CRISPR gets crispier :) #research #genes #researchsaves #Jurrasicworld #CRISPR

The dream of bringing the T. rex as shown in so many movies, the most recent one being Jurassic World captures everyone’s imagination. The movie Jurassic World along with its predecessors, many zombie and vampire movies all talk about gene splicing and adding a trait from one species to another. You can imagine what many molecular cell biologists, geneticists and many other individuals involved in research using cutting edge technologies groan when they see the term used liberally. It lulls the avid movie fan who may not have exposure to the difficulties and advancements in gene splicing technologies into a false impression that mixing DNA between species and getting a fully functional organism is easy.

King Kong (2005)
King Kong (2005)

In the world of gene splicing, the term that is driving all the researchers wild just as the new Halo 5 due to be released in November 2015 is going to drive all the gamers wild, is CRISPR-CAS9. Researchers are now able to actually edit DNA and insert with some restrictions pieces of DNA that gives them the trait or molecular effect they are looking for in a cell. Needless to say that, despite technical restrictions like the size of the gene insert and type of cell line used, it has given researchers a more precise cutting tool than PCR which for its time was the major advancement.

CRISPR_logo from Nature

Well, in a nature news update today, CRISPR has just got crispier if I might use the term. Scientists have found a smaller size version of the CAS9 enzyme which makes it easier to insert bigger pieces of DNA into a plasmid.

Check out what Zhang and his team at the BROAD institute have found in this latest Nature update.

Happy Gene cutting everyone.

再见 (Goodbye:))

An espresso and neuroscience. #researchsaves

20150924_163545The espresso, smooth if prepared well with just enough bitterness to wake you up to the jolt of energy about to come, once the caffeine molecules start antagonizing the adenosine receptors in the central nervous system.

The antagonistic effect of caffeine on these receptors gives you the ‘energy boost’ your brain is craving. Yes, I used the word craving because caffeine is the most unregulated psychoactive nervous stimulant with respect to the quantities it is consumed at, in the world.

While sipping this beautiful cup of doppio, I came across this article posted in the Journal of Neuro-engineering and Rehabilitation which talks about the possibility of setting up an external interface to help a paralyzed man walk again or gain ‘motor’ control over his lower limbs.

The caffeine boost from the doppio is working and I can feel the effects of the stimulant slashing through the mid-afternoon drowsiness, but there are thousands of people for whom this communication between the central and the peripheral nervous system is broken and by extension, the nerves and the muscles. It is akin to having an engine that sends out a signal but due to a bad transmission, the wheels do not turn or the brakes do not stop.

While spinal cord injury research is ongoing in its attempt to repair a broken nerve or restore the communication, it is easier said than done, however, as my hashtag always says, #researchsaves and a majority of this blog will be devoted to talking about science and its insurmountable role in saving lives.

One interesting approach as pointed out in this paper, is to bypass the broken region in the nervous system by having a brain to computer interface that can receive the signal from the brain and then relay it to the muscle.

Now keep in mind, just because you restore the electrical circuit or connection between the brain and the muscle through this interface, the muscles still need to be conditioned to receive the electrical response and act accordingly.

Who remembers the scene from The Matrix(1999) in which Neo escapes from the matrix for the first time after spending his entire life to that point in a jelly filled cocoon?

He spent a good amount of time in a chamber getting all his muscles conditioned to respond to the neural stimulation from his brain which for the first time was actually reaching his muscles unlike the dream like stage he was in till that point.

The paper points towards promising research which one day I hope can help people who have broken spinal cords or some neural communication problem to be able to gain or regain control of their muscles.

Well, I think I need a recharge, do click on the link in the article to read the paper and feel free to share this article with the hashtag #researchsaves

Arrivederci