Researchers Discovered New Ways to Edit Genes with CRISPR (Study)

Circular strand of DNA

CRISPR can become more powerful if researchers resort to RNA editing

The gene-editing technology CRISPR puts a bright future ahead of science, as it might be used to edit certain DNA sequences and alleviate diseases which otherwise couldn’t have any cure. Now, researchers have decided to revise the techniques behind this editing mechanism, hoping they might find ways to treat diseases without having to make permanent changes in DNA.

RNA editing can lead to temporary changes in the genes

Their attempts were successful, and they found out what it needs to be done so that DNA doesn’t stay permanently altered. The key lies in RNA, which acts as a messenger for DNA and carries around genetic instructions. Therefore, by editing RNA, the effect can be reversible.

If you put it easily, what CRISPR does is to spot a malfunctioning gene in DNA, and act upon it. With the technology, researchers can either edit it so that it works again, replace it with a normal gene, or even remove it completely. However, this might not always work so swiftly. Blood cells, for instance, are easier to fix, but those which make up muscles or complex organs like the brain are harder to handle. Therefore, opting for the RNA alternative might make these processes easier.

Researchers got inspired from a natural mechanism of gene editing

RNA helps DNA start synthesizing proteins, and it carries the genetic instruction the latter needs for the process. If researchers edit these instructions that RNA carries, they can temporarily edit DNA and the proteins it produces. RNA gradually degrades, so the changes enforced by CRISPR would only last as long as researchers apply this therapy.

Researchers got their inspiration from nature. They looked at a natural system of gene-cutting present in bacteria, which uses the enzyme Cas9 to edit other molecules. They explored the Cas enzyme family and discovered one which can act upon RNA, Cas13. Then, they genetically engineered this Cas13 so that, instead of breaking down the RNA molecules, it attaches to them.

A more detailed explanation of this process has been published in the journal Science.
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PUBG Developers Are Preparing a Tougher Blue Zone for the Players

PUBG logo on a white background

Bluehole decided to make the PUBG even more difficult to handle

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) comes with new updates, making the game tougher for those who do not follow the rules. Players are required to stay in the play area and, whenever they pass this boundary and start wandering in the zone called the blue area, they start accumulating damage. Now, the creators of the game decided to make this damage a lot tougher.

The blue zone gets tougher than ever

PUBG developers want to keep players inside the play zone, so they needed to find a way to make them focus more on it. Those who wander away and enter the blue zone usually suffer some penalties over time, but the effective way to make them focus on it more was to make the outskirts more difficult to deal with.

Therefore, developers will start rolling out the feature some time during upcoming weeks. Bluehole revealed they did this for the players, as their gameplay can significantly improve if they have to deal with only one set of enemies, namely those inside this play zone. In fact, there’s nothing bad about it, as players are taught not to waste time by running away in a safe area when facing the harshness of the blue zone.

More updates are in the making for the PUBG 1.0 release

However, these are not the only changes promoted by PUBG developers. In November, the test servers will bring some more updates. Some brand new mechanics will be available in a beta version at the beginning of the month, and players are invited to take a look at them and offer their feedback.

However, Bluehole revealed they won’t be included in the full game before its release. Version 1.0 of PUBG should arrive sometime before the end of the year, so all these updates, together with whatever bug fixes they might need, are to be attached to the final game only before the release.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Side-Loading of Extra Games on the SNES Console Is Already Available Thanks to Modders

SNES Classic console and its controller

You can now play any game you want on SNES

For the second time in the history of Nintendo’s classic consoles, a modder managed to crack open one of the devices, discover its functioning system, and find out how to load and play other games, which are not included in its original distribution. Only a week after the release, a Russian hacker loaded dozens of additional games on the mini SNES.

As soon as the NES Classic Edition console was first released, Cluster, a Russian modder, took its time to find out how to make it possible for people to play some extra games on the console. Several months later, he managed to find out NES’ secret, and a ton of new games were now side-loaded on it.

However, it seems Nintendo didn’t have any problem with it. The release of the mini SNES Classic Edition came and, only a week after, Cluster had already found out how to add games on the console. This means Nintendo didn’t take significant efforts to change the software and the components of the mini SNES, leaving modders able to manipulate the device with ease.

You can add what games you want on the mini SNES console

Cluster has a special tool, called hakchi2, which lets you upload the game you want on the SNES. You don’t need too much technical knowledge to do that but, if you are more than an average PC user, you should be able to load mostly any game you want on the console. It will even allow older games, which were available only on the NES.

