Genetics, News

Twisting DNA into unexpected shapes raises new exciting possibilities

New research shows that DNA coils into crazy shapes. Here, images of tiny DNA looped into a figure-8, frozen and viewed with microscopy (yellow), with a computer simulation of its predicted shape superimposed. (The purple is also a computer simulation)
Credit: Thana Sutthibutpong

DNA – you either know is as deoxyribonucleic acid, or that stuff that somehow makes us what we are. DNA is the body’s way of storing information about yourself: how the cells arrange in your body, how hereditary material is organized, and how you function. DNA is classically thought of as a distinctive double helix structure, but coiling it into new

Anthropology, Genetics, News

First ancient African genome sequenced

The site from the Mota cave where the 4,500 Ethiopian man was found. Image: Kathryn and John Arthur

The complete genetic code book of a person who lived 4,500 years ago in Ethiopia was completed by US researchers. Although much older genomes have been sequenced, like those of 38,000 year-old Neanderthals, samples from African forefathers have proven difficult to sequence as the DNA is often destroyed by accelerated decay, driven by tropical conditions. As such, this is the first time a complete genome retrieval was performed from an ancient human in Africa. In this light, the findings are very important: they suggest even older DNA could be retrieved – maybe even millions of years back to the age of other species of the homo genus.

Biology, Genetics, Health & Medicine, News

Another ‘homesexual gene’ study suggests it’s not about the genes at all

gay gene

Are homosexuals hard wired this way or merely the product of their environment? Some argue that its both, but whether or not there’s a ‘gay gene’ or more is up to debate. The fact that it’s such a delicate subject, i.e. hard to get funding, means that progress is slow. One could argue that it wouldn’t be worth researching anyway. If someone found a scientific causal-link, say some genes, that’s responsible for homosexuality than it’s possible to maybe reverse it. A ‘cure’ for homosexuality, if you will. Even this very prospect is enough to kill research out of politically correctness. At the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) in Baltimore, however, the audience might have been surprised to hear about the findings of a group from University of California (UC), Los Angeles that found there’s reasons to believe homosexuality is rooted in epigenetics. The authors are quick to caution that their findings are far from being the final word, and hence should be taken with a grain of salt.

Biology, Genetics, Health & Medicine, News

Genetically-altered pigs to become humanity’s source for “spare” organs

Guess i should start training that liver for later.
Image via imgur

Among all the species with which we share the animal kingdom, pigs are the ones whose organs are best suited for transplant in human bodies — they are approximately the same size as our organs and have similar structures, making reconnecting blood vessels much easier. Pigs tend to have large litters and reproduce quickly, making them a very large, very accessible source of “spare parts.”

Agriculture, Genetics, News, Science, World Problems

Feeding the world through global warming: Altering one plant gene makes for climate-resilient crops

Corn plants damaged by extreme heat and drought conditions stand in a field in Carmi, IL.
Image via thelede.blogs.nytimes

It’s estimated that humanity will have to produce around 50% more food than we currently do to keep up with growing global demand….by 2050. It’s an enormous challenge, especially as more and more countries face the effects of climate change, such as drought or toxic salinity levels. One of our best hopes is to rely more on crops that can flourish despite the vicissitudes of the environment, and plant cell biologists at the University of Oxford hope that their new breakthrough in climate-resilient agriculture will allow us to do just that.

Genetics, Mind & Brain, Neurology, News, Science, Studies

Life without music – study looks at brain with amusia

Image via crosspointalliance

For most people listening to music or playing an instrument is a great way to relax, unwind, have fun, and express themselves. But not everybody is able to perceive, appreciate or memorize music, to sing or to dance. Monica is one such person, and to her, any kind of music is just a bunch of noise that makes her head ache and feel stressed.

Genetics, News

Scientists talk about micro-pigs as pets

Image via BGI.

Yesterday, we wrote about how the Chinese will be selling genetically engineered micro-pigs as pets; the pigs, which were originally developed to serve as cheaper models for the human body, were engineered to grow only up to 25 kgs, but they also raise some important concerns: is it ethical? Should we engineer animals so that they make cuter or smaller

Genetics, Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain, News

The universal test for viral infections could be a game changer


In what can only be classed as a breakthrough in medicine, a team at Washington University in St. Louis found a way to make an universal test that can identify virtually any known virus. The method works by analyzing bodily samples for signature genetic markers unique to each virus. It’s surprisingly accurate, as the researchers report the test not only identified the viruses on par with standard tests, but found additional ones which would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Once it passes extensive clinical trials, doctors using the test could come up with a complete list of viral infections harbored inside a patient’s body, correctly diagnose their condition and apply the right treatment. In some situations, it could mean the difference between life and death.

Biology, Genetics, News

Adorable gene-edited micropigs to be sold as pets in China – and this is a problem

Credit: BGI

Many researchers have expressed concerns about using such advanced techniques for such frivolous purposes, and personally, I feel like this could cascade onto many other problems – despite their undeniable cuteness.

Biology, Genetics, Geology, News

Scientists figure out where enamel came from


Enamel, the hard, mineralized substance that covers your teeth originated on tough fish scales and then migrated to the teeth, researchers found