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Archive for the ‘Genetics’ Category

A Harvard professor has hatched a plan to bring back the Neanderthals—but he needs an “adventurous” female volunteer to deliver a knuckle-dragging bundle of joy.

A longer interview with George Church, the man proposing the experiment, can be read here.

 

via Wanted: ‘Adventurous’ Woman to Birth Neanderthal – Bringing Neanderthals back could save humanity, geneticist says.

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“Now, it should be noted that the researchers aren’t trying to emulate a complete honey bee brain, but rather two specific and complex functions within it, namely vision and sense of smell.”

“By isolating and modeling these particular functions, the researchers hope to provide their flying robot with the cognitive power required to perform basic tasks — and without a set of pre-programmed instructions. It is hoped, for example, that the robotic bee will be able to detect particular odors or gasses in the same way that real bee can identify certain flowers.”

via New project aims to upload a honey bee’s brain into a flying insectobot by 2015.

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Han_zur_Abmessung.jpg

The 2D:4D ratio is considered a crude measure to indicate exposure to androgens (testosterone) in the womb. Testosterone exposure in utero has been correlated with various physical and behavioral traits.

The 2D:4D ratio is present before birth, ruling out any environmental causes. It is calculated by measuring the length of the right index finger from the crease where it joins the hand. A similar measure is taken of the right ring finger. Divide the length of the index finger of the right hand by the length of the ring finger. A longer index finger will result in a ratio higher than 1, while a longer ring finger will result in a ratio of less than 1. Ratios lower than 1 are correlated with testosterone exposure in the womb.

Some studies suggest that digit ratio correlates with health, behavior, and even sexuality in later life. Wikipedia has a list of traits correlated with digit digit ratio, including links out to detailed information about each one.

via Digit ratio – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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“This particular genotype affects the sleep-wake pattern of virtually everyone walking around,” Dr. Clifford Saper, chief of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, wrote

 in the statement. “And it is a fairly profound effect so that the people who have the A-A genotype wake up about an hour earlier than the people who have the G-G genotype, and the A-Gs wake up almost exactly in the middle.”

Moreover, investigators realized as some of the 1,200 older subjects in the project died that these nucleotide sequences were accurate predictors of their time of death, within a range of only a few hours. Patients with the A-A and A-G genotypes typically died just before 11 a.m., while subjects with the G-G combination tended to die near 6 p.m.

“So there is really a gene that predicts the time of day that you’ll die. Not the date, fortunately, but the time of day,” said Saper.

The Atlantic reports researchers believe their results may be due to the human body reverting to its more natural, circadian rhythm-induced state as death approaches, instead of the cycle created by social commitments.

via Gene Predicts Time Of Death Down To Hour, Study Suggests.

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Scientists have taken a step forward in helping to solve one of life’s greatest mysteries – what makes us human?
via New brain gene gives us edge over apes, study suggests.

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Epigenetics – YouTube.

 

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As leaders ascend to more powerful positions in their groups, they face ever-increasing demands. This has given rise to the common perception that leaders have higher stress levels than non-leaders. But if leaders also experience a heightened sense of control—a psychological factor known to have powerful stress-buffering effects—leadership should be associated with reduced stress levels. Using unique samples of real leaders, including military officers and government officials, we found that, compared to non-leaders, leaders had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower reports of anxiety (Study 1). In a second study, leaders holding more powerful positions exhibited lower cortisol levels and less anxiety than leaders holding less powerful positions, a relationship explained significantly by their greater sense of control. Altogether, these findings reveal a clear relationship between leadership and stress, with leadership level being inversely related to stress.

via Leadership Is Associated with Lower Levels of Stress – Article – Harvard Business School.

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“Ants that are held as slaves in nests of other ant species damage their oppressors through acts of sabotage. Ant researcher Professor Dr. Susanne Foitzik of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) first observed this “slave rebellion” phenomenon in 2009. According to the latest findings, however, this behavior now appears to be a widespread characteristic that is not limited to isolated occurrences. In fact, in three different populations in the U.S. states of West Virginia, New York, and Ohio, enslaved Temnothorax longispinosus workers have been observed to neglect and kill the offspring of their Protomognathus americanus slavemakers rather than care for them. As a result, an average of only 45% of the parasite’s offspring survived. This presumably reduces the strength of the parasites in the area and thereby increases the chances of survival for the neighboring colonies populated by the slave ants’ relatives.”

via Slave rebellion is widespread in ants.

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Mice, constantly stressed by changing their cage composition during adolescence, exhibit anxiety and poor social interactions throughout adulthood. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

This stress was especially prominent in fema

le mice who were stressed in this way. The experiment then proceeded using only the stressed male mice.

And then, along comes this oddity:

The male mouse, when mated with a non-stressed female mouse, passes on the excessive anxiety to *only* his female offspring. Not only that, but his (non-stressed) sons pass it on again, in their own female offspring.

