Thursday, October 14, 2021

Mice in space don't have kids: Ionizing Radiation alters the reproductive health and clock genes of mice.


    The circadian rhythm and clock genes of mice have been found to be negatively affected by ionizing radiation in a recent study. More particularly, the effect of this radiation lowers the motility of sperm in male mice, reducing their ability to reproduce. The clock genes are harmed by reducing the expression of mRNA, causing the metabolism and sleep cycle of the mice to fail, reducing energy and causing lethargy. This circadian rhythm failure will lead to further reproductive harm. These effects can become exacerbated over long periods, and may eventually result in sterility. The harm that is caused by IR puts strain on the concept of long term interplanetary or intergalactic travel, as the ability to produce the next generation of astronauts while in space may come with several issues.

I personally believe that not enough is known about what genes are harmed while traveling in space, and that more conditions and diseases will come from a mixture of low gravity, high radiation, and eventually shallow gene pools aboard interplanetary vessels. In this way (and many others), I think that space travel should continue as a concept for the foreseeable future, as these issues cannot even be solved in our current setting on earth. Adding more variables will only cause more confusion.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Predation due to sexual selection results in modified traits in males.


    An experiment showing the process of natural selection has shown that certain traits will diminish through predation. Broad-horned flour beetles are eaten by Assassin bugs, which target the larger beetles for maximum nutrition. Because of this, scientists found that predation of the beetles resulted in lower fitness for males and much greater fitness and reproductive success for females. Additionally, males that survived would have smaller bodies and mouthparts, resulting in more generations of smaller males. In this way, scientists found that sexual dimorphism diminished in more severe environments, supporting that natural selection directly resulted in the dimorphisms seen in the wild types.

This is less directly genetic, but it is interesting to note how the fitness of the species under certain conditions can influence the genetic variations and phenotypes expressed. This is a study that propels the understanding of natural selection forward (despite this actually being an artificial selection event).

Monday, October 11, 2021

Undruggable no more: Research shows promise in drugs that may lead to better cancer treatment.


    A relatively recent study (from the past year) seems to hold merit as a possible solution to so called "undruggable" genes. Several genes regulate the expressions of proteins, which in turn regulate cell mitosis and other health factors of the cells. Some of these genes can fail, leading to irregularity in the cell and eventually cancer. One of the particular genes focused on in this study is p53, which is responsible for regulating cell division and can fail, leading to over replication. Several drugs are being tested with the goal of inhibiting these mutated genes, allowing for other treatments to be utilized in fighting these previously 'impossible-to-drug' conditions. According to the study, at the time these drugs chosen showed promise, as they seemed to have a high rate of success.

I personally hope for this to be as successful as possible, as this would open the doors for other genealogical conditions to be treated in turn. This past year has seemingly become a year of new medical developments, something that makes the future look much brighter.

The Artic is Connected to the Outside World Through Dog DNA that Reveals an Ancient Trade Network


        DNA from the remains of Siberian dogs suggests that Ancient Artic communities traded with the outside world as early as 7,000 years ago.  The DNA shows that Artic puppies were breeding with European and Eastern dogs thousands of years ago.  This newly found information suggests that long ago, Siberians were connected to a large trade market that spread possibly all the way to the Mediterranean Sea and the Caspier Sea.  Dogs have been used in the Artic for the last 9,500 years for valuable needs such as pulling sleds, hunting, herding reindeer, clothing, and food.  The Artic being such a remote area, it was thought that the people who lived there and their dogs were isolated from the rest of the world, but the newly found DNA information suggests otherwise.  The researchers believe that if they can track the movement of ancient dogs through their DNA, that they can track the movement of ancient humans, because the dogs rarely would stray far from their owner.  This could show how humans traveled across the world and how they were involved in the trade market.

    Trade has been happening in the world for as long as humans have needed or wanted something that someone else has.  As items were traded from culture to culture and from continent to continent, different ideas and cultural practices were developed on everyone, which helped the shaping of the ancient world before travel was made easy.  The trading of Siberian dogs to other continents made it possible for the people who received the dogs to use them for other purposes that their dogs may not be used to, such as pulling sleds or hunting.  It also allowed Siberian dogs to breed with other dogs, creating new breeds of dogs with different traits and skills from the parents.  

