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We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “Genetics

The science behind real life zombies

Zombies: Science Fiction vs. Fact

zombies ahead

In the spirit of Halloween we bring you the science fact and fiction behind the undead. Zombies, those brain loving little guys, (and girls) are everywhere. Sure, we are all familiar with the classic  zombie, but did you know that we aren’t the only zombie lovers out there? It turns out that nature has its own special types of zombies, but this isn’t a science fiction movie, this is science fact! Sometimes fact can be scarier than fiction, so let’s dive in.

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High cholesterol triggers mitochondrial oxidative stress leading to osteoarthritis

knee problems

knee problems

High cholesterol might harm more than our cardiovascular systems. New research using animal models suggests that high cholesterol levels trigger mitochondrial oxidative stress on cartilage cells, causing them to die, and ultimately leading to the development of osteoarthritis.

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Vitamins A and C help erase cell memory

epigenetics

epigenetics

Vitamins A and C aren’t just good for your health, they affect your DNA too. Researchers have discovered how vitamins A and C act to modify the epigenetic ‘memory’ held by cells; insight which is significant for regenerative medicine and our ability to reprogramme cells from one identity to another.

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Mental illness genetically linked to drug use and misuse

anxiety depression

anxiety depression

There are many reports of drug use leading to mental health problems, and we all know of someone having a few too many drinks to cope with a bad day. Many people who are diagnosed with a mental health disorder indulge in drugs, and vice versa. As severity of both increase, problems arise and they become more difficult to treat. But why substance involvement and psychiatric disorders often co-occur is not well understood.

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Largest-ever study reveals environmental impact of genetically modified crops

gmo crops

gmo crops

According to new research, widespread adoption of genetically modified crops has decreased the use of insecticides, but increased the use of weed-killing herbicides as weeds become more resistant. This is the largest study of genetically modified crops and pesticide use to date. The team of economists studied annual data from more than 5,000 soybean and 5,000 maize farmers in the U.S. from 1998 to 2011, far exceeding previous studies that have been limited to one or two years of data.

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A microRNA plays role in major depression

mental health

mental health

A tiny RNA appears to play a role in producing major depression, the mental disorder that affects as many as 250 million people a year worldwide. Major depression, formally known as major depressive disorder, or MDD, brings increased risk of suicide and is reported to cause the second-most years of disability after low-back pain.

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Antimicrobial chemicals found with antibiotic-resistance genes in indoor dust

pokemon evolution

pokemon evolution

Researchers have found links between the levels of antimicrobial chemicals and antibiotic-resistance genes in the dust of an aging building used for athletics and academics. One of the antimicrobials seen in the study is triclosan, a commonly used antibacterial ingredient in many personal care products.

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The Genesis Project: New life on exoplanets

exoplanets

exoplanets

Can life be brought to celestial bodies outside our solar system, which are not permanently inhabitable? A new essay that has been published is trying to deal with this question. Over the last several years, the search for exoplanets has shown that very different types exist leading to new questions and a variety of possible answers.

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Trauma’s epigenetic fingerprint observed in children of Holocaust survivors

I swear I didn't kill anyone
I swear I didn't kill anyone

Image credit goes to the one and only — very talented — Lora Zombie

The children of traumatized people have long been known to be at increased risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and mood and anxiety disorders. However, there are very few opportunities to examine biologic alterations in the context of a watershed trauma in exposed people and their adult children born after the event.

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Is depression in parents, grandparents linked to grandchildren’s depression?

depression

depression

If you read my blog often, it’s no surprise I suffer from PTSD, depression, and anxiety issues. Maybe it’s from my military service, but maybe it’s my father’s, or his father’s, maybe it’s an insidious family legacy that was just never noticed. This is because having both parents and grandparents with major depressive disorder (MDD) was associated with higher risk of MDD for grandchildren, which could help identify those who may benefit from early intervention.

