Tag: molecular biology

Think the Anti-GMO Movement is Unscientific? Think Again

Sayer Ji, Green Med Info“Anyone that says, ‘Oh, we know that this is perfectly safe,’ I say is either unbelievably stupid, or deliberately lying. The reality is, we don’t know. The experiments simply haven’t been done, and now we have become the guinea pigs.”  ~ David Suzuki, geneticistNow that the mainstream media is catching on to the public sentiment against GMO food, or at least against unlabeled GMO food, to the tune o [...]

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Lab for genetic modification of human embryos just $2,000 away – report


Reuters / Christian Charisius



Reuters

With the right expertise in molecular biology, one could start a basic laboratory to modify human embryos using a genome-editing computer technique all for a couple thousand dollars, according to a new report.

Genetic modification has received heightened scrutiny recently following last week’s announcement that Chinese researchers had, for the first time, successfully edited human embryos’ genomes. 
The team at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, used CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats), a technique that relies on “cellular machinery” used by bacteria in defense against viruses. 

This machinery is copied and altered to create specific gene-editing complexes, which include the wonder enzyme Cas9. The enzyme works its way into the DNA and can be used to alter the molecule from the inside. The combination is attached to an RNA guide that takes the gene-editing complex to its target, telling Cas9 where to operate. 

Use of the CRISPR technique is not necessarily relegated to the likes of cash-flush university research operations, according to a report by Business Insider. 


Geneticist George Church, who runs a top CRISPR research program at the Harvard Medical School, said the technique could be employed with expert knowledge and about half of the money needed to pay for an average annual federal healthcare plan in 2014 -- not to mention access to human embryos. 

"You could conceivably set up a CRISPR lab for $2,000,” he said, according to Business Insider. 

Other top researchers have echoed this sentiment. 

"Any scientist with molecular biology skills and knowledge of how to work with [embryos] is going to be able to do this,” Jennifer Doudna, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, recently told MIT Tech Review, which reported that Doudna co-discovered how to edit genetic code using CRISPR in 2012. 

Last week, the Sun Yat-Sen University research team said it attempted to cure a gene defect that causes beta-thalassemia (a genetic blood disorder that could lead to severe anemia, poor growth, skeletal abnormalities and even death) by editing the germ line. For that purpose they used a gene-editing technique based on injecting non-viable embryos with a complex, which consists of a protective DNA element obtained from bacteria and a specific protein. 

"I suspect this week will go down as a pivotal moment in the history of medicine," wrote science journalist Carl Zimmer for National Geographic.


Response to the new research has been mixed. Some experts say the gene editing could help defeat genetic diseases even before birth. Others expressed concern. 

“At present, the potential safety and efficacy issues arising from the use of this technology must be thoroughly investigated and understood before any attempts at human engineering are sanctioned, if ever, for clinical testing,” a group of scientists, including some who had worked to develop CRISPR, warned in Science magazine. 

Meanwhile, the director of the US National Institutes for Health (NIH) said the agency would not fund such editing of human embryo genes. 

“Research using genomic editing technologies can and are being funded by NIH,” Francis Collins said Wednesday. “However, NIH will not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos. The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes ... has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed.”

Although the discovery of CRISPR sequences dates back to 1987 – when it was first used to cure bacteria of viruses – its successes in higher animals and humans were only achieved in 2012-13, when scientists achieved a revolution by combining the resulting treatment system with Cas9 for the first time. 


On April 17, the MIT’s Broad Institute announced that has been awarded the first-ever patent for working with the Crisp-Cas9 system. 

The institute’s director, Eric Lander, sees the combination as “an extraordinary, powerful tool. The ability to edit a genome makes it possible to discover the biological mechanisms underlying human biology.”

The system’s advantage over other methods is in that it can also target several genes at the same time, working its way through tens of thousands of so-called 'guide' RNA sequences that lead them to the weapon to its DNA targets. 

Meanwhile, last month in the UK, a healthy baby was born from an embryo screened for genetic diseases, using karyomapping, a breakthrough testing method that allows doctors to identify about 60 debilitating hereditary disorders.

