Genetics & Molecular Biology

Scientists have gained new insight into fragile X syndrome, the most common cause of inherited intellectual disability, by studying the case of a person without the disorder, but with two of its classic symptoms.

Fragile X syndrome results from an inherited genetic error in a gene called FMR1. The error prevents the manufacture of a protein called FMRP. Loss of FMRP is known to affect how cells in the brain receive signals, dialing up the amount of information allowed in. The gene is on the X chromosome, so the syndrome affects males more often and more severely than females, who may be able to compensate for the genetic error if their second copy of FMR1 is normal.


When there is a market, someone will sell to it, even if it does not make much sense. So you can purchase organic pineapples and non-GMO rock salt if it makes you feel better.

In Europe, most genetically modified foods, as European politicians define them, are banned but cows eat GMO feed. The cows can't tell the difference nor have studies shown any difference in milk production or meat. Vermont passed a GMO labeling law but made sure to exempt cows so that the $300 million company run by the primary funder of the Just Label It campaign could still use milk from Vermont cows fed GMO grain in organic yogurt.

A new study finds that vitamin D can protect some people with colorectal cancer by boosting the immune system's vigilance against tumor cells.

The research in Gut represents the first time that a link between vitamin D and the immune response to cancer has been shown in a large human population. The authors believe their work advances the idea that vitamin D, known as the "sunshine vitamin" because it is produced by the body in response to sunlight exposure, plays a role in cancer prevention.


Scientists have developed a new biosensor that allows them to see, in real time, what happens when a plant’s defenxe system swings into action.

When plants come under attack internal alarms signal and their defense mechanisms swing into action. For the first time, plant scientists have imaged, in real time, what happens when plants beat off the bugs and respond to disease and damage.

Malcolm Bennett, Professor in Plant Science at The University of Nottingham and Director of the Centre for Plant Integrative Biology, said, “Understanding how plants respond to mechanical damage, such as insect attack, is important for developing crops which cope better under stress.”

Most people know that our biological functions use a circadian system comprised of a central clock located deep within the center of our brains and multiple clocks located in different parts of the body.   

When people fly to the other part of the world or work a night shift, those different biological clocks have not adjusted and so we get things like 'jet lag'. A small study may open new therapeutic avenues for improving the synchronization of the body's different biological clocks.  

A molecule known as coenzyme A plays a key role in cell metabolism by regulating the actions of nitric oxide. according to a new study.

Cell metabolism is the ongoing process of chemical transformations within the body's cells that sustains life, and alterations in metabolism are a common cause of human disease, including cancer and heart disease. Their findings about the mechanisms of action for coenzyme A, as well as discovering a new class of enzymes that regulate coenzyme A-based reactions. 


In a laboratory first, researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts and responds just like native tissue to external stimuli such as electrical pulses, biochemical signals and pharmaceuticals. The lab-grown tissue should soon allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in functioning human muscle outside of the human body.

The researchers started with a small sample of human cells that had already progressed beyond stem cells but hadn't yet become muscle tissue. They expanded these "myogenic precursors" by more than a 1000-fold, and then put them into a supportive, 3-D scaffolding filled with a nourishing gel that allowed them to form aligned and functioning muscle fibers.
In a new study, an analysis of 5,749 patients who received dalcetrapib or placebo and provided DNA in a clinical study found a strong association between the effects of dalcetrapib and a specific gene called ADCY9 (adenylate cyclase 9) on chromosome 16, particularly for a specific genetic variant (rs1967309).

In patients with the genetic profile AA at rs1967309, there was a 39% reduction in the composite cardiovascular endpoint with dalcetrapib compared to placebo. Supporting evidence was also obtained from a second study, which showed that patients with the favorable genetic profile also benefited from a reduction in the thickness of their carotid artery walls with dalcetrapib.  

Sensory 'hair cell' loss is the major cause of hearing loss and balance disorders. The postnatal mammalian inner ear harbors progenitor cells which have the potential for hair cell regeneration - and hearing recovery - but the mechanisms that control their proliferation and hair cell regeneration are yet to be determined. 

A new study has shown that blocking the Notch pathway, known to control the elaborate hair cell distribution in the inner ear, plays an essential role that determines cochlear progenitor cell proliferation capacity. 


A study of circadian rhythms in skin stem cells finds that this biological clock plays a key role in coordinating daily metabolic cycles and cell division. The paper shows how the body's intrinsic day-night cycles protect and nurture stem cell differentiation and provides insights into a mechanism whereby an out-of-synch circadian clock can contribute to accelerated skin aging and cancers.

Bogi Andersen, professor of biological chemistry and medicine at University of California - Irvine, and Enrico Gratton, professor of biomedical engineering, focused their efforts on the epidermis, the outermost protective layer of the skin that is maintained and healed by long-lived stem cells.