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Posts by Jennifer Galasso
For a very long time I have been using Diabetes as an example of a disorder that is caused by a mutation in the insulin gene. This mutation would stop the cells from making insulin, and a diabetic might need daily insulin injections to regulate their sugar levels properly. I don’t know what took me so long to realize that this was completely wrong. That while some diabetics are insulin dependent, it is because their insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are being completely destroyed by the immune system. And while they still aren’t sure about why these cells are being More >
After asking students during a lesson on mutations if it is possible that a mutation in DNA could be good, most students will nod yes without much understanding. Recently, I finally had one student raise his hand immediately and answer the question (with extreme surprise that no other students were blurting out the answer)…”evolution!” He was able to make the connection between changes in DNA that are building up over time, and how that change can possibly make that organism better in some way. If it helps the survival of an organism, that mutation is going to stick around and More >
Classic genetics alone is unable to explain the diversity we see within a population of living things. This also cannot explain how identical twins with the same DNA sequences can have differences in their traits and development of disease. First introduced in 1939 by C.H. Waddington, epigenetics is now able to offer some explanation, as it studies the heritable changes in gene expression that are not due to any alteration in the DNA sequence.
This may help to answer many questions. How can we have so many different types of cells and they all carry the same genetic information? How is More >
Gene therapy is a technique that offers the potential to replace defective copies of genes in any genetic disease with an intact version. While the idea of this treatment sounds alluring, the actual practice of it is a whole other story. There are a few drawbacks to this technique that must be considered, including the potential risk of an immune response because the gene is inserted with the use of a virus, which the immune system will see as foreign. Also, most patients so far have needed multiple treatments over the course of their lifetime, estimating to cost much more More >
In 1994, there were more than 2.2 million serious medical cases, and over 100,000 deaths from negative reactions to prescribed drugs. (NCBI) These numbers have made adverse drug reactions one of the leading causes of hospitalization and deaths in the US. Currently, there is no easy way to determine how a patient is going to respond to a medication, so pharmaceutical companies are relying on a “one size fits all” policy. But as we can see with the amount of hospitalizations and deaths each year, there has to be a better way. One area that is shedding hope on this More >
I asked a group of 5th graders the other day whether or not we can learn anything from studying other living things. For example, if we mutate or change the DNA of another organism, like fruit flies (D. melanogaster), can we learn anything about what can happen when human DNA changes? For this particular class, it seemed to be an absolutely absurd question. This could have been because the thought of fruit flies made them ill right before lunch, or they were unsure about how much we have in common with fruit flies.
So we got into a discussion about model More >
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is a technique that allows scientists to screen embryos after fertilization through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), to prevent the transmission of serious genetic diseases for couples who are at risk. It also can be used to screen the egg and sperm before fertilization occurs. Only unaffected embryos will be transferred to the uterus for implantation.
While this technology offers the hope to increase the success of IVF, it does raise some concerns about choosing a child in order to meet the needs and desires of parents. While most cases seem to have More >
After conducting a bacterial transformation lab with my students, where we genetically engineer the bacteria to make a jellyfish protein that fluoresces, we always jump into the discussion of why this technique is important. I always try to get the students to think of ways that this could benefit them.
Among other uses, we finally get to the idea that these bacterial cells can be used as factories to make any protein you want, even human proteins. It all depends on what recipe, or gene, you give them. If you give them the recipe to make human insulin, they will. And then More >
The initial goal of the Human Genome Project was to find, map and sequence all of the genes within the human genome. Since the completion of the initial draft back in 2000, the White House predicted that this would lead to a new era of molecular medicine, bringing new ways to prevent, diagnose, treat and cure disease.
It has been amazing to see what we have learned since then, but even more interesting to think of where this could go in the future. Hopefully soon we will be able to apply this on a more individual basis, with people being able to More >
Genetic engineering is a common tool used by molecular biologists to manipulate the genes of an organism. One of the common forms of this technology is to transform bacteria with a gene from another organism, for example, the green fluorescent protein gene from the Pacific Jellyfish. Giving this gene to bacteria will allow them to produce this protein and literally glow green. This technique has been widely used by pharmaceutical companies to produce human proteins as well to treat some common genetic disorders, such as diabetes. To see more on insulin production inside bacteria see, visit our DNAi.org section on manipulation.
Undergraduate students are now More >