Copy Number Variants: A Window into Psychiatric Illness

The human genome consists of nearly 25,000 protein-coding genes – and a mutation in just one of these can have dramatic effects on our brains.  Remarkably, one tiny change in our genes (which can be as small as 0.000000025 cm!) can lead to visible changes in our behavior.  Schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, and ADHD have all been linked to variations in our DNA.  But how do changes in our genetic code result in these complex psychiatric disorders?Continue reading

CRISPR-Cas9 Knowing Neurons

CRISPR-Cas9: Targeted Genome Editing

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Infographic by Jooyeun Lee and Kate Fehlhaber.

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References:

Hsu P. & Feng Zhang (2014). Development and Applications of CRISPR-Cas9 for Genome Engineering, Cell, 157 (6) 1262-1278. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2014.05.010

Fineran P.C. (2014). Gene regulation by engineered CRISPR-Cas systems, Current Opinion in Microbiology, 18 83-89. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mib.2014.02.007

Doudna J.A. (2014). The new frontier of genome engineering with CRISPR-Cas9, Science, 346 (6213) 1258096-1258096. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1258096

Zinc finger nucleases: genomic scissors via Knowing Neurons

Zinc Finger Nucleases: Genomic Scissors

The potential to manipulate DNA sequences and insert genes with the use of zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) has huge implications for human genetic disease therapeutics.  One exciting example is a clinical trial that is using ZFN technology to disrupt the gene for the HIV co-receptor CCR5 and protect against the progression of HIV to AIDS.  As shown in the infographic below, ZFNs introduce DNA sequence changes into individual genes to create deletions, insertions, or base substitutions.  ZFN technology is a powerful tool that enables scientists to study the effects of these changes on gene function and may one day be used to treat human genetic disorders.Continue reading

A World Without Pain Knowing Neurons Jillian Shaw Ouch

A World Without Pain

In Northern Pakistan, a ten-year old street performer awed and horrified crowds with his ability to place knives through his arms and walk across burning coals all seemingly without pain.  Closer examination by physicians revealed that he could perceive sensations of touch, differentiate between hot and cold temperatures, distinguish between a tickle and applied pressure, but had no aversion to painful stimuli.  Continue reading