In some ways, the heart is quite a vulnerable organ. Cardiac complications such as heart attack, cardiac arrest, or heart failure are common. But interestingly, of the many diseases that may affect the heart, cancer is not one of them. For example, we often hear about cancer in the prostate, breast, colon, skin, etc., but rarely of the heart. How is this vital organ different?
Proteins known as transcription factors play a crucial role in gene regulation by activating, enhancing, and even silencing a gene’s expression. Many textbooks and resources compare transcription factors (TFs) to something like an on/off switch for gene transcription. However, it is a bit more complicated than just turning gene expression on or off. Various properties (e.g. binding affinity, specificity, and genetic variance of binding sites) impact the binding of TFs to DNA, thereby altering gene expression. To study transcription and how it is regulated, scientists study TF-DNA interactions on a genome-wide level.
The Problem with Cancer Models
Very few cancer drugs succeed in clinical trials, despite showing promise in the lab. Treatments that may work on animal models, cell lines, or even patient-derived xenografts often do not have the same efficacy in patients. The underlying reason is tumor environments within the human body are far more complex than in research models. For example, the tissue structure (histological complexity) and genetic heterogeneity of an animal model is different than that of humans. Even cell lines and patient-derived xenografts, which are human-derived, have their own pitfalls such as genetic mutations and animal-specific tumor evolution, respectively. Due to the inability to reproduce human tumor environments, many drugs fail clinical trials after lengthy and costly development.
Every year, scientists make fascinating breakthroughs which broaden, yet challenge, our understanding of life and the world around us. Just as we start to understand a biological process, like how heredity or aging works, a new discovery can flip it on its head or open a whole new avenue for research. As 2018 comes to an end, it’s the time for roundups of top products, gifts, movies, tech, etc. We decided to put our own spin on it with the top life science discoveries of the year.
In the last What’s Hot in Life blog post, we discussed how next generation sequencing (NGS) is used as a basis for understanding disease. This week I wanted to talk about DNA sequencing again, but in a completely different context. On November 1st, scientists launched an ambitious project to sequence all 1.5 million complex species on Earth. Their purpose? To save biodiversity.
The scientific community operates on a self-correcting model that relies on repetition and replication. However, according to a 2016 survey by Nature, more than 70% reported to have failed to replicate experiments from another scientist, more than 50% reported failure in replicating his/her own experiment. Out of the 1,576 scientists surveyed, 906 were from biology or medicine disciplines.