BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: genetic mutations

The Grey Area of Human Gene Editing

The process of Human Gene Editing developed with the goal to prevent future generations from suffering from genetic diseases present in past generations, like our own. Human gene editing, provided it is done only to the correct disease, alters the DNA in embryos, eggs, and sperm to the when reproduction occurs, the gene for the disease or disability is not inherited. However, two weeks ago the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine issued a report stating that human gene editing is being used to enhance people’s health or abilities. This is considered unethical according to organizers of a Global Summit on human gene editing.

Human gene editing has been given a “yellow light” because the process is not yet approved to be done on people. There are high hopes that diseases caused by only 1 genetic mutation such cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s disease will be eliminated due to this process. Unfortunately diseases that are caused by more than one genetic mutation, such as autism or schizophrenia, are not curable by this process.

National Cancer Institute

Gene Editing on humans is such a controversial topic right now: is it ethical to change genes? should the practice be used to change physical appearances? Ultimately, if Human Gene Editing is approves, who decides when it becomes too much, or unethical. This grey area is presented to be somewhere between when it is appropriate to help aid the life of a human, ridding them of a disease, and when enhancements are made.

 

Why don’t Naked Mole Rats Feel Pain?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nacktmull.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nacktmull.jpg

This question is currently being researched because of the mole rats amazing inability to feel pain the way that most animals do. The reason lies in sensory nerves. An ion channel is sensitized when molecules bind themselves to receptors which is TRPV1. Scientists performed a test to see what exactly what makes these animals different than others.

They tested the thermal hyperalgesia of both the common rat and the naked mole rat at TRPV1. What do you think the difference is? From this experiment and by looking at the DNA of other animals as well, they concluded that the switch of 1 to 3 amino acids has a great effect on the naked mole rat. This change causes the receptors to be less sensitive to pain. This unique receptor may be the reason that they are able to survive better than other animals with genetic mutations. Also because they do feel as uncomfortable in the heat compared to others, they are able to live in small tightly packed spaces underground.

This topic is very important because it shows how a small genetic difference can be the basis for a species. It is proven that through evolution, they have a slow metabolic rate and that they do not have anything that is not necessary for their survival, including extra pain receptors. More research is being done on this topic to help us better understand why some animals feel pain and some do not.   

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