Friday, February 15, 2019

New Virus Detecter Helps Identify Any Virus

An article by Science Daily describes a new disease surveillance tool that can help detect any human-infecting virus. One of the problems during the Zika outbreak in 2015 was that there weren't many Zika virus particles in the blood of an infected patient. This made it difficult to obtain clinical samples and to study the genetics of the virus. Broad Institute developed CATCH, a new computational method that can be used to design molecular baits for any human-infecting virus. This approach enables small sequencing centers to conduct disease surveillance more efficiently and without spending as much money. Instead of metagenomic sequencing, which loses viral material among the other patient's DNA, scientists "enrich" clinical samples for a particular virus. This uses genetic bait to immobilize the virus's genetic material. The baits are "short strands of DNA or RNA that pair with bits of viral DNA", Susanna Hamilton writes. CATCH (Compact Aggregation of Targets for Comprehensive Hybridization) allows users to design custom sets of bait probes to capture genetic material of any combination of viruses. Previously, scientists could only target a few viruses at a time. Users easily input genomes from forms of human viruses that are on the National Center for Biotechnology's database. The program produces the best set of probes based on what the user is targeting. The CATCH software is publicly accessible on GitHub.

I think the CATCH software is very adaptive because it can pull any information from the Biotechnology database, which is always being updated. So when new virus strains are discovered, CATCH will already be able to access the genetic information of the strain and produce the best genetic probes for the job. This is a good thing because it makes obtaining clinical samples of the virus much easier, it will take less time, and it will save money. Hopefully this allows for more studying of the virus and better treatments for the illness.

Come On Get Happy

There is an article that is a bit older, but still very interesting, from Science Magazine. Scientists have been working finding the genetic variants that are associated with mental illness. A GWAS (genome-wide association studies) was conducted on a group of African Americans to try and find the loci that may be responsible for an inheritable trait of happiness. They were able to identify a specific loci that was strongly associated with an individual with more positive emotional experiences.

Genetics is incredible in the fact that every day that passes we learn a little more. I find it fascinating that so many traits, which are not limited to physical traits, are determined by an individual's genetic coding. I am eager to see how the identification of these genes in conjunction with advances in gene therapies; changes how much of the inherited self can be modified.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Insulin Pill?

According to Science Daily, an MIT-led research team developed a drug capsule, that can deliver oral insulin instead of injecting insulin to treat patients with type II diabetes. The capsule is said to be the size of a blueberry, which contains a small needle, made of compressed insulin, which is injected after the capsule reached the stomach. Tested on animals, researchers showed that the pill could deliver enough insulin to lower blood sugar as much as the injections given through skin.

Having been developed before, the pill has been modified to contain one needle, which is made of nearly 100% compressed, freeze dried insulin. The way it works is; when the capsule is swallowed, water in the stomach would dissolve the sugar disk, releasing the spring and injecting the needle into the stomach wall. The stomach wall has no pain receptors, therefore patients would not feel the injection. The needle orients itself, where no matter the position, it will target the stomach wall. Once the top of the needle is injected into the stomach wall, insulin dissolves at a controlled rate and is then released into the bloodstream.

This is a very important topic, many people suffer from diabetes. However type II diabetes is often hereditary and non-preventable, and surviving with injections everyday is tough. With this new insulin pill, we can help many people battle type II diabetes and make it easier to manage. I hope that they will do further research and allow this "pill form" insulin to be promoted for pharmaceutical use. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Web Meets Genomics

According to Science Daily, a DNA search engine has been made to identify microbes. Researches have combined their knowledge of bacterial genetics and web search algorithms to build a DNA search engine called BIGSI. This search engine could help researchers monitor the spread of antibiotic resistance genes and understand how viruses and bacteria adapt and evolve. The way this works is BIGSI would be able to detect any new microbial genome in the history of microbial DNA. This program is developed with a HUGE memory capacity and simply needs internet to store and search information.

The BIGSI program allows researchers to compare DNA of multiple bacterial species, and by doing so, we can understand how they are related. One of the main focuses of this project was to study the dynamics of antibiotic resistance. Most bacteria and viruses are responsible for many infectious diseases, and over the years, they have been able to evolve and "survive" the antibiotic treatment, thus becoming extremely dangerous to humans.