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Time travel and teleporting ‘a reality for today’s children’

Excerpt from telegraph.co.uk

By Rhiannon Williams


Travelling through time, invisibility cloaks and teleporting could all happen within today's children's lifetimes, experts have predicted



Children could be travelling between centuries as soon as the year 2100, while teleportation could become a regular occurence by around 2080, professors from Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow have said. 
"The good thing about teleportation is that there is no fundamental law telling us that it cannot be done and with technical advances I would estimate teleportation that we see in the films will be with us by 2080,” said Dr. Mary Jacquiline Romero from the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow. 
“Teleporting a person, atom by atom, will be very difficult and is of course a physicist's way, but perhaps developments in chemistry or molecular biology will allow us to do it more quickly. The good thing about teleportation is that there is no fundamental law telling us that it cannot be done and with technical advances I would estimate teleportation that we see in the films will be with us by 2080,” she said. 
“Time travel to the future has already been achieved, but only in tiny amounts. The record is 0.02 seconds set by cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev. Whilst that doesn't sound too impressive, it does show that time travel to the future is possible and that the amount of time travel couldn't be far greater," he argued. 

“If you travelled through space on a big loop at 10 per cent the speed of light for what seemed to you like six months, approximately six months and one day would have passed on Earth. You'd have time travelled a day into the future. Travel at the same speed for 10 years and you'll time travel nearly three weeks into the future. I would say we are looking at 2100 as a very optimistic timescale for travelling weeks into the future.” 

Invisibility cloaks, as featured in Harry Potter, could be "entirely feasible" within the next 10 to 20 years, Professor Chris Phillips, Professor of Experimental Solid State Physics at Imperial College London said. 



Harry tests his invisibility cloak for the first time


“One way to create an ‘invisibility cloak’ is to use adaptive camouflage, which involves taking a film of the background of an object or person and projecting it onto the front to give the illusion of vanishing, " he added. 

"We’re actually not that far away from this becoming a reality – rudimentary technology versions of this have already been created – but the main problem is that the fibre-like structures in the adaptive camouflage need to be so tightly woven that it’s incredibly labour intensive. With developments such as 3D printing allowing us to create previously impossible materials, it’s entirely feasible that we could see a ‘Harry Potter’-like invisibility cloak within the next 10 to 20 years.” 

The research was conducted by the Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair, which compared the predictions of scientists to that of a panel of 11-16 year-olds. 

While their speculation was largely in line with the experts' expectations, the children thought time travel could be feasible by 2078. They also dramatically overestimated when they might be able to become space tourists - anticipating it might take another 30 years, when commercial space flights are due to launch in 2015.

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New Technology Can Test How Toxic a Substance is to Your DNA 

A technique for high throughput screening of substances that could cause DNA damage has been developed by scientists. The technology allows for testing of drugs and cosmetics that could pose a risk to human health, and assesses damage done to DNA, while reducing reliance on animal testing, researchers say.As more hand held and portable devices on the market are being developed for nanoparticle-based DNA sensing, many are able to detect and analyze organisms one-thousandth of the widt [...]

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Is the Human Race Evolving to Have Three Strands of DNA?

by PL Chang and JacquelineMany scientists are challenging the idea that we humans have more than two or even three strands of DNA. Some even believe that we may have a total of 12 strands or more. DNA is the acronym used for deoxyribonucleic acid. It contains the codes that act like a blueprint, giving instructions to cells and telling them how to behave. MostDNA is found in the cell nucleus (nuclear DNA), while a small amount is found in the mitochondria (mDNA).The conventional DNA m [...]

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Hemp Repairs Damaged DNA

by hightimes.comScientists have discovered astounding new evidence that suggests hemp proteins have the capacity to repair damaged DNA -- a phenomenon that occurs in all humans as the result of aging. While the majority of people are aware that DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is present within most living organisms, there is perhaps a larger percentage who are completely oblivious to the fact that this hereditary material accumulates damage in a manner similar to wear and tea [...]

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