Thursday, July 28, 2016

CRISPR Sounds like a Breath of Fresh Air for Cancer Patients

Even if I may not be an experienced biologist, or an expert on cancer treatment, the  CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing technique for treatment seems to bring high hopes to those suffering from cancer. The disease, which causes rapid cell division, is most often fought with the use of chemotherapy. While chemotherapy can be very effective in some patients, its reliability is not always clear-cut and consistent. Some patients find that their cancer can return after a period of time, even after the use of chemotherapy. Why does this happen? Some people speculate that it is a result of a number of cancer cells being left behind after chemotherapy, which then continue to rapidly divide and be found again in the body after a period of time. Others believe that it is a result of slower dividing cancer cells, which are not detected and go unnoticed, or that patients grow resistant to the chemotherapy after exposure. Regardless of the reasoning, we do know that chemotherapy cannot be a guaranteed cure. It can also have harmful side effects, causing pain for those affected and their loved ones.
Gene editing, in my personal (and unprofessional) opinion, is a tool that can have extremely useful purposes, including the treatment for cancer. By using CRISPR-Cas9, the effectiveness of attacking cancer cells can be much more reliable and powerful than  that of chemotherapy. What really stands out to me is the implementation of the PD-1 gene, which will help to prevent the damage of healthy cells from the immune system. This is where I find that it differs greatly from chemotherapy, which will damage both healthy and cancerous cells, leaving it to be a guessing game and a matter of hope for effectiveness.
Do I expect this to be the all end solution to cancer? As much as I would love to say so, I must disagree. I think this can be an extremely positive step in treatment, but it still leaves questions. One of my biggest concerns involves CRISPR editing the wrong genes at the wrong time, which was brought up in the article. How effectively can this be regulated, and exactly how damaging could it be to the patient? While I am aware that after testing and ensuring that the right genes will be edited, this possibility is still a concern that needs to be considered. With the testing beginning in August, it isn’t unreasonable to think that these issues and possibilities will be sorted out and discussed properly until they are perfected. Regardless of the chances, I have high hopes for these tests, and can only pray that they are as effective as it appears they will be. In the worst case scenario, they can still be valuable stepping stones for future treatment.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Grolar Bears More Like No-lar Bears

As much as I find it interesting to have hybrid animals like ‘grolar bears’, their chances of being something we would come into contact with is extremely low. As the climate changes, the natural habitat of the polar bear decreases, and as their habitat decreases, Darwinism comes knocking in to give the polar bears a reality check.
I don’t find it unreasonable to think that there could be cross-breeding between the two species, but anything occurring would be rare. Polar bears and grizzly bears live in very different places, and to mate some type of travel would have to be involved. Due to the earth heating and ice melting, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect some polar bears to move in the direction of different land, but a large majority of them will die whether it be in the process of moving or just because of circumstances. These bears would face issues when trying to feed and live off of an unfamiliar and new habitat, decreasing their population even further.
Any bears that did manage to mate with the existing grizzly bears would be part of a minority, which would soon die regardless. Darwinism reflected the idea that only the fittest animals survive, and that their circumstances (both genetically and in their habitat) determine whether they will live or die. The polar bears couldn’t move fast enough, and if they did, they wouldn’t last terribly long. Any bears that mated with the grizzly bears would have merged features, but even those animals would face conflicts surviving in an environment they are not suited for. In this scenario, their breeding with the natural grizzly bear population would wean down the genes and traits from the polar bear over time, as the undesirable traits would be cut off.
Hybrids occurring would be more likely with other animals, such as birds, due to their access to different locations. Flying makes things easier in comparison to bears who have to walk, but even they will face difficulties when mating with pre-existing species. It does leave questions about how many animals will mate and form new hybrids, but after how long would they even be considered hybrids? I even wonder how compatible a polar bear and grizzly bear would be, and if their children would be capable of surviving past a few generations.

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I'm Hannah and a big fan of mitochondria. This is my biology blog.