Editing Genes In Human Embryos

Two new CRISPR tools overcome the scariest parts of gene editing.The ability to edit RNA and individual DNA base pairs will make gene editing much more precise. Several years ago, scientists discovered a technique known as CRISPR/Cas9, which allowed them to edit DNA more efficiently than ever before.
Since then, CRISPR science has exploded; it’s become one of the most exciting and fast-moving areas of research, transforming everything from medicine to agriculture and energy. In 2017 alone, more than 14,000 CRISPR studies were published.

But here’s the thing: CRISPR, while a major leap forward in gene editing, can still be a blunt instrument. There have been problems with CRISPR modifying unintended gene targets and making worrisome, and permanent, edits to an organism’s genome. These changes could be passed down through generations, which has raised the stakes of CRISPR experiments — and the twin specters of “designer babies” and genetic performance enhancers — particularly when it comes to editing genes in human embryos.
So while CRISPR science is advancing quickly, scientists are still very much in the throes of tweaking and refining their toolkit. And on Wednesday, researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard launched a coordinated blitz with two big reports that move CRISPR in that safer and more precise direction.
In a paper published in Science, researchers described an entirely new CRISPR-based gene editing tool that targets RNA, DNA’s sister, allowing for transient changes to genetic material. In Nature, scientists described how a more refined type of CRISPR gene editing can alter a single bit of DNA without cutting it — increasing the tool’s precision and efficiency.

The first paper, out Wednesday in Science, describes a new gene editing system. This one, from researchers at MIT and Harvard, focuses on tweaking human RNA instead of DNA.

Our cells contain chromosomes made up of chemical strands called DNA, which carry genetic information. Those genes have recipes for proteins that lead to a bunch of different traits. But to carry out the instructions in any one recipe, DNA needs another type of genetic material called RNA to get involved.

RNA is ephemeral: It acts like a middleman, or a messenger. For a gene to become a protein, that gene has to be transcribed into RNA in the cell, and the RNA is then read to make the protein. If the DNA is permanent — the family recipe book passed down through generations — the RNA is like your aunt’s scribbled-out recipe on a Post-It note, turning up only when it’s needed and disappearing again.

With the CRISPR/Cas9 system, researchers are focused on editing DNA. (For more on how that system works, read this Vox explainer.) But the new Science paper describes a novel gene editing tool called REPAIR that’s focused on using a different enzyme, Cas13, to edit that transient genetic material, the RNA, in cells. REPAIR can target specific RNA letters, or nucleosides, that are involved in single-base changes that regularly cause disease in humans.

This is hugely appealing for one big reason: With CRISPR/Cas9, the changes to the genome, or the cell’s recipe book, are permanent. You can’t undo them. With REPAIR, since researchers can target single bits of ephemeral RNA, the changes they make are transient, even reversible. So this system could fix genetic mutations without actually touching the genome (like throwing away your aunt’s Post-It note recipe without adding it to the family recipe book).

Source: https://www.vox.com/

No More Visit To The Doctor’s Office

A visit to the doctor’s office can feel like the worst thing when you’re already sick. This small device is aimed at replacing physical face-to-face check ups. It’s made by Israel’s Tytocare, a leading telemedicine company. Their Tyto device allows patients to conduct examinations of organs and be diagnosed by remote clinicians.

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We basically replicate a face-to-face interaction with a remote clinician while allowing him to do a full physical examination, analysis and the diagnosis of a patient at home,” said Dedi Gilad, CEO of Tytocare.

The associated TytoApp guides users through complicated examinations. It can be used to check heart rate or temperature — as well as conduct examinations of the ears, throat and lungs. And it allows a clinician to interact with patients online or offline. It also represents a significant cost saving – in the US a basic primary care visit costs around 170 dollars, three times the cost of telemedicine appointments. The system was tested at Israel’s Schneider children’s hospital.

What we found was really remarkable, that there was almost no difference between the two types of examinations…But we must be careful about the use. There are certain diseases, certain complaints, that can not be answered by this kind of device and we should carefully judge case by case and be aware of the limitations of this device,”  explains Prof. Yehezkel Waisman, Director of The Emergency Medicine department at Schneider children hospital.

Telemedecine does have its critics, who believe that real-time encounters with a doctor will always be superior. But those behind it say it could drastically cut the number of face-to-face doctors’ visits and save money for healthcare providers and insurers.

Source: http://www.tytocare.com/
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http://www.reuters.com/

Paracetamol On Mars

How to produce medicine sustainably and cheaply, anywhere you want, whether in the middle of the jungle or even on Mars? Looking for a ‘mini-factory’ whereby sunlight can be captured to make chemical products? Inspired by the art of nature where leaves are able to collect enough sunlight to produce food, chemical engineers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in Netherlands have presented such a scenario. 
Using sunlight to make chemical products has long been a dream of many a chemical engineer. The problem is that the available sunlight generates too little energy to kick off reactions. However, nature is able to do this. Antenna molecules in leaves capture energy from sunlight and collect it in the reaction centers of the leaf where enough solar energy is present for the chemical reactions that give the plant its food (photosynthesis).

