Genetics & Molecular Biology

Scientists have identified four new genes associated with a severe food allergy called eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), which has only recently been recognized as a distinct condition. Its hallmark is inflammation and painful swelling in the esophagus, along with high levels of immune cells called eosinophils. It can affect people of any age, but is more common among young men who have a history of other allergic diseases such as asthma and eczema. 


 Everyone inherits two copies of most genes, one copy from each parent. In a recent study, researchers found in a rare mutation, people with one inactive copy of the gene NPC1L1 appeared to be protected against high LDL cholesterol, commonly called the "bad" cholesterol, and coronary heart disease, a narrowing of the heart's arteries that can lead to heart attacks. 

This mutation meant a 50 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack, at least epidemiologically, according to the paper
in The New England Journal of Medicine. NPC1L1 is of interest because it is the target of the drug ezetimibe, often prescribed to lower cholesterol.


The yellow fever mosquito sustains its taste for human blood thanks to a genetic tweak that makes it more sensitive to human odor, according to a paper in Nature. They have a version of an odor-detecting gene in its antennae that is highly attuned to sulcatone, a compound prevalent in human odor.

The gene, AaegOr4, is more abundant and more sensitive in the human-preferring "domestic" form of the yellow fever mosquito than in its ancestral "forest" form that prefers the blood of non-human animals. 


When a cell divides, it passes through a sequence of complex events and mitochondria, the organelles called the power plants of the cell, are the main source of energy for these processes: They convert food into energy the cell can use.

Freiburg biochemists Dr. Angelika Harbauer and professor Chris Meisinger led a team that have discovered a signaling path that links these two key tasks, cell division and energy conversion. .

Let’s talk about gastrulation. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s not as disgusting as it sounds. Gastrulation is a process in early embryonic development which leads to the generation of the three germ-layer tissues- ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm- from which all other tissue-types in the body are erived. 

The early (amniote) embryo coverts from a bilaminar structure of epithelial tissue plus and extra-embryonic layer, to a trilamiarone. A second function of gastrulation is that it defines the anterior-posterior body axis for the first time. In other words, it begins to distinguish the head end of the embryo from the tail end- this is pretty important if you want all your bits and pieces in the right place later on! 

Heart attacks are often caused by conditions that affect electrical signaling in the heart. Genetic studies have linked two of these conditions, long QT syndrome and Brugada syndrome, to mutations in the sodium channels that let sodium ions into cells in response to electrical signals.  
A multidisciplinary team has been tracking the complex of proteins thought to be at fault in some cases of sudden cardiac death and now they have finally captured images of the complex. Those images reveal the connection between some genetic mutations and electrical abnormalities of the heart and provide a starting point for designing therapies.

A new study finds that the inhibition of a particular mitochondrial fission protein, GTPase dynamin-related protein-1 – Drp1, could hold the key to treating Parkinson's Disease.

A new biology paper sheds light on how chromatin (the complex of DNA and proteins) is organized in a cell and how plants regulate genetic material, so that some genes are turned on and others are turned off - and it could make it possible for a new generation of plants to better adapt to and survive environmental swings such as droughts or floods.

The research in The Plant Cell could mean major advances for the agriculture industry. 

"If you understand how plants regulate their genetic material, you can possibly manipulate that in certain circumstances so that plants can withstand environmental changes," said Daniel Vera, a Florida State University graduate student and the lead author of the paper.


Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)-derived cells are world's apart. iPSCs became a major research force because they are adult stem cells and lack the controversy of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) while SCNT is banned by the Obama administration even though most biologists are in favor of it.

Yet that is politics. Scientifically, they have far more in common, which makes the scientization of politics issue more odd. A team led by the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute did a study comparing iPS cells and embryonic stem cells created using SCNT and they found that the cells derived from these two methods resulted in cells with highly similar gene expression and DNA methylation patterns.