Tagged With genetics

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In the classic 1966 American science fiction film Fantastic Voyage, a submarine crew was miniaturised and injected into a body to fix a blood clot in the brain. That obviously isn't how future medical science is going to work, but the notion of creating microscopic machines to perform complex tasks is certainly on point. A recent advance, in which robots made from DNA were programmed to sort and deliver molecules to a specified location, now represents an important step in this futuristic direction.

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In 2012, the artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg exhibited a work that predicted a terrifying future: She extracted DNA from discarded hairs, gum and cigarette butts and used it to predict what those anonymous strangers might look like. The traces of ourselves that we are constantly leaving behind, she thought, could unleash an era of biological surveillance in which little more than a hair could reveal a person's identity and location.

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As a young child, every morning at sunrise I would wake up to tap dance on the patio outside my mum's bedroom door, much to my poor mum's chagrin. These sunrise salutations became an enduring family story, as did my habit of getting up with the sun. Imagine my surprise, then, when a DNA test recently suggested that I am, in fact, a night owl.

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Dr. George Church is a real-life Dr. Frankenstein. The inventor of CRISPR and one of the minds behind the Human Genome Project is no longer content just reading and editing DNA — now he wants to make new life. In Ben Mezrich's latest book, Wooly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures, Church and his Harvard lab try to do the impossible, and clone an extinct Woolly mammoth back into existence.

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For more than half a century, scientists have dreamed of harnessing an odd quirk of nature — "selfish genes", which bypass the normal 50/50 laws of inheritance and force their way into offspring — to engineer entire species. A few years ago, the advent of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology turned this science fictional concept into a dazzling potential reality, called a gene drive. But after all the hype, and fear of the technology's misuse, scientists are now questioning whether gene drives will work at all.

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The premise behind Yes or No Genomics is simple: Genetic disease is typically caused by a variation in at least one of the many thousands of genes in the human genome, so knowing whether your DNA code contains variants could suggest whether your health is at risk. And for just $US199 ($254), the scientists at Yes or No Genomics can use special technology to determine that.

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There's no doubt that inflammatory bowel disease is horrible. Its consequences, all sorts of gastrointestinal distress, can be downright debilitating. But treating it is full of uncertainty — folks with the same symptoms might respond in wildly different ways. That's why scientists are trying to pinpoint its cause, among all the genetic complexities that can contribute.

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Cats play an essential role in our everyday lives. They have many jobs around the house, such as monitoring humans in the bathroom, knocking stuff off tables to make sure gravity still exists, and most importantly, being our snuggle buddies. While cats might seem perfectly content with being couch potatoes, the reality is they have been pulling the long con on humanity for thousands of years. New research that tracks the paleogenetics of cats across ancient Europe, Asia and Africa proves what the internet has long suggested — cats have already taken over the world, and there's nothing we can do about it.

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Scientists have long understood that dogs with flat faces like pugs and bulldogs are the result of out-of-control selective breeding. But they have yet to discover the exact genetic mutation that's responsible for the physical traits of these dogs. A new study has gone a long way towards finding the answer and could have implications for the health of these beleaguered canines.

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As companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com help make genetic testing commonplace, you would think that people would become better at ensuring protections for the privacy of that data. Instead, multiple Congressional actions in the US threaten to erode already-weak protections against genetic discrimination. But it isn't just a dystopian Gattaca future where citizens are discriminated against based on their genes that we need to be worried about — one researcher is concerned that our inadequate genetic privacy laws will stymie science.

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Lots of people really want to go to Mars. Some of them want to live on that barren litter box forever, which sounds exciting, but would probably suck. The thing about a Martian colony is that people would have to be able to reproduce there in order to keep it going — and luckily for those hopeful pioneers, a team of Japanese scientists have achieved an important first step toward making their pipe dream a reality.