Connect with us

Science

Nobel Prize for chemistry awarded for 'genome scissors' – KitchenerToday.com

Published

 on


STOCKHOLM — Two scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for developing “molecular scissors” to edit genes, offering the promise of one day curing a host of inherited diseases.

Working on opposite sides of the Atlantic, Frenchwoman Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Jennifer A. Doudna developed a method known as CRISPR-cas9 that can be used to alter the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms.

The award marked only the fourth time in the 119-year history of the prizes that a Nobel in the sciences was given exclusively to women.

Charpentier and Doudna’s work allows for laser-sharp snips in the long strings of DNA that make up the code of life, enabling scientists to precisely edit specific genes to remove errors that lead to diseases.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry. “It has not only revolutionized basic science but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to groundbreaking new medical treatments.”

Dr. Francis Collins, who led the drive to map the human genome, said the technology “has changed everything” about how to approach diseases with a genetic cause.

“You can draw a direct line from the success of the human genome project to the power of CRISPR-cas to make changes in the instruction book,” said Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, which helped fund Doudna’s work.

More than 100 clinical trials are underway to study using CRISPR in treatments for inherited diseases, and “many are very promising,” said Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine.

But many also cautioned that the technology raises serious ethical questions and must be used carefully.

Much of the world became more aware of CRISPR in 2018, when Chinese scientist He Jiankui revealed he had helped make the world’s first gene-edited babies, to try to engineer resistance to infection with the AIDS virus. His work was denounced as unsafe human experimentation because of the risk of causing unintended changes that could pass to future generations, and he has been sentenced to prison in China.

In September, an international panel of experts issued a report saying it is still too soon to try to make genetically edited babies because the science isn’t advanced enough to ensure safety, but they mapped a pathway for countries that want to consider it.

“Being able to selectively edit genes means that you are playing God in a way,” said American Chemistry Society President Luis Echegoyen, a chemistry professor at the University of Texas El Paso.

George Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, said: “New technology often presents this dichotomy — there is immense potential for human benefit, especially for disease treatment, but also the risk of misapplication.”

When asked about the significance of two women winning, Charpentier, 51, said that while she considers herself first and foremost a scientist, “it’s reflective of the fact that science becomes more modern and involves more female leaders.”

“I do hope that it will remain and even develop more in this direction,” she said, adding that it is “more cumbersome to be a woman in science than to be a man in science.”

Three times a woman has won a Nobel in the sciences by herself; this is the first time an all-female team won a science prize. In 1911, Marie Curie was the sole recipient of the chemistry award, as was Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin in 1964. In 1983, Barbara McClintock won the Nobel in medicine.

The breakthrough research done by Charpentier and Doudna was published in 2012, making the discovery very recent compared with a lot of other Nobel-winning research, which is often honoured only after decades have passed.

“My greatest hope is that it’s used for good, to uncover new mysteries in biology and to benefit humankind,” said Doudna, who is affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley, and is paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also supports The Associated Press’ Health and Science Department.

Speaking to reporters from the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, which she leads, Charpentier said that despite how recently it was developed, the method is now widely used by scientists researching diseases, developing drugs and engineering new plants.

Among the most promising therapies being studied are those to treat eye diseases and blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia, she said.

In addition to transforming medicine, CRISPR has the potential to be used to engineer plants to store more carbon or to withstand extremes of climate change, Doudna said from Berkeley. CRISPR opens the door for researchers to “address urgent problems humanity is facing,” she said.

The Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT have been in a long court fight over patents on CRISPR technology, and many other scientists did important work on it, but Doudna and Charpentier have been most consistently honoured with prizes for turning it into an easily usable tool.

The Nobel comes with a gold medal and 10 million kronor (more than $1.1 million), courtesy of a bequest left more than a century ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

On Monday, the Nobel in medicine was awarded for the discovery of the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus. Tuesday’s prize in physics honoured breakthroughs in understanding black holes.

The other prizes are for outstanding work in the fields of literature, peace and economics.

___

This version has been corrected to show that Hodgkin won in 1964, not 1963.

___

Larson reported from Washington, and Jordans from Berlin. AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee and AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland, contributed to this report.

