Posts Tagged 'molecular biology'

It’s All You

Well, to celebrate my return to the blogosphere (don’t pretend you’re not celebrating) and to welcome in the new year, I thought I’d do something light-hearted. So I’m going to talk about cancer. Yay!

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about writing on for some time. It’s a topic close to my heart both personally and professionally. But I’m not unique in that. Virtually everyone will have been affected by cancer somehow, whether directly or indirectly. Various environmental and age-related factors have seen cancer rising through the charts to become the number killer in the country. We’re still waiting for Gazza to turn up with some beer and fried chicken to try to reason with it… Continue reading ‘It’s All You’

DNA Primer (part 2)

Apologies for the delay in getting part 2 ready. I’ve had an insanely busy couple of weeks and, sadly, other things fell by the wayside.

So, in the first part of this post, we covered what DNA actually is. We explored what nucleotides are, and how they join together to form sequences. We then looked at how a second, complementary, strand forms. This gives double-stranded DNA which can then coil up into the double helix (so called because there are two strands).

In this post we’re going to look at what genes really are, and what a chromosome really is.

Continue reading ‘DNA Primer (part 2)’

DNA Primer (part 1)

If you already know something DNA and molecular biology techniques, I’m sure that you too will be laughing your knockers off about the pun in this post’s title. You see? An understanding of science really does make the world a brighter place!

However, if you’re one of the normal people, you almost certainly won’t get the joke. And this makes me sad. I want this blog to appeal to people across the spectrum. So occassionally I’m going to write about a broad topic that is crucial to science, and try and de-mystify it. Today I want to tackle some of the basics of DNA. It’s a big topic, so I will do this over a couple of posts I think.

We are living in a world where it is becoming increasingly important to have some understanding of DNA. There seems to be a more or less endless stream of stories in the papers talking about scientists finding the gene for this and that. In terms of the challenges that the increasing global population poses to sustainable food production, we’re going to have to start facing the reality of more and more GM foods. You don’t have to be a molecular biologist to be in a position where some understanding of genetics is necessary and/or assumed.

Continue reading ‘DNA Primer (part 1)’

Gene Genie – Careful What You Wish For

The last 60 years or so have been splendid for those of us interested in genetics. It’s striking to think that it wasn’t really until 1952 that we came to universally agree that DNA was the heritable material rather than protein. This is only a year before the famous structure of the DNA double helix was uncovered. I would venture that almost everybody with any amount of post-infant-school education would be able to state that we inherit things from our parents via DNA. I would then go double or nothing that they could at least identify a picture of DNA.

Ooooh, look at those curves. Yeah!

DNA: This macro-molecule is why you're as ugly as both your parents , combined. Fact.

Continue reading ‘Gene Genie – Careful What You Wish For’


Science tends to work as a gradual accumulation of knowledge and technical progress in numerous fields. Then you get the bigger events which have wider felt consequences and represent a larger leap forward in understanding and ability. Such an example of this would be the recent creation of “Synthia”, the artificial Mycoplasma generated by Dr. Craig Venter’s team.

Then there are revolutionary events that transform our understanding and/or capability in a field. I say “and/or” but in reality a revolution in technical skill nearly always leads to a revolution in understanding of a field, eventually, and vice versa. I would argue that Craig Venter’s achievement, though massively impressive, does not constitute a revolution. If it hadn’t been him now, it would have certainly been someone within the next 5 years. In other words, and without detracting from the event, the creation of the first ostensibly artificial life is a natural progression in the chain of advancements in molecular and cellular biology. Craig Venter is a very talented scientist, with an excellent team, but he equally excels in promoting the Venter legend.

Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman born in 1920 into a pretty tough life. And yet as a result of her suffering a true revolution in biomedical research arose. I am currently reading Rebecca Skloot’s new book on the story of Henrietta (it’s not like I’m advertising, so if you really want to know about the book, then Google is your friend!).

Continue reading ‘HeLa’

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