Scientists are trying to move beyond conventional model organisms, like fruit flies, zebrafish, yeast, and mice. They started using CRISPR gene-editing technology to craft new model organisms or to study the animals that they are more interested in. The genetic alterations generally take hold but the practical challenges of breeding and maintaining unconventional lab animals persist.
A new gene therapy approach developed at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has cured infants born with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID-X1), known as “Bubble Boy” disease. The patients recovered with fully functioning immune systems and started producing immune cells, including T cells, B cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. The researchers achieved that by hijacking the HIV virus to replace the mutated gene, called IL2RG, with a corrected copy.
American twin astronauts provided NASA scientists with rare data on how long-term spaceflight affects the human body. While one brother spent a record-setting 340 days in outer space, the other was stranded on Earth. They spent years under a medical microscope. A comparative study on their genetic profiles showed differences in length of telomeres and gene expression, which seemed to diminish slowly over time.
Scientists from Washington University in St. Louis have found a new method to genetically alter bacteria and acquire super-strong spider silk. Farming spiders is incredibly inefficient and finding a way to mass-produce the material would bring us a step away from a ready supply of incredibly resilient fabrics. The method could clear the way for the production of other scarce proteins that could even be used for future space missions.
Inventing a product that allows drinkers to enjoy all the benefits of alcohol and none of its drawbacks was a goal of scientist David Nutt for over a decade. He developed a synthetic alcohol substitute he calls Alcarelle, which could eliminate the downsides of alcohol consumption, from hangovers to alcohol-related cancers and even physical addiction.
An advisory panel to the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for the creation of a global registry to monitor gene-editing research in humans. The recommendations of the 18-person committee are aimed at improving transparency and responsibility in the field. An advisory committee did not recommend banning human gene-editing research, but researchers will have to register with the government before beginning an experiment.
New measles outbreaks constantly appear around the globe and vaccination hesitancy and skepticism is at least in part to blame. Latest clinical evidence unequivocally denies any link between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella, in hopes of mitigating the re-emergence of potentially fatal diseases.
Researchers from the University of California have modified brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to manufacture cannabis compounds including the psychoactive chemical THC in a world’s first. This technology could soon provide researchers with cheaper, more efficient and reliable access to medicinal cannabis compounds that are found in trace amounts in nature.
Scientists from Europe and the U.S. have managed to restore hearing in an adult mouse model. The mice suffered from so-called DFNB9 deafness, a genetic hearing disorder that represents one of the most frequent causes of congenital deafness. These findings could open doors to new gene therapies for other forms of deafness.
Indian researchers are criticizing a government proposal by which graduate students who publish in select journals will be paid extra money. Such a practice could degrade the quality of research and increase scientific misconduct, critics say. Months-long protests of academics against the proposal have just concluded in India and new ones are already on the horizon.