Predicting Alzheimer’s with a reading test, the gene editing toolbox expands and a look at some of science’s biggest moments.
(The Independent, 10/23/2017, Ben Kentish)
Roughly 5½ million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and as of now…there’s no cure. But what if there was a test that could detect whether you were at risk of not? Researchers found that a delay in processing the written word suggested patients with mild memory problems were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Using a device that measures brain activity, a team at the University of Birmingham in the UK were able to measure how quickly an individual responded to words they were shown on a computer screen. They found that those who responded more slowly had an increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s within three years.
(Nature, 10/25/2017, Elie Dolgin)
Two research groups announced techniques that enable researchers to make targeted alterations to DNA and RNA. Unlike the original CRISPR gene-editing system — a relatively unpredictable and blunt form of molecular scissors that cut sizeable sections of DNA — the new systems rewrite individual letters, or genetic bases. The ability to alter single bases means that researchers can now attempt to correct more than half of all human genetic diseases. The tools, developed by separate teams at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are adaptations of the CRISPR system. Whereas most past attempts to use CRISPR-based methods to fix individual bases have been crude affairs — akin to using a machete to remove a wart — the new techniques are more like “precision chemical surgery,” says David Liu, a chemical biologist at the Broad Institute who led one of the studies.
(BBC News, 10/25/2017, Prof Sir Venki Ramakrishnan)
In an essay for the BBC, Nobel Prize-winner and Royal Society President Sir Venki Ramakrishnan contemplates the nature of scientific discovery—how it has transformed our worldview in a short space of time, and why we need to be just as watchful today about the uses of research as we’ve ever been. “Just over a hundred years ago, people had no idea how we inherit and pass on traits or how a single cell could grow into an organism. They didn’t know that atoms themselves had structure – the word itself means indivisible. They didn’t know that matter has very strange properties that defy common sense. Or why there is gravity. And they had no idea how things began, whether it was life on earth or the universe itself. These days because of fundamental discoveries we can answer or at least begin to answer those mysteries,” says Ramakrishnan.
—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola