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Kendall Morgan

Kendall is a science writer based in North Carolina. She has a PhD in Biology from the University of Oregon and a certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She writes about science, medicine and science culture and is dedicated to making it easier for scientists to share what they make and do with each other and the world.

Recent Posts

Keeping Up With CRISPR/Cas9

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Mar 11, 2014 1:55:37 PM

If any of you are finding it hard to keep up with the news on CRISPR, there's a pretty good reason for that. Lately, significant advances in the understanding and application of CRISPR/Cas9 technology are coming along at a fast and furious pace. In December, as we've blogged about before, there was the first direct demonstration that CRISPR's could be used to correct disease mutations, both in mice and in human cells. But that important advance was quickly followed by even splashier news: Jiahao Sha of Nanjing Medical University had successfully used the CRISPR/Cas9 system to precisely edit specific genes in monkeys.

"Our study shows that the CRISPR/Cas9 system enables simultaneous disruption of two target genes in one step without producing off-target mutations," Sha was quoted as saying when the news first broke. "Considering that many human diseases are caused by genetic abnormalities, targeted genetic modification in monkeys is invaluable for the generation of human disease models."

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Genome Engineering, CRISPR

Interview: Ed Boyden on Optogenetics, Neuroscience, and the Future of Neuroengineering

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Mar 4, 2014 11:49:07 AM

As MIT's Ed Boyden explains it, his goal is "to understand the brain at a level of abstraction that enables the engineering of its function." Once scientists can do that, they will not only understand how the brain works, but also how to fix it when things go awry. To reach that goal, his group develops tools to tinker with brain circuits using the power of light.

In a recent article published in Nature Methods, Boyden and his team describe the discovery of a light-sensitive opsin from algae that is sensitive to red light instead of blue, which will allow researchers to independently control the activity of two populations of neurons at once.

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Interview, Investigator Feature, Optogenetics

Why Scientists Should Give Twitter a Try

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Feb 27, 2014 12:21:05 PM

If your PI or peers are like most of the researchers I know, they probably aren’t avid fans or active users of Twitter. But did you know a lot of scientists and others who care about science – science journalists and scientific organizations (including Addgene) - are on Twitter? It turns out Twitter can be a great way to expand your network well beyond the lab and engage in interesting conversations about science, or at least eavesdrop on them. As noted by an article prepared for Ideas in Ecology and Evolution,Twitter can provide access to a ‘virtual’ department of followers that almost always exceeds the size of traditional academic departments. (For more choice nuggets from this paper, take a closer look at the infographic that was created by Catherine Pratt on her website, katiephd.com.)

An engaging conversation in snippets of 140 characters or less, you might be asking yourself? Yes, exactly.

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Topics: Fun, Scientific Sharing

Lentiviral CRISPR Libraries Enable Genome-Scale, Knockout Screening

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Feb 20, 2014 11:57:00 AM

It’s clear that CRISPR-Cas9 technology has really changed the game for anyone looking to quickly and easily manipulate specific genes. But what if you want to study genes all across the genome? Two new human lentiviral CRISPR library systems described in companion papers in Science in December were developed as an answer to that question. Additionally, a concurrent Nature Biotechnology article describes the development of a mouse lentiviral CRISPR library. 

“This enables you to do customized genetic modification on a scale that was really not possible before,” said the Broad Institute's Ophir Shalem. “Whole regions of the genome which were not accessible before are now accessible using this technology.”

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Genome Engineering, CRISPR, pooled libraries

Plasmids 101: Origin of Replication

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Feb 6, 2014 10:25:00 AM

Now that we know all about antibiotic resistance genes, let’s consider another basic element of any plasmid: the origin of replication/replicon. The replicon is comprised of the origin of replication (ORI) and all of its control elements. The ORI is the place where DNA replication begins, enabling a plasmid to reproduce itself as it must to survive within cells.

The replicons of plasmids are generally different from the those used to replicate the host's chromosomal DNA, but they still rely on the host machinery to make additional copies. ORI sequences are generally high in As and Ts. Why, you ask? Well, A-T base pairs are held together with two hydrogen bonds not three as G-C pairs are. As a result, stretches of DNA that are rich in A-T pairs melt more readily at lower temperatures. When DNA melts, it gives the replication machinery room to come in and get busy making copies.

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Topics: Plasmid How To, Plasmid Elements, Plasmids 101

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