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What is eDNA and can we find the Lochness Monster?

Recently, an international research team led by University of Otago’s Professor Neil Gemmell made headlines by announcing that they would be looking for signs of the Loch Ness Monster's DNA. While the work seems fanciful, the science being used is very real. Scientists, researchers, and businesses are using a new technology known as environmental DNA (eDNA) for a number of applications beyond the hunt for a mythical creature, like detecting hard-to-find species in aquatic ecosystems and determining the prevalence of said species, without having to trap or visually count the animal.  
eDNA works by taking advantage of a simple fact: as living organisms move through their environment, they shed genetic material in the form of DNA. This material lingers, providing insight into the past and present of the creature that left it behind. 


According to an article in Scientific American, farmers in New Jersey and New Hampshire are using eDNA to combat the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug by detect…

Recent advances in cancer treatments

As per estimates of American Society of Clinical Oncology, 14 million people worldwide will learn that they have cancer this year and 9 million will lose their lives. Their estimates for the year 2030 are even worse and present an alarming situation for cancer patients and their families. We have been hearing about personalized medicine for many years now but the last year or so, there have been some great advances that have made their way from research labs to real world clinics and with regulatory approvals. Here is a look at some recent advances in cancer treatments. 
Traditional cancer treatment use the chemotherapy approach that bombards the body with cytotoxic drugs and has a 50-50 chance of killing normal as well as cancerous cells.As treatments improved, we moved to drugs that inhibit the growth of cancerous cells, typically the Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors (TKIs). As our understanding of cancer has improved, the approach has changed from trying to find a cure to leveraging o…

Use CaRROT to turn on/off genes

Genetic modification is a hugely debated subject as well as a highly interesting one. Being able to genetically modify a plant or an animal (humans included) is a huge achievement towards understanding our genes and their function. Over the past few years, CRISPR- Cas9 has been in the news for the simple reason that the technology allows labs to easily edit genomic sequences in live cells. The simplicity of the technique lies in the fact it requires a CRISPR associated protein 9 (Cas 9) and a single guide RNA (gRNA) to edit the region of your interest. 
The technology also brings with it the promise of curing genetic diseases like sickle cell anemia, beta-thalassemia and cystic fibrosis, among others. Many privately funded labs are already in the race to design and manufacture CRISPR-Cas9 derived therapeutics that could make genetic diseases a thing of the past.CRISPR-Cas9, however, has its limitations. For one, the editing that it can easily bring about, is not very specific,…

Obesity does not damage your knees, microbes do!

Damage to the knees, or osteoarthritis, is commonly seen in people who are obese. For many years, it was assumed that osteoarthritis is due to additional stress on the knee joints, due to increased weight. However, studies have shown that the commonly seen side effect of obesity is actually due to the increase in systemic and local inflammation caused by macrophages and other inflammatory cells that are targeting the adipose tissue but the joints tissue are caught in the cross fire and undergo degeneration. 
Studies published over the last couple of years have now been able to associate the inflammation seen in obesity to the gut microbiome. While this might sound a bit outlandish, researchers studying the gut microbiomes have found that nature of microbiome of the gut is dependent primarily on the dietary intake. Nature of food intake can distort the natural flora of the gut, which can then effect the inflammatory status in the body, leading to events like osteoarthritis in obesity,…

Catching up with Science 2

Killing animals a regular practice in zoos 


 Zoos have always been a grey area when it comes to animal lovers and conservationist. While some argue that it offers a safe haven for endangered animals who have lost their habitat in the wild, (thanks to our voracious need to spread ourselves on the planet), some argue that confining these creatures is as good as torture. But the argument against zoos has become stronger because of the practice of Zoothanasia – a common practice of zoo to put down perfectly healthy animals because they don’t fit their economical budget. You can read more about it here.  

Animals showing morals values 

if you thought that morals and values were traits that were exclusively human, you are gravely mistaken. Time and again, researchers, conservationist world over come face to face with instances where animals have shown compassion, morality a sense of right and wrong (or at least come close to it). It just goes to show how much we really know about animals. …

Catching up with Science!

There is a lot that is going around in the world and there is only so much time on our hands. Because we do so much of reading (you know, for obvious reasons) we are happy to bring to you the most interesting stories every month, published on other blog, news sitesand university website feeds. 
Worms that have three sexes
Now here’s a fun story that you can throw around in a group discussion to grab a few head turns. The worm in question is the Auanema rhodensis, a curious little (quite little) being that is found in the Connecticut and Virginia. Now three sexes in invertebrates are not uncommon, from earthworms to snails and even many fish are hermaphrodites. But what makes these A rhodensis so special is that they are self-fertilising   hermaphrodites, which is not heard of, at least till now. Diane Shakes professor of Biology at the College of William and Mary is one of the authors of the paper that speaks about these curious little specimens. You can read the full article here.
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Future deafness treatments will be genetic in nature

As per estimates released in 2015, Deafness or hearing loss affects 1.1 billion people globally. There are many causes of deafness ranging from trauma to the ear to severe infections, developmental issues as well as exposure to noise. However, 80% of deafness cases are non-syndromic i.e. do not show any other symptoms such as ear malformations and are also genetic in nature. 
Cochlear implants have met a lot of success in recent years but come with its own set of benefits and risks and are definitely not a permanent cure. Like with any other genetic condition, deafness, too, has been known to be non-curable. But recently published research puts hope on the horizon for patients with deafness that gene editing technology could one day become mainstream and allow treatment for genetic deafness. 
Gene Editing technologies have taken the scientific world by storm in the recent years. Among these, CRISPR - Cas 9 system has gained quite a reputation for itself. What was published as general…