Genetics & Molecular Biology

Eosinophillic esophagitis (EoE) is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the esophagus. The condition is triggered by allergic hypersensitivity to certain foods and an over-accumulation in the esophagus of white blood cells called eosinophils.

EoE can cause a variety of gastrointestinal complaints including reflux-like symptoms, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, tissue scarring, fibrosis, the formation of strictures and other medical complications. 

New research has identified a novel genetic and molecular pathway in the esophagus that causes eosinophillic esophagitis, opening up potential new therapeutic strategies for an enigmatic and hard-to-treat food allergy. 


Since stem cell research became common 50 years ago, scientists have been trying to unravel mechanisms that guide function and differentiation of blood stem cells, those cells that generate all blood cells including our immune system.

Study of human blood stem cells is challenging because they can only be found in the bone marrow in specialized "niches" that cannot be recapitulated in a culture dish.


One of your earliest science memories in school is learning that, during photosynthesis, plants take in carbon dioxide sunshine and produce oxygen. Later we all learned that in lakes and oceans a similar process happens due to cyanobacteria. 

What has remained unknown is exactly how that happens.

Oxygen formation in photosynthesis occurs in a reaction sequence that is completed within one thousandth of a second, so it's not surprising that it has been so difficult to prove experimentally how precisely a catalyst consisting of four manganese ions and one calcium ion (Mn4Ca cluster) performs this reaction sequence in photosystem II.


By identifying the molecular structure of a vital biological chemical, researchers may have solved a long-standing debate. 

The controversy is about a form of enzyme called a heme (or haem, as in haemoglobin) at the center of which is an iron atom (Fe) called a 'ferryl' which becomes oxidized when a reacting heme is in an intermediate state called Compound I.

The question is whether this oxidation involves just an oxygen atom (O), or a hydroxyl group (OH). The difference being one hydrogen ion, or in other words, a proton.


In recent years, biology has been thrown around like a football. Activists in numerous areas invoke it - those against food science say scientists are tinkerers with no expertise while those against pesticides claim that the biology clearly shows what your grandparents ate made you obese.


The ability to switch out one gene for another in living stem cells puts us on the path to a  science fiction future - fixing disease-causing genes in humans.

But there are concerns about mutations. However, a new study has found that using gene-editing techniques on stem cells doesn't increase the overall occurrence of mutations in the cells.


New research has discovered that NANOG, an essential gene for embryonic stem cells, also regulates cell division in stratified epithelia, which form part of the epidermis of the skin or cover the oesophagus or the vagina in developed organisms. This factor could also play a role in the formation of tumors derived from stratified epithelia of the oesophagus and skin.

Pluripotency factor NANOG is active during just two days before implantation of the embryo in the uterus, from day 5 to day 7 post-fertilization. At this critical period of development, NANOG contributes to giving embryonic stem cells the extraordinary capacity to make up all of the tissues that become the adult organism, an ability known as pluripotency. 


A breakthrough discovery into how living cells process and respond to chemical information could help advance the development of treatments for a large number of cancers and resistant to therapy.

Researchers have unlocked the secret behind the activation of the Ras family of proteins, one of the most important components of cellular signaling networks in biology and major drivers of cancers that are among the most difficult to treat.


Sequences of DNA called enhancers, which control a gene's output, find their targets long before they are activated during embryonic development, according to scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, who write in Nature that the degree of complexity of enhancers' interactions in the 'simple' fruit fly Drosophila is comparable to what is seen in vertebrates.


Researchers from 13 institutions would worldwide believe they have made a breakthrough in understanding what causes autism -  a clear cut case of an autism specific gene. 

An analysis of 6,176 children with autism spectrum disorder, researchers found 15 had a CHD8 mutation and all these cases had similar characteristics in appearance and issues with sleep disturbance and gastrointestinal problems. How is 15 out of 6,176 a clear cut case? To find out, they went to zebra fish.

They disrupted the CHD8 gene in the fish and the fish developed large heads and wide set eyes. They then fed the fish fluorescent pellets and found that the fish had problems discarding food waste and were constipated.