DNA is the code of life, and so advances that allow us to edit that code have unlocked vast potential, from simply editing away the buggy code of disease, to engineering animals that don’t spread illness, to, maybe one day in a distant future, creating so-called designer babies. But editing another essential molecular component of our biology—RNA, the messenger used by cells to turns DNA instructions into proteins—also holds great promise. Continue reading How Editing RNA—Not DNA—Could Cure Disease in the Future
There may not be a single depression gene, but there’s no question that our genetic makeup is an important factor in whether or not we get depressed. And our sex, it turns out, can be a factor in how those genes are expressed. In men and women diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the same genes show the opposite changes. In other words, the molecular underpinnings of depression in men and women may be different. Continue reading The Genetics of Depression Are Different for Men and Women
In 1903, the remains of a 10,000-year-old man were discovered in the Cheddar Gorge of Somerset, England. Dubbed the “Cheddar Man,” it remains the oldest almost complete skeleton ever found in Britain. Over the years, research has shown that he stood around five-foot-five, he was well-fed and he likely died in his early 20s. Now, as Paul Rincon of the BBC reports, genome analysis has revealed that Cheddar Man had dark brown skin and blue eyes—a discovery that adds to a growing body of research indicating that the evolution of human skin color was far more complex than previously believed.
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—Most of us think of Europe as the ancestral home of white people. But a new study shows that pale skin, as well as other traits such as tallness and the ability to digest milk as adults, arrived in most of the continent relatively recently. The work, presented here last week at the 84th annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, offers dramatic evidence of recent evolution in Europe and shows that most modern Europeans don’t look much like those of 8000 years ago.
Ten years ago this year, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, a whopper of a law conceived at the onset of an era of rapid advancement in genetics. It was intended to protect Americans from all the ways their genetic information might one day be used against them. More commonly known as GINA, the law has plenty of flaws and loopholes, for which it has gotten a fair amount of flack. But GINA also created new rights for citizens when it comes to their DNA. And one of those was giving them access to it.
A team of scientists have snipped away HIV DNA from the genome of live mice using a CRISPR system, and the rodents lived to (kinda) tell the tale. It’s still much too early to call the method a possible cure, but the fact that it worked on a living animal opens up a lot of possibilities. Will it work on other diseases, like cancer? Maybe, but that’s something scientists have to look into. These researchers headed by neurovirologist Kamel Khalili have been focusing on the use of the gene-editing technique to eliminate HIV for years. They successfully excised HIV DNA in live mice last year, but this round is a lot more thorough.