Genetics, Health & Medicine, News

Icelandic DNA mapping might lead to the future of medicine

Maps show how common certain risk-causing DNA mutations are around Iceland. Image via Technology Review.

Scientists are working to gather more and more details about Icelandic DNA, in an attempt to design better drugs and understand how drugs react to genetic variation. So far, the DNA of over 1% of all Icelanders has been sequenced and more will likely follow. This operation is conducted by Amgen’s DeCode Genetics. The team now claims that they can identify every woman at high-risk of breast cancer “at the touch of a button” and it would be “criminal” not to use the information.

Biology, Genetics, News

The “Yeti” is a bear… but which kind?

A picture taken at 19,000 feet in the Menlung Basin, Nepal, showing, according to the photographer, the footprints of the "Abominable Snowman" or "Yeti." Photo by Popperfoto/Getty

A year ago, Oxford University professor of human genetics Bryan Sykes and his colleagues took some unusual hair samples found in the Himalayas and concluded that they actually belong to a now extinct polar bear which once inhabited Norway. Now, another team analyzed the results and concluded that while it’s clearly no yeti, the remains might actually belong to a brown bear instead.

Genetics, Health & Medicine, News

Villagers high in the Andes have developed a genetic tolerance to arsenic

Image: Wikimedia/Guigue

For centuries, arsenic was the go-to poison in the high circles of Europe, either to knock out political foes or to simply eliminate people on the dastardly way to a high position; it was odourless, tasteless, and until 1830 – when chemist James Marsh developed a test – impossible to detect. Thankfully, we’re dealing with much less intentional arsenic poisoning today, but unfortunately, we’re dealing with much more accidental poisoning. Recently, scientists discovered a population that developed natural immunity to arsenic, high in the Andes.

Genetics, Health & Medicine, News

Worker ants doubled in size by scientists to demonstrate epigenetics

Florida carpenter ant workers: minors (left) and majors (right). Image: MELANIE COUTURE AND DOMINIC OUELLETTE

Florida worker ants doubled in size after scientists performed chemical changes to their DNA. The ants were not genetically modified per se, not in the conventional sense that implies altering their code. Essentially, the ants were exposed to a chemical, environmental changes that mimicked those found in their colony and which lead to ants of various sizes and behaviors despite sharing the same genes – a perfect example of epigenetics.

Genetics, News, Psychology

Autism genes predict higher intelligence – if you’re not autistic in the first place

autism intelligence

A link between heightened intelligence and autism has been suspected by scientists based on empirical evidence, and now genetic screening seems to confirm this assumption. It seems people carrying genes that put people at risk of developing autism scored higher on intelligence scores than those who lacked the genes. This held true, however, for people carrying the genes but who didn’t develop autism.

Genetics, News

Scientists analyze 300 year old DNA from Caribbean slaves

Image via MLK Task Force.

Three hundred years ago, three African-born slaves from the Caribbean suffered a sad fate. No one knew who they are, no one knew what they went through, and until recently, no one knew where they came from. Now, researchers extracted and sequenced tiny bits of DNA to figure out where in Africa these people came from when they were captured and enslaved.

Genetics, News

Meet the birracial twins no one believes are sisters

These two are actually twins. Image via NY Post.

If you’d happen to see these two British twins, you’d likely believe they’re good friends – or cousins at most. But Lucy and Maria are actually twins – despite the obvious differences.

Genetics, News

Genetically Speaking, You’re More Like Your Dad

Image via Pixabay.

You may look more like your mom or more like your dad, but technically, you inherit equal amounts of genetic information from both; however, a new study has shown that you (and all mammals for that matter) are genetically more like their dads. If that sounds a bit confusing… well, it is. Specifically, although we inherit equal amounts of genetic mutations from both our parents, the mutations that make us who we are and not some other person actually ‘use’ more of the DNA that we inherit from our dads.

Biology, Genetics

Carnivorous plant lacks junk DNA, shows evolution takes place at a genetic level

tb-Utricularia-gibba-01

The carnivorous bladderwort (Utricularia gibba) a carnivorous plant which occurs fresh water and wet soil. Recently, they took biologists by surprise by having a huge number of genes, despite a fairly small genome. The plant is six times smaller than the grape for example, but has 28,500 genes, compared to the 26,300 of the grape.

Genetics, Mind & Brain, News

Big-brained mice engineered using human DNA

mouse brain

In the quest to understand what are the crucial differences between human and chimpanzee brains, scientists have isolated a stretch of DNA, once thought to be “junk”, near a gene that regulates brain development in mice. The engineered mouse embryos grew significantly larger brains. Those which received human brain DNA strands had 12% larger brains than those bred with chimp brain DNA. Research like this, though ethically controversial, might help identify which DNA sequences give a brain human characteristics, but also aid in findings treatment or cures for brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.