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Can antibiotic apocalypse be avoided?


Researchers from several Chinese, British and US universities announced that they have identified a new form of resistance, to colistin. They say they first perceived a colistin-resistant E. coli in 2013, in a pig from an intensive farm near Shanghai, and then noted increasing colistin resistance over several years.
Colistin is a last-resort antibiotic used when all others fail. Continue reading

DNA Reveals Mysterious Human Cousin


The analysis of a fossil tooth from Siberia reveals that a mysterious people known as Denisovans, discovered a mere five years ago, persisted for tens of thousands of years alongside modern humans and Neanderthals.
In 2010, teams of geneticists and anthropologists led by Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology announced strange DNA sequences recovered from a finger bone and molar found in the remote Denisova cave, in Siberia’s Altai Mountains. Continue reading

Trials in gene editing in humans about to begin in 2017


The biotechnology company Editas hopes to begin clinical trials using the latest gene editing technique on human subjects in 2017, according to the company’s CEO Katrine Bosley.
The CRISPR/Cas system is a prokaryotic immune system that confers resistance to foreign genetic elements such as plasmids and phages, and provides a form of acquired immunity. Continue reading

New genes arise from non-coding DNA

Junk DNA

For most of the last 40 years, scientists thought that new genes simply arose from copies of existing genes. The old version went on doing its job, and the new copy became free to evolve novel functions.
Certain genes, however, have no known relatives, and they bear no resemblance to any other gene. The mystery of where these orphan genes came from has puzzled scientists for decades. But in the past few years, a once-heretical explanation has quickly gained momentum — that many of these orphans arose out of so-called junk DNA, or non-coding DNA.
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Tickborne diseases are increasing in range and in severity


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has redrawn its maps of Lyme disease, the disease most commonly carried by ticks, to display how rapidly risk of it is rising in the northeastern US: 260 hot-spot counties now, compared to 20 years ago.
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Rat Limb Was Grown in the Lab

Rat Limb stem Cells

A team of researchers from the Ott Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital MGH grew the world’s first bioengineered rat limb. Bioartificial limbs might someday be suitable for transplantation.
Bioengineering techniques have been used previously to grow individual organs like hearts and lungs. But the researchers have been able to grow a whole animal limb. Continue reading

Fungus that is killing bats may have met its match

White nose syndrome

A bacterium known to slow fruit ripening shows promise at slowing down white-nose syndrome—a lethal disease of bats.
The treatment is based on a bacterium that inhibits fungal growth, and was originally studied to see if it could slow the ripening of fruits and vegetables. Researchers are in their second year of trials with little brown bats and Northern long-eared bats, and the results look promising. Continue reading

RNA interference helps fight bee-killing mites


Can the world’s most important pollinators be saved? Scientists and breeders are trying to create a hardier honeybee.
Most have concluded colony collapse is not a single problem, as first thought, but a lethal amalgamation of pests, pathogens, habitat loss, and toxic chemicals; varroa mites are a critical component. Most large-scale beekeepers now use pesticides to kill the mites—a stopgap solution, at best. Continue reading

Self-healing concrete containing bacteria

Concrete bacteria

An invention by Delft University microbiologist Hendrik Jonkers offers an innovative approach to creating more stable concrete by adding limestone-producing bacteria to the mix. This self-healing bioconcrete aims to provide a cheap and sustainable solution, markedly improving the lifespan of buildings, bridges and roads.
Thinking about the how bones in the human body are healed naturally through mineralisation from osteoblast cells, Jonkers set about creating a similar self-regeneration technique for our most widely used construction material.
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Vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV)


Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually-transmitted virus infecting the skin and mucosal tissues. From a structural perspective, HPV is a highly unstable virus and impossible to mass-produce in the laboratory. Therefore, a vaccine based on live viral elements was not feasible. Instead, Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou at the University of Queensland, Australia, devised the formation of “virus-like particles” (VLPs) for their HPV vaccine. Continue reading