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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...

Reprogramming Cells to Fight Leukemia

The FDA may soon approve a new cancer therapy that genetically alters a patient’s own existing T-cells to fight leukemia. This new, investigational treatment is known as CTL019 and is a type of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy. CTL019 utilizes a process in which T-cells are carefully harvested from each individual leukemia patient. These patient-specific T-cells are then genetically reprogrammed to express a chimeric CD19 antigen receptor and subsequently transfused back into the specific patient from whom they were originally collected. Once back inside the patient, these reprogrammed T-cells multiply, hunt down, and attack CD19-positive leukemia cells. Click here to read about this FDA update in the NY Times. A Food and Drug Administration panel opened a new era in medicine on Wednesday, unanimously recommending that the agency approve the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight cancer, transforming them into what scientists call “a living drug” that powerfully bolsters the immune system to shut down the disease. If the F.D.A. accepts the recommendation, which is likely, the treatment will be the first gene therapy ever to reach the market in the United States. Others are expected: Researchers and drug companies have been engaged in intense competition for decades to reach this milestone. Novartis is now poised to be the first. Its treatment is for a type of leukemia, and it is working on similar types of treatments in hundreds of patients for another form...

Summer Work Experience For Medics – How To Ramp Up Your All-Important Applications

When you’re considering your future career as an MD, what’s the biggest factor that will likely contribute to you landing a place at that college, or even scoring your dream residency? Could it be how long you kept your head in a book? Well, clocking up the hours in the library certainly helps! Will it be your bedside manner? Fortunately, this is something you can hone during your ward rounds, as you gain more and more exposure with the patients in your care. What about what extracurricular activities you committed yourself to during the summer break? That could certainly be a factor – bear with me, here! The short answer is relevant, educational and vocational experience: both fantastic grades as well as being able to show dedication to the field you’re interested in. The power couple of good grades (or, moreso, a good degree) and strong extracurricular experience can get you very far – as you’ll know from both your college and med school applications. For both pre-meds, and those anticipating their college days with a keen interest in medicine, the perfect time to build up your relevant experience is during the long summer break. Yes, of course this is a time to wind down, but why not build up a bank of solid, relevant work experience hours? We’ve pulled together our top tips for gaining relevant work experience...

These Are The Weirdest Sleep Experiments Ever Conducted

The very nature of being human means that we strive to understand the world around us. Scientists have long considered experiments the best way to test a hypothesis and draw a conclusion. Over the last century, scientists have begun to study sleep more and more. We know it’s necessary yet we don’t fully understand it.  Such a vital function could contain so many important discoveries that we haven’t yet come across. In this infographic we look at some of the most bizarre sleep experiments. What were they, who ran them and why? Did we learn anything from them or did they go horribly wrong? Weird Sleep Experiments infographic by Mattress Online. On an article on Polyphasic Sleep, Yash Pandya also explores the benefits of this new research: As students, we all experience a lack of time at one point or another. There are just so many things on our plate that we must achieve in a short lifespan! Our decisions regarding priorities eventually boil down to a balancing act of the three-legged stool – education, social life, and sleep – with the last one ending up usually being cut. But what if I were to say that there is an alternative to the recommended 8 hours of sleep? Would you go for it? Looking around the world, people usually engage in monophasic sleep, which describes a pattern where one...

How Much Your Health Affects Your Wallet

Smoking, fast food, and lack of exercise can both affect your wellness and your money. Learn how much bad health affects your wallet.  Creating positive health changes in patients can be a difficult task. Once habits are ingrained, they become harder to break. Exposing more pain points for these habits can change a person’s viewpoint and lead them to change. Physical inactivity and poor diet choices continue to surge, and a new motive is needed to help people improve their health. Smoking has been one of the biggest health concerns for decades now, but did you know smoking can cost a person between $6,500 and $13,500 a year? The average cost of a cigarette averages out to be around 31 cents, which comes out to $1,358 a year. The hidden costs come in the form of higher insurance premiums and loss of insurance credits. The total cost of smoking with these factors adds up to a much greater financial sacrifice. The increase in fast food consumption has also made for a costlier lifestyle. Consumers spend an average of $1,200 a year on fast food which can lead up to an additional $5,500 a year in healthcare costs. The caloric increase not only leads to weight gain, but is generally coupled with an inactive lifestyle as well. Physical inactivity, according to the World Health Organization, is the 4th leading risk factor...

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...

Skywalker-Inspired Bionic Arm Gives Amputees “A New Hope”

US military veterans Fred Downs and Nardi McCauley lost their arms during service to their country. As participants of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) research study, they have become the first individuals to receive the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) LUKE arm system. The LUKE (Life Under Kinetic Evolution) bionic arm is a novel robotic prosthesis that attaches to the amputee’s limb and replicates many functions of a human arm with the help of sensors and an easy-to-use controller. This device allows users to control multiple joints simultaneously and performs a variety of grips with adjustable grip forces. This technology was made possible by the Army Research Office and funding assistance from the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC). The working prototypes were designed by the DEKA Research and Development Corporation and built by Mobius Bionics, a commercial-scale manufacturer borne out out of the VA’s development efforts after years of research and testing. US military veterans Fred Downs and Nardi McCauley lost their arms during service to their country. As participants of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) research study, they have become the first individuals to receive the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) LUKE arm system. The LUKE (Life Under Kinetic Evolution) arm is a novel robotic prosthesis that attaches to the amputee’s limb and replicates many functions of a human arm with the help of sensors and an easy-to-use controller. This device allows users...