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Semi-synthetic organism: Scientists create first living organism that transmits added letters in DNA ‘alphabet’

Semi-synthetic organism: Scientists create first living organism that transmits added letters in DNA ‘alphabet’

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have engineered a bacterium whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA “letters,” or bases, not found in nature. The cells of this unique bacterium can replicate the unnatural DNA bases more or less normally, for as long as the molecular building blocks are supplied. “Life on Earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G, and what we’ve made is an organism that stably contains those two plus a third, unnatural pair of bases,” said TSRI Associate Professor Floyd E. Continue reading

Using DNA to build tool that may literally shine light on cancer

Using DNA to build tool that may literally shine light on cancer

Bioengineers at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and the University of Montreal have used DNA to develop a tool that detects and reacts to chemical changes caused by cancer cells and that may one day be used to deliver drugs to tumor cells. The researchers’ nanosensor measures pH variations at the nanoscale — how acidic (a higher pH level) or alkaline (a lower pH level) it is. Continue reading

Getting to the root of enamel evolution

Getting to the root of enamel evolution

Along with our big brains and upright posture, thick tooth enamel is one of the features that distinguishes our genus, Homo , from our primate relatives and forebears. A new study, published May 5 in the Journal of Human Evolution , offers insight into how evolution shaped our teeth, one gene at a time Continue reading

Autoimmune diseases may succumb to new drug strategy

Autoimmune diseases may succumb to new drug strategy

New pharmaceuticals to fight autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, may be identified more effectively by adding genome analysis to standard drug screening, according to a new study by a research team led by UC San Francisco and Harvard researchers, in collaboration with Tempero and GlaxoSmithKlein. Continue reading

30-year puzzle in breast cancer solved

30-year puzzle in breast cancer solved

In a new study published today in Cell Reports , scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center demonstrate that mice lacking one copy of a gene called CTCF have abnormal DNA methylation and are markedly predisposed to cancer. CTCF is a very well-studied DNA binding protein that exerts a major influence on the architecture of the human genome, but had not been previously linked to cancer. Continue reading

New insights into bacterial substitute for sex

New insights into bacterial substitute for sex

Bacteria don’t have sex as such, but they can mix their genetic material by pulling in DNA from dead bacterial cells and inserting these into their own genome. Continue reading

‘Remodelling’ damaged nuclei: Discovery could lead to new treatments for accelerated aging disease

‘Remodelling’ damaged nuclei: Discovery could lead to new treatments for accelerated aging disease

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have identified a key chemical that can repair the damage to cells which causes a rare but devastating disease involving accelerated aging. As well as offering a promising new way of treating the condition, known as Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS), the discovery could help in the development of drugs against cancer and other genetic diseases and might also suggest ways to alleviate diseases that we associate with normal aging. The results are published in the journal Science . Continue reading

Malnutrition during pregnancy may affect the health of future generations

Malnutrition during pregnancy may affect the health of future generations

New research reveals how environmental factors in the womb can predispose not only the mother’s own offspring but also the grandoffspring to metabolic disorders like liver disease. Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Metabolism found for pregnant mice that are malnourished — experiencing a 50% caloric restriction during the last week of pregnancy — that their offspring are at first growth restricted and have low birth weight but then go on to become obese and diabetic as they age. Strikingly, in a domino effect, the offspring of the growth-restricted males also inherit the predisposition to metabolic abnormalities. Continue reading

Immunogenic mutations in tumor genomes correlate with increased patient survival

Immunogenic mutations in tumor genomes correlate with increased patient survival

Developing immunotherapies for cancer is challenging because of significant variability among tumors and diversity in human immune types. In a study published online today in Genome Research , researchers examined the largest collection of tumor samples to date to predict patient-specific tumor mutations that may activate the patient’s immune system, paving the way for more successful, personalized cancer immunotherapy Continue reading

New genome-editing platform significantly increases accuracy of CRISPR-based systems

New genome-editing platform significantly increases accuracy of CRISPR-based systems

A next-generation genome editing system developed by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators substantially decreases the risk of producing unwanted, off-target gene mutations. In a paper receiving online publication in Nature Biotechnology , the researchers report a new CRISPR-based RNA-guided nuclease technology that uses two guide RNAs, significantly reducing the chance of cutting through DNA strands at mismatched sites. “This system combines the ease of use of the widely adopted CRISPR/Cas system with a dimerization-dependent nuclease activity that confers higher specificity of action,” says J. Continue reading