Programing languages venture far away from the digital and find a new home in bacteria design. MIT biological engineers developed Cello, a programming language capable of creating new functions to E. coli. Unlike other languages such as python or java, when this text-based language is compiled, instead of executing a command the program turns into a DNA sequence that can be inserted into cells.
Of the 60 designs made by Christopher Voigt and his team, 45 of them worked correctly the first time they were run. Compared to the years it would normally take to design, test and build one successful circuit, Voigt estimates that it would only take around one week to design 60 of them using Cello. Voigt’s team plans to expand the language to include other strains of bacteria thus allowing users to write one program that can be compiled for different organisms.
This new language would bring in a new age of genetic engineering. A web-based interface requiring no extensive knowledge of genetics, Cello could allow a high school student to manufacture their own design for a science fair.
It is commonly thought that mental stimulation will decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, researchers from Mayo Clinic found that for the majority of the Alzheimer’s population keeping mentally and physically active will only slow the progression of symptoms, not the actual disease.
In the longitudinal study 393 participant, between 70 and 89 were asked to report their mental and physical activity and were then imaged to look for Alzheimer’s disease progression. The study specifically look at the APOE4 gene in this study. APOE4 is an allele of APOE (apolipoprotein E) increases the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and associated with an earlier onset. APOE is involved in making a protein that carries cholesterol and fat int he bloodstream. The study found those who had the APOE4 gene not only showed a decrease in Alzheimer’s symptom progression but also a decrease in progression of the actual disease in certain parts of the brain with mental and physical activity.
Do not count out mental and physical stimulation just yet. There has been many studies that support how lifestyle enrichment helps delay onset of cognitive impairment and it helps prevent other disorders such as diabetes.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria presents a rising problem to the world. In the US alone, approximately 2 million people are infected by drug resistant bacteria and more than 23,000 people die as a result. These numbers continue to rise every year as antibiotic resistant infections are more common. While new antibiotics are hard to find, new methods are being discovered to fight against antibiotic resistance.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder discovered a light activated nanoparticle treatment that have been shown to kill 92% of drug-resistant bacteria. Unlike previous research done on nanoparticles to fight against bacteria, these nanoparticles are able to only harm the infections as they can be tailored against a particular bacteria through the use of different wavelengths. This new technology is a great step towards developing an effective treatment against strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Researchers from the UK National Physical Laboratory and University College London have engineered a new way for lactoferrin, a protein found in saliva and breast milk that destroys a range of harmful microbes, to kill bacteria by puncturing the cell membrane with holes. Similar to a virus, the re-engineered lactoferrin is capable of self-assembly into a capsule and can transport small RNA fragments. However it is different from other viral therapies, as it is capable of attacking specific bacterial strains. Both will be important in the treatment of a wider range of diseases. These self assembling capsules could “serve as delivery vehicles for cures” of disorders resulting from single mutated genes.
Not only do both discoveries give hope in the fight against superbugs, but with further research they can also treat other diseases. However, they will need a long time before being available on the market.