The discovery of DNA was a milestone in the history of science that led to a breakthrough in biomedical research. By associating disease and genetics, genome correction techniques were ultimately developed that are supposed to work in the same way that antibiotics and antivirals block pathogenic microorganisms: by directly attacking the causes of disease.
The human genome, the sequence that represents the DNA of our species, was built with a single individual as a model. This all-in-one standard didn’t include the gene variations that make us different or explain why some people develop certain diseases. Four simultaneous studies from the Human Pangenome Reference Consortium have published a sequence based on 47 individuals, beginning to capture the genetic diversity that defines humans.
A base-by-base comparison of the genome sequences of 240 species of mammals has pinpointed sites in the human genome where mutations are likely to cause disease. The sites are all perfectly conserved across the mammalian family tree over 100 million years of evolution, indicating they underlie fundamental biological processes that do not tolerate diversity or change very well.
Synonymous or silent mutations do not change the sequence of the protein that they encode. With some exceptions, they do not trigger any effect. Last year, however, a study by researchers from the University of Michigan tried to refute this concept after finding that they altered the protein function. But breaking dogmas can have answers. A group of scientists from various institutions has found that this work could have a method error.
The editing in human cells and in mice of the survival motor neuron 1 gene (SMN1) restored the levels of SMN protein that the mutation of the SMN2 gene produces in spinal muscular atrophy. Scientists from the Broad Institute in Boston and The Ohio State University reversed the mutation using the base editing technique.
By adapting computational methods for dealing with large volumes of data, and slimming down that data, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have discovered previously unknown genetic associations with 19 rare diseases, and validated three of those associations.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2022 was awarded to Svante Pääbo today "for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution." Pääbo, who is currently the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and his colleagues overcame extreme technical challenges to sequence the DNA of ancient hominids – because after tens of thousands of years, there is no such thing as aging well for DNA.