Genetics & Molecular Biology

A neuropeptide named natalisin regulates the sexual activity and reproductive ability of insects, according to a new study in which the neuropeptide is observed and named Natalisin is composed of short chains of amino acids in the brain of insects and arthropods and the finding may open new possibilities for environmentally friendly pest management.


Since man discovered agriculture, farmers have used ingenious ways to pump more nitrogen into crop fields; farmers have planted legumes and plowed the entire crop under, strewn night soil or manure on the fields, shipped in bat dung from islands in the Pacific or saltpeter from Chilean mines and plowed in glistening granules of synthetic fertilizer made in chemical plants. 

A new Washington University in St. Louis project seeks to miniaturize, automate and relocate the chemical apparatus for nitrogen fixation within the plant so nitrogen is available when and where it is needed — and only then and there.

A study shows for the first time that chromosomes rearrangements (such as inversions or translocations) can provide advantages to the cells that harbor them, depending on the environment they are exposed.


TERC, a gene which regulates the length of the telomere 'caps' on the ends of DNA and helps control the aging process by acting as a cell's internal clock, has been linked to cancer by a new study.

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, found a genetic variant that influences the aging process among four new variants they linked to myeloma, one of the most common types of blood cancer. The study more than doubles the number of genetic variants linked to myeloma, bringing the total number to seven, and sheds important new light on the genetic causes of the disease. 


An interesting issue came up through my volunteer work for the new website, "GMOAnswers.com".  Apparently some pot users are concerned that they might be unwittingly consuming what they consider to be a dreaded "GMO."  

The irony is that while marijuana has definitely been "genetically modified" to contain higher levels of THC, that change didn't involve the tools of modern biotechnology.

Instead, the changes were achieved using rather clumsy methods from the past.

An international team has found evidence of substantial overlap for genetic risk factors shared between bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia and less overlap between those conditions and autism and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The root causes of psychiatric illnesses are not known. Instead, for the past 125 years, clinicians have based diagnosis on a collection of symptoms observed in patients, something medical science has long left behind - and so the race has been on to find biological links.


Inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington disease involve disease-causing genetic mutations that damage or remove a protein that has an essential role in the body. This protein defect is the root cause of the disease symptoms.

But for congenital muscular dystrophies (CMDs), the sequence of the protein that is central to normal function is typically unaffected. Instead, the defects lie in processing proteins—ones that are responsible for modifying the central protein by adding sugar chains (glycans). Either loss of the glycans or disruption of their structure is sufficient to cause muscle disease.


For children and immune-compromised adults in developing countries, diarrheal disease induced by rotavirus can be life threatening.

Rotavirus is the leading cause of diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide, causing more than 114 million episodes of diarrhea annually in children under the age of 5, 80% of which occur in developing countries. More than 600,000 children die annually from rotavirus (RV) infection

Current rotaviral vaccines are highly effective in the Western world, but are not as effective in developing countries. Additionally, these vaccines are not appropriate for use outside of a very narrow age window or in immune compromised individuals. 


A RIKEN research team says that an enzyme called Rines regulates
Monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), a major brain protein controlling emotion and mood, making it a potential drug target for treating depression.

Monoamine oxidase A is an enzyme that breaks down serotonin, norephinephrine and dopamine, neurotransmitters well-known for their influence on emotion and mood. Nicknamed the "warrior gene", a variant of the MAOA gene has been associated with increased risk of violent and anti-social behavior.

While evidence points to a link between MAO-A levels and various emotional patterns, however, the mechanism controlling MAO-A levels in the brain has remained unknown.


I've just returned from a week on Kauai.  It is known as "The Garden Isle" of the Hawaiian chain, but recently that garden has been heavily sown with seeds of fear, suspicion, and conspiratorial narratives.

On Wednesday, the 31st of July, there was a marathon session of the County Council during which hundreds of people lined up to give testimony about Bill 2491 from 1 pm until midnight.  Angst was a common theme. The activist speakers made hyperbolic assertions about heartless corporations perfectly willing to sicken the entire population of the island and destroy the environment. Many non-agricultural residents expressed their palpable fear for the safety of their families.