AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: fishgi

Unlocking Genetic Mysteries with CRISPR!

At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, researchers are tackling the challenge of enhancing CRISPR, a groundbreaking gene-editing tool sort of like molecular scissors. While CRISPR has revolutionized genetic engineering in larger organisms such as mammals and fruit flies, its effectiveness in smaller organisms is limited. This limitation prompted a team to jump into the complex world of quantum biology, an area of study that investigates how quantum mechanics influence biological processes.


In AP Biology, we were introduced to the complexities of cellular structures and genetic mechanisms, and CRISPR is a topic of connection. CRISPR operates at the DNA level, precisely targeting and modifying specific sections of the DNA molecule. The passage highlights how CRISPR can be used to alter an organism’s traits by editing its DNA. This concept ties directly to the unit on genetics, where we learned about how changes in DNA sequence can lead to variations in phenotype. CRISPR technology allows scientists to make precise changes to the genetic code, providing a powerful tool for studying gene function and genetic disorders. In their search to understand why CRISPR behaves differently across various organisms, the researchers explored the movement of electrons within cellular structures, drawing insights from some principles of quantum mechanics. This exploration led them to develop a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms influencing CRISPR’s efficiency.

CAS 4qyz
Based on their discoveries, the team launched to develop a sophisticated computational model. This model, which integrates elements of artificial intelligence and quantum chemistry, is designed to predict the most effective targets for CRISPR within microbial genomes. Basically, they are leveraging the principles of quantum biology to enhance the precision and efficacy of CRISPR editing in smaller organisms. The implications of this research have promise for addressing genetic diseases and advancing biotechnological applications in human health and agriculture. Through their efforts, they inspire new pathways for harnessing the power of CRISPR to solve new mysteries and pave the way for a future characterized by innovation and discovery.

“4′-FlU” – The Future of Flu Fighting!

This study conducted by researchers at Georgia State University’s Center for Translational Antiviral Research examined the effectiveness of a new potential antiviral drug, 4′-fluorouridine (4′-FlU), against influenza A viruses. Research had shown promise for 4′-FlU in combating different strains of influenza, including seasonal and pandemic viruses, in cell cultures and animal models.
The researchers investigated whether influenza viruses could develop resistance to 4′-FlU and the impact of such resistance on the virus’s ability to spread. They found that while some influenza strains developed resistance to the drug, these resistant variants were significantly weakened in animals, particularly in their ability to cause severe respiratory infections and transmit between hosts.

SARS-CoV-2 virion animation

In connection to our class, the concept of natural selection, which is a fundamental principle in evolutionary biology, is evident in the development of resistance to 4′-FlU by the influenza viruses. Through the process of random mutations shown by the drug, resistant variants of the virus emerge, highlighting the role of genetic variation in evolutionary processes. Secondly, the study underscores the importance of understanding molecular genetics, specifically the structure and function of DNA and RNA. The identification of specific genetic mutations in the influenza virus that create resistance to 4′-FlU demonstrates how changes in nucleotide sequences can lead to altered genetic characteristics, such as drug resistance. The study identified specific genetic mutations in the influenza virus that became resistance to 4′-FlU, but the researchers determined that these mutations were unlikely to have significant clinical implications. They also discovered that administering 4′-FlU at certain doses could effectively overcome moderate resistance and prevent lethal infection in mice.

Influenza Virus - 52461389748
The study shows the urgent need for new influenza therapeutics, given the limitations of current antiviral drugs, which often face challenges with viral resistance. The research provides valuable insights into the development and potential effectiveness of 4′-FlU as a treatment option for influenza, suggesting hope for improved battle against future influenza outbreaks or pandemics.


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Next-Gen Therapeutics!

Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have launched a massive mission to confront the escalating challenge of antibiotic resistance in Mycobacterium abscessus (Mab), a pathogen naturally resistant to antibiotics. The urgency of this is emphasized by the increasing threat of Mab infections in healthcare settings, mainly those with compromised lung function or weakened immune systems. In response to the need for innovative therapeutics, the researchers at St. Jude undertook a careful approach, which focused on redesigning the antibiotic spectinomycin to generate new versions capable of overcoming the primary driver of resistance, which is something called efflux (the process cells use to remove drugs). The findings of their work, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, discovered the development of structurally distinct N-ethylene linked aminomethyl spectinomycins (eAmSPCs), outperforming standard spectinomycin by up to 64 times in power against Mycobacterium abscessus.


Connecting to class, this work underscores the significance of antibodies (Unfortunate Ned), which are proteins produced by B cells in response to specific pathogens. The development of this variant against Mab links to the antibody-mediated immune response. Engineering more potent antibiotics against Mab shows a real-world application of understanding and manipulating the immune system’s humoral response, highlighting the importance of B cells in providing long-term protection against infections.

