Packaging and Unpacking the Genome

genome_img

DNA represents a dynamic form of information, balancing efficient storage and access requirements. Packaging approximately 1.8m of DNA into something as small as a cell nucleus is no mean feat, but unpacking it again to access the required sections and genes? That requires organization.

In a nutshell, this is achieved through DNA condensed and packaged as chromatin, a complex of DNA and proteins called histones, which is constantly modified as the DNA is accessed. Read More →

Let’s Explore the World of Human Microbiomes

Human Microbiomes

The microbiome is a myriad community of microbes, classified genetically, living in and on the human body, whereas, ‘microbiota’ is a description of the organisms themselves. However, the terms were originally synonymous and are still sometimes used interchangeably. It is due to this genetic information that the microbiome is often referred to as ‘the second genome project’. Read More →

Did Life Originate in the Earth’s Crust?

Early Earth

This, at least, is what the geologist Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schreiber and the physico-chemist Prof. Dr. Christian Mayer of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany are convinced of. “It is the first model on the origin of life which includes a complete process leading from inorganic chemistry to a protocell where the problems of molecule formation, local concentration, driving force and membrane formation are being solved simultaneously” Prof. Mayer from the faculty of Chemistry says. Read More →

A Challenge to the Genetic Interpretation of Biology

DNA 2014

A proposal for reformulating the foundations of biology, based on the 2nd law of thermodynamics and which is in sharp contrast to the prevailing genetic view, is published today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface under the title “Genes without prominence: a reappraisal of the foundations of biology” [citation below]. The authors, Arto Annila, Professor of physics at Helsinki University and Keith Baverstock, Docent and former professor at the University of Eastern Finland, assert that the prominent emphasis currently given to the gene in biology is based on a flawed interpretation of experimental genetics and should be replaced by more fundamental considerations of how the cell utilizes energy. There are far-reaching implications, both in research and for the current strategy in many countries to develop personalized medicine based on genome-wide sequencing. Read More →

“Painting” Tissue to Locate Cancer Cells

Left: the new camera displays colored structures by means of fluorescent dyes (blue and green areas shown here).

Left: the new camera displays colored structures by means of fluorescent dyes (blue and green areas shown here).

Cancer patients have the highest probability of recovering if tumors are completely removed. However, tiny clusters of cancer cells are often difficult for surgeons to recognize and remove. A new camera technology makes hidden tumors visible during an operation.

Tumor removal surgeries pose a great challenge even to skillful and experienced surgeons. For one thing, tumor margins are blending into healthy tissue and are difficult to differentiate. For another, distributed domains of cancer and pre-malignancies are difficult to recognize. Up to now, doctors depend exclusively upon their trained eyes when excising pieces of tumors. In future, a new special camera system can help visualize during operation even the smallest, easy-to-overlook malignant pieces of tumor and thereby support the surgeons during complicated inter- ventions. Read More →

Buy a New Kidney or Heart With a Bioprinter

Modern medicine

The day when a person can drop in at the corner organ center and buy a new liver is far in the future, but bioprinting technology will make it possible. Researchers are already experimenting with printing arteries for implantation into patients with clogged arteries. Here, then, is where the bioprinting technology stands as of today.

Bioprinting is the process of using a three-dimensional printer to create living tissue. The process is still in its infancy, and researchers are trying different methods to perfect bioprinting. For example, Cornell University is working on creating heart aorta valves. Should these researchers perfect the process, these bioprinted tissues could be used to replace faulty valves in children with heart disease. Read More →

Researchers Turn a Smartphone into a Biosensor

University of Illinois researchers developed a cradle and app for the iPhone to make a handheld biosensor that uses the phone’s own camera and processing power to detect any kind of biological molecules or cells. | Photo by Brian T. Cunningham

University of Illinois researchers developed a cradle and app for the iPhone to make a handheld biosensor that uses the phone’s own camera and processing power to detect any kind of biological molecules or cells. | Photo by Brian T. Cunningham

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have developed a cradle and app for the iPhone that uses the phone’s built-in camera and processing power as a biosensor to detect toxins, proteins, bacteria, viruses and other molecules. Read More →

Human Brain vs. Supercomputer

Blue Gene:Q Sequoia

The Blue Gene/Q Sequoia. (Image via IBM)

Last November, IBM revealed that its lightning speed, Blue Gene/Q Sequoia supercomputer achieved a record simulation of more than 530 billion neurons. The Blue Gene/ Q Sequoia can perform over 16 quadrillion calculations per second, ranking as the second-fastest supercomputer in the world. (The number one spot is held by Cray’s Titan, built by the Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee.) Read More →

Synthetic Biology Research on the Rise

dna

The number of private and public entities conducting research in synthetic biology worldwide grew significantly between 2009 and 2013, according to the latest version of an interactive map produced by the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The map is available online at http://www.synbioproject.org/map. Read More →

Cell Circuits Remember Their History

Engineers at MIT have developed genetic circuits in bacterial cells that not only perform logic functions, but also remember the results. (Credit: Liang Zong and Yan Liang)

Engineers at MIT have developed genetic circuits in bacterial cells that not only perform logic functions, but also remember the results. (Credit: Liang Zong and Yan Liang)

MIT engineers have created genetic circuits in bacterial cells that not only perform logic functions, but also remember the results, which are encoded in the cell’s DNA and passed on for dozens of generations. Read More →