It begins as a fairy tale which later turns into a horror story: Lusciously flowering plants, surrounded by a large number of insects. Usually, both sides profit from the encounter: Feasting on the plant juice and pollen, the insects pollinate the flowers and thus secure the survival of the plants. However, sometimes the insects – in this case a certain species of leafhoppers – can bring disaster to the plants, which they are not able to overcome.
For decades, researchers in the genetics field have theorized that the protein spools around which DNA is wound, histones, remain constant in the brain, never changing after development in the womb. Now, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have discovered that histones are steadily replaced in brain cells throughout life – a process which helps to switch genes on and off.
Researchers at Inserm (Inserm Unit 930 “Imaging and Brain”) attached to François-Rabelais University and Tours Regional University Hospital have combined three clinical, neurophysiological and genetic approaches in order to better understand the brain mechanisms that cause autism. When tested on two families, this strategy enabled the researchers to identify specific gene combinations in autistic patients that distinguished them from patients with intellectual disabilities.
Sometimes you just want beef, but beef is high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in the omega-3 type. Conversely, different types of fish are high in omega-3, but we all know they don’t compare to that tasty burger flavor. So what’s a beef lover to do, well if you’re in China you might have some options! Chinese scientists have reared beef rich in the beneficial fatty acids associated with fish oils.
Another reason to have those waffles… well maybe. Researchers have found that a concentrated extract of maple syrup makes disease-causing bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics. In an ever increasing antibiotic resistant world, this news is almost as sweet as the syrup (okay no more bad puns). The findings suggest that combining maple syrup extract with common antibiotics could increase the microbes’ susceptibility, leading to lower antibiotic usage.
Placebos have helped to ease symptoms of illness for centuries and have been a fundamental component of clinical research to test new drug therapies for more than 70 years. But why some people respond to placebos and others do not remains under debate.
With the advent of genomics, researchers are learning that placebo responses are modified by a person’s genetics, a discovery that raises important new questions regarding the role of the placebo in patient care and in drug development: How many genetic biomarkers exist? Can the medical field harness the placebo response to enhance personalized medical treatment? What might be the impact of placebo-drug interactions? And what will this new information mean for randomized clinical trials, which depend on placebo controls to test the efficacy of new drug candidates? Should a “no-treatment” control be added to future trials?
DNA, it’s what makes us, well us! Not that long ago, before we sequenced human DNA we assumed we had one of the largest genomes around. Frankly it wasn’t a bad assumption, but of course we found out this was far from the case and to make ourselves feel better we said size doesn’t matter. But one of the surprising discoveries to emerge from comparative genomics is that drastically different organisms–humans, sea urchins, worms, flies –are endowed with a more or less common set of genes. So given a similar DNA blueprint, how do species develop such vast differences in physical shape, size, and complexity?
Cancers are alive in a sense, they are similar to a parasite and they fight to stay alive when we just want them gone. Cancers have access to complex ways of avoiding elimination and because we cannot easily do anything to treat it short of surgery or chemotherapy, we regularly lose to some of the more cunning types. Now researchers have learned how living beings can keep gene expression in check — this might partly explain the uncontrolled gene expression found in many forms of cancer.
Are you constantly stressed? Did you grow up disadvantaged [no judgement here, I did], or maybe you had a nurturing household as a child? As it turns out, we can see it in your genes.
A new study out published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows a strong link between the way you are raised and your genes. The study used telomere length as a marker of stress, then compared it to genetic and environmental cues.