Posts tagged ‘genetics’

So it seems that we should expect full genome sequences to be quite cheap within the next several years, if this trend is anything to go by. I think it’s time to start thinking about what effect this might have on health insurance.

Is a genetic disposition toward risk or alcoholism or cancer a pre-existing condition? Should it be treated as such? For what might a sequence be legally requested?

As far as things like personal medicine and gene therapy and the like go, the rapid decrease in sequencing cost is a big step forward. It also exposes an extremely private part of us, one that we shouldn’t want to be disseminated to government or corporations without a clear set of rules.



World’s First Liliger Born in Russia

This news is a bit dated, but certainly worth checking out. If you saw Napoleon Dynamite, then you know that a liger is a hybrid cross between a male lion and a female tiger. Ligers are actually relatively common, and when the territories of lions and tigers historically overlapped, ligers were probably found. A liliger, however, takes the hybridization one step further – it’s the offspring of a hybrid female liger and a male lion. Pictured above is the world’s first liliger, Kiara, who was born in August in Russia’s Novosibirsk Zoo. What she lacks in genealogical cleanliness, she more than makes up for in cuteness. 

If your appetite for the incredible isn’t whetted by the simple arrival of a liliger, then keep paying attention. Kiara’s mother, the liger, couldn’t produce enough milk to sustain her – possibly as a result of her hybrid genes. Therefore, Kiara is being raised by Dasha, an ordinary house cat.

I wonder what the people against gay marriage would think about this double-hybrid interspecies adoptive single-mother family. I think maybe we just won’t tell them.

Quick Links



Butterflies around Fukushima reveal high level of mutation

Link: 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).

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

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


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.



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.