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Microcephaly discoveries in non-Zika cases explain abnormal brain growth

microcephaly

microcephaly

Long before Zika virus made it a household word, the birth defect called microcephaly puzzled scientists and doctors — even as it changed the lives of the babies born with it during the pre-Zika era. But new discoveries reported by an international team of scientists may help explain what happens in the developing brains of babies still in the womb, causing them to be born with small brains and heads.

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From Sci Fi to reality: Unlocking the secret to growing new limbs

growing new limbs

growing new limbs

Many lower organisms retain the miraculous ability to regenerate form and function of almost any tissue after injury. Humans share many of our genes with these organisms, but our capacity for regeneration is limited. So scientists are studying the genetics of these organisms to find out how regenerative mechanisms might be activated in humans.

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FAMIN or feast? Newly discovered mechanism influences how immune cells ‘eat’ invaders

macrophage

macrophage

A new mechanism that affects how our immune cells perform – and hence their ability to prevent disease – has been discovered by an international team of researchers. To date, researchers have identified hundreds of genetic variants that increase or decrease the risk of developing diseases from cancer and diabetes to tuberculosis and mental health disorders.

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Alzheimer’s genetics point to new research direction

Genetics of alzheimer's

Genetics of alzheimer's

A analysis of genetic mutations which cause early-onset Alzheimer’s disease suggests a new focus for research into the causes of the disease. Previous research has revolved around the idea that accumulation in the brain of a small, sticky protein fragment — amyloid beta — causes Alzheimer’s disease.

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Fear factor: A new genetic candidate for treating PTSD

I swear I didn't kill anyone
I swear I didn't kill anyone

Image credit goes to the very talented: Lora Zombie

Researchers have identified a new genetic candidate for testing therapies that might affect fear learning in people with PTSD or other conditions. Individuals with trauma- and stress-related disorders can manifest symptoms of these conditions in a variety of ways. Genetic risk factors for these and other psychiatric disorders have been established but do not explain the diversity of symptoms seen in the clinic – why are some individuals affected more severely than others and why do some respond better than others to the same treatment?

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New tool brings personalized medicine closer

personalized medicine

personalized medicine

Scientists have developed a powerful tool for exploring and determining the inherent biological differences between individuals, which overcomes a major hurdle for personalized medicine.

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The truth is out there: Scientists unlock X-Files DNA mystery

x files

x files

Scientists have unlocked a crucial part of the mystery as to how our DNA can replicate and repair itself – something which is essential for all life forms. The new research has revealed how branched DNA molecules are removed from the iconic double-helical structure -a process which scientists have been looking to unlock for over 20 years.

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New muscular dystrophy drug target identified

DMD

DMD

Scientists have discovered that muscle cells affected by muscular dystrophy contain high levels of an enzyme that impairs muscle repair. This finding provides a new target for potential drug treatments for the disease, which currently has no cure. Muscular dystrophy (MD) is an inherited genetic condition that gradually causes a weakening of muscles.

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Converting cells to burn fat, not store it

carb loading cat

carb loading cat

Researchers have uncovered a new molecular pathway for stimulating the body to burn fat — a discovery that could help fight obesity and cardiovascular disease.By focusing on a protein known as folliculin, and knocking out the gene that produces it in fat cells, the researchers triggered a series of biomolecular signals that switched the cells from storing fat to burning it.

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Bacteria are individualists

cultured bacteria

cultured bacteria

No two bacteria are identical – even when they are genetically the same. A new study from researchers reveals the conditions under which bacteria become individualists and how they help their group grow when times get tough. Whether you are a human or a bacterium, your environment determines how you can develop.

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Sleep loss detrimental to blood vessels

Sleep deprived

Sleep deprived

We all know lack of sleep is bad for the brain, but lack of sleep has even been found to impact the activation of the immune system, inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism and the hormones that regulate appetite. Worse still, researchers in a new study have found that sleep loss also influences cholesterol metabolism.

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Bad news, fructose alters hundreds of brain genes

high sugar milkshake

high sugar milkshake

Got a sweet tooth? Maybe you even have some sugary goodness with you right now… as you are reading this. Well you may want to put that down.We know a range of diseases — from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, and from Alzheimer’s disease to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — are linked to changes to genes in the brain. Unfortunately for those who love their pop tarts, a new study  has found that hundreds of those genes can be damaged by fructose, a sugar that’s common in the Western diet, in a way that could lead to those diseases.

