This New Technique Makes Rewriting the Genetic Code of Living Organisms Much Easier

Modifying the genetic codes of living organisms sounds like science fiction; however, it’s a scientific reality.

And it just got a whole lot easier…
Earlier this year, scientists reported that they developed a technique that allows them to cut-and-paste DNA inside living cells. This works thanks to our observations of a process that is used by bacteria to combat viruses. In short, when it is attacked, the bacteria makes material that matches the virus and uses this material to locate the virus and portions of the it away, killing the virus.
To get a little more technical, when DNA from a virus enters a bacterium, the bacterium makes a strand of RNA that matches the viral DNA. This RNA then latches onto a protein (known as a “guide molecule”) and, as a unit, they search for the matching virus. Once they encounter the match, the protein cuts up the viral DNA. This destroys the viral DNA.

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All Native Americans Sprang from One Migration Event

The first human inhabitants of the Americas lived in a time thousands of years before the first written records, and the story of their transcontinental migration is the subject of ongoing debate and active research. A study by multi-institutional, international collaboration of researchers, published this week in Science, presents strong evidence, gleaned from ancient and modern DNA samples, that the ancestry of all Native Americans can be traced back to a single migration event, with subsequent gene flow between some groups and populations that are currently located in East Asia and Australia.

The study was led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen; more than 80 researchers contributed sequence data and analysis of key ancient individuals, and from living individuals in the Americas and possible ancestral regions, including Siberia and Oceania. This breadth of sampling increased the power of the study to distinguish between alternative hypotheses for the timing and pattern of migration events. Ripan Malhi, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois and one of the senior coauthors, focused on genome sequence obtained from 6,000-year old skeletal remains found on Lucy Islands in British Columbia, Canada, and modern descendants of those individuals.

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