Category: Biological News

  • Noncoding RNA Therapies

    I was mentioning the number of unusual therapeutic modes that are being explored these days, and one of those is (broadly) RNA-based approaches. The ones that directly feed into coding for proteins get a lot of attention (the mRNA vaccines, for example), and everything that’s currently approved is some sort of antisense or siRNA species. […]

  • Viral Knots

    The current pandemic has made everyone think a lot more about viruses than they ever had any desire to, but they’re a constant background to our lives – and to the lives of pretty much every living creature. Humans have their viruses, other mammals have theirs (with occasional catastrophic overlaps), and birds, reptiles, and fish […]

  • The Mirror World

    Now this is a paper that’ll make your head spin. It’s from the Zhu group at Tsinghua University, and the head-spinning will be both because of the subject matter and the amount of work involved. So let’s get chiral – first, a bit of background for readers who don’t think about this stuff all the […]

  • One Lost Methyl Group = Huge Amounts of Food Production

    I don’t do a lot of posts on plant biochemistry here, but this news is pretty notable, and it illustrates several points that apply across other fields as well. This new paper has as its background the role of a particular methyl group in the structure of RNA molecules: N6-methyladenosine. The presence or absence of this […]

  • More Protein Folding Progress – What’s It Mean?

    I last wrote about Deepmind’s efforts to predict protein folding and structure here, with their AlphaFold software. AlphaFold really performed very strongly in the 2020 protein folding challenge, and that got a lot of attention. Well, they’ve recently published a great deal of detail on how they did this, released their source code, and they’ve announced […]

  • A Fifty-Year-Old Cancer Drug Doesn’t Do What You Think

    5-fluorouracil (5-FU) has been around a long time now (over fifty years), and it’s a standard oncology drug (particularly in colorectal treatment regimes). But try going around and asking people how it works. If you’re talking to a clinician and want to seem up on the lingo, just say “What’s 5-FU’s MOA?” (mechanism of action). […]

  • Why Are Women and Men So Different in Autoimmune Disease?

    That last post on vaccine reactions mentioned autotimmune disease several times, and that brings up a question that’s been outstanding for many decades now. If you look at the distribution of most autoimmune syndromes in the population, you find many obvious differences between male and female incidence rates. Guillain-Barré (discussed yesterday) is less common in women […]

  • What mRNA is Good For, And What It Maybe Isn’t

    The huge success of the mRNA vaccination platform during the pandemic has set a lot of people to thinking about what comes next. Moderna and BioNTech, of course, have been thinking this way for quite some time. But Sanofi now says that they’ll be investing large amounts into the technology, and this previously hadn’t been […]

  • Med-Chem Should Be Larger Than It Is

    I’m really glad to see this Perspective article in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, not least because it hits on a theme that I emphasize whenever I get a chance to speak to graduate student chemistry audiences. The author, Bart Roman, is pointing out that (1) biologics are relentlessly expanding their role in the landscape […]

  • Clearing Cellular Dead Wood

    For many years now, the topic of “senescent cells” has been the subject of plenty of research work. Back in the 1960s the “Hayflick limit” was noticed in cell culture: there was an apparent limit to the number of cell divisions that could take place before the cells just sort of stalled out. For human […]

  • CRISPR Editing in Primates

    There’s some really interesting CRISPR news out today, and it’s likely to be a forerunner of much more news to come. A research team has demonstrated what looks like robust, long-lasting effects in a primate model after one injection of the CRISPR enzymatic machinery. There have been plenty of rodent reports on various forms of […]

  • Integration Into the Human Genome?

    I’ve had several requests for comment on this recent PNAS paper, which talks about integration of SARS-CoV-2 sequences into the DNA of human cells. I’m glad to do it, but right off I have to note that a lot of the attention that it’s getting seems (sadly) to be coming from anti-vaccine activists, who are […]

  • Vaccine Manufacturing Woes at Emergent

    The New York Times has a good story on the problems at the Emergent vaccine plant in Baltimore, following up on this one. They’ve uncovered a report from last summer that warned that the facility had quality control problems: A copy of the official’s assessment, obtained by The New York Times, cited “key risks” in […]

  • Mysteries in Human RNA

    Let’s put this one in the category of “more things that we didn’t know about human biology”. We’ve known for some time now about ribozymes – catalytic enzyme-like structures made out of RNA instead of proteins. But they’ve been studied more in lower organisms overall. We know that the hammerhead ribozymes are widely distributed (and […]