AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: liver disease

The Cure Before Being Born

lab mouse – Photo credit to Wikimedia Commons

A team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s hospital of Philadelphia has seen exciting results in their experiment on mice fetuses with an inherited liver disease.  The team removed the amniotic sac containing the fetus from the mother’s uterus, before injecting in a vein of thee fetus near the liver with CRISPR. This was to ensure that the genetic modification would be in the liver cells and would not affect any other vital organs. The fetus was then placed back into the uterus and the mother was thankfully unaffected by the modification, allowing for all the babies to be born without any issues.

The team used a more recently invented form of CRISPR called base editing instead of the well-known  CRISPR-CAS9.  Rather than cutting and inserting a sequence of DNA, a single nitrogenous base was replaced with another.  This newer method showed significantly less “genetic havoc”, unknown consequences for a cell that has been genetically modified with CRISPR.

The disease they targeted was a tyrosinemia type I, a mutation that effects 1 in 100,000 newborns globally, which causes causes the amino acid tyrosine to be metabolized into toxic products, which build up and cause damage to liver, and can eventually destroy it.   The scientist sought to disable the HPD gene, which creates enzymes that help to break down tyrosine.  By changing a cytosine base to thymine base, the toxic products are never produced.

Tyrosinemia type I – Photo credit to Wikimedia Commons

As the mice grew and developed, the researchers were astounded to find that despite only 15% of their liver cells having been the altered with the base edit, the genetically modified mice were surviving better and gaining more weight compared to those treated with traditional methods of drugs and monitored diet.

This is definitely a step in the right direction to eliminating genetic diseases, but base editing, especially for diseases due to multiple mutations might be more difficult, as many bases would need to be edited.  What do you think: more safe, yet possibly difficult base editing method or cut-insert method?

Coffee: The Drink for a Healthier Life

Do you start every morning with a cup of coffee and continue drinking it throughout the day? If this is you, then coffee can be benefiting your health! According to a study conducted by the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, drinking three to four cups of coffee a day can be very beneficial to one’s health. This study was published in the British Medical Journal in late November. For years, the verdict of whether coffee was either beneficial or harmful to one’s health constantly changes, but scientists currently say that drinking coffee is good for people.

To conduct this study, the group of scientists from the University of South Hampton reviewed more than 200 studies that also researched the effects of coffee on the human body. According to the review, those who drink coffee have a lower risk of liver disease, some cancers, and strokes. In a comparison of non-coffee drinkers and coffee drinkers, those who drink coffee also have a lower risk of dying from heart problems. Coffee was also found to be harmful for pregnant women and people with abnormal heart rhythms.

Professor Paul Roderick, a co-author to the study and a professor at the University of Southampton, suggested that coffee intake might not be why people have lower risks of certain diseases. This study does not take into consideration factors, including exercise, smoking, or diet. However, this study is backed up by other studies that also concluded that coffee has certain health benefits.

If you are a coffee-drinker, continue to drink coffee in moderation. Experts say that the best way to obtain these potential benefits is by drinking black coffee and avoid adding extra cream and sugar. It is interesting to learn how a popular drink can be helpful to one’s health. Now, coffee-drinkers will be happy to learn how their favorite morning drink can possibly be beneficial to their health in the long run! For more information on the newfound benefits of coffee, click here and here. Based on this research, do you think more people will start drinking coffee now?

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