Humoral Response Drawing

Overall, the significance of this breakthrough is not only in the efficiency of eAmSPCs, but also in solving their course of action. By explaining how these compounds avoid efflux, the researchers have paved the way for a shift in antimicrobial therapy. The researchers discovered that eAmSPCs show compatibility with various classes of antibiotics used to treat Mab, while retaining their effectiveness against other mycobacterial strains. This adaptable characteristic leads eAmSPCs to be the potential future of therapeutics, offering hope for patients struggling with limited or nonexistent treatment options.


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Cracking Down on Long COVID

In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly 10,000 Americans, including COVID-19 survivors, became the researcher’s focus, attempting to figure out the complexities of “Long COVID-19”. This condition leaves individuals fighting with lingering symptoms even after the virus has been vanquished, which presents various challenges, ranging from persistent fatigue to cognitive fog and prolonged dizziness. Nature Reviews Microbiology further examines the ongoing challenges in “long COVID” symptoms, emphasizing the necessity for consistent research efforts. This exploration acknowledges the need for continued studies to understand and address the complexities of the condition. It urges a proactive approach, encouraging the scientific community to stay observant and work together to enhance our understanding of long COVID. By prioritizing continuous research,  strategies for diagnosis and management can adapt to the evolving nature of this condition. As part of the NIH’s 1.15 billion dollar “recover initiative,” the study revealed vital insights, showing that the severity of “Long COVID” is higher in individuals infected before the emergence of the 2021 Omicron variant. SARS-CoV-2 illustration (17)

The research identified 12 key symptoms, establishing a comprehensive scoring system that not only aids in diagnosis but also classifies patients into distinct subgroups, hence refining our understanding of the condition. Health Affairs jumps into the global impact of long COVID, stressing the significance of collaborative international efforts in research and treatment. Furthermore, the study described the influence of vaccination status and the timing of infection, compared with unvaccinated individuals and those infected pre-2021, demonstrating a higher susceptibility to severe forms of long COVID-19.
In the context of our AP Biology class, this study aligns with our exploration of infectious diseases and the biological responses to pathogens. The study advances our scientific understanding of the complexities between our immune system and the evolving nature of viral threats. B and T memory cells are formed during vaccination when specific immune cells are activated in response to antigens present in the vaccine. These memory cells, produced by both B and T cells, retain a “memory” of the encountered antigens. Upon exposure to the same pathogen, these memory cells enable a quicker and more effective immune response, contributing to long-term protection through vaccines. Throughout the year, we have learned the biology behind vaccines, and this study reinforces our learning by demonstrating that vaccines play a crucial role in preventing individuals from experiencing ‘Long Covid’ symptoms. The reason behind this is the vaccine’s ability to prime the immune system, effectively fighting the virus and reducing the risk of prolonged symptoms. Decoding the mysteries of “long COVID” through collaborative initiatives like NIH’s “RECOVER” not only fuels my scientific curiosity but also emphasizes the real-world impact of scientific research on global health.

Symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 4.0

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The Humane Honey Bee

A recently published study in Molecular Ecology from Penn State introduced the fascinating world of worker honey bees and their altruistic characteristics. These characteristics are shown when worker bees assist the queen bee after being exposed to her pheromone. It involves deactivating their own ovaries, helping to share the pheromone with other workers, and caring for the queen and her eggs. What’s fascinating is that the genes responsible for driving this altruistic behavior can be inherited from either parent. However, the study revealed a twist: these genes only lead to altruism when passed down from the mother, not the father. This finding suggests that the origin of gene inheritance from the mother or father profoundly impacts honey bees’ behavior.

European honey bee extracts nectar

This study also lends strong support to the Kinship Theory of Intragenomic Conflict, which proposes that genes from both parents may be in conflict over which behaviors to support or discourage. As briefly talked about in class, genetic inheritance occurs due to genetic material, in the form of DNA, being passed from parents to their offspring. Genes, which consist of specific DNA sequences, contain the instructions for protein synthesis through the genetic code. Hereditary processes are utilized to read these DNA sequences and assemble proteins accordingly. In essence, genes are the segments of DNA that code for proteins. In the case of honey bees, genes inherited from the mother encourage altruistic behavior that ultimately benefits the queen’s reproductive success, while genes from the father tend to lean more towards self-serving behavior.

To get to these conclusions, the researchers conducted a series of experiments that involved cross-breeding different honey bee lineages. They assessed the responsiveness of worker bees to the queen’s pheromone and observed behavior. This investigation allowed them to identify the significance of maternal or paternal gene expression bias in shaping honey bee behavior. Overall, this study provides insights into the complex world of gene conflicts in honey bees and suggests that gene origin plays a vital role in shaping behaviors.

(Post includes edits suggested by Grammarly)

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