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Cellular and Molecular Biology

John Cohen, MDCM, PhD

Q: Is gene therapy possible for food allergies?
A: No, partly because we don’t know exactly what gene(s) are abnormal in food allergy; it’s probably a lot of genes conspiring together, each with a comparatively minor effect. Also, at this time gene therapy, having known and unknown risks, is reserved for life-threatening or otherwise lethal conditions.

Q: What happens if you strip the TAA off the end so it doesn't know to stop?
A: Sometime a mutation does exactly that. Then you keep going, reading nucleotides (ATCG) in threes until you run into another TAA, or a different “nonsense codon” (there are 3 in all) which stops the growing chain of amino acids. In either case you end up with an abnormal protein which may, or may not, still be able to do its job.

Q: What computational biology software do you (Dr. Cohen) use most often?
A: I don’t do much number crunching. My favorite program is Molviz/JMol, a 3D molecular structure visualization platform that uses atomic coordinates from the Protein Data Base. Try it out on its introductory page, you’ll love it. Here’s what computational biology majors at UC Boulder have to learn​.