Laden with loot.
1. An enzyme variant created by engineers and scientists at The University of Texas at Austin can break down environment-throttling plastics that typically take centuries to degrade in just a matter of hours to days. This discovery, published today in Nature, could help solve one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems: what to do with the billions of tons of plastic waste piling up in landfills and polluting our natural lands and water. The enzyme has the potential to supercharge recycling on a large scale that would allow major industries to reduce their environmental impact by recovering and reusing plastics at the molecular level. (Source: utexas.edu)
2. Scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system to build cell models of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer. In Science, the team describes how they installed five melanoma mutations, one-by-one and in different combinations, in the genome of healthy human skin cells. The edited cells grew and multiplied to become tumors that showed hallmarks of melanoma, including rapid growth, heightened ability to invade other tissues, the activation of certain gene programs, and specific pigmentation patterns. Because the researchers introduced mutations one at a time in a controlled manner, they were able to pinpoint the effects of individual and specific combinations of mutations. They even found a causal link between one mutation and metastasis, the spread of tumors in the body. The results not only shed light on key mutations in melanoma, but also suggest a new way to study the role of specific genes in other cancers. (Source: broadinstitute.org, science.org)
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