At the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology 2012 conference (AGBT), Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd. announced it is entering the gene-sequencing battle with a disposable DNA sequencer that will sell for under $900 in the second half of 2012. The USB-size sequencer is called the MinION (min-ion), and has already demonstrated the potential to bring genome sequencing and personalized medicine out of the lab and into physicians’ offices. Read More
The mapping of the human genome, announced at the White House back in 2000, had immense impact on biomedical research. It allowed us to gain insights into how biological information is encoded in the genome, helped us understand the biological mechanisms behind cancer and hereditary diseases and enabled us to look much deeper into the history of our own species. These are milestone achievements for humanity as a whole, but they have little or no direct impact on everyday medical treatment. That could be about to change, however, as Life Technologies introduces the Benchtop Ion Proton Sequencer - a machine that may finally deliver the power of genetics into the hands of ordinary doctors. Read More
Salmon ... they’re good to eat, provide a livelihood for fishermen, are an important part of their ecosystem, and now it seems that they can store data. More specifically, their DNA can. Scientists from National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany have created a “write-once-read-many-times” (WORM) memory device, that combines electrodes, silver nanoparticles, and salmon DNA. While the current device is simply a proof-of-concept model, the researchers have stated that DNA could turn out to be a less expensive alternative to traditional inorganic materials such as silicon. Read More
Caloric restriction has been shown to slow the signs of aging and delay the development of age-related diseases in a wide range of animals. However, scientists have been unable to explain just why limiting daily food intake has such a beneficial effect on health and the biological mechanisms that underlie the phenomenon. Researchers in Sweden recently claimed to have unlocked a piece of the puzzle by identifying one of the enzymes that appears to play a major role in the process and now another group in the U.S. has provided another clue by tweaking a gene in fruit flies and extending their lifespan by as much as 50 percent. Read More
DNA is often referred to as the building block of life. Now scientists from Imperial College London have demonstrated that DNA (and bacteria) can be used to create the fundamental building blocks of a computer - logic gates. Using DNA and harmless gut bacteria, the scientists have built what they claim are the most advanced biological logic gates ever created by scientists. The research could lead to the development of a new generation of microscopic biological computing devices that, amongst other things, could travel around the body cleaning arteries and destroying cancers. Read More
It's hard to comprehend the impact of the Black Death. The "Great Pestilence" is believed to have originated somewhere in Northern Asia in the 1330s before hitting Europe in 1347. It killed an estimated 75 million people worldwide - that's around 25 per cent of all humans in existence at the time. Now in an effort to better understand modern infectious diseases, scientist have sequenced the entire genome of the Black Death. Read More
By now, most people are probably aware of the therapeutic value of stem cells, as they can become any other type of cell in the human body. One of their main duties, in fact, is to replace those other cells as they degrade. Once people reach an advanced age, however, even the stem cells themselves start to get old and nonfunctional - when the cells that are supposed to replace the other cells can't do their job anymore, age-related tissue problems start occurring. A team of researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, however, may be on the way to solving that problem. They have succeeded in reversing the aging process in human adult stem cells. Read More
One of the things that our brains excel at is the ability to recognize what things are, even when presented with an incomplete set of data. If we know only that an animal is sold in pet stores and stuffs food in its cheeks, for instance, we can be pretty certain that the animal in question is a hamster. Now, for the first time ever, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have created a DNA-based artificial neural network that can do the same thing ... albeit on a very basic level. They believe that it could have huge implications for the development of true artificial intelligence. Read More
While scientists have long had the ability to edit individual genes, it is a slow, expensive and hard to use process. Now researchers at Harvard and MIT have developed technologies, which they liken to the genetic equivalent of the find-and-replace function of a word processing program, that allow them to make large-scale edits to a cell’s genome. The researchers say such technology could be used to design cells that build proteins not found in nature, or engineer bacteria that are resistant to any type of viral infection. Read More
Using a virus containing a ‘library’ of DNA, researchers from the University of Leeds in the U.K., working with the Mayo Clinic in the U.S., have developed a vaccine that was able to destroy prostate cancer tumors in mice, while leaving healthy tissue untouched. Because the virus contains multiple fragments of genes, the vaccine is able to produce many possible antigens thereby boosting its effectiveness. The technique could be used to create vaccines to treat a wide range of cancers, including breast, pancreatic and lung tumors. Read More