Archive for the ‘genetic engineering’ Category

Cell transplant can reduce risk of heart condition

December 7, 2007

Transplanting genetically engineered cells into the heart may reduce the risk of a fatal condition which occurs after heart attack, research suggests.

Ventricular tachycardia – an unusually fast heart rhythm – is the main cause of sudden death after heart attack.  In mice, transplants of skeletal muscle cells engineered to produce a specific protein prevented the condition.

Experts said the study in Nature should help to direct research on using stem cells to treat heart attacks in humans.

Source:  BBC News

Through Genetics, Tapping a Tree’s Source of Energy

November 20, 2007

It might be true that “only God can make a tree,” as the poet Joyce Kilmer wrote. But genetic engineers can fundamentally redesign them.

Aiming to turn trees into new energy sources, scientists are using a controversial genetic engineering process to change the composition of the wood. A major goal is to reduce the amount of lignin, a chemical compound that interferes with efforts to turn the tree’s cellulose into biofuels like ethanol.

Vincent L. Chiang, co-director of the forest biotechnology group at North Carolina State University, has developed transgenic trees with as little as half the lignin of their natural counterparts. “I think the transgenic tree with low lignin will contribute significantly to energy needs,” he said.

Source:  New York Times

Cloning: a giant step

November 12, 2007

A technical breakthrough has enabled scientists to create for the first time dozens of cloned embryos from adult monkeys, raising the prospect of the same procedure being used to make cloned human embryos.

Attempts to clone human embryos for research have been dogged by technical problems and controversies over fraudulent research and questionable ethics. But the new technique promises to revolutionise the efficiency by which scientists can turn human eggs into cloned embryos.

It is the first time that scientists have been able to create viable cloned embryos from an adult primate – in this case a 10-year-old male rhesus macaque monkey – and they are scheduled to report their findings later this month.

Source:  Independent

The mouse that shook the world

November 2, 2007

Scientists have been astounded by the creation of a genetically modified “supermouse” with extraordinary physical abilities – comparable to the performance of the very best athletes – raising the prospect that the discovery may one day be used to transform people’s capacities.

The mouse can run up to six kilometres (3.7 miles) at a speed of 20 metres per minute for five hours or more without stopping. Scientists said that this was equivalent of a man cycling at speed up an Alpine mountain without a break.

Although it eats up to 60 per cent more food than an ordinary mouse, the modified mouse does not put on weight. It also lives longer and enjoys an active sex life well into old age – being capable of breeding at three times the normal maximum age.

Source:  Independent

Venter creates life! (cue lightning please)

October 6, 2007

Whether or not you agree with Craig Venter about creating the first new artificial life form on Earth, you’ve got to admit the man has a sense of humor. 

The announcement could be made within the next few weeks that Venter has created a new life form…putting it smack dab in the midst of the Halloween season.  Cue the lightning and thunder, please, for the good doctor Frankenstein.  Here’s an excerpt from the Guardian:

A team of 20 top scientists assembled by Mr. Venter, led by the Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith, has already constructed a synthetic chromosome, a feat of virtuoso bio-engineering never previously achieved. Using lab-made chemicals, they have painstakingly stitched together a chromosome that is 381 genes long and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code.

The fallout after the announcement will be interesting to watch, especially as it relates to the global warming issue.  Venter believes designer genomes could lead to alternative energy sources.  Bacteria also could be created to help mop up excessive carbon dioxide, thus contributing to the solution to global warming, he says.

So how will the global warming crowd respond to the news?  Will they get on board with Venter’s proposal, or dismiss it.  Their response could be telling.  Some believe the global warming crowd’s ultimate beef is with the world’s overindulgence, and not about saving the environment. 

Venter’s bacteria could be seen as a “short cut” to reducing carbon emissions.  Whether this will lead to the bacteria idea’s demise in the lab remains to be seen.

Check out the full Guardian article here.

Scientists create the world’s first see-through frog

September 29, 2007

transparent frog

Frogs come in nearly every colour of the rainbow – from the dull greens of British species, to the vivid yellows and reds of their tropical relatives.

But Japanese scientists have gone one step further than mother nature – and created a transparent frog.

The creature’s see-through skin allows researchers to see details of its internal organs and blood vessels. They say this could bring huge benefits to medicine, making it easier and cheaper to study diseases such as cancer.

Professor Masayuki Sumida, who led the project at the Institute for Amphibian Biology at Hiroshima University, said scientists could look at the effect of drugs and chemicals on the frog’s internal organs and blood vessels without the animals having to be killed and dissected.

Source:  Daily Mail

Salmon Spawn Baby Trout in Experiment

September 14, 2007

Papa salmon plus mama salmon equals … baby trout? Japanese researchers put a new spin on surrogate parenting as they engineered one fish species to produce another, in a quest to preserve endangered fish.

Idaho scientists begin the next big step next month, trying to produce a type of salmon highly endangered in that state — the sockeye — this time using more plentiful trout as surrogate parents.

The new method is “one of the best things that has happened in a long time in bringing something new into conservation biology,” said University of Idaho zoology professor Joseph Cloud, who is leading the U.S. government-funded sockeye project.

The Tokyo University inventors dubbed their method “surrogate broodstocking.” They injected newly hatched but sterile Asian masu salmon with sperm-growing cells from rainbow trout — and watched the salmon grow up to produce trout.

Source:  Associated Press

‘Human-animal’ embryo green light

September 6, 2007

Early embryoRegulators have agreed in principle to allow human-animal embryos to be created and used for research.

But scientists wanting to use hybrids will still need to make individual applications, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said.

An HFEA consultation showed the public were “at ease” with the idea when told it could pave the way for therapies for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Opponents have said many people would be “horrified” by such a move.

Scientists want to create hybrid embryos by merging human cells with animal eggs in a bid to extract stem cells. The embryos would then be destroyed within 14 days.

Source:  BBC News

Discovery will aid in mammoth’s gene map

July 14, 2007

The discovery of a baby mammoth preserved in the Russian permafrost gives researchers their best chance yet to build a genetic map of a species extinct since the Ice Age.

“It’s a lovely little baby mammoth indeed, found in perfect condition,” said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Science’s Zoological Institute, which has been taking care of the mammoth’s corpse since it was uncovered in May.

“This specimen may provide unique material allowing us to ultimately decipher the genetic makeup of the mammoth,” he said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.

The mammoth, a female who died at the age of 6 months, was dubbed Lyuba, after the wife of reindeer breeder and hunter Yuri Khudi, who found her in Russia’s Arctic Yamalo-Nenets region.

Tikhonov dismissed suggestions that the mammoth could be cloned.

Cloning can only be done if whole cells are intact, but the freezing conditions will have caused the cells to burst, he said.

Source:  Los Angeles Times

Genes behind serious illnesses discovered

June 6, 2007

DNA helixA dramatic genetic breakthrough has paved the way for potential new treatments of seven common diseases that could help more than 20 million people.

The largest ever study of its kind has found 10 new genes linked to seven of the most common ailments: heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, bipolar disorder and Crohn’s disease.

Some 200 British scientists from 50 research groups collaborated to discover the genes after screening DNA from 17,000 people.

In two years, the £9 million investigation analysed 10 billion pieces of genetic information.

Together the seven diseases affect more than 20 million people across the UK, with coronary heart disease alone claiming the lives of 105,000 people every year, making it the country’s biggest killer. The study has identified, for the first time, some of the genes that trigger these diseases.

Source:  Telegraph