Category Archives: Biology

CRISPR Technology: Dr. Jennifer Doudna On Its Medical Ethics (Video)

Dr. Jennifer Doudna first made her name uncovering the basic structure and function of the first ribozyme, a type of catalytic ribonucleic acid (RNA) that helps catalyse chemical reactions. This work helped lay the foundation for her later helping to pioneer CRISPR-Cas 9, a tool that has provided the means to edit genes on an unprecedented scale and at minimal cost. In addition to her scientific contributions to CRISPR, Doudna is known for spearheading the public debate to consider the ethical implications of using CRISPR-Cas9 to edit human embryos.

Biotechnology: ‘Genome Sequencing – Unlocking The Covid Code’ (NY Times)

The advent of commercial genome sequencing has recently, and credibly, been compared to the invention of the microscope, a claim that led me to wonder whether this new, still relatively obscure technology, humming away in well-equipped labs around the world, would prove to be the most important innovation of the 21st century.

And unexpectedly, Covid-19 has proved to be the catalyst. “What the pandemic has done is accelerate the adoption of genomics into infectious disease by several years,” says deSouza, the Illumina chief executive. He also told me he believes that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of genomics into society more broadly — suggesting that quietly, in the midst of chaos and a global catastrophe, the age of cheap, rapid sequencing has arrived.

Read full article in the NY Times

Healthy Lives: Living In Sych With Biological Clocks (Salk Institute)

Satchin Panda is a professor in Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory. He explores the genes, molecules and cells that keep the whole body on the same biological clock, also known as a circadian rhythm. On this episode of Where Cures Begin, Panda talks about what a biological clock is, how living in sync with your clock can improve your health, and how growing up in India informed his research.

Science: ‘Insane Biology Of Ant Colonies’ (4K Video)

Ants are social insects which form small to large colonies. A typical colony contains an egg-laying queen and many adult workers together with their brood (eggs, larvae and pupae). Workers are by far the most numerous individuals in the nest. They are responsible for nest construction and maintenance, foraging, tending the brood and queen, and nest defence.

While all workers are female, they are sterile and do not lay eggs. Winged queens and males are present in the nest for only a short period. Soon after emerging they leave the nest to mate and establish new nests. Queens are generally similar to the workers, differing primarily in having larger bodies. In some species, fully winged queens are lacking and egg-laying is undertaken either by typical workers or by individuals which are morphologically intermediate between typical queens and workers (these are called ergatoid queens). Males are generally about the same size as the workers or smaller, and have smaller heads with large ocelli, very short scapes and small mandibles. In many cases males look more like wasps than ants.

The Brain: ‘Learning & Memory’ – Neuroscience & Disease Research (Video)

Neuroscience Professor Seth Tomchik, PhD, focuses on two major research areas, the neuroscience of learning and memory, and diseases that affect learning and memory, including neurofibromatosis type one. Neuroscience is now the largest department on the Florida campus of Scripps Research.

The department’s faculty and staff, together with graduate students enrolled in the institute’s Skaggs Graduate School, push the boundaries of scientific knowledge to benefit humanity. Watch all 11 videos in this series to see their work in more detail. Scripps Research is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute ranked the most influential in the world for its impact on innovation. With campuses in La Jolla, California, and Jupiter, Florida, the institute advances human health through profound discoveries that address pressing medical concerns around the globe. Scripps Research also trains the next generation of leading scientists at the Skaggs Graduate School, consistently named among the top 10 U.S. programs for chemistry and biological sciences. Learn more at http://www.scripps.edu.

Science: ‘The Biggest Breakthroughs In Biology In 2020’ (Video)

In 2020, the study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was undoubtedly the most urgent priority. But there were also some major breakthroughs in other areas. We’d like to take a moment to recognize them.

  • 1. This year, we learned that we had severely underestimated the human brain’s computing power. Researchers are coming to understand that even the dendritic arms of neurons seem capable of processing information, which means that every neuron might be more like a small computer by itself.
  • 2. The new Information Theory of Individuality completely reimagines the way biologists have traditionally thought about individuality. Armed with information theory, the researchers found objective criteria for defining degrees of individuality in organisms.
  • 3. Deprived of sleep, we and other animals die within weeks. More than a century of scrutiny failed to explain why lack of sleep is so deadly. This year, an answer was finally found — not inside the brain, as expected, but inside the gut.

Top Lectures: ‘A Series Of Fortunate Events’ By Biologist Sean B. Carroll

Is simple chance the source of all the beauty and diversity we see in the world? Sean B. Carroll tells the story of the awesome power of chance. Sean’s book “A Series of Fortunate Events” is available now: https://geni.us/mPPrdQH

Watch the Q&A: https://youtu.be/adrqThhSgYg

Why is the world the way it is? How did we get here? Does everything happen for a reason or are some things left to chance? Philosophers and theologians have pondered these questions for millennia, but startling scientific discoveries over the past half century are revealing that we live in a world driven by chance.

Sean B. Carroll is an award-winning scientist, writer, educator, and film producer. He is Vice President for Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Balo-Simon Chair of Biology at the University of Maryland. His books include The Serengeti Rules (Princeton), Brave Genius, and Remarkable Creatures, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland. This talk and Q&A was recorded by the Royal Institution on 6 October 2020.