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Controlling the genetics of wild populations, a next step in GM research

New GM technique injects mosquitoes with a gene that results in mostly male offspring, eventually leading to a population crash. Previous efforts to tackle the disease, that kills more than 1 million people each year – most of whom are African children – have included bed nets to protect people and insecticides to kill the mosquito species most responsible for the transmission of malaria (Anopheles gambiae). The new technique by a team at Imperial College London involves injecting mosquitoes with a gene that causes the vast majority of their offspring to be male, leading to an eventual dramatic decline in population within six generations as females disappear. “You have a short-term benefit because males don’t bite humans [and transmit malaria],” Andrea Crisanti, one of the authors of the new research, which was published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, told the Guardian. “But in the long term you will eventually eradicate or substantially reduce mosquitoes. This could make a substantial contribution to eradicating malaria, combined with other tools such as insecticides.”
These new mosquitoes are now set to be used in Brazil, having been approved for use by the Brazilian government with a factory for their production now opened.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Aug 14, 2014 - 122 comments

Do true blondes have more fun?

"The residents of Denmark regularly report the highest levels of life satisfaction in the world. Economists Eugenio Proto and Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick cautiously submit that there is a genetic component to this high level of contentment."
posted by Chocolate Pickle on Jul 19, 2014 - 43 comments

Greater Access for Down Syndrome Information

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is expected to sign Chloe's Law. Chloe's Law, or the Down Syndrome Prenatal Education Act, requires medical practitioners to provide up-to-date and accurate information about Down syndrome with the accompanying diagnosis. Similar laws were passed in Massachusetts and Kentucky. Why is this necessary? Ask a parent or two and you find out how most doctors aren't up to the task. Fortunately, there are parents who will help them out (if they would listen).
posted by plinth on Jul 18, 2014 - 91 comments

Are atheletes really getting faster, stronger and better?

The large got larger. The small got smaller. The weird got weirder. When you look at sporting achievements over the last decades, it seems like humans have gotten faster, better and stronger in nearly every way. Yet as David Epstein points out in this delightfully counter-intuitive talk, we might want to lay off the self-congratulation. Many factors are at play in shattering athletic records, and the development of our natural talents is just one of them. TED talk, 14:53
posted by srboisvert on May 1, 2014 - 22 comments

Protein Packing

Harvard University and XVIVO have come together again (Previouslyw/ a commercial focus, Previouslierw/an Academic focus) to add to the growing series of scientific animations for BioVisions -- Harvard's multimedia lab in the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. 'Protein Packing' strives to more accurately depict the molecular chaos in each and every cell, with proteins jittering around in what may seem like random motion. Proteins occupy roughly 40% of the cytoplasm, creating an environment that risks unintentional interaction and aggregation. Via diffusion and motor protein transport, these molecules are directed to sites where they are needed.
Much of this is no doubt inspired by the beautiful art and explained illustrations of David Goodsell, a biologist at Scripps who has been accurately portraying the crowdedness of the cellular landscape for a long time now.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Apr 10, 2014 - 9 comments

plant sex in silico

Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie - "The lettuce, peppers, and broccoli—plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow—aren't genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same technology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. That doesn't mean they are low tech, exactly. Stark's division is drawing on Monsanto's accumulated scientific know-how to create vegetables that have all the advantages of genetically modified organisms without any of the Frankenfoods ick factor." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Mar 8, 2014 - 52 comments

De-extinction

The Mammoth Cometh. "Bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening — and it’s going to be very, very cool. Unless it ends up being very, very bad." [Previously, Via]
posted by homunculus on Feb 27, 2014 - 74 comments

The genome of the Anzick boy

The genome of the Anzick child, who died 12,600 years ago at the age of three and was buried with ceremony in the American Rockies, has been fully sequenced. The results shed an incredible light on the history of the peopling of the Americas: his people seem to have been direct ancestors to most tribes of Central and South America, and close relatives of the Canadian tribes. The discoveries have had an emotional impact on Native Americans, and the boy's remains will be reburied with great respect. Still, tribal belonging is about much more than genetics, as anthropologist Kim Tallbear reminds us. You can see replicas of the heirloom artefacts left in the boy's grave here, or visit the collection at the Montana Historical Society if you're in the area.
posted by daisyk on Feb 13, 2014 - 24 comments

The mysteries of the planarian

Animal Loses Head But Remembers Everything: "What we do know is that memory can be stored outside the brain - presumably in other body cells - so that memories can get imprinted onto the new brain as it regenerates."
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Feb 5, 2014 - 33 comments

Intergenerational mouse trauma

...Ressler... and Dias wafted the scent [of acetophenone] around a small chamber, while giving small electric shocks to male mice. The animals eventually learned to associate the scent with pain, shuddering in the presence of acetophenone even without a shock. Despite never having encountered acetophenone in their lives, the offspring exhibited increased sensitivity when introduced to its smell, shuddering more markedly in its presence compared with the descendants of mice that had been conditioned to be startled by a different smell or that had gone through no such conditioning.
posted by latkes on Jan 9, 2014 - 34 comments

PATIENT ZERO

There's A Whole New Way Of Killing Cancer: Stephanie Lee Is The Test Case [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 6, 2013 - 45 comments

What 100 years of dog breeding looks like

Just how much have dog breeds changed in the past hundred years? A lot (and for the worst). [more inside]
posted by Foci for Analysis on Dec 3, 2013 - 178 comments

"‘The gene does not lead,’ she says. ‘It follows.’"

The selfish gene is one of the most successful science metaphors ever invented. Unfortunately, it’s wrong.
posted by overeducated_alligator on Dec 3, 2013 - 79 comments

Transgenic Spidergoats Brief

Spider webs are incredibly strong and flexible. It’s no surprise, then, that spider silk proteins may someday form durable artificial ligaments for people who have injured their knees or shoulders. Six different kinds of silk are produced by orb-web weaving spiders. These silk fibers have very different mechanical properties that are so effective they have changed very little over millions of years. How to synthetically develop these silks is one focus of Lewis’ research. The secret to producing large quantities of spider silk is to use “factories” designed to manufacture spider silk proteins that are easily scale-able and efficient. Lewis uses transgenic goats, E.coli bacteria, transgenic alfalfa and transgenic silk worms to produce the spider silk proteins used to create spider silk. Spider silk is 100 times stronger than natural ligaments and 10 times stronger than natural tendons; it is stronger than Kevlar and more elastic than nylon.
A 6min brief on the work being done in Laramie, WY whereby spider silk is being spun from goat milk. SPIDERGOATS
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Nov 24, 2013 - 24 comments

Being a fair sport

In athletic competitions, what qualifies as a sporting chance?
posted by Gyan on Sep 4, 2013 - 41 comments

Dramatic Lactose Intolerant Sobbing

"During the most recent ice age, milk was essentially a toxin to adults because — unlike children — they could not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk. But as farming started to replace hunting and gathering in the Middle East around 11,000 years ago, cattle herders learned how to reduce lactose in dairy products to tolerable levels by fermenting milk to make cheese or yogurt. Several thousand years later, a genetic mutation spread through Europe that gave people the ability to produce lactase — and drink milk — throughout their lives. That adaptation opened up a rich new source of nutrition that could have sustained communities when harvests failed." - The Milk Revolution - how a single mutation expanded (some) of humanity's diet. (Nature.com)
posted by The Whelk on Aug 2, 2013 - 158 comments

Thatcher was Wrong

Selfish traits not favoured by evolution, study shows "Evolution does not favour selfish people, according to new research. This challenges a previous theory which suggested it was preferable to put yourself first. Instead, it pays to be co-operative, shown in a model of "the prisoner's dilemma", a scenario of game theory - the study of strategic decision-making. Published in Nature Communications, the team says their work shows that exhibiting only selfish traits would have made us become extinct. "
posted by marienbad on Aug 2, 2013 - 79 comments

Wizarding Genetics

"I sent this paper to JK Rowling explaining how the wizarding gene could be singular, autosomal, and dominant despite the protests of a bunch of fans who stopped learning genetics after Punnett squares." See also: Wizarding Genetics: More Complicated Than Mendel! and Purple Orchids and Muggleborn Wizards: A Theory of Wizard Genetics
posted by Memo on Jul 30, 2013 - 57 comments

A Race to Save the Orange by Altering Its DNA

The disease that sours oranges and leaves them half green, already ravaging citrus crops across the world, had reached the state’s storied groves. To slow the spread of the bacterium that causes the scourge, they chopped down hundreds of thousands of infected trees and sprayed an expanding array of pesticides on the winged insect that carries it. But the contagion could not be contained.