This exclusive option will be more than welcome by the SNES fans, since being able to play more games on the console is, indeed, a huge advantage. The NES console has been released with 30 official games, while the number decreased to 21 on the new SNES.

Everything will happen with Nintendo’s blessing, as the company has absolutely nothing bad to say about this. You are probably aware NES contained a secret message for modders. The same message is now hidden inside SNES as well, so the Nintendo is actually encouraging all these attempts.
Image Source: Flickr

Egyptian People Arrested After Waving Rainbow Flags During a Concert

People waving rainbow flags at a parade

Seven people who waved rainbow flags during a concert in Egypt got arrested

Last week, seven Egyptian people decided to raise some rainbow flags during a concert in Cairo. This turned out to be a bad decision, as the police decided to detain them for promoting ‘unnatural’ sexual behaviors. These people are currently under arrest, but they haven’t received an official accusation yet.

People waved rainbow flags for a gay artist

The Egyptian police came into the possession of some images taken during the concert of Mashrou’ Leila. The band’s singer, who is coming from Lebanon, is really open about his sexuality, and does not refrain from admitting he’s gay. Therefore, some fans decided to support him, and wave several rainbow flags during their concert in Cairo.

However, Egypt is not the right place to promote homosexuality. Although it is not strictly forbidden by law, gay people often avoid being open about their sexual orientation. If the police suspect some people of engaging on this kind of sexual relationships, they don’t hesitate to accuse them of immoral behavior or blasphemy, and arrest them.

Police always intervenes in open homosexuality cases

Therefore, in a conservative regime like the one in Egypt, waving a few rainbow flags is a rare instance of support for the LGBT communities. Unfortunately, it is also an act which attracts attention and, automatically, police intervention.

The rainbow flag images ended up on social media, where they reached the eyes of several politicians. This led to them openly blaming them, and report the act to the authorities. Now, apart from arresting the people responsible with waving the rainbow flags, they want to ban the band from ever playing in Egypt again.

On the other side of the conflict, the LGBT supporters blame the attitude of the authorities. Although they saw this act as a direct attack on the country’s traditions, the feminist writer Mona Eltahawy finds it a bit extreme to arrest someone for waving rainbow flags. Also, arresting people for having a certain sexual orientation is a bit extreme.
Image Source: Max Pixel

Guppies Exhibit Complex Personalities Which Vary Across Individuals

Guppies swimming near the bottom of a lake

Each individual guppy reacts differently in a stressful situation

Scientists have been asking themselves quite an unusual question about fish, and have long been debating if these creatures are actually capable of exhibiting any feelings. Recent researches have shown that they have interesting behaviors, and individuals benefit from quite complex personalities.

How uniform are the behaviors of guppies?

A recent study, published in the journal Functional Ecology, analyzed a group of Trinidadian guppies, and looked at the behavior of each fish to see if they have different personality traits. Then, they put these fish under pressure and looked at their reactions. The observations concluded that each individual could react differently, serving as evidence for their complex personalities.

The Trinidadian guppies were put in different situations which involved stress. One of them involved an open-field trial, with milder stress levels, and two others included simulations of attacks, which caused more extreme stress. Then, according to the behavior of each individual fish, researchers characterized them as being more prone to risks, or more careful.

These specimens have complex personalities, which vary from individual to individual

The assumption was that guppies exhibit simple behaviors in stressful situations. However, the variety of their strategies showed how they are complex beings. Some of them try to run away from danger, while others choose to remain in the area and just hide. Other are cautious from the beginning, and explore the surroundings with better care.

Researchers tested different stressful situations on the guppies, some of them being milder, while others being a lot more intense. Even so, the differences between them remained prominent. Each individual had its own way of coping, and each of these ways was different from more points of view.

Now, researchers want to find out what is the secret of such varied behaviors from one individual to another, across the same species. Also, they will continue assessing other specific traits, and see in what manner they are different, and how they are influenced.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

NASA Scientists Just Came Out Of An 8 Months Of Isolation Experiment

isolation experiment on rocky terrain

The team of six researchers part of an isolation experiment atop a volcano will be coming out on Sunday.

Sunday, September 17, will mark the final day of an eight months long experiment which had a team of six researchers backed by NASA live in isolation on a volcano in Hawaii.

