Showing posts with the label DNA

Did scientists unearth the secret to aging?

  Image Credit: istockphoto Even the healthiest and luckiest animal, who's never had any illness or disease and has never been in a life-threatening situation, dies. Several predictions have been made that could explain this phenomenon. Most explanations revolve around the idea that DNA mutates over time, causing terminal diseases like cancer . This might lead you to think that large animals should die more quickly than small animals since large animals have more cells that can mutate.   While this idea could explain why small dogs tend to outlive large dogs, it doesn’t explain why the trend isn't always true between different species. For example, mice are far smaller and have far fewer cells than giraffes. It would make sense for mice to be less prone to developing deadly mutations and to live longer as a result. This is clearly not the case, as healthy mice tend to live to around 4 years whereas giraffes can live to be 25.   Why does this happen? And can the typical naked m

Are You an Expert in PCR? Taq Does Not Work the Way You Know

Credits: The University of California, Irvine's Departments of Chemistry and Physics and Astronomy have discovered new information on a critical enzyme that enables DNA sequencing . The discovery marks a significant step forward in the future of customized medicine, when physicians will be able to construct medicines based specifically on patients' DNA.  “Enzymes make life possible by catalyzing chemical transformations that otherwise would just take too long for an organism,” said Greg Weiss , UCI professor of chemistry and a co-corresponding author of the new study. “One of the transformations we’re really interested in is essential for all life on the planet – it’s the process by which DNA is copied and repaired.”  The enzyme researched by the UCI-led team is named Taq, after the bacterium in which it was initially found, Thermos aquaticus. The UCI-led research discovered that Taq, which aids in the replication of DNA, functions in a fundamentally different way th

Why viruses are not in our good books?

For all their amazing abilities of being able to survive outside their host, replicate in large numbers and still not be called 'living', viruses have failed to get some positive reviews for themselves. This is likely to be because the term virus is associated with some of the most scariest diseases in human history. Influenza, AIDS, SARS and the recent spread of Ebola, all have their roots in the term 'virus'. Yet, today, we will not dwell on how bad viruses are or the havoc they can cause. This post is more about how intelligent can viruses be!  Microplitis infecting its host worm. Source: Although most viruses are associated with harmful diseases that are caused as a result of infection, there is also a large family of viruses who have a friendly association with their hosts. Called Polydnaviruses , these viruses have long been known to exist, mutually, with their hosts, the parasitoid wasps (which rely on smaller insects su

Cell: “I’m not ruled by my genes”

One often comes across the phrase “It’s in my genes” in our day-to-day life. Less than a century after their discovery, the words 'DNA' and 'genes' are commonly used by all and are also a common topic of speculation in the academic as well as the non-academic world. Some scientists believe that "the living body/cell is just a mere vehicle produced and used by the genome to carry on information ahead in time generation after generation”. Readers with a biology background are aware of the “Central Dogma of Molecular Biology”; for others let me just brief it. It proposes that DNA in genes produces RNA which in turn produces proteins that give a phenotype to  an individual. It also states that the transfer of information is unidirectional  (DNA to cell ) and not the other way round. This is considered to be the basis of molecular biology. I would like to discuss a few implications of crediting DNA /genes with life in a cell.   Is Inheritance a property of just the DNA?

Eating - from casual to compulsive

What scientists call "Overweight" changes with our knowledge of human health (Photo credit: Wikipedia) In a world where we are battling addiction of some sort or the other, food is another item that has made the list. With the rising number of obese people around, scientists are looking for answer to questions that come up with eating , and one question that has made it to the fore is; when does the habit of eating move from being casual to compulsive.  To answer this question scientists had to dig deeper and look at the relationship that food has with not only our body, but also with our brain. What they found was nothing short of astonishing. Eating, it seems, is not very different from addiction to drugs. Our brain has opioid receptors that are receptive to opiates (substances such as heroin, morphine etc.) These molecules play an important role in motivation, emotional attachment, satisfaction etc. Our body produces similar proteins as well, which are know

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