Hacking Living Cells

Do your E.coli cells lack the ability to sense light? Well now you can programme a DNA circuit, generated by a plasmid in E.coli to fix that. Chris Voigt’s team at M.I.T have borrowed an existing programming language called Verilog from electronic chip designers to produce computational DNA-based circuits in living bacterial cells. Their system, called Cello, worked perfectly first time in 75% of cases and finally allows the promises of synthetic biology to be realised. This may see a new biological-revolution with bacteria being coded to detect and mop-up oil spills or encase bacteria in a pill that once swallowed will release personal and localized therapeutics.

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The Structure of the Zika Virus Revealed

Microcephaly, just one of the devastating effects of the Zika virus has caused Zika to be declared a global health emergency. The structure of the Zika virus, solved by cryo-EM at Purdue University by Richard Kuhn’s group, now allows scientists to compare Zika to other flaviviruses such as dengue and yellow fever. A carbohydrate moiety around the Asn154 glycosylation site is a key structural difference that is thought to act as a Velcro, allowing Zika to bind to host cells. Drug designs can now be focused to target this carbohydrate moiety as well as increasing our understanding of how the virus is transmitted and its contribution to disease outcome.

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 Pears vs Apples for Heart Health

A new study finds the risk for heart disease may increase for diabetic people with apple-shaped bodies. Findings presented at the American College of Cardiology showed that patients with wider waists, when compared with those with smaller waists, were more likely to have problems with the left ventricle of their heart which is a common cause of heart disease. The left ventricle works harder than the right ventricle to pump blood around the body and defects can lead to heart failure. Waist circumference is a strong predictor of left-ventricle function and the researchers recommend at-risk over-weight patients to reduce their waist size.

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Written by: Veronica Ilkow