Luminescent Solar Concentrator-based Photomicroreactor (LSC-PM, artificial leaf for organic synthesis), research by PhD Dario Cambie & Timothy Noël, group Micro Flow Chemistry and Process Technology, Chemical Engineering and Chemistry, TU Eindhoven. photo: TU/e, Bart van Overbeeke

Luminescent Solar Concentrator-based Photomicroreactor (LSC-PM, artificial leaf for organic synthesis), research by PhD Dario Cambie & Timothy Noël

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The researchers came across relatively new materials, known as luminescent solar concentrators (LSC’s), which are able to capture sunlight in a similar way. Special light-sensitive molecules in these materials capture a large amount of the incoming light that they then convert into a specific color that is conducted to the edges via light conductivity. These LSC’s are often used in practice in combination with solar cells to boost the yield.

 


The results surpassed all their expectations, and not only in the lab. “Even an experiment on a cloudy day demonstrated that the chemical production was 40 percent higher than in a similar experiment without LSC material”, says research leader Noël. “We still see plenty of possibilities for improvement. We now have a powerful tool at our disposal that enables the sustainable, sunlight-based production of valuable chemical products like drugs or crop protection agents.”

For the production of drugs there is certainly a lot of potential. The chemical reactions for producing drugs currently require toxic chemicals and a lot of energy in the form of fossil fuels. By using visible light the same reactions become sustainable, cheap and, in theory, countless times faster. But Noël believes it should not have to stop there. “Using a reactor like this means you can make drugs anywhere, in principle, whether malaria drugs in the jungle or paracetamol on Mars. All you need is sunlight and this mini-factory.

The findings are described in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Source: https://www.tue.nl/

Nanotech Tatoo Maps Emotions

A new temporary “electronic tattoo” developed by Tel Aviv University that can measure the activity of muscle and nerve cells researchers is poised to revolutionize medicine, rehabilitation, and even business and marketing research. The tattoo consists of a carbon electrode, an adhesive surface that attaches to the skin, and a nanotechnology-based conductive polymer coating that enhances the electrode‘s performance. It records a strong, steady signal for hours on end without irritating the skin.

The electrode, developed by Prof. Yael Hanein, head of TAU‘s Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, may improve the therapeutic restoration of damaged nerves and tissue — and may even lead to new insights into our emotional life. Prof. Hanein’s research was published last month in Scientific Reports and presented at an international nanomedicine program held at TAU. One major application of the new electrode is the mapping of emotion by monitoring facial expressions through electric signals received from facial muscles.

tattoo

The ability to identify and map people’s emotions has many potential uses,” said Prof. Hanein. “Advertisers, pollsters, media professionals, and others — all want to test people’s reactions to various products and situations. Today, with no accurate scientific tools available, they rely mostly on inevitably subjective questionnaires.

Researchers worldwide are trying to develop methods for mapping emotions by analyzing facial expressions, mostly via photos and smart software,” Prof. Hanein continued. “But our skin electrode provides a more direct and convenient solution.”

Source: https://www.aftau.org/

Bionic Patch Could Replace Heart Transplantation

In this Lab at the University of Tel Aviv, the future of heart medicine is taking shape. Researchers have developed a bionic patch that can monitor and treat heart conditions in real time.

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Well, this is the first time that engineered tissue, thick engineered tissue, functional tissues, are integrated with electronics to become cyborg tissues, meaning that there is integration of machine and living tissues“, says Professor Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University (Department of Bio Technology and Center for Nano Technology).

That integration could potentially give doctors new options when treating a myriad of heart problems. The patch is comprised of live, lab-grown heart tissue and nano electronics embedded on a 3D printed scaffold. The team says the patch could offer an alternative to heart transplantation in the future by releasing medications as well as repopulating the defected area with cells that are capable of contraction. In the short term, the device could monitor and activate the entire organ as needed as well as alert a doctor to a potentially fatal problem in real time.

The patient is sitting in his house and not feeling well and the physician immediately sees the condition of the heart on his computer and can remotely activate the heart: can provide electrical stimulation, can release drugs. And if you really think about this technology, we don’t even need a physician because the cardiac patch can regulate its own function“, adds Tal Dvir.
As exciting as it may be, the bionic heart patch is still years from commercial viability. The next step is a series of animals trials that if successful could lead to clinical trials in humans.

The findings were published this month in the Journal ‘Nature Materials‘.