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Bigger brains led to bigger bodies in our ancestors

brain sizes

brain sizes

New research suggests that humans became the large-brained, large-bodied animals we are today because of natural selection to increase brain size. The work contradicts previous models that treat brain size and body size as independent traits responding to separate evolutionary pressures. Instead, the study shows that brain size and body size are genetically linked and that selection to increase brain size will “pull along” body size.

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Scientific evidence of sexual transmission of the Zika virus

zika virus

zika virus

Well, we know now that ZIKA causes microcephaly, at least that is the latest findings. Things don’t look so good on other ZIKA fronts either, a new study confirms that the virus can be transmitted sexually. The analyses have shown 100% genetic correlation between the form of the virus present in a man who contracted the virus in Brazil and that of a woman who had never travelled in the epidemic area, but who had sexual relations with him.

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A newly discovered way for cells to die

huntingtons disease

huntingtons disease

Some cells are meant to live, and some are meant to die. For example, the linker cell of C. Elegans, a favored model organism for biologists, is among those destined for termination. This cell helps determine the shape of the gonad in male worms–and then it dies, after two days, just as the worms are transitioning from larvae into adults. This programmed cell death is a normal part of the animal’s development, yet the genetic and molecular mechanisms underpinning it have not been worked out.

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Uncovering the genetic elements that drive regeneration

deadpool tiny hand
deadpool tiny hand

It’s still growing, but it’s already bigger than Trumps….

Lose a hand or a leg? It will grow back… oh wait, it won’t, but why not? Trace our evolution — long before the shedding of gills or the development of opposable thumbs — and you will likely find a common ancestor with the amazing ability to regenerate lost body parts. There is theoretically no reason why we shouldn’t be able to regenerate, not quite like in the movie Deadpool, but come on, would you really complain at that point?

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Born to run? Love of exercise may start in the womb

netflix cat

netflix cat

If you see me on the street and I am running, there is a good chance you should be running as well, because something dangerous is coming. I don’t run, I hate to run, I loathe running, did I mention I don’t like to run? Maybe it’s all the running I did in the military, or if a new study is correct, it may have to do with my mother. Which is good, because now I can blame someone else for my hatred of running.

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Stopping organ rejection: An end to the medication

organ transplant medicaitons

organ transplant medicaitons

If you’re a transplant recipient you know that transplant organs are a veritable ticking time bomb waiting to be rejected by your well-meaning (but stupid) body. Not only can you do everything right and still have the organs rejected, you have to take a steady stream of expensive pills to inhibit the immune system and stop the body from launching its attack. Don’t throw your pill organizers away just yet, but soon.

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Spoiler alert: Water bears do not have extensive foreign DNA

apocalypse champion

apocalypse champion

Tardigrades, they are cute and cuddly — okay maybe not cuddly — but they have earned their nicknames, such as moss piglets or water bears. Mostly because they look like, well bears (although I don’t see a piglet personally). These guys are eight-legged microscopic animals that have long fascinated scientists for their ability to survive extremes of temperature, pressure, lack of oxygen, and even radiation exposure. Talk about a thrill seeker they can even survive in space, without a suit, where were humans when they were handing out those genes?

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Modified maggots could help human wound healing

open wounds

open wounds

When most of us think maggots, we probably don’t think anything good, but maybe we should start. In a proof-of-concept study, researchers have shown that genetically engineered green bottle fly (Lucilia sericata) larvae can produce and secrete a human growth factor – a molecule that helps promote cell growth and wound healing.

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Study finds vast diversity among bacteriophages

bacteriophage

bacteriophage

Viruses that infect bacteria are among the most abundant life forms on Earth. Indeed, our oceans, soils and potentially even our bodies would be overrun with bacteria were it not for bacteria-eating viruses, called bacteriophages, that keep the microbial balance of ecological niches in check. Now, a new study suggests that bacteriophages made of RNA — a close chemical cousin of DNA — likely play a much larger role in shaping the bacterial makeup of worldwide habitats than previously recognized.