With a precipitous decline in Florida’s harvest predicted within the decade, the only chance left to save it, Mr. Kress believed, was one that his industry and others had long avoided for fear of consumer rejection.
They would have to alter the orange’s DNA — with a gene from a different species. (SLNYT)
posted by yeoz on Jul 28, 2013 - 118 comments

"We have 10 different babies from which you can select."

Would you like to choose your baby? We definitely want to be able to avoid genetic mutations that could cause diseases or problems later on. But what if you could make your babies more intelligent? Or more Athletic? or More beautiful? Or affect their political orientation? (A 2011 study looked at differences between conservative and liberal leanings—and found, surprisingly, three areas that might be linked to political predisposition.) Should you be able to choose what characteristics you want your babies to have? [more inside]
posted by TheLittlePrince on Jul 26, 2013 - 168 comments

Best of Breed Solution

Are human beings the descendants of chimpanzee/pig hybrids? This radical theory might seem easy to disprove, but "decent arguments against the hybrid origins theory are surprisingly hard to find."
posted by chrchr on Jul 25, 2013 - 134 comments

The Sentinelese people of North Sentinel Island, an "ancient" tribe

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a string of 572 islands that run roughly north-south in the Bay of Bengal between Myanmar and Indonesia, but are formally a part of the Republic of India. Of the hundreds of islands, less than 40 are inhabited. While you can travel and visit some of the islands, but as of 2005, there are also a few that India has declared closed to outsiders to preserve these distinct cultures, living much as they have for hundreds to thousands of years, remaining distant from all outsiders. The most extreme example are the Sentinelese people who live on North Sentinel Island (Google maps). [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Jul 11, 2013 - 39 comments

N-Words

They came from test tubes. They came pale as ghosts with eyes as blue-white as glacier ice. They came first out of Korea. N-Words - a science fiction short story by Ted Kosmatka. Audio version.
posted by Artw on Jul 9, 2013 - 28 comments

Mouse cloned from drop of blood

Scientists in Japan have cloned a mouse from a single drop of blood. (via)
posted by kliuless on Jun 30, 2013 - 33 comments

we are bacteria all the way down

Some of My Best Friends Are Germs
It is a striking idea that one of the keys to good health may turn out to involve managing our internal fermentation. Having recently learned to manage several external fermentations — of bread and kimchi and beer — I know a little about the vagaries of that process. You depend on the microbes, and you do your best to align their interests with yours, mainly by feeding them the kinds of things they like to eat — good “substrate.” But absolute control of the process is too much to hope for. It’s a lot more like gardening than governing. The successful gardener has always known you don’t need to master the science of the soil, which is yet another hotbed of microbial fermentation, in order to nourish and nurture it. You just need to know what it likes to eat — basically, organic matter — and how, in a general way, to align your interests with the interests of the microbes and the plants. The gardener also discovers that, when pathogens or pests appear, chemical interventions “work,” that is, solve the immediate problem, but at a cost to the long-term health of the soil and the whole garden. The drive for absolute control leads to unanticipated forms of disorder.
[more inside]
posted by ninjew on Jun 1, 2013 - 24 comments

Bearing Witness

Private Ceremonies. "Most women don’t talk about their abortions and miscarriages. Virtually none go through the experience with a loved one at their side. The greatest gift an abortion counselor can give is to bear witness, to be with a woman as she goes through this private journey, to witness her strength and weakness, her grief, her relief, her pain." A first person essay from a former abortion counselor.
posted by zarq on May 21, 2013 - 34 comments

Researchers calculate that life began before Earth existed

Geneticists have proposed that if the evolution of life follows Moore's Law, then it predates the existence of planet Earth.
posted by Confess, Fletch on Apr 18, 2013 - 92 comments

Intelligence Tests

Is Psychometric g a Myth? - "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Apr 11, 2013 - 113 comments

China is engineering genius babies

I just attended a debate in New York a few weeks ago about whether or not we should outlaw genetic engineering in babies and the audience was pretty split. In China, 95 percent of an audience would say, “Obviously you should make babies genetically healthier, happier, and brighter!
posted by Tom-B on Mar 18, 2013 - 147 comments

Some people just can't let sleeping frogs lie...

Extinction got you down? Try de-extinction! Our species has played a role in the extinction of ... many other species. But now some scientists are proposing a radical turn of the tables: Bringing lost species back from the dead. How to Resurrect Lost Species. [more inside]
posted by heyho on Mar 16, 2013 - 28 comments

“who’s managing our fisheries?”

Blood and Brains - can vampires survive a zombie apocalypse? [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Mar 9, 2013 - 7 comments

It's Not in Your Brain, It's in Your Genes

The psychiatric illnesses seem very different — schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, major depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A study funded by the NIMH and published in The Lancet, as reported by the New York Times indicates that five seemingly-different psychiatric diseases share several genetic glitches. [more inside]
posted by kinetic on Mar 1, 2013 - 49 comments

Models and their Mothers

Models and their Mothers by Howard Schatz. Interview. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Feb 27, 2013 - 35 comments

Bigfoot DNA as mysterious as the elusive cryptid

November 24, 2012: analysis of extensive DNA sequencing of 'a novel hominin hybrid species, commonly called “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch” ... suggests that the legendary Sasquatch is a human relative that arose approximately 15,000 years ago as a hybrid cross of modern Homo sapiens with an unknown primate species.' The press release claimed that the research was "currently under peer-review," except that no scientific journal would publish the research, until now: DeNovo, an open access scientific journal. But DeNovo isn't really open access, as it costs $30 to view the article, the paper itself is brand new, the domain was recently purchased, and the website features generic stock photos. Ars Technica digs deeper, summarizing some of the "open access" article, and providing a link to a particularly insightful clip on YouTube, with an odd water mark. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 18, 2013 - 68 comments

Bring me more genomes

"If the history of public health has until now been embodied by the map—as in British physician John Snow’s famous map, which allowed him to curb the London cholera outbreak of 1854 and to found, in doing so, the modern field of epidemiology—Snitkin was embarking on a new kind of epidemiology: one founded on the phylogenetic tree." Writing for Wired, Carl Zimmer describes how Evan Snitkin and Julie Segre used genome sequencing to halt a bacterial outbreak at the National Institute of Health's Clinical Center. (via The Feature)
posted by catlet on Jan 26, 2013 - 9 comments

East India Company?

A recent genetic study suggests that around 2200 BC explorers from India arrived and settled on the continent of Australia. "Unlike their European successors, these earlier settlers were assimilated by the locals. And they brought with them both technological improvements and one of Australia’s most iconic animals." [SLEconomist]
posted by Guernsey Halleck on Jan 25, 2013 - 25 comments

Some Budding Yeast I Used to Grow

A biologist researcher laments the present difficulty of getting funding for yeast experiments. In song form. With a stop motion animation video. And music by Gotye.
posted by grouse on Jan 24, 2013 - 17 comments

Make Babies

"Older parenthood will upend American society." "Is waiting to have kids a big mistake?" "Why do women believe they can delay children for so long?" "Older men are more likely than young ones to father a child who develops autism or schizophrenia, because of random mutations that become more numerous with advancing paternal age."
posted by vidur on Dec 12, 2012 - 162 comments

"The Double Helix has more in common with Truman Capote's In Cold Blood than, say, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."

