Category Archives: biology

Doctors make breakthrough in repairing genetic defects

From The Guardian:

Doctors have treated a life-threatening blood disease by repairing flaws in the genetic code of a living animal, the first time such an ambitious feat has been achieved.

The work raises the prospect of powerful new therapies that can target and repair the genetic defects behind a wide range of human diseases that cannot be tackled with modern medicines.

The new technique, called genome editing, holds particular promise for a group of illnesses that run in families and are caused by faults in genes that underpin the healthy working of the immune system, bone marrow and liver.

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Filed under biotechnology, genes

DARPA to Offer $30 Million to Jump-Start Cellular Factories

From Science:

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Defense Department’s high-risk granting body, is about to jump into synthetic biology in a big way. One of the latest research buzzwords, synthetic biology means different things to many. But for a new DARPA program, it represents modifying the metabolic and genetic machinery of cells to produce useful products. “We want to create a new manufacturing capability for the United States,” says DARPA Program Manager Alicia Jackson. Approved barely a month ago, the $30 million Living Foundries program should be sending out a request for proposals in the next few weeks and making awards several months from now.

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Filed under biotechnology, cellular biology, molecular biology

Evolution machine: Genetic engineering on fast forward

From New Scientist:

Say hello to the evolution machine. It can achieve in days what takes genetic engineers years. So far it is just a prototype, but if its proponents are to be believed, future versions could revolutionise biology, allowing us to evolve new organisms or rewrite whole genomes with ease. It might even transform humanity itself.

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Scientists turn human skin cells directly into neurons, skipping iPS stage

From Stanford School of Medicine:

Human skin cells can be converted directly into functional neurons in a period of four to five weeks with the addition of just four proteins, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding is significant because it bypasses the need to first create induced pluripotent stem cells, and may make it much easier to generate patient- or disease-specific neurons for study in a laboratory dish.

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Mind Reading: Technology Turns Thought Into Action

From NPR:

Doctors have been using ECoG since the 1950s to figure out which area of the brain is causing seizures in people with severe epilepsy. But in the past decade, scientists have shown that when connected to a computer running special software, ECoG also can be used to control robotic arms, study how the brain produces speech and even decode thoughts.

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Filed under brain interfacing, brain science, neuronal activity measurment

First-ever general method for switching genes on or off: A toolbox for answering fundamental scientific questions

From PhysOrg.com

Mayo Clinic researchers have designed a new tool for identifying protein function from genetic code. A team led by Stephen Ekker, Ph.D., succeeded in switching individual genes off and on in zebrafish, then observing embryonic and juvenile development. The study appears in the journal Nature Methods.

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Scientists create stable, self-renewing neural stem cells

From PhysOrg.com:

In a paper published in the April 25 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco and colleagues report a game-changing advance in stem cell science: the creation of long-term, self-renewing, primitive neural precursor cells from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) that can be directed to become many types of neuron without increased risk of tumor formation.

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