Genetics & Molecular Biology

The body contains two types of fat cells, white and brown.

White fat serves to store excess calories until they're needed by the body while brown adipocytes actually burn fat by turning it into heat. Ever since it was discovered that adult humans harbor appreciable amounts of brown fat, investigators have been working to better understand its thermogenic fat-burning properties with the ultimate goal of developing novel therapies to combat obesity and diabetes. 

Now, researchers have demonstrated that the transcription factor IRF4 (interferon regulatory factor 4) plays a key role in brown fat's thermogenic process, regulating energy expenditure and cold tolerance.  


Many ancient plants weren't pretty, they didn't taste good, and they weren't big - but they could defend themselves.

As food science progressed, numerous plants were genetically optimized for better flavor and yield, but some lost their ability to produce certain defense chemicals, making them vulnerable to attack by insects and pathogens. Swiss scientists are exploring ways to help protect 21st century maize by re-arming it with its ancestral chemical weapons.  


Researchers have announced the discovery of a gene, zic-1, that enables stem cells to regrow a head after decapitation in flatworm planarians.


The human genome and the messages coded by 3 billion letters that determine everything from how nutrients are metabolized to how neurons communicate in the brain.

The detection and characterization of the genes present in this mass of information is a complex task that has been a source of ongoing debate since the Human Genome Project completed its first mission. It's even unclear how many genes there are.


More than one quarter of children with two copies of a high-risk variant in a specific group of genes develop an early sign of celiac disease by age 5.

The findings are from The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in Youth consortium, TEDDY, also found that participants in Sweden had higher rates of celiac disease than participants in the United States, Finland and Germany, even with the same genetic risks.


In 2002, President George W. Bush authorized funding for human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) using federal money for the first time - but he limited that federal funding to existing lines.


Researchers have identified the genes in wheat that control tolerance to a significant yield-limiting soil condition found around the globe; boron toxicity.


A new study has discovered that microRNAs (miRNAs), small RNA molecules that play important roles in regulation in many types of tissue, play a major role in the distribution and determination of fat cells and whole body metabolism. The study also finds that microRNAs influence the development of lipodystrophy (abnormal fat accumulation) which affects many people with HIV receiving anti-retroviral therapy. 


Sorry Malcolm Gladwell, and you positive thinking book buyers at Whole Foods, you are not going to be a world-class sprinter no matter how much you practice unless you were born with exceptional speed.

A new paper by Michael Lombardo, professor of biology at Grand Valley State University, and Robert Deaner, associate professor of psychology, shows that the developmental histories of elite sprinters contradict the popular deliberate practice model of expertise. According to this deliberate model, there is no such thing as innate talent. Instead, 10 years of deliberate practice (roughly 10,000 hours) are necessary and sufficient for anyone to become an expert in any field, including sports.


A new study has affirmed what most of us knew - practice makes perfect, but only if you have some ability. In the nature versus nurture debate, Usain Bolt is still going to run faster than most people no matter how much they practice.

And that goes for musicians too. An analysis of 850 sets of twins leads Zach Hambrick, a Michigan State University professor of psychology, to say both genes and environment matter, "Not only in the sense that both nature and nurture contribute, but that they interact with each other.