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Cityblog introduces Science club for young and old interested readers. This section is edited by  Riya

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The world’s first genetically edited baby or in fact babies are born! Isn’t that surprising! But first, we need to know if this is true or fake. This blog summarizes the new controversy about the Chinese Professor, He Jiunki, who claims that he has successfully edited faulty genes in twins.
This all started on the 28th of November 2018 when Professor He at the Genome Summit in Hong Kong announced that he was successful in editing the genes of twin girls. The father of the twins was HIV positive whereas the mother was HIV negative. The twins were at the risk of inheriting HIV. However, Professor He with the use of the CRISPR/ CAS9 technology was able to reduce the twin’s risk of inheriting HIV. CRISPR/CAS9 is a gene found in the bacteria which is known for cutting the default gene. When bacteria are infected with a virus, they use this gene to “cut” the DNA of a harmful virus. This gene is used to delete the mutated1 gene 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. This way the mutated gene is replaced by the donor gene. Nevertheless, all this is done while there exists a single human cell in other words, this is all performed on an embryo. As it is impossible to alter the DNAs in trillions of cells.  A pretty exciting and interesting technology right?
Many professors believe his research untrue because the University he worked did not fund the research, therefore, denying the validity of this claim. Also, many other scientists believe the information untrue as there is no scientific paper backing up his claims. Professor He asserts that he privately funded the research which involved the deleting of the gene of the twins, Lulu and Nana.
Moreover, the whole ethical questions come into the play. Are the genetic engineers playing Gods by going against nature?
Professor He played God and many ethicists believe that this action is unethical as Professor He has deliberately made one twin as a control which can make her susceptible to HIV whereas the other twin is not. CCR5 is a coreceptor protein which provides a way to infect other cells with the HIV virus. Professor He turned the CCR5 gene off in one twin and kept one gene on in the other twin. This action favors one twin over the other.
In conclusion, many ethicists and scientists reject this claim to be untrue. Please let me know your thoughts on the issue in the comment section below.

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Mutations that caused evolution in the humans



The human body has evolved over the course of million years to perform highly complex mechanisms which are essential for its normal functioning in addition to complex mechanisms like thinking logically and the development of the language. These mechanisms include the development of the signaling in the nervous system which helps in responding to the stimuli, metabolism to provide energy for carrying out other functions in the body, understanding, and thinking, being able to communicate and even a simple task as holding something which is possible because of the development of the thumb. Ever thought how these developed?
It all starts with our good old friends- Primates.  Evidence for this theory can be the mitochondrial difference of 99% between the chimpanzee and the humans. The mitochondrion is the organelle in the cell which is responsible for the cellular respiration. It produces energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). As the mitochondria contain their own DNA, they are used to identify how distantly or closely related the species are. Primates were basically arboreal which indicates that they lived on the trees.  The most significant evolution was Bipedalism. Bipedalism is a unique characteristic in the humans which allows them to walk on their two limbs. There have been many speculations about how the ancestors of humans developed bipedalism. This connects to the idea of Natural Selection that Charles Darwin presented in his famous work, Origin of Species. Darwin proposed that an offspring inherits the mutation from the parents. And as this mutation, becomes beneficial in a particular species it stays in the gene pool.  Maybe, a mutation was inherited and was beneficial; thus, remained in the gene pool.
Perhaps, the size of the human brain is a noteworthy evolution which gives us the ability to think and to communicate. We need to appreciate the human ability to do so many things many species cannot. Like the development of more than 100 languages and being able to reason and logically applying knowledge in our everyday lives. Extensive research indicates that genetic changes in the human genome were the main causality behind the brain size enlargement. Gene family which is suspected to be responsible for the brain enlargement is called the DUF1220 (Vallender). This is considered a novel gene. Novel genes are hypothesized to be the reason for the evolution in the human phenotype. The function of the DUF1220 is unknown; however, the researchers have discovered that it is expressed in the brain and the neurons. Another significant finding is that the amount of the gene being expressed increases in primates if they are closer to the human phenotype. Therefore, with larger brains, humans are capable of doing many things yet we sometimes find ourselves using it for the wrong means like cheating on a test! Just learn to appreciate the genes as they do so much for us, for example, they express many proteins so that we think and do good for our society!


Everything you need to know about stem cells

Recently, there have been a lot of speculations about stem cells and their ethicality. The main question is: “Is it ethical to kill an embryo in order to procure stem cells where that embryo has a potential to grow into a human being?” To answer this question we first need to understand what are stem cells? What benefits do they provide us with? What are some disadvantages associated? Can they be used to treat a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness like cancer or an organ failure?  
So let us begin with some basics. Stem cells are pluripotent cells, that is, they have an ability to develop into an organism. A zygote, product of a sperm and an ovum fusion, is a classic example of an undifferentiated stem cell. A zygote is a single undifferentiated cell which divides itself to form an embryo. The undifferentiated cells found in an embryo are called the Embryonic stem cells. As the embryo enters its eighth week it is called as a fetus. Here, the stem cells begin to form differentiated cells. These stem cells are called the fetal stem cells. Other types of stem cells are the Adult Stem Cells. These are a rare type of stem cells. Because as the human beings grow and mature, the cells in the body become specialized and lose their pluripotency. However, there are few stem cells found in the bone marrow of an adult. Blood stem cells are an example of adult stem cells.
Being said that, let us talk about how the stem cells are used as the regenerative medicine which is a breakthrough research to help cure terminal illnesses like leukemia, organ failure or are used for a joint replacement. Of the four types of stem cells, embryonic stem cells can be regarded as the most effective in developing into an organ or a tissue. The way it is done is by  “pre specializing”(“What”) the stem cells and inject it into the tissue or the organ where a transplant is needed. When the pre-specialized stem cells meet the growth chemicals they grow into a healthy organ or a tissue. It is an effective method which replaces a transplant. However, the risks of graft rejection still remain, as the developing organ is foreign to the body. Yet there are many advantages of stem cell therapy. They have an ability to cure the irreversible Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver and kidney diseases. Not only transplants, stem cell research can also help the scientists to understand the patterns of human growth.
Nevertheless, with so many advantages there are many disadvantages of using the stem cells which question the ethicality of the stem cell research. Embryonic stem cells are used to study or to use for the most number of transplants. However, to do so the blastocyst is destroyed. Which means it kills an unborn life which could have grown into a human being. That is why many people believe that stem cells are unethical. Another disadvantage with stem cells is that adult stem cells are pre specialized that is they can just develop into specific organs. For example, brain stem cells can develop into brain cells they cannot develop into blood cells. And if the immune system cells are replaced by the stem cells they can identify the indigenous organs as “foreign” and can attack the organs leading to organ failure. Therefore, there are many risks involved in stem cells therapy.
Many people oppose stem cells and label the research “ unethical”. But, the technology is promising. With proper research, stem cells may have more advantages than disadvantages. Yet, the issue of ethicality remains. It is very unethical to kill an embryo for the research. However, I am very positive that the researchers will overcome this hurdle and ensure a breakthrough research which is ethical and helpful. But, as this happens we all need to be open-minded and form opinions after understanding the basics. I hope this blog helps you to understand what the stem cells are and their advantages or disadvantages and allows you to form opinions about this topic.
Please do not forget to check my page to read interesting research analysis or topics happening currently in Genetics.




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