CauseScience Friday -Nov 20th #selfie #cellfie #science

Happy Friday (or should we say, Fri-YAY) from CauseScience!

psgurel– Today I am miniprepping! If you remember last week, I was doing PCR to get a specific DNA construct. After doing PCR, there are several steps before you have nice clean DNA. For the DNA I’m using (plasmid DNA) the final step is to extract your DNA from bacteria.  Lucky for us, several companies make “miniprep” kits that make this process super quick and easy. It takes about 30min, and then you have (hopefully) nice, clean DNA!

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crestwind24– This is crazy! I am also doing mini preps of DNA this morning!! SAMESIES!! Preparing DNA is a major part of most labs, as made obvious by todays post. I am making DNA that will label synapses in neurons in C. elegans. Once I have the DNA that I want, we will inject it into developing embryos, and then I will have transgenic worms!! Hopefully with glowing synapses!! This will allow me to visualize connections between different neurons.

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CauseScience Friday… more like mini prep Friday!!!

Awesome @radiolab episode on CRISPR and Cas9 DNA editing!! #science

Check out this podcast episode from Radiolab focusing on CRISPR and its potential applications.

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Out drinking with a few biologists, Jad finds out about something called CRISPR. No, it’s not a robot or the latest dating app, it’s a method for genetic manipulation that is rewriting the way we change DNA. Scientists say they’ll someday be able to use CRISPR to fight cancer and maybe even bring animals back from the dead. Or, pretty much do whatever you want. Jad and Robert delve into how CRISPR does what it does, and consider whether we should be worried about a future full of flying pigs, or the simple fact that scientists have now used CRISPR to tweak the genes of human embryos.

More controversy in the CRISPR/Cas9 debate. Editing DNA in human embryos: Good or Bad idea?

As mentioned previously, a moratorium has been called on the new gene editing technique using the CRISPR/Cas9 system due to ethical concerns over altering genes.  Essentially, biologists fear that this technique will be used in cilinical applications before the safety can be determined and ALSO are worried about ethical issues surrounding the technique of editing genes.

In light of all this, a new controversy has surfaced following the publication in Protein & Cell of work from Chinese scientists who essentially tried to delete a gene from human embryos that causes a fatal blood disorder. While the CRISPR/Cas9 system definitely has potential, the work from this group clearly shows that their current method of gene editing has several off target effects and is absolutely not ready for any sort of clinical trial.

NPR summarizes the whole ordeal:

For the first time, scientists have edited DNA in human embryos, a highly controversial step long considered off limits.

Junjiu Huang and his colleagues at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, performed a series of experiments involving 86 human embryos to see if they could make changes in a gene known as HBB, which causes the sometimes fatal blood disorder beta-thalassemia.

The report, in the journal Protein & Cell, was immediately condemned by other scientists and watchdog groups, who argue the research is unsafe, premature and raises disturbing ethical concerns.

“No researcher should have the moral warrant to flout the globally widespread policy agreement against modifying the human germline,” Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society, a watchdog group, wrote in an email to Shots. “This paper demonstrates the enormous safety risks that any such attempt would entail, and underlines the urgency of working to forestall other such efforts. The social dangers of creating genetically modified human beings cannot be overstated.”

George Daley, a stem cell researcher at Harvard, agreed.

“Their data reinforces the wisdom of the calls for a moratorium on any clinical practice of embryo gene editing, because current methods are too inefficient and unsafe,” he wrote in an email. “Further, there needs to be careful consideration not only of the safety but also of the social and ethical implications of applying this technology to alter our germ lines.”

Scientists have been able to manipulate DNA for years. But it’s long been considered taboo to make changes in the DNA in a human egg, sperm or embryo because those changes could become a permanent part of the human genetic blueprint. One concern is that it would be unsafe: Scientists could make a mistake, which could introduce a new disease that would be passed down for generations. And there’s also fears it this could lead to socially troubling developments, such as “designer babies,” in which parents can pick and choose the traits of their children.

The Chinese researchers say they tried this to try to refine a new technique called CRISPR/Cas9, which many scientists are excited about it because it makes it much easier to edit DNA. The procedure could enable scientists to do all sorts of things, including possibly preventing and curing diseases. So the Chinese scientists tried using CRISPR/Cas9 to fix a gene known as the HBB gene, which causes beta thallasemia.

The work was done on 86 very early embryos that weren’t viable, in order to minimize some of the ethical concerns. Only 71 of the embryos survived, and just 28 were successfully edited. But the process also frequently created unintended mutations in the embryos’ DNA.

