"Burr comments that locating “primary water” does not require drilling down thousands of feet. He says that globally, thousands of primary water wells have been successfully drilled; and for most of them, flowing water was tapped at less than 400 feet. It is forced up from below through fissures in the Earth. What is new are the innovative technologies now being used to pinpoint where those fissures are."
Take CRISPR, the transformative gene editing tool. It was inspired by a lowly bacterial immune defense system and co-opted to edit our genes to treat inherited diseases, bolster cancer treatments, or even extend lifespan. Now, Dr. Feng Zhang, one of the pioneers of CRISPR, is back with another creation that could unleash the next generation of gene therapy and RNA vaccines. Only this time, his team looked deep inside our own bodies.
Powerful as they are, DNA and RNA therapeutics need to hitch a ride into our cells to work. Scientists usually call on viral vectorsâdelivery vehicles made from safe virusesâor lipid nanoparticles, little blobs of protective fat, to encapsulate new genetic material and tunnel into cells.
The problem? Our bodies arenât big fans of foreign substancesâparticularly ones that trigger an undesirable immune response. Whatâs more, these delivery systems arenât great with biological zip codes, often swarming the entire body instead of focusing on the treatment area. These âdelivery problemsâ are half the battle for effective genetic medicine with few side effects.
âThe biomedical community has been developing powerful molecular therapeutics, but delivering them to cells in a precise and efficient way is challenging,â said Zhang at the Broad Institute, the McGovern Institute, and MIT.
Enter SEND. The new delivery platform, described inScience, dazzles with its sheer ingenuity. Rather than relying on foreign carriers, SEND (selective endogenous encapsidation for cellular delivery) commandeers human proteins to make delivery vehicles that shuttle in new genetic elements. In a series of tests, the team embedded RNA cargo and CRISPR components inside cultured cells in a dish. The cells, acting as packing factories, used human proteins to encapsulate the genetic material, forming tiny balloon-like vessels that can be collected as a treatment.
Even weirder, the source of these proteins relies on viral genes domesticated eons ago by our own genome through evolution. Because the proteins are essentially human, theyâre unlikely to trigger our immune system.
Although the authors only tried one packaging system, far more are hidden in our genomes. âThatâs whatâs so exciting,â said study author Dr. Michael Segel, adding that the system they used isnât unique; âThere are probably other RNA transfer systems in the human body that can also be harnessed for therapeutic purposes.â
Astronomers Spot Light From Behind a Black Hole for the First Time â Proving Einstein Right Again
When doing astronomy, you canât blink, because the difference between a never-before-seen phenomenon, and just a regular day at the telescope can be as small as seeing faint X-rays turn into fainter X-rays for a short moment.
Thatâs what happened when astrophysicist Dan Wilkins noticed, upon fixing his telescopes on the supermassive blackhole at the center of the galaxy I Zwicky, that following a normal series of powerful X-rays being flung out from the center, came unexpected additional flashes of X-rays that were smaller, later, and of different âcolors.â
Steven Weinberg, who died last week at the age of 88, was not only a Nobel laureate physicist but also one of the most eloquent science writers of the last half century. His most famous (or perhaps infamous) statement can be found on the second-to-last page of his first popular book, The First Three Minutes, published in 1977. Having told the story of how our universe came into being with the big bang some 13.8 billion years ago, and how it may end untold billions of years in the future, he concludes that whatever the universe is about, it sure as heck isnât about us. âThe more the universe seems comprehensible,â he wrote, âthe more it also seems pointless.ââ¨
As science and religion began to go their separate waysâa process that accelerated with the work of Darwinâscience became secular. âThe elimination of God-talk from scientific discourse,â writes historian Jon Roberts, âconstitutes the defining feature of modern science.â Weinberg would have agreed. As he told an audience in 1999: âOne of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from that accomplishment.â
âIn an article in Cell, NuÃ±ez and colleagues introduce CRISPRoff, a CRISPR-based programmable epigenetic memory writer protein. Unlike previous CRISPR approaches, it reliably alters a cellâs epigenetics and is capable of making changes to gene expression that are highly specific, stable, and heritable. CRISPRoff can target most genes (and more than one at a time), where this genome-wide silencing is reproducible and precise. Moreover, epigenetic memories made by CRISPRoff are reversible with CRISPRon, a multi-partite epigenetic editor. Future work includes fine-tuning the gene silencing activity by designing optimal single guide RNAs for CRISPRoff (rather than those designed for a previous system) and better characterization of the parameters relating to the stability of programmed epigenetic memory. With the ability to make such controlled changes to almost any part of the genome, scientists now have a new tool to explore the function of the genome.â
Tina Hu-Seliger, Ph.D. Elysium Health Director of Bioinformatics