___

Read more stories about Nobel Prizes past and present by The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/NobelPrizes

David Keyton, Christina Larson And Frank Jordans, The Associated Press














Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Hubble telescope gives closer look at rare asteroid worth $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 – CBS News

Published

 on


There’s an extremely rare metallic asteroid lurking between Mars and Jupiter, and it’s worth more than the entire global economy. Now, the Hubble Space Telescope has given us a closer look at the object, which is worth an estimated $10,000 quadrillion. 

A new study this week in The Planetary Science Journal delves deeper than ever before into the mysteries of the asteroid 16 Psyche, one of the most massive objects in the solar system’s main asteroid belt orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, about 230 million miles from Earth. It measures about 140 miles in diameter — roughly the size of Massachusetts. 

Most asteroids are made of rocks or ice. But 16 Psyche is dense and mostly made of metal, possibly the leftover core of a planet that never succeeded in forming — a so-called “protoplanet,” which had its core exposed following hit-and-run collisions that removed the body of its mantle. 

The study marks the first ultraviolet (UV) observations of the celestial object. New data reveals the asteroid may be made entirely of iron and nickel — found in the dense cores of planets.  

“We’ve seen meteorites that are mostly metal, but Psyche could be unique in that it might be an asteroid that is totally made of iron and nickel,” lead author Dr. Tracy Becker said in a statement. “Earth has a metal core, a mantle and crust. It’s possible that as a Psyche protoplanet was forming, it was struck by another object in our solar system and lost its mantle and crust.”

The massive asteroid 16 Psyche is the subject of a new study by Southwest Research Institute scientist Tracy Becker, who observed the object at ultraviolet wavelengths.

Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech


Scientists studied the asteroid at two points in its rotation in order to view the details of both sides completely at UV wavelengths. They found the surface could be mostly iron, but warned that even a small amount of iron would dominate UV observations. 

“We were able to identify for the first time on any asteroid what we think are iron oxide ultraviolet absorption bands,” Becker said. “This is an indication that oxidation is happening on the asteroid, which could be a result of the solar wind hitting the surface.”

Solar wind is the flow of charged particles from the sun’s upper atmosphere, called the corona, throughout the solar system. It’s responsible for the tails of comets as they soar across the sky, the formations of auroras and the possible “space weathering” of Psyche. 

Researchers also said the asteroid became more and more reflective at deeper UV wavelengths, which could give some indication of its age. 

“This is something that we need to study further,” Becker said. “This could be indicative of it being exposed in space for so long. This type of UV brightening is often attributed to space weathering.”

Metal asteroids are rare, so Psyche provides researchers with an exciting opportunity to study the inside of a planet. In 2022, NASA plans to launch the unmanned spacecraft Psyche on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to study the asteroid in an attempt to understand its history and that of similar objects — the first time a mission will visit a body made entirely of metal. 

The orbiter is set to arrive at the asteroid in January 2026 to study it for nearly two years. The mission’s leader at Arizona State University estimates that the iron alone on today’s market would be worth $10,000 quadrillion — that’s a one followed by 19 zeroes. 

“What makes Psyche and the other asteroids so interesting is that they’re considered to be the building blocks of the solar system,” Becker said. “To understand what really makes up a planet and to potentially see the inside of a planet is fascinating. Once we get to Psyche, we’re really going to understand if that’s the case, even if it doesn’t turn out as we expect. Any time there’s a surprise, it’s always exciting.”

Researchers told CBS News in 2017, when the mission was confirmed, that they don’t plan to take advantage of the value of the asteroid’s composition. 

“We’re going to learn about planetary formation, but we are not going to be trying to bring any of this material back and using it for industry,” Carol Polanskey, project scientist for the Psyche mission, said at the time. 

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

There is water on the moon – Chemical & Engineering News

Published

 on


Using a telescope flying on a 747, astronomers say they have definitive evidence of water molecules on sunlit moon surfaces (Nat. Astronomy 2020, DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-01222-x).

It wasn’t long ago that scientists thought the moon was completely dry. Then, in 2009, a trio of papers reported spectroscopic evidence of O–H bonds in sunny areas, although researchers couldn’t say if these belonged to water or hydroxyl substituents on other molecules. In 2018, scientists reported ice in shaded craters.

