Also, gene therapy to treat a common cause of vision loss, and research on carbon sinks, a hot topic in climate change

Shark DNA could help cure cancer and age-related illnesses in humans

(BBC, 2/19/19)

After the recent decoding of the genome of great whites, scientists at the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center in Florida plan to study the animals’ genetic mutations. Specifically, sharks are known to have DNA-repairing capabilities that protect them from age-related diseases such as cancer. Great whites have existed for about 16 million years, giving them plenty of time to evolve robust DNA. Scientists hope that a closer examination of shark DNA may someday yield life-saving treatments.

World’s first gene therapy operation for common cause of sight loss

(Medical Xpress, 2/19/19)

University of Oxford surgeons and researchers have performed the first gene therapy operation to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The procedure involves detaching the retina to inject a virus containing modified DNA, which will theoretically infect retinal pigment epithelium cells and rewrite the genetic defect that causes one kind of AMD. The procedure will hopefully halt the progression of the disease in the patient.

The role of forest regrowth in global carbon sink dynamics

(PNAS, Pugh et. al., 2/19/19)

University of Birmingham researchers compiled forest age observation data and forest regrowth models to determine the type of forests that absorb the most carbon dioxide. These “carbon sinks” are a hot research topic in climate change, since understanding how to optimize carbon uptake could help combat the damage caused by emissions. The researchers found that the best carbon sinks were relatively young forests that are still recovering from a past disturbance, like a forest fire. They also found more carbon uptake in mid-high latitude forests than in tropical forests, which contradicts previous assertions.

—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Mary Parker