    The trade of ancient Artic dogs linked the Artic to the ancient trade network by the finding of DNA from Siberian dogs in other continents such as Europe.  Also, finding remains of dogs that contained DNA of both Siberian and European dogs, where they had bred together and created offspring with both DNA types showed that Siberian dogs had made it to Europe through a trade route in the ancient world.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Development of Gene-Edited Crops is Permitted in the UK Due to a Climate Battle



    The government of Britain plans to allow their researchers to increase yields of crops and limit the need for pesticides by using gene-editing. Scientists could be able to use the process of gene-editing to speed up the time it takes for the crops to grow, and not take away any of the nutrients in the crops.  The scientists in the UK do not want to genetically modify their crops, they just simply want to edit the genes to benefit the people of Britain.  Genetic modification moves a gene from one species, and adds it to another, while gene editing just changes the current genes of the single species.  Gene-editing is believed to be the solution for the changing climate, food security, and biodiversity loss in the United Kingdom.  The researchers will conduct field test and trials to master this tool before it is used in large quantities, but if all goes well, gene-editing will be able to provide disease resistance, more nutrients, and ability to adjust to extreme climates just by making small changes to the crop's DNA.

    Genetically modified organisms and genetic editing in organisms are much different, both providing similar out comes.  Genetically modified organisms are created by removing the targeted gene from one organism and introducing it to a totally different organism.  This is a much bigger, and riskier operation than gene-editing.  Genetic editing is a much smaller scale procedure, where a small tweak to the existing DNA of an organism is done to try and create a desired trait in that organism.  It is such a small edit, that it is very difficult to determine if an organism has been edited, or if the trait is from a naturally occurring mutation in the genetic makeup. 

    The genetic editing of crops in the UK should be a positive thing in order to help out with plant growth in the presence of the new extreme climates due to a recent climate control battle.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Crime Genes: A Myth Perpetuated to the Deficit of the Community


        According to data taken in a study from the American Journal of Criminal Justice this past year, many people misunderstand genetic concepts and have attributed the appearance of criminal behaviors to the work of genetic factors. However, this has been tested over and over again with the result always being that this is false. Flying in the face of this conclusion, analysis of a sample of white respondents found that this false concept was still prevalent in a small portion of the population. While this number was found to lie in the ~5% range, it is still a substantial amount of the respondent population. Thankfully, the overall population that was genetically literate was found to not believe in a 'crime gene'. This should hopefully ease tensions of racially-directed concepts of 'born criminals'.

While I don't have much particular interest in criminal justice, I find that fighting against prejudice and ignorance with science is quite exciting. Hopefully this is a sign that we are progressing rather than backsliding into the hideousness of the past.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Cattle Adaptations

    The University of Missouri released an article on cattle losing adaptations to their environment. Researchers have recently studied cattle DNA, finding genetic variations associated with adaptations. With further research, they believe it may be possible to create tests for farmers that will reveal which climate each cow will do best in. This could be very profitable knowledge to have. If cattle are placed in the environment that will best suit them then they will be happier living with less stress which will make them overall better producers. Fourth-generation cattle farmer and researcher John Decker is working to encode these new revelations. Decker’s goal is to improve the welfare of the cattle as well as solve this mystery in the 50 billion dollar industry. Decker attributes some of these losses in adaptation to breeding. He uses the Colorado cattle as an example. Decker says that by breeding in a stud from a hotter climate the calves are born with fewer adaptations for the Colorado environment causing them to not thrive as well as those by cooler weathered studs. If researchers are able to figure out the DNA sequences that code for certain weather adaptations then farmers can buy herds that will thrive in their environments. This will not only help the cattle live better, more comfortable lives but the farmers will get more production from each cow.,when%20progesterone%20is%20very%20low.&text=The%20average%20duration%20of%20standing,times%20during%20her%20estrous%20period.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Clinical trails of gene therapy are starting to show improvements for sickle cell anemia


 According to an article in the New York Times, there have been advancements in gene therapy for those suffering from sickle cell anemia. The article discusses the journey of a specific patient named Helen Obando who was the first Am6erican teenager to become sickle cell free from these clinical trails. The technique used as of late to treat sickle cell anemia is a bone marrow transplant from someone who does not have the disease and is a close enough match. However, there are cases in which a match cannot be found (like Obando's). 

    There are three types of clinical trials involving the treatment of the disease using gene therapy. The first, being the trial Obando underwent, used the technique to turn off her adult gene used to form hemoglobin and turn on her fetal one. The reason behind turning on the fetal gene is due to its inability to carry the sickle cell gene whereas the adult gene does. This allows perfectly formed red blood cells to be produced if the trial is successful. The second trial applied by Vortex used CRISPR in order to turn on and off those specific genes. CRISPR is used to target specific genes within the DNA and is a great technique when used to point out the hemoglobin producing gene. The third trial is being produced by Bluebird Bio which uses an inactive virus to give to the patients that held the appropriate hemoglobin gene. Unfortunately, Bluebird Bio had to pause its trial because two of its patients developed cancer.

    The unfortunate truth about sickle cell anemia is that the African American population are primarily born with the disease. Due to this commonality of the disease between African Americans, the progress for finding new methods for a cure have been happening slower than what may occur for non-minority groups. The reasoning behind this is up to opinion, but I think it is worth a conversation to have and that our heath care system may need to take a step back to reevaluate their focus.