Here’s a riddle: If an alien life form is, well, alien, how will we know what it is? DNA and RNA are the building blocks of life on Earth, but the molecules of life might differ substantially on another planet. So if scientists combing, say, the potentially habitable waters of Jupiter’s moon Europa were to stumble across a new life form, how could they know what they had discovered? Continue reading How Scientists Could Use DNA Sequencing to Identify Alien Life
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
You’re a complex organism. You socialize with family and friends, you solve puzzles and make choices. Humans may be some of the most cerebral animals on the planet, but we know we’re not alone in having this sort of behavioral complexity. Crows use tools. Primates create incredible social structures. Whales congregate.
The gene editing technique CRISPR promises to treat all kinds ofgenetically-linked conditions, but it’s so far limited to tweaking DNA, not the RNA that does everything from carrying protein sequence info to regulating gene expression. That may change soon, however. Scientists have discovered that a commonplace mouth bacterium (Leptotrichia shahii) can be programmed to break down whatever RNA you want. You could rip apart viruses, which are frequently based solely around RNA, or kill a cancer cell by denying it the chance to make vital proteins.