Science

Disruptive science can have a significant impact outside of our own domains of research and into our personal lives. Keeping abreast of these developments can help prepare and inspire.

Successfully Deleting Disease by Opening up DNA

Bioengineers based in the US have designed a “DNA-binding editorial assistant” that will allow gene-editing technology, like CRISPR, to access previously inaccessible genes of interest. The new protein design can be used to open up areas of the DNA that are obscured by chromatin, which would improve CRISPR efficiency and aid in developing more precise gene-editing techniques to combat disease.

Leukaemia Cells are Addicted to Vitamin B6

Researchers from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) have discovered that Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) grows by taking advantage of the B6 vitamin to accelerate cell division. The findings could pave the way for a treatment that can stop cancer growth by manipulating the enzyme that pushes B6 to make proteins essential for cell division.

Rare DNA Variants Linked to Height Found In Japanese Study

Dozens of rare DNA variants have been identified in the largest genetic study of human height in an Asian population. The genome-wide association study (GWAS) highlighted some of the similarities and differences that play a role in determining height in different parts of the world.

Can Sestrin Actually Mimic the Effects of Exercise?

Researchers at Michigan Medicine have found that a naturally occurring protein called Sestrin can mimic many effects of exercise in flies and mice. Published in Nature Communications, understanding the function of this protein could help scientists combat muscle wasting due to aging and other causes.

GWAS Finds Six Genetic Variants Linked to Anxiety in Veterans

A genome-wide analysis of nearly 200,000 military veterans has identified six genetic variants linked to anxiety. This is the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) to date, and has given insights into how people may be pre-disposed to anxiety disorders and provides further explanations for why anxiety and depression often coexist.

Interview with Dr Rona Strawbridge, UKRI Innovation

Dr Rona Strawbridge has been using genetics to try to understand complex diseases, who’s work has focused much on obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and more recently serious mental illness. We managed to have a chat with Rona ahead of her speaking at the Festival of Genomics about her work and why she’s excited to be speaking at the festival this year.

Gene Variants Linked to Developing Features of Autism

Researchers at the Seattle Children’s Hospital in Washington have identified variants in the ZNF292 gene that could contribute to the development of autism. The study built upon previous work that linked the ZNF292 gene to intellectual disability, and has now identified multiple variations in the gene that could be responsible.

Alzheimer’s Protein may Increase in Levels After Just One Bad Night of Sleep

A preliminary study by researchers at Uppsala University, Sweden has found that losing just one night of sleep may increase levels of tau – a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease. This study found levels of tau were increased in the blood of young, healthy men who were deprived of just one night of sleep, and could contribute to developing the disease later in life

Five Times More Genes Than Previously Thought Found to be Linked to Breast Cancer

A collaborative fine-mapping study from researchers across more than 450 departments worldwide has found five times more genetic variants to be associated with breast cancer than previously thought. The most comprehensive map of breast cancer risk variants to date identified 352 DNA errors that are associated with breast cancer with “reasonable confidence”, and target 191 genes, five times more than were previously recognised.

Discovering the Function of Ultra-Conserved “Poison Exons” Through a CRISPR-Based Tool

Scientists at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre have used a CRISPR-based tool to identify the role of ultra-conserved elements in DNA in blocking the growth of tumour cells and keeping healthy cells growing. Published in Nature Genetics, the research found the importance of these ultra-conserved elements that have remained identical between species, such as humans and mice, over millions of years and showed how essential they are in maintaining a healthy cell.

Knocking Out HIV in Newborns with a Single Dose of Antibodies

New research on nonhuman primates has found that a single dose of antibody-based treatment can prevent HIV transmission from mother to baby. Published in Nature Communications, this research is the first to find that a single dose of broadly neutralising antibodies given after viral exposure can prevent SHIV infection in nonhuman primate new-borns.

A Potential Pathway to Reverse the Genetic Expansion Causing Friedreich’s Ataxia Discovered

Researchers at Tufts University, USA have discovered a mechanism that could be used to develop therapeutic strategies to reverse the genetic expansion causing Friedreich’s ataxia. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers report that the triplet expansion of DNA that causes the disease could potentially be reversed by targeting the process of DNA replication that naturally contracts the expansion in living tissue.