WTF Fun Fact 13715 – Types of RNA

You’ve probably heard of RNA recently because of the new type of RNA vaccines that have saved millions of lives around the world from COVID-19.

But RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is more than just a single entity. It’s actually a family of crucial molecules that vary in form and function, each playing a unique role in how our bodies operate.

Understanding them can help us better understand how our bodies work and why RNA plays such a unique role in everything from viral vaccines to cancer treatments.

The Various Types of RNA and Their Functions

1. Messenger RNA (mRNA)

Imagine mRNA as the diligent courier within a cell. Its primary function is to relay genetic blueprints from DNA to the cell’s protein-manufacturing sites. This RNA type dictates the specific proteins to be synthesized. These proteins are crucial for repair and growth processes within the body. The innovation of mRNA vaccines leverages this property to instruct cells to produce elements that trigger immune responses.

2. Ribosomal RNA (rRNA)

rRNA serves as the core structural and enzymatic component of ribosomes, which are the cellular factories assembling proteins. By interacting with mRNA and various proteins, rRNA helps form the complex structures of ribosomes, ensuring that protein synthesis is precise and efficient. The accuracy of rRNA’s function is vital for the correct folding and function of proteins.

3. Transfer RNA (tRNA)

tRNA functions as the key supplier at the protein synthesis construction site. It carefully selects amino acids and transports them to the ribosome. Then, it matches them to the appropriate codons on the mRNA sequence. This process is crucial for building proteins accurately and efficiently. That’s because each tRNA molecule is specialized for a specific amino acid.

4. MicroRNA (miRNA)

miRNA acts as a critical regulator of gene expression. These short RNA molecules can bind to specific mRNA molecules, blocking their translation into proteins or targeting them for degradation. Through this regulatory function, miRNAs maintain cellular health by ensuring that proteins are synthesized only when needed. This prevents any overproduction that might lead to potential cellular damage.

5. Small Interfering RNA (siRNA)

Similar to miRNA, siRNA regulates gene expression and plays a role in the immune response against pathogens, particularly in plants. By degrading foreign RNA molecules, such as those from viruses, siRNA prevents the replication of the pathogen. This, in turn, helps protect an organism from disease.

The Importance of Understanding

The diversity in RNA types highlights the molecule’s critical roles in cellular function and overall organismal health. By studying these various forms, scientists can develop better therapeutic strategies for plants and humans. So, it can be used for things from enhancing crop resilience to treating genetic disorders and fighting viruses. It offers multiple angles from which medical science can approach the treatment and understanding of diseases.

Understanding RNA’s functions also empowers innovation in medical technology, as seen with mRNA vaccines. Such advancements underscore the potential of this research to yield transformative tools for medicine, providing hope for treatments that are more effective and precisely targeted.

As research continues to unravel the complexities of RNA, its profound impact on both basic biology and applied medical science becomes increasingly clear. This exploration is not just about scientific curiosity but about paving the way for future innovations that could revolutionize healthcare and treatment methodologies worldwide. By appreciating the versatile roles of RNA, we gain deeper insights into the mechanics of life and the potential for significant medical breakthroughs.

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Source: “4 Types of RNA” — ThoughtCo

WTF Fun Fact 13613 – First Chimeric Monkey

Researchers have made a monumental stride in primate research by making the first chimeric monkey.

This marks the first successful birth of a chimeric monkey from embryonic stem cell lines. This scientific achievement has profound implications for the fields of genetic engineering, species conservation, and biomedical studies.

Understanding Chimerism in Primates

The study, led by senior author Zhen Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, culminated in the birth of a monkey with cells originating from two distinct embryos. Until now, this feat of chimerism had been achieved only in smaller mammals such as rats and mice. Published in the prestigious journal Cell, the research opens new avenues for understanding pluripotency. That’s the capability of stem cells to differentiate into any cell type—in non-human primates and possibly humans.

The cynomolgus monkeys, commonly used in biomedical research, served as the subjects for this groundbreaking experiment. The researchers established nine stem cell lines from blastocyst embryos and selected a subset of these pluripotent cells to inject into early-stage monkey embryos. This meticulous process led to several pregnancies and the birth of six live monkeys. One of these showcased a substantial level of chimerism.

The Making of a Chimeric Monkey

The researchers tagged the stem cells with green fluorescent protein. This enabled them to trace which tissues originated from the stem cells. Extensive analysis revealed that the chimeric monkey exhibited a wide distribution of stem-cell-derived tissues across the brain, heart, kidney, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. Remarkably, the live monkey displayed stem cell contributions ranging from 21% to 92% across various tissues, averaging 67%.

The presence of stem-cell-derived cells in the reproductive tissues was a significant discovery. It underscors the potential for these cells to contribute to the germline and possibly influence future generations.

Implications and Future Directions

The success of this study is not merely academic. It has practical implications, offering the potential to create more precise monkey models for neurological and other biomedical research. By enhancing the understanding of primate cell developmental potential, the study paves the way for innovative approaches in medical science.

Looking ahead, the team aims to refine their method to increase the efficiency of generating chimeric monkeys. They plan to optimize the stem cell cultures and the blastocysts’ environments, hoping to improve the survival rates of these embryos in host animals.

In conclusion, the birth of the first chimeric monkey from embryonic stem cells is a remarkable scientific milestone. It broadens our knowledge of primate biology and holds promise for future applications that could benefit both primate conservation and human health.

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Source: “First live birth of a chimeric monkey using embryonic stem cell lines” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13442 – We Have More Bacterial Cells Than Human

The human body contains more bacterial cells than human cells. Weird, right?

The majority of the cells that constitute “you” are, in fact, not human. They are microscopic organisms that are hitching a ride, making a living off your body. It might sound like science fiction, but this is a confirmed scientific fact. The human body contains ten times more bacterial cells than human cells.

How can we contain more bacterial cells than human cells?

Now, before we allow our imagination to scare us into a frenzy, let’s unpack this a bit.

These bacterial cells, collectively known as the human microbiota, live mostly in harmony with our bodies. We provide them with a suitable habitat, and they return the favor by aiding in bodily functions like digestion and immune response. Our gut houses the vast majority of these organisms.

This raises some provocative questions: With our bodies being made up predominantly of non-human cells, what does that imply about our identity? What actually makes us human?

How are we fully human if we contain so many non-human cells?

Biologically speaking, being human is about more than just the number of cells. Human cells, while fewer in number, are much larger and more complex than bacterial cells. So, in terms of volume and genetic material, we are predominantly human.

But the philosophical implications are still fascinating to consider. We ten to link our human identity to our biological makeup. But the massive presence of non-human cells introduces an intriguing paradox.

Science has often categorized organisms based on their cellular composition. However, this fact might prompt us to reconsider such traditional boundaries. We need to acknowledge the complex symbiosis that constitutes our “self.” We are, in essence, a walking, talking microbiome.

Teamwork makes the dream work

These non-human inhabitants of our body have a far-reaching impact on our health and well-being. There’s a dynamic relationship between our human cells and these bacterial cells. When this relationship is in balance, we thrive. But when it’s out of whack, we may face health issues. This fact has driven researchers to explore the potential of microbiota in shaping future treatments for various diseases.

Yet, as we learn more about our microbial inhabitants, we also uncover deeper layers of what it means to be human. Are we individual entities, or are we, as some philosophers might argue, a “superorganism” made up of numerous symbiotic relationships?

Indeed, we might be more ‘alien’ than we ever imagined, yet this very fact underscores our extraordinary complexity as living beings.

So next time you glance at your reflection, remember: You’re not just looking at ‘you.’ You’re seeing an intricate ecosystem.

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Source: “NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body” — National Institutes of Health

WTF Fun Fact 12454 – Insomnia is Universal

Sometimes pets and bugs are the reason WE can’t sleep, but did you know animals and other critters can suffer from insomnia as well?

Our knowledge on the topic started when National Geographic replied to a Facebook question from a fan: Do Bugs Sleep?

“Yes—with an asterisk,” replied biologist Barrett Klein from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. He studies sleep in honeybees.

He continued:

“Paper wasps, cockroaches, praying mantises, and fruit flies are among insects that doze. Fruit fly sleep is even similar to mammal sleep, since the flies respond to sleep-inducing chemicals and caffeine, just like people.

Still, measuring sleep in insects is tricky—it’s not always easy, for instance, to differentiate between sleep and sleep-like states.”

According to Klein: Signs of true bug sleep are not moving, “drooping in the direction of gravity,” and more relaxed muscles.

Bugs are in charge of putting themselves to bed, but sometimes they experience a state of arousal (awakeness, not the sexy kind) that prevents them from getting quality sleep, it seems. And we can relate!

Experiments in fruit flies also show that they experience ‘sleep rebound.’ That means that a fruit fly deprived of sleep will subsequently need it more—something most of us busy people can understand,” Klein told National Geographic.

As for honeybees, Klein’s specialty, when they get sleepy they get sloppy with their work.

Now, when it comes to more pet-like animals (and we know plenty of people keep bees!), the issue is pretty much the same as it is in older humans. Cats and dogs can have trouble regulating sleep as they age or when they have medical issues. The result can be lethargy during the day.

Since cats sleep so much – and hardly ever at night – it can be a bit hard to tell when they change their schedule. But as their hearing and sight grow weaker with age, they wake up at different times feeling more confused and even yowling to express it.  – WTF fun facts

Source: “Do Bugs Sleep? Why They’re Surprisingly Similar to People” — National Geographic