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]
Here's a strange one for the books: Science has taken notice that a really, really LARGE proportion of schizophrenic patients smoke. In fact, Scientific American Mind reports that an average of 85% of schizophrenic patients smoke cigarettes compared to only 20% in the general population. Many schizophrenics also appear to have abnormal thermoregulation, an impaired ability to understand body language, an inability to perceive an optical illusion called "the hollow mask illusion," an impaired ability to produce a brain protein known as the muscarinic M1 receptor, and an abnormally large number of genetic mutations known as CNV's or "copy number variations."
"Algae is the ultimate biological system using sunlight to capture and convert carbon dioxide into fuel... I came up with a notion to trick algae into pumping more [fuel] out." Craig Venter's Synthetic Genomics partners with ExxonMobil in a $600M project to harvest biofuels from genetically engineered algae. "We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry." [previously] [more inside]
The Village Dog Project is an ongoing research project to document genetic diversity in pariah dogs. These dogs haven't been subject to breed pressure, and may be able to help researchers learn more about the transition from wolf to dog. (via)
"In Massachusetts, a young woman makes genetically modified E. coli in a closet she converted into a home lab. A part-time DJ in Berkeley, Calif., works in his attic to cultivate viruses extracted from sewage. In Seattle, a grad-school dropout wants to breed algae in a personal biology lab. These hobbyists represent a growing strain of geekdom known as biohacking, in which do-it-yourselfers tinker with the building blocks of life in the comfort of their own homes." They might be discovering cures for diseases or developing new biofuels, but are their experiments too risky? Via. [more inside]
On behalf of medical organizations, universities, & individual patients, pathologists and genetics researchers, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the US Patent and Trademark Office. Myriad holds the US patents to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, associated with hereditary causes of breast and ovarian cancers. Their patents guarantee the company the right to prevent anyone else from testing or studying those genes, which the ACLU says is unconstitutional and inhibits researchers from finding treatments and cures. [more inside]
The universal grammar of birdsong is genetically encoded. "A new study, published online in the journal Nature, shows that the songs of isolated zebra finches evolve over multiple generations to resemble those of birds in natural colonies. These findings show that song learning in birds is not purely the product of nurture, but has a strong genetic basis, and suggest that bird song has a universal grammar, or an intrinsic structure which is present at birth."
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)
Will the US become more progressive in the future or will advances in neuroscience cause the abandonment of the "equality premise"? [more inside]
Designer Babies: For a mere $18,400 you could have your very own sex-screened child. Don't care about the sex? How about screened for hair color, eye color, or cancer tendencies? (via (via)) [more inside]
In 2000, the Spanish Pyrenean Ibex (a type of mountain goat) went extinct. In early 2009 it was brought back to life, the first time an extinct species has been "successfully" cloned. The newborn bucardo died of respiratory failure minutes after birth, setting a second extinction record.
Hugh Reinhoff has sequenced his daughters DNA at home attempting to diagnose her unique genetic mutation. [more inside]
My Genome, My Self: Steven Pinker considers what we can expect from personal genomics. Searching for Intelligence in Our Genes: Carl Zimmer looks at the hunt to learn about the role of genes in intelligence.
"Leaves that crawl".... Assimilated chloroplasts give a species of sea slug its deep green glow; and to keep it, Elysia Chlorotica becomes even a little more plant-like....
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."
Dr. Joe Z. Tsien has previously created a strain of mice unable to form memories, one with much improved memory - "Doogie" mice - and can now erase single mouse memories. "Our work reveals a molecular mechanism of how that can be done quickly and without doing damage to brain cells." Remembering to forget....
How We Evolve: "A growing number of scientists argue that human culture itself has become the foremost agent of biological change, making us — for the past 10,000 years or so — the inadvertent architects of our own future selves." [more inside]
Genome Quilts "The quilts are visually pleasing, with their strong colors and seemingly traditional design, but they hide and reveal an entirely other construct of information." [via]
Scientists Repurpose Adult Cells - "Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research." [nature abstract, nature writeup, audio announcement]
One Pill Makes You Autistic -- And One Pill Changes You Back. It might also lead to recreational autism, where people who want to take a break from having messy emotions about other people decide to unplug and enter a state where human relationships are no more important than inanimate objects. [more inside]
The first ever, it is believed, has been produced at Cornell University. The feat was apparently much overlooked, and has many concerned over the lack of public debate of this field of research. Genetically modified human embryos.
A new round of genetic tests has confirmed it: The 'big lizards' of our childhood fantasies were more likely 'big birds.' In fact, they probably even had feathers, and looked more like this than this. Mind blowing, I know, but I guess this demonstrates that, despite what some may think, science really doesn't have a problem admitting that it got something wrong when new evidence comes to light.
Any admixture would have to be driven by male Neanderthals. Two years ago we discussed morphological evidence of nontrivial interbreeding. Since then Neanderthal DNA has been examined for genetic support for this model of human evolution, largely contradicting the belief in Neanderthal contribution to modern humanity. Indeed any contribution from the Neanderthal gene pool to the evolution of modern humans might be very rare and indeed it appears that the best candidate gene thus (MC1R) far likely was a result of convergent evolution. [more inside]
Want your genome on a hard drive but don't have the money? 23andMe can give you almost that: a scan of your SNPs, presented online and complete with analyses derived from up-to-date medical research (and a few educated guesses). Eight months ago, blogs were rife with speculation of who 23 could be and what the connection with Google could mean. [more inside]
The allure of blue eyes has long been celebrated. In the Odyssey, Homer gives the goddess Athena "bright blue eyes," and our fascination persists to this day with actors like Brad Pitt and Naomi Watts. Until recently, however, no one could explain the phenomena. [more inside]
'Race' graphically illustrated - "most Europeans" vs. Ashkenazim (previously; see also IQ & Gladwell, viz. ;) [more inside]
Humans are evolving more rapidly than in the distant past, according to a new study published in PNAS. "The massive growth of human populations has led to far more genetic mutations, and every mutation that is advantageous to people has a chance of being selected and driven toward fixation. We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than they were different from Neanderthals", says lead author John Hawks. [more inside]
Brainbow. Using some very cool genetic tricks, Harvard scientists have found a way to make transgenic mice that express various mixtures of different coloured fluorescent proteins in their neurons. The result, individual brain cells with up to 90 distinct colours. Not surprisingly, this visually impressive work is in this month's issue of Nature.
Devil facial tumor disease has ravaged the population of Tasmanian Devils in the last decade. DFTD is a transmissible cancer, i.e. the tumor cells themselves (which differ genetically from their host animal) are the agent responsible. The disease is spread by biting and other contact, and the resulting grotesque tumors interfere with feeding and lead to starvation. Poor immune response may be partially responsible. This is actually not the only such disease: canine transmissible venereal tumor is an analogue that has been known to be contagious since the 19th century. (CTVT, however, gets a proper immune response.) [more inside]
More cuckoo than cuckoos: mate two salmon, get a... trout! Just give the parents a sperm transplant. And the sperm stem cells work in females too:
...Injecting the male cells into female salmon sometimes worked, too, prompting five female salmon to ovulate trout eggs.... The stem cells were still primitive enough to switch gears from sperm-producers to egg-producers when they wound up inside female organs....
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
Myostatin is a genetic protein that affects muscle growth in humans and animals. Scientists have learned a lot about this protein from a noticeable myostatin mutation common in the Whippet dog breed. Whippets with one mutant copy of the gene are faster, so these are desirable for racing dog breeders. But selective breeding has caused increased instances of both copies of the myostatin genes mutating, which results in "double muscle" Incredible Hulk dogs!?
A link between race and breast cancer. The findings of this study by a Philadelphia research team dovetail other recent findings, including those of Chicago researcher Funmi Olopade, a MacArthur winning doctor from Nigeria who is studying the genetic implications of the discovery. A Q & A with Dr. Olopade on her research. Dr. Olopade discussing her work on the Tavis Smiley show in 2003.
The Etruscan civilization flourished in central Italy around the 6th century BC before the rise of the Roman Empire. Known for high art and high living, some say the Etruscans were influential in molding Roman and western civilization, however it has always been an enigma on where the Etruscans originally came from. DNA evidence has probably solved the mystery, confirming what Greek historian Herodotus first said over 2,500 years ago.
"Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution." Despite Theodosius Dobzhansky's succint description of natural selection at the core of biological research since Darwin's fateful trip to the Galapagos, evolutionary biologist Michael Lynch respectfully dissents, asking "whether natural selection is a necessary or sufficient force to explain" the complexity of multicellular organisms we see today, where mutation, recombination and genetic drift are often overlooked, but critical factors in evolutionary theory and understanding.
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.
Highly Sensitive People: if you prick us, do we not bleed? and burst into tears? and run from the room and fling ourselves down on the bed?
Are you a Highly Sensitive Person? This trait ... is inherited by 15 to 20% of the population, and ... seems to be present in all higher animals. Being an HSP means your nervous system is more sensitive to subtleties. Your sight, hearing, and sense of smell are not necessarily keener .... But your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. Being an HSP also means, necessarily, that you are more easily overstimulated, stressed out, overwhelmed. This trait ... has been mislabeled as shyness (not an inherited trait), introversion (30% of HSPs are actually extraverts), inhibitedness, fearfulness, and the like. HSPs can be these, but none of these are the fundamental trait they have inherited ...
yahoo group | latest research (fascinating!) | newsletter | wikipedia | blog | via
yahoo group | latest research (fascinating!) | newsletter | wikipedia | blog | via
Bisphenol A: this extremely common chemical leaches out of food packaging and plastics, and was long considered safe. But a number of recent studies link it to developmental problems and cancer in lab animals in doses far lower than the current regulatory limit. Canada and the United States both review the scientific data available in the coming months, but critics already worry the process will be corrupted by industry. Industry, of course, insists that BPA is safe.
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!
It's genital evolution day! Penis evolution. For my money, evolution reached it's zenith with the Argentine Lake Duck. Plenty more MeFi penis related shenanigans here , including the penis museum.
The "Darwinian paradox" of homosexuality presents the conundrum of how a potential genetic basis for homosexual behavior could provide a survival benefit to offpsring and extend through generations, when sexual reproduction would seem to place strong selection pressure against such a "gene". Recently developed mathematical models (PDF) from researchers Sergey Gavrilets and William Rice not only show how a "gay gene" might proliferate within a population, but also provides testable hypotheses, including predictions of "widespread bisexuality" (subscription req'd).
PermaPuppies - they never get big. Spoof commercial biotech site is just viral advertizing for Michael Crichton's new book, but some of the ads are fun.