I believe that anything that is created in order to help us, especially preventing viruses and infections, is for a good cause. This program has been long in demand, many illnesses have taken place and most people have lost lives due to bacterial and viral infections. Being able to compare and analyze microbial DNA can lead us in preventing such outbreaks. For example, the outbreak of food poisoning, where the cause (which was found later) was a Salmonella strain, could have been evaluated earlier with a new and faster system as the BIGSI.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Gene Mutation Associated with Autism

Austism spectrum disorder and autism patients' are getting treaments done on the study of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).  A research team from The Hospital for Sick Children, Uniersity of Toronto and McMaster University are making a iPSC line to help research for autism. These research teams are making a iPSC line because there are only a few iPSC derived neuronal lines used for study, but they are costly.  The research temas developed 53 different iPSC lines founded by 25 autism individuals who carry rare genetic variants. CRISPR editing was used to explore the impacts of mutations with autisim characteristics. Scientists' found out there was spontaneous hyperactivity in neurons that lacked CNTN5 genes, which can cause austistic characterisitcs. Hyperactive networks are being used to view autism and used for future investigation.
Image result for autism gene

I found this article to be interesting because researchers are discovering more impacts of neuronal mutations associated with austism characteristics. It is always interesting to read about how scientists are making new discoveries on gene mutations for people who have autism. There are always new discoveries happening and autism is always a research of topic.

Scientist find genetic causes of Loneliness

A geneticist by the name of John Perry from the University of Cambridge has been researching genetic roots to loneliness, The research studied genetic variations in 487,000 participants in the UK. Participants were asked about their perception of loneliness, how frequent their social activities are, and the quality of their interactions with others. This long-term studied identified 15 genetic variations linked to some parts in the brain region where emotion is controlled and metabolism. It is believed that individuals with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) are more susceptible to loneliness and depression. Perry supported this claim by saying that it's either because, they are self-conscious about their weight or that being lonely/depressed could change the way they ate or exercised. He also states if we would be able to pinpoint these pathways then maybe we could improve these individuals cardio-metabolic health.

I found this article interesting to read and I like the fact that at the end of the article John Perry does mention that just because, we might be able to identify these specific traits in individuals does not mean that people with these traits will have a higher likelihood of developing loneliness/depression. There are so many factors, genetically and non-genetically that can contribute to how someone is socially and mentally. I just personally think that this would be hard to study considering those factors.

First Genetic Locus for Anorexia Nervosa

UNC School of Medicine researchers have identified the first genetic locus for anorexia nervosa. These researchers conducted the study on about 4,000 affected individuals and about 11,000 unaffected individuals. Researchers have identified this locus on chromosome 12. This region is associated with type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases. While researchers were trying to identify the location of this locus, they also calculated genetic correlations. Anorexia nervosa was genetically correlated to neuroticism and schizophrenia. These findings verify that anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric illness. However, there were also genetic correlations with metabolic issues such as BMI and insulin-glucose metabolism. Researchers are now in the process of studying how metabolic factors can affect anorexia nervosa as well.
I believe that this new information will serve as a catalyst in the treatments of other illnesses. Usually people assume that anorexia nervosa is just a psychiatric illness. While the results of this study do prove that it is a psychiatric illness, researchers have also found that this illness is related to metabolic issues. I understand that the past treatment of eating disorders includes eating under a doctor’s care while also talking to a psychologist. However, now that scientists know that metabolism could be a contributing factor, more treatment options can be offered. I hope that this research can be done with other psychiatric illnesses because researchers may find that they have genetic correlations to non-psychiatric illnesses. If scientists can find more genetic correlations between different diseases, there may be an increase in treatment options.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Long Lived Lonesome George Clues to Longevity

Charles Darwin developed the idea of natural selection using the tortoises he found on the Galapagos island back in 1835. He preached the idea that these amazing animals adapted there shell to help them survive the lifestyle they endured. In 2012, Lonesome George- the longest living original turtle from the islands- passed away. However he was still giving hints to scientists about longevity and good health. Dr. Aldagisa Caccone,  sequenced the entire genome of Lonesome George and then compared it to other genomes of living animals. She found that there was a gene mutation, IGF1R, that is also found in humans that could be key to longevity in the turtle AND humans.  This gene has one copy in the human genome however the tortoise carried 12. This makes it much more effeceint to carry out these processes to help the turtle live a century.

The amazing part about these tortoises is that they offer so much information to humans. If we can study them more and learn about there genome, we could have solutions to regeneration of body parts. They could survive temperatures that humans could not possible survive. And much like in 1835, were the tortoises were helping the world understand evolution, Lonesome George is once again teaching the world about adaptation and longevity.