring, we can see an improvement in their symptoms, similar to how...

Ridiculous Things Pre-Meds Say

Getting a medical school acceptance is one of the most exciting moments in a Pre-Med’s life. We found that this joy might alter the state of mind of some students, in turn causing them to post some pretty ridiculous things on internet blogs. After reading through The Student Doctor Network thread “Class of 2017”, we found a few of these gems to share with you. Pre-Med #1 Haha! I actually created a formula to determine the price of dinner: If you win (your guess <= my score) then I will buy you a dinner according to the brackets below: Guess: 1-20 then (score/10) ie. You guess 15 then I will buy you a dinner that costs at least than 1.5$ Guess: 21-27 then (score/8) Guess: 28 – 29 then (score/5) Guess: 30-38 then (score/2) Guess 39+ then (score/1) This is to limit the amount of people who guess low numbers to insure free food and to reward someone who takes in insane guess by guessing >39 which is almost statistically impossible. If I win you owe me a dinner according to the following formula (Your Guess – My Score) x 2 I.e. if you guess 35 and I score a 28 then you owe me a 14$ dinner. Well even if I don’t do well I am planning to make sure everyone else does equally bad. (not you guys but the...

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