Genetics & Molecular Biology

Intermittent fasting (also called alternate day fasting) has become a popular diet.

In most versions of intermittent fasting, people fast or eat very little a few days each week and then eat normal amounts during the remaining days.

Fasting is something that human beings have practiced throughout history, often out of circumstance rather than choice. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were probably expert fasters, indulging in feasts in times of plenty, and then facing long periods of scarcity in between. With this in mind, it makes sense that our bodies' cells could perform well under the harsh conditions of feast and famine.

More than 60 percent of the world's population is infected with a type of herpes virus called human cytomegalovirus, which replicates by commandeering the host cell's metabolism, but the details of this maneuver have been unclear.

Researchers have discovered that cytomegalovirus manipulates a process called fatty acid elongation, which makes the very-long-chain fatty acids necessary for virus replication. They identified a specific human enzyme - elongase enzyme 7 - that the virus induces to turn on fatty acid elongation.

"Elongase 7 was just screaming, 'I'm important, study me,'" said John Purdy, a post-doctoral researcher at Princeton and lead author of the study. 


Animal development has an intriguing puzzle - scaling, the proportionality of different body parts. Whether you have an elephant or a mouse, organ and tissue sizes are generally proportional to the overall size of the body.

Clearly evolution determined 'just right' but how? Some new clues from fruit flies show the size and patterning accuracy of an embryo depend on the amount of reproductive resources mothers invest in the process before an egg leaves the ovary.

Both vegetarians and elite environmental activists have long considered meat as a vital food to cut if we are to reduce global emissions. For poor people, elites in developed nations believe beans would be a good substitute. While their 'it takes a gallon of gas to make a pound of beef' metric has long been debunked, they are not wrong for believing that livestock leads to emissions that would not be evident if we did not want the world's poorest to be equal to the rich when it comes to nutrition.

Scientists have grown the first 3-D mini lungs from stem cells, which means research is one step closer to being able to create one of the Big 5 organs from a patient's stem cells rather than having waiting lists for donors.

The University of Michigan scientists succeeded in growing structures resembling both the large proximal airways and the small distal airways.

Their recipe: 

Embryonic stem cells

Proteins involved in lung development

Growth factors

Inhibitors of intestine development

Growing media

Petri dish

Protein mixture

Method for "morphogenesis in a dish"


In a complex system like the human body, it's no surprise things can sometimes go wrong in development but evolution has made the system rather forgiving. When children inherit chromosomes from their parents, some minor genetic changes frequently occur without consequence but chromothripsis - chromosomal shattering - has been linked to severly affected children of healthy mothers in a small study.
Living beings can keep gene expression in check, which might partly explain the uncontrolled gene expression found in many cancers, according to a new paper/

"Using yeast as a model organism, we studied the Tup1 protein, a negative regulator of gene expression," says Biology Professor Emanuel Rosonina. "This protein binds to some genes and blocks their expression, helping to ensure genes that shouldn't be turned on remain inactive." 
A team of scientists have successfully transferred a receptor that recognizes bacteria from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a dicot, to wheat, a monocot.

The receptor can trigger a defensive response and confers increased resistance to bacterial disease. The research findings demonstrate that the signaling pathways or circuitry downstream of the receptor are conserved between evolutionary distant monocots and dicots. 
Would you want to know if you or your children had risk of hereditary cancer, a genetic risk for cardiovascular disease or carried the gene associated with developing Alzheimer's disease - even if they were risks that wouldn't be relevant for possibly decades or didn't have a cure?

 Researchers used data from a cross-sectional online survey of a nationally-representative sample of the U.S. population that was conducted as part of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health and found that 80 percent showed the same interest in genome sequencing for themselves as they did for their kids and 59 percent wanted to know if they had disease risks.
 
Rosacea is estimated to affect up to 16 million people in the United States alone, with symptoms typically including redness, visible blood vessels, and pimple-like sores on the skin of the central face.

Because rosacea affects facial appearance, it can also have a psychological impact on those who suffer from it, according to surveys by the National Rosacea Society.