Search: DNA

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...

How One Woman Pioneered Breast Cancer Research

The BRCA1 protein is a caretaker of the cell. When DNA becomes damaged, BRCA1 helps restore the DNA to its proper form or initiates program cell death if it is beyond repair. This ensures that cells maintain their intended function. However, if BRCA1 itself becomes damaged, it can no longer perform its essential role. Its importance is highlighted by the finding that when this occurs, there is a greater risk for developing cancer. Discovery of BRCA1’s relevance to cancer in 1990 was groundbreaking because it established that there is a genetic component to cancer, not just viral as commonly thought at the time. More so, it has allowed for screening for mutations in BRCA1 and the related BRCA2 gene that can identify at-risk women so they can receive life-saving treatments. These mutations are thought to be responsible for approximately 3-8% of breast cancer cases in the U.S. and up to 25% of inherited breast cancer. What may be even more remarkable than this discovery is the woman who discovered it, Mary-Claire King. Dr. King identified the BRCA1-cancer connection at a time when the idea of genes playing a role in cancer was radical. As a self-described “stubborn person”, she persisted and continued to push the idea forward. At the same time, she took on a leadership role as a scientist, despite training at a time when independent female scientists...

What Is TNT Research and What Can It Do for Future Clinical Applications?

As a follow-up to a previous Video of the Week (that can be revisited by clicking here), this week’s video provides additional information regarding ongoing research in tissue nano-transfection technology (TNT). The TNT system consists of two components: a hardware chip, and a cargo load containing a combination of cell reprogramming factors specific to the cell type attempting to be induced/produced. The chip is the size of a cufflink, and according to it’s developers, only needs to be present on the skin’s surface for a few minutes. More impressively, the actual activation time required for the chip to initiate its long-lasting cellular reprogramming effects is less than 1 second. In mice-based ischemic limb injury models, the researchers noticed positive changes in revascularization just 7 days after treatment. More astonishingly, they report that by week 3 the injured legs of the treated mice were actually saved (all achieved without implementing any other forms of treatment). The researchers also indicate the utility of TNT is not limited to just cutaneous use. In fact, they also tested its ability to transform skin cells into neuronal cells and then injected those new cells into the brains of mice-based stroke models to help restore neural function. Click here to read more about this research from Ohio State University in the journal Nature: Here, we report a novel yet simple-to-implement non-viral approach to topically reprogram tissues through a nanochannelled device validated with well-established and newly developed reprogramming models of induced neurons and endothelium, respectively. We demonstrate the simplicity and...

Remembering Charlie Gard

Charles Gard did not live long enough to celebrate his first birthday, yet captured the world’s attention with his memorable courage and strength. He was born August 4, 2016 and died this year just days before his birthday on July 28. For those unfamiliar with the highly debated medical-legal case, Baby Charles was born to Connie Yates and Chris Gard. Shortly after birth, Charles’ health was declining to the point that he required medical attention. In October, he was admitted to a hospital in London, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Charles was the 16th person ever to be diagnosed with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome – a rare inherited condition causing muscle weakness and brain damage. Physicians at the London hospital refused to let Mr. and Mrs. Gard fly Charles to New York City for an experimental treatment offered to the family at Columbia University. Despite raising $1.5 million dollars to transport him from London to New York, physicians at the London hospital also urged Mr. and Mrs. Gard to get Charles off life support. This sparked severe controversy because many argued that doctors should not decide if Charlie’s life was worth living. The news event was not just an unrelated event to me. It definitely struck a cord with me. In fact, this scenario lead me to thinking – how would I handle such a situation as a doctor?...

How Exactly Does Gene Transfer via AAV Work?

Properly functioning genes within our DNA provide the blueprint for the production of proteins. Mutations affecting those genes can result in proteins with altered or zero function. Using gene transfer techniques might be an effective way to restore function of proteins within cells. Gene transfer can occur via adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors because they can target both dividing and non-dividing cells to correct disease-causing improper protein function. Therapeutic genes loaded inside an AAV can correct defective or missing protein function by injecting the AAV’s therapeutic genetic material to restore function of the proteins. A capsid encases the genetic material of the vector and helps target delivery to specific cells. Once inside the targeted cells, an episome is formed from the vector genome which allows for long-term expression of the therapeutic molecule. AAVs are nonpathogenic and can be administered by intravenous drip or direct injection to target tissues. The unique life cycle of adeno-associated virus (AAV) and its ability to infect both nondividing and dividing cells with persistent expression have made it an attractive vector. An additional attractive feature of the wild-type virus is the lack of apparent pathogenicity. Gene transfer studies using AAV have shown significant progress at the level of animal models; clinical trials have been noteworthy with respect to the safety of AAV vectors. No proven efficacy has been observed, although in some instances, there have been promising observations. In this review, topics in AAV biology are supplemented with...

When Will Science Fiction Become Science Fact?

What can we expect to see in the next few decades as medicine progresses? Have your favorite science fiction films and medical television shows predicted the future of medicine? You might think that science fiction and movies are just stories. Pie in the sky. But often, ideas for future procedures are dreamt up in the films we call entertainment. Science fiction has officially become science fact. They could be seen as predictions and demonstrations of how medicine and biotechnology might look in the future. Exploring is what humans do best and if these movies are anything to go by, we have some great inventions ahead of us, that aren’t as “pie in the sky” as you might think. In this infographic from GapMedics, we look at some of the movies that could shape medical technology and change the way we live and treat illnesses in the future. Make sure to also check out Yash Pandya’s series of “Movies that Illuminated The Medical Field!” Parts One, Two, and Three! Medicine has intrigued cinema for as far back as we can remember. From the gruesome depictions of surgical procedures to the long struggles against chronic ailments, the medical field is omnipresent in movies. Furthermore, given the current struggles in medicine, including antibiotic resistance and our inability to manage all diseases, a look back is well warranted to put things in perspective and...

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