Aug 20, 2009 | 2
Microbes can be resistant to genetic engineering. There's simply not enough DNA in some of them to permit significant alteration. But by building a bacterial genome inside yeast—a more complex and information-rich eukaryote that is one of mankind's oldest genetic engineering projects—scientists have successfully created new, synthetic bacterial strains, according to a paper published today in Science.
Carole Lartigue and colleagues at the J. Craig Venter Institute have been seeking to build living cells from scratch. The ultimate goal is to produce man-made microbes to solve man-made problems, whether eating up carbon dioxide or making the fuels of the future.
Jul 22, 2009 | 1
The young baseball phenom, Esmailyn Gonzalez, received a $1.4-million bonus when he signed with the Washington Nationals in 2006. This February, the player who was misrepresenting himself as only 19 years old turned out to be a 23-year-old by the name of Carlos David Alvarez Lugo.
Gonzalez (if we can still call him that) is one of dozens of Latin American prospects that have been recently caught using false identities to entice scouts, The New York Times reported today. Do the home runs count if you go by another name?
To weed out players using borrowed birth certificates to appear younger (and therefore more desirable to clubs), according to the Times, “Major League Baseball is conducting genetic testing on some promising young players and their parents.”
Apr 30, 2009 | 1
A massive new genetic study proposes that humans originated near the border of modern-day South Africa and Namibia, a far more specific understanding than the vaguer picture of African origin that previously reigned.
Researchers from 11 countries collaborated on the study of more than 4 million genotypes, which was published today online in Science. By analyzing genetic sequences from 121 populations in Africa, 60 non-African populations and four African-American populations, they were able to trace Africans back to 14 ancestral clusters.
Charles Darwin first proposed an African origin of humans in his 1871 book The Descent of Man. It's now widely accepted that modern humans spent half of their 200,000 years on the planet in Africa, making it a key area of interest for geneticists, linguists and anthropologists alike.
Feb 16, 2009 | 3
What does skin cancer have to do with Parkinson's disease, the degenerative brain condition that causes tremors, slowed gait and problems with balance and coordination? According to a new study, more than you might think.
People with a family history of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have twice the risk of developing Parkinson's disease as people who didn’t have a parent or sibling with the cancer, according to research released today ahead of April's annual American Academy of Neurology meeting in Seattle. The study followed nearly 132,000 men and women for 14 to 20 years; at the end of that period, 543 people had developed Parkinson's. The likelihood of getting Parkinson's was almost double — 90 percent greater, to be exact — in those with a close relative who had received a melanoma diagnosis than among those without that family history. (For comparison, the baseline risk of Parkinson’s is about 1 percent for those over 60, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.)
Feb 10, 2009 | 1
Do you squander all your dough at the casino? Maybe it's because your DNA is telling you to take risks with your money.
OK, it's not as simplistic as that. But Northwestern University researchers say they've linked two genes with our tendency to be bold or conservative investors, according to their study set to be published tomorrow in PLoS One. The genes regulate the brain's systems of dopamine and serotonin, chemicals important in areas of the brain that are active when we take or shun risk, respectively.
Jan 26, 2009 | 6
Always the last one picked for kickball? Never get invites to the hottest parties? Blame Mom and Dad.
That's right, a new study says genes may influence whether or not you're popular. But DNA, or genetic material, shapes more than popularity, according to the research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It may also play a role in the number of friends we have—and whether we're integral or insignificant members of a social group.
Researchers from Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego, found that genes may be responsible for 46 percent of the variation (or difference) in how popular we are versus other people. Genetics exerts a similar effect on people's varying degrees of connectivity (for example, one person might know many of their friends' pals, but another person may not know any of their friends' other buddies.) And DNA has a significant, but lesser influence, on the difference between where one or another of us is located in a social network.
Jan 15, 2009 | 16
A new study suggests that if schizophrenia runs in a family, there's a good chance that bipolar disorder does as well (and vice versa). The findings, published today in the journal The Lancet, suggest that the two disorders are caused by some of the same genes.
"These findings say that [schizophrenia and bipolar disorder] are related, above all, for genetic reasons," says lead study author Paul Lichtenstein, a genetic epidemiologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. "[Therefore] it might not be a good idea to view these disorders as separate entities."
Jan 15, 2009 | 3
Policymakers may not intend to keep us trim when they're pondering how to manage fisheries and other wild food resources. But a new study indicates that our current food-harvesting practices are making the stuff we eat smaller—very quickly.
The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that plants and animals being harvested aggressively around the world from the wild (rather than from farms) are changing more than two and a half times faster than would be expected under natural conditions.
"Two and a half times is pretty big," says Stephan Munch, an assistant professor of fisheries ecology at Stony Brook University in Long Island, N.Y.
Scientists have long assumed that humans can—and do—affect the plants and animals that live around us (with pollution and by introducing invasive species). But this new work, which analyzed data from dozens of other studies, found that our intense food-gathering practices have substantially changed the size and breeding schedule of at least 29 species in as few as 20 years.
Jan 9, 2009 | 7
There's new evidence that the first inhabitants of North America might have arrived by both land and sea. Researchers analyzed the genetic material of modern indigenous people from North and South America to trace two rare lines back to the continents' first inhabitants. The study, published in Current Biology, provides the first genetic evidence that the ancestors of many living Native Americans took two distinct routes from Beringia (a region that included the now-submerged Bering land bridge as well as portions of Siberia and Alaska) some 15,000 to 17,000 years ago.
The new findings fly in the face of the prevailing genetic theory that just one wave of migration traveled down the ice-free Pacific coast from Beringia.
Dec 11, 2008 | 8
Patients with type 1 diabetes have been known to be more prone to another autoimmune disorder, celiac disease, in which gluten in wheat, rye and barley triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine or gut. Now there’s evidence that the two diseases have a genetic link: they share at least seven chromosome regions.
The discovery, published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine, indicates that both diseases may be triggered by similar genetic and environmental mechanisms, such as certain foods, that cause patients' immune systems to become overactive and destroy healthy instead of infected tissue. Previous research has found that celiac disease is five to 10 times more common in people with type 1 diabetes than in the general population, an editorial accompanying the study notes.
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