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Aurora magazine

Thanks to genetic editing an ultra-sensitive test for dengue fever has been created

A team from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute used genetic editing techniques to improve the diagnosis of dengue fever. The researchers used nanotechnology to mount some DNA fragments, so as to make a star shape. This star acts as a trap for the dengue virus, which remains trapped between the arms. Once captured, the virus is expelled naturally and can be analyzed.

The new technique has proved effective for the moment. According to one of the authors of the study, the test could be 100 times more sensitive than current diagnostic tests. It makes it possible to identify the virus from the first day of infection. Above all, scientists believe they can use the same technique to identify other viruses. Because?

To spread, viruses enter cells and replace their own DNA with the original one. In 2016, doctors Robert Linhardt and Jonathan Dordick made a synthetic polymer that matches a sialic acid sequence. In fact, the virus must bind to acid to spread to the lungs. The polymer then manages to intercept it and prevent it from spreading. Treatment has reduced the mortality rate in guinea pigs to a quarter.

Polymers have a defect: sometimes they are toxic to the body. The scientists then looked for a safer variant of this tool. To do this, they used nanotechnology to modify the structure of DNA, looking for a form compatible with that of dengue virus. The star obtained binds to the virus and becomes fluorescent, perfectly visible in blood tests.


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In Tokyo 2020 will we use a genetic test to identify who is dopa?

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics could use genetics to identify who is dopa. President of the Olympic Commission Thomas Bach announced this. The new technology is able to detect traces of illicit substances even months after intake. A blood sample is enough and a few hours to get the results. In order for it to actually be used during the Olympics, however, the test must first be approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Genetic testing is an idea of ​​Professor Yannis Pitsiladis, who specializes in sports medicine and genetics at the University of Brighton. The technology has been in production since 2006 and should be ready by now. His team members have indeed tested the test with groups of volunteer athletes, so far with excellent results. The test was able to identify both the use of prohibited substances and any illegal transfusions.

According to Pitsiladis, the test will give a breakthrough to the fight against doping. Even if it were not validated in time for the 2020 Olympics, it will still be one of the protagonists of the event. In fact, scientists will take the opportunity to collect as many samples as possible, so that they can be analyzed later. This will add to the fact that the planned pre-Olympics test program will be the largest ever planned.

Members of the World Anti-Doping Agency and the author of the study are confident that this will help to discourage doping. Furthermore, such a test could reduce the risk of events similar to the Russian doping scandal in 2015.


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Genetic testing assistance in diagnosing intellectual disabilities

Total genetic sequencing can diagnose an intellectual disability better than any other tool. Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden say this. Scholars have developed analytical tools that they will use for the first time for clinical diagnosis. If all goes well, sifting through the over 800 possible diagnoses available today will be much easier. About 1.5% of Swedes suffer from some kind of intellectual disability, often caused by genetic aberration.

Sometimes this consists of a small anomaly in individual genes, others in complex mutations involving multiple genes. Current genetic tests help to find the right diagnosis in about 12% of cases. The study in question analyzes a new approach.

Researchers have developed their own analytical tool, which they combine with total genome sequencing. The tool carries out more tests, simultaneously with sequencing. In this way, the researchers were able to diagnose about 27% of the patients who had taken the test. Everything took less time, less money and gave better results.

Dr. Lindstrand explains that it is all thanks to the increasingly advanced sequencing technologies. By now, total genome sequencing has become cheap enough to be used on many more occasions. This allows you to develop new tools, so as to speed up and improve diagnoses.


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In the Caribbean, cystic fibrosis is linked to a rare mutation

In Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, cystic fibrosis is linked to a genetic mutation almost impossible to find elsewhere. The discovery comes from a team of UC San Francisco and the Centro de Neumología Pediátrica of San Juan. Scientists have shown that most Dominican patients have none of the typical mutations in Europe.

The genetic causes of the disease are therefore other, much more rare elsewhere. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that afflicts 70,000 people worldwide. The diagnosis occurs in the first years of life, following abnormal accumulation of mucus in the lungs and in the digestive tract. At one time, children with the disease died very young.

The new treatments have improved life expectancy and today the average age is 40 years. Nevertheless, the drugs do not work on a large chunk of the sick, especially Latins. This raised several questions for doctors. At the Centro de Neumología Pediátrica in Puerto Rico, classic genetic tests are ineffective for 25% of patients with cystic fibrosis. The authors therefore hypothesized that the common genetic mutations in the Caucasian population are different from those of other ethnic groups.

The scientists analyzed the DNA of 21 Puerto Rican patients and 61 Dominicans, all of which were negative in the tests. Total genetic sequencing has revealed that the mutations linked to cystic fibrosis in these populations are different. Those present in 90% of Caucasian patients are present only in 33% of Puerto Rican patients and in 10% of Dominican ones. Conversely, mutations present in only 1% of Caucasian patients are widespread. This means that therapies will also have to be developed based on these mutations.


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