It seems there is a little understood biochemical change in the male’s sperm taking place.

via Male mice exposed to chronic social stress have anxious female offspring.

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Scientists have identified a type of stem cell that appears to be responsible for the neurons involved in higher brain function. The discovery may pave the way for new treatments for autism and schizophrenia.

via Stem cells responsible for higher brain function found – health – 09 August 2012 – New Scientist.

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How to grow seedless watermelons. It ain’t easy!

From Cornell’s “Ask a Scientist” blog:
Seedless watermelons cannot reproduce on their own, so plant breeders use genetic tricks to produce them. The first seedless watermelon was invented over fifty years ago.

Normally, watermelons are “diploid.” This means they have two sets of 11 chromosomes, the structures that contain an organism’s genetic material. They get one set of chromosomes from each parent, for a total of 22.

Producing a seedless watermelon involves three steps. First, a plant is treated with colchicine, a substance that allows chromosomes to duplicate, but prevents the copies from being distributed properly to dividing cells. As a result, a plant with four sets of chromosomes is created, a “tetraploid.”

In the second step, a tetraploid plant is crossed with a diploid to produce offspring that are triploid. That’s right, triploid, with three sets. They get half the number of chromosomes from each parent.

Finally, the triploid seeds are grown into plants. Although they must be germinated under very careful conditions, once the seeds grow into small plantlets, they grow just like normal watermelon plants. They can produce flowers and the female flowers can produce fruit, the watermelons.

However, triploids cannot reproduce sexually. The reason is that the cell divisions that produce pollen and egg cells are very particular; they require precise alignment of chromosome pairs in the middle of the cell, an impossible task with an odd number of copies. Since the triploids have three sets, this crucial process gets mixed up and the eggs inside the watermelon are never formed. Without eggs, the seeds do not grow.

So far so good, except that pollen is still needed to trigger the female flowers to make the watermelons. Since triploid plants cannot produce pollen, farmers grow diploid “pollenizer” plants near the triploids. The diploids produce the necessary pollen, bees carry it to the female triploid flowers, and the seedless watermelons grow. Actually, a few seeds develop partially, so you can find some white, empty seed coats in the red flesh.

When plant breeders developed seedless watermelons, they also selected them for other traits such as sweetness, disease resistance, longer shelf life, and nutritional value.

The people of Knox City, Texas proclaim their city the “Seedless Watermelon Capitol of the World.” Perhaps on your next summer vacation you can venture to Knox City for the 17th annual Seedless Watermelon Festival, where you can eat all the free watermelon you please. But don’t expect to take part in a seed spittin’ contest!

via CCMR – Ask A Scientist!.

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There’s a new newspaper in town; one well worth reading.
http://paper.li/ginasmith888/1300677486

via Gina Smith’s Genome Times..

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Craig Venter gives an after dinner talk on “Biology at the Speed of Light”. Well worth the half hour listen (or transcript read). 

An excerpt:
The idea that you’re basically a DNA-driven software device is not the view that people necessarily have of themselves. But every cell on this planet works that way in a biological-to-mechanical kind of fashion. No brain controlling what happens with DNA reading and protein synthesis in your cells. The combination of one hundred trillion cells gives different people different abilities to make wonderful music, to make science advances, to think, but every one of those cells operates in the same fashion. And that means we will be able to decode how the brain functions by understanding these same mechanisms. There’s no need to evoke mysticism or a higher being. That’s what Schrodinger did seventy years ago. He couldn’t explain things, so he did what people do when they can’t explain something. He evokes mysticism. But science is getting very advanced with regard our understanding life. We know what it is, and we now know how to reproduce it. We produce life by writing new software.”

via J. Craig Venter: The Biological-digital Converter, Or, Biology At The Speed Of Light @ The Edge Dinner In Turin | Conversation | Edge.

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Blocking a specific receptor in mice eliminated pathological aggression. (!!) Humans have a corresponding receptor. This could be a game changer.

via Hulk smash? Maybe not anymore: Scientists block excess aggression in mice « Biosingularity.

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Leading scientist and genomic researcher Dr Craig Venter has expressed his “honour” at being invited to Dublin to recreate one of the greatest moments in Irish scientific history.

Dr Venter will be in Ireland next month to give an important keynote address during the EuroScience Open Forum in Dublin.

He will deliver an updated version of a seminal scientific lecture series given in Dublin in 1943 by Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger, a lecture that inspired the researchers who went on to discover the structure of DNA.

Schrödinger gave his What is Life? talks under the auspices of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, which he helped to found along with then taoiseach Éamon de Valera.

De Valera viewed the talk as being of such importance that he was present in the audience in the old physics lecture hall at Trinity College Dublin. The talks were reported in Time magazine and were later published in book form.

Dr Venter was invited to bring the talks into the 21st century for the EuroScience Open Forum in Dublin.

via Craig Venter to give updated version of Schrödinger lectures – The Irish Times – Fri, Jun 29, 2012.

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