GOLD | Detecting cancer can be
complicated. Conventional methods require
samples of hundreds of cells and can’t
provide details on how cancer genes are
expressed in individual cells.
But professor of agricultural and biological
engineering Joseph Irudayaraj and former
graduate student Kyuwan Lee have found a
solution, at least for breast cancer detection.
Tagging tiny particles of gold — more than
1,000 times smaller than the diameter of
a human hair — with “tails” of synthetic
DNA, they’ve shown how to measure
BRCA1 mRNA splice variants in live cells.
BRCA1 is an oncogene, a gene that can
transform a healthy cell into a cancerous
IRON | While having a positive impact
on natural resources and wildlife, wildlife
conservation measures can also negatively
affect the health of local communities.
This unintended consequence has become
apparent to Melissa Remis, a professor of
anthropology, who initially studied gorillas
in the Central African Republic but has
turned her attention to the indigenous
is examining how
declines in wild
to conservation in
one. The number of BRCA1 mRNA splice
variants in a cell can indicate the presence
and stage of cancer.
When released into a cell, the gold
nanoparticles link up on either side of these
mRNA splice variants, forming a dimer
configuration. Scattering light into the
cell makes the configurations twinkle red
while free-floating gold nanoparticles shine
green. The technique allows BRCA1 mRNA
splice variants to be counted, presenting a
snapshot of cancer in a single, living cell.
“This is a simple yet elegant technique,”
says Irudayaraj. “With this method, we
are basically able to count the needles in a
haystack.” | N.V.H.
Hunting Breast Cancer with Gold
Nutrition of Foragers in Transitional Economies
Dense Forest Reserve have impacted the
indigenous BaAka, a forager population
increasingly suffering from malnutrition.
Remis examined 141 people using physical
measures and dietary surveys. Her findings
indicated poor health and nutritional
status, with low protein and iron-deficient
diets among the BaAka. These measures
have declined relative to data collected
before conservation zoning restrictions in
1990 that restricted the BaAka’s forest use
and subsequent influxes of migrants and
new hunting technologies to the region.
Remis concluded that foragers in
transitioning economies are at increased
risk of negative health outcomes as they
undergo changes in subsistence patterns
and diet. “When focusing on conservation
and protecting endangered wildlife, we
need to remember that those populations
live within communities of people who
rely on them for material and cultural
sustenance,” she says. | L. T.
© 2015 Theodore Gray periodictable.com