Genetics & Molecular Biology

Before you eat that next slice of pecan pie or second serving of mashed potatoes