Biology, Genetics, News

Octopus genome finally unraveled, and this is a big deal

The Maldive octopus, image via Youtube.

The mystery of the octopus genome has finally been solved, and this will allow researchers to answer some intriguing questions: how does it regenerate so well? How does it control its 8 flexible arms and over 1000 suckers? How do they camouflage and mimic the environment, and most importantly – how did a relative of the snail become so incredibly smart?

Genetics, News

This GMO rice tackles global warming by emitting 100 times less methane

Image: Wattpad

Following a three-year-long trial in the rice of fields of China, scientists report a new genetically modified strain that promises to dramatically reduce the otherwise huge carbon footprint of rice farming. The new GMO crop emits only 1% of the methane – a highly potent greenhouse gas – that an unaltered rice paddies leaches out into the atmosphere. So far, the crop looks extremely advantageous but the unfavorable social climate against GMOs doesn’t help at all, particularly in China where the public is very sensitive and no genetically modified rice variety has been allowed on its fields apart from this trial. China is the second largest producer of rice in the world.

Anthropology, Genetics, News

The first Americans came from Russia’s frozen expanse, Siberia, some 23,000 years ago

This map shows the outlines of modern Siberia (left) and Alaska (right) with dashed lines. The broader area in darker green (now covered by ocean) represents the Bering land bridge near the end of the last glacial maximum, a period that lasted from 28,000 to 18,000 years ago when sea levels were low and ice sheets extended south into what is now the northern part of the lower 48 states. University of Utah anthropologist Dennis O'Rourke argues in the Feb. 28 issue of the journal Science that the ancestors of Native Americans migrated from Asia onto the Bering land bridge or "Beringia" some 25,000 years ago and spent 10,000 years there until they began moving into the Americas 15,000 years ago as the ice sheets melted.
Credit: Wlliam Manley, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado

The first humans to reach the Americas came from Siberia in a single group some 23,000 years ago, at the height of the last Ice Age, says the new study. On their way to Alaska, they hanged around in the northern regions for a few thousands of years before moving deeper into North and South America.

Genetics, News, Science

Gene therapy restores hearing in deaf mice, paving the way for human treatment

By the look on it's furry little face, it's probably Skrillex.
Image via: audicus.com

Mice with genetic hearing loss could sense and respond to noises after receiving working copies of their faulty genes, researchers report. Because the mice’s mutated genes closely correspond to those responsible for some hereditary human deafness, the scientists hope the results will inform future human therapies.

Genetics, Health & Medicine, News

Woolly Mammoth genome sequencing makes cloning a lot more doable

woolly mammoth

A team at University of Chicago made the most comprehensive woolly mammoth genome sequencing ever. By comparing its genome with that of its distant cousins, the Asian and African elephants, the researchers were able to determine which are the mammoth’s specific genes. These were ran with libraries and repositories to identify what these do. We now know which of mammoth’s gene shaped its uncanny skull and small ears, how it got hair to cover all its body or how the mammoth adapted a special fat metabolism and cold coping mechanism. To test their findings, the researchers transplanted a mammoth gene into a human cell. The kidney cell produced new proteins which were tolerant to heat or cold, as suspected showing their other genetic determinations are also likely correct.

Genetics, Health & Medicine

On Genetic Manipulation and the Government’s Role in Science

genetic engineering

In an announcement that’s been a long time coming for science fiction fans, the White House has, for the first time, come out in support of a global moratorium on altering the human germline. It’s a decision that has implications not just for this particular type of scientific inquiry, but also for the future of government involvement in science. With

Animals, Genetics, News, World Problems

Tracing Ivory DNA helps curb massive poaching that’s killing 1 in 10 elephants each year

To keep the ivory from the black market, a plainclothes ranger hacks the tusks off a bull elephant killed illegally in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. In the first half of this year six park rangers died protecting Kenya’s elephants; meanwhile, rangers killed 23 poachers. Photograph by Brent Stirton

We seem to be losing the war on elephant poachers, but a new toolset that involves tracing slaughter hotspots in Africa based on DNA taken from ivory might be exactly what law enforcement needed all these years. This way, researchers at University of Washington, in collaboration with INTERPOL, found that most of the ivory seized since 2006 originates in just two areas.

Genetics, Health & Medicine

An ancient human who lived in Romania had almost 9% Neanderthal DNA

40,000-year-old modern human jawbone reveals that this man had a Neandertal ancestor as recently as four to six generations back. Image: Credit: MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology/ Paabo

DNA analysis of the jawbone of a human who lived in modern day Romania some 40,000 years ago has the most Neanderthal ancestry ever seen. Up to 9% of the ancient man’s DNA was Neanderthal, suggesting interbreeding occurred much earlier than previously thought. In fact, this European human had a Neanderthal ancestor four to six generations back in his family tree. How would it be to have a Neanderthal for a great-great-great-grandfather?

Discoveries, Genetics, Science

Study shakes answers out of the shaking disease: human prion immunity gene isolated

Image via: currentsinbiology.tumblr.com

A recent study involving a Papua New Guinea tribe that practiced cannibalistic funeral customs sheds new light on prion-related conditions such as mad cow disease.

Biology, Genetics, Health & Medicine, News

Genetically modifying human embryos: ‘a line that should not be crossed,’ NIH says

embyro genetic modification

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reiterated its stance against modifying human embryos, after a paper published last week by Chinese researchers reported how they modified the DNA of human embryos to eradicate certain inheritable diseases from the lineage. Modifying human embryos was banned in 1996 for US government bodies, but in some states private entities are allowed to carry out such research.