Genetics & Molecular Biology

The clinical potential and ethical difficulty posed by gene-editing technology, which can “find and replace” targeted genes, is seemingly endless.

But while public attention is focused on whether we should use it to change the genes of embryos, application of the technology to genetically modify pig tissues and organs for transplantation into humans could potentially have a bigger and more immediate impact on human health.

There has long been evidence that lifestyles of parents could influence offspring - a parent who smokes or does drugs has a greater chance of having a child with a birth defect - but epigenetics is a brand new world of how choices can be passed through generations, because it says that the environment may affect how cells read genes instead of causing changes in the DNA sequence.

Biologists have induced one species of flatworm to grow heads and brains characteristic of another species of flatworm without altering the genomic sequence. The work reveals physiological circuits as a new kind of epigenetics - information existing outside of genomic sequence - that determines large-scale anatomy.  

In many cases, cancer is a lifestyle disease. You are far more likely to get lung cancer if you smoke and the older you get, the more likely you are to get cancer of all kinds. Age is the biggest risk factor and we get more cancer than our ancestors because they died from a lot of other things before cancer could develop.

Don't believe the hype when you see claims about creams and ointments that promise to prevent or reduce pregnancy stretch marks.

The line-shaped lesions also known as striae gravidarum affect 50 percent to 90 percent of women. However, some women are at higher risk than others, due to factors like family history, how much weight they gain in pregnancy, whether it's a single or multiple birth and whether they've had stretch marks before for another reason like obesity. Though not everything is known about what causes stretch marks, is it known that skin stretching is not the only risk factor.

Agriculturally rich nations are a little spoiled about food. A few years ago Europe even limited how 'ugly' fruit could be when it was being sold to the public, presumably because Europeans deserve pretty fruit.

For that reason, it's little surprise that there is concern about browning in apples. After being sliced open, the color starts to fade quickly, and in a hyper-vigilant culture where 99 percent of the public has never worked on a farm, parents and consumers may think that this 'browning' means the apple is bad. It gets thrown away, which leads to food waste.

Researchers have identified factors that spark the formation of pluripotent cells. Their findings, published in Developmental Cell, shed light on human embryonic development and help research into cell reprogramming and assisted conception.

The 2015 growing season was tough on tomato plants at the Boyce Thompson Institute, as bacterial speck disease (Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato) descended on their field.

But it was all done on purpose. Don't go crazy and start calling up donors for more money, Natural Resources Defense Council, scientists are not creating World War Z. It was done on purpose and the bacteria is completely organic - and those infected plants may help science save others from a similar, spotted fate.

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. The histone proteins need constant replacement to maintain the correct chromatin structure required for all DNA related processes in the cell.

The DNA in our cells is folded into millions of small packets, like beads on a string, allowing two-meter linear DNA genomes to fit into a nucleus of only about 0.01 mm in diameter.

However, these molecular beads, called nucleosomes, render DNA 'unreadable'. They thus need to be temporarily displaced to allow genes to be copied ('transcribed') into the messages that are used to make proteins. How cells ensure appropriate access to 'promoter' DNA, the regions where gene transcription begins, is still poorly understood.