Ageing effects reversed by gene therapy

Elizabeth Parrish, the CEO of Bioviva USA Inc, claims to have successfully developed the anti-ageing treatment. Using the technique of gene therapy, the company claims to have reversed the effects of natural ageing.

In order to prove that the technique was safe, Parrish herself underwent gene therapy treatment which aims to put a check against muscle mass depletion and stem cell depletion which result due to various age related diseases. Parrish states that, “Current therapeutics offer only marginal benefits for people suffering from diseases of ageing. Additionally, lifestyle modification has limited impact for treating these diseases. Advances in biotechnology are the best solution, and if these results are anywhere near accurate, we’ve made history.”

However, she also mentioned the necessity of the investigation required to verify the methods.

Telomeres are the repetitive sequence of DNA present at the end of each chromosome and protect the loss of genetic material during the cell division. But, with the repetitive divisions, the telomere region becomes too short to protect the chromosomes and when this happens, the process of ageing occurs.

As per claims, the technique developed by Bioviva has successfully reversed the telomere shortening occurred in 20 years in the T-lymphocytes of 44 years old Parrish.  But, the results are yet to be verified by an independent agency and meanwhile Bioviva is closely monitoring the blood of Parrish and they have to verify whether the effects can transfer to tissues of the body.

Genetically Engineered Bacteria Remains in Check from Creating a Havoc

Since genetically modified organisms were first developed, they have shown very promising solution to a lot of world’s problems such as nutrition, medicine, environment, agriculture etc. But along with these solutions came another set of problems, the impact of these GMOs on the environment and human health. A large section of scientists fear the escape of GMOs in the wild and harming the ecosystem. But now the researchers have come up with a solution that can keep the GMOs in check.

The researchers from the Harvard and Yale have successfully altered the genome of E.coli so that their growth and differentiation become dependent on a synthetic amino acid which does not exist naturally. In order to prove this, the researchers cultured a colony of 1 trillion modified bacteria and kept them in a medium devoid of that particular synthetic amino acid. This lead to the death of all the bacteria present in the culture. This indicates that they cannot survive out in the wild.

All the previous attempts like this had failed, as the GMOs always managed to evolve out of their engineered weakness and in few cases they managed to capture the nutrient from the environment. As this amino acid is not present in the environment, the risk is greatly reduced.

Farren Isaacs, the lead researcher from the Yale stated that, “Biotechnology is going to play an important role in society, economy, medicine and health.” He further emphasized the importance to introduce these measures from the early stages.

Methods of gene transfer in plants

The successful development of the transgenic plants has made it possible to produce some of the most costly recombinant proteins and industrial enzymes at much lower costs and at much larger scale. In order to develop the transgenic plants, it is very important to transfer the gene of interest into the plant cells and successfully express it. In the following paragraphs we’ll look at the various techniques employed to transfer the gene of interest into the plants.

Vector-mediated or indirect gene transfer 

In this method the gene of interest is transferred using a vector which is usually a disarmed pathogen which contains the necessary tools required to transfer the gene in the plant cells.

The most widely used vector for gene transfer is Agrobacterium tumefaciens. This is a bacterium which is responsible for causing the crown gall disease in the plants. In order to use it for transferring the gene of interest, the Ti plasmid of the bacterium is modified by cloning the gene of interest in the T-DNA region and removing the sequence responsible for pathogenicity. Upon successful modification of the plasmid, it is introduced in the bacterium and upon infection on the plant; it inserts the gene of interest into the plant genome.

In addition to the vector mediated gene transfer method, there are various vector-less methods of gene transfer which are also termed as direct gene transfer methods.

Chemical mediated gene transfer

Chemicals like polyethylene glycol (PEG) induce the plant protoplasts to uptake the foreign DNA and incorporate it into its genome. Calcium phosphate is also used to introduce the DNA into the cultured cells.

Microinjection

This technique is used to introduce the DNA in the large sized cells such as oocytes and the early embryonic cells. The DNA is introduced inside the cell using fine tipped (0.5-1.0 micrometre diameter) needle.

Genome-Engineering Tool Has Its Efficiency Increased

Designing gene therapy has never been closer. Sleeping beauty is a genome-engineering tool which is showing promise in clinical trials of therapies for lymphoma and leukemia. Now, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) have increased its efficiency by 30%.

Orsolya Barabas, who led the work at EMBL said that they have managed to design new variants based on the structure. Those new variants are already 30% more effective than most efficient ones currently in use.

Sleeping beauty is currently in clinical trials for B-cell leukemias and lymphomas. It is used to insert a gene into T-cells, which are white blood cells that help to find and eliminate dangers such as disease-causing microbes. These cells are harvested from a patient, and once they become genetically modified T-cells, they are injected back into the patient, where their new gene enables them to find and destroy the cancer cells. This technique is easier to apply than any current approach and is actually cheaper.

The faster the T-cells can be modified and injected back, the better the treatment prognosis for the patients, and the lower the costs. However, up until now, attempts to increase the treatment’s efficiency were just educated guesses, based on the structure of similar molecules. Franka Voigt, a postdoc in Barabas’ lab, determined the structure of Sleeping Beauty’s active domain. Collaborating with Zoltán Ivics’ lab at the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany, the team managed to design changes to that structure in order to make it more efficient.

Sleeping Beauty is a transposon, and like all transposons, it has an advantage for therapies that hinge on inserting a gene, compared to other genome engineering approaches such as CRISPR/Cas9. Scientists can make CRISPR/Cas9 cut the genome at a specific point, which makes it ideal for eliminating genetic errors, but it doesn’t insert any genetic material. “Ideally, you’d want to combine the targeting of CRISPR and the efficiency of Sleeping Beauty – but that’s proving very, very difficult,” said Barabas, “so it makes sense to pursue the applications that each is best at, at least for the time being.”

The researchers will continue to design mutations in order to increase Sleeping Beauty’s efficiency even more.

Researchers Discover Genetic Secret That Could Help Fight Malaria

A team of scientists from the University of California, Riverside, has unlocked a genetic secret: a long-hypothesized male determining gene in the mosquito species that carries malaria. This discovery will lay the groundwork for the development of strategies and treatments that could help fight malaria. The published paper is named “”Radical remodeling of the Y chromosome in a recent radiation of malaria mosquitoes” and was co-authored by 28 scientists from four countries and four universities in the US.

Y chromosomes control essential male functions such as fertility and sex determination in many species, however, knowledge of the Y chromosome genetic sequence is quite limited. That’s why this new discovery provides a long awaited platform for studying male mosquito biology, which offers a potential to create new vector control strategies to fight diseases such as malaria.

One vector control method currently under development involves genetic modification of the mosquito to bias the population sex ratio to males, which do not bite, with the intention of reducing or entirely eliminating the population. Modeling has shown that the most effective way for genetic modification is engineering Y chromosome. A molecular-level understanding of the Y chromosome of the malaria mosquito is crucial to inform and optimize such a strategy.

The researchers used multiple genome sequencing techniques, including single-molecule sequencing and Illumina-based sex-specific transcriptional profiling, as well as whole-genome sequencing, to distinguish an extensive dataset of Y chromosome sequences and explore their formation and evolution in Anopheles gambiae complex. Anopheles gambiae complex is a group of at least seven morphologically indistinguishable species of mosquitoes in the genus Anopheles which carry some of the most important vectors of human malaria. They discovered only one gene, known as YG2, which is exclusive to the Y chromosome across the species complex, and, therefore, is a possible male-determining gene.