Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Rising Temperature Cause Sea Turtles to Turn Female

Researchers went to the coast of Australia to see how many male and female pacific green sea turtles there was on the coast.  What they found shocked scientist.  They took DNA samples of each turtle they caught.  They found that female turtles outnumbered the males one-hundred and sixteen to one.  The sex of a turtle is determined by the temperature of the sand, in which the eggs are incubated.  Scientist predicted that there would be more females due to climate change, but they never expected females to out number the males one-hundred and sixteen to one.  If the ocean temperatures continues to rise around the world, it can turn the entire turtle population female.  If this continues to happen there might not be enough males to sub stain the population.  Since the only way to determine the sex of turtles is when they fully mature, blood samples were taken of the turtles at a feeding and breeding ground.  In the last twenty years Baine Island has been producing female turtles only.  In the seventies and eighties there was a ration of six to one.  Down south where females out numbered males two to one.  Since males mate with multiple females it makes it more beneficial, in keeping the population.  The temperatures are changing to quickly for the turtles to adapt.

Image result for pacific green turtle


Monday, October 21, 2019

The First Direct Observation of 'Natural Transformation''

Many diseases that once killed people can now be treated effectively with antibiotics. However, some bacteria have become resistant to almost all of the easily available antibiotics. A new study published by researchers at Indiana University revealed a previously unknown role a protein plays in bacterial horizontal gene transfer.  A new imaging method invented at Indiana University leads to a discovery on how superbugs acquire antimicrobial resistance. Bacteria use thin hair-like surface appendages called pili for natural transformation. 

IU scientists have made the first direct observation of how horizontal gene transfer that bacteria use to rapidly acquire new traits from its surrounding environment, including antibiotic resistance. It was understood that two motors with two distinct proteins controlled the activity to power pilus. Proteins known as PilB constructed the pili, and PilT, which deconstructed it. They discovered a third motor, PilU, that worked independently and could power the pilus when PilT was inactive. This was an important discovery because the better we know understand how bacteria share DNA, the more chances we have at treating antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. This could help save nearly 1 million people affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year.


Fryling, K. D. (2019, October 21). DNA-reeling bacteria yield new insight on how superbugs acquire drug-resistance. Retrieved October 21, 2019, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-10/iu-dby102119.php.

Starr, M. (2018, June 15). For The First Time, Scientists Have Caught Bacteria "Fishing" For DNA From Their Dead Friends. Retrieved October 21, 2019, from https://www.sciencealert.com/cholera-bacteria-using-pili-to-harpoon-dna-horizontal-gene-transfer-antibiotic-resistance.

Losing genes may have helped whale's ancestors adapt to life under the sea

A recent study found ancestors of whales and dolphins might of lost some genes when they made the transition from land to sea animals.  It was found that cetaceans(dolphins and whales) lost 85 genes since living in the water.  By comparing these genes to hippopotamuses it was concluded these genes were lost when cetaceans transitioned to water creatures around fifty million years ago.  Losing these genes helped cetaceans adapt to living in the water.  POLM was a gene that helps repair DNA, and regulate blood clotting.  The loss of this gene helped increase the fidelity of the repair of DNA.  Other genes that dealt with lung function was also lost.  This helped avoid damage to the lungs that could occur while deep diving.  They also lost the saliva producing gene(SLC4A9).  Since cetaceans live under water, they don't need saliva to break down food.   Producing less saliva also helps keep fresh water in their bodies.  Cetaceans lack melatonin which is a sleep inducing hormone.  Researchers believe they loss this gene, since its no longer necessary.

orca jumping


New Drug That May Help Slow Down Prostate Cancer?

Recently, researchers tested the drug, called “olaparib,” in a clinical trial with whom are men with prostate cancer. People with prostate cancer tend to have a mutation in one of several genes that are involved in BRCA1 and BRCA2. Both these genes are considered damaged DNA genes. These genes in prostate cancer are also similarly shown in other cancers like breast and ovarian cancer. Since these genes from prostate cancer are similar to other cancers, researchers use the drug Olaparib that is is used to treat breast and ovarian cancer to test it out. Olaparib is a PARP inhibitor. This drug blocks the PARP enzyme that repairs broken DNA. It acts against cancer. The clinical trials involved with 400 men with prostate cancer show that tumors did shrink by 2.3% compared to those men with prostate cancer that use standard therapy. After one year of testing and using olaparib, about 22% show no signs of processing cancer, while on the other hand, those that use standard treatment show 13.5 %. Olaparib drugs are currently being tested and are not FDA approved for prostate cancer use yet.

Image result for prostate cancerThis is a notable finding of how drugs that there is hope for men with prostate cancer that there is treatment in the future that can help them with their health. This article was fascinating to read because I noticed that the FDA only approves olaparib drugs for breast and ovarian cancers, and not prostate cancer. Then I thought about how the drugs might be involved with hormones. The reason I thought about this is that breast and ovarian cancers are female, and prostate cancer is for men.



Sunday, October 20, 2019

Gene therapy restores immunity in infants with X-SCID

          The article "Gene therapy restores immunity in infants with rare immunodeficiency disease" talks about the most recent gene therapy trial that was done on infants with X-SCID. X-SCID is a rare inherited disorder that causes those infected to not develop or have normal functioning immune cells. The disease is caused by the mutation in the IL2RG gene which increases the infants susceptibility to succumb to severe infections. Scientist at NIAID and St. Jude Children's Hospital tried to restore the immune function by injecting a normal copy of the IL2RG gene into the infants stem cells. Compare to previous attempts in treating infants with X-SCID this method of gene therapy yielded better results. 7 out of the 8 infants test showed an increase in immune cells (T cells, B cells, and NK cells), while the 8th infant showed in increase in T cells. The researchers are still monitoring the infants that receive this gene treatment and are starting to enroll more infants into the trial.

