Genetics & Molecular Biology

Researchers have discovered how severely damaged DNA is transported within a cell and how it is repaired. It's a discovery that could unlock secrets into how cancer operates -- a disease that two in five Canadians will develop in their lifetime.

"Scientists knew that severely injured DNA was taken to specialized 'hospitals' in the cell to be repaired, but the big mystery was how it got there," said Karim Mekhail, a Professor in the  University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology. "We've now discovered the DNA 'ambulance' and the road it takes."

Mekhail discovered this DNA ambulance, which is a motor protein complex, by using yeast cells. His research was recently published in Nature Communications.


A biomarker found in the blood of alcohol users is significantly higher in binge drinkers than in those who consume alcohol moderately, according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The biomarker, called phosphatidylethanol (PEth), could be used to screen young adults for harmful or heavy drinking such as binge drinking.

Having performed extensive research on alcohol and its effects on health throughout her career, Mariann Piano, professor and head of the department of biobehavioral health science in the UIC College of Nursing, knew PEth is a biomarker associated with alcohol consumption, but it had never been measured in young adults.


Are you really what your mother ate, drank or got stressed about? The simple answer is “no”, but not in the way you think.

We are products of nature via nurture. Our genes and environments interact. And “environment” can be what we are experiencing now or at any time during our life.

An overwhelming body of evidence, from both humans and other animals, has shown that the environment we experience in the first 1,000 days of life influences our risk of chronic diseases: conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, psychiatric disorders and some cancers.

A new study suggests that a single set of genes affects a person's perception of sweet taste, regardless of whether the sweetener is a natural sugar or a non-caloric sugar substitute.


Johanna Olson, MD, and her colleagues at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, provide care for the largest number of transgendered youth in the U.S. and have enrolled 101 patients in a prospective observational study to determine the safety and efficacy of treatment that helps patients bring their bodies into closer alignment with their chosen gender. 

Baseline characteristics of these individuals were published on July 21 in the Journal of Adolescent Health and include a significant finding: transgendered individuals have sex hormone levels consistent with the gender they were born with.

“We’ve now put to rest the residual belief that transgender experience is a result of a hormone imbalance,” says Olson. “It’s not.”


Researchers have identified a genetic mutation associated with the appearance of premature aging and severe loss of body fat in children.

Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) Center for Rare Childhood Disorders found that the appearance of premature aging, a neonatal form of Progeroid syndrome, in a 3-year-old girl was caused by a mutation in the gene CAV1, according to a study published in PLOS ONE. 


The human organism contains hundreds of distinct cell types that often differ from their neighbors in shape and function. To acquire and maintain its characteristic features, each cell type must express a unique subset of genes. Neurons, the functional units of our brain, develop through differentiation of neuronal precursors, a process that depends on coordinated activation of hundreds and possibly thousands of neuron-specific genes.
According to the World Health Organization, clinical depression carries the second heaviest burden of disability among all medical conditions worldwide (around 350 million people) and accounts for more than 8 percent of all U.S. years lived with disability. 

The findings of a recent study could potentially lead to new ways to predict risk for depression and treatments for the disease, using genome-wide association studies. 
A group of scientists at SISSA have proposed a quick alternative for predicting the internal dynamics of RNA molecules (how the different parts move in relation to each other). Their simple solution, which uses beads and springs, provides similar results to other, more complex and expensive techniques for analyzing molecules that are currently in use. 

Collectively, diseases of the airways such as emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, and cystic fibrosis are the second leading cause of death worldwide.

More than 35 million Americans alone suffer from chronic respiratory disease. Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have now proposed a new direction that could, in the future, lead to the development of a method for alleviating some of the suffering of these patients. The study’s findings show how it might be possible to use embryonic stem cells to repair damaged lung tissue.