Genetics




Genetics, from the word "Genesis" or "Origin", is the science of genes, heredity, and the variation of organisms. The word "genetics" was first suggested to describe the study of inheritance and the science of variation by the prominent British scientist William Bateson in a personal letter to Adam Sedgwick, dated April 18, 1905. Bateson first used the term "genetics" publicly at the Third International Conference on Genetics (London, England) in 1906.

Heredity and variations form the basis of genetics. Humans applied knowledge of genetics in prehistory with the domestication and breeding of plants and animals. In modern research, genetics provides important tools for the investigation of the function of a particular gene, e.g., analysis of genetic interactions. Within organisms, genetic information generally is carried in chromosomes, where it is represented in the chemical structure of particular DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules. Read more ...




In the News ...





Twelve DNA areas linked with the age at which we have our first child and family size   Medical Express - October 31, 2016

Researchers have identified 12 specific areas of the DNA sequence that are robustly related with the age at which we have our first child, and the total number of children we have during the course of our life. The study includes an analysis of 62 datasets with information from 238,064 men and women for age at first birth, and almost 330,000 men and women for the number of children. Until now, reproductive behavior was thought to be mainly linked to personal choices or social circumstances and environmental factors. However, this new research shows that genetic variants can be isolated and that there is also a biological basis for reproductive behavior.




  Forget DNA, experts say RNA could hold the key to 'eternal life pill'   Daily Mail - October 8, 2016

The benefit of manipulating RNA rather than DNA is that the cell's blueprint does not change, which could cause unpredictable, permanent changes to the cell. This focus on RNA represents a potentially major shift in how scientists try to prevent cellular damage.




Youthful DNA in old age   Science Daily - September 22, 2016

The DNA of young people is regulated to express the right genes at the right time. With the passing of years, the regulation of the DNA gradually gets disrupted, which is an important cause of aging. A study of over 3,000 people shows that this is not true for everyone: there are people whose DNA appears youthful despite their advanced years.




Tags on RNA silence X chromosome in females   PhysOrg - September 19, 2016

The addition of a chemical tag on an RNA molecule is the critical switch that inactivates one X chromosome in every cell, ensuring healthy development in all female mammals, according to new research. The findings could offer researchers a new scientific avenue to pursue treatments for X-linked chromosomal diseases in females.




Faulty gene linked to depression and cardiovascular disease   Medical Express - September 13, 2016


Stylistic diagram shows a gene in relation to the double helix structure of DNA and to a chromosome (right). The chromosome is X-shaped because it is dividing. Introns are regions often found in eukaryote genes that are removed in the splicing process (after the DNA is transcribed into RNA): Only the exons encode the protein. The diagram labels a region of only 55 or so bases as a gene. In reality, most genes are hundreds of times longer.




Erasing unpleasant memories with a genetic switch   Science Daily - June 30, 2016
Dementia, accidents, or traumatic events can make us lose the memories formed before the injury or the onset of the disease. Researchers have now shown that some memories can also be erased when one particular gene is switched off. In the reported study, the mice were trained to move from one side of a box to the other as soon as a lamp lights up, thus avoiding a foot stimulus. This learning process is called associative learning. Its most famous example is Pavlov's dog: conditioned to associate the sound of a bell with getting food, the dog starts salivating whenever it hears a bell. When the scientists switched off the neuroplastin gene after conditioning, the mice were no longer able to perform the task properly. In other words, they showed learning and memory deficits that were specifically related to associative learning. The control mice with the neuroplastin gene switched on, by contrast, could still do the task perfectly.




Researchers explore epigenetic influences of chronic pain   Medical Express - June 21, 2016
Researchers at Drexel University College of Medicine are aiming to identify new molecular mechanisms involved in pain. Their latest study, published this month in Epigenetics & Chromatin, shows how one protein - acting as a master controller - can regulate the expression of a large number of genes that modulate pain. Epigenetics




Chemists offer more evidence of RNA as the origin of life   PhysOrg - May 14, 2016

A team of chemists at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich has shown how the purines adenine and guanine can be synthesized easily and in reasonable yields, offering more evidence that RNA could have served as the origin of life on Earth. The team describes the process they took in looking for evidence that RNA could have been the first self-replicating molecule that eventually led to all life on our planet and what they found.




First happiness genes have been located   Science Daily - April 25, 2016

For the first time in history, researchers have isolated the parts of the human genome that could explain the differences in how humans experience happiness. These are the findings of a large-scale international study in over 298,000 people. The researchers found three genetic variants for happiness, two variants that can account for differences in symptoms of depression, and eleven locations on the human genome that could account for varying degrees of neuroticism. The genetic variants for happiness are mainly expressed in the central nervous system and the adrenal glands and pancreatic system. The results were published in the journal Nature Genetics.




The "R" in RNA can easily be made in space, and that has implications for life beyond Earth   LA Times - April 8, 2016
New research suggests that the sugar ribose -- the "R" in RNA -- is probably found in comets and asteroids that zip through the solar system and may be more abundant throughout the universe than was previously thought. The finding has implications not just for the study of the origins of life on Earth, but also for understanding how much life there might be beyond our planet. Scientists already knew that several of the molecules necessary for life including amino acids, nucleobases and others can be made from the interaction of cometary ices and space radiation. But ribose, which makes up the backbone of the RNA molecule, had been elusive -- until now.'




A new study pinpoints the precise mechanism that turns the inheritance of environmental influences "on" and "off."

Biological mechanism passes on long-term epigenetic memories   Science Daily - March 28, 2016
According to epigenetics -- the study of inheritable changes in gene expression not directly coded in our DNA -- our life experiences may be passed on to our children and our children's children. Studies on survivors of traumatic events have suggested that exposure to stress may indeed have lasting effects on subsequent generations. But how exactly are these genetic "memories" passed on?

Researchers have been preoccupied with how the effects of stress, trauma, and other environmental exposures are passed from one generation to the next for years. Small RNA molecules -- short sequences of RNA that regulate the expression of genes -- are among the key factors involved in mediating this kind of inheritance. Dr. Rechavi and his team had previously identified a "small RNA inheritance" mechanism through which RNA molecules produced a response to the needs of specific cells and how they were regulated between generations.




More ancient viruses lurk in our DNA than we thought   PhysOrg - March 22, 2016

Think your DNA is all human? Think again. And a new discovery suggests it's even less human than scientists previously thought. Think your DNA is all human? Think again. And a new discovery suggests it's even less human than scientists previously thought. Whether or not it can replicate, or reproduce, it isn't yet known. But other studies of ancient virus DNA have shown it can affect the humans who carry it. n addition to finding these new stretches, the scientists also confirmed 17 other pieces of virus DNA found in human genomes by other scientists in recent years. The study looked at the entire span of DNA, or genome, from people from around the world, including a large number from Africa - where the ancestors of modern humans originated before migrating around the world. The team used sophisticated techniques to compare key areas of each person's genome to the reference human genome.




Innate teaching skills 'part of human nature', study says   PhysOrg - February 8, 2016

Some 40 years ago, Washington State University anthropologist Barry Hewlett noticed that when the Aka pygmies stopped to rest between hunts, parents would give their infants small axes, digging sticks and knives. To parents living in the developed world, this could be seen as irresponsible. But in all the intervening years, Hewlett has never seen an infant cut him- or herself. He has, however, seen the exercise as part of the Aka way of teaching, an activity that most researchers - from anthropologists to psychologists to biologists - consider rare or non-existent in such small-scale cultures. He has completed a small but novel study of the Aka, concluding that, teaching is part of the human genome.




Error Found in Study of First Ancient African Genome   Scientific American - January 30, 2016
An error has forced researchers to go back on their claim that humans across the whole of Africa carry DNA inherited from Eurasian immigrants. This week the authors issued a note explaining the mistake in their October 2015 Science paper on the genome of a 4,500-year-old man from Ethiopia - the first complete ancient human genome from Africa. The man was named after Mota Cave, where his remains were found. Although the first humans left Africa some 100,000 years ago, a study published in 2013 found that some came back again around 3,000 years ago; this reverse migration has left its trace in African genomes. In the Science paper, researchers confirmed this finding. The paper also suggested that populations across the continent still harbour significant ancestry from the Middle Eastern farmers who were behind the back-migration. Populations in East Africa, including Ethiopian highlanders who live near Mota Cave, carried the highest levels of Eurasian ancestry. But the team also found vestiges of the ‘backflow’ migration in West Africans and in a pygmy group in Central Africa, the Mbuti.




Genes for a longer, healthier life found   Science Daily - December 1, 2015

Out of a 'haystack' of 40,000 genes from three different organisms, scientists have found genes that are involved in physical aging. If you influence only one of these genes, the healthy lifespan of laboratory animals is extended -- and possibly that of humans, too. DNA strand. Driven by the quest for eternal youth, humankind has spent centuries obsessed with the question of how it is exactly that we age. With advancements in molecular genetic methods in recent decades, the search for the genes involved in the aging process has greatly accelerated.




Heart disease gene 'found in women'   BBC - October 21, 2015
Scientists have identified a gene that puts women at higher risk of heart disease, an early study suggests. The work showed that women who had a particular version of the BCAR1 gene were more likely than other women to have heart attacks and strokes. In contrast, men who had the gene were not at increased risk.




Extra DNA acts as a 'spare tire' for our genomes   Science Daily - July 6, 2015
Carrying around a spare tire is a good thing -- you never know when you'll get a flat. Turns out we're all carrying around 'spare tires' in our genomes, too. Today researchers report that an extra set of guanines (or 'G's) in our DNA may function just like a 'spare' to help prevent many cancers from developing.




Longer Life May Lie in Number of Anti-Inflammatory Genes   Live Science - April 8, 2015
Why do some kinds of animals live longer than others? For mammals, part of the answer may lie in the number of anti-inflammatory genes. From mouse to man - and across 12 other mammal species examined - researchers found that those with more copies of genes called CD33rSIGLEC, which is involved in fighting inflammation, have a longer life span. Moreover, mice that researchers bred to have fewer copies of these genes experience premature aging and early death compared with normal mice, the study found.




Breast Cancer Genes: How Much Risk Do BRCA Mutations Bring?   Live Science - April 8, 2015
Women with mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, but a woman's exact cancer risk may vary greatly depending on exactly how her gene is mutated, or changed from its original form. A new study identifies a number of mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that may help doctors provide women with more precise estimates of their cancer risk. "We have women who are 70 and 80 years old who have BRCA1 [or] BRCA2 mutations and have never developed cancer of any kind," said study researcher Timothy Rebbeck, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. "If we can give more precise risk estimates," this may help women with their decisions, Rebbeck said.




New study hints at spontaneous appearance of primordial DNA   PhysOrg - April 7, 2015

The self-organization properties of DNA-like molecular fragments four billion years ago may have guided their own growth into repeating chemical chains long enough to act as a basis for primitive life. While studies of ancient mineral formations contain evidence for the evolution of bacteria from 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago - just half a billion years after the stabilization of Earth's crust - what might have preceded the formation of such unicellular organisms is still a mystery. The new findings suggest a novel scenario for the non-biological origins of nucleic acids, which are the building blocks of living organisms.




-D maps of folded genome: Catalog of 10,000 loops reveals new form of genetic regulation   Science Daily - December 11, 2014

In a triumph for cell biology, researchers have assembled the first high-resolution, 3-D maps of entire folded genomes and found a structural basis for gene regulation -- a kind of "genomic origami" that allows the same genome to produce different types of cells.




Complex genetic ancestry of Americans uncovered: Genetic fingerprints of slave trade and colonization   Science Daily - March 25, 2015

By comparing the genes of current-day North and South Americans with African and European populations, a study has found the genetic fingerprints of the slave trade and colonization that shaped migrations to the Americas hundreds of years ago. The study found that:
- While Spaniards provide the majority of European ancestry in continental American Hispanic/Latino populations, the most common European genetic source in African-Americans and Barbadians comes from Great Britain.

- The Basques, a distinct ethnic group spread across current-day Spain and France, provided a small but distinct genetic contribution to current-day Continental South American populations, including the Maya in Mexico.

- The Caribbean Islands of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are genetically similar to each other and distinct from the other populations, probably reflecting a different migration pattern between the Caribbean and mainland America.

- Compared to South Americans, people from Caribbean countries (such as the Barbados) had a larger genetic contribution from Africa.

- The ancestors of current-day Yoruba people from West Africa (one of the largest African ethnic groups) provided the largest contribution of genes from Africa to all current-day American populations.

- The proportion of African ancestry varied across the continent, from virtually zero (in the Maya people from Mexico) to 87% in current-day Barbados.

- South Italy and Sicily also provided a significant European genetic contribution to Colombia and Puerto Rico, in line with the known history of Italian emigrants to the Americas in the late 19th and early 20th century

- One of the African-American groups from the USA had French ancestry, in agreement with historical French immigration into the colonial Southern United States.

- The proportion of genes from European versus African sources varied greatly from individual to individual within recipient populations.




Researchers activate ancient mammalian sex development gene   PhysOrg - March 16, 2015

The gene Dmrt1 is no longer used by mammals to determine sex but still plays a key role in determining sex in many vertebrates, including frogs, fish and birds. Today the sex of modern mammals is determined by the newly evolved gene on the Y chromosome, called Sry. When genes are replaced in their role, like Dmrt1 has been by Sry, we assume it's because the original gene either lost its function or was no longer expressed at the right time and place. When this happens, typically our body stops maintaining the gene. Eventually, the 'retired' gene may lose its original function while possibly acquiring new functions. In theory, this would make Dmrt1 a bit like an old, unmaintained lawn mower sitting in the shed, collecting dust. When they pulled Dmrt1 out of the shed they found that it started first time and is fully functional - it's remarkable.




Some genes 'foreign' in origin and not from our ancestors   PhysOrg - March 12, 2015

Many animals, including humans, acquired essential 'foreign' genes from microorganisms co-habiting their environment in ancient times, according to new research. The study challenges conventional views that animal evolution relies solely on genes passed down through ancestral lines, suggesting that, at least in some lineages, the process is still ongoing. The transfer of genes between organisms living in the same environment is known as horizontal gene transfer (HGT). It is well known in single-celled organisms and thought to be an important process that explains how quickly bacteria evolve, for example, resistance to antibiotics.




Some genes 'foreign' in origin and not from our ancestors   PhysOrg - March 12, 2015
Many animals, including humans, acquired essential 'foreign' genes from microorganisms co-habiting their environment in ancient times, according to research published in the open access journal Genome Biology. The study challenges conventional views that animal evolution relies solely on genes passed down through ancestral lines, suggesting that, at least in some lineages, the process is still ongoing. The transfer of genes between organisms living in the same environment is known as horizontal gene transfer (HGT). It is well known in single-celled organisms and thought to be an important process that explains how quickly bacteria evolve, for example, resistance to antibiotics.




