Researchers who have been working on fine tuning the mass production of quality E. coli that can be used to obtain pure DNA that is used in developing vaccines, medicines, and in synthesizing other things we commonly see. Some of the examples given in the article that are synthesized by using DNA obtained from this strain of E. coli are laundry detergents and plastic which is lab-made. The strain they talk about in this article is DH5α had been initially altered to purify the DNA into a useable format but in doing this they also slowed the growth of the microorganism. Further research which has been done by scientists at U of I, in which they found the gene they altered. The gene they altered affected an enzyme in the biosynthesis pathway, once this was corrected the DH5α strain grew as quickly as the other strains typically grown in a lab setting.
Scientists have been able to reprogram amniotic fluid cells into stem cells. Researchers in Berlin at the Max Planck institute were the people in this article who had devised a way to change the amniotic cells to resemble the pluripotent stem cells. The problem with the amniotic derived cells is that they have cell memory from where they came from, researchers are not sure if this will affect their usefulness in medical treatments if they are used. If these cells are viable then the benefit of being easily harvested and widely available. Also in amniotic fluid there are sometimes stem cells from the unborn child that are still present, which makes the conversion of amniotic cells to stem cell copies much quicker. Another positive of using amniotic cells would be the possible testing of tolerance of drugs by the unborn child before birth.
Scientists from Germany and Ireland have been studying types of bacteria that are prominent in bogs and sewage plants to research the link between bacteria cells and cells with a nucleus, the eukaryotes. Prior to these studies it was widely suggested that there was perhaps not some intermediate cell, rather a type of fusion of cells to create a new cell. Researchers have found that PVC (Planctomycetes, Verrucomicrobiae, Chlamydiae) bacteria are all types that might be the intermediate step between bacteria and eukaryotes since they are larger and divide more slowly. Further reasearch will be needed to be able to determine if the fusion theory or intermediate theory is more likely.
The gene in question for this study was a2d3 or straightjacket, which is a unique sensory gene because its pathway is in the brain, instead of being in the peripheral nerves, which is usually the "norm" for pain sensory genes. To test this gene they inserted the genetic sequence into fruit flies and exposed the flies to an excessive heat wave, those who were under the influence of the gene failed to move away from the heat. To test where the gene was being affected (brain or peripheral nervous system) they had to isolate the gene, induce pain then observe activity in the mouse, which they observed in the brain. Mapping of other genetic pathways allowed the researchers to conclude it was indeed a2d3 that had the brain pathway. Why we should care is this gene is found in the flies, mice as well as in humans and the mutant of gene a2d3 causes synesthesia which is where one sense triggers the others (including pain). Research on this gene may allow the development of a pain reliever that would be able to counteract the brain pathway and intercept the pain signal.
Found an interesting study by the folks at UCLA...
This study by UCLA looked at brain function based on the two different variants in the CNTNAP2 gene, which has been a suspected gene responsible for Autism. In their study they performed fMRI's on 32 children and looking at the scans they found half of those children were in the "at risk" zone for Autism. The "at risk" zone is when the frontal lobe lights up significantly because its connected to itself immensely but inadequately connected to the rest of the brain. This lack of connectivity leads to a defecit in communication. The team also looked at left/right brain connectivity which allows a person to understand and interpret language. In the at risk children there was a lack of connectivity compared to the non-risk children. An important thing to note, however is that just because a person has an "at risk" gene expression doesn't mean they will be on the Autism scale. The next step to prove that CNTNAP2 is connected directly to Autism will be to try to link that gene mutation to children with language and communication impairments that have been attributed to Autism.
I read an article about the study that was going on to age the "Mitochondrial Eve" by using Mitochondrial DNA. The article said that there are 37 genes that rarely change in the mitochondria, and then there is also a region that varies frequently and quickly. By studying the changes in that they are able to discern some basic evolutionary time periods. The next part of the study is harder for me to understand, they take blood samples from different donors and determine relatedness based on their blood samples, which somehow allows the scientists to age the mitochondrial DNA. It was interesting to read about mitochondrial DNA and that it is only passed down through the mother, and using their processes they aged the mitochondrial DNA they estimate that DNA to have originated 200,000 years ago.
You can view the article here Article
This week I read an article about the branching off of a species of mosquito in Africa into two different species. When they studied the two strains, dubbed M and S they found 400,000 points in the genome where there was a difference. This is a problem because Malaria is prevalent in Africa and one way to control the disease is to control the Mosquito population. Having a new strain means that insecticides that work on one strain might not work on the other strain, meaning that insecticides used in the wrong area on the wrong strain will be ineffective. They believe that the emergence of seperate strains is from different environmental conditions such as predators, larval conditions, weather changes and insecticides used in particular areas. The M and S strains originated from the Gambiae strain which was previously the main strain of malaria carrying mosquito.
The article I read for this week focused on how even moderate alcohol consumption in expectant mothers can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Considering I haven't learned much about FAS in the past it was interesting to know that the reason there is an issue is because alcohol alters the mothers thyroid levels and thus alters the thyroid levels in the fetus. The enzyme covered in this study was Dio3, which affects thyroid activity. In the studies preformed with rats it was discovered that Dio3 was the biggest enzyme altered by alcohol. This is significant beacuse now researchers can try to find ways to reverse the damage done by the altered levels of Dio3. It will be interesting to see if this research goes anywhere...since FAS does affect many people.
First of all a personal pet peeve...when websites change their format and non-tech savvy people spend over 30 minuets trying to figure out how to create a new entry. Creates a whole new level of grrrr...
Anyways back to the subject matter. After spending a few days researching bicoid I think I would be happy to focus on something else for awhile. I found an article that was pretty interesting since we have been discussing how changes during development can critically alter the maturation of an organism. While experimenting with the snails it was found that exposure to platinum during a critical period leads to the absence of an external shell. The snails were exposed to the platinum during this critical period and then the toxin is removed and they developed normally sans outer shell. It was found, however, that they did secrete a type of internal shell for protection. But looking at the photos that were in the article it seems a little odd the location of the gills without any form of protections, but perhaps I am just too accustomed to the sight of snails and slugs, but not "snugs" which these mutated creatures resemble. Article
I sort of found this relative to what the class has read in Carrolls book about the mutagens that caused cyclops deformation in the sheep. Very strange but interesting how exposure to a toxin can alter some areas of development but leave the rest of the organism seemingly unscathed!
Interesting thought for the week: some people seem to take this internet blogging way too serious. Quite a wake-up call! Criticism is always welcome, especially for me...since I am NOT computer savvy in the least. I am fairly certain laughter would follow if the time I spent setting up this pre-formed blog got out (hint: more than 2 hours...and it came formatted). Oh well, on to the Developmental topic I found interesting for this week.
'Firefly' Stem cells may help Repair Damaged Hearts is an article that discusses the use of stems cells coded with a firefly gene which causes the cells to glow brighter as they develop into healthy heart muscle. The benefits of this enzyme in the cells is it would allow doctors to monitor healing without opening up the patients again. The next step that researchers want to look into is WHY and HOW these cells develop into heart tissue. But now that they can track the cells by the glowing, it will be easier to track the development from stem cell into different tissues. The link to the article is here ---> http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100928111122.htm