Month: November 2017

The Technique of Knocking Out Genes – A Sneak Peek

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Knocking out genes is a technique which researchers and scientists use when the want to find out
which gene is responsible for production of which protein. In a human body there are around 20,500 different genes that each gene is responsible for making a protein because they are known to be the building blocks for different components of the body be it muscles or bones or brain and more. Apparently, our body is made up proteins. Every gene is responsible for producing a different type of protein and the knocking out technique only helps scientists figure out who is responsible for what.

Technique of Knocking Out Genes

Knocking out a Gene
The scientists first find out genes with some serious mutation or mistake or create one if needed. These genes are dud genes and do not contribute a bit in production of protein. Now, this gene is injected into the DNA of a healthy cell. The scientists attach a tag called reporter gene to it for identification purpose of whether they have been accepted by the cell. Another identification of reporter genes is that the proteins they produce often glow in blue or green. The scientists apparently fool the DNA in a way. A DNA a we know is made up of long strand of genes and these genes can get damaged but the DNA has an inbuilt mechanism to fix the issue. With the help of a cellular tool box the scientist insert the knocked out gene into the DNA. They do this very smartly by making it look like a perfect copy of the surrounding gene that is to be replaced in that DNA. This disguise of sorts fold the DNA repair system and its swaps the dud gene for the old healthy gene, thus knocking out the original gene.

Some times scientists do not have to swap the gene fully. They can simply insert the reporter gene into the DNA they wish to get rid of, randomly. Now, the reporter gene is wedged in the middle of the old gene. Now, there is an all new piece of DNA inside and if a cell goes to read the gene, the instructions would not make sense to the cell due to its presence there. It would not use the gene to make a protein.

The scientist keep a watch on the process. They observe the working in case it is yeast or bacterium but if it is an embryo, scientists observe on how the animal or plant growth differs from other normal ones.

Today, scientists use different techniques to knock out the genes of any organism they want to. It could be mice or bacteria or for that matter even plants that have knocked out genes. Well, scientists today can knock out even human cells growing in the labs.

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Hopes on for Vaccines Offering Lifelong Protection against Flu

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Flu as we all know is a common condition that all of us encounter many a times during our stay on the earth or say our life span. You would rarely find a human who has not been a victim of this health condition. But, there is some good news around this condition. A recent study of a new vaccine containing ancestral flue virus genes is a ray of hope for researchers in the direction of life long protection against flu.

Vaccines Offering Lifelong Protection against Flu

The vaccine was tested on mice and gave 100 percent results. The vaccine was so effective that even after being given nine different flu virus dozes of lethal nature they survived. The best part was they didn’t even fall sick.

Comparatively those mice that were given the traditional shots of flu did fall sick after these lethal doses were given to them and even died. Though, the study is primarily conducted on mice and it would be too early to say how it worked on humans, there is definitely a ray of hope. The hope that one day a universal flu vaccine is developed that would provide long term rather life long protection against flu viruses.

Though even after trying out the researchers still haven’t really succeeded in creating a vaccine that could offer life long protection because of the reason that flu viruses mutate fast. A recent study though used a different approach. The vaccine they created had ancestral and consensus flu genes from four main strain types namely H1 to H5. The delivery of these genes was done using adenovirus, the one responsible for causing common cold but an altered version of it that was harmless and had the ability to carry ancestral genes.

The results as mentioned were affirmative as these mice survived heavy doses of H1N1, H3N1, H3N2 and H5N1 which can easily kill the mice. Apparently 100% of the vaccinated mice survived.

Well, its too early to confirm the success but further study on different animals will certainly help the researchers determine the efficacy of the vaccine in terms of long term protection.

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Screen Time Before Sleep Can effect Sleep

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In the present times when screens are very much becoming an integral part of our routines lives and most of the day you are hooked to your laptop, computer or PC, here’s some news around effects of screen time just before sleeping.

Screen Time Before Sleep Can effect Sleep

Screen-time just before sleep leads to a bad nights sleep and leaves you groggy the next morning. We all know that blue light is bad for sleep already. But, screen time before sleep tends to affect your body clock as per a researcher. The body clocks natural cycles intimate us about sleep and waking up times. Also known as Circadian rhythms, they find help from the light of the day and night for keeping their internal body clock running over a 24 hour cycle.

The fact that the electronic gadgets are around us round the clock makes their use and hence exposure to blue light all the more evident. Now, the study was conducted over 19 subjects in their 20’s. Everyone had to spend around 2 hours before bed time on computer screens. The results obviously varied between students because the computer screens were not all the same. The were tweaked. Some screens emitted soft blue light, while some emitted intense blue. Some of them emitted intense red and some soft red as well. This was done to check the effect of each one. Even after the subjects went off to sleep, the researchers recorded how many of them work up and how many of them slept all through the night. Further the researchers also note down the sleep phase called REM (short for rapid eye movement) and even asked the subjects themselves about their sleep experience.

The researchers observed that the subjects who were exposed to intense blue light suffered sleep issues for around 16 minutes as compared to the ones who were exposed to red light. They even woke up through the night more often than the red light exposed subjects. The researchers observed that the blue light emissions from the computer effected melatonin, the sleep hormone of each subject. This hormone is responsible for making us sleepy and is secreted around 9 pm in the blood. Now, the blue light restricted the melatonin secretion and hence the subjects exposed to intense blue light felt alert to fall asleep even if they were tired. Those exposed to red light did not find any such issues.

Well, the researchers through this study brought forward the fact that the intense blue light emissions from computer screens just before sleep time does affect the body clock. Though the light used for the study was extremely bright that generally the TV or tablet or computer emits, there is no cent percent surety of the damage it causes.

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The Inter Relation of Nose and Emotions

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Now, here is some news related to the ability to expressing emotions. A study has found that the rare condition experience by 10% of the healthy population called alexithymia leads to difficulty in understanding emotions, talking or relating to them or even expressing them.

The researching scientists adopted a completely untested approach of study which included testing 62 individuals divided into categories based of severity of alexithymia as low, medium and high. The testing was known as olfactory tests and were carried out to find out their reactions on different kinds of stimulation.

The scientists were also explained the reason behind using the olfactory test’s suitability in studying this psychological conditions. According to them, between the areas in the brain there is a partial develop that deals with olfactory perception besides with those that are into processing emotions.

One of the important finding of the test were that scientists found the alexithymic patients react differently than others when it comes to smells. Apparently, its a result of their psychological parameters like accelarated heart rate or electrical skin conductivity. Additionally, the scientists also observed difference in reactions in subjects suffering from affective alexithymia and effective alexithymia wherein the areas of imagination, sensation and creativity are restricted compared to subjects with congnitive alexithymia, wherein identification, expression and distinguishing ability is compromised.

The results clearly stated that altered psychological response to olfactory stimuli is one of the characteristics of alexithymia. The test also brought to light an interesting fact that The psychological reactions of individuals suffering from alexithymic conditions to smell induced emotions are apparently more intense, contradicting general expectations on the same.

A significant observation as it may be and counter intuitive too, subjects with alexithymia become insensitive to difference, changes or color shades that are said to enrich our routine lives scientifically due to the situation of extreme perpetual activation with respect to emotions, they are said to be in.

Well, now you know how nose and emotions are interconnected or interdependent for that matter.

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