'Big Brain' Gene Found in Humans, Not Chimps   Live Science - February 26, 2015
A single gene may have paved the way for the rise of human intelligence by dramatically increasing the number of brain cells found in a key brain region. This gene seems to be uniquely human: It is found in modern-day humans, Neanderthals and another branch of extinct humans called Denisovans, but not in chimpanzees. By allowing the brain region called the neocortex to contain many more neurons, the tiny snippet of DNA may have laid the foundation for the human brain's massive expansion.




Goodbye Y: Men Who Smoke Have Missing Male Chromosomes   Live Science - December 5, 2014

Add another troubling side effect to the list of health issues caused by cigarettes: Smoking may cause the Y chromosome to disappear from men's blood cells. A new study finds that men who smoke lose the Y chromosome in blood cells more frequently than nonsmokers - and the heavier their cigarette use is, the fewer Y chromosomes they have. This Y chromosome loss could explain why male smokers are at higher risk of cancer than female smokers, the researchers said in their study.




DNA survives critical entry into Earth's atmosphere   Science Daily - November 28, 2014

The genetic material DNA can survive a flight through space and re-entry into Earth's atmosphere -- and still pass on genetic information. Scientists obtained these astonishing results during an experiment on the TEXUS-49 research rocket mission. Various scientists believe that DNA could certainly reach us from outer space as Earth is not insulated: in extraterrestrial material made of dust and meteorites, for instance, around 100 tons of which hits our planet every day.




Duality in the human genome   PhysOrg - November 28, 2014
Humans don't like being alone, and their genes are no different. Together we are stronger, and the two versions of a gene – one from each parent – need each other. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin have analyzed the genetic makeup of several hundred people and decoded the genetic information on the two sets of chromosomes separately. In this relatively small group alone they found millions of different gene forms. The results also show that genetic mutations do not occur randomly in the two parental chromosome sets and that they are distributed in the same ratio in everyone.




How much of your DNA is functional?   PhysOrg - November 14, 2014

The human genome consists of six billions rungs of DNA – but how much of this DNA is actually doing anything important? Two years ago research emerged that suggested that a large proportion of DNA, 80 percent, was functional. This figure came from interpretations of research conducted by the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE). This estimate was almost immediately taken up by news outlets and received a lot of media attention, as well as backlash from other geneticists including Dr. Dan Graur who called the findings "absurd". Now a new study, lead by Dr. Gerton Lunter from the University of Oxford's Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in the UK, has instead found that only 8.2 percent of human DNA is functional.




How to remove tangles in your DNA   PhysOrg - October 8, 2014
DNA damage is a fact of life. On any given day, an organism's DNA will suffer between 10,000 and 1,000,000 breaks or other damage. These problems are repaired by enzymes in our cells that fix the breaks, remove errors, and maintain the integrity of the genome. One of these DNA repair enzymes acts as a kind of molecular scissors to cut DNA at damage points and resolve tangles that can form when things go wrong. This must be done with great specificity in order to restore the DNA code to its previous state and not generate mutations.




Our genes determine the traces that stress leaves behind on our brains   PhysOrg - August 18, 2014

Not every individual reacts in the same way to life events that produce the same degree of stress. Some grow as a result of the crisis, whereas others break down and fall ill, for example with depression. The outcome is determined by a complex interaction between depression gene versions and environmental factors. There are interactions between stressful life events and certain risk gene variants that subsequently change the volume of the hippocampus forever. The hippocampus is a switching station in the processing of emotions and acts like a central interface when dealing with stress.




People Use Just 8.2% of Their DNA, Study Finds   Live Science - July 25, 2014

More than a decade has passed since the completion of the Human Genome Project, the international collaboration to map all of the "letters" in our DNA. The huge effort led to revolutionary genomic discoveries, but more than 10 years later, it's still unclear what percentage of the human genome is actually doing something important. A new study suggests that only 8.2 percent of human DNA, or about 250 million of these so-called DNA letters, are functional, and more than 2 billion are not. The results are higher than previous estimates of 3 to 5 percent, and significantly lower than the 80 percent reported in 2012 by the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project (ENCODE), a public research project led by the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute to study the role of the 3 billion total letters in human DNA.




Why an extra helix becomes a third wheel in cell biology   PhysOrg - July 3, 2014

In a literal scientific twist, researchers are finding examples of a third strand that wraps itself around RNA like a snake, a structure rarely found in nature. Researchers recently have discovered evidence of a triple helix forming at the end of MALAT1, a strand of RNA that does not code for proteins. This extra strand of RNA, which is seen in the accompanying movie, prevents degradation of MALAT1. The formation of a triple helix explains how MALAT1 accumulates to very high levels in cancer cells, allowing MALAT1 to promote metastasis of lung cancer and likely other cancers.




Discovery of a primordial cancer in a primitive animal   PhysOrg - June 24, 2014
Cancer is as old as multi-cellular life on earth and will probably never be completely eradicated. The causes of tumors are the so-called cancer genes. Data predicted that the first multi-cellular animals already had most of the genes which can cause cancer in humans.




Blond Hair Gene Identified   Live Science - June 2, 2014

A genetic mutation that codes for the blond hair of Northern Europeans has been identified. The single mutation was found in a long gene sequence called KIT ligand (KITLG) and is present in about one-third of Northern Europeans. People with these genes could have platinum blond, dirty blond or even dark brown hair.




I like your genes: People more likely to choose a spouse with similar DNA   Science Daily - May 20, 2014

Individuals are more genetically similar to their spouses than they are to randomly selected individuals from the same population, according to a new study. Scientists already knew that people tend to marry others who have similar characteristics, including religion, age, race, income, body type and education, among others. Scientists now show that people also are more likely to pick mates who have similar DNA. Scientists already knew that people tend to marry others who have similar characteristics, including religion, age, race, income, body type and education, among others.




Semi-synthetic organism: Scientists create first living organism that transmits added letters in DNA 'alphabet'   Science Daily - May 7, 2014

Scientists have engineered a bacterium whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA 'letters,' or bases, not found in nature; the bacterium's cells can replicate the unnatural DNA bases more or less normally, as long as the molecular building blocks are supplied. "Life on Earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G, and what we've made is an organism that stably contains those two plus a third, unnatural pair of bases," said TSRI Associate Professor Floyd E. Romesberg, who led the research team. "This shows that other solutions to storing information are possible and, of course, takes us closer to an expanded-DNA biology that will have many exciting applications -- from new medicines to new kinds of nanotechnology."


Expanding the genetic alphabet may be easier than previously thought   Science Daily - June 3, 2012

A new study suggests that the replication process for DNA -- the genetic instructions for living organisms that is composed of four bases (C, G, A and T) -- is more open to unnatural letters than had previously been thought. An expanded "DNA alphabet" could carry more information than natural DNA, potentially coding for a much wider range of molecules and enabling a variety of powerful applications, from precise molecular probes and nanomachines to useful new life forms.




First life forms to pass on artificial DNA engineered by US scientists   The Guardian - May 7, 2014

The latest study moves life beyond the DNA code of G, T, C and A - the molecules or bases that pair up in the DNA helix. The first living organism to carry and pass down to future generations an expanded genetic code has been created by American scientists, paving the way for a host of new life forms whose cells carry synthetic DNA that looks nothing like the normal genetic code of natural organisms. Researchers say the work challenges the dogma that the molecules of life making up DNA are "special". Organisms that carry the beefed-up DNA code could be designed to churn out new forms of drugs that otherwise could not be made, they have claimed.




Semi-synthetic bug extends life's alphabet   BBC - May 7, 2014


Scientists have produced a semi-synthetic version of a bacterium that has an extended genetic code. All Earth's lifeforms use four chemical units, or bases, arranged in pairs within DNA, to drive their biology.




Scientists Add Letters to DNA’s Alphabet, Raising Hope and Fear   NY Times - May 7, 2014
Scientists reported Wednesday that they had taken a significant step toward altering the fundamental alphabet of life creating an organism with an expanded artificial genetic code in its DNA. The accomplishment might eventually lead to organisms that can make medicines or industrial products that cells with only the natural genetic code cannot.




Unraveling a mystery in the 'histone code' shows how gene activity is inherited   PhysOrg - March 13, 2014

Every cell in our body has exactly the same DNA, yet every cell is different. A cell's identity is determined by the subset of genes that it activates. But how does a cell know which genes to turn off and which to turn on? While the genetic code carried in our DNA provides instructions for cells to manufacture specific proteins, it is a second code that determines which genes are in fact activated in particular cell types.




An equation to describe the competition between genes   PhysOrg - March 13, 2014

The background images show cells that have been repressed to different extents. Red fluorescence corresponds to the "repressor" transcription factors that turn off the genes that produce the green fluorescent protein. The two graphs in the foreground show the level of green fluorescent protein produced as a function of the level of repressor.




Mixed genes: Interactive world map of human genetic history reveals likely genetic impacts of historical events   Science Daily - February 13, 2014
When individuals from different groups interbreed, their offspring's DNA becomes a mixture of the DNA from each admixing group. Pieces of this DNA are then passed along through subsequent generations, carrying on all the way to the present day. Researchers have now produced a global map detailing the genetic histories of 95 different populations across the world, spanning the last four millennia.




Scientists shed some light on biological "dark matter"   PhysOrg - January 20, 2014
Biologists have studied the functionality of a poorly understood category of genes, which produce long non-coding RNA molecules rather than proteins. Some of these genes have been conserved throughout evolution, and are present in 11 species ranging from man to frog. By adopting an evolutionary approach, they discovered that about 2500 long non-coding RNAs first appeared at least 90 million years ago in the common ancestor of most placental mammals. From a functional point of view, these "ancient" genes turned out to be particularly interesting.




A Missing Genetic Link in Human Evolution   Scientific American - January 6, 2014
About 8 million to 12 million years ago, the ancestor of great apes, including humans, underwent a dramatic genetic change. Small pieces of DNA replicated and spread across their resident chromosomes like dandelions across a lawn. But as these "dandelion seeds" dispersed, they carried some grass and daisy seeds - additional segments of DNA - along for the ride. This unusual pattern, repeated in different parts of the genome, is found only in great apes - bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and humans.




Leg bone gives up oldest human DNA   BBC - December 4, 2013
The discovery of DNA in a 400,000-year-old human thigh bone will open up a new frontier in the study of our ancestors. That's the verdict cast by human evolution experts on an analysis in Nature journal of the oldest human genetic material ever sequenced. The femur comes from the famed "Pit of Bones" site in Spain, which gave up the remains of at least 28 ancient people.




Oldest Hominin DNA Sequenced: Mitochondrial Genome of a 400,000-Year-Old Hominin from Spain Decoded   Science Daily - December 4, 2013

Using novel techniques to extract and study ancient DNA researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have determined an almost complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a 400,000-year-old representative of the genus Homo from Sima de los Huesos, a unique cave site in Northern Spain, and found that it is related to the mitochondrial genome of Denisovans, extinct relatives of Neandertals in Asia. DNA this old has until recently been retrieved only from the permafrost.




Oldest Human DNA Reveals Mysterious Branch of Humanity   Live Science - December 4, 2013
The oldest known human DNA found yet reveals human evolution was even more confusing than thought, researchers say. The DNA, which dates back some 400,000 years, may belong to an unknown human ancestor, say scientists. These new findings could shed light on a mysterious extinct branch of humanity known as Denisovans, who were close relatives of Neanderthals, scientists added. Although modern humans are the only surviving human lineage, others once strode the Earth. These included Neanderthals, the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, and the relatively newfound Denisovans, who are thought to have lived in a vast expanse from Siberia to Southeast Asia. Research shows that the Denisovans shared a common origin with Neanderthals but were genetically distinct, with both apparently descending from a common ancestral group that had diverged earlier from the forerunners of modern humans.




Gene Mutation for Excessive Alcohol Drinking Found   Science Daily - November 28, 2013
Researchers have discovered a gene that regulates alcohol consumption and when faulty can cause excessive drinking. They have also identified the mechanism underlying this phenomenon.




Origins of genomic 'dark matter' discovered   PhysOrg - September 19, 2013

A duo of scientists at Penn State University has achieved a major milestone in understanding how genomic "dark matter" originates. This "dark matter" - called non-coding RNA - does not contain the blueprint for making proteins and yet it comprises more than 95 percent of the human genome. The researchers have discovered that essentially all coding and non-coding RNA originates at the same types of locations along the human genome. The team's findings eventually may help to pinpoint exactly where complex-disease traits reside, since the genetic origins of many diseases reside outside of the coding region of the genome.




1st African American Man Dates Back 338,000 Years   Discovery - March 7, 2013
A miniscule bit of DNA from an African American man now living in South Carolina has been traced back 338,000 years, according to a new study. The man’s Y chromosome - a hereditary factor determining male sex - has a history that’s so old, it even predates the age of the oldest known Homo sapiens fossils, according to the report, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics. The fellow’s chromosome turned out to carry a rare mutation, which researchers matched to a similar chromosome in the Mbo, a population living in a tiny area of western Cameroon in sub-Saharan Africa.




Depression, Autism & ADHD May Share Genes   Live Science - February 27, 2013
Five distinct psychiatric disorders - autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia - may share some genetic risk factors, a new study finds. During the study, researchers found four genetic markers that may play a role in all five diseases. These markers were more common in people with the one of the psychiatric disorders compared to healthy people. Two of these markers are found in genes thought to be involved in balancing the level of calcium in brain cells, the researchers said. (Calcium plays a role in many different cell functions, including communication between cells.) Of these two markers, one has been previously linked to bipolar disorder and depression, and the other to schizophrenia.




'Quadruple helix' DNA seen in human cells   BBC - January 21, 2013

Cambridge University scientists say they have seen four-stranded DNA at work in human cells for the first time. The famous "molecule of life", which carries our genetic code, is more familiar to us as a double helix. But researchers tell the journal Nature Chemistry that the "quadruple helix" is also present in our cells, and in ways that might possibly relate to cancer. They suggest that control of the structures could provide novel ways to fight the disease. It will be exactly 60 years ago in February that James Watson and Francis Crick famously burst into the pub next to their Cambridge laboratory to announce the discovery of the "secret of life". What they had actually done was describe the way in which two long chemical chains wound up around each other to encode the information cells need to build and maintain our bodies.




Human Evolution Enters an Exciting New Phase   Wired - November 29, 2012
If you could escape the human time scale for a moment, and regard evolution from the perspective of deep time, in which the last 10,000 years are a short chapter in a long saga, you'd say: Things are pretty wild right now. In the most massive study of genetic variation yet, researchers estimated the age of more than one million variants, or changes to our DNA code, found across human populations. The vast majority proved to be quite young. The chronologies tell a story of evolutionary dynamics in recent human history, a period characterized by both narrow reproductive bottlenecks and sudden, enormous population growth. The evolutionary dynamics of these features resulted in a flood of new genetic variation, accumulating so fast that natural selection hasn't caught up yet. As a species, we are freshly bursting with the raw material of evolution.




