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Stars’ ‘DNA’ could help scientists find Sun’s lost siblings

Unfortunately, astronomers cannot collect the DNA of a star with a mouth swab but instead use the starlight, with a technique called spectroscopy

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Countless galaxies exist in the universe, each hiding secrets that humankind is yet to unearth. Pixabay
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With the aim to find the lost siblings of the Sun, now scattered across the sky, a team of astronomers has collected the “DNA” of more than 340,000 stars in the Milky Way.

The “DNA” can help trace the ancestry of stars, showing astronomers how the universe went from having only hydrogen and helium — just after the Big Bang — to being filled today with all the elements we have here on Earth that are necessary for life.

Little Cub galaxy
Scientists to find sun’s lost siblings. Wikimedia Commons

The research, detailed in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is based on the Galactic Archaeology survey, called GALAH, launched in late 2013 as part of a quest to uncover the formulation and evolution of galaxies. When complete, GALAH will investigate more than a million stars.

The GALAH survey used the HERMES spectrograph at the Australian Astronomical Observatory’s (AAO) 3.9-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope near Coonabarabran in New South Wales to collect spectra for the 340,000 stars. “No other survey has been able to measure as many elements for as many stars as GALAH,” said Gayandhi De Silva of the University of Sydney and AAO.

Also Read: Next Planet-Hunting Mission Of NASA Postponed

“This data will enable such discoveries as the original star clusters of the Galaxy, including the Sun’s birth cluster and solar siblings — there is no other dataset like this ever collected anywhere else in the world,” De Silva said.

The Sun, like all stars, was born in a group or cluster of thousands of stars, explained Sarah Martell from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney who leads the GALAH survey observations. “Every star in that cluster will have the same chemical composition, or DNA – these clusters are quickly pulled apart by our Milky Way Galaxy and are now scattered across the sky,” Martell said.

Black hole in milky way
Scientists are collecting DNA of stars. VOA

“The GALAH team’s aim is to make DNA matches between stars to find their long-lost sisters and brothers,” she added. For each star, this DNA is the amount they contain of each of nearly two dozen chemical elements such as oxygen, aluminium and iron.

Unfortunately, astronomers cannot collect the DNA of a star with a mouth swab but instead use the starlight, with a technique called spectroscopy. The light from the star is collected by the telescope and then passed through an instrument called a spectrograph, which splits the light into detailed rainbows, or spectra. IANS

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CRISPR Gene Editing can Cause Risky Collateral DNA Damage: Study

The work has implications for how CRISPR/Cas9 is used therapeutically and is likely to re-spark researchers' interest in finding alternatives to the standard CRISPR/Cas9 method for gene editing

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CRISPR/Cas9 is a type of molecular scissor technology that can alter sections of DNA in cells by cutting at specific points and introducing changes at that location.. Pixabay

The much celebrated CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique can cause greater genetic damage in cells than was previously thought, scientists have warned.

CRISPR/Cas9 is a type of molecular scissor technology that can alter sections of DNA in cells by cutting at specific points and introducing changes at that location.

Besides extensive use in scientific research, CRISPR/Cas9 has also been seen as a promising way to create potential genome editing treatments for diseases such as HIV, cancer or sickle cell disease.

But the new research, reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology, revealed that CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, though at a distance from the target site.

Many of the cells, in both mice and humans, had large genetic rearrangements such as DNA deletions and insertions.

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CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, though at a distance from the target site.. Pixabay

These could lead to important genes being switched on or off, which could have major implications for CRISPR/Cas9 use in therapies.

In addition, some of these changes were too far away from the target site to be seen with standard genotyping methods, the researchers said.

“This is the first systematic assessment of unexpected events resulting from CRISPR/Cas9 editing in therapeutically relevant cells, and we found that changes in the DNA have been seriously underestimated before now,” said Allan Bradley, Professor at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in London.

Also Read: New Link Found Between Alcohol, Genes And Heart Failure

“It is important that anyone thinking of using this technology for gene therapy proceeds with caution, and looks very carefully to check for possible harmful effects,” Bradley added

The work has implications for how CRISPR/Cas9 is used therapeutically and is likely to re-spark researchers’ interest in finding alternatives to the standard CRISPR/Cas9 method for gene editing.

“While it is not known if genomic sites in other cell lines will be affected in the same way, this study shows that further research and specific testing is needed before CRISPR/Cas9 is used clinically,” the researchers said. (IANS)