The coronavirus (2019-nCov) has sparked fear all across the world in a new pandemic coming out of Wuhan, China. Symptoms of this deadly disease include those of the common cold or influenza such as: fever, cough, shortness of breath, running nose, headache and fever. This is problematic because despite being bad practice and unhealthy to people around you, many still live their normal lives while experiencing these symptoms and usually play them off as no big deal. With the emergence of the new coronavirus, what might have been a common cold could now be a deadly disease. This new and unknown disease spreading around the world is causing researchers to scramble to find out what can be done.
DMD, or Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, is a recessive genetic disorder caused by a mutation on the X chromosome, causing it to predominantly affect young males. The mutation, to the DMD gene, affects the production of the protein dystrophin, which is found in skeletal and cardiac muscle as well as in the neurons in specific parts of the brain. This protein, which is part of a protein complex, when functioning properly, strengthens and protects muscle fibers throughout movement, as it serves to anchor cellular cytoskeletons to the extracellular matrix surrounding them. DMD impinges on the regular function of muscle cells, causing them to weaken and be replaced with connective and fatty tissues over time and impairing movements such as walking and running starting around the age of three or four. The disorder progressively worsens throughout childhood, with children typically becoming confined to wheelchairs by the age of thirteen and from then on experiencing progressively worse cardiac and respiratory issues on top of issues with skeletal muscle.
For almost fifteen years, an Amish couple in the eastern United States were living in confusion following the sudden deaths of four of their children over the span of about ten years. On multiple occasions, this couple saw their seemingly healthy children living average lives, when they suddenly and tragically died. This family wasn’t the only one with this problem. Other amish families in other amish communities were experiencing the same tragic deaths. After looking for answers everywhere from autopsies and specialized physicians, the case remained cold for over a decade.
Illustration of the 2019 novel Coronavirus
Image from Wikimedia Commons
News of the coronavirus has taken over the internet, leading many people to worry about their fate as the disease spreads throughout the world. The specific strain of coronavirus that has been making headlines has been named the 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV. There are many unknowns regarding the disease, but scientists and researchers have worked to create models intended to track and collect data about the coronavirus. Genetic data collected from the virus has allowed scientists to compare the genomes and create a viral family tree. Global efforts have led to more discoveries about the 2019-nCoV strain.
Balancing a healthy diet and regular sleep schedule is a difficult task for many, but the strong connection between the two suggests that more people should take a more serious look at their lifestyles. Most people know that eating right and exercising regularly leads to a longer healthier life, but more goes into it than eating a vegetable and doing a few sit-ups.
Recently in class we have focused on genetics and heredity so I decided it would be fitting to discuss CRISPR/CAS9, a new way to change DNA in humans and animals. Mutations in DNA can cause a variety of diseases including certain types of blindness, sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis. CRISPR is short segments of palindromic DNA filled in with unique spacer DNA between the segments. This spacer DNA, which then is transcribed into crRNA, matches with bacteriophage DNA and can be used to destroy these bacteriophages. CrRNA fits into a CAS protein, which is a protein nuclease in this case (cuts DNA) and is also produced by CAS genes, so when the bacteriophage tries to enter the protein the crRNA destroys it. If there is not a spacer protein that matches the bacteriophage DNA, a class 1 protein cuts the bacteriophage up and copies the DNA into a spacer so that the organism has a way to protect itself in the future. When scientists discovered the CRISPR system in E. Coli, scientists realized that they could use it as a way to cut, change or add to a segment of DNA. All of this is possible because this system occurs while the organism is living. CAS 9 is the most known CAS protein because it was used in an experiment that won the Nobel Prize. This experiment inserted their own DNA into CAS 9 and connected it with a tracer RNA to create trcrRNA-crRNA chimera. This system allowed for the cutting and replacement of DNA. This triumph showed the possibility for removal of mutations that cause genetic diseases, therefore the person could be cured of their disease while functioning normally. Bozeman Science created a video to help explain and go into more detail about the CRISPR system linked here.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Salamanders are perhaps one of the most interesting reptiles as they have abilities that are only exclusive to their kind than any other animal. The Salamander derives from a Greek word that literally means “Fire Lizard”, and scientists are very fascinated with how they thrive. However, salamanders are critically endangered due to deforestation as well as animal cruelty. They are often uncaught in the former process and thus end up dead. At the same time though, one species is known to survive and manage to contain its lifespan for a very long amount of time. This species is unlike many creatures scientists often see since it is known to have the fastest rate of regeneration and healing for such a creature. The Axolotl is a salamander species that can regenerate an entire limb if it is unattached from their body. Any injury that this salamander receives is little to nothing, because it can regrow anything from its body. The study of this species is intriguing for scientists even though they have not found an answer to such a natural process.
Researchers from SciLifeLab at Uppsala University worked with the genetics company 23 and Me in order to determine a linkage between 141 genes and the increased risk for hay fever, asthma, and eczema. By looking at tests of gene positioning, the researchers were able to isolate specific genes that are typically found in patients with the conditions. This allowed them to determine that those genes influence the expression of hay fever, asthma, and eczema and that people who have more of those genes are at an increased risk of getting those conditions in their lifetime.