Here are 7 exciting facts to Learn about recent advancements in genetics.
1. Gene therapy reverses sight loss and is long-lasting
A genetic therapy has improved the vision of patients who would otherwise have gone blind. A clinical study by British scientists has shown that the improvement is long-lasting and so the therapy is suitable to be offered as a treatment. The researchers will apply for approval to begin trials to treat more common forms of blindness next year.
The therapy involve injecting working copy of the gene into the back of the eyes to help cells regenerate. The results of the therapy, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, have been tried out on 14 patients in the UK and 18 in the US, Canada and Germany over the past four and a half years. The researchers found that not only does the treatment halt the disease, it revives some of the dying cells and improves the patient’s vision, in some cases markedly.
2. Study Finds Surprising Benefit of Viral DNA: Fighting Other Viruses
A number of viruses replicate by inserting their DNA into our own genes. On rare occasions, their genes get passed down to future generations. At first, the newly acquired genes behave a lot like regular virus genes. They can still coax host cells to make full-fledged viruses that can escape and infect other victims.
But over the generations, they lose the ability to escape human cells. They can still make copies of themselves, but those copies get incorporated into the host cell’s DNA. Over time these so-called endogenous retroviruses lose even the ability to replicate, becoming harmless fragments adrift in the human genome. “A host essentially takes over a viral gene and puts it to work for its own ends,” said Aris Katzourakis, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford. Further the results from experiments suggest that many of the gene switches that help defend our cells from viruses actually came from viruses.
3. Scientists Say They Can Recreate Living Dinosaurs Within the Next 5 Years
In a potentially terrifying case of life imitating art, the renowned paleontologist who served as the inspiration for Jurassic Park protagonist Dr. Alan Grant is spearheading genetic research that could engineer dinosaurs back into existence within the next five to 10 years, he says. While Dr. Jack Horner, who has consulted on all four Jurassic films, initially believed the key to recreating the prehistoric creatures lied in working with ancient DNA strands, further study about DNA degradation over time has since ruled out that possibility.
In an attempt to reverse evolution, the team has already made significant strides in mutating chickens back to the very creatures from which they descended. If that wasn’t enough genetic splicing and dicing, Harvard scientists attempted a similar feat recently by inserting the genes of a woolly mammoth into elephants in order to recreate the extinct beasts.
4. Study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children’s genes
Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children, the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generations.
The conclusion from a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital led by Rachel Yehuda stems from the genetic study of 32 Jewish men and women who had either been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or who had had to hide during the second world war.
They also analysed the genes of their children, who are known to have increased likelihood of stress disorders, and compared the results with Jewish families who were living outside of Europe during the war. “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents,” said Yehuda.
5. Man fails paternity test because genes in his saliva are different to those in sperm
A US man has failed a paternity test after doctors revealed his dead twin, whose DNA the man absorbed in the womb, is the genetic father of the child. The 34-year-old man is the first ever reported case of a paternity test being fooled by a human chimera, someone with extra genes absorbed from a twin lost in early pregnancy. Approximately one in eight single childbirths are thought to start as multiple pregnancies and occasionally cells from the miscarried siblings are sometimes absorbed in the womb by a surviving twin.
The father’s sperm was found to have 10 per cent of a genetic match to the infant. The genes in his sperm were different to that in his saliva and it has been concluded that the father of the boy is effectively the man’s own unborn twin.
6. Scientists get ‘gene editing’ go-ahead
UK scientists have been given the go-ahead by the fertility regulator to genetically modify human embryos. It is the first time a country has considered the DNA-altering technique in embryos and approved it. The research will take place at the Francis Crick Institute in London and aims to provide a deeper understanding of the earliest moments of human life.
It will be illegal for the scientists to implant the modified embryos into a woman. But the field is attracting controversy over concerns it is opening the door to designer babies. In a world-first last year, scientists in China announced they had carried out gene editing in human embryos to correct a gene that causes a blood disorder. (Also read – Pros and Cons of Designer Babies)
7. Gene editing saves girl dying from leukemia in the world first
For the first time ever, a person’s life has been saved by gene editing. One-year-old Layla was dying from leukemia after all conventional treatments failed. “We didn’t want to give up on our daughter, though, so we asked the doctors to try anything,” her mother Lisa said in a statement released by Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where Layla (pictured above) was treated.
And they did. Layla’s doctors got permission to use an experimental form of gene therapy using genetically engineered immune cells from a donor. Within a month these cells had killed off all the cancerous cells in her bone marrow. It is too soon to say she is cured, the team stressed at a press conference in London on 5 November. That will only become clear after a year or two. So far, though, she is doing well and there is no sign of the cancer returning. Other patients are already receiving the same treatment.
A team of scientists successfully encoded the lyrics of the song “It’s a Small World After All” into the genome of a bacterium, with the intent of developing a method to pass on messages for future intelligent life forms.
Source – explorebiotech.com