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New Technique to Turn on Mouse Genes

Posted on Nov 5, 2018 in Blog


Over the last several years, the prospect of precision gene editing as a method of treating diseases has greatly increased. A major part of the increase in interest was the development of CRISPR/Cas9. CRISPR/Cas9 is a tool for modifying genes using technology borrowed from bacteria. This system uses a strand of RNA that is designed to only match up to a specific spot in the genome. This “guide” RNA leads the Cas9 enzyme to the target segment, where the enzyme cuts the DNA. Scientists can use the cell’s own repair mechanisms to add or delete pieces of genetic material at the location of the cut, allowing precise control of genetic mutation.

As this technology has developed, scientists have made different modifications to the tool. Many of these involve changing the Cas9 enzyme so that it attaches to a gene and activates it, instead of cutting it. Initially, these modifications created molecules too big to fit inside the viruses used to deliver them to their targets. However, earlier this year, Science News reported that researchers had developed a way to shrink the guide RNA by over 25%: from 20 units to 14-15 units. This new tool, which is known as CRISPRa, attaches to a gene and attracts proteins that turn the gene on. The researchers released a study last December detailing several experiments they performed on mice aimed at treating different genetic diseases.

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Fungi in Antarctica

Posted on Sep 27, 2018 in Blog

Shackleton's hut

Shackleton’s hut

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, 17 expeditions were launched by 10 different countries to explore Antarctica. Ernest Shackleton and other adventurers traveled to the largely unexplored frozen continent to advance cartography, oceanography, and meteorology, as well as to seek the glory of being the first explorers to reach the south pole. In addition to the many scientific advances of these expeditions, they also left another legacy: wood buildings created for shelter, in an otherwise woodless environment. Now, a recent article in Scientific American talks about how scientists are finding fungi growing on these century-old wood structures.

Fungi have been crucial for the development of modern medicine. In addition to being the basis for penicillin, they are also critical for the immunosuppressant cyclosporine and the cholesterol drug lovastatin. With the ever-increasing threat of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, scientists are always on the lookout for new antimicrobial compounds.

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Norovirus and Tuft Cells in Mice

Posted on Aug 30, 2018 in Blog


Norovirus capsid

Acute gastroenteritis, commonly known as “stomach flu,” causes diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to complications from dehydration. This can be lethal in certain cases, especially for young children. Researchers have estimated that it is the cause of death for 1.5-2.5 million children less than 5 years old every year, worldwide. This is a widespread disease that affects people in both developed and developing countries. According to the CDC, about one out of every five cases of acute gastroenteritis is caused by norovirus. This makes norovirus the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis, with over 685 million cases annually. Norovirus is named for the town Norwalk, Ohio, where a large outbreak occurred in 1968. The virus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines. Every year, norovirus is estimated to cause $60 billion in losses worldwide due to healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Little is known about how the norovirus targets the human body, including which cells it targets to trigger acute gastroenteritis. However, recent research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has discovered that, in mice, norovirus infects intestinal cells called “tuft cells,” which line the intestines. Until this point, the function of tuft cells has been a mystery, but now scientists have a focal point they can use to study norovirus infections.

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Cleaning Agents vs Refrigerator Coils

Posted on Jul 27, 2018 in Blog

According to the CDC, approximately 1.7 million hospital-acquired infection (HAIs) are documented each year. These are responsible for 99,000 deaths and an estimated $20 billion in healthcare costs. Therefore, keeping hospitals and pharmacies clean is a crucial to prevent the spread of infection. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) creates standards for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries to help standardize the quality of medication and healthcare.

One of the USP standards, USP 797, sets requirements for sanitation in areas that are used for compounding medications or “IV adds” in sterile environments, such as clean rooms. This includes cleaning refrigerators or incubators that are used in those areas. The standards are in the process of being updated, with new cleaning agents being recommended for use. Since Powers Scientific provides pharmacy refrigerators to hospitals across the country, our chambers have been encountering various cleaning materials recommended by the regulations.

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Obesity and Taste Buds

Posted on Jun 19, 2018 in Blog

Taste budAccording to the CDC, more than one-third (36.5%) of adults in the United States are clinically obese. The obesity epidemic costs the country billions of dollars annually in treating diseases arising from the condition, such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and others. Obesity is a national health issue with multiple causes, so efforts to fight it are occurring on multiple fronts.

One of the approaches being taken to understand a cause of obesity comes in the form of studying how the sense of taste differs between people who are obese and people who are not. We know that obese people have reported a weakened sense of taste, which may be part of the problem. If they don’t get the same intensity of neurological response to eating as non-obese people, they may be eating more to compensate for that weakened stimulus. Understanding what causes this response might open new avenues to combat obesity.

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