Genetics & Molecular Biology

A genome-wide association study has identified genetic variants associated with being a morning person. The authors identified 15 locations in DNA (loci) associated with "morningness."

Fat is back, at least in some sense. It has just been replaced with polyunsaturated fats in the minds of nutritionists. 

Studies on low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets and the recently popular fad called the Mediterranean diet have shown similar results in weight loss but are mixed when it comes to cholesterol, mostly because nutritional epidemiology relies on people remembering what they ate. To try and augment those, studies are done with animals, and they can provide some guidance but are often misused (what food hasn't been found to be a carcinogen in rats by now?). Still, that is what we have and they can at least provide some guidance on what works best for improved health. Then studies can be done with people.

Consider the engineering marvel that is your foot. Be it hairy or homely, without its solid support you'd be hard-pressed to walk or jump normally.

Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama, have identified a change in gene expression between humans and primates that may have helped give us this edge when it comes to walking upright. And they did it by studying a tiny fish called the threespine stickleback that has evolved radically different skeletal structures to match environments around the world.

Researchers have taken what they hope will be the first step toward preventing and reversing age-related stem cell dysfunction and metabolic disease, including diabetes, which affects 12.2 million Americans age 60 and older, according to the National Council on Aging.

Euglena gracilis, the single cell algae which inhabits most garden ponds, has a whole host of new, unclassified genes which can make new forms of carbohydrates and natural products. Euglena creates many well-known, valuable natural products including vitamins, essential amino acids and a sugar polymer which may have anti-HIV effects. 

New analysis examines the possibility of using in vitro gametogenesis (IVG) for human reproduction. IVG derives gametes from induced pluripotent stem cells (capable of giving rise to several different cell types) or human embryonic stem cells.

It's not ready for human procreation but it's a good idea to start discussing the implications in case it ever is, according to a study in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences.

Researchers say they have found the strongest evidence to date that human pluripotent stem cells -- cells that can give rise to all tissues of the body -- will develop normally once transplanted into an embryo.

Pluripotent stem cells for use in regenerative medicine or biomedical research come from two sources: embryonic stem cells, derived from fertilized egg cells; and induced pluripotent stem cells, where skin cells are 'reset' to their original form. The promise (bordering on hype in the case of human embryonic stem cells, with promises a decade ago of curing Alzheimer's if they just got more money) is that they might repair various organs and tissues, particularly those that have poor regenerative capacity, such as the heart, brain and pancreas. 

Almost 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Strategies for fighting obesity, such as pharmacological and behavioral approaches to decrease food intake, have been only marginally successful. Patients who have undergone various surgeries for the gastrointestinal system have found success, but these are extreme measures. Scientists are hopeful that increasing energy expenditure with brown or brite/beige fat cells could be an effective way to fight obesity.

Scientists have carried out the first ever genome-wide survey of heritable molecular changes that regulate gene activity in wheat. Epigenetic marks are chemical tags which physically attach themselves to DNA, and modify its function without changing the genetic code. DNA methylation is one such mechanism of epigenetic gene expression control that can be passed down to future generations.

Now, developing technology has allowed scientists to study DNA methylation across the complex and challenging wheat genome.

 Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus, first detected in the U.S. in 1987, has been identified as a $660 million per year problem. Pigs who contract the disease have extreme difficulty reproducing, don't gain weight and have a high mortality rate and no vaccine has been effective.

A team of researchers from the University of Missouri, Kansas State University, and Genus plc have put biology on the case, by breeding genetically edited pigs that are not harmed by the disease.