Re-think Genes: New Mechanism of Gene Expression Discovered

If I removed once cell at a time from your body, at what point would you not be you? catiestewart.com

If I removed once cell at a time from your body, at what point would you not be you? catiestewart.com

Researchers are on a seemingly endless quest to discover precisely how DNA and RNA function. A great deal remains a mystery in the field of genetics. In fact up until around one year ago, when scientists captured a photo of DNA, no one knew with absolute certainty what it looked like. The double helix idea was always just a theory.

In a recent ground breaking discovery researchers from the University of Chicago witnessed a never before scene mechanism of gene expression. The researchers found a single gene that encodes two separate proteins from the same sequence of messenger RNA. Let me explain.

Related Article: Women Who Give Birth to Men Have Male DNA in Their Brain for Life

This is from a nucleic acid photoshoot. www.tutorvista.com

This is from a nucleic acid photoshoot. http://www.tutorvista.com

DNA and RNA are similar in that they both contain a genetic blueprint of an organism. They do however differ in several ways. First, RNA comes in three forms: messenger, transfer, and ribosomal.

mRNA (messenger)- The function of mRNA is to carry genetic information from the DNA in the nucleus to the ribosomes of a cell.

tRNA (transfer)- The function of tRNA is to bring the correct amino acid to the ribosomes in the cystosol.

rRNA (ribosomal)- The function of rRNA is to create new ribosomes.

They also differ in that they each incorporate a different sugar molecule in their structure. Also, where DNA has two strands of nucleotides, RNA has only one strand. For the sake of simplicity think of RNA as DNA’s co-conspirator in the continuation of life. In fact, some researchers speculate that life originally depended entirely on self-replicating RNA, rather than the DNA, RNA, and proteins that it depends on to proliferate today. 

Related Article: Deep Storage Project

So, up until this point we thought we had a pretty decent, overall idea of how DNA and RNA functioned. This study just came out of left field and whispered into the collective ear of geneticists around the world: “You know nothing…”

This bundle of RNA and proteins is called a Ribisome.www.itsokaytobesmart.com

This bundle of RNA and proteins is called a Ribisome.www.itsokaytobesmart.com

The study is a big deal because it is the first time that scientists have ever viewed anything even remotely similar. According to Christopher Gomez, MD, PhD, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology at the University of Chicago, who led the study,

This is the first example of a mechanism in a higher organism in which one gene creates two proteins from the same mRNA transcript, simultaneously. It represents a paradigm shift in our understanding of how genes ultimately encode proteins.

There is a special sequence in the mRNA known as an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES), a site that tells ribosomes to create a protein from the mRNA sequence. The IRES is normally found at the beginning of an RNA sequence, however, in the particular mRNA sequence that the researchers viewed the IRES was in the middle of the sequence, alerting ribosomes to initiate the creation of a second protein from the same sequence.

Related Article: Titan’s Atmosphere Can Make DNA

This is especially exciting news since it creates a beacon of hope for further applicable genetic discovery, not just DNA origami. Just think, we only recently learned in the last couple decades that genetic predisposition isn’t set in stone, and that epigenetics allow us to alter our genetic expression and the genetic expression and predisposition of our children.

You can check your ancestry, health risks, and more through a DNA check that costs $99.

 

Sources:

http://www.newscientist.com/special/unknown-human-genome

https://wondergressive.com/news/first-time-photo-captures-double-helix-structure-of-dna/

http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/2013/20130703-bifunctional-gene.html

https://wondergressive.com/news/women-who-give-birth-to-men-have-male-dna-in-brain-for-life/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RNA

http://sequoyahbiology.webs.com/whatisdnaandrna.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/science/space/a-far-flung-possibility-for-the-origin-of-life.html?_r=1&

https://wondergressive.com/news/deep-storage-project/

https://wondergressive.com/news/titans-atmosphere-can-make-dna/

https://wondergressive.com/news/dna-origami-the-art-of-folding-dna/

https://wondergressive.com/news/epigenetics-the-key-to-overcoming-genetic-predisposition

https://wondergressive.com/news/epigenetics-and-altering-your-dna/

https://wondergressive.com/news/dna-ancestry-23andme/

Aging Process Is Similar to Replicating CDs: Story of Telomeres

 

Why do we age? What is it that makes us age and grow saggy? How can we bring our youthful glow into adulthood and beyond? These are the questions that most women ask themselves. Joking, scientists and men alike ask the same questions. And you might find your answer in telomeres.

