Posts from the ‘genetics’ Category

Butterflies around Fukushima reveal high level of mutation

This protein is the result of spelling out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in amino acids (with a couple substitutions being made for non-corresponding letters).

Most scientists have long asserted that the Americas were peopled in one large migration from Siberia that happened about 15,000 years ago, but new full-genome research shows that this central episode was followed by at least two smaller migrations from Siberia, one by people who became the ancestors of today’s Eskimos and Aleutians and another by people speaking Na-Dene, whose descendants (Apache, Navajo, Chipewyan, and others) are confined to North America. The research, which confirms linguist Joseph Greenberg’s rejected 1987 hypothesis, was published online on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Earliest Americans Arrived in 3 Waves, Not 1, DNA Study Finds



Abuse Lingers in the Genes and Brain

By studying both rats and humans, a team of biologists from Montreal, Canada and Singapore has uncovered a link between abuse and neglect in early life and epigenetic changes in how the brain regulates stress. Translated literally, “epigenetic” means “on top of genetics.” Epigenetic changes do not alter the code of an individual’s DNA, but rather add a molecule to the surface of the code. Such modifications affect the way in which the DNA’s instructions are carried out in the body.

In this study, the researchers found that victims of abuse and neglect during childhood had epigenetic modifications on a stress-regulating gene that acts in the brain. The modifications left these subjects less able to quiet their body’s natural reactions to stressful situations. The finding helps clarify the physical and mental impacts of childhood trauma and could pave the way for new mental health treatments. The research was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Repeat after me, it’s not your fault.

Epigenetics is a quickly expanding and key field of genetics. We’re learning how environmental factors – diet, treatment, habits – can have long-standing and generation-bridging consequences. While the DNA code itself isn’t changed, the way it is twisted and read can be, with varying results.


Geneticist Runs Personalized Medicine Superstudy On Himself

Michael Snyder has taken “know thyself” to the next level — and helped heal thyself.

Over a 14-month period, the molecular geneticist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, analyzed his blood 20 different times to pluck out a wide variety of biochemical data depicting the status of his body’s immune system, metabolism, and gene activity. In today’s issue of Cell, Snyder and a team of 40 other researchers present the results of this extraordinarily detailed look at his body, which they call an integrative personal omics profile (iPOP) because it combines cutting-edge scientific fields such as genomics (study of one’s DNA), metabolomics (study of metabolism), and proteomics (study of proteins). Instead of seeing a snapshot of the body taken during the typical visit to a doctor’s office, iPOP effectively offers an IMAX movie, which in Snyder’s case had the added drama of charting his response to two viral infections and the emergence of type 2 diabetes.

(Read more of the Wired Magazine Article)

The work being done in the ‘omics is fascinating, and I don’t think it will be too long before this kind of testing is standard for occasional checkups, much like physicals are today. The danger is the inevitable discrimination that will result, and the remedy for that is educating our current and future policy makers and managers to avoid that mistake.

Waiting to start a family? Doing so may just be beneficial for the kid, from the father’s side at least.

Older males more likely to produce long-lived children.



All of us living things are just really, really, really distant relatives.


Playing God – A BBC Documentary About Genetic Engineering (Watch full online)

With great power comes great responsibility. Join Adam Rutherford in this full-hour exploration (The whole thing! Online!) of the progress and perils of our ability to cut and splice the very fabric of life on command.

“Life itself has become a programmable machine.”

That statement is a bit of an exaggeration, maybe, but certainly genes, DNA, etc. (the stuff that life is made of) can be synthesized, cut and glued back together with such ease these days that a first-week undergrad can do it (even without help from a seasoned veteran biologist such as myself). You could do it in your garage if you wanted. And where the genetic engineering of yesterday was all about putting a gene or two from one organism into another (like this paper, the precursor to Monsanto’s methods), the ease and cheapness of manipulating the tools of synthetic biology create an infinite pool of possibilities for completely human-designed life forms. 

Rest easy, though. When it comes to completely synthetic life, we are still looking at a field in its infancy. Although smart dudes like Craig Venter have succeeded in creating a completely synthetic bacterium, it is an enormously difficult, sensitive and expensive thing to do. I really can’t emphasize how difficult it is, actually. But now is the time, in the early days of meaningful synthetic biology, as prices drop and methods improve, to ask ourselves what is appropriate and what is not.

This will be a global question, and a difficult one. For every drought-resistant strain of wheat that allows us to feed millions of starving children, we can not create another seed monopoly that promotes irresponsible use of herbicides. How do we ensure that the methods used to make plastic-producing bacteria are not the same methods that can produce dangerous bioterrorism strains? How do you feel about having “biohackers” able to order genes and bacteria at will, maybe around the corner from where you live?

Scientists will need to have open discussions. Nonscientists will have to be part of that discussion. This documentary is a must-watch for anyone who wants to know where the future of synthetic biology is headed.

(via EvolutionDocumentary)


This is you

The human genome: lookin’ good.

We are beautifully complex!


A Fruit Fly Embryo Montage

These brilliant photos, taken by the lab of Dr. Stephen W. Paddock from the University of Wisconsin, are various stages of embryonic development in Drosophila (fruit flies).  Fruit flies are extremely useful (and popular) model organisms for studying developmental biology, basic biological processes, population genetics and other basic genetic processes (like mutation and disease).

Captions From the Stephen Paddock Digital Image Gallery

1 and 2- Triple-labeled Drosophila embryo at the cellular blastoderm stage. The specimen was immunofluorescently tagged with antibodies to the hairy protein in red, Kruppel repressor in green and the giant protein in blue. 

3- The central nervous system of a Drosophila (fruit fly) embryo captured in a serial optical section by confocal laser scanning microscopy. This double-labeled fluorescent specimen reveals peripheral neurons in green and glial cells in red.

4- Presented below is a color mapped image of a Drosophila embryo, featuring stripes of the engrailed gene, which circle the embryo. The engrailed gene helps to direct fruit fly wing development, and mutations in this gene can affect how the wings appear in adult flies.

5- A tripled labeled fruit fly imaginal disc (developmental tissues from which many adult structures, such as eyes, wings, and halteres, are formed)

6- Triple-labeled Drosophila eye imaginal disc recovered from the third instar larval developmental stage.

These images are some of my favorites.  Visit the gallery to see more amazing microscopy from this lab!

Beautiful and scientific! The best kind of montage.