Out of every 60,000 births, a baby arrives to face the world without a fully functioning immune system leaving them unequipped to fight even the most common infections. Children with this rare life-threatening genetic condition, known as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), have the best chance at a healthy future if they undergo a stem cell transplant before they are 3 ½ months…
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The phone call came in 2016 from a parent who was desperate to save her son. As a pediatric leukemia specialist, Dr. Marie Bleakleywas all too familiar with the challenge that the mother on the line, Nicole Gerdin, recounted. Her young son, Nick, had just had his aggressive leukemia put into remission by an experimental therapy, she explained. But his doctors…
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Decoding Your Immune System’s Memories

You remember the last time you were laid up with the flu. The aches, the chills. Well, your immune system remembers, too — and it recorded that memory in your genes. A study published this week by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center suggests that, with enough work, we can decipher the hidden messages that our immune systems have recorded. That’s…
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Cas9 Immunity Creates Challenges for CRISPR Gene Editing Therapies

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 is a genome-editing technology1,2 that utilizes archaeal and bacterial Cas9 nucleases to introduce double-stranded breaks in DNA at targeted sites. These breaks can be used to remove, replace, or add pieces of DNA. While not the first genome editor, CRISPR-Cas9 is efficient and cost-effective because cutting is guided by a strand of RNA rather…
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The US Senate passed a spending bill last week (August 23) allotting $39.1 billion to the National Institutes of Health for the 2019 fiscal year starting on October 1. This is 5.4 percent or $2 billion more than fiscal year 2018. The boost to the biomedical research agency is part of an $854-billion funding “minibus” to support defense, labor, education, and health…
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Scientists have now developed an assay that concurrently profiles both the epigenome and the transcriptome of each of thousands of single cells. Read their report in the Aug. 30 First Release edition of Science. The epigenome and transcriptome are part of the molecular biology that converts a genetic blueprint into tools and materials for living cells. The genomes of different types of cells…
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The recently unveiled fellows program funds two young scientists researching bioinformatics. The inaugural fellows are Anat Zimmer, who Ellison calls “brilliant,” and Tomasz Wilmanski, who she said “is an amazing mind.” “It’s so exciting to be part of their lives and help them along in their careers,” she said. “I am honored and grateful to be a K. Carole Ellison…
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The immunological and virological events that contribute to the establishment of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection in humans are unclear. Here, we show that robust cellular innate immune responses arising early in the blood and tissues in response to ZIKV infection are significantly stronger in males and correlate with increased viral persistence. In particular, early peripheral blood recruitment of plasmacytoid dendritic…
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TwinStrand Biosciences, a spin-out of the University of Washington, is raising cash to commercialize DNA sequencing technology that it says can detect tiny genetic mutations invisible to current sequencers. According to an SEC filing, TwinStrand has raised $1.2 million so far in a round that could go up to $4 million. A TwinStrand spokesperson confirmed that the company is raising…
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Chromosome segregation depends on the kinetochore, the machine that establishes force-bearing attachments between DNA and spindle microtubules. Kinetochores are formed every cell cycle via a highly regulated process that requires coordinated assembly of multiple subcomplexes on specialized chromatin. To elucidate the underlying mechanisms, we developed an assay to assemble kinetochores de novo using centromeric DNA and budding yeast extracts. Assembly…
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