Archive for the ‘bioengineering’ category: Page 15

Mar 3, 2020

Is Sex for Reproduction About to Become Extinct?

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, genetics, sex

As the coming genetic revolution plays out, we’ll still have sex for most of the same reasons we do today. But we’ll increasingly not do it to procreate.

Another rocket booster will be the application of gene editing technologies like CRISPR to edit the genomes of pre-implanted embryos or of the sperm and eggs used to create them. Just this week, Chinese researchers announced they had used CRISPR to edit the CCR5 gene in the pre-implanted embryos of a pair of Chinese twins to make them immune to HIV, the first ever case of gene editing humans and a harbinger of our genetically engineered future. The astounding complexity of the human genome will put limits on our ability to safely make too many simultaneous genetic changes to human embryos, but our ability and willingness to make these types of alterations to our future children will grow over time along with our knowledge and technological ability.

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Mar 1, 2020

New platform for engineering ribosomes to ‘cook new cuisines’

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical

Synthetic biology researchers at Northwestern University have developed a system that can rapidly create cell-free ribosomes in a test tube, then select the ribosome that can perform a certain function.

The system, called synthesis and evolution (RISE), is an important step toward using ribosomes beyond their natural capabilities. The key feature of RISE is the ability to evolve ribosomes without cell viability constraints. The result could be new ways to synthesize materials, like nylon, or therapies, like that could address rising antibiotic resistance.

“Ribosomes have an extraordinary capability as the protein synthesis machinery of the cell,” said Michael Jewett, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and director of the Center for Synthetic Biology at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, who led the research. “But to synthesize proteins beyond those found in nature, we have to design and modify the ribosome to work with non-natural substrates. Developing ribosomes in vitro is an important part of that system, and we are very excited to have this new capability.”

Mar 1, 2020

Meet Xenobot, an Eerie New Kind of Programmable Organism

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, information science

Under the watchful eye of a microscope, busy little blobs scoot around in a field of liquid—moving forward, turning around, sometimes spinning in circles. Drop cellular debris onto the plain and the blobs will herd them into piles. Flick any blob onto its back and it’ll lie there like a flipped-over turtle.

Their behavior is reminiscent of a microscopic flatworm in pursuit of its prey, or even a tiny animal called a water bear—a creature complex enough in its bodily makeup to manage sophisticated behaviors. The resemblance is an illusion: These blobs consist of only two things, skin cells and heart cells from frogs.

Writing today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe how they’ve engineered so-calleds (from the species of frog, Xenopus laevis, whence their cells came) with the help of evolutionary algorithms. They hope that this new kind of organism—contracting cells and passive cells stuck together—and its eerily advanced behavior can help scientists unlock the mysteries of cellular communication.

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Feb 29, 2020

CRISPR’s co-developer on the revolutionary gene-editing technology’s past — and its future

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, genetics

CRISPR revolutionized gene editing. Should we be worried?

Feb 28, 2020

Should we edit our DNA? An imagined future of gene editing – video

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, ethics

There are decisions being made right now that could have an effect on global populations for generations to come. As part of this project, we commissioned an artist to investigate some of the themes raised in the podcasts. This work of fiction imagines a future where gene editing has become mainstream and discusses the moral, ethical and political divides that this might create.

Feb 28, 2020

Building a Positive Genetic Future for All

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, evolution, food, genetics

Nearly every day, new discoveries are pushing the genetics revolution ever-forward. It’s hard to imagine it’s been only a century and a half since Gregor Mendl experimented with his peas, six decades since Watson and Crick identified the double helix, fourteen years since the completion of the human genome project, and five years since scientists began using CRISPR-cas9 for precision gene editing. Today, these tools are being used in ways that will transform agriculture, animal breeding, healthcare, and ultimately human evolution.

Common practices like in vitro fertilization (IVF) and preimplantation embryo selection make human genetic enhancement possible today. But as we learn more and more about what the genome does, we will be able to make increasingly more informed decisions about which embryos to implant in IVF in the near term and how to manipulate pre-implanted embryos in the longer-term. In our world of exponential scientific advancement, the genetic future will arrive far faster than most people currently understand or are prepared for.

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Feb 28, 2020

CRISPR Edited Immune Cells Successful in First U.S. Clinical Trial

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical

Great news.

The successful delivery of CRISPR/Cas9 modified immune cells to cancer patients represents the first U.S. clinical trial to test the gene editing approach in humans.

Researchers from the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania have published data suggesting that immune cells modified using the gene editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 are able to survive and function for months following delivery to cancer patients [1].

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Feb 27, 2020

Hacking DNA: The Story of CRISPR, Ken Thompson, and the Gene Drive

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, genetics

The very nature of the human race is about to change. This change will be radical and rapid beyond anything in our species’ history. A chapter of our story just ended and the next chapter has begun.

This revolution in what it means to be human will be enabled by a new genetic technology that goes by the innocuous sounding name CRISPR, pronounced “crisper”. Many readers will already have seen this term in the news, and can expect much more of it in the mainstream media soon. CRISPR is an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and is to genomics what vi (Unix’s visual text editor) is to software. It is an editing technology which gives unprecedented power to genetic engineers: it turns them into genetic hackers. Before CRISPR, genetic engineering was slow, expensive, and inaccurate. With CRISPR, genome editing is cheap, accurate, and repeatable.

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Feb 26, 2020

How to Battle an Epidemic? Digitize Its DNA and Share It With the World

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, education, genetics

Ogba Educational Clinic

A nightmarish scene was burnt into my memory nearly two decades ago: Changainjie, Beijing’s normally chaotic “fifth avenue,” desolate without a sign of life. Schools shut, subways empty, people terrified to leave their homes. Every night the state TV channels reported new cases and new deaths. All the while, we had to face a chilling truth: the coronavirus, SARS, was so novel that no one understood how it spread or how to effectively treat it. No vaccines were in sight. In the end, it killed nearly 1,000 people.

It’s impossible not to draw parallels between SARS and the new coronavirus outbreak, COVID-19, that’s been ravaging China and spreading globally. Yet the response to the two epidemics also starkly highlights how far biotech and global collaborations have evolved in the past two decades. Advances in genetic sequencing technologies, synthetic biology, and open science are reshaping how we deal with potential global pandemics. In a way, the two epidemics hold up a mirror to science itself, reflecting both technological progress and a shift in ethos towards collaboration.

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Feb 26, 2020

Gene-editing is more error-prone than thought, new findings suggest

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, genetics

The standard gene-editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9, frequently produces a type of DNA mutation that ordinary genetic analysis misses, claims new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In describing these findings the researchers called such oversights “serious pitfalls” of gene editing (Skryabin et al., 2020). In all, the new results suggest that gene-editing is more error-prone than thought and, further, that identifying and discarding defective and unwanted outcomes is not as easy as generally supposed.

Gene-editing is more error-prone than thought, new findings suggest

CRISPR Enzyme on DNA (Photo: MIT News)

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