Highlights Biotechnology and Health (continued)

1. Taxol is an important anti-cancer compound. Originally discovered in ewe trees, the compound inhibits cell division by inhibiting the destabilization of microtubules. Microtubules must form and break down to give cells fluidity. If you inhibit their ability to break down, you inhibit the ability of a cell to divide.

2. Erythropoietin is an important hormone necessary to make blood cells.

3. Human grown hormone is produced by biotechnology processes and is important for normal human growth.

4. Another interesting hormone is epidermal growth factor (EGF), which stimulates growth of epidermal cells (such as in your skin). EGF is thought by some to prevent/remove wrinkles.

5. Gene therapy aims to replace defective genes with functional ones. This is important in genetic disease. A new technology (called SB-728-T) allows alteration/manipulation of DNA sequences. Researchers have used this in T-cells of HIV infected patients to mimic mutations that give people resistance to HIV. You can read about it here - http://seekingalpha.com/article/257094-sangamo-the-next-pinnacle-in-hiv-treatment

6. RNA interference is a technology that alllows one to "turn off" transcription and/or translation of desired sequences by inserting special RNAs (called siRNAs) into cells. With this technology, one can stop the expression of desired genes.

Highlights Genomics/Miscellany

1. We have talked about biosensors previously. These involve using biological systems to measure things. The earliest known use of a biosensor comes from the 13th century where the diagonosis of diabetes was made by tasting the sweetness of a person's urine. Butterflies can be used as biosensors to detect sugar in liquids.

2. Testing for HIV involves either a) identifying antibodies in a person's blood that react with HIV proteins (thus indicating the person has been exposed to the viruss) or b) using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to amplify the sequences of HIV from a person's blood. If the sequences are present in even the tiniest amounts, PCR can detect and amplify them billions of times in a few hours.