Bioengineers have for the first time used a computer model to relate specific genetic mutations to exact variations of a disease. This is the first model-based system for predicting phenotype (function of the cell or organism) based on genotype (an individual’s DNA).
Bernhard Palsson, Professor, Bioengineering
In the study, published in Genome Research (Vol. 12, Issue 11, 1687-1692, November 2002, article link), Bernhard Palsson and his team at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering reviewed genetic information from patients who have an enzyme deficiency that causes hemolytic anemia. Physicians have recorded some 150 DNA sequence variations that could be involved in this type of anemia. By inserting the specific DNA sequences into a computer model for red blood cell metabolism, Palsson accurately predicted which mutations would result in chronic hemolytic anemia and which would cause a less severe version of the disease.
“Eventually, there could be a kind of databank of specific genetic mutations that cause precise disease variants,” says Palsson. “Some mutations will be severe, others benign. And every variation of a disease could be treated differently. This could be incredibly useful for drug development and will aid physicians in creating effective treatment plans for individuals.” A person’s risk of getting a disease is often influenced by a permutation in a single base pair in their genome, called a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). And for any one type of cancer such as breast cancer, there may be as much as a dozen variations of the disease. Now that the human genome has been mapped, biotechnology companies and scientists are feverishly developing processes to uncover SNPs that are related to variations of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and a host of inherited disorders.
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At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
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