The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA

Posted Posted in Book Review, Genetics, Narrative and Personal Writing

By Mor Alkaslasi, Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, ’16 Author’s Note: “I chose to write a review about this book because I kept finding myself telling my professors and peers about it. As a student in a scientific discipline to which genetics and DNA are crucial, I feel that this book is a notable chronicle of the scientific process and of one of the most groundbreaking discoveries of the past century. I hope that this review serves to encourage anyone with an interest in science to read this book, or at least to realize the book’s importance in the scientific community.”

Exploring the Known Unknowns Using the Power of Metagenomics: Discovery of the crAssphage

Posted Posted in Environment, Genetics, News

By Connie Chen, Microbiology, ’15-’16 Author’s Note: “Metagenomics is the study of genetic material directly from environmental samples such as the soil or the human gut. With whole metagenomic sequencing, it is possible to obtain and analyze every piece of genetic material in the sample. As we being to learn more about the world, it becomes evident that there is more that is unknown. The crAssphage is an example of a “known unknown” because through metagenomics, the virus’s genome has been built and certain properties can be interpreted from the genome, but it has never been seen under a microscope and there is much still unknown about the virus. Metagenomics have opened the doors to analyzing multiple sequences and determining […]

Stem Cells: Important Yet Controversial

Posted Posted in Genetics, Health and Medicine: General, Technology

By: Lauren Forsell, Biological Sciences ’16 and Parnya Baradaran, Computer Science Engineering, ’16 Author’s Note:  “Parnya and I collaborated on this piece for a Science and Religion: The Case of Galileo seminar assignment. This assignment was inspired by the seminar’s focus on religious controversies surrounding scientific advancements, theories, and concepts. Another main reason why we wrote this piece is because of our backgrounds. Parnya, a computer engineer major, and myself, a biology major, both attended Catholic high schools. We enjoyed writing this piece because analyzing science and technology in the face of religious teachings and practice is something we will have to consider in our future careers. We chose to analyze abortion because it is one of the most popular […]

The Infant Airway Microbiome Linked to Childhood Asthma

Posted Posted in Environment, Genetics, Health and Medicine: General, News

By Shivani Kamal, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ’17 Author’s Note: “I am pursing a career in pediatrics and wanted to familiarize myself with new research regarding health and development of children. I was amazed at the advancements of medical technology which allow us to understand diseases and create potential cures, previously never thought possible. My purpose for writing this review is to show scientific audiences the most current research on how bacteria in the respiratory microbiome has an impact on asthma. Recently, much research initiated by the Human Microbiome Projects (HMP) proved that the bacteria living on and inside humans contribute to the health and disease of the body. This review is meant to educate scientists on the most recent information […]

A Breakthrough in Breast Cancer Treatment

Posted Posted in Genetics, News

 Exciting, new gene therapy treatments for breast cancer are on the verge of making a breakthrough. With proper funding, these procedures could reduce the need for the surgical removal of organs. By Rayan Kaakati, Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior Being born female automatically enters one in a game of Russian roulette: About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime; for American women, breast cancer is the second leading cause of death (U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics). Breast cancer is a disease that starts in the tissues of the breast and is statistically fatal for one in thirty-two women (Breast Cancer Facts). Many women, throughout recorded history, have succumbed to this malignant disease. Rapid advancements […]

Viruses and the Global Metabolic Pathway

Posted Posted in Genetics

By Oyang Teng, Biological Sciences ’14 Microbes are the planetary engineers of the biogeochemical cycles that sustain all life on earth. At the molecular scale, the biological turnover of such key elements as hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, iron and sulfur depends on the enzymatic transfer of electrons from reduced (electron-donating) to oxidized (electron-accepting) forms of these elements. On the global scale and over geological time, reduced substrates and oxidized products map to a vast, often circuitous flux between the interior depths of the mantle and the oceans, land, and atmosphere.

Arabidopsis – Model Organism

Posted Posted in Genetics

By John Tran,  Biochemistry & Molecular Biology ’14 Have you ever wanted to learn more about the plant model organism? Plants have many unique properties that make them especially important to all aspects of life. They provide oxygen, food, and energy, so you could imagine that there are many cellular and molecular processes that are involved in plants. For these reasons, we want to better understand plants using a model organism called Arabidopsis. Here, we talk about the properties of Arabidopsis and present an example of a genetic experiment, which could be used to improve the quality of apple trees. Photo credit:  “Arabidopsis thaliana – Acker-Schmalwand”  by Nuuuuuuuuuuul is licensed by CC BY 2.0

Is your spit making you fat?

Posted Posted in Genetics

One of the central pursuits of modern human genetics is to move beyond genomic correlation. That is, to demonstrate experimentally why a specific genetic variant may be associated with a disease. New work in Nature Genetics from an international team lead by Philippe Froguel at Imperial College in London does just this – demonstrating an interesting link between saliva and obesity. Basically, all humans express amylase, a salivary enzyme that breaks down complex carbohydrates into absorbable sugars. The researchers found that people with more copies of the gene had a significantly decreased risk of developing obesity. People with fewer copies expressed less amylase, and it was hypothesized that this alteration in gastrointestinal carbohydrate metabolism affected insulin signaling, blood sugar levels, […]

Viral Evolution

Posted Posted in Genetics

By Mubasher Ahmed, Genetics ‘15 Viral evolution is an emerging field in biology that has great implications for human health. T7 is a phage virus, meaning it infects bacteria, and is a powerful model system in evolutionary virology. In a recent experiment, a team of biologists sought to understand the degree to which genetic elements engineered into the T7 phage genome affected the phage’s rate of propagation. In this context, the genetic elements are sequences of DNA that are inserted between genes that allow for researchers to manipulate gene regulatory networks. This allows biologists to probe how phenotypes change when gene-gene interactions are perturbed.  Previous studies had shown that such genomic elements led to decreased fitness for the virus, but […]

Origin of the Y Chromosome

Posted Posted in Genetics, News

By Marisa Sanchez, Molecular and Cellular Biology ‘15 The genomes of male and female mammals differ by one chromosome. The Y chromosome is only present in males, and is responsible for initiating the physiological and morphological differences between the sexes. This has not always been the case though; at one point, the X and Y were identical, and over time the Y chromosome began to differentiate from the X chromosome and shrink in size. The Y chromosome today only has 20 genes, whereas the X chromosome has over 1,000 genes.