Genetics & Molecular Biology

Researchers studying the differential expression of microRNA say they may have discovered a way to treat autism by reversing the effects of the disease.

Taken together with recently published research regarding “DNA tagging” by methylation, they say their new study in Genome medicine illustrates two different “epigenetic” mechanisms controlling gene activity in autism that lie beyond genetic mutations. While methylation inhibits gene expression at the level of DNA, microRNA inhibits at the level of RNA.

MicroRNA are snippets of RNA, each of which can inhibit the expression of hundreds to more than a thousand genes. The effects of microRNA are also reversible by treatment with complementary “anti-sense” RNA.
In the field of regenerative medicine, embryonic stem cells are considered the “mother cells” that can replace virtually any type of tissue that are damaged or lost as a result of injury of degenerative diseases[1, 2]. This could be attributed to the ability of ES cells to differentiate into a wide range of cellular lineages that make up organs and tissues of the entire body.

Although this has caused much excitement in the field of regenerative medicine, a sobering fact is that ES cells are very scarce as they can only be obtained in the inner cell mass of an early stage embryo[1]. Moreover, the quest for ES cells in humans also raise ethical concerns that have driven ES cell research to a standstill.
So much for my commitment to write.... Just as I have started my blog account, my supervisor asked me to write a 10-page review article on his research -due in two weeks?!! Well, after 2 weeks of craziness, I thought that perhaps I should share a bit about what I have been writing.

Just to start- my supervisor works on engineering viruses to be used as therapeutic agents to destroy brain tumors.
The reduced risk of cardiovascular disease seen in people who eat a Mediterranean diet may be attributable to the phenolic components of virgin olive oil, which repress several pro-inflammatory genes.

Phenols are micronutrients of olive oil; the extra-virgin varieties have a particularly large phenol fraction.

Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Genomics studied the effects of eating a breakfast rich in phenol compounds on gene expression in 20 patients with metabolic syndrome, a common condition associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The authors of a new study in Nature Methods say they have discovered 2,363 new DNA sequences corresponding to 730 regions on the human genome not charted in the reference map of the human genome.

"A large portion of those sequences are either missing, fragmented or misaligned when compared to results from next-generation sequencing genome assemblies on the same samples," said Dr. Evan Eichler, senior author of the study. "These findings suggest that new genome assemblies based solely on next-generation sequencing might miss many of these sites."
It is coming – so we might as well prepare for it psychologically. Researchers who manipulate DNA and RNA, and all of the incredible tools of creation that accompany them, have become so accomplished in the past 50 years that we are now facing realistic scenarios once relegated to alarmist science fiction. 

I used to tell my high school Biology students ‘wild’ stories about the genetic research of the early 2000’s (so long ago!) I always felt as if I had to be extra animated because I was sure I sounded like a crackpot!
Personalized genetics is hot in the news right now, but in fact we're generally terrible at using genotypes to predict who is going to get a disease. One villain here is the phenomenon known as epistasis, which essentially means that the physiological effect of one genetic variant depends on what other genetic variants (in other genes) are hanging around in the same genome.
New tissue engineering research could greatly reduce the number of lab animals required for FDA mandated experimental trials on new health products with medical formulations.

Scientists from Tel Aviv University writing in Tissue Engineering say that the necessary tissue for animal trials can be produced from adult rat stem cells ― cells that can be stimulated to create skin, bone, fat and muscle tissue from an animal in a laboratory setting.
My academic adventures have exposed me to a fairly large amount of mathematics.  While I seem to end up wishing I had taken even more mathematics, computer science, and statistics coursework every week or three, I've nevertheless been pretty grateful for having this sort of background as I've become involved with plant genomics research.
Scientists have developed a non-viral, synthetic nanoparticle carrier to improve and save the sight of mice with retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease characterized by progressive vision loss and eventual blindness, for which there is no cure.

The researchers say the findings are based on "a clinically relevant treatment paradigm" and may one day lead to a gene replacement therapy for human retinal degeneration.

The research is detailed in The FASEB Journal.

Mice with with the retinal degeneration slow (Rds) gene, which causes retinitis pigmentosa, received one of three types of "treatments:" nanoparticles containing the normal copy of the Rds gene, the normal gene alone, or saline solution.