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Friday, January 18, 2019

Cityblog Science Club: 2018 Genetics Review

Cityblog introduces Science club for young and old interested readers. This section is edited by  Riya Naik (CT USA)

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2018 Genetics Review

As we enter into the year 2019, we expect more scientific questions to be answered; we expect the humankind to progress by discovering unusual scientific phenomena and we expect to provide solutions to the problems through science. However, we all can gather new knowledge by developing from our previous knowledge. 2018 has been a year where new knowledge was available in the field of genetics. This blog is all about 2018 at a glance for genetics.
One such landmark event is the discovery of a human RNA which activates innate immunity when attacked by a virus. Research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry reveals an RNA molecule which plays an important role in the defense against the virus. This RNA is known as the nc886. “Nc” means noncoding, therefore, this RNA never codes proteins. Nevertheless, it activates the chain of events that destroys viruses. This research can be important to study the human immune system.

Along with the research in the human immune system, a study issued in the journal Cell reported the role of viruses in shaping human evolution. Prior to this research, many believed that the ancestors of the human beings, Neanderthals, moved out of Africa to Eurasia and they adapted to the geographic area. However, this new study delineates a new possibility where the Neanderthals adapted mutations which were beneficial against the pathogens and these mutations were inherited by the humans. This research provides us with an insight that the genes inherit adaptations that are advantageous to us.
Moreover, the researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University have reported a specific transcription factor which changes gene expression, thus, playing a significant role in maintaining the immune system in the mice. The researchers discovered a factor also known as the JunB which stimulates the cells to activate the immunosuppressive function. This can provide us with an understanding of the development of autoimmune disease and cancer immunosuppression. Researcher, Koizumi, declared that this perception of these immune responses in various tissues can help in the treatment of a range of cancers and autoimmune-related diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
With these researches in the year 2018, the researchers also discovered why Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks is in a profitable business. Because they studied a gene which is a reason behind why we like coffee so much. They found out that some people have inherited bitter taste genes. These genes stimulate a positive response from the brain causing them to drink more coffee. The scientists want to determine the health implications of this bitter taste genes.
Moreover, the biggest breakthrough news in genetics was the world’s first genetically edited babies in China. However, this is a controversial question. But it is significant as many people realized the importance of CRISPR technology. CRISPR/CAS9 is a gene found in the bacteria which is known for cutting the default gene. When bacterias are infected with a virus, they use this gene to “cut” the DNA of a harmful virus. This gene is used to delete the mutated1gene and add the donor gene. The mutated gene is cut by the “scissors” or CAS9 and the donor gene fills the void in the DNA.
The other research is my personal favorite as it is regarding the mitochondria: the energy bank of our body! In my biology class, I was taught that the mitochondria were inherited exclusively from our mothers. After this research done by the mitochondrial disease researcher at the Mayo Clinic at Jacksonville, FLA, it is revealed that the mitochondria are also passed by the fathers. Nevertheless, this claim is still being researched and we will soon understand the details. Isn’t it exciting???!!!
This year has been impressive as many kinds of research have presented us with new information. And it will be interesting to see how this research provides us with a new understanding of genes.   

1= Mutation
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