The 2009 results were based on IR signals near 3 µm because that’s what the spacecraft used could measure. Water has an unambiguous IR signal at 6 µm.

Honniball and her colleagues observed the 6 µm signal on the sunlit lunar surface at high southern latitudes but not at lower latitudes. Previously, scientists assumed solar radiation would either destroy water molecules or push them to colder regions. Based on the new data, the team calculated that the moon’s surface is 100–400 parts per million water. But Honniball stresses that the moon is still a very dry place: its surface is probably about 100 times as dry as Sahara Desert sand.

The water they observed is neither ice nor liquid; it exists as lone molecules. The researchers don’t know whether these molecules are trapped inside glasses formed by meteorite impacts or tucked between grains of lunar dust. Honniball says they are planning follow-up observations that might nail that down. Water could be brought to the moon on meteorites, form during meteorite impacts, or come from inside the moon.

The group has applied for more trips on SOFIA to try to map the majority of the moon’s near side at different times. That could reveal more about the water molecules’ location and sources and might also show how water moves around the moon’s surface. “They deserve more time” to answer these questions, Sunshine says.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Arctic sea ice at record low October levels: Danish researchers – Al Jazeera English

Published

 on


For the month of October, measurements show an 8.2 percent downward trend in ice over the last 10 years.

Sea ice in the Arctic was at record lows for October as unusually warm waters slowed the recovery of the ice, Danish researchers said on Wednesday.

Diminishing sea ice comes as a reminder about how the Arctic is hit particularly hard by global warming.

Since the 1990s, warming has been twice as fast in the Arctic compared to the rest of the world, as a phenomenon dubbed “Arctic amplification” causes air, ice and water to interact in a reinforcing manner.

“The October Arctic sea ice extent is going to be the lowest on record and the sea ice growth rate is slower than normal,” said Rasmus Tonboe, a scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), noting the record was unequalled for at least 40 years.

According to preliminary satellite data used by the institute, sea ice surface area was at 6.5 million square kilometres (2.5 million square miles) on October 27.

Every year, some of the ice formed in the Arctic waters melts in the summer.

It usually reaches a low point of about five million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles), but then reforms to cover about 15 million square kilometres (5.7 million square miles) in winter.

Warmer temperatures are now reducing both the summer and winter extent of the ice.

Satellite data has been collected to monitor the ice precisely since 1979 and the trend towards a reduction is clear.

For the month of October, measurements show an 8.2 percent downward trend in ice over the last 10 years.

Warmer than normal

Already in September, researchers noted the second-lowest extent of sea ice recorded in the Arctic, though not quite hitting the low levels recorded in 2012.

But warmer-than-normal seawater slowed the formation of new ice in October.

Water temperatures in the eastern part of the Arctic, north of Siberia, was 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to 4C (39.2F) warmer than normal, and in Baffin Bay, it was 1-2C warmer, DMI said in a statement.

The institute said this was following a trend observed in recent years, which was described as a “vicious spiral”.

“It’s a trend we’ve been seeing the past years with a longer open-water season making the sun warm the sea for a longer time, resulting in shorter winters so the ice doesn’t grow as thick as it used to,” Tonboe said.

Since the melting ice is already in the ocean it does not directly contribute to the rise in sea levels.

But as the ice disappears sunlight “gets absorbed in the ocean, helping to further warm the Earth”, said Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist at NASA.

Direct heating

Thus, with less ice reflecting sunlight, oceans are heated directly.

Over the last 40 years, the Arctic has also become more of a strategic interest to world powers.

Less ice in certain areas has opened up new maritime routes, which are destined to play a larger role in international trade, meaning a larger financial stake for Arctic state actors.

The region is also estimated to house 13 percent of the world’s oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas deposits.

Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) said on Tuesday under current levels of atmospheric CO2 – about 400 parts per million – the melting of Arctic sea ice would raise global temperatures by 0.2C (32.3F).

That is on top of the 1.5C (34.7F) of warming our current emissions levels have rendered all but inevitable, and the safer cap on global warming aimed for in the Paris climate accord.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending