UCSF

Meet CRISPR: Humanity’s Shiny New Tool

One of biology’s wilder facts is that we’re all family. You and me, sure, but also me and a mushroom. Triceratops shared genes with you. So does the virus that makes you cough, and a rosebush. Bacteria left us on the tree of life around 2.7 billion years ago, but the wet world they came from is still ours: One code runs all of life. The same proteins that imprint memories in your neurons, for example, do so in octopi, ravens, and sea slugs. This genetic conservation means tricks from one species can be hijacked. If you stick a jellyfish gene in a monkey, it’ll glow green.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Intolerable Genius: Berkeley’s Most Controversial Nobel Laureate

IN THE SUMMER OF 1984 the senior scientists of Cetus Corp., a Berkeley biotech company, found themselves in a bind. One of their employees, a promising young scientist named Kary Mullis, had dreamed up a technique to exponentially replicate tiny scraps of DNA. He called it polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and if it worked it would change the world and likely earn Cetus a mountain of money. The only problem was Mullis was an interpersonal wrecking ball.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

An Incurable Infection Is on the Rise. A Vaccine Remains Elusive.

Sherry D. Martinez thought she had the flu. The then-45-year-old had all the usual symptoms—fever, fatigue, sore joints—and then some. When it became difficult to breathe, a doctor diagnosed her with pneumonia and sent her home with antibiotics. A few days later, bumps appeared on Martinez’s skin. When she scratched at them, they oozed. Her doctor put her on stronger antibiotics, but still her condition worsened. She developed a rash and severe eye pain.

From the Summer 2019 issue of California.

Dust in the Machine

Hear the letters BMI and the first thing you probably think of is “body mass index.” Keep your eyes peeled because “brain-machine interfaces” could soon hijack more than just the acronym.

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

Breathing Easier: A New Device Could Help Detect Asthma Attacks Before They Start

To a very real degree, Charvi Shetty’s future was molded by her college roommate. Or rather, her roommate’s health.

“She had asthma,” says Shetty, who graduated from UC Berkeley with a bioengineering degree in 2012 and took a master’s in biomedical imaging from UCSF in 2013. “She had to use an inhaler six times a day. She told me that her childhood memories were of going to the ER, not Disneyland or the beach, and she was never allowed to play outside because of her allergies. Asthma controlled her life.”

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Carbonated Clash: A New Book Predicts Berkeley’s Soda Tax Will Spread Elsewhere

After Berkeley became the first city in the nation to pass an excise soda tax one year ago, opponents dismissed Berkeley as such an outlier that the victory was inconsequential.  “Berkeley is not necessarily the trendsetter that they claim to be,” Roger Salazar, spokesman for the No Berkeley Beverage Tax campaign, was quoted saying. “They are a nuclear-free zone. They give free pot to low-income folks. Berkeley is Berkeley.”

Survival Secrets: What Is It About Women That Makes Them More Resilient Than Men?

Two women face each other at a small table at the back of a café in Berkeley. A hot autumn sun pulses through the glass. One of the women, sturdy in a chambray shirt and large glasses, shakes her head with a false smile: “Then I just lost it.”

Her friend, a slightly older 60-something in running shoes, her lean left knee tucked below her chin, nods in understanding.

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