Hello, and welcome to the #bioscinews round-up! This is the place where you can find all the important biosci new stories from the past week, in a short, digestible paragraph.
This week’s news
Ultrasound imaging is used in many different biological and medical contexts (eg. pregnancy) to image deep into non-transparent tissues. But due to the properties of biological tissues, ultrasound images do not have high resolution. However, French researchers have found a method to improve this resolution in vascular scans. By injecting microbubbles of gas and stacking many thousands of low-quality images, they produced ultrasound images with microscopic resolution of blood vessels and capillaries in rat brains. The small bubbles are good contrast agents in ultrasound, and there is hope that this technique will become useful in clinical settings.
The CRISPR/Cas9 system has recently emerged as an efficient way to edit DNA, but there are some problems with non-specific (i.e. off-target) effects. The system works by creating a “guide-RNA” strand attached to the Cas9 enzyme, which then binds to the target DNA and cuts the DNA double-strand. From this point, it is possible to delete, insert, or change the target region. However, the binding domain of the Cas9 enzyme has a majority positive charge, so occasionally Cas9 will bind to non-specific areas of the genome and cut at these non-specific areas. A team of scientists has developed a new Cas9 protein where many of the positively charged amino acids in the binding domain of Cas9 were exchanged for neutral ones. Hopefully the future of genome editing is even easier thanks to this work!
We hope you enjoyed this week’s news round-up, thanks for reading!
Devon Smith, The University of Sheffield, @devoncaira
Julie Blommaert, The University of Innsbruck, @jblommaert92