'Obese but happy gene' challenges the common perception of link between depression and obesity   PhysOrg - November 20, 2012
McMaster scientists have uncovered evidence that the gene FTO - the major genetic contributor to obesity - is associated with an eight per cent reduction in the risk of depression. In other words, it's not just an obesity gene but a "happy gene" as well. Pictures




Many Low IQs Are Just Bad Luck   Live Science - October 2, 2012
Intellectual disability affects 1 to 3 percent of children worldwide, half of whom are born to parents of normal intelligence. Researchers have discovered that most of these cases of "sporadic intellectual disability" result from new, random mutations arising spontaneously in the children's genes, not from faulty recessive genes inherited from their parents. The researchers say their finding is one of the first steps in understanding the underlying causes of this condition (also known as mental retardation), which is marked by having an IQ below 70, and is perhaps surprisingly the costliest of all health problems. Understanding the cause may eventually lead to new therapies, they said.




Genetically engineered cow yields hypoallergenic, high-protein milk   PhysOrg - October 2, 2012
AgResearch Institute scientists in New Zealand have bred the first cow in the world to produce high protein milk that may be hypo-allergenic.




Most Extensive Pictures Ever of an Organism's DNA Mutation Processes   Science Daily - September 17, 2012

Biologists and informaticists at Indiana University have produced one of the most extensive pictures ever of mutation processes in the DNA sequence of an organism, elucidating important new evolutionary information about the molecular nature of mutations and how fast those heritable changes occur.




Unraveling the Human Genome (1866-2012): 6 Molecular Milestones   Live Science - September 6, 2012
In a milestone for the understanding of human genetics, scientists just announced the results of five years of work in unraveling the secrets of how the genome operates. The ENCODE project, as it is known, dispensed with the idea that our DNA is largely "junk," repeating sequences with no function, finding instead that at least 80 percent of the genome is important. The new findings are the latest in a series of increasingly deep looks at the human genome. Here are some of the major milestones scientists have passed along the way.




Did a Copying Mistake Build Man's Brain?   Live Science - May 5, 2012
A copyediting error appears to be responsible for critical features of the human brain that distinguish us from our closest primate kin, new research finds. When tested out in mice, researchers found this "error" caused the rodents' brain cells to move into place faster and enabled more connections between brain cells. When any cell divides, it first copies its entire genome. During this process, it can make errors. The cell usually fixes errors in the DNA. But when they aren't fixed, they become permanent changes called mutations, which are sometimes hurtful and sometimes helpful, though usually innocuous. One type of error is duplication, when the DNA-copying machinery accidentally copies a section of the genome twice. The second copy can be changed in future copies - gaining mutations or losing parts.




Ancient virus DNA thrives in us   BBC - April 24, 2012
Traces of ancient viruses which infected our ancestors millions of years ago are more widespread in us than previously thought. A study shows how extensively viruses from as far back as the dinosaur era still thrive in our genetic material. It sheds light on the origins of a big proportion of our genetic material, much of which is still not understood. The scientists investigated the genomes of 38 mammals including humans, mice, rats, elephants and dolphins.




DNA gene find 'transforms' theories on how brain works   BBC - October 31, 2011
The genetic make-up of our brain cells changes thousands of times over the course of our lifetimes, according to new research. Scientists at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh have identified genes, called retrotransposons, responsible for tiny changes in the DNA of brain tissue. They say their discovery completely overturns previous theories about how the brain works.




'Dark matter' of the genome revealed through analysis of 29 mammals   PhysOrg - October 13, 2011
An international team of researchers has discovered the vast majority of the so-called "dark matter" in the human genome, by means of a sweeping comparison of 29 mammalian genomes. The team, led by scientists from the Broad Institute, has pinpointed the parts of the human genome that control when and where genes are turned on.




Are genes our destiny? 'Hidden' code in DNA evolves more rapidly than genetic code, scientists discover   PhysOrg - September 16, 2011
A "hidden" code linked to the DNA of plants allows them to develop and pass down new biological traits far more rapidly than previously thought, according to the findings of a groundbreaking study by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The study, published today in the journal Science, provides the first evidence that an organism's "epigenetic" code - an extra layer of biochemical instructions in DNA - can evolve more quickly than the genetic code and can strongly influence biological traits. While the study was limited to a single plant species called Arabidopsis thaliana, the equivalent of the laboratory rat of the plant world, the findings hint that the traits of other organisms, including humans, might also be dramatically influenced by biological mechanisms that scientists are just beginning to understand.




Researchers identify DNA region linked to depression   PhysOrg - May 16, 2011
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and King's College London have independently identified DNA on chromosome 3 that appears to be related to depression.




Researchers link spontaneous gene mutations to autism   PhysOrg - May 16, 2011
Using high-throughput gene sequencing technology, researchers have identified several harmful spontaneous gene mutations in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) that may cause the disorder.




Mutant gene linked to ADHD   PhysOrg - April 18, 2011
Research identifies the gene GIT1 and the fact that a mutation changing just one letter in the code affects a brain protein that works to balance inhibition and excitability ...




Missing DNA helps make us human   PhysOrg - March 10, 2011
A new study demonstrates that specific traits that distinguish humans from their closest living relatives - chimpanzees, with whom we share 96 percent of our DNA - can be attributed to the loss of chunks of DNA that control when and where certain genes are turned on. The finding mirrors accumulating evidence from other species that changes to regulatory regions of DNA - rather than to the genes themselves - underlie many of the new features that organisms acquire through evolution.




How man 'lost his penile spines'   BBC - March 10, 2011
Scientists believe men once had small spines on their genitalia such as those found in chimpanzees, cats and mice. Analysis of the genomes of humans, chimpanzees and macaques indicates that a DNA sequence thought to play a role in the production of these spines have been deleted in humans, but has been preserved in other primates. It suggests another genetic deletion may have led to the expansion of specific regions of the human brain.




Human Genome Turns 10: 5 Lessons Learned   Live Science - February 3, 2011
Ten years ago this month, in what was heralded as the opening to a new era in human biology and medicine, two rival teams of scientists published their first official reports of the sequencing of the human genome.




Researchers show how 1 gene becomes 2 (with different functions)   PhysOrg - January 12, 2011
Researchers report that they are the first to show in molecular detail how one gene evolved two competing functions that eventually split up – via gene duplication – to pursue their separate destinies.




We are what our father ate – before we were born   Telegraph - December 24, 2010
Researchers have discovered that a father's lifestyle can be passed down to his children because it "reprogrammes" his genes. The study shows the hereditary effects of a process called "epigenetics" which is how our environment and lifestyle can permanently alter our genes as we grow up. These altered genes can then be passed on to children.




A gene that could explain why the red mist descends   Telegraph.co.uk - December 24, 2010
A "red mist" gene that could be responsible for ordinarily peaceful people becoming violent and aggressive while drunk has been identified by scientists.




Scientists decipher 3 billion-year-old genomic fossils   PhysOrg - December 19, 2010
About 580 million years ago, life on Earth began a rapid period of change called the Cambrian Explosion, a period defined by the birth of new life forms over many millions of years that ultimately helped bring about the modern diversity of animals. Fossils help paleontologists chronicle the evolution of life since then, but drawing a picture of life during the 3 billion years that preceded the Cambrian Period is challenging, because the soft-bodied Precambrian cells rarely left fossil imprints. However, those early life forms did leave behind one abundant microscopic fossil: DNA.




The genetic basis of 130 brain diseases   PhysOrg - December 19, 2010
In research published today, scientists have studied human brain samples to isolate a set of proteins that accounts for over 130 brain diseases. The paper also shows an intriguing link between diseases and the evolution of the human brain.




German researchers find an 'altruism gene'   PhysOrg - November 8, 2010
Do you like to do good things for other people? If so, your genes might be responsible for this. At least, the results of a study conducted by researchers of the University of Bonn suggest this. According to the study, a minute change in a particular gene is associated with a significantly higher willingness to donate. People with this change gave twice as much money on average to a charitable cause as did other study subjects.




A mystery solved: How genes are selectively silenced   PhysOrg - October 18, 2010
Cells read only those genes which are needed at a given moment, while the others are chemically labeled and, thus, selectively turned off. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center have now been the first to discover how these labels are placed at exactly the right spot in the genetic material. Important players are regulatory RNA molecules. They form a plait-like triple helix with the DNA serving as a signpost for the labels.




  Migraine cause 'identified' as genetic defect   BBC - September 27, 2010
Scientists have identified a genetic defect linked to migraine which could provide a target for new treatments. A flawed gene found in a family of migraine sufferers could help trigger the severe headaches, a study in Nature Medicine suggests.




Scientists discover how to 'switch off' pain of migraines   Telegraph.co.uk - September 27, 2010
Migraine sufferers could have their headaches switched off after researchers discovered a gene that acts like a pain thermostat in the brain. The "once in a generation" finding could allow scientists to create a new generation of drugs that can simply turn down up the threshold at which the body fells pain. The international study, including scientists at Oxford University, found that a gene called TRESK appears to be fundamental in causing migraines.




Researchers discover genetic clues to evolution of jaws in vertebrates   PhysOrg - September 24, 2010
A half-billion years ago, vertebrates lacked the ability to chew their food. They did not have jaws. Instead, their heads consisted of a flexible, fused basket of cartilage.




Stress can control our genes   PhysOrg - September 24, 2010
Stress has become one of the major disease states in the developed world. But what is stress? It depends on from where you look. You may experience stress as something that affects your entire body and mind, the causes of which are plentiful. But if we zoom in on the building bricks of the body, our cells, stress and its causes are defined somewhat differently. Stress can arise at the cellular level after exposure to pollution, tobacco smoke, bacterial toxins etc, where stressed cells have to react to survive and maintain their normal function. In worst case scenario, cellular stress can lead to development of disease.




All genes in one go   PhysOrg - August 30, 2010
The DNA is strung along the chromosomes and contains our genes. With the aid of a special concentration procedure, the genes are separated from the remainder of the DNA and sequenced. The resulting sequences are analyzed in terms of bioinformatics. The majority of rare diseases are hereditary. But despite significant progress in genome research, in most cases their exact cause remains unclear. The discovery of the underlying genetic defect is, however, a prerequisite for their definitive diagnosis and the development of innovative approaches to their treatment.




First 3-D Atomic View of Key Genetic Processes   Science Daily - August 27, 2010

In a landmark study to be published in the journal Nature, scientists have been able to create the first picture of genetic processes that happen inside every cell of our bodies. Using a 3-D visualization method called X-ray crystallography, Song Tan, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University, has built the first-ever image of a protein interacting with the nucleosome -- DNA packed tightly into space-saving bundles organized around a protein core. The research is expected to aid future investigations into diseases such as cancer.




Your Hair Reveals Whether You're a Morning Person   National Geographic - August 23, 2010
Early bird or late riser? The mysteries of your sleep cycle may be unlocked by the hairs on your head, a new study says. That's because the genes that regulate our body clocks can be found in hair-follicle cells, researchers have discovered. A tiny portion of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus controls the human body clock, and RNA strands protein-building chains of molecules process these signals throughout the body in 24-hour cycles.




Gene scan finds link across array of childhood brain disorders   PhysOrg - August 22, 2010
Mutations in a single gene can cause several types of developmental brain abnormalities that experts have traditionally considered different disorders. With support from the National Institutes of Health, researchers found those mutations through whole exome sequencing - a new gene scanning technology that cuts the cost and time of searching for rare mutations. Such information can help couples assess the risk of passing on genetic disorders to their children. It can also offer insights into disease mechanisms and treatments.




Scientists discover human sperm gene is 600 million years old   PhysOrg - July 16, 2010
Just as styles in sexy clothes or fashion change from year to year and culture to culture, "sexy" genes, or genes specific to sex, also change rapidly. But there is one sex-specific gene so vital, its function has remained unaltered throughout evolution and is found in almost all animals, according to new research from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The gene, called Boule, is responsible for sperm production. Northwestern scientists also discovered in their research that Boule appears to be the only gene known to be exclusively required for sperm production from an insect to a mammal.




Sperm in All Animals Originated 600 Million Years Ago   Live Science - July 16, 2010
A gene responsible for sperm production is so vital that its function has remained unaltered throughout evolution and is found in almost all animals, according to a new study. The results suggest the ability to produce sperm originated 600 million years ago. The gene, called Boule, appears to be the only gene known to be exclusively required for sperm production in animals ranging from an insect to a mammal.




Genetic heritability may be hidden deeper than previously thought   PhysOrg - June 22, 2010
Geneticists trying to find a link between the genes and traits such as height have until recently found genetic variants that account for only around 5% of the heritability of these traits. The approximately 95% missing, which is seen in the heritability of most complex human traits and diseases, has been referred to as the "missing heritability" of the genome.




Human genome may reveal key to healthy life   Telegraph.co.uk - June 21, 2010

Scientists claim they will be able to unravel the secrets of how to live a healthy life from the human genome ahead of the 10th anniversary of the completion of the first draft of the 'book of life'. It was hailed as a breakthrough that would bring about a “revolution” in medical science and was even described by some as a bigger achievement for mankind than landing on the Moon




Don't Want to Exercise? Blame Your Genes   Live Science - June 17, 2010
Individuals who stand to gain the most from changing their behaviors are the most likely to downplay that fact and instead blame genetics, a new study suggests. The researchers surveyed nearly 2,000 healthy American adults on their behavioral risk factors, family history, beliefs about causes of common diseases, and their preferences for one type of health information over another. The physical factors included physical activity, dietary habits, smoking, alcohol consumption, sun exposure, multivitamin use and body mass index.




ADHD linked to interaction of genetics and psychology   PhysOrg - April 16, 2010
ADHD may be caused by alterations in the serotonin neurotransmission system combined with a tendency to experience psychosocial distress. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Behavioral and Brain Functions found that ADHD behaviors in children and adolescents were associated with interactions between low and high serotonin activity and self-blame in relation to inter-parental conflict.




Scientists find gene linked to schizophrenia   PhysOrg - April 12, 2010
An international study led by Université de Montréal scientists suggests that gene mutations may predispose some individuals to schizophrenia and provides new clues about the causes of this ambiguous disorder.




Study finds genetic link between misery and death   PhysOrg - February 24, 2010
In ongoing work to identify how genes interact with social environments to impact human health, UCLA researchers have discovered what they describe as a biochemical link between misery and death. In addition, they found a specific genetic variation in some individuals that seems to disconnect that link, rendering them more biologically resilient in the face of adversity.




Genes responsible for ability to recognize faces   PhysOrg - February 22, 2010
The ability to recognize faces is largely determined by your genes. Researchers also found that the genetic effects that allow people to recognize faces are linked to a highly specific mechanism in the brain, unrelated to other brain processes such as the ability to recognize words or abstract art.




How Genes Interact With Their Environment to Cause Disease   Science Daily - February 20, 2010




Southern African genomes sequenced   PhysOrg - February 17, 2010
Human genomes from Southern African Bushmen and Bantu individuals have been sequenced by a team of scientists seeking a greater understanding of human genetic variation and its effect on human health.




Scientists develop universal DNA reader to advance faster, cheaper sequencing efforts   PhysOrg - February 11, 2010
As a single chemical base of DNA (blue atoms) passes through a tiny, 2.5nm gap between two gold electrodes (top and bottom), it momentarily sticks to the electrodes (purple bonds) and a small increase in the current is detected. Each of the chemical bases of the DNA genetic code, abbreviated A, C, T or G, gives a unique electrical signature as they pass between the electrodes.




Genes Behind Stuttering Found   Live Science - February 11, 2010
Stuttering may have genetic underpinnings, according to a new study. For the first time, scientists have identified specific genetic alterations that they believe play a key role in giving rise to the speech disorder. These alterations, or mutations, are located on three particular genes, and are thought to cause a glitch in the way cells dispose of cellular "garbage."




Genes reveal 'biological aging'   BBC - February 8, 2010
Gene variants that might show how fast people's bodies are actually aging have been pinpointed by scientists. Researchers from the University of Leicester and Kings College London say the finding could help spot people at higher risk of age-related illnesses. People carrying the variant had differences in the "biological clock" within all their cells. The British Heart Foundation said the findings could offer a clue to ways of preventing heart disease. While doctors know that as people age they are more at risk from diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and heart disease, some people fall prey to these at an earlier age than expected. One theory suggests that biological timers called "telomeres", part of the chromosomes in every cell that carry genetic code, may be a factor in this.




Gene family found to play key role in early stages of development   PhysOrg - January 25, 2010
Scientists have identified a gene family that plays a key role in one of the earliest stages of development in which an embryo distinguishes its left side from the right and determines how organs should be positioned within the body. The finding in mice likely will lead to a better understanding of how certain birth defects occur in humans.




Scientists find gene that regulates your heart beat   Telegraph.co.uk - January 12, 2010
Experts hope that the discovery of the "pacemaker gene" could lead to new drug treatments to avoid heart attacks and disease. The researchers discovered that variation in the gene SCN10A was associated with slow and irregular heart rhythms, including risk of ventricular fibrillation.




Software reveals the inner workings of the human genome   PhysOrg - January 12, 2010
A biologist and computer scientist seek sites of RNA editing, a phenomenon that plays a key role in human genetic complexity. The completion of the Human Genome Project, says Stefan Maas, has allowed scientists to dream on a grand scale. Armed with unprecedented knowledge of the body’s genes and their location and function, scientists can contemplate advances in medicine and biotechnology that were hardly conceivable a decade or two ago. This new genetic blueprint, says Maas, an assistant professor of biological sciences, could shed light on the origins of cancer, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and a host of other diseases and lead to new treatments for these diseases.




Why do people 'play the longshot' and buy insurance? It's in our genes   PhysOrg - January 11, 2010
Why do some people like to take risks by playing "longshot" payoffs while, on the other hand, taking the opposite tack by buying insurance to reduce risks? A team of economists and molecular geneticists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and two Asian universities say the answer can be found in our genetic makeup. The team set out to tackle the long-standing question in economic theory as to why people tend to be risk-preferring when facing longshot risks involving significant gains, such as betting on race horses, and on the other hand are risk averse when facing significant losses -- buying home or car insurance, for instance.




Evolutionary Surprise: Eight Percent of Human Genetic Material Comes from a Virus   Science Daily - January 8, 2010
About eight percent of human genetic material comes from a virus and not from our ancestors, according to researchers in Japan and the U.S. The research showed that the genomes of humans and other mammals contain DNA derived from the insertion of bornaviruses, RNA viruses whose replication and transcription takes place in the nucleus. Feschotte wrote on recent research led by Professor Keizo Tomonaga at Osaka University in Japan. Feschotte said this virally transmitted DNA may be a cause of mutation and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and mood disorders.




Using Modern Sequencing Techniques to Study Ancient Humans   Science Daily - January 4, 2010

DNA that is left in the remains of long-dead plants, animals, or humans allows a direct look into the history of evolution. So far, studies of this kind on ancestral members of our own species have been hampered by scientists' inability to distinguish the ancient DNA from modern-day human DNA contamination. Now, research by Svante Pääbo from The Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, published online on December 31st in Current Biology -- a Cell Press publication -- overcomes this hurdle and shows how it is possible to directly analyze DNA from a member of our own species who lived around 30,000 years ago. DNA -- the hereditary material contained in the nuclei and mitochondria of all body cells -- is a hardy molecule and can persist, conditions permitting, for several tens of thousands of years. Such ancient DNA provides scientists with unique possibilities to directly glimpse into the genetic make-up of organisms that have long since vanished from the Earth. Using ancient DNA extracted from bones, the biology of extinct animals, such as mammoths, as well as of ancient humans, such as the Neanderthals, has been successfully studied in recent years.




Evolution caught in the act: Scientists measure how quickly genomes change   PhysOrg - January 1, 2010
Mutations are the raw material of evolution. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tubingen, Germany, and Indiana University in Bloomington have now been able to measure for the first time directly the speed with which new mutations occur in plants. Their findings shed new light on a fundamental evolutionary process. They explain, for example, why resistance to herbicides can appear within just a few years.




DNA analyzed from early European   BBC - January 1, 2010
Scientists have analyzed DNA extracted from the remains of a 30,000-year-old European hunter-gatherer. Studying the DNA of long-dead humans can open up a window into the evolution of our species (Homo sapiens). But previous studies of this kind have been hampered by scientists' inability to distinguish between the ancient human DNA and modern contamination.




Disease Risk Depends on Which Parent a DNA Variant Is Inherited From   New York Times - December 19, 2009
Icelandic biologists have discovered that the genetic risk of several common diseases, like Type 2 diabetes and cancer, can depend on which parent a DNA variant is inherited from. The finding may help explain part of a serious gap in understanding the genetics of common diseases. Using an extensive genealogy that includes almost all the present population of Iceland and many in previous generations, the Reykjavik company DeCode Genetics managed to distinguish which chromosomes came from the father and which from the mother in some 40,000 people.




Genetic breakthrough hails new cancer research era   Telegraph.co.uk - December 17, 2009

The genetic code of two of the most deadly cancers has been cracked by British scientists in a world first that opens up a whole new era in the treatment for the disease. All the mutations that turn healthy cells cancerous in both lung and skin tumours have been identified in what researchers described as a "transforming moment" in the search for preventions, treatments and cures for both terminal illnesses. Such a detailed picture of the fundamental causes of the disease will lead to earlier detection, new breeds of drugs and better understanding of what causes the disease, they claim.




Genetic 'map' of Asia's diversity   BBC - December 11, 2009

An international scientific effort has revealed the genetics behind Asia's diversity. The Human Genome Organization's (HUGO) Pan-Asian SNP Consortium carried out a study of almost 2,000 people across the continent. Their findings support the hypothesis that Asia was populated primarily through a single migration event from the south.




DNA study sheds new light on horse evolution   PhysOrg - December 11, 2009
Ancient DNA retrieved from extinct horse species from around the world has challenged one of the textbook examples of evolution - the fossil record of the horse family Equidae over the past 55 million years. Only the modern horse, zebras, wild asses and donkey survive today, but many other lineages have become extinct over the last 50,000 years.




'Curly hair gene' discovered by scientists   Telegraph.co.uk - December 7, 2009
The discovery will also make it possible to predict whether a baby will have straight or curly hair. And the new information will also allow detectives to use DNA to produce more accurate efits of their suspects. The groundbreaking research identified the trichohyalin gene as the one that is mainly responsible for creating curls.




Scientists identify gene linked to mental illnesses   Telegraph.co.uk - November 26, 2009
An international team of researchers, led by the University of Edinburgh, compared genes of 2,000 psychiatric patients to 2,000 healthy people to pinpoint the 'ABCA13' gene. They discovered it is partially inactive in patients suffering severe illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. The results suggest the gene plays a crucial role in maintaining brain health as scientists found it was faulty more frequently in patients with mental illness than the control group. Identifying the genes that predispose people to psychiatric illness is considered the most important step in developing new ways to tackle the condition.




Brain Disease 'Resistance Gene' Evolves in Papua New Guinea Community; Could Offer Insights Into CJD   Science Daily - November 21, 2009
community in Papua New Guinea that suffered a major epidemic of a CJD-like fatal brain disease called kuru has developed strong genetic resistance to the disease, according to new research by Medical Research Council (MRC) scientists. Kuru is a fatal prion disease, similar to CJD in humans and BSE in animals, and is geographically unique to an area in Papua New Guinea. In the mid 20th Century, an epidemic of kuru devastated a population in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The infection was passed on at mortuary feasts, where mainly women and children consumed their deceased relatives as a mark of respect and mourning. This practice was banned and ceased in the late 1950s.




Gene change in cannibals reveals evolution in action   New Scientist - November 19, 2009
It's a snapshot of human evolution in progress. A genetic mutation protecting against kuru a brain disease passed on by eating human brains only emerged and spread in the last 200 years. When members of the Fore people in Papua New Guinea died, others would eat the dead person's brain during funeral rituals as a mark of respect. Kuru passed on in this way killed at least 2500 Fore in the 20th century until the cause was identified in the late 1950s and the practice halted.




Largest gene study of childhood IBD identifies 5 new genes   PhysOrg - November 15, 2009
In the largest, most comprehensive genetic analysis of childhood-onset inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an international research team has identified five new gene regions, including one involved in a biological pathway that helps drive the painful inflammation of the digestive tract that characterizes the disease.




Why can't chimps speak? Study links evolution of single gene to human capacity for language   PhysOrg - November 11, 2009
Genes targeted by human and chimp forms of FOXP2: Red lines show target genes that both species express in the same direction, while blue lines indicate target genes that the two species express in opposite directions. Bold text and large green circles denote the most connected genes.




Human Speech Gene Found   Live Science - November 11, 2009
Researchers have found a gene that could explain why we developed language and speech while our closest living relatives, the chimps, did not. The gene called FOXP2 is a transcription factor, meaning it regulates other genes. Past research has suggested this gene remained relatively unchanged along mammal evolution until after humans and chimps diverged. And about 200,000 years ago, when modern humans appeared on the scene, scientists think two amino acids (building blocks of proteins) changed in FOXP2. But whether that amino-acid modification had any real effect on us wasn't known. To find out, a team of researchers expressed the chimp and human forms of this speech gene in neuronal cells that essentially didn't express the gene, or make proteins that carry out that gene's instructions.




Suite of language genes discovered   New Scientist - November 11, 2009
It is often thought of as one of the things that make humans unique. Now, researchers are uncovering the suite of genes that gave us our gift of the gab.




Horse genome unlocked by science   BBC - November 6, 2009

The genome of a domestic horse has been successfully sequenced by an international team of researchers. The work, published in the journal Science, may shed light on how horses were domesticated. It also reveals similarities between the horse and other placental mammals, such as bovids - the hoofed group including goats, bison and cattle. The authors also found horses share much of their DNA with humans, which could have implications for medicine. Horses suffer from more than 90 hereditary diseases that show similarities to those in humans.




Junk DNA Mechanism That Prevents Two Species From Reproducing Discovered   Science Daily - October 27, 2009
Cornell researchers have discovered a genetic mechanism in fruit flies that prevents two closely related species from reproducing, a finding that offers clues to how species evolve. When two populations of a species become geographically isolated from each other, their genes diverge from one another over time.




Jumping genes, gene loss and genome dark matter   PhysOrg - October 7, 2009
In research published today by Nature, an international team describes the finest map of changes to the structure of human genomes and a resource they have developed for researchers worldwide to look at the role of these changes in human disease. They also identify 75 'jumping genes' - regions of our genome that can be found in more than one location in some individuals.




Gene Controlling Number Of Brain Cells Pinpointed   Science Daily - October 5, 2009
In populating the growing brain, neural stem cells must strike a delicate balance between two key processes – proliferation, in which the cells multiply to provide plenty of starting materials – and differentiation, in which those materials evolve into functioning neurons. If the stem cells proliferate too much, they could grow out of control and produce a tumor. If they proliferate too little, there may not be enough cells to become the billions of neurons of the brain.




Ratchet-like genetic mutations make evolution irreversible   PhysOrg - September 24, 2009
A University of Oregon research team has found that evolution can never go backwards, because the paths to the genes once present in our ancestors are forever blocked. The findings -- the result of the first rigorous study of reverse evolution at the molecular level. R




Genomic research shows Indians descended from two groups   PhysOrg - September 23, 2009
In a study published in the September 24th issue of Nature, an international team describes how they harnessed modern genomic technology to explore the ancient history of India, the world's second most populous nation. The new research reveals that nearly all Indians carry genomic contributions from two distinct ancestral populations. Following this ancient mixture, many groups experienced periods of genetic isolation from each other for thousands of years.




Schizophrenia gene linked with abnormal neurogenesis in adult and postnatal brain   PhysOrg - September 23, 2009
Scientists now have a better understanding of a perplexing gene that is associated with susceptibility for a wide spectrum of severely debilitating mental illnesses. Two independent research studies published by Cell Press in the September 24th issue of the journal Neuron provide fascinating insight into the molecular mechanisms that link disrupted-in-schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) with the proper development and migration of neurons in the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory and associated with the pathology of schizophrenia.




Master gene that switches on disease-fighting cells identified by scientists   PhysOrg - September 13, 2009
The master gene that causes blood stem cells to turn into disease-fighting 'Natural Killer' (NK) immune cells has been identified by scientists, in a study published in Nature Immunology today. The discovery could one day help scientists boost the body's production of these frontline tumor-killing cells, creating new ways to treat cancer.




Study examines the evolutionary fate of 'useless' traits   PhysOrg - September 8, 2009
Some subterranean animals that live in darkness function perfectly well without eyesight, for example. And the tiny leg bones buried in the backs of whales — left over from their land-dwelling ancestors — don't get much action in the ocean. In a recent review, researchers teamed up to take a closer look at the evolutionary fate of useless traits. Supported by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham, NC, their aim was to examine what happens to traits that are no longer needed.




Alzheimer's genes link uncovered   BBC - September 6, 2009
Two potentially key genes linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease have been uncovered by UK researchers. It is the first gene clue to the condition in 16 years and has prompted scientists to rethink their theories on how the disease develops. The genes were pinpointed in a study of 16,000 DNA samples and are known to be implicated in inflammation and cholesterol breakdown. It is hoped the Nature Genetics study will open the way for new treatments.




Scientists identify genetic cause for type of deafness   PhysOrg - September 3, 2009
A team led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute has discovered a genetic cause of progressive hearing loss. The findings will help scientists better understand the nature of age-related decline in hearing and may lead to new therapies to prevent or treat the condition. It is thought that mutations in several hundred genes can lead to deafness.




'Achilles' heel' in Y chromosome linked to sex disorders   PhysOrg - September 3, 2009
Isodicentric Y chromosomes are generated during sperm production through aberrant crossing over between opposite arms of a palindrome. At left is two copies of the normal Y chromosome, each carrying the masculinizing gene SRY and a centromere. Also shown is one of the Y chromosome’s palindromes, depicted here as a pair of blue and red arrowheads pointing in opposite directions. The big “X” denotes a “crossing over” between opposing arms of the same palindrome on the two Y chromosomes. The result is the isodicentric Y chromosome diagrammed at right. The isodicentric has two copies of SRY, two centromeres, and is a mirror-image structure.




First genetic link between reptile and human heart evolution   PhysOrg - September 2, 2009
Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease have traced the evolution of the four-chambered human heart to a common genetic factor linked to the development of hearts in turtles and other reptiles.




We are all mutants say scientists: Each of us has at least 100 new mutations in our DNA   BBC - September 2, 2009

Each of us has at least 100 new mutations in our DNA. Scientists have been trying to get an accurate estimate of the mutation rate for over 70 years. However, only now has it been possible to get a reliable estimate, thanks to "next generation" technology for genetic sequencing. The findings may lead to new treatments and insights into our evolution. In 1935, one of the founders of modern genetics, JBS Haldane, studied a group of men with the blood disease haemophilia. He speculated that there would be about 150 new mutations in each of us. Others have since looked at DNA in chimpanzees to try to produce general estimates for humans. However, next generation sequencing technology has enabled the scientists to produce a far more direct and reliable estimate. They looked at thousands of letters of the genetic code within the Y chromosomes of two Chinese men. They knew the men were distantly related, having shared a common ancestor who was born in 1805. By looking at the number of differences between the two men, and the size of the human genome, they were able to come up with an estimate of between 100 and 200 new mutations per person.




New genetic mechanism that controls body's fat-building process found   PhysOrg - August 26, 2009
At a time of alarming increases in obesity and associated diseases -- and fiery debates about the cost of health care -- a UCF research team has identified a new genetic mechanism that controls the body's fat-building process. The discovery could open the door to new treatments for obesity and type 2 diabetes, and it has the potential to help hundreds of millions of people and dramatically cut health care costs.




On the shoulders of biology's giants   BBC - August 20, 2009
Physicists have long searched for "grand unifying theories" - the rules behind everything in the Universe. So far, they have not succeeded. But in biology, it has happened three times. A theory is a definitive model of reality, which not only describes the facts, but predicts the outcomes of experiments yet to come. One of the first was "cell theory". In the late 17th Century a Dutch draper, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, first saw living cells with a lens designed for looking at cloth. In the 150 years that followed, cell theory emerged to irrefutably describe not only that every living thing on Earth was made of cells, but that cells could only be born from existing cells dividing. Charles Darwin came up with the genius of the theory of evolution by natural selection in 1859: how life on Earth spread and evolved. The third was the discovery of the double helix of DNA. This discovery revealed that there was one molecule, common to all life forms, which gave the mechanism for both cell theory and evolution.




First Human Gene Implicated In Regulating Length Of Human Sleep   Science Daily - August 14, 2009
Scientists have discovered the first gene involved in regulating the optimal length of human sleep, offering a window into a key aspect of slumber, an enigmatic phenomenon that is critical to human physical and mental health. The team identified a mutated gene that allows two members of an extended family to thrive on six hours of sleep a day rather than the eight to eight-and-a-half hours that studies have shown humans need over time to maintain optimal health. Working from this discovery, the scientists genetically engineered mice and fruit flies to express the mutated gene and study its impact.




Scientists find new way to extract diluted and contaminated DNA   PhysOrg - August 11, 2009
By exploiting the physical traits of DNA - electric charge, length and flexibility - we’ve been able to extract DNA from samples that would otherwise not produce enough clean DNA for analysis.




First-ever 'Wanderlust Gene' Found In Tiny Bony Fish   Science Daily - August 6, 2009
A gene previously associated with physical traits is also dictating behavior in a tiny fish widely regarded as a living model of Darwin's natural selection theory, according to a University of British Columbia study. Measuring three to 10 centimetres, stickleback fish originated in the ocean but began populating freshwater lakes and streams following the last ice age. Over the past 15,000 years, freshwater sticklebacks have lost their bony lateral plates, or "armour," in these new environments. Scientists have identified a mutant form of a gene, or allele, that prohibits growth of armour and is commonly found in freshwater sticklebacks but exists in less than one per cent of their marine counterparts.




'Jumping Genes' Create Diversity In Human Brain Cells, Offering Clues To Evolutionary And Neurological Disease   Science Daily - August 6, 2009
Rather than sticking to a single DNA script, human brain cells harbor astonishing genomic variability, according to scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The findings, to be published in the Aug. 5, 2009, advance online edition of Nature, could help explain brain development and individuality, as well as lead to a better understanding of neurological disease.




Structure of HIV genome 'decoded'   BBC - August 6, 2009
Scientists say they have decoded the entire genetic structure of HIV-1 - the main cause of Aids in humans. They hope this will pave the way to a greater understanding of how the virus operates, and potentially accelerate the development of drug treatments. HIV carries its genetic information in more complicated structures than some other viruses.




A genetic basis for schizophrenia   PhysOrg - July 21, 2009
Schizophrenia is a severely debilitating psychiatric disease that is thought to have its roots in the development of the nervous system; however, major breakthroughs linking its genetics to diagnosis, prognosis and treatment are still unrealized. During development, cells need to properly migrate to their final destination in order to develop into the appropriate cell-type, integrate into the corresponding network of cells and function properly. Disruption of cell migration can lead to inappropriate cell development and function, resulting in disease.




Gene regulates immune cells' ability to harm the body   PhysOrg - July 17, 2009
A recently identified gene allows immune cells to start the self-destructive processes thought to underlie autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers showed that mice without the Batf gene lacked a type of inflammatory immune cell and were resistant to a procedure that normally induces an autoimmune condition similar to human MS. They plan to look for other genes and proteins influenced by Batf that could be targets for new treatments for autoimmune diseases.




Linking genes, brain and behavior in children   PhysOrg - July 13, 2009
It comes as no surprise that some babies are more difficult to soothe than others but frustrated parents may be relieved to know that this is not necessarily an indication of their parenting skills. The pattern of brain activity in the frontal cortex of the brain has been associated with various types of temperament in children. For example, infants who have more activity in the left frontal cortex are characterized as temperamentally "easy" and are easily calmed down. Conversely, infants with greater activity in the right half of the frontal cortex are temperamentally "negative" and are easily distressed and more difficult to soothe.




Oxygen Key To 'Cut And Paste' Of Genes   Science Daily - July 12, 2009
An oxygen-sensitive enzyme has been found to play a key role in how genes create the many different proteins that make up our bodies. The finding shows that the enzyme, termed Jmjd6, directly intervenes in the process in which the DNA of our genes is ‘cut and pasted’ into instructions for the creation of specific proteins.




Many Genetic Contributions To Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder Discovered   Science Daily - July 2, 2009
An international research consortium has discovered that many common genetic variants contribute to a person's risk of schizophrenia and explain at least a third of the risk of inheriting the disease, providing the first molecular evidence that this form of genetic variation is involved in schizophrenia. The researchers also found that many of these DNA variations also are involved in bipolar disorder but not in several non-psychiatric diseases




Scientists harness logic of 'Sudoku' math puzzle to vastly enhance genome-sequencing capability   PhysOrg - June 24, 2009
A math-based game that has taken the world by storm with its ability to delight and puzzle may now be poised to revolutionize the fast-changing world of genome sequencing and the field of medical genetics, suggests a new report. Combining a 2,000-year-old Chinese math theorem with concepts from cryptology, the CSHL scientists have devised "DNA Sudoku." The strategy allows tens of thousands of DNA samples to be combined, and their sequences - the order in which the letters of the DNA alphabet (A, T, G, and C) line up in the genome - to be determined all at once.




In pursuit of a happiness gene   PhysOrg - June 23, 2009
The pursuit of happiness characterizes the human condition. But for those suffering from stress, money trouble or chronic illness, a positive outlook on life can be difficult to find. Now, a Tel Aviv University researcher says we should look to our genes.




ADHD genes found, known to play roles in neurodevelopment   PhysOrg - June 23, 2009
Pediatric researchers have identified hundreds of gene variations that occur more frequently in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than in children without ADHD. Many of those genes were already known to be important for learning, behavior, brain function and neurodevelopment, but had not been previously associated with ADHD.




DNA template could explain evolutionary shifts   PhysOrg - June 21, 2009
Rearrangements of all sizes in genomes, genes and exons can result from a glitch in DNA copying that occurs when the process stalls at a critical point and then shifts to a different genetic template, duplicating and even triplicating genes or just shuffling or deleting part of the code within them, said researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in a recent report in the journal Nature Genetics. The report further elucidated the effect of the fork stalling and template switching mechanism involved in some forms of copy number variation.




Genetic Basis Of Musical Aptitude   Science Daily - May 28, 2009

Music is social communication between individuals -- humming of lullabies attach infant to parent and singing or playing music adds croup cohesion. The neurobiology of music perception and production is likely to be related to the pathways affecting intrinsic attachment behavior, suggests a recent Finnish study. The study gives new information about genetic background of musical aptitude.




Japan study finds hair-loss gene   PhysOrg - May 26, 2009

Experiments on mice have revealed a gene that is linked to early hair loss. The research team found that the absence of a gene known as Sox21 -- which it said is shared by humans and mice -- can lead to early hair loss.




Mouse genome laid bare to science   BBC - May 27, 2009

Scientists have finished sequencing the mouse genome after a 10-year effort. The humble mouse is the experimental workhorse in laboratories worldwide, so this high-quality genome sequence will aid in the fight against human disease. The search for novel treatments could benefit from a greater understanding of the mouse genetic code, which is about 75% similar to our own.




Scientists identify genes behind aging process   Telegraph.co.uk - May 26, 2009
Scientists have identified genes which control the ageing process in findings which could lead to new drugs to prevent illnesses from heart disease to Alzheimer's.




Genes Found Related to Onset of Menstruation and Menopause   Live Science - May 17, 2009
Girls who begin menstruation earlier than average have a greater chance of being short and fat and are at greater risk for breast cancer and endometrial cancer later in life. Now scientists have found two genes involved in determining the onset of menstruation. The study also found genes related to the onset of menopause. Early menopause increases risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Further research into these genes could improve understanding of all the related diseases, researchers said. The findings were reported in the journal Nature Genetics today. Some researchers think puberty is starting earlier these days, but the idea is controversial. Puberty has been known, rarely, to start before 8 in girls or age 9 in boys.




Landmark Study Reveals Significant Genetic Variation Between Mexico's Population And World's Other Known Genetic Subgroups   Science Daily - May 13, 2009
Could genetic differences explain why some people and not others have died of H1N1 Influenza A? That is among the questions raised by a landmark Mexican study showing significant genetic variation between Mestizos (Latin Americans of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry) and the world's other known genetic subgroups. A team of 16 Mexican researchers, analyzed the genetic composition of 300 Mestizos from six geographically distant states in Mexico and one Amerindian population (30 members of the indigenous Zapotecas group in the state of Oaxaca). They discovered that genetically the Mexican Mestizo and Indigenous populations are substantially different from the three other known human genetic subgroups (Yoruba from Africa, Caucasians of European descent, and the Chinese and Japanese of Asia), whose DNA make-ups were documented through the historic International HapMap Project, 2002 to 2006. The Mexican research was undertaken to establish the comparability of Latino genomes to others in the global search for health-related genes throughout humanity.




Africa's genetic secrets unlocked   BBC - May 1, 2009
A genetic map of Africa - the continent from which all modern humans originate - has provided information about its huge diversity of language and culture. It is the result of the largest African genetic study ever undertaken. The work revealed the continent to be the most genetically diverse place on Earth, and identified descendants of our earliest human ancestors. Because the origins of African American ancestry can be seen "all the way from Senegal down to Angola, it will be a long time before a DNA test will be able to identify someone's ancestral origin.




Genes 'have key role in autism'   BBC - April 29, 2009
Scientists have produced the most compelling evidence to date that genetics play a key role in autism. They highlighted tiny genetic changes that appear to have a strong impact on the likelihood of developing autism and related conditions. The changes influence genes which help form and maintain connections between brain cells. The Nature study highlighted one common genetic variant which, if corrected would cut cases of autism by 15%.




Epigenetics: A Revolutionary Look at How Humans Work   Live Science - April 27, 2009
Scientists are now pinpointing exactly how nurture affects nature. Life experiences - from toxin exposure to physical affection - can alter gene expression in dynamic and sometimes reversible ways. These insights - the result of a burgeoning field called epigenetics - were aided by the sequencing of the human genome, completed in 2003. However, the genome itself turns out to have limited value for understanding disease and human characteristics. Most traits and diseases involve a multitude of gene combinations, and while you can identify certain associated genes, they don't explain that much. But the epigenome may provide countless explanations.




Love at First Sight Might Be Genetic   Live Science - April 9, 2009
. The findings suggest that females can somehow judge a potential mate upon first meeting and biologically react to boost the chances of producing successful offspring. The researchers mated female fruit flies with males from the same strain, and from a different strain, and noted differences in reproductive attributes and behavior soon after mating. When females mated with males that were not of the same strain, they seemed to be able to tell that they were more genetically compatible, perhaps because their progeny would be less inbred, and produced more eggs and more offspring.




Genetics Of Fear: Specific Genetic Variations Contribute To Anxiety Disorders, Study Suggests   Science Daily - March 11, 2009
Polymorphisms are variations in genes which can result in changes in the way a particular gene functions and thus may be associated with susceptibility to common diseases. Many symptoms of anxiety disorders are thought to be learned and research on fear conditioning (a method of learning to fear a particular stimulus) shows that individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders are quick to learn to fear a stimulus but have a difficult time getting rid of that fear. In this study, the researchers focused on polymorphisms in two genes thought to play a role in anxiety disorders: the serotonin transporter gene and the gene for the enzyme COMT.




A dead gene comes back to life in humans   PhysOrg - March 6, 2009
A strange, new genetic code a lot like that found in all terrestrial life is sitting in a beaker full of oily water in a laboratory in Florida, a scientist said today, calling it the first example of an artificial chemical system that is capable of Darwinian evolution. The system is made of the four molecules that are the basic building blocks of our DNA along with eight synthetic modifications of them, said biochemist Steven A. Benner. The main difference between the synthetic molecules and those that make up conventional DNA is that Benner's molecules cannot make copies of themselves, although that is just a couple of years away. The truncated IRGM gene is one of only two genes of its type remaining in humans. The genes are Immune-Related GTPases, a kind of gene that helps mammals resist germs like tuberculosis and salmonella that try to invade cells. Unlike humans, most other mammals have several genes of this type. Mice, for example, have 21 Immune-Related GTPases. Medical interest in this gene ignited recently, when scientists associated specific IRGM mutations with the risk of Crohn's disease, an inflammatory digestive disorder.




New Artificial DNA Points to Alien Life   Live Science - February 14, 2009
A strange, new genetic code a lot like that found in all terrestrial life is sitting in a beaker full of oily water in a laboratory in Florida, a scientist said today, calling it the first example of an artificial chemical system that is capable of Darwinian evolution. The system is made of the four molecules that are the basic building blocks of our DNA along with eight synthetic modifications of them, said biochemist Steven A. Benner. The main difference between the synthetic molecules and those that make up conventional DNA is that Benner's molecules cannot make copies of themselves, although that is just a couple of years away.




Mixed population provides insights into human genetic makeup   PhysOrg - February 14, 2009
Genetic diseases and genetically mixed populations can help researchers understand human diversity and human origins.




Next generation sequencing technology pinpoint 'on-off switches' in genomes   PhysOrg - February 12, 2009
Activity pattern of one of nearly 5000 potential genetic switches (enhancers) identified by Visel et al. This particular switch is located on human chromosome 5 and turns on genes in developing mammalian limbs, as shown here by reporter gene staining (dark blue) in a transgenic mouse embryo.




Common Cold DNA Deciphered, Congestion Continues   Live Science - February 12, 2009
Snifflers of the world rejoice: Scientists are one step closer to finding effective treatments for the common cold now that researchers have deciphered the genetic code of the ubiquitous virus. While a full-blown cure for the common cold is not expected anytime soon, the mapping of the human rhinovirus's genetic blueprint will help scientists better understand and combat this highly contagious pathogen. In the meantime, there are always ways to help keep yourself from succumbing to the coughs and congestion.




'Nonsense' In Our Genes: One In 200 Human Genes Superfluous?   Science Daily - February 7, 2009
1 in 200 of our human genes can be inactivated with no detectable effect on our health. The study raises new questions about the effects of gene loss on our wellbeing and evolution. The study explores single letter changes in our genetic code that affect the ability of genes to produce proteins. The researchers' findings suggest that such mutations, while sometimes harmful, generally have little consequence for the individual and may occasionally even be beneficial in evolutionary terms. The team studied variations in the genetic code of more than 1000 people from around the world. They focused their work on single-letter changes (called SNPs) that disrupt proteins, leading to versions that are either shorter or completely absent. One might intuitively expect that such a change - called a nonsense-SNP - would be harmful to the person.




Genetic interactions are the key to understanding complex traits   PhysOrg - January 22, 2009
In recent years, genetic studies have uncovered hundreds of DNA variations linked to common diseases, such as cancer or diabetes, raising the prospect that scientists can gauge disease risk based on information in an individual's genome. But the variations identified to date only account for a small percentage - typically one to three percent - of the overall genetic risk of any common disease.




Rethinking The Genetic Theory Of Inheritance: Heritability May Not Be Limited To DNA   Science Daily - January 21, 2009
Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have detected evidence that DNA may not be the only carrier of heritable information; a secondary molecular mechanism called epigenetics may also account for some inherited traits and diseases. These findings challenge the fundamental principles of genetics and inheritance, and potentially provide a new insight into the primary causes of human diseases.




Life As We Know It Nearly Created in Lab   Live Science - January 14, 2009

One of life's greatest mysteries is how it began. Scientists have pinned it down to roughly this: Some chemical reactions occurred about 4 billion years ago - perhaps in a primordial tidal soup or maybe with help of volcanoes or possibly at the bottom of the sea or between the mica sheets - to create biology. Now scientists have created something in the lab that is tantalizingly close to what might have happened. It's not life, they stress, but it certainly gives the science community a whole new data set to chew on.




How Did Life Begin? RNA That Replicates Itself Indefinitely Developed For First Time   Science Daily - January 10, 2009

One of the most enduring questions is how life could have begun on Earth. Molecules that can make copies of themselves are thought to be crucial to understanding this process as they provide the basis for heritability, a critical characteristic of living systems. New findings could inform biochemical questions about how life began. Now, a pair of Scripps Research Institute scientists has taken a significant step toward answering that question. The scientists have synthesized for the first time RNA enzymes that can replicate themselves without the help of any proteins or other cellular components, and the process proceeds indefinitely.




Scientists develop first examples of RNA that replicates itself indefinitely   PhysOrg - January 10, 2009
Now, a pair of Scripps Research Institute scientists has taken a significant step toward answering that question. The scientists have synthesized for the first time RNA enzymes that can replicate themselves without the help of any proteins or other cellular components, and the process proceeds indefinitely. In the modern world, DNA carries the genetic sequence for advanced organisms, while RNA is dependent on DNA for performing its roles such as building proteins. But one prominent theory about the origins of life, called the RNA World model, postulates that because RNA can function as both a gene and an enzyme, RNA might have come before DNA and protein and acted as the ancestral molecule of life. However, the process of copying a genetic molecule, which is considered a basic qualification for life, appears to be exceedingly complex, involving many proteins and other cellular components.




How chromosomes meet in the dark -- Switch that turns on X chromosome matchmaking   PhysOrg - December 27, 2008
A research group lead by scientists at the University of Warwick has discovered the trigger that pulls together X chromosomes in female cells at a crucial stage of embryo development. Their discovery could also provide new insights into how other similar chromosomes spontaneously recognize each other and are bound together at key parts of analogous cell processes. This is an important mechanism as the binding togetgher of too many of too few of a particular chromosome can cause a number of medical conditions such as Down's Syndrome or Turner's Syndrome.




Model unravels rules that govern how genes are switched on and off    PhysOrg - December 4, 2008

For years, scientists have struggled to decipher the genetic instruction book that details where and when the 20,000 genes in a human cell will be turned on or off. Different genes operate in each cell type at different times, and this careful orchestration is what ultimately distinguishes a brain cell from a liver or skin cell. Scientists have developed a model of gene expression in yeast that predicts with a high degree of accuracy whether a gene will be switched on or off.




Cancer patient genome sequenced for the first time PhysOrg - November 6, 2008

For the first time, scientists have decoded the complete DNA of a cancer patient and traced her disease - acute myelogenous leukemia - to its genetic roots.




Biologists discover motor protein that rewinds DNA PhysOrg - October 30, 2008

Two biologists at the University of California, San Diego have discovered the first of a new class of cellular motor proteins that "rewind" sections of the double-stranded DNA molecule that become unwound, like the tangled ribbons from a cassette tape, in "bubbles" that prevent critical genes from being expressed. When your DNA gets stuck in the unwound position, your cells are in big trouble, and in humans, that ultimately leads to death. The discovery represents the first time scientists have identified a motor protein specifically designed to prevent the accumulation of bubbles of unwound DNA, which occurs when DNA strands become improperly unwound in certain locations along the molecule.




Genetic link to gender identity PhysOrg - October 30, 2008
In the largest ever genetic study of male to female transsexuals Australian researchers have found a significant genetic link between gender identity and a gene involved in testosterone action. From an early age people develop an inner sense of being male or female – their gender identity. Transsexuals however, identify with a physical sex opposite to their perceived biological sex. DNA samples were collected from 112 male to female transsexuals and researchers compared genetic differences with non transsexuals.




Infidelity Gene? Genetic Link To Relationship Difficulties Found Science Daily - September 3, 2008

Scientists at Karolinska Institutet have found a link between a specific gene and the way men bond to their partners.There are, of course, many reasons why a person might have relationship problems, but this is the first time that a specific gene variant has been associated with how men bond to their partners.




Europe's Ancestors: Cro-Magnon 28,000 Years Old Had DNA Like Modern Humans Science Daily - July 16, 2008

Some 40,000 years ago, Cro-Magnons -- the first people who had a skeleton that looked anatomically modern -- entered Europe, coming from Africa. A Cro-Magnoid individual who lived in Southern Italy 28,000 years ago was a modern European, genetically as well as anatomically. The Cro-Magnoid people long coexisted in Europe with other humans, the Neandertals, whose anatomy and DNA were clearly different from ours. However, obtaining a reliable sequence of Cro-Magnoid DNA was technically challenging.




Researchers discover gene linked to adult-onset obesity PhysOrg - June 10, 2008
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered a gene that may provide a clue as to why obesity rates increase with age. By examining closely where this gene, termed Girk4, is expressed in the body, the researchers found particularly high levels in the hypothalamus, a brain region involved in regulating food intake and energy expenditure.




New Way To Think About Earth's First Cells Science Daily - June 8, 2008
A team of researchers at Harvard University have modeled in the laboratory a primitive cell, or protocell, that is capable of building, copying and containing DNA. Since there are no physical records of what the first primitive cells on Earth looked like, or how they grew and divided, the research team's protocell project offers a useful way to learn about how Earth's earliest cells may have interacted with their environment approximately 3.5 billion years ago. The protocell's fatty acid membrane allows chemical compounds, including the building blocks of DNA, to enter into the cell without the assistance of the protein channels and pumps required by today's highly developed cell membranes. Also unlike modern cells, the protocell does not use enzymes for copying its DNA.




Computer Program Reveals Anyone's Ancestry Live Science- April 4, 2008

A group of computer scientists, mathematicians, and biologists from around the world have developed a computer algorithm that can quickly trace an individual’s genetic ancestry with only a small sample of their DNA. In fact, the program can trace the genetic ancestry of thousands of individuals in minutes, without any prior knowledge of their background.




The Lean Gene: Thinness Is An Inheritable Trait Science Daily - April 3, 2008

Your friend can eat whatever she wants and still fit into her prom dress, but you gain five pounds if you just look at that chocolate cake. Before you sign up for Weight Watchers and that gym membership, though, you may want to look at some recent research from Tel Aviv University and save yourself a few hundred dollars. A woman's waistline may have less to do with rigorous exercise and abstaining from sweets than it does with the genes of her parents. Until now, scientists were not sure to what extent environmental influences and genetics played a role in a woman's body size. When controlling for the variance of age, the differences in womens' body sizes can be predicted in the genes more than 50 percent of the time, the researchers found.




Genes 'play key happiness role' BBC - March 5, 2008
Our level of happiness throughout life is strongly influenced by the genes with which we were born, say experts. An Edinburgh University study of identical and non-identical twins suggests genes may control half the personality traits keeping us happy. The other half is linked to lifestyle, career and relationships.




New Way To Store Information Via DNA Discovered Science Daily - February 26, 2008

Researchers at UC Riverside have found a way to get into your body and your bloodstream. The researchers discovered a system to encode digital information within DNA. This method relies on the length of the fragments obtained by the partial restriction digest rather than the actual content of the nucleotide sequence. As a result, the technology eliminates the need to use expensive sequencing machinery. Why is this discovery important? The human genome consists of the equivalent of approximately 750 megabytes of data – a significant amount of storage space. However, only about three percent of DNA goes into composing the more than 22,000 genes that make us what we are. The remaining 97 percent leaves plenty of room to encode information in a genome, allowing the information to be preserved and replicated in perpetuity.




Most Detailed Global Study Of Genetic Variation Completed Science Daily - February 21, 2008

University of Michigan scientists and their colleagues at the National Institute on Aging have produced the largest and most detailed worldwide study of human genetic variation, a treasure trove offering new insights into early migrations out of Africa and across the globe. Like astronomers who build ever-larger telescopes to peer deeper into space, population geneticists like U-M's Noah Rosenberg are using the latest genetic tools to probe DNA molecules in unprecedented detail, uncovering new clues to humanity's origins. The latest study characterizes more than 500,000 DNA markers in the human genome and examines variations across 29 populations on five continents.




Genetic 'telepathy'? A bizarre new property of DNA PhysOrg - January 29, 2008
Scientists are reporting evidence that intact, double-stranded DNA has the amazing ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. And then like friends with similar interests, the bits of genetic material hangout or congregate together. The recognition - of similar sequences in DNA's chemical subunits - occurs in a way once regarded as impossible, the researchers suggest in a study scheduled for the Jan. 31 issue of ACS' Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

This recognition may help increase the accuracy and efficiency of the homologous recombination of genes - a process responsible for DNA repair, evolution, and genetic diversity. The new findings thus may shed light on ways to avoid recombination errors, which underpin cancer, aging, and other health problems. In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences. "Amazingly, the forces responsible for the sequence recognition can reach across more than one nanometer of water separating the surfaces of the nearest neighbor DNA," said the authors.




A person's preference for being a "lark" or a "night-owl" is largely determined by genes BBC - January 29, 2008

A person's preference for being a "lark" or a "night-owl" is largely determined by genes, a study suggests. Scientists have found that each cell of the body has an internal "clock", which can be affected by various genes. Research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that skin cells can be used to measure the speed of a person's body clock.




Early Birds, Night Owls: Blame Your Genes National Geographic - January 29, 2008
Those who struggle to get out of bed in the morning may be able to hold their genes responsible, new research suggests. Scientists have discovered that a person's waking habits are mirrored by body cells that are equipped with their own daily alarm clocks. The work represents the first internal look at the biological clocks of those suffering from sleeping disorders.




One Common Ancestor Behind Blue Eyes Live Science - February 1, 2008

People with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor, according to new research. A team of scientists has tracked down a genetic mutation that leads to blue eyes. The mutation occurred between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Before then, there were no blue eyes.




Entire Synthetic Genome Created National Geographic - January 25, 2008
Scientists yesterday announced that they have successfully created an entire synthetic genome in the lab by stitching together the DNA of the smallest known free-living bacterium, Mycoplasma genitalium. Experts are hailing the research as an important breakthrough in genetic manipulation that will one day lead to the "routine" creation of synthetic genomes possibly including those of mammals. It represents the initial stages of an important new step in studying how genes function together in systems to create complex phenotypes or traits. The new work is an important second step in a three-step process to the creation of synthetic life




DNA molecules display telepathy-like quality MSNBC - January 25, 2008

Double helixes of DNA can recognize matching molecules from a distance and then gather together, all seemingly without help from any other molecules, scientists find. Previously, under the classic understanding of DNA, scientists had no reason to suspect that double helixes of the molecule could sort themselves by type, let alone seek each other out. The spiraling structure of DNA includes strings of molecules called bases. Each of its four bases, commonly known by the letters A, T, C and G, is chemically attracted to a specific partner A likes binding to T, and C to G. The scheme binds paired strands of DNA into the double helix the molecule is famous for. Scientists investigated double-stranded DNA tagged with fluorescent compounds. These molecules were placed in saltwater that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment or help the DNA molecules communicate.




Discovery of new cause of mental retardation simplifies search for treatments PhysOrg - January 24, 2008
Two to three children in 100 are born with a mental handicap. This can be caused by a genetic defect, but in 80% of the cases scientists do not know which genes are responsible. Now, VIB researchers connected to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in collaboration with an Australian research team, have discovered that, in a portion of these patients, the mental retardation is caused by a twofold production of two proteins (HSD17B10 and HUWE1).




How supercomputers enhance our understanding of genes Guardian - January 24, 2008
There's a widely accepted view that the genome is the computer program of life, and genes the software subroutines that code from DNA via RNA to proteins; and that like computers, when the software goes wrong bad things happen.




Mechanisms Of Common Inherited Mental Retardation Uncovered Science Daily - January 9, 2008
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center are uncovering how brain cells are affected in Fragile X syndrome, the most common cause of inherited mental retardation and the most common genetic cause of autism.




New Gene Identified For Condition That Causes Blood Clots In Brain Science Daily - January 8, 2008
Researchers have identified a new gene linked to cerebral venous thrombosis, a condition that causes blood clots in the veins of the brain that can lead to stroke. The condition is more common in young and middle-aged women.




Genetically Engineered Mice Don't Fear Cats National Geographic - December 13, 2007
The age-old animosity between cats and mice could be a thing of the past. New genetically engineered mice show no fear of cats, according to the Japanese scientists who created the rodents. The modified mice may also shed new light on mammal behavior.




Genetic fix 'corrects fragile X' BBC - December 21, 2007
Genetic engineering has been used to alleviate symptoms of a condition which is a leading cause of inherited learning difficulties and autism. There is currently no treatment for fragile X syndrome, also linked to epilepsy and abnormal body growth, but the new work raises hopes of progress.
Fragile X Syndrome Wikipedia




Gliding mammal linked to humans BBC - November 2, 2007

A gliding mammal that lives in the forests of south-east Asia is our closest relative after apes, monkeys and lemurs, a DNA study shows. Colugos are the "sisters" of primates, sharing a common ancestor some 80 million years ago when dinosaurs had their heyday, say US scientists. Until now, many experts thought tree shrews were closer to primates.




New Method Can Reveal Ancestry Of All Genes Across Many Different Genomes Science Daily - September 18, 2007

The wheels of evolution turn on genetic innovation -- new genes with new functions appear, allowing organisms to grow and adapt in new ways. But deciphering the history of how and when various genes appeared, for any organism, has been a difficult and largely intractable task.




Ancient Human DNA Extracted From Yucca Leaves Spat Out Science Daily - September 7, 2007
In a groundbreaking study, two Harvard scientists have for the first time extracted human DNA from ancient artifacts. The work potentially opens up a new universe of sources for ancient genetic material, which is used to map human migrations in prehistoric times. Before this, archaeologists could only get ancient DNA from relics of the human body itself, including prehistoric teeth, bones, fossilized feces, or rarely preserved flesh. Such sources of DNA are hard to find, poorly preserved, or unavailable because of cultural and legal barriers.




Scientists discover height gene BBC - September 3, 2007

Scientists have discovered the first gene that influences a person's height. People who carry two copies of the "tall" version of the HMGA2 gene are up to 1cm taller than those who carry two copies of the "short" version. Although it has long been clear that genetics plays a key role in determining a person's height, the genes involved have remained a mystery.




One gene may be key to perfect pitch News in Science - August 28, 2007

People with perfect pitch, the ability to name the note of just about any sound without the help of a reference tone, might thank their genes for this rare talent, according to a new study. Musicians and singers work for years to develop their sense of pitch. But only one in 10,000 people have perfect or absolute pitch.




Computer program turns DNA into music Guardian - August 3, 2007

A computer program that turns DNA into music helps to bring the arts and sciences closer. The scientists designed a computer program that turns genes into music. The resulting tunes are surprisingly melodic and have a curious resonance with the roots of both western music and science 26 centuries ago.




Gene for left-handedness is found BBC - July 31, 2007

Scientists have discovered the first gene which appears to increase the odds of being left-handed. The gene, LRRTM1, appears to play a key role in controlling which parts of the brain take control of specific functions, such as speech and emotion. In right-handed people the left side of the brain usually controls speech and language, and the right side controls emotions. However, in left-handed people the opposite is often true, and the researchers believe the LRRTM1 gene is responsible for this flip.




DNA reveals Greenland's lush past BBC - July 6, 2007
Armies of insects once crawled through lush forests in a region of Greenland now covered by more than 2,000m of ice. DNA extracted from ice cores shows that moths and butterflies were living in forests of spruce and pine in the area between 450,000 and 800,000 years ago.




Oldest Known DNA Found in Greenland Ice Core National Geographic - July 5, 2007

The oldest known strands of DNA have been recovered from frozen mud taken from the base of Greenland's ice sheet, according to a new study. The discovery could rewrite what was thought about Greenland's ecological past - and could alter current predictions about how global warming will affect the island's ice. Today most of the Danish-owned island is covered with an ice sheet up to two miles (three kilometers) thick. But the newfound DNA genetic material from pine trees, butterflies, and other organisms that lived as much as 800,000 years ago tells a story of a much greener and vibrant past. Hundreds of thousands of years ago southern Greenland had thriving forests similar to those in northern Canada today.




New Ice Core Reveals 800,000 Years of Climate History National Geographic - July 5, 2007
Earth's polar temperature has swung wildly by as much as 15 degrees Celsius (27 degrees Fahrenheit) over the last 800,000 years, an Antarctic ice core has revealed. In 2004 scientists led by Jean Jouzel of the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences (LSCE) in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, pulled up the final chunk of ice core from a drill hole in the center of Antarctica. At 3,260 meters (10,695 feet) long, drilling the ice core was a marathon effort in one of the most hostile and remote places on Earth.




First genome transplant turns one species into another Guardian - June 29, 2007

Scientists have converted an organism into an entirely different species by performing the world's first genome transplant, a breakthrough that paves the way for the creation of synthetic forms of life. The group's study, details of which were revealed in the US journal Science yesterday, proves it is possible to transplant a complete set of genetic instructions into an organism, in effect turning it into the same species the DNA was taken from. The proof of principle experiment solves the first of two big difficulties which have hindered the creation of artificial life. The team design new genetic codes on computers and transplanting them into organisms to produce new life forms.




First Bacterial Genome Transplantation Changes One Species To Another Science Daily - June 29, 2007

The successful completion of this research is important because it is one of the key proof of principles in synthetic genomics that will allow us to realize the ultimate goal of creating a synthetic organism. Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) have announced the results of work on genome transplantation methods allowing them to transform one type of bacteria into another type dictated by the transplanted chromosome. The work, published online in the journal Science, by JCVI’s Carole Lartigue, Ph.D. and colleagues, outlines the methods and techniques used to change one bacterial species, Mycoplasma capricolum into another, Mycoplasma mycoides Large Colony (LC), by replacing one organism’s genome with the other one's genome.




Aborigines, Europeans Share African Roots, DNA Suggests National Geographic - May 7, 2007

Where did we come from? Part of the answer may lie in a new study that suggests Australian Aborigines and Europeans share the same roots and that both emerged from a wave of African migrations more than 50,000 years ago. Both populations can be traced back to the same founders.




Native American DNA found in UK BBC - May 5, 2007
DNA testing has uncovered British descendants of Native Americans brought to the UK centuries ago as slaves, translators or tribal representatives. Many were brought over as curiosities; but others travelled here in delegations during the 18th Century to petition the British imperial government over trade or protection from other tribes.




Gene clue to longevity uncovered BBC - May 2, 2007
The mystery of how eating less boosts longevity is closer to being solved. Studies have shown that severe calorie restriction markedly extends lifespan in mice and many other species - but the reasons for this remained elusive. In the future, the find could lead to drugs that mimic the consequences of calorie restriction but negate the need for severe fasting regimes.




Gene Critical For Sophisticated Brain Function Found Science Daily - May 1, 2007
In the future, the find could lead to drugs that mimic the consequences of calorie restriction but negate the need for severe fasting regimes. The finding about the gene, dynamin 1, could have widespread implications since members of the dynamin gene family are needed for the body to absorb nutrients, to grow, to respond to insulin, and even for viruses to gain entry into cells. Dynamin encodes a protein implicated in endocytosis, which is when cells absorb material from the outside by engulfing it with their cell membranes. There has been considerable evidence that dynamin 1 is required for a specialized form of endocytosis in brain cells that is responsible for generating the synaptic vesicles that store and release neurotransmitter.




New Agent To Fight Genetic Disorders Found Science Daily - May 1, 2007
A new agent, called "Zorro-LNA," appears to have the potential to stop genetic disorders in their tracks. This development has clinical implications for virtually every human condition caused by or worsened by dominant defective genes. Examples include: Huntington's disease, familial high cholesterol, polycystic kidney disease, some instances of glaucoma and colorectal cancer, and neurofibromatosis, among others. Zorro-LNA is a new substance that targets DNA and turns off genes.




Clear obesity gene link 'found' BBC - April 13, 2007

Scientists say they have identified the clearest genetic link to obesity yet. They found people with two copies of a "fat" version of a gene had a 70% higher risk of obesity than those with none, and weighed 3kg (6.5lb) more. The work in Science by the Peninsula Medical School and Oxford University studied data from about 40,000 people. The findings suggest that although improving lifestyle is key to reducing obesity, some people may find it harder to lose weight because of their genes.




Scientists Implicate Gene In Vitiligo And Other Autoimmune Diseases Science Daily - April 11, 2007
Vitiligo Wikipedia In a study scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) have discovered a connection between a specific gene and the inflammatory skin condition vitiligo, as well as a possible host of autoimmune diseases. Vitiligo is a chronic condition in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) in the skin are destroyed. As a result, white patches appear on the skin in different parts of the body. Similar patches also appear on both the mucous membranes (tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose), and perhaps in the retina (inner layer of the eyeball). The hair that grows on areas affected by vitiligo sometimes turns white.




Humans show major DNA differences BBC - November 23, 2006
Scientists have shown that the genetic make-up of humans can vary hugely - far more than was previously thought. A UK-led team made a detailed analysis of the DNA found in 270 people and identified vast regions to be duplicated or even missing. A great many of these variations are in areas of the genome that would not damage our health




Spiny creature's genome insight BBC - November 10, 2006
Scientists have unravelled the genetic code of the sea urchin, an animal whose evolutionary lineage may be key to understanding the relationship of humans and other vertebrates to invertebrates.

Surprise! Your Cousin's a Sea Urchin Live Science - November 9, 2006

By analyzing the newly sequenced genome of the spineless creature, an international team of scientists found just how much we have in common with them.




Gene sequence which appears to play a central role in giving humans their unique brain capacity BBC - August 17, 2006

The area, called HAR1, has undergone accelerated evolutionary change in humans and is active during a critical stage in brain development. They say the evidence suggests it may play a role in the development of the cerebral cortex - and may help explain the dramatic expansion of this part of the brain during human evolution.




Tooth gives up oldest human DNA BBC - June 7, 2006
SScientists have recovered DNA from a Neanderthal that lived 100,000 years ago - the oldest human-type DNA so far. It was extracted from the tooth of a Neanderthal child found in the Scladina cave in the Meuse Basin, Belgium. The scientists decoded the sequence of 123 DNA "letters" (base-pairs, or bp) and compared it with other known Neanderthal DNA sequences from specimens dated between 29,000 and 42,000 years old.




Spotty mice flout genetics laws BBC - May 24, 2006
Mice get trait without gene ...
Scientists have for the first time shown that animals can defy the laws of genetic inheritance. Researchers found that mice can pass on traits to their offspring even if the gene behind those traits is absent. The scientists suggest RNA, a chemical cousin of DNA, passes on the characteristic - in this experiment, a spotty tail - to later generations.




Final genome 'chapter' published BBC - May 17, 2006
published a detailed analysis of the DNA sequence found on chromosome one - marking the completion of the Human Genome Project. Chromosome one is the largest "bundle" of genetic material found in cells, and comprises about 8% of our genome. Researchers say defects on chromosome one are involved in more than 350 diseases, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's; as well as some cancers.




Human Genome Shows Proof of Recent Evolution, National Geographic - March 8, 2006

Signs of recent evolution by natural selection are widespread across the human genome, experts say. Genome researchers at the University of Chicago have identified more than 700 regions in human DNA where apparently strong selection has occurred, driving the spread of genes linked to a broad range of characteristics. The results suggest that humans in different regions have continued to adapt in numerous ways to both environmental changes and cultural innovations.




Key gene 'controls skin color' BBC - December 16, 2005
Scientists believe that studying the humble zebrafish may have helped solve the mystery of human skin color. The finding, published in Science, may help explain why people of European descent have lighter skin than those from Africa. It is hoped the research may lead to new ways to treat skin cancer.




Dog Genome Mapped, Shows Similarities to Humans National Geographic - December 8, 2005
Researchers have finished mapping the genome of the domestic dog. The results show among other things that dogs, mice, and humans share a core set of DNA. A rough sequencing of a poodle's genome was reported in 2003, but it covered only about 75 percent of the genes. They sequenced 99 percent of the genome of a female boxer.




'Start of life' gene discovered BBC - October 29, 2005
Scientists have found the gene responsible for controlling a first key step in the creation of new life. The HIRA gene is involved in the events necessary for the fertilization that take place once a sperm enters an egg. Faults in this gene might explain why some couples struggle to get pregnant despite having healthy sperm. When the sperm enters the egg, its DNA has to undergo a complete transformation so that it can properly join with the female DNA to form a genetically complete new life.




'Life code' of chimps laid bare BBC - September 1, 2005
The genetic make-up of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, has been sequenced and analyzed by an international team of researchers. The scientists say the information is a milestone in the quest to discover what sets us apart from other animals. A comparison shows chimps and humans to be almost 99% identical in the most important areas of their "life codes".




The human Y chromosome has lost so many genes over evolutionary time NBC - September 1, 2005
The human Y chromosome the DNA chunk that makes a man a man - has lost so many genes over evolutionary time that some scientists have suspected it might disappear in 10 million years. But a new study says it’ll stick around. Researchers found no sign of gene loss over the past 6 million years, suggesting the chromosome is doing a pretty good job of maintaining itself. That agrees with prior mathematical calculations that suggested the rate of gene loss would slow as the chromosome evolved.




British Have Changed Little Since Ice Age, Gene Study National Geographic - July 20, 2005
Despite invasions by Saxons, Romans, Vikings, Normans, and others, the genetic makeup of today's white Britons is much the same as it was 12,000 ago, a new book claims. In The Tribes of Britain, archaeologist David Miles says around 80 percent of the genetic characteristics of most white Britons have been passed down from a few thousand Ice Age hunters.




Identical Twins Exhibit Differences in Gene Expression Scientific American - July 5, 2005

At first glance identical twins seem, well, identical. In fact many of these sibling pairs show minor physical variations and differences in characteristics such as susceptibility to disease. Just what causes these dissimilarities is unclear. But a new report further suggests that epigenetic factors--that is, differences in how the genome is expressed--could be responsible.




The DNA test that tells where your family was 40,000 years ago BBC - June 3, 2005
A family tree researched by conventional methods can only go back so far before patchy records stymie progress. Now amateur genealogists are turning to DNA testing to trace their ancestry. But how much can this tell us about where we come from?




Extinct cave bear DNA sequenced BBC - June 3, 2005
Scientists have extracted and decoded the DNA of a cave bear that died 40,000 years ago. They plan to unravel the DNA of other extinct species, including our closest ancient relatives, the Neanderthals. But they say the idea of obtaining DNA from dinosaurs, depicted in the film Jurassic Park, remains science fiction. It is highly unlikely that viable genetic material will ever be recovered from fossils that are hundreds of millions of years old. But the scientists hope to be able to sequence the DNA of ancient humans, which lived at the same time as cave bears, raising the prospect of perhaps one day being able to "build" a Neanderthal from their genetic blueprint.




Scientists find a gene that leads to male baldness Guardian - May 23, 2005
It's been blamed on everything from stress to poor nutrition and vitamin intake and what some trichologists bafflingly refer to as "impaired scalp circulation". But now men with hair loss can stop hiding behind euphemisms and expensive unguents: baldness is in the genes and, apparently, it's largely mum's fault. That, at least, is the conclusion of a team of German scientists who have been studying families in which several men have been affected by the condition. It has long been suspected that hereditary factors are an important cause of hair loss. Men always inherit the X chromosome from their mothers, while women inherit an X from each parent. Therefore when it comes to going bald, a man is more likely to take after his maternal grandfather. But until now scientists have not known precisely which genes were involved in this hereditary process.




Same Fold In Viral Shells Point To Common Ancestry DNA Science Daily - May 19, 2005

New findings in research led by Purdue University biologists provide further evidence that the protein envelope protecting DNA in viruses evolved billions of years ago from a common ancestor and uses the same basic protein "fold" to construct the critical outer shell.




Crick's first DNA doodle released BBC - February 2005

The doodle, done on a scrap of A4 paper, provides the first hint of the famous double-helix structure of DNA. A rough sketch by Francis Crick showing his first impression of the DNA molecule has been released on the web. The doodle, done on a scrap of A4 paper, provides the first hint of the famous double-helix structure of DNA. The Cambridge scientist, who died in July 2004 aged 88, identified the shape of DNA with Dr James Watson in 1953. The pencil drawing has been posted on the internet as part of a project to open the late scientist's life and work to the public. Crick famously celebrated by going to a local pub and telling regulars that he and Dr Watson had "found the secret of life".




Chicken gives up genetic secrets BBC - December 9, 2004

Scientists have published a detailed analysis of the chicken genome, the biochemical "code" in the bird's cells that makes the animal what it is. The data should help us understand better our own biology and may give us fresh insight on avian-borne diseases such as salmonella and bird flu. It could also lead to a step-change in the food industry with the development of more productive and healthier birds.




Gay: How homosexuality is 'inherited' BBC - October 13, 2004
Scientists say they have shown how male homosexuality could be passed from generation to generation. Nature encourages mothers to pass on a "gay trait" to their male offspring by boosting their fertility, the Italian University of Padova team believes. This would keep the pattern of gay inheritance alive, they told the Royal Society's Biological Sciences journal. Critics of the theory argue a gay gene would eventually be wiped out because gay couples do not procreate.




Researchers Uncover Surprising Degree Of Large-scale Variation In The Human Genome Science Daily - July 2004
The study, which appears this week in the journal Science, used a powerful new DNA profiling technique, originally developed by Wigler's group, called ROMA (representational oligonucleotide microarray analysis). The technique was initially developed to detect the genetic differences between normal cells and cancer cells. This application of ROMA has revealed several chromosomal amplifications (excess copies of DNA segments) and deletions (missing DNA segments) associated with a variety of human cancers in individual patients (see http://www.cshl.edu/public/releases/revealing.html ). However, in the course of that work, the researchers were greatly surprised to have detected several large-scale, previously unidentified differences in human DNA when they carried out "normal to normal" control comparisons of DNA from different individuals.




Earliest Evidence Of Hereditary Genetic Disorder Discovered Science Daily - June 29, 2004
The discovery of what is believed to be the oldest evidence yet found of a human hereditary genetic disorder has been announced by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. his is the first recorded evidence from such an early prehistoric period of a hereditary disorder in which the specific genes responsible have been identified. Undoubtedly, he said, there are other hereditary diseases that have come down to us from prehistoric ancestors and which are yet to be discovered in fossil remains. The fossil is dated as 1.5 million years old and is from a two-year-old Homo erectus child. Homo erectus was a precursor of modern man.




A Gene That Keeps Species Apart Science Daily - June 16,2004
Nearly 150 years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, biologists are still debating how new species emerge from old--and even the definition of species itself. Darwin demurred from offering a hard and fast definition, suggesting that such a thing was "undiscoverable." One of the more enduring definitions characterizes organisms as distinct reproductive units and species as groups of individuals that can interbreed and produce viable, fertile offspring. The lack of genetic exchange between species, called reproductive isolation, lies at the heart of this definition. At the heart of reproductive isolation is a phenomenon called hybrid incompatibility, in which closely related species are capable of mating but produce inviable or sterile offspring.




'Fidelity gene' found in voles BBC - June 16, 2004
A single gene can turn the Don Juan of voles into an attentive home-loving husband, Nature magazine has reported. By altering the small animal's brain hormone chemistry, scientists have made a promiscuous meadow vole faithful - just like its prairie vole cousin. The researchers think this will lead to a greater understanding of how social behavior is controlled in humans. The same hormone activity could play a role in disorders like autism where people can lack simple social skills. Fewer than 5% of mammals are habitually monogamous. Prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) are among the select few. After mating, the males "fall in love": they stick close to their chosen one, guard her jealously and help her raise their young.




Surprising 'Ultra-conserved' Regions Discovered In Human Genome Science Daily - May 7, 2004
Researchers comparing the human genome with the genomes of other species have discovered a surprising number of matching DNA sequences in a variety of vertebrate species, including the mouse, rat, dog, and chicken.




Laboratory Rat Gene Sequencing Completed; Humans Share One-fourth Of Genes With Rat, Mouse Science Daily - April 1, 2004
A large team of researchers, including a computer scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, has effectively completed the genome sequence of the common laboratory brown rat, Rattus norvegicus. This makes the third mammal to be sequenced, following the human and mouse.




Rat's 'life code' read by science BBC - March 31, 2004
Reveals supercharged evolution

Scientists have decoded the rat genome, the biochemical instructions in the rodent's cells that guide the building and maintenance of the animal's body. It is the third mammalian DNA sequence to be deciphered - humans and mice came first - and will be used by researchers to understand the causes of disease. It should also give valuable insights into the evolution of all mammals.




Mayo Clinic Researchers Discover Gene Mutations That 'Ignore' Stress, Lead To Heart Failure Science Daily - March 30, 2004
Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered genetic mutations in heart patients that make them vulnerable to heart failure because they produce an abnormal protein that can't decode stress messages from the body. Mayo researchers are the first to realize that these proteins do not recognize the stress alarm. As a result, they can't properly respond to cue adjustments within the heart that normally manage stress. These defects make the heart muscle susceptible to damage.




Newly Identified Gene Linked To Brain Development Science Daily - March 26, 2004
With the identification of the gene responsible for a newly recognized type of mental retardation. The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that distinguishes humans from other species. The frontal lobes are the part of the cortex that govern social function, cognition, language, and problem-solving. Patients with damage to the frontal lobes exhibit changes in behavior, and frontal lobotomies were once performed to alter aggressive behavior.




Scientists hail new 'map of life' BBC - November 20, 2003

Biologists have produced a detailed map of protein interactions in a complex organism - the fruit fly. Proteins, which are made by genes, are the building blocks of tissues as well as the basis for molecular interactions that enable an organism to live. The protein interaction map will allow a new insight into a highly complex metabolic system, similar in many ways to the human one. This map is a starting point for what is being called a systems biology modelling of animals including humans, say the researchers in their report.




Scientists use DNA to construct the genetic blueprint of an organism BBC - - November 13, 2003
US scientists have produced a wholly artificial virus using a method they claim could lead to new lifeforms. These synthetic organisms - on the scale of bacteria - could be engineered to produce clean energy or mop up pollution, the researchers say. It is only the second time a virus has been constructed from scratch in the lab, but the new effort is said to produce substantially quicker results.




Mapping out on-off switch in genes in the human body BBC - October 7, 2003
A major project will attempt to map out just how genes are controlled in the human body.




Elephant man mystery unravelled BBC - July 21, 2003

The notorious "elephant man" may have suffered from two rare disorders, according to scientists. They believe Joseph Merrick, who lived in Britain more than 100 years ago, could have suffered from type 1 neurofibromatosis (NF1) and Proteus syndrome. They believe both conditions may have combined to trigger his severe physical deformities.




Scientists find depression gene BBC - July 17, 2003
Whether people become depressed after stressful experiences is influenced by their genes, researchers say. A study has shown that the likelihood of becoming depressed is partly determined by which version of a specific gene a person has. Someone with the least protective version of the gene is over twice as likely to suffer depression as a person with the most protective form , researchers found. They say their findings explain why some people cope well with experiences such as divorce or unemployment, and others do not. It could lead to the development of a genetic test for the gene, though the scientists caution discovering more genes related to depression would make such a test more accurate.




Male Sex Hormones Cooperate With Breast Cancer Gene To Suppress Tumors Science Daily - July 1, 2003
BRCA-2, a gene linked with breast and ovarian cancer, cooperates with male sex hormones to enhance its ability to activate transcription of genes, which may suppress tumor formation in normal cells, Salk Institute researchers have found.




Scientists Find What Type Of Genes Affect Longevity Science Daily - July 1, 2003
Tracing all the genetic changes that flow from a single mutation, UCSF scientists have identified the kinds of genes and systems in the body that ultimately allow a doubling of lifespan in the roundworm, C. elegans. Humans share many of these genes, and the researchers think the new findings offer clues to increasing human youthfulness and longevity as well.




Steroids Trigger A 'Domino Effect' On Genes At Different Points In Time June 23, 2003 - Science Daily
Corticosteroids, drugs that simultaneously deliver powerful therapeutic effects and potentially severe adverse effects, cause a remarkably complex "domino effect" of genomic changes. By helping researchers unravel the complex ways in which steroids act in the body, the research will begin to provide insights into ways to develop more individualized dosing for patients.




Gene secret of 'mythical curse'   BBC - May 5, 2003
Scientists have found the gene responsible for the rare condition Ondine's Curse - where sufferers 'forget' to breathe. The condition is named after a mythological story. Some accounts say the water nymph Ondine was punished by the gods after falling in love with a knight by being condemned to stay awake in order to breathe. The condition, where the central nervous system fails to control over breathing while asleep, was identified 30 years ago, and there are an estimated 400 sufferers worldwide. he gene responsible for the condition is called Thox2B.




Stunning creativity of DNA pioneers BBC - April 22, 2003
Professor Adrian Hayday of King's College London tells the story behind the discovery of DNA's structure in 1953. A remarkably short scientific paper, known officially as a letter, was published on 25 April 1953 in Nature, by James Watson and Francis Crick. It was perhaps the most momentous paper of the modern era, proposing a structure for the chemical, DNA (Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid), which composes the hereditary material of all living cellular organisms. The proposed structure - a double helix - rapidly became an icon, aesthetically beautiful, and stunning in its capacity to explain how DNA is replicated in order to transmit the genetic material to the next generation. The defining moment for DNA was the discovery of its structure and the realization that it was designing structure of human life.




Most ancient DNA ever? BBC - April 17, 2003

The oldest ever DNA has been found preserved in ice in Siberia. The record-breaking samples are from plants which lived there 400,000 years ago. The genetic material is probably three or four times older than any other ancient DNA found on the planet.




Human genome 'finally complete' BBC - April 14, 2003

The biological code crackers sequencing the human genome have said they have finished the job - two years ahead of schedule. The decoding is now close to 100% complete. The remaining tiny gaps are considered too costly to fill and those in charge of turning genomic data into medical and scientific progress have plenty to be getting on with.




Watching genes in action January 23, 2003 - BBC

Scientists have found a way to study the shape and movement of individual molecules of DNA, the genetic material that contains the building blocks of life. The technique - called single molecule fluorescence - has enabled researchers to obtain the most precise information yet about the workings of single DNA molecules - which measure just one millionth of a centimetre across.




GM changes 'bred into mice' January 20, 2003 - BBC
Scientists may have found a new way of introducing genetic changes which are passed from parent to child. But there are still many obstacles to be crossed before a way can be found to eradicate a genetic illness completely from both the patient and subsequent generations of their family. Researchers now know much more about the function of thousands of genes found in every human cell. In some people, mutations in certain genes may cause a malfunction in the cell, and the body at large, leading to disease. The idea behind conventional gene therapy is to find a way to reduce the effects of the errant gene by inserting new versions that work properly. In humans, the "germline" of genetic information passed from parents to child can be found in the sperm and the egg. In order to manipulate the genetic fate of the child - and generations to come - either these germ cells would have to be altered, or the child itself modified in the very first days of its existence in embryo form. In the latest study, scientists have found a novel method of doing this in mice.




Expanding The Genetic Code January 14, 2003 - Science Daily
From time immemorial, every living thing has shared the same basic set of building blocks -- 20 amino acids from which all proteins are made. That is, until now: A group of scientists say they have, for the first time, created an organism that can produce a 21st amino acid and incorporate it into proteins completely on its own. The research should help probe some of the central questions of evolutionary theory.




Rare disease genes found BBC - January 1, 2003

Four chromosomes out of 24 have now been decoded Another human chromosome has been decoded completely by an international team of scientists. The genetic instructions held on chromosome 14 have been published online. It is the fourth chromosome to be fully read and is the location for more than 60 disease-causing genes, as well as two crucial immune system codes. The research could help scientists understand why some people are more likely to develop certain rare conditions including early-onset Alzheimer's. The human genetic code, or genome, consists of about three billion pairs of chemicals known as bases. These are arranged in 24 distinct bundles called chromosomes and are found in the nucleus of every cell in our bodies.





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