By: Varsha Prasad, Genetics ’15
A study to employ a new method of generating human embryonic stem cells without destroying any human embryos is currently being conducted by an international research team led by Karl Tryggvason, Professor Medical Chemistry at Karolinska Institutet and a Professor at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore.
The researchers developed a method in which embryonic stem cells can be obtained from a single cell of an eight-cell embryo, which can then be refrozen and placed in the woman’s uterus. This prevents the need to destroy human embryos in the process. The idea is that the embryo can survive a single cell removal. Continue reading New Method Increases Supply of Embryonic Stem Cells
By David Ivanov, Biochemistry ’15
Oral vaccines are known to be a convenient and effective method for treatment or prevention of diseases caused by pathogenic microorganisms. The difficulty of developing such vaccines is due to the often inhospitable environment of the stomach and intestinal tract because of low pH, or acidity, as well as enzymes that can digest or destroy biological molecules. Using a virus-like particle to deliver the vaccine is an advantageous method for getting around these and other barriers in the host organism.
A virus-like particle, or VLP, is a biological particle that resembles a virus, but contains no genetic information and thus cannot infect host cells. VLP’s can be formed by inserting and expressing just the genes for creating the viral capsid, which is a shell made up of protein subunits that protects the infectious genetic information in wild-type, or normal, viruses. The expressed capsid proteins can then self-assemble into the VLP. The capsid also has domains, or structural areas, that are responsible for recognizing suitable host cells to infect and inserting the viral genome.
Continue reading Engineering Hepatitis Virus-like Particles for Oral Vaccine Delivery
By Ashley Chang, Genetics ’15
Researchers at the GEOMAR Helmhotltz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel are studying the long-term effects of “climate engineering” methods that could help to preserve the climate and protect from rising temperatures. This winter every part of the world except the eastern United States reported record breaking high temperatures. Although political agreements have been made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the effects may be too slow as levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases continue to rise. This is especially important as populous countries, such as China and India, become increasingly industrialized and consequentially raise their greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading Climate Engineering: Worth the Risk?
By Ashley Chang, Genetics ’15
Biostatisticians led by Knut Wittkowski at Rockefeller University Hospital have employed new methods of genome-wide association studies to identify genes that they believe to be associated with autism. The researchers compared genomes of patients with varying degrees of autism to healthy patients and were able to identify genetic variations that seem to be linked to the pathology of neural development in young children. The technique used to identify these genes is unique. Rather than traditional genome association, which searches for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), this new method looks for combinations of several SNPs that are common in patients with a disease. Wittkowski also compared this new autism profile to patients with childhood epilepsy and found mutations in similar genes that control axonal guidance and calcium signaling. Both of these are important in the developing brain to ensure that the correct connections are made. Continue reading Genome-Wide Association Identifies Genes Linked to Autism