The scientists will emerge from a specially created habitat that mimics the conditions which travelers to the outer space are likely to face. For example, the team had to work with a 20-minutes communication delay between its base and the mission center.

The team of six researchers has been living ever since January on a remote volcano in Hawaii. Their habitat was placed on a vast plain below the summit of one the largest active volcanoes in the world.

Composed of two women and four men, the crew is part of an isolation experiment whose target was to better understand the psychological impacts of living in confinement for an extended period of time. Reportedly, the results will be used by NASA to better select the crews of years long outer-space missions.

These could have certain traits, which would allegedly help them fare better during a two to three years long manned expedition towards Mars. NASA is working on deploying such a mission to the Red Planet by the 2030s.

The Fifth but Not Final Isolation Experiment?

The team of six people involved in this isolation experiment has been living in a 1,200-square foot dome, and its primary food source has been canned or freeze-dried goods. The researchers were also asked to wear sensors that were specially designed to gauge their proximity to the other members, as well as their moods.

Based on several factors, such as their voice levels, the sensors were capable of detecting if the crew members were avoiding one another or perhaps arguing. A series of specially assigned games also measured their stress levels and compatibility.

In case things got stressful, the team did nonetheless have an outlet. They could use virtual reality devices to ‘go’ anywhere they wanted. The crew also had to keep written logs in which they expressed how they felt.

“This is our fifth mission, […]. We’ve learned, for one thing, that conflict, even in the best of teams, is going to arise. So what’s really important is to have a crew that, both as individuals and a group, is really resilient, is able to look at that conflict and come back from it.”

This is according to Kim Binstead, the lead investigator of the project and part of the University of Hawaii. The current mission is the fifth in a series of six. According to reports, the university is already starting to plan Mission 6.

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Two New Studies Discuss the Advantages of the Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet containing more fat, low proteins, and fewer carbohydrates prolongs life, improves health, provides physical strength and enhances mental coordination, show the reports on two new studies published in the September 2017 Cell Metabolism issue.

Researchers Studies the Effects of the Ketogenic Diet on Old Mice

Drs. John Newman and Eric Verdin led one study in Novato, California at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The California-based researchers looked into the effects of keto diets on aging mice. Their experiments concluded that Ketogenic Diet Reduces Midlife Mortality and Improves Memory in Aging Mice.

Dr. John Ramsey led another study at the Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the University of California, to establish the impact keto diet creates in aging mice. The Dr. Ramsey-led research discovered two new benefits of the ketogenic diet-improvement of physical strength and high level of mental alertness. A Ketogenic Diet Extends Longevity and Healthspan in Adult Mice showed similar results as the other study.

What is a Ketogenic Diet?

Keto diets have low-carbs, low proteins, and high-fat ingredients. In the two studies, researchers had ketogenic, high-fat, carbohydrate, and control diets. The researchers noted that when the body lives on low-carb intake, there is a shift to the use of ketones, instead of glucose, as the energy source.

High-fat, Low Carbs and a Prolonged Lifespan

The study of the factors that promote longevity started after researchers noted that some people live for more than 80 years and up to over 100 years. Dr. Ramsey, for example, has a 20 year-long particular interest in the mechanics of aging, old age diseases, and the illnesses that affect humans and rodents as age progresses.

Also of interest to Dr. Ramsey is the link between calorie restriction, high-fat diet, and aging. According to Cell Metabolism, the two new studies show that keto diets can help to achieve a 13% median life in humans, which is equivalent to 7-10 years in humans. The research has findings that can help to maintain cognitive ability and long lives.

Study Associates Lack Of A Good Night’s Sleep With ADHD

person with adhd wide awake with hand on the cover

Recent research found an association between ADHD and disturbances in the circadian circles.

According to the latest research, there may be more than just a supposed connection between ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and disturbances in the circadian circle or the lack of a good night’s sleep.

Reportedly, some 75 percent of the children and adults dealing attention deficit also have sleeping problems. However, this is the first research to link the two issues and not treat them as separate problems.

ADHD Might be Caused by the Lack of Regular Circadian Sleep

Professor Sandra Kooji proposed this latest theory. She is the founder and chair of the European Network Adult ADHD and a VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam Professor of Psychiatry. The professor’s proposal was presented during the ECNP currently taking place in Paris, France.

Professor Kooji considers that this theory takes the association between sleep problems and the attention disorder to the “next logical step”. According to this, there might be an association between circadian problems and ADHD in the ‘majority of patients’.