Source: https://english.tau.ac.il

Artificial Heart: Patient Came Back Home For A New Life

Five months after his surgery in Nantes, the second French patient who received CARMAT artificial heart is in good health, after he came back home.

For the first time, we are not talking only of survival but of a “new life“, says the Dr Carpentier in charge of the recovery. The second patient who received an artificial heart on 5 August in Nantes, returned to his family, free of his movements. He just needs to carry a bag of three pounds, similar to a laptop and has to charge its batteries every 4 to 5 hours.
artificial heart CARMAT
This is good news even to the father of the French artificial heart – Professor Carpentier – who speaks of “miracle” in front of a man walking better than he does. In late October, Prof. Carpentier indicated that his patient could already exercise on a bike. Return to a “normal” life, autonomous, that is the final purpose and this is why the artifical heart has been designed.
Source: http://www.carmatsa.com/

Nanotechnology To Heal Pets

Modern medicine is evolving quickly. Now, with the introduction of bioengineering, doctors can have tissue made for their patients and veterinarians are having great success using nanotechnology in our pets.
Dr. Jed Johnson has a PhD in engineering and his firm engineers body tissue. He explains: “The part that I focus on is tissue engineering, where we are basically focusing and building or engineering new tissue for the body.”
Their nanotechnology is an integral part of regenerative medicine.
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We’ve all seen regeneration. We’ve all had cuts on our hands, right? And those cuts heal. So, our body is capable of healing, but we have to provide the right environment,” , said the Dr. Hutchinson, from Animal General in Cranberry.
Enter nanofibers.
It takes a hundred of the microscopic fibers laid side-by-side to be as wide as a human hair.
Weave them together, and they provide a framework for healing.
Cells and tissue can’t move across open space, they have to crawl on something, and this is really the key aspect to having a scaffold is it allows those cells to have a highway to move on to refill that wound, regenerate that native tissue,” Dr. Johnson said.
You can’t do that synthetically. I mean, we can’t do that without the help of what someone like Dr. Johnson’s doing with nanofibers,” Dr. Mike Hutchinson said.
Dr. Hutchinson uses nanofibers in combination with stem cells to speed up the healing.
They will do a lot of good for as long as they stay, but we would like to keep them there longer in that damaged environment. So, they have made some nanowhiskers, if you will, that we mix with the stem cells before we inject them in, and they will hold them there. They will give them something to grow on or to hug to and keep them there longer,” Dr. Hutchinson said.

Source: http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/
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http://animalgeneral.net/

Artificial Protein Carries Atoms Across Membranes

Human cells are protected by a largely impenetrable molecular membrane. Now Gevorg Grigoryan, an assistant professor of computer science at Dartmouth College, and researchers from other institutions have built the first artificial transporter protein that carries individual atoms across membranes, opening the possibility of engineering a new class of smart molecules with applications in fields as wide ranging as nanotechnology and medicine.

transport protein 2
Each human cell is surrounded by a lipid membrane, a molecular barrier that serves to contain the cellular machinery and protect it from the surrounding elements. This cellular “skin” is impenetrable to most biological molecules but also presents a conundrum: if chemicals can’t get in or out, how is a cell to receive nutrients (food) and remove unwanted products of metabolism (trash)?

Nature has come up with an elegant solution to this logistical problem — transporter proteins (or transporters). These molecular machines are embedded in the cellular membrane and serve as gatekeepers, allowing specific chemicals to shuttle in and out when needed. Though biologists have known about transporters for many decades, their precise mechanism of action has been elusive.

The study, which has been published in the journal Science, is a milestone in designing and understanding membrane proteins (a PDF is available upon request). The study was conducted by researchers from Dartmouth College, the University of California-San Francisco, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and National Institute of Science Educational and Research in India.

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/
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https://www.tumblr.com/

Drugs Factories Inside the Body

Scientists are reporting an advance toward treating disease with minute capsules containing not drugsbut the DNA and other biological machinery for making the drug. In an article in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, they describe engineering micro- and nano-sized capsules that contain the genetically coded instructions, plus the read-out gear and assembly line for protein synthesis that can be switched on with an external signal.

   Daniel Anderson’s group from M.I.T., author of the article (http://video.mit.edu/watch/inside-the-lab-daniel-g-anderson-phd-8385/),  developed an artificial, remotely activated nanoparticle system containing DNA and the other “parts” necessary to make proteins, which are the workhorses of the human cell and are often used as drugs. They describe the nanoscale production units, which are tiny spheres encapsulating protein-making machinery like that found in living cells. The resulting nanoparticles produced active proteins on demand when the researchers shined a laser light on them. The nanoparticles even worked when they were injected into mice, which are stand-ins for humans in the laboratory, producing proteins when a laser was shone onto the animals. This innovation “may find utility in the localized delivery of therapeutics,” say the researchers.

Source: http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/nl2036047