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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A new way of understanding the structure of proteins, polymers, minerals, and engineered materials will be published in the May 2011 issue of the journal Nature Materials. The discovery by two Penn State University researchers is a new type of symmetry in the structure of materials, which the researchers say greatly expands the possibilities for discovering or designing materials with desired properties.
A method for detecting such diverse substances as antibiotics, narcotics and explosives – a universal detector, so to speak – has been developed by German researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz.