Designer babies, the end of diseases, genetically modified humans that never age. Outrageous things that used to be science fiction are suddenly becoming reality. The only thing we know for sure is that things will change irreversibly. [more inside]
In the wake of the sequencing of the human genome in the early 2000s, genome pioneers and social scientists alike called for an end to the use of race as a variable in genetic research. Unfortunately, by some measures, the use of race as a biological category has increased in the postgenomic age. Although inconsistent definition and use has been a chief problem with the race concept, it has historically been used as a taxonomic categorization based on common hereditary traits (such as skin color) to elucidate the relationship between our ancestry and our genes. We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research—so disputed and so mired in confusion—is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way. - An editorial in Science exploring the conundrum facing genomic researchers where race is both fundamentally flawed as a scientific model and violently dangerous but still the only consistent lens through which study participants understand the information they have about their own connection to human diversity [more inside]
Humans 2.0 - "With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system." [more inside]
When a Washington couple failed a paternity test, they thought the fertility clinic had used the wrong sperm. But the clinic was pretty sure it hadn't. A more detailed fertility test showed that the father wasn't the father -- his never-born twin brother was. [more inside]
'Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe - Intuition can encourage opinions that are contrary to the facts' (SciAm)
In 2012 the genetics company 23andme gave web app developers the ability to create app mashups with DNA information. Most apps help users add genetics to their electronic health record, or connect with relatives, or explore risk factors for diseases. Two days ago a new webapp did something different: it showed how to only let white people in. [more inside]
The CRISPR Revolution [ungated: 1,2,3] - "Biologists continue to hone their tools for deleting, replacing or otherwise editing DNA and a strategy called CRISPR has quickly become one of the most popular ways to do genome engineering. Utilizing a modified bacterial protein and a RNA that guides it to a specific DNA sequence, the CRISPR system provides unprecedented control over genes in many species, including perhaps humans. This control has allowed many new types of experiments, but also raised questions about what CRISPR can enable." [more inside]
Scientists are developing ways to edit the DNA of tomorrow’s children. Should they stop before it’s too late?
Locals couldn’t understand why police hunting the murderer of a 13-year-old girl were taking DNA samples of elderly women. A high profile Italian murder investigation exposes the secrets of more than one family, with controversial collateral damage. [more inside]
"Scientists have reconstructed the genome of a man who lived 45,000 years ago, by far the oldest genetic record ever obtained from modern humans. The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, provided new clues to the expansion of modern humans from Africa about 60,000 years ago, when they moved into Europe and Asia. And the genome, extracted from a fossil thighbone found in Siberia, added strong support to a provocative hypothesis: Early humans interbred with Neanderthals."
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.
Geneticists have proposed that if the evolution of life follows Moore's Law, then it predates the existence of planet Earth.
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]
"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)
"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.
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."
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]
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]
NASA Proves Building Blocks Of DNA Come From Space. "NASA researchers studying meteorites have found that they contain several of the components needed to make DNA on Earth. The discovery provides support for the idea that the building blocks for DNA were likely created in space, and carried to Earth on objects, like meteorites, that crashed into the planet’s surface. According to the theory, the ready-made DNA parts could have then assembled under Earth’s early conditions to create the first DNA."
The Xenotext Experiment is Christian Bök's [Previously],"nine-year long attempt to create an example of “living poetry.” I have been striving to write a short verse about language and genetics, whereupon I use a “chemical alphabet” to translate this poem into a sequence of DNA for subsequent implantation into the genome of a bacterium (in this case, a microbe called Deinococcus radiodurans—an extremophile, capable of surviving, without mutation, in even the most hostile milieus, including the vacuum of outer space)." [Via] [more inside]
Could the three established domains of life - eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea - be joined by a fourth?
“To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.” Craig Venter created synthetic life and inscribed this quote from James Joyce into its genome. Now he has been threatened with a suit for copyright infringement by the very litigious James Joyce estate.
The Someone You're Not: "Our packed prisons are starting to disgorge hundreds of mostly African-American men who, over the last few decades, we wrongly convicted of violent crimes. This is what it's like to spend nearly thirty years in prison for something you didn't do. This is what it's like to spend nearly thirty years as someone you aren't. And for Ray Towler, this is what it's like to be free." Via. [more inside]
Invasive amniocentesis and chorionic villi sampling (CVS) tests are commonly used to determine the chromosomal, structural and genetic abnormalities in fetuses. But could they eventually become obsolete? A Chinese study has found that a complete copy of the fetal genome exists in the mother's blood, suggesting many prenatal diagnoses could potentially be performed noninvasively. [more inside]
Noncoding "junk" DNA is a signature part of the genomes of eukaryotes. Scientists have now identified a case of such DNA causing a genetic disease (Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy) in certain genetic backgrounds by stabilizing the messenger RNA of a gene.
Followup to this post: A US District Court has ruled that Myriad Genetic's patents on breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which allow them to hold exclusive rights to a widely used genetic test for inherited breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility, are invalid. Genomics Law Report analyzes the ruling in two posts. The decision is likely to be challenged in a legal appeal — but if upheld, it could have huge implications for the biotechnology industry. [more inside]
grumblebee's post about cell size and scale the other day was quite fascinating. Pulling back to the home for that site, the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah delivers educational materials on genetics, bio-science and health topics ranging from stem cells to gene therapy, and from epigenetics to heredity. Explore the neurobiology of normal and addicted brains and the genetic contribution to this chronic disease.
