All the latest in Genetic Research
Genetic Research is a field of investigative sciences perpetuated for the purpose of understanding and identifying genes and their functions in all living beings.
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In humans genetic research is mainly directed towards the expression and treatment of genetic disorders. Techniques involved in genetic research mainly include gene mapping and gene therapy.
Genes Identified Which Help Prevent Prostate and Other Cancers
Cancers such as those of the breast, skin and prostate are caused by certain genes. The suppression of the tumors involved in these cancers result from PTEN genes. PTEN genes are the reason behind gene regulation and cell division. When DNA in mice in a lab is converted into a mobile type called transposon, the result is that PTEN can be used to suppress cancer formation.
Five genes were found that worked along the cancer suppression pathways. One of these was called Wac. While one of the gene copies, when it was removed, led to larger prostate tumors, when both copies were removed, the tumors were suppressed. This is paradoxical indeed. Such research may lead to a cure for various cancers in the future.
Gene editing leads to mutations. While these mutations may cause cancers, some of them also weaken cancer cells. This may work in the future towards allowing for cancer medication that will switch off the genes responsible for cancer. Termed synthetic lethality, this technique has only one problem with it right now. This is that we do not know which genes are responsible for the cancer and which ones cause the suppression of cancer.
The use of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology may come in handy in the future here. By introducing a guide RNA, the cancer gene may be switched off. Experiments by researchers in the lab show that many synthetic lethality examples exist. To snip off the DNA and allow the cell to repair it thereby switching the gene off is how this technology works. In the future cancer may well be kissed goodbye, thanks to this gene editing technology.
An aggressive form of prostate cancer is apparently caused due to certain genes present among the sample of prostate cancer patients. The incidence of this gene is 6% to 14%. While prostate cancer can be treated by various therapies, the aggressive form of the disease will not respond to these nostrums.
For this wild type of prostate cancer, other alternatives or revolutionary remedies will have to be arranged. Therefore the study of the genes which cause this type of indolent prostate cancer must be categorized. This is so that standard treatment with its nasty side effects not be administered to this special class of patients who hardly respond to it.
A new drug by the name of inclisiran may help slash cholesterol levels by upto 50%. This drug is part of a therapy known as RNA interference. It involves turning off a gene that causes cholesterol levels to shoot up. The drug can be taken with or without statins. Statins do wonders too but they sometimes need to be taken in large doses. Also their effect wears off after awhile. Inclisiran is ideal since its administration is easy, flexible and safe. In the study, patients were given inclisiran and their cholesterol levels were more than halved. Also the LDL levels remained stable for upto eight months.
When primitive man moved out of Africa, the circumstances were such that a change of diet had to be adapted to. For this the genes that allowed for fat metabolism allowed our predecessors to digest the foods in the harshest of circumstances. Termed FADS1 and FADS2, these genes helped in fatty acid digestion.
Those who didn’t possess these genes simply died out. The move from Africa to other regions across the globe were marked by the move from a hunting gathering lifestyle to an agricultural existence. The Inuit are different though since they still eat marine animals with lots of blubber. As for Europeans, they are still adapting to a grain-based diet.
Scientists have found a gene known as TMEM106B which causes changes in the frontal cortex of the human brain. These changes lead to several neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The gene is activated from 65 years of age onwards. Since many of the seniors studied showed differences in their aging rates, this gene and a few other genetic components were responsible for the aging process.
Apolipoprotein E (APOE) was also responsible for Alzheimer’s. Then there is another gene known as progranulin which causes aging to take place at a faster rate. This research may come in handy in the conquest of neurological disorders in future times.
Opitz C syndrome was described for the first time in 1969. It involves several disabilities and has been found to occur due to genetic and molecular defects. While there is no cure, it is thought that with a little effort, the scientists can find a way to ameliorate its symptoms in the near future. This is where genetic engineering comes to the rescue.
The disease is a minority ailment and it is very rare. Only three people have it in Catalonia and a total of 60 people have it on a worldwide level. It shares certain genetic components with Prader-Willi syndrome and Schaaf-Yang syndrome. Learning disabilities, trigonocephaly and psychomotor issues are some of the nasty symptoms of this disease. The genetic bases that lead to this disease have been isolated by the lab researchers. More research will yield ways of making the quality of life of patients with this disease better in the long run.
Engineers at the University of Utah have used CRISPR gene-editing technology to cure chronic pain patients of their debilitating and miserable condition. Usually they suffer from, among other things, arthritis. The inflammation and degeneration causes the immune system to react and especially in case of chronic pain patients, things go from bad to worse and there is a life that feels like hell on earth.
Normally CRISPR technology is used to delete or replace certain genes. Yet here it was used to alter the expression of the genes by switching them “on” or “off”. The patients underwent a calming down of their agony thanks to this procedure. It therefore holds great promise for the future.