 

Brief Intro to Telomeres

 

Human cells divide at an average of 50-60 times in one lifespan. Every time they divide, the cell’s DNA has to be replicated. That way, a new chromosome can form and be used in the newly duplicated cell. However every time a cell duplicates, it comes at a cost. That is, the chromosomes get shorter and shorter. If they get short enough, the chromosomes can have their twining undone and our genetic data gets corrupted. Eventually, that cell dies.

Fortunately, chromosomes are like shoelaces with plastic caps. These plastic caps are what keep the shoelaces from getting undone. Chromosomes have their own plastic caps too. They are called telomeres. They are the extra DNA strands that a chromosome can afford to lose. They are what keep chromosomes from getting corrupt. So why are we not immortal? This is what an article from the University of Utah has to say about telomeres and division:

Yet, each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell no longer can divide and becomes inactive or “senescent” or dies. This process is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of death. So telomeres also have been compared with a bomb fuse.

 

They help to preserve genetic data when cells replicate in order to have fully functional healthy cells. RNA molecules are necessary in the process of copying DNA strands. Telomeres get shorter each time because these small RNA pieces need room on top of newly formed chromosomes.

Without telomeres, the ends of chromosomes would look like broken DNA, and the cell would try to fix something that wasn’t broken. That also would make them stop dividing and eventually die.

Telomerase, Cancer, and Aging

 

So is there something that keeps telomeres from disappearing? Actually there is an enzyme called telomerase. They fit on top of telomeres and are more prevalent in the younger years, however they also eventually disappear.

This is not the case for cancerous cells. Cancer cells activate the telomerase enzymes once the telomeres get dangerously short. This keeps the cancer cell’s DNA intact and allows them to multiply like mad dogs. In fact, measuring telomerase may be a new way to detect new cancer threats. If we learn how to stop telomerase from being activated, we may be able to make cancer cells experience aging just like healthy cells.

 In one experiment, researchers blocked telomerase activity in human breast and prostate cancer cells growing in the laboratory, prompting the tumor cells to die. But there are risks.

Shorter telomeres are related to shorter lives. Unfortunately, there is no strong evidence yet that shows that telomerase can make cells immortal and prevent aging. There is also no strong evidence that raising telomerase levels would also trigger cancerous cells to form.

Laboratory tests have shown though that telomerase was able to keep human cells divide far beyond the average limit without becoming cancerous. If researched further, we can have a future where human cells can be mass produced for transplantation, especially in key roles such as cells that produce insulin for diabetes patients.

Sources:

Genetic Science Learning Center. “Are Telomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer?.” Learn.Genetics 12 March 2013 http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/traits/telomeres/

 

Sweet Discovery: Simple Sugar Molecules Floating in the Gas Around Star

 

Astronomers have discovered simple carbohydrates, necessary for the building of life, floating in the gas surrounding a star some 400 light years away.

Although the discovery does not prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life, it opens the doors of possibility even further ajar. The carbohydrates are present even before planets begin to form.

The lead astronomer, Jes Jørgensen, stated that “these results are giving us and other astronomers ammunition to go out and look for other prebiotic, and possibly more complex, molecules in regions where stars and planets are forming.”

 

Sweet Discovery: Sugar Molecules Floating in Gas Around Star

 

Astronomers have discovered simple carbohydrates, necessary for the building of life, floating in the gas surrounding a star some 400 light years away.

Although the discovery does not prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life, it opens the doors of possibility even further ajar. The carbohydrates are present even before planets begin to form.

The lead astronomer, Jes Jørgensen, stated that

these results are giving us and other astronomers ammunition to go out and look for other prebiotic, and possibly more complex, molecules in regions where stars and planets are forming.

Sources:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/08/120829-sugar-space-planets-science-life/?source=hp_dl2_news_space_sugar20120831