Ageing caused by unstable DNA

Werner syndrome is a genetic disease that causes premature ageing. Many Werner patients start developing age-related problems like osteoporosis, cataracts and grey and thinning hair in their twenties and thirties. This happens due to a mutation in the WRN gene.  The protein made from the WRN gene is essential to keeping the DNA inside cells … Continue reading Ageing caused by unstable DNA

How DNA is read: Future

In my novel, Thirty, people have an annual health scan that reads the levels of their genes and corrects these to normal levels so that they can stay young and healthy forever. Unfortunately real science hasn't yet caught up. We are, however, one step closer because it is now possible to measure gene expression in … Continue reading How DNA is read: Future

CRISPR used in human embryos

Gene therapy, considered by many to be the holy grail of medicine, involves editing disease-causing mutations out of genes to prevent diseases. CRISPR is a new way to edit genes that has been used to stop mice from developing many different diseases including muscular dystrophy, liver disease and cataracts. It has also been used to … Continue reading CRISPR used in human embryos

CRISPR treats stem cells from cystic fibrosis patients

Scientists use CRISPR to 'cure' cystic fibrosis in gut tissue grown from patients.  Cystic fibrosis is the most common life threatening genetic disease affecting 70 000 people worldwide. It is much more common in white people than in other races.  Cystic fibrosis is caused by mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR gene). This … Continue reading CRISPR treats stem cells from cystic fibrosis patients

DNA computers inside living animals

This post is part of a series on the bio-computing. Today I want to talk about an experiment that simultaneously excites and scares me. Scientists have created nano-robots out of DNA and used them to make tiny computers that function inside a living animal. These DNA robots could conceivably be used to control individual cells … Continue reading DNA computers inside living animals

DNA computers

DNA stores a massive amount of information inside the tiny nuclei of living cells. It encodes all the instructions needed to make every living creature on earth. Therefore, DNA forms the basis of the most complex computers that exist: humans. So it makes sense that we are trying to use DNA to make artificial computers. … Continue reading DNA computers

How DNA is read: past and present

This post is part of a series on the fact and fiction of biological computing. How DNA used to be read In 1977, Fred Sanger and friends changed science when they discovered a way to read DNA sequences. The ability to read DNA sequences meant that scientists could start to unlock the DNA code. They could … Continue reading How DNA is read: past and present

How DNA is made

Recently I started a series of posts on whether biological computers are science fact or still science fiction. I started out by saying that DNA is an excellent way to archive information but it still can't be used to store information that you need to access all the time, like a lot of what you … Continue reading How DNA is made

Is ageing caused by telomeres?

Telomere shortening is one of the suspected causes of ageing. So what are telomeres? They are sequences of DNA at the end of each chromosome. The DNA in each of our cells would be 2-3 metres long if stretched out. To squeeze this into a tiny cell nucleus, it is coiled tightly into structures called … Continue reading Is ageing caused by telomeres?