Read more about this new gene technology.
For instance scientists at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association have developed a way to map the entire genome in 3D mode. Cells inside the human body contain genes which are several meter-long threads. These threads are packed within the cell nucleus however this packing produces spatial interactions, which are relations between the genes and the cells.
The genes tell the cell to carry out various functions based on these interactions, which are also termed as switches. The configurations of these switches are responsible for maintaining human health and various anomalies in these switches can lead to the formation of diseases. These switches are activated when the body needs to produce RNAs and proteins and then the switches are turned off.
The findings of this study got published in the journal Nature.
For a long time scientists have been baffled by the mechanism of how cells decide which genes they need to activate in order to carry out the requisite function. Every gene needs to be matched to the control sequence in cells. Scientists have been trying to study this mechanism for a long time however DNA strands are too thin to be visible under the microscope.
These are colonies of mouse embryonic stem cells, where cell nuclei are stained in blue. The DNA from the nuclei is sequenced to infer the relative positions of genes and their switches. Credit: C. Ferrai, MDC
In order to better understand the interactions between cells and genes scientists have developed a new technique of three-dimensional geography. This technique can effectively map the entire human genome in 3D. The technique is called Genome Architecture Mapping or GAM.
In this technique tissues or cells are subjected to flash-freezing after which individual nuclei are cut into slices. The various ‘hotspots’; regions of increased interaction between cells and gene strands, are then subjected to a mathematical model. The frequencies with which these spots appear in the strand determine their relevance which is then amplified to 3D resolution.
DNA Deletion Tool
PLOS journal recently published an article which detailed how scientists have developed a tool which can effectively ‘Delete’ DNA in living cells. The purpose of this deletion tool is to understand how the non-coding DNA also known as 'Dark Matter' which makes up 99% of the total DNA, influences the cells. In this way scientists will be able to produce novel drugs for preventing disease causing genes. The tool called "DECKO" can delete any part of non-coding DNA. DECKO utilizes individual sgRNAs which act as scissors for cutting out the DNA.
In another turn of events a research coalition containing researchers from Canada, South Africa and Italy have identified the gene responsible for the baffling phenomenon of sudden death.
The syndrome occurs in young people and athletes. According to the scientists the gene is called CDH2, and mutations in this gene are responsible for causing arrhythmogenic right ventricle cardiomyopathy (ARVC) or in simpler terms cardiac arrest.
The coalition took 15 years to recognize the CDH2 gene which can lead to unexpected death. The new discovery, published today in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, can pave the way for preventive and counter measures in people with a risk of certain cardiac arrest.
The gene CDH2 produces a protein called Cadherin 2 or N-Cadherin which is necessary for normal adhesion between cardiac cells. When this protein is absent it can lead to defects in cardiac pathology.
Genetic research is not only crucial for biochemical diseases but also play a big role in the manifestation of psychological disorders. Researchers at the University of Bonn have found out even problems such as social phobias have a genetic basis. According to the researchers a gene may be responsible for causing anxiety disorder which currently affects 1 in 10 individuals.
The gene is responsible for suppressing feelings of anxiety and depressiveness by encoding a serotonin transporter in the human brain. The results will be published in the journal Psychiatric Genetics.
Social phobia can be identified with symptoms such as heart palpitations, trembling, short breathes etc. when a person is surrounded by other people. the current research found the serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4 is involved in causing social phobia.
An international group of scientists has managed to make five novel synthetic yeast chromosomes. At least 30% of the genetic material of this primitive organism has been replaced. Seven documents were published regarding this research.
Termed the Synthetic Yeast Project (Sc2.0), the plans of the experts extend to completing synthetic versions of all 16 chromosomes by the end of 2017. The yeast used in this experiment is Baker’s yeast. Rather in the manner of computer scientists, the researchers add scads of synthetic DNA or remove it from the human, plant, bacterial or yeast genes.
Among some of the worthy ideals are the eradication of diseases, making of drugs and creating foods that contain a ton of nutrients. Baker’s yeast has always been a favorite material for the scientists. That is because its cells are similar to human cells.
The last member of that strain of prehistoric man named Neanderthal died 40,000 years ago. However, in the genetic subtext of modern humans, this strain lives on. It is literally working behind the scenes. In odds and ends of the genetic sequence, Neanderthal man plays a vital role that cannot be forsaken no matter what.
Up until now, the contribution of this chinless and sloping foreheaded species of man was based on shaky evidence. Such is not the case anymore though. The question of whether these pieces of Neanderthal DNA function in the background or just remain mute assistants is an important one. In a scientific journal, the study regarding this fact was published thereby increasing the human knowledge base.
The diseases of modern times such as mental illness and lupus and even normal traits such as lengthy height may have a lot to do with Neanderthal DNA.
Read more details here.