Online gamers use Foldit to unfold the structure of HIV/Aids virus that has eluded scientists for decades, revealing its fundamental structure for potential targeting by drugs.
"The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems," said Firas Khatib of the University of Washington’s biochemistry lab said in a press release. "Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before."
“Our study shows that it’s not all in the genes,” said Joseph Ecker, a professor in Salk’s Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, who led the research team. “We found that these plants have an epigenetic code that’s more flexible and influential than we imagined. There is clearly a component of heritability that we don’t fully understand. It’s possible that we humans have a similarly active epigenetic mechanism that controls our biological characteristics and gets passed down to our children. ” (via Are genes our destiny? Scientists discover ‘hidden’ code in DNA evolves more rapidly than genetic code)
Gene therapy (the replacement of a malfunctioning gene with a healthy one, usually through the use of mostly harmless viruses) for a deadly immune disorder is approaching the effectiveness of traditional therapies, despite some early speedbumps. This is good news for a field I am very much a fan of.
When it was first used in the 1990s to treat an immune deficiency, gene therapy — treating diseases by correcting a patient’s faulty genes — was touted as a breakthrough that was likely to cure scores of hereditary diseases. But when 18-year-old Jessie Gelsinger died in 1999 after having a corrected gene injected to treat his liver disease, the field became wary, and researchers found it difficult to fix the problems associated with the technique.
Now, more than 20 years later, long-term survival data are giving researchers hope that gene therapy might still fulfil its potential. Two studies published today in Science Translational Medicineshow that 13 of 16 children treated with gene therapy for severe combined immune deficiency, or SCID, have had their immune systems restored, and one other is in remission for leukemia that developed due to the gene therapy treatment.