“Taken together, our data underscore the need to more comprehensively understand the mechanisms of CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing in human cells, and support the notion that clinical applications of the CRISPR system may be premature at this stage,” the Chinese scientists wrote.

Rumors about this research have been circulating for weeks, prompting several prominent groups of scientists to publish appeals for a moratorium on doing this sort of thing.

In the wake of the report from the Chinese scientists, several of these researchers reiterated their call for a moratorium. Some said they hoped the difficulties that Huang and his colleagues encountered might discourage other scientists from attempting anything similar.

“The study simply underscores the point that the technology is not ready for clinical application in the human germline,” Jennifer Doudna, the University of California, Berkeley, scientist who developed CRISPR, wrote in an email. “And that application of the technology needs to be on hold pending a broader societal discussion of the scientific and ethical issues surrounding such use.”

But there are already reports that Huang’s group and possibly others in China continue to try editing the genes in human embryos.

“We should brace for a wave of these papers, and I worry that if one is published with a more positive spin, it might prompt some IVF clinics to start practicing it, which in my opinion would be grossly premature and dangerous,” Daley says.

What do YOU think about the CRISPR/Cas9 technology? Should a moratorium be placed? Does the technology show promise for curing disease in the future? Or is this whole thing unethical? Share your opinions in the comments or tweet at us @CauseScience1.

Wanna buy a Nobel Prize Medal? James Watson is selling his to supplement his income… and more? #science

James Watson, who received the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for helping discover the structure of DNA, is auctioning off his Medal this week.

Christie’s has said Watson’s medal could sell for as much as $2.2 million dollars, when it is auctioned in New York on Thursday.

According to the Irish Times, Watson said he plans to use the money from the sale of the gold medal to supplement his income, make donations to “institutions that have looked after me” such as the University of Chicago, his alma mater, and Clare College, Cambridge, and to buy art.

Check out the article here for more info, including some info on the many controversial comments made by Watson.

@NIH Director’s blog: Using Genomics to Follow the Path of Ebola #science

Check out the most recent post on the NIH Director’s Blog by Francis Collins examining a recently published study examining the genome of the Ebola virus. This study pinpointed the outbreak and monitored how the genome has changed as the virus spreads. Sadly, a number of the authors on the study have contracted and died from the virus.

In a study just out in the journal Science, this fast-acting team reported that it has sequenced the complete genetic blueprints, or genomes, of 99 Ebola virus samples obtained from 78 patients in Sierra Leone. This new genomic data has revealed clues about the origin and evolution of the Ebola virus, as well as provided insights that may aid in the development of better diagnostics and inform efforts to devise effective therapies and vaccines.

 

To help advance such research, Sabeti’s team deposited its Ebola genome sequences, even prior to publication, in a database run by NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information’s (NCBI), which means the data is immediately and freely available to researchers around the world. Access to this genomic data should accelerate international efforts to figure out ways of detecting, treating, and, ultimately, preventing infection by this deadly virus.

New feature! CauseScience Friday! #science #scienceselfie

Every Friday we are going to post what we are doing in lab (similar post from awhile ago). We hope to show people that scientists do a lot of different things, and aren’t just anti-social crazy people wearing lab coats.

Today I am preparing a lot of DNA samples (24 to be exact). DNA preps are usually quick and easy, but they take a bit more concentration when doing so many. Notice that the centrifuge is completely full! Happy Friday!

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Further north up at Dartmouth, blogger psgurel is doing data analysis and quantification.  A typical day in the lab is not always pipetting and microscopes.  Oftentimes, data gathered during experimentation are not meaningful until they are quantified and analyzed appropriately.  Today’s analysis consists of finding similarities between previously published crystallography data and plotting kinetic data from an experiment done yesterday!

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The Science of Being a Dad! #fathersday

Happy Fathers Day! Naturally, I bring to you information on the science of being a dad!

Typically, we hear about the science of being a mother… and how important the mothers are for the children’s growth and development, etc.  I mean, biologically, the mother even supplies the main “bulk” of the zygote.  They carry the child in the womb. There’s undoubtedly a lot of evidence on research on the role of mothers in raising children.

And often, fathers are simply regarded as those who “bring home the bacon.”  But their role in raising children goes farther than that.  Check out the latest On Point with Tom Ashbrook interviewing Paul Raeburn, author of “Do Father’s Matter?“.  Fascinating stuff on how father’s contribute more than just their DNA.