     This was a very informative article. It is always a welcome news when new treatments for diseases that impact infants yields a positive result. The article talked about other methods that researchers tried to help those with X-SCID and it was very interesting to see the different outcomes.  One used chemotherapy regimens and while it did increase T cells, those cells did not have the functions an immune cell would have. It made me wonder why did the T cells generated from the gene therapy and the chemotherapy did not do the same thing, one being fully functional and the other not.


A Newly Discovered Genetic Mutation That Makes Woman Feel No Pain

Imagine living a life where you never really experience physical pain, stress, or anxiety. A 71-year-old woman by the name of Jo Cameron is a very rare case of a genetic mutation that makes her feel no pain. Cameron lived through her childhood breaking her arm and not noticing it until her bone was oddly resetting, eating spicy peppers with ease, and ironing herself with the smell of her own burning skin as the only indication that she was burning. Throughout her life, Cameron never thought anything was different about her. Until she underwent a hand surgery that was supposed to be an excruciating procedure. After this procedure, a consultant, Srivastava, sent her to see pain specialists in London. This research team in London found that there were two mutations that allowed Cameron to experience little to no pain and allowed for a boost in happiness, forgetfulness, and wound healing.
Jo Cameron
 The first was a more common mutation. It was the mutation of the FAAH gene that causes a partial loss in its function to make an enzyme that breaks down anandamide (a chemical known to reduce pain and elevate mood). The second mutation is more on the rare side. This mutation was a deletion in the FAAH-OUT gene that was unknown prior to this case. This gene acts as “volume control” and since Cameron’s FAAH-OUT gene had a deletion, it had a complete loss in its function. Thus, Cameron had an excess of anandamide in her body, in fact, she had twice the amount compared to those in the general population, causing her to feel less pain and generally feel happier. The effects of FAAH and anandamide in the endocannabinoid system, which deals with memory formation, explains Cameron’s forgetfulness and memory loss.

This article caught my eye because upon reading the title, I thought that this woman basically had superpowers; superpowers that allowed for her to not feel any physical pain or anxiety. I cannot wait to see more articles and studies done in relation to this because I would like to see how it changes modern analgesics that are given out to patients and I would like to see how this study is clinically applied to situations in terms of patients with chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.



Friday, October 18, 2019

Association Between Diabetes and ZRANB3 Gene

The journal Nature Communications published the largest genomic study of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in sub-Saharan Africans, in which they analyzed nearly 18 million autosomal SNPs in 5,231 individuals from Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya (Nature, 2019). Researchers found that there was a connection between diabetes and genome-wide significant locus: ZRANB3 gene. They confirmed the ZRANB3 gene, might influence weakness to the T2D in sub-Saharan African populations. They studied its effects on the zebrafish pancreas; "the pancreas is one of the key organs involved in T2D because their β-cells release insulin as a response to rising glucose in the bloodstream" (NIH, 2019).

CRISPR, a gene-editing tool was used to make the ZRANB3 gene nonfunctional in zebrafish. This is called a 'knockout'. They also reduced the expression of the ZRANB3 gene in a different sample of zebrafish. Researchers observed β-cells were reduced numbers in the developing zebrafish embryo (Nature, 2019). They concluded that when the ZRANB3 gene was inactive, pancreatic β-cells were being destroyed. They conducted a similar experiment using mice and found similar results. They proposed an excellent question on this finding: will it help to predict whether the presence of ZRANB3 in an individual with T2D require insulin early in the course of its treatment? This is significant because it could save the destruction of β-cells over time.  They also believed since ZRANB3 in T2D was discovered in African populations, the same gene might have same influence in other populations. I think this experiment was executed brilliantly considering they analyzed so much data before concluding. I think it is amazing that they want to continue the research with different pollutions and hope to find a similar association between T2D and ZRANB3 gene. 

NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute. (2019, July 19). Largest genomic study on type 2 diabetes in sub-Saharan African populations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 18, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190719080212.htm

ZRANB3 is an African-specific type 2 diabetes locus associated with beta-cell mass and insulin response. (2019, July 19). Retrieved October 18, 2019, from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-10967-7#article-info.

DNA from extinct red wolves lives on in some mysterious Texas coyotes

The discovery of red-coated coyotes has started to raise the question on whether scientists should start conserving DNA and species. These new coyotes were spotted on Galveston Island, Texas. Their DNA tells biologists that they are descendants of red wolves.  Red wolves have thought to be extinct in the wild since 1980.  There are a few red wolves bred in captivity in North Carolina, but they had no contact with animals living in the wild.   This discovery led biologist Galveston to question if red wolves are really extincted.  Galveston obtained tissue samples of the coyotes and, sent them to an evolutionary geneticist, to have their DNA examined.  They found that the DNA was that of coyotes and red wolf.  Since red wolves are extincted in the wild their DNA was called "ghost alles".  Researchers decided to keep and preserve the DNA in hopes, that some part of the red wolf can live and continue  to live in the wild.
red wolves