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The Power of Two

Epically Speaking

Published August 22, 2014 12:48 PM by Eleanor Wolfram

Examining the mechanics of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is poetry in motion. The genius of DNA is that this nucleic acid that carries the genetic information in the cell and is capable of self-replication and synthesis of RNA. However, with any science- poetic or not - a glance at ethical behavior is necessary.

Epically and ethically speaking any DNA research work is both challenging and powerful as the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) would tell you. Genetic research raises ethical and moral questions that the public, researchers, and policy-makers must consider.

Ethics has and continues to play a strong role in the field of genetics. The meaning of 'ethics' is hard to pin down, and the views many people have about ethics are shaky, because many people tend to equate ethics with their feelings. And although there are numerous debates regarding the long-term effectiveness of gene therapy, it is clear that future research endeavors will lead to a time when all diseases will be treated in individualized custom-made fashions.

One research project that may open the door to this future is the recent collaboration between the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Single Cell Genomics Centre. Scientists at both institutions uncovered a powerful single-cell technique to help examine the impact of the environment on human development and the traits they inherit from our parents.

The new technique will assist genetic scientists in mapping epigenetic marks on the DNA within a single cell. Epigenetic marks are the chemical protein tags that that serve as DNA cellular memory or recorder. This recorder remembers a cell's experience long after it has faded.

This environmental memory can range from diet makeup through illness episodes. The partnership research teams believe that these marks will help in understanding the stages from as early as embryonic development. The future clinical applications and pharmaceutical custom-made treatments may be explored due to this ground-breaking work.

posted by Eleanor Wolfram

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