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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monkeys hold key to diseases

The structure of part of a DNA double helixImage via Wikipedia


Twin baby monkeys, Mito (left) and Tracker, aged six days. AFP

Four baby monkeys created in a laboratory in the United States could hold the key to the eradication of a class of incurable genetic diseases, scientists revealed on Wednesday.

In an experiment that brings the creation of babies with three biological parents a step closer, Spindler, Spindly and twins Mito and Tracker were born through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) using a technique that should make it possible to prevent women who carry genetic disorders of the mitochondria from passing them on to their children.

Defects in mitochondria - tiny structures known as the power houses or batteries of a cell because they convert food into energy for the cell - affect about one in 5,000 births and can cause about 50 known diseases, such as fatal liver failure, stroke-like episodes, blindness, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and deafness.

Mitochondrial DNA also plays a role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's.

The team of scientists from the Oregon National Primate Research Centre swapped the mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) from the macaque monkey mother's egg for the mDNA of a donor egg.

The reconstructed eggs were then fertilised with the father's sperm and the healthy offspring were born.

Tests showed that no mDNA from the mother's egg had been transferred to the donor egg.

This the first time that primates have been genetically modified in this way.

The fact that healthy offspring have been produced paves the way for the use of the techniques in humans.

But the research, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, will reignite the ethical debate over genetic engineering and so-called "designer babies".

Babies born using the new technique would inherit most of their genetic material from their mother and father, but a tiny amount - mitochondrial DNA accounts for less than 1 per cent of all the DNA in a human body - would come from the donor of the mDNA. This genetic material would then be passed on to future generations.

Mitochondria, which are strewn throughout the cell body, contain their own DNA separate from that in the nucleus of cells.

Like nuclear DNA, mDNA harbours genes that can mutate and cause disease.

However, mDNA can only be passed on to offspring via mothers' eggs. It is not transmitted by sperm.

Dr Marita Pohlschmidt, director of research at the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, said: "We welcome these new advances and believe affected families should be offered the choice of having a healthy child." THE GUARDIAN


From TODAY, World – Friday, 28-Aug-2009

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Dream a little dream

The FantasticksImage via Wikipedia

This is a late posting, but I will post just the same, as I am sort of following this girl's (fast becoming a lady now) steps in the industry


Performing on Broadway and singing with Adam Lambert are just two of Julia Abueva's dreams

Teen singing sensation Julia Abueva.

SHE HAS been featured on Oprah, performed for heads of state, and starred in musicals Sleepless Town and The Fantasticks. She gave her first stage performance when she was seven and, six years later, performed her first full-length solo concert. Not bad for a 13-year-old (she'll be 14 in November).

And Julia Abueva, who will perform a solo recital at Popstars City this Friday, said she isn't planning to stop any time soon.

"I really want to pursue singing for the rest of my life," said the girl who cites the Pussycat Dolls, Beyonce and Adam Lambert as musical heroes. "I have two really big dreams: To be on Broadway, or make it as a recording artiste."

Plans for another solo concert are already underfoot, and she's going to perform a second run of The Fantasticks in November.

Her recital show will feature "mostly songs from musical theatre". "Broadway is my strength," said the eighth-grader at the Singapore American School. "I've loved it ever since I was small."

What do you think you've gained in your musical journey so far?

I gained lots of discipline. I've learned to juggle singing and school. I'm not going to lie, it's very difficult! And there are days when I'm like, 'I can't do this anymore'. But since I love performing and singing so much, if I want to continue doing it, I have to prove that I can do it.

You appeared on Oprah last year and you'll be on a show on Channel NewsAsia this year. What do you think about that?

It was funny because CNA went to my school during the open house and I was walking around with my friends and the TV crew was following me. My friends asked, 'You have your own TV show?' It was a lot of fun!

Who would you like to perform with?

I can't perform with him, but I would like to meet Simon Cowell. I think he's a really cool dude, even though a few people might not like him. But, oh, Adam Lambert - I would like to do a duet with him.

What keeps you motivated?

I think I'm very blessed. My parents didn't know anything about the industry, but the offers kept coming. And I thank the Lord everyday for the blessings. I'll take whatever opportunities come. But stay grounded, that's what my parents keep telling me. And my friends would say that if I ever put on a diva attitude they would be the first to shoot me!

Catch Julia Abueva in An Evening With A New Star at Popstars City, on Friday at 8pm.


From TODAY, Plus – Thursday, 27-Aug-2009

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