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How to precisely edit mitochondrial DNA

phys.org
  • New method allows scientists to edit genes in mitochondria, the little energy factories inside cells, which was impossible until now, even with CRISPR.
  • It will make it easier to study rare diseases caused by mitochondrial mutations, making it possible to fix certain mitochondrial genes without destroying others.
  • One team identified a protein that worked on double-stranded DNA, another team found a way to insert it into the mitochondria, and a third team verified the results.
  • By splitting the protein in half, inserting it into the mitochondria and reassembling it there, they are able to modify genes without destroying the mitochondria.
  • Now they want to find more proteins that will modify other genes - it’s a huge step for the field of gene editing, but it’s still a long way from being useful in medicine.

One-time treatment generates new neurons, eliminates Parkinson's disease in mice

medicalxpress.com
  • Scientists discovered that by inhibiting or deleting a gene that encodes PTB (protein on/off switch for genes), they can turn mouse cells directly into neurons.
  • Now, this finding has been applied to astrocytes (cells in mice brains), turning them into neurons that produce dopamine, in effect curing Parkinson’s symptoms.
  • Compared to other methods to generate neurons, like stem cells, this method is surprisingly easy and effective.
  • After a single treatment, mice regained limb movement and response, and remained free of Parkinson’s symptoms for the rest of their lives.
  • It’s unclear if turning off PTB in human brain cells could generate neurons and alleviate neurodegenerative diseases, the team is moving towards human trials.

Solution to century-old math problem could predict transmission of infectious diseases

phys.org
  • The math problem in question is the discrete diffusion equation in finite space.
  • Until now, defining the probability of encountering and transmitting a particle in a closed space required huge computer simulations (= lots of wasted time and energy).
  • The solution to the basic diffusion equation has been known for a long time, but nobody knew how to quickly solve it for, say, one particular day and place.
  • This will help scientists from many different fields, for example in predicting molecule diffusion in cells, the moves of bacteria in a petri dish, or animal movements.
  • It could even help predict how a virus moves between individuals in a crowd in a confined space.

Detailed 3-D model of SARS-COV-2 revealed

coronavirusexplained.ukri.org
  • Scientists are gathering crucial data about the viral components that make up infectious particles, but the information doesn’t give us a big picture of the virus.
  • In order to help everyone understand the virus, scientists created detailed 3D models of the virus particle.
  • It’s a wonderful collaboration of art and science - a freelance scientific illustrator, virus research scientists, and a team of visualisation / simulation experts.
  • Images and videos are available on the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) COVID-19 website (click the link above the first bullet, below the title).
  • The project is an attempt to collect all currently known information about COVID, and present it in a way that will help people understand it.

Blind people ‘read’ letters traced on their brains with electricity

nature.com
  • New study on people who became blind during their life (ie weren’t blind from birth), and have damaged eyes / optic nerves, but not the brain part that actually “sees”.
  • The study shows that when you stimulate the “seeing” part of their brains with precise patterns of electrical impulses, they kind of see the things you’re trying to show.
  • So far scientists have only “shown” (i.e. transmitted directly into their brains) the shapes of letters like “N” or “Z”.
  • This is very early stage, but it’s a promising sign that perhaps in the future blind people will be able to see without seeing.

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