The Home Office, the UK government department responsible for immigration control, has initiated a program to test the DNA from of potential asylum seekers in an attempt to confirm their true nationalities. The initial program is a six-month pilot limited to claimants arriving from the Horn of Africa. The program, currently using forensic samples provided on a voluntary basis, could potentially expand to other nationalities if successful. The Home Office spokeswoman said ancestral DNA testing would not be used alone but would be combined with language analysis, investigative interviewing techniques and other recognized forensic disciplines, but many are decrying the "deeply flawed" program, from refugee support groups to scientists in the genetic forensics fields (via). [more inside]
Familial genetic profiling of law enforcement DNA databases has already been used to succesfully establish both guilt and innocence. Legal and moral questions on these expanded techniques abound and are comprehensively explored by a speaker at a recent FBI symposium on the topic. In the author's words, scenarios previously limited to movies like Minority Report are unfolding quietly, before most of us have thought about the consequences. (Via)
Hugh Reinhoff has sequenced his daughters DNA at home attempting to diagnose her unique genetic mutation. [more inside]
Now: The Rest of the Genome. "Only 1 percent of the genome is made up of classic genes. Scientists are exploring the other 99 percent and uncovering new secrets and new questions."
U.S. military practices genetic discrimination in denying benefits. "Those medically discharged with genetic diseases are left without disability or retirement benefits. Some are fighting back."
As advances in DNA testing allow us to discover our genetic origins in ever-greater detail, many people are making surprising discoveries. Especially in the melting-pot that is the USA. Of course there are always those who feel that access to such information about who we are will only lead to bad things
Controversial geneticist Jim Watson will soon be the first man to receve a fully-decoded copy of his own DNA blueprint. Watson and Crick discovered the structure of the DNA molecule and won the Nobel Prize in 1962. Watson is also known for his frank opinions. Very frank, indeed.
As legends go, the first recorded instance of violence in the feud occurred after an 1873 dispute about the ownership of a hog: Floyd Hatfield had it and Randolph McCoy said it was his. The rest is Appalachian history. But it turns out that history may have had a helping hand in something called Von Hippel-Lindau disease. It weren't the moonshine, Pa. It was the DNA that did it.
...Historians teach that they are mostly descended from different peoples: the Irish from the Celts and the English from the Anglo-Saxons who invaded from northern Europe and drove the Celts to the country’s western and northern fringes. But geneticists who have tested DNA throughout the British Isles are edging toward a different conclusion. Many are struck by the overall genetic similarities, leading some to claim that both Britain and Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years by a single people that have remained in the majority, with only minor additions from later invaders like Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans. The implication that the Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh have a great deal in common with each other, at least from the geneticist’s point of view, seems likely to please no one.A United Kingdom? Maybe
See also Myths of British ancestry
In the words of one well known Basque cultural icon: HA Ha!
Poor old Abe. He had an impressive medical history, as previously discussed. Will we ever figure out all his ailments? As an explanation for "his especially clumsy gait," one theory claims that he had Marfan's Syndrome (with good company). But now researchers are leaning more toward a new theory, that a gene-linked disorder called ataxia. But Lincoln also suffered from depression which could have been heriditary, for which he took "little blue pills" that gave him mercury poisoning, which could explain his insomnia, tremors and rage attacks, gait, and more. Of course, we also suspect that he was in the closet. Lincoln's DNA will continue to be a growth industry, at least until somebody can get hold of a sample of the old guy and figure him out for sure.
DNA: frightening government privacy invasion tool of tomorrow or beautiful source of personal art today?
(A)bort, (I)gnore, (R)evert to Grandma's DNA A jaw-dropping revision to Mendelian inheritance: bad genes can be replaced from a secret ancestral stash. (The same researchers have previously mentioned other ways to get around Mendel.) Also, DNA gets a fake fifth letter.
If your European ancestors survived the Bubonic Plague 700 years ago, they very likely may have also passed on to you a mutation of the CCR5 gene -- called delta 32. This may not sound exciting, but delta 32 is a powerful mistake. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, attacks the human immune system, infecting the white blood cells sent to destroy it. The delta 32 mutation, however, effectively blocks the crucial gateway into human cells the virus needs. In fact, possessing delta 32 could save your life, and the lives of your children.
To settle the issue, I extracted my own DNA. I extracted the DNA of my subject. I tested both in a gel electrophoresis [flash] chamber that I built myself. As I suspected, although my DNA is delicious, I am not a kiwi fruit.
not so junk DNA the idea has always made me uncomfortable. now scientists are taking a closer look at base-pair sequences that have been generally overlooked till now.
"We are becoming the masters of our own DNA. But does that give us the right to decide that my children should never have been born?" John Sundman is a science fiction novelist and the father of two children with severe medical conditions. In this two-part article he shares his experiences and thoughts on bioethics, the Human Genome Project and whether genetics research is paving the way for a resurgent eugenics movement.
Stupidity should be cured, says DNA discoverer. "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great."
I just discovered the answer to a question I asked here. Apparently, the police can get a DNA sample from a suspect without the suspect's knowledge or consent. The police probably had a warrant, but the article doesn't say.
Need a user's manual for your DNA? Sure that there's some bug in there you could fix if you knew how to? Here are the tools you'll need. I know the web isn't relly about one-to-many publishing, but just sometimes it does it wonderfully well.
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