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DNA

Scientists have identified the mechanism responsible for driving the internal clock of alm...

A group of Cambridge scientists have successfully identified the mechanism that drives our internal 24-hour clock, or circadian rhythm. It occurs not only in human cells, but has also been found in other life forms such as algae, and has been dated back millions of years. Whilst the research promises a better understanding of the problems associated with shift-work and jet-lag, this mechanism has also been proven to be responsible for sleep patterns, seasonal shifts and even the migration of butterflies.  Read More

Woolly mammoths in a late Pleistocene landscape in northern Spain (Image: Mauricio Anton v...

The last known mammoth lived around 4500 years ago, but if scientists in Japan are successful then we might be able to meet one soon! Research to resurrect these awesome creatures was shelved when cell nuclei taken from a sample from Siberia were found to be too badly damaged, however a scientific breakthrough in Kobe successfully cloned a mouse from 16 year old deep frozen tissue, and the research began again in earnest...  Read More

Theobroma cacao genome sequenced: Yummier chocolate on the way!

If DNA sequencing never held much relevance for you, consider the benefits likely to flow from the recent sequencing and assembly of the chocolate tree genome. The Theobroma cacao plant is generally regarded as producing the world's finest chocolate, but is particularly vulnerable to disease and not particularly productive, and is hence shunned by risk averse growers. It is hoped the research will not only lead to hardier trees by altering the genes, but will also enable the percentages of cocoa butter, flavonoids, antioxidants, terpenoids and hormones to be regulated. The end result is likely to be smoother, more flavorsome, better smelling and even healthier chocolate. Now that's progress!  Read More

One of the DNA-reading chips, displayed against the prototype device (Photo: Imperial Coll...

Sequencing an entire genome is currently a highly complex, time-consuming process – the DNA must be broken down into segments and replicated, utilizing chemicals that destroy the original sample. Scientists from Imperial College London, however, have just announced the development of a prototype device that could lead to technology capable of sequencing a human genome within minutes, at a cost of just a few dollars. By contrast, when sequencing of the genome of Dr. James Watson (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) was completed in 2007, it had taken two years and cost US$1 million.  Read More

Life Technologies has announced the release of Ion Torrent's Personal Genome Machine, whic...

Having just recently snapped up Ion Torrent, Life Technologies has now announced the availability of a benchtop DNA sequencing device based on its PostLight semiconductor technology. The company says that this ground-breaking and disruptive platform creates a direct link between chemical bases and digital information, and negates the need for light-based detection technology currently used in other sequencing solutions.  Read More

The GFAJ-1 bacteria, grown on arsenic

In a press conference held today, scientists working with NASA announced the discovery of a new microorganism right here on Earth that employs a survival strategy never seen before in any other life form. Found in Northern California’s highly-saline Mono Lake, the GFAJ-1 bacteria exists in an environment that has very little phosphorous, an element that had previously been considered essential for all living things in order to build DNA. To cope with this problem, the bacteria is able to substitute highly-toxic arsenic for phosphorous, in its cell components. The fact that a microbe is able to survive in such a fashion opens up the possibilities for where life could exist on other planets, and will require a rethink on NASA’s part regarding its search for extraterrestrial life forms.  Read More

Chromosomes, with their telomere caps highlighted. Looking after these telomeres could be ...

The aging process - it's undignified, unwanted, and many would say unnecessary. After all, the cells in your body are constantly replacing themselves - why can't they do it without causing progressive degradation of organs that lead to discomfort, weakness and death? Well, perhaps they can. Harvard scientists have discovered that by controlling certain genetic processes in mice, they can not only slow down the aging process, but "dramatically" reverse it throughout the body. It's a massive discovery, but it won't be able to be used in humans yet without some pretty scary consequences.  Read More

Researchers have developed a nanoneedle that releases quantum dots directly into the nucle...

We recently saw the potential for nanoneedles and quantum dots to treat skin cancer, however researchers at the University of Illinois have gone one step further. They have created a nanoneedle (an incredibly small needle) that allows them to peak into the nucleus of a cell. When subjected to an electrical charge, the needle injects quantum dots into the nucleus of a living cell. These quantum dots (nanoscale crystals with unique properties in terms of light emission) can be used to monitor microscopic processes and cellular conditions, aid the diagnosis of disease, and track genetic information from within the nucleus.  Read More

A DNA strand passing through a nanopore in a graphene sheet

Graphene is pretty amazing stuff. Just a couple of months ago, we heard about how the one-atom thick sheets of bonded carbon atoms had been used to create the strongest pseudo-electric magnetic fields ever sustained in a lab – and that was just the latest use that had been discovered for it. Now, word comes from Harvard University and MIT that graphene could be used to rapidly sequence DNA.  Read More

An illustration of a telomerase molecule (Image: Sierra Sciences, LLC)

For many scientists who know about such things, the question isn’t whether the first person to live forever has been born, but how old they are. The basis for this belief is that, if a person can survive the next 20 or 30 years, then breakthroughs in biotechnology will easily allow them to extend their lifespan – not to mention their quality of life – to 125 years. From that point, the advances will keep coming to allow the prolonging of life indefinitely. One of the first steps towards such a reality has just been announced by a group of researchers who have discovered the first compound that activates an enzyme called telomerase in the human body.  Read More

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