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  • Feature

    CRISPR had a life before it became a gene-editing tool

    It is the dazzling star of the biotech world: a powerful new tool that can deftly and precisely alter the structure of DNA. It promises cures for diseases, sturdier crops, malaria-resistant mosquitoes and more. Frenzy over the technique — known as CRISPR/Cas9 — is in full swing. Every week, new CRISPR findings are unfurled in scientific journals. In the courts, universities fight over patents...

    04/05/2017 - 09:00 Cells, Microbiology, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Ancient enzymes adapted to a cooler Earth to keep life’s chemical reactions going

    Like lifelong Floridians dropped into a Wisconsin winter, enzymes accustomed to warmth don’t always fare well in colder climes. But ancient heat-loving enzymes forced to adapt to a cooling Earth managed to swap out parts to keep chemical reactions going, scientists report online December 22 in Science.

    By reconstructing enzymes as they might have looked billions of years ago, the...

    12/22/2016 - 14:00 Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Early RNA may have used isolation strategy to defeat useless mutants

    Long before modern cells were around to house genetic material, tiny water droplets might have protected the first self-replicating molecules from parasitic mutants. New experimental evidence shows that such temporary compartments can help RNA molecules resist takeover by shorter, faster-replicating mutants, researchers report in the Dec. 9 Science.

    “We have a lot of theoretical papers...

    12/08/2016 - 14:00 Molecular Evolution, Chemistry
  • News

    Enzyme forges carbon-silicon bonds with a little human help

    Carbon and silicon don’t play nice in nature — they link up only in human-made products like paint and pharmaceuticals. But after just three generations of selective breeding, an enzyme can bring the two atoms together, scientists report November 25 in Science. It’s the first time biological tools have bonded carbon to silicon, perhaps opening a way to let living organisms build proteins and...

    12/01/2016 - 07:00 Chemistry, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Gene gives mice and chipmunks their pinstripes

    Chipmunks and other rodents’ light stripes are painted with a recycled brush, a new study suggests.

    A protein previously known to guide facial development was repurposed at least twice during evolution to create light-colored stripes on rodents, researchers report November 2 in Nature. The protein, called ALX3, could be an important regulator of stripes in other mammals, including cats...

    11/02/2016 - 14:00 Genetics, Molecular Evolution, Animals
  • News

    Tasmanian devils evolve resistance to contagious cancer

    A few Tasmanian devils have started a resistance movement against a contagious cancer that has depleted their numbers.

    Since devil facial tumor disease was first discovered in 1996, it has wiped out about 80 percent of the Tasmanian devil population. In some places, up to 95 percent of devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) have succumbed to facial tumors, spread when devils bite each other....

    08/30/2016 - 11:00 Cancer, Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    ‘Promiscuous’ enzymes can compensate for disabled genes

    WASHINGTON — When bacteria lose genes needed to make enzymes for important chemical reactions, defeat isn’t inevitable. Sometimes other enzymes will take on new roles to patch together a work-around chain of reactions that does the job, biologist Shelley Copley reported August 4 at the 2nd American Society for Microbiology Conference on Experimental Microbial Evolution.

    Bacteria that can...

    08/12/2016 - 12:03 Microbiology, Molecular Evolution, Cells
  • News

    Evolution of gut bacteria tracks splits in primate species

    Microbes may have played a role in making us, us. A new study shows similar patterns in the evolution of gut bacteria and the primates they live in, suggesting that germs and apes could have helped shaped one another.

    For at least 10 million years, bacteria have been handed down from the common ancestor of humans and African apes. As apes split into separate species, so did the microbes...

    07/21/2016 - 14:00 Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News in Brief

    Swapping analogous genes no problem among species

    ORLANDO, Fla. — Organisms as different as plants, bacteria, yeast and humans could hold genetic swap meets and come away with fully functional genes, new research suggests.

    Researchers have known for decades that organisms on all parts of the evolutionary tree have many of the same genes. “How many of these shared genes are truly functionally the same thing?” wondered Aashiq Kachroo, a...

    07/19/2016 - 16:12 Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Seeing the upside in gene drives’ fatal flaw

    ORLANDO, FLA. — What some people view as a flaw in a new genetic-engineering tool might actually be a safety feature, a study suggests.

    CRISPR/Cas9 gene drives, as the new tools are called, are molecular cut-and-paste machines that can break regular rules of inheritance and get passed to more than 50 percent of offspring (SN: 12/12/15, p. 16). The rapid spread of engineered genes through...

    07/15/2016 - 16:28 Genetics, Molecular Evolution