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Ancient viruses lurk in our DNA

ancient viral DNA

ancient viral DNA

Think your DNA is all human? Think again. And a new discovery suggests it’s even less human than scientists previously thought. Nineteen new pieces of non-human DNA — left by viruses that first infected our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago — have just been found, lurking between our own genes.

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Using precision medicine to define the genetics of autoimmune disease

Genetics based medicine

Genetics based medicine

Demonstrating the potential of precision medicine, an international study used next-generation DNA sequencing technology to identify more than 1,000 gene variants that affect susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Precision medicine is an emerging field that aims to deliver highly personalized health care by understanding how individual differences in genetics, environment, and lifestyle impact health and disease.

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Frankenstein’s E. Coli: How an artificial protein rescues dying cells

it's alive!

it's alive!

It’s alive, ALIVE! No really and it could one day have big implications for you and me. So it is not quite Frankenstein’s monster… yet. However, a new study has revealed how a synthetic protein revives E. coli cells that lack a life-sustaining gene, offering insight into how life can adapt to survive and potentially be reinvented.

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Some bacterial CRISPRs can snip RNA, too

gene editing

gene editing

You’ve probably seen news stories about the highly lauded, much-discussed genome editing system CRISPR/Cas9. But did you know the system was actually derived from bacteria, which use it to fight off foreign invaders such as viruses? It allows many bacteria to snip and store segments of DNA from an invading virus, which they can then use to “remember” and destroy DNA from similar invaders if they are encountered again. Recent work from a team of researchers including Carnegie’s Devaki Bhaya demonstrates that some bacteria also use the CRISPR/Cas system to snip and recognize segments of RNA, not just DNA.

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A way to track and stop human and agricultural viruses

Virus Artwork

Virus Artwork

Viruses are molecular thieves that take from their hosts under the cloak of darkness. But now a Virginia Tech scientist has found a way to not only track viral hijackers, but also potentially stop them from replicating. The discovery has broad ranging applications in stopping viral outbreaks such as Hepatitis C in humans and a number of viruses in plants and animals because it applies to many viruses in the largest category of viral classes — positive-strand RNA viruses.

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‘Jaws’ may help humans grow new teeth, shark study suggests

Dentist shark

Dentist shark

A new insight into how sharks regenerate their teeth, which may pave the way for the development of therapies to help humans with tooth loss, has been discovered by scientists. The study has identified a network of genes that enables sharks to develop and regenerate their teeth throughout their lifetime. The genes also allow sharks to replace rows of their teeth using a conveyer belt-like system.

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Stem cell gene therapy could be key to treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy

crispr cas9 art

crispr cas9 art

Scientists at the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and Center for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at UCLA have developed a new approach that could eventually be used to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The stem cell gene therapy could be applicable for 60 percent of people with Duchenne, which affects approximately 1 in 5,000 boys in the U.S. and is the most common fatal childhood genetic disease.

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Synthetic biology breakthrough creates biosensors on demand

biosensors synthetic biology

biosensors synthetic biology

Biosensors are powerful tools in synthetic biology for engineering metabolic pathways or controlling synthetic and native genetic circuits in bacteria. Scientists have had difficulty developing a method to engineer “designer” biosensor proteins that can precisely sense and report the presence of specific molecules, which has so far limited the number and variety of biosensor designs able to precisely regulate cell metabolism, cell biology, and synthetic gene circuits.

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We can build it better: Synthetic biopathway turns agriculture waste into ‘green’ products

synthetic biology art

synthetic biology art

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have engineered a new synthetic biopathway that can more efficiently and cost-effectively turn agricultural waste, like corn stover and orange peels, into a variety of useful products ranging from spandex to chicken feed.

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The molecular link between psychiatric disorders and type 2 diabetes

Schizophrenia artwork

Schizophrenia artwork

There may be a genetic connection between some mental health disorders and type 2 diabetes. In a new report, scientists show that a gene called “DISC1,” which is believed to play a role in mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and some forms of depression, influences the function of pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

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How to unlock inaccessible genes

How to unlock inaccessible genes

An international team of biologists has discovered how specialized enzymes remodel the extremely condensed genetic material in the nucleus of cells in order to control which genes can be used. It was known that the DNA in cells is wrapped around proteins in structures called nucleosomes that resemble beads on a string, which allow the genetic material to be folded and compacted into a structure called chromatin.

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It’s complicated: Benefits and toxicity of anti-prion antibodies in the brain

Alzheimer’s Disease Robs

Alzheimer’s Disease Robs

Immunotherapy to ameliorate neurodegeneration by targeting brain protein aggregates with antibodies is an area of intense investigation. A new study examines seemingly contradictory earlier results of targeting the prion protein and proposes a cautionary way forward to further test related therapeutic approaches.

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60 genetic disorders affect skin and nervous system

60 genetic disorders affect skin and nervous system

60 genetic disorders affect skin and nervous system

One of the most common genetic disorders is a condition called neurofibromatosis, which causes brown spots on the skin and benign tumors on the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the nervous system. Neurofibromatosis is one of at least 60 genetic diseases called neurocutaneous disorders that involve the skin, central nervous system, and/or peripheral nervous system.

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When the music stops: Intensive instrument playing can lead to movement disorders

Intensive instrument playing can lead to movement disorders

Intensive instrument playing can lead to movement disorders

A musician takes up his/her violin and starts to play, but rather than gripping the strings, the fingers seize up–and this happens every time he/she takes up the instrument. Such a movement disorder–the so-called focal dystonia— is a dramatic disease for those affected, which has thus far barely been studied.

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Thwarting abnormal neural development with a new mutation

Thwarting abnormal neural development with a new mutation
Thwarting abnormal neural development with a new mutation

*Cue music*  You can tell by the way I walk, I’m a motor protein, no time to talk…

Researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have discovered how to reverse the abnormal axonal development characteristic of CFEOM3, a congenital disease that affects the muscles that control eye movements. The work shows how creating a specific mutation rescued abnormal axonal growth in the developing mouse brain.

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Autism-linked protein lays groundwork for healthy brain

Autism-linked protein lays groundwork for healthy brain

Autism-linked protein lays groundwork for healthy brain

A gene linked to mental disorders helps lays the foundation for a crucial brain structure during prenatal development, according to Salk Institute research. The findings reveal new mechanistic insights into the gene, known as MDGA1, which may bring a better understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders in people.

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Feeling sick? It’s evolution’s way of telling you to stay home

Your symptoms? Evolution's way of telling you to stay home

Your symptoms? Evolution's way of telling you to stay home

When you have a fever, your nose is stuffed and your headache is spreading to your toes, your body is telling you to stay home in bed. Feeling sick is an evolutionary adaptation according to a hypothesis put forward by Prof. Guy Shakhar of the Weizmann Institute’s Immunology Department and Dr. Keren Shakhar of the Psychology Department of the College of Management Academic Studies.

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Stem cells regulate their own proliferation and their microenvironment

Stem cells regulate their own proliferation and their microenvironment

Stem cells regulate their own proliferation and their microenvironment

A study by researchers at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC) has identified a new mechanism through which hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) control both their own proliferation and the characteristics of the niche that houses them. This control is exercised by the protein E-Selectin Ligand-1 (ESL-1).

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Are you multicellular? Thank a random mutation that created a new protein

Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals - See more at: http://elifesciences.org/content/5/e10147#sthash.yue93BBd.dpuf
Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals - See more at: http://elifesciences.org/content/5/e10147#sthash.yue93BBd.dpuf

Get it? Cell division, well long division anyway…

All it took was one mutation more than 600 million years ago. With that random act, a new protein function was born that helped our single-celled ancestor transition into an organized multicellular organism. That’s the scenario — done with some molecular time travel — that emerged from basic research in the lab of University of Oregon biochemist Ken Prehoda.

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