Harvard University uncovers DNA switch that controls genes for whole-body regeneration

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A piece of non-coding DNA may hold the key to how humans could regenerate body parts

Humans may one day have the ability to regrow limbs after scientists at Harvard University uncovered the DNA switch that controls genes for whole-body regeneration.

Some animals can achieve extraordinary feats of repair, such as salamanders which grow back legs, or geckos which can shed their tails to escape predators and then form new ones in just two months.

Planarian worms, jellyfish, and sea anemones go even further, actually regenerating their entire bodies after being cut in half.

Now scientists have discovered that that in worms, a section of non-coding or ‘junk’ DNA controls the activation of a ‘master control gene’ called early growth response (EGR) which acts like a power switch, turning regeneration on or off.

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Scientists discover how to implant false memories

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Implanting false memories could cure Alzheimer’s, PTSD, and depression. It could also make scapegoating easier, allow for witness tampering, or give those under a brutal dictatorship false patriotism.

MIT researchers Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu recently made history when they successfully implanted a false memory into the mind of a mouse. The proof was a simple reaction from the rodent, but the implications are vast. They placed the furry little creature inside a metal box, and it froze, displaying a distinct fear response. The mouse was reacting as if it had received an electrical shock there, when it hadn’t at all.

What makes it more riveting is that their success was considered a long-shot. The hypothesis was that not only could they identify those neurons associated with encoding memory, but could essentially rewrite one. Experts say that this an impressive feat which helps uncover more of the mystery of how memory operates. Though neuroscientists have considered such a possibility for years, they never thought this kind of experiment could actually work.

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Scientists grow full-sized, beating human hearts from stem cells

 

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Heart tissue, seeded with induced cardiac cells, matures in a bioreactor that the researchers created.It’s the closest we’ve come to growing transplantable hearts in the lab

Of the 4,000 Americans waiting for heart transplants, only 2,500 will receive new hearts in the next year. Even for those lucky enough to get a transplant, the biggest risk is the their bodies will reject the new heart and launch a massive immune reaction against the foreign cells. To combat the problems of organ shortage and decrease the chance that a patient’s body will reject it, researchers have been working to create synthetic organs from patients’ own cells. Now a team of scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School has gotten one step closer, using adult skin cells to regenerate functional human heart tissue, according to a study published recently in the journal Circulation Research.

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Molecular machinery that makes potent antibiotic revealed after decades of research

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Discovery by Rutgers and other scientists could lead to new antibiotics and anticancer drugs

The 3D structure of McbBCD, an enzyme (protein) that makes the potent antibiotic microcin B17 from a smaller protein known as a peptide, as revealed by X-ray crystallography. The red spheres show chemical “cycles” formed by the enzyme that are required for antibacterial activity.

Scientists at Rutgers and universities in Russia, Poland and England have solved a nearly 30-year mystery – how the molecular machinery works in an enzyme that makes a potent antibiotic.

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We can now grow perfect human blood vessels in a lab

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The latest game changer in diabetes research might not be a new drug or a therapy. Instead, it could be a system of human blood vessels virtually identical to the ones currently transporting blood throughout your body.

What makes these blood vessels special is that they are the first ones grown in a lab — and they’ve already generated a new lead in diabetes treatment.

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Bio-Printers are churning out living fixes to broken spines

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A new study showed that 3D-printing a spinal cord implant, shown here, restored movement in injured rats.UCSD JACOBS SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING

FOR DOCTORS AND medical researchers repairing the human body, a 3D printer has become almost as valuable as an x-ray machine, microscope, or a sharp scalpel. Bioengineers are using 3D printers to make more durable hip and knee joints, prosthetic limbs and, recently, to produce living tissue attached to a scaffold of printed material.

Researchers say that bio-printed tissue can be used to test the effects of drug treatments, for example, with an eventual goal of printing entire organs that can be grown and then transplanted into a patient. The latest step toward 3D-printed replacements of failed human parts comes from a team at UC San Diego. It has bio-printed a section of spinal cord that can be custom-fit into a patient’s injury.

