Archive for the ‘Interesting Studies’ Category
Often, it is easy to get caught up studying the “movers and shakers” of our favorite biological system while tragically ignoring the role of a smaller player and wrongfully endowing it with the title of an “unimportant” molecule. Yet until every biological nook and cranny are uncovered, nothing should ever be dismissed as irrelevant.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania had a chance to demonstrate this principle recently as they revealed that a scarce, small RNA, called U6atac, controls the expression of hundreds of genes that have critical functions in cell growth, cell-cycle control, and global control of physiology.
While the major spliceosomes that control the process of removing the majority of introns from mRNA prior to their translation into protein have been studied for years, few scientists have ventured into the world of the minor spliceosome as it was thought to only control the post-transcriptional processing of very few mRNA molecules. Bucking the trend, Dr. Gideon Dreyfuss and his team from U Penn concentrated their efforts on studying the role of the minor spliceosomes and their results have revealed an heretofore undiscovered mechanism responsible for controlling the expression of hundreds of human genes.
Scientists have been using Adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) as a gene therapy vector for a number of years. Depite the fact that there are over 80 clinical trials that involve the use of AAVs worldwide (Wikipedia), AAVs lack the stability and specificity to deliver a gene to a specific target such as particular subregions of the brain.
In a new study taking place at Rice University, researchers have made use of computational and bioengineering methods to create new, benign viruses that can deliver DNA payloads to specific cells.
Their technique is premised upon an algorithm that predicts how parts of very large viruses can recombine by homing in on the viral protein sequences that work well together. According to senior scientist Jonathan Silberg, the researchers are using a hybrid approach to design and select the ideal mix of viruses which will deliver its gene payload in the most efficient manner.
“We’re treating them like Legos,” Silberg said. “We’re taking distantly related viruses that nature might not recombine very efficiently and looking for self-contained pieces of these proteins that can be swapped.”
To read more about this story see Rice writes rules for gene-therapy vectors.
A good state of mind — that is, your happiness — affects your genes, scientists say. In the first study of its kind, researchers from UCLA’s Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the University of North Carolina examined how positive psychology impacts human gene expression.
Engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have devised a method to convert a relatively inexpensive conventional microscope into a billion-pixel imaging system that significantly outperforms the best available standard microscope. Such a system could greatly improve the efficiency of digital pathology, in which specialists need to review large numbers of tissue samples. By making it possible to produce robust microscopes at low cost, the approach also has the potential to bring high-performance microscopy capabilities to medical clinics in developing countries. – See more at: http://www.caltech.edu/content/pushing-microscopy-beyond-standard-limits