Elizabeth Finn's Posts

Not-So-Jurassic Park

Not-So-Jurassic Park

Here’s a question for you: What do you get when you put a mammoth genome into an elephant egg? Is it a mammoth or an elephant or something else? And why would you do it? »

Biological Units: The Strength of A Single Cell

Biological Units: The Strength of A Single Cell

Several recent papers have proposed methods of seeing huge numbers of individual RNA molecules within a cell. I suspect that half the appeal of these methods is the beautiful images they generate. But they’re significant largely because they allow us to pick apart biology at an increasingly tiny scale — in this case, see how an individual cell functions, rather than how the average cel... »

The things we do with our eggs; reproductive health and genetic engineering

The things we do with our eggs; reproductive health and genetic engineering

This op-ed in the New York Times set off a few of my warning bells. There’s the refusal of the authors to actually state their specific fears. There’s the recourse to a rhetorical doublespeak in which “we don’t know if it’s safe” is used as an excuse for not trying the studies that could determine safety. There’s the distinction made between reproductive t... »

Stem Cells, Stressed Cells, Healing, and the Lure of Rejuvenation

Stem Cells, Stressed Cells, Healing, and the Lure of Rejuvenation

A recent study in Nature, entitled “Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency“, suggests that subjecting cells to dangerous but non-lethal conditions (such as a bath in acid, or a mechanical squeeze) can turn them into stem cells. Unsurprisingly, this publication set off a bit of a media blitz, and then it turned out that there were numerous problems with th... »

Tricking the Light Fantastic: How to Use Photons to See Something Smaller Than a Photon

Tricking the Light Fantastic: How to Use Photons to See Something Smaller Than a Photon

A while back I compared visualizing something on the nanometer scale (like, for instance, a DNA strand) with optical microscopy to trying to see what a strand of yarn looked like by throwing beach balls at it. But because engineers can get around almost any rule, they’ve found a way to do just that. Read on for more about how it works, why it’s cool, and what it means. »

A Promising New Treatment for PTSD, Straight From The Movies

A Promising New Treatment for PTSD, Straight From The Movies

A paper published two weeks ago in Cell promises an exciting new therapy for PTSD, at least in mice. And it’s a little more like something out of “Eternal Sunshine” than you might think. The funny thing is, the reason for that comes down to how memory — especially learned fears such as those that cause PTSD — is written, and rewritten, in your brain. Like Amy said in ... »

What Can You Tell From a Color-Coded Chromosome?

What Can You Tell From a Color-Coded Chromosome?

In an article published earlier this month, researchers color-coded cells based on which of two X-chromosomes they expressed resulting in beautiful images of marbleized cells like the one above. They are undeniably beautiful; but they also rely on complicated biological pathways and illuminate processes at play in every mammalian female. How does this work, what does it show, and how would it be u... »

You are your gene expression: why it’s not surprising that meditation changes epigenetics

You are your gene expression: why it’s not surprising that meditation changes epigenetics

A study came out that was a rather nice demonstration of some molecular changes that actually drive the benefits of mindfulness meditation, and the response to it was all out of proportion. Which, I suppose, is where I come in. Because headlines like “Scientists finally find how meditating can CHANGE YOUR GENOME!” give me hives. »

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