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Glenn Nichols, surrounded by his hospice team. The author is in yellow.

Genetic Linkage

My Cat Has AIDS (Part 1)

January 26, 2013

Tags: FIV, HIV, AIDS

Artie, our second FIV+ cat. (Credit: Dr. Wendy Josephs)
Juice was an impulse buy.

It was early July 2003, and we were headed to the mall for a gift for Carly, about to turn 15. We parked near a bus equipped as an animal shelter.

Inside, kitten-filled cages lined the walls, except for one, which had a large, orange and white cat stuffed into it. Carly made a beeline for him and the attendant hoisted him out and handed him over. I reminded Carly that we already had 5 felines, but we knew he’d be left behind as the kittens were adopted. (more…)

Retinal Stem Cells and Eye of Newt

January 16, 2013

Tags: stem cells, RPE, age-related macular degeneration, iPS cells, Neural Stem Cell Institute, Foundation Fighting Blindness

Human RPE cells in culture look like cobblestones; 3% of them behave like stem cells, in dishes. Can they treat eye diseases from within? (Tim Blenkinsop)
More than a decade before Sally Temple, PhD, and her husband Jeffrey Stern, MD, PhD, discovered stem cells in human eyes, they suspected the cells would be there. They knew it from the salamanders.

A SPECIAL FONDNESS FOR AMPHIBIANS
When William Shakespeare included “eye of newt” ingredients of the Three Witches’ brew in Macbeth, he probably knew what he was doing. Dr. Temple, who grew up in northern England, said it’s long been common knowledge there that newts can regrow their parts. In the late 1800s, biologists began to study regeneration in salamanders.

By the 1950s, embryologists had discovered that certain amphibian eyes regenerate thanks to a single layer of cells, called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which hugs the photoreceptors (the rods and cones). (more…)

The Crud: Viral or Bacterial?

January 16, 2013

Tags: flu, Staph aureus, MRSA, vaccine

A flu virus. (Credit: CDC)
My immune system is still on hyperdrive from what may have been the flu three weeks ago. I qualify my self-diagnosis because I never had a test to tell whether viruses or bacteria had invaded my body.

I’ve long wondered why such diagnostics aren’t, by now, in routine use. Molecular biology was pioneered on the genetic details of bacteria and their viruses in the 1970s, and by now most of our pathogens have had their genomes sequenced. (more…)

Comparing Adam Lanza’s DNA to Forensic DNA Databases: A Modest Proposal

January 3, 2013

Tags: Adam Lanza, DNA profiling, CODIS, criminal gene

Is there a genetic signature for violence? It's an old and controversial question. (NHGRI)
In 1729, Jonathan Swift of Gulliver’s Travels fame published a satirical essay called "A Modest Proposal." He suggested that a cure for poverty was for poor people to sell their children to rich people as food.

I’m borrowing Swift’s essay title to bring up another outrageous idea: analyzing forensic DNA databases for a genetic signature of criminality. (more…)

instruction
Project to engage students in helping families with rare genetic diseases
Book Club Reader's Guide
Many challenging questions to stimulate thought and discussion.
Instructor's Guide
38 discussion questions to get students thinking and talking about gene therapy, including the science, ethical issues, and the drug approval process.
Narrative science
The Forever Fix is the uplifting true story of 8-year-old Corey Haas, who was cured of hereditary blindness just 4 days after gene therapy.
College Textbooks
A spectacularly-illustrated, clearly written human anatomy and physiology textbook, used in pre-health profession programs throughout the U.S.
A highly engaging, clearly written, beautifully illustrated introduction to the science of human genetics for the non-scientist. Now in its 10th edition.
Nonfiction
An ideal starting point for anyone who wants to know more about genes, DNA, genomes, and the genetic ties that bind us all.

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