The research team considers that the disturbances in the day and night rhythm might also lead to an alteration of the timing of several physical processes besides sleep. For example, this might be affecting the movement patterns, temperature, mealtimes, and more.

The professor also named sleeplessness and the deficit as being two sides of the same “physiological and mental coin”. During the presentation, she also laid out some of the links which led to this association.

They include the sleep disturbances and core body temperature changes, for examples. Or the oversensitivity to light or greater alertness in the evening of some patients, as others links.

Prof. Kooji continued by declaring that “We are working to confirm this physical-mental relationship by finding biomarkers, such as Vitamin D levels, blood glucose, cortisol levels, 24-hour blood pressure, heart rate variability, and so on.”

She considers that, if this gets confirmed, it might raise two further questions. Which one causes the other, sleeplessness – ADHD, or the other way around. More studied will be needed to confirm the association, and then to examine its implications and ramifications.

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Yellow Maradol Papayas To Blame For Salmonella Outbreak In 12 States

yellow maradol papayas half

Yellow Maradol papayas might be at the root of the recent multistate salmonella outbreak.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that yellow Maradol papayas are the most likely cause of a salmonella Kiambu outbreak that spanned across 12 states. Across them, 47 people got sick, 12 of them having to be hospitalized. The outbreak also led to one reported death.

According to the latest report on the matter from the CDC, patients started having problems tied to salmonella after eating yellow Maradol papayas. They began reporting symptoms in between May 17 and up to June 28.

However, the source of the contamination itself is still unclear. The CDC states that:

“Investigators are working to learn where the contamination occurred in the supply chain.”

People Advised to Stop Consuming Yellow Maradol Papayas

The health agency also warned consumers to be careful when buying papayas, as they should ask the proprietor if they are or bought a yellow Maradol one.

These are large and oval fruits that weigh some 3 pounds or more. Initially green skinned, this turns yellow as the papaya ripens. The fruit’s flesh is salmon colored.

In case consumers are unsure what type of papayas they have, the CDC advises them to throw away the fruit or at least return it. It also advises suppliers to stop selling them and restaurants to stop using it.

This should be followed until the CDC finds out more about the cause of the outbreak.

The highest number of Salmonella Kiambu infections was reported in New York, 13, with New York City also reporting the one death tied to the multistate outbreak. New Jersey is right behind it with 12 cases and Virginia further back with 6. A further 5 cases were reported in Maryland and 4 in Pennsylvania.

Utah, Texas, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Iowa each reported one case each. Affected people were aged in between 1 to 95 years old.

Reports point out that small children, under the age of 5, and older people, 65 or more and those with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible to severe cases of salmonella.

Image Source: Wikimedia

FDA Approved First New Sickle Cell Treatment In 20 Years

sickle cell treatment and problems

Endari is the first sickle cell treatment to be approved by the FDA in 20 years.

In July 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new sickle cell treatment, the first in almost 20 years. Titled Endari, this can be used by patients aged five or older for reducing the severe complication associated with this disease.

“Until now, only one other drug was approved for patients living with this serious, debilitating condition,” stated Richard Pazdur, the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence director. He is also the acting director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research’s Office of Hematology and Oncology Products at the FDA.

New Sickle Cell Treatment, but Not a Cure

Sickle cell diseases is an inheritable blood disorder. This gained its name from the fact that the carrier’s red blood cells are shaped like a sickle or crescent shape. The shape also brings about a series of problems, as it restricts the flow of the blood in the vessels. It also limits the oxygen delivery to the tissues. This can lead to severe pain and even organ damage.

The National Institutes of Health approximates that there are around 100,000 people in the United States living with this disorder. Their average life expectancy is of in between 40 to 60 years.

Before approving the new sickle cell treatment, the efficiency of Endari was tested in a randomized trial. The patients involved aged from 5 to 58 years old. They had also had at least two if not more crises within a year before their enrollment in the study.

Participants were split into groups, at random. One of them receiving Endari and the other placebos. Both took the treatment over a period of 48 weeks. Patients that received Endari had to make fewer hospital visits. They also experienced fewer hospitalizations and generally spent fewer days in the hospital.

They also presented fewer cases of acute chest syndrome. This is a potentially life-threatening complication, which can develop with the sickle cell disease. All the results are based on a comparison with the same statuses presented by the control group patients.

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