"The Turn of the Screw: James Watson on The Double Helix and his changing view of Rosalind Franklin": Maggie Koerth-Baker's brief interview with Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, about his "infamous" treatment of Franklin in his book The Double Helix, on the occasion of the publication of an annotated and illustrated edition of the same.
posted by ocherdraco on Nov 8, 2012 - 32 comments

Breast cancer rules rewritten in 'landmark' study

What we currently call breast cancer should be thought of as 10 completely separate diseases, according to an international study which has been described as a "landmark". The categories could improve treatment by tailoring drugs for a patient's exact type of breast cancer and help predict survival more accurately. The study in Nature analysed breast cancers from 2,000 women [Abstract] . It will take at least three years for the findings to be used in hospitals. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Nov 5, 2012 - 37 comments

Hacking the President’s DNA

Hacking the President’s DNA. "The U.S. government is surreptitiously collecting the DNA of world leaders, and is reportedly protecting that of Barack Obama. Decoded, these genetic blueprints could provide compromising information. In the not-too-distant future, they may provide something more as well—the basis for the creation of personalized bioweapons that could take down a president and leave no trace."
posted by homunculus on Oct 26, 2012 - 45 comments

Microbial Bebop

When looking for inspiration, most songwriters to go well-used emotional wells – triumph or loss, love or heartbreak. But Peter Larsen, a biologist at Argonne National Laboratory, looked to the microbes of the English Channel. He used seven years’ worth of genetic and environmental data, converting geochemical and microbial abundance measurements into notes, beats, and chords.
posted by Egg Shen on Oct 8, 2012 - 13 comments

Eating the plate instead of the food

With the possible exception of the Nobel awards, physicists seem to get all the press these days, whether they're doing quantum level work at the LHC, or cosmology via the latest satellite data. Biologists, not so much. It's too bad, because Richard Lenski is running one of the great evolutionary experiments of our time, and it's producing interesting results. [more inside]
posted by CheeseDigestsAll on Oct 8, 2012 - 34 comments

O soapy flavour / Why pollutest thou my food? / Thou me makest retch

A genome-wide association study has linked a dislike of cilantro with a variant of a single nucleotide in a cluster of olfactory receptor genes. The palatability of cilantro has previously been a divisive subject on the blue. [more inside]
posted by dephlogisticated on Sep 12, 2012 - 128 comments

ENCODE: the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements

In 2001, we learned the sequence of our genome; now, we have amassed a vast amount of knowledge about what those sequences actually do. Yesterday, the data from the ENCODE project went live. [more inside]
posted by Westringia F. on Sep 6, 2012 - 32 comments

Otzi was More Neanderthal than You

Ötzi the Iceman died around 3,300 B.C., yet his body was preserved frozen in the Alps until 1991. DNA sequencing of Neandertals (who died out about 35,000 years ago) suggests modern humans with ancestry outside of Africa carry a few percent of Neandertal genes due to interbreeding. Now (in a blog post knocking down a re-interpretation of the Neandertal DNA evidence) paleontologist John Hawks previews an upcoming publication of his examining Ötzi's DNA::
If we took as a baseline that Europeans have an average of 3.5 percent Neandertal, Ötzi would have around 5.5 percent (again, the actual percentage would be highly model-dependent). He has substantially greater sharing with Neandertals than any other recent person we have ever examined.
Previously (Ötzi), Previously (Neandertals)
posted by Schmucko on Aug 18, 2012 - 48 comments

Spiders, a post about them

The fear of spiders is hardwired into most of humanity, despite the creatures often being beneficial to people. For some reason, it's the odd and scary stories about spiders that stick in our heads.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Aug 10, 2012 - 99 comments

The Orgins of the Melungeon

A relatively small group of people from Appalachian, the dark-skinned Melungeons (previously) have been a source for speculation and conjecture for many years. Exactly who where their ancestors? Portuguese? Turks? Roma? Cherokee? A recent DNA study (108 page pdf) posted in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (site link) says otherwise (WaPo article).
posted by edgeways on May 24, 2012 - 95 comments

Hit me Einstein, one more time!

When a Blow to the Head Creates a Sudden Genius
posted by Brandon Blatcher on May 19, 2012 - 29 comments

The Perfect Milk Machine

The Perfect Milk Machine: How Big Data Transformed the Dairy Industry
posted by Joe in Australia on May 1, 2012 - 38 comments

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