7 Exciting Lesser-Known Genetics Facts That Will Amaze You in 2018

The 21st century is pretty hard to beat when it comes to discoveries. This is especially true considering that the century was the time during which the role of DNA in heritability as well as the maintenance of life were elucidated. Thanks to those advancements, we now know that each of our cells encompasses nearly two meters of tightly coiled DNA. Scientists have never stopped investigating the DNA molecule. As much as we do know about it, there is still a great deal more to be discovered. However, as amazing as the knowledge around the DNA molecule is, the discoveries that are still being made are also quite comparable. Of course, discovering the DNA molecule has ushered everything that came after it, but still, one cannot help but be amazed. So, what has happened? The cloning of Sumatran orangutans? Created miniature Golden Retrievers? Given birth to a giant queen bee from the humble honey bees or cloned identical twins from Maltese tigers? In all serious, however, this year alone has been replete with some really cool things. Here are some interesting facts:

1. Japanese scientists have managed to stop replication of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in latently infected T cells. This is huge as these cells cannot be controlled using existing drug treatments. They used a technique called CRISPR-Cas9, which is a gene editing approach that disrupts two regulatory HIV-1 genes, namely tat and rev that are essential for HIV-1 replication. This is huge! Using CRSPR-Cas9 as a means to shut down regulatory genes of HIV-1 is one step closer to obtaining functional cures for an otherwise incurable disease.

2. Australian scientists have successfully regenerated a kidney via stem cells. They combined a gene editing technology as well as stem cell kidney regeneration as a means to address a gene mutation of a 12-year-old patient. A skin biopsy was used to obtain stem cells. This is part of an effort to develop mini kidneys and by doing so discover new genes as well as therapy for inherited renal diseases.

3. Scientists have uncovered approximately 500 genes that are linked to high blood pressure. Genetics data was collected from over 1 million individuals. This is huge as the American Heart Association estimates that more than 100 million people in the US now have high blood pressure. It is also the leading cause of death worldwide. The more the merrier, in this case, since knowing more about the genes that are possibly linked to high blood pressure opens a wider window for treatment as well as prediction.

4. Scientists in the US and Britain have devised a revolutionary gene therapy that cures a rare genetic form of childhood blindness. This is a milestone in medical therapeutics as it is the first time that gene therapy has been used in humans to correct an inherited genetic defect. Basically, the researchers’ gene augmentation encompassed delivery of healthy genes by virtue of engineered harmless viruses.

genetic form of childhood blindness.

5. A new strain of pigs was engineered, one that pollutes less fends off disease, and produces more meat. In May of this year, researchers reported that the pigs they have engineered produced less nitrogen as well as phosphorus in their feces, grew faster, and increased the amount of food that is converted to meat. This is important because fecal waste was beginning to be a problem. Furthermore, these pigs are resistant to the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), which has been a killer of suckling pigs on a farm. This means fewer pigs will die, which will relieve the financial strain of animal loss.

6. A new lung cell was identified. The report demonstrates images of thousands of lung cells in addition to the existence of a cell type that was previously unknown and that expresses high concentrations of the gene that is mutated in cystic fibrosis, the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). The researchers who discovered the new cell type did so by using single-cell RNA sequencing of thousands of mouse and human airway cells. This is promising as it points to possible cystic fibrosis therapies. Also, finding a new cell type is always exciting.

7. The entire wheat genome has been sequenced thanks to a group of scientists that have presented the complete DNA sequence of Chinese Spring, a variety of wheat. They revealed the entire sequence of the 21 chromosomes as well as the precise locations of the 107,891 genes, more than 4 million molecular markers as well as sequence information between genes and markers that includes the regulatory elements that drive gene expression. This is a huge deal because sequencing the wheat genome has been difficult to do. For one, it is about five times the size of the human genome. This is because three genomes make up the entire wheat genome. (Amazing!) Also, knowing the sequence will make it possible to enhance the crop’s yields as well as increased nutritional value as well as sustainability.

After all of these interesting facts, if you are not amazed, you are not really paying attention. Also, given that 2018 brought with it such interesting technology, we should all be so excited to live in a time where technological advancements make it possible to know so much not just about ourselves but also about the world that is around us. This is just the beginning of a very exciting time. We are truly maximizing the knowledge we have gained from the discovery of the DNA molecule, cloning as well as associated technologies to advance health at such rapid speeds. Well, not just health, but several other disciplines beyond medicine, including agriculture as well as animal research.

Laura Day
 

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