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Stem Cell dental implants grow new teeth in 2 months

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Apparently, the newest scientific discovery can possibly leave dentures and implants in the past, and make millions of people extremely happy.

These two methods for a missing tooth or teeth can lead to serious dental health issues, such as discomfort and irritations, difficulties to eat, and pain in the case of dentures, while implants can cause infections, nerve damage, injury or damage to the surrounding structures, and sinus problems.

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Synthetic organisms are about to challenge what ‘alive’ really means

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We need to begin a serious debate about whether artificially evolved humans are our future, and if we should put an end to these experiments before it is too late.

In 2016, Craig Venter and his team at Synthetic Genomics announced that they had created a lifeform called JCVI-syn3.0, whose genome consisted of only 473 genes. This stripped-down organism was a significant breakthrough in the development of artificial life as it enabled us to understand more fully what individual genes do. (In the case of JCVI-syn3.0, most of them were used to create RNA and proteins, preserve genetic fidelity during reproduction and create the cell membrane. The functions of about a third remain a mystery.)

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Neural stem cells grown from blood could revolutionize medicine

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Doctors could soon be able to grow new brain cells, which would help treat people with strokes or other neurological conditions, using just a small blood sample.

Scientists from Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany and the University of Innsbruck in Austria figured out how to reprogram mature human blood cells into neural stem cells. Scientists have reprogrammed stem cells before, but these new cells are the first ones that can continue to multiply and propagate in the lab thanks to specific genetic tweaks, according to research published Thursday in the journal Stem Cell.

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Inside the Controversy: Chinese scientists creating CRISPR babies

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A daring effort is under way to create the first children whose DNA has been tailored using gene editing.

When Chinese researchers first edited the genes of a human embryo in a lab dish in 2015, it sparked global outcry and pleas from scientists not to make a baby using the technology, at least for the present.

It was the invention of a powerful gene-editing tool, CRISPR, which is cheap and easy to deploy, that made the birth of humans genetically modified in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) center a theoretical possibility.

Now, it appears it may already be happening.

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20 Americans die each day waiting for organs. Can pigs save them?

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Thanks to genetically engineered pigs, the donor-organ shortage could soon be a think of the past.

ANCHORING A ROW of family photos in Joseph Tector’s office is a framed, autographed picture of Baby Fae, the California newborn who made headlines in 1984 when she received a baboon’s heart to replace her own malfunctioning organ.

It’s inscribed “To Joe” by Leonard L. Bailey, the surgeon who turned to the monkey heart as the only option to keep his patient alive. Bailey snapped the picture about five days after the operation, while Stephanie Fae Beauclair was sleeping. A strip of surgical tape runs down the center of her chest from neck to diaper, marking the incision line where her rib cage was pulled apart to make the swap. Baby Fae would die less than three weeks later.

It’s an unsettling image to come upon while glancing over snapshots of someone’s dutifully smiling children. But to Tector, who was 19 at the time of Baby Fae’s surgery, the cross-species organ transplant was the most inspiring thing he’d ever heard of. “I remember where I was when the news broke,” he says. “At that moment I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.” What he wanted to do with his life, though he may not have articulated it precisely this way, was to become a surgeon-scientist trying to crack the problem of xenotransplantation — the placing of animal organs into human bodies.

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72 cent test screens for disease in less than an hour

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A new easy-to-use device can quickly and accurately screen for a variety of diseases, including Zika, Ebola, hepatitis, dengue, and malaria.

The portable device, called enVision (enzyme-assisted nanocomplexes for visual identification of nucleic acids), can also screen for various types of cancers and genetic diseases. EnVision takes between 30 minutes to one hour to detect the presence of diseases, which is two to four times faster than existing infection diagnostics methods. The device also costs less than 75¢—100 times less than tests currently in use.

“The enVision platform is extremely sensitive, accurate, fast, and low-cost. It works at room temperature and does not require heaters or special pumps, making it very portable,” says team leader Shao Huilin, assistant professor from the Biomedical Institute for Global Health Research and Technology (BIGHEART) and biomedical engineering department at National University of Singapore.

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