2018 News & Careers
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that involves the loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord, brainstem, and motor cortex. This disease, estimated to be afflicting around 20,000 Americans, leads to progressive muscle weakness throughout the body. Recently, researchers at the University of California in Berkeley used the gene-editing technology, CRISPR-Cas9, to disrupt the mutant SOD1 gene expression in the spinal cord of mice with ALS, effectively extending their lifespan by 25%
Dr. Joy Bennett is a Doctor in Chemistry with aPh.D. in Organic/Inorganic Chemistry from Coventry University in the UK. Having previously graduated with a 2:1 BSc in Pharmaceutical Chemistry as a mature student, she now works as a chemist doing analytical chemistry.
Parents in modern Western societies are increasing their demands professional
childcare. According to Statistics Canada, about half of Canadian parents rely on childcare, with over 70% of households with two working parents using childcare on a regular basis. Despite the demand for daycare and after-school program specialists, Early Childhood Educators (ECE) are not widely recognized as holding a professional designation. Dr. Tricia Van Rhijn, professor of Family Relations and Human Development at the University of Guelph in Canada, shared some insights towards gaining a better understanding of professionals working in the childcare sector.
Nuclear physics involves the study of the fundamental properties of atomic nuclei and has many applications spanning power generation, medicine, and materials engineering. Dr. Melinda Krahenbuhl is particularly concerned with the education, safety, and applications of nuclear reactors.
Cochrane, a non-profit organization whose research helps individuals make informed health decisions, published a review in May 2018 claiming that the HPV vaccine helps prevent cancer and precancerous changes in the cervix with no serious side effects. The review aimed to increase public confidence in the HPV vaccine – both its efficacy in cancer prevention and its long-term safety. This publication has the potential to affect the opinions of many people regarding the HPV vaccine, possibly reassuring some parents and convincing them to choose it
for their children.
Dr. Jason Samarasena is an interventional gastroenterologist at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Medical Center’s Chao Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center. He specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive diseases, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), pancreatitis, and biliary tract disorders through the use of state-of-the-art endoscopic technology.
With only two females left, the Northern White Rhinoceros (NWR) is nearly extinct, but a revolution in fertility treatments may pave the way to the species’ resurrection. The two surviving NWRs live in a Kenyan nature reserve, where armed guards protect them around the clock. They once roamed the planes of Uganda, Southern Chad, and South Western Sudan, but political unrest led to a growing demand for rhino horn, which in turn led to an increase in poaching in these countries.
CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing (CRISPR) has become a renowned genome editing tool that has greatly enhanced scientific research but has also caused much controversy and concern over its potential applications. With the potential of becoming a standard medical tool to fix incurable genetic diseases, the safety and efficiency of CRISPR needs to be extensively investigated to ensure that only the desired DNA modifications are made. Recent studies published in Nature have discovered how editing efficiency in cells can be influenced by the DNA damage response pathway 1,2 and are raising concerns after finding that CRISPR cuts can result in larger unwanted DNA rearrangements than previously thought 3.
Twenty years after the molecular mechanism of gene silencing was unraveled, researchers are making critical steps forward following the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of a new gene silencing therapeutic. The drug, Onpattro (Patisiran), licensed by Alnylam Therapeutics, is designed to treat patients with hereditary transthyretin-mediated (hATTR) amyloidosis, a rare but life-threatening disease that causes damage to the peripheral nerves. The drug works by targeting RNA before it has a chance to be translated into a disease-causing protein. Now that this drug approval barrier has been overcome, have doctors and researchers entered a new era of treating genetic diseases?
Dr. Longen Zhou is the director of Translational Cancer Research at Johnson & Johnson’s Shanghai headquarters. He has had extensive experience in the area of cancer drug development and working in the industrial sector. Dr. Zhou is very knowledgeable about various topics in health science and medicine. His work involves drugs targeting a variety of different cancers, including but not limited to lung cancer, stomach cancer, and leukemia. He has shared with JYI his insights about working in the field of drug development.
The Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for 2018 was awarded to Dr. James P. Allison and Dr. Tasuku Honjo for making breakthrough discoveries on strategies for treating cancer by preventing the “ignorance” of tumors by the immune system. Developing cancer cells are normally detected by surveying white blood cells, or T-lymphocytes, that recognize the tumor progenitors as abnormal and target the abnormal cells for destruction. However, as a tumor develops, the cancer cells of the tumor begin to send inhibitory signals to immune cells, causing them to “ignore” the growing tumor until it is virtually invisible to the immune system.