The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories include inherited lifespans, the nerves responsible for holding in the urge to pee and a new type of CRISPR.

By Willow Hight-Warburton

I got it from my mama!

The study, published in Age and Ageing, has shown that daughters whose mums lived to be 90+ years old had a 25% chance of also reaching that age. They were also more likely to be disease and discomfort free!

The American researchers analysed data from a national, long-term study involving nearly 22,000 post-menopausal women and found that having a father who also lived for nine or more decades further increased their chances of reaching a ripe old age to 38%, adding extra shine to their daughter’s golden years.

Whilst the authors suggest that a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors passed down through the generations may influence what happens to women as they age, they couldn’t explain why only having a dad who reaches 90 didn’t increase the number of healthy life years.

Read more about this study here.

adult affection baby child
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Pee brain

To go or not to go – that is the question but unfortunately for people with incontinence or paruresis, the choice is not so simple. Recently, a breakthrough from researchers in California may have identified neurones responsible for the urge to urinate.

Many male animals, including mice, use voluntary urination to mark their scent. By utilising this behaviour, the team found a group of neurones in the brainstem that controls the muscles in the bladder. At the same time, muscles that constrict the urethra need to be relaxed. Using brain slices, the scientists then managed to detect 200 other neurones that are responsible for relaxing these urethra-constricting muscles. Excitingly, they found that they could chemically block the activation of these neurones, stopping the bladder from being emptied.

It looks like we might finally be getting closer to the bottom of the problem.

Click here to read more about this story!

gender
Photo by Hafidz Alifuddin on Pexels.com

 

Airbrushed genes

Scientists from The University of Illinois have developed a new type of CRISPR – CRISPR-SKIP.

Whilst CRISPR has been revolutionary for scientists, there are a number of safety concerns around using this technology to treat patients. CRISPR turns off genes by effectively ‘snapping’ double stranded DNA in two and then letting the cell repair the break. However, there is a lack of control over the repair process, which could lead to cancer if the DNA repairs inappropriately.

Instead, CRISPR-SKIP enables single-base editing sections of DNA called splice acceptor sites (a portion of a DNA sequence at 3’ end which terminates the intron). Altering this site causes the cell machinery responsible for transcription to ‘skip’ the edited exon. This means that the detrimental part of the protein is removed instead of completely deleting the whole protein. This is a more precise method and could reduce the chances of triggering harmful changes in the DNA sequence during the editing process.

Whilst it has currently only been used in vitro, this exciting step forward is more applicable to clinical settings, which could mean that it may be used to treat patients suffering from genetic diseases such as Huntington’s disease and Duchenne muscular dystrophy much sooner than previously expected.

Read more about this exciting breakthrough here!

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Image taken from Gapinske et al. (2018) https://doi.org/10.1186/s13059-018-1482-5