fact: gene editing saves baby girl

Gene editing has been used for the first time to successfully treat a human patient – a baby girl with leukaemia – after conventional treatments failed.

Re-writing genes is no longer science fiction thanks to gene-editing technologies called CRISPR and TALENs. Scientists can now alter any gene in any animal and have been using these techniques to cure genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy in animal models. This year, Chinese scientists even edited genes in human embryos in a very controversial study.  Continue reading “fact: gene editing saves baby girl”

Ageing is a state of mind

Scientists have found one gene that can change brain signalling and slow ageing.

ageing manEven though we are very different from worms, fish and mice, we have a lot of the same genes as these animals. This is because we are actually very similar on a basic cellular level. That’s why scientists use animals as genetic models for humans.

A group of scientists recently searched for genes that might control ageing in humans by measuring gene expression changes in ageing worms, fish and mice. They found 29 human genes that were either turned on or off with age in all three animal species.

Continue reading “Ageing is a state of mind”

Vaccine patch may mean the end of needles

microneedle patch administers vaccine
Vaccine patch with hyaluronic acid microneedles. Image from Hirobe et al, 2015.

No one likes needles. Now there’s another option. A group of scientists in Japan have found that a vaccine patch with microneedles called MicroHyala works as well as a traditional injected influenza vaccine.  Continue reading “Vaccine patch may mean the end of needles”

DNA damage helps form memories

DNA used to encode cellular memory
DNA

Our DNA becomes more damaged as we age and some scientists believe that this causes ageing. We have inbuilt DNA repair systems in every cell, but these systems can break down as we age leading to increased DNA damage. Mutations in genes responsible for DNA repair can cause premature ageing like in Werner’s Disease. So up until now DNA damage has been seen to be a bad thing. Now a new study shows that DNA breaks in neurons (brain cells) actually helps us form memories.  Continue reading “DNA damage helps form memories”

Ageing reversed in old skin cells

gene expression in single cells
Fibroblast cell. Image by Heiti Paves via Wikimedia Commons.

Scientists have reversed ageing in skin cells taken from people who are 80-97 years old. The trick was to turn the skin cells into stem cells and then back into skin cells. This re-programmed the cells and reversed age-related changes allowing the skin cells to make energy more efficiently.  Continue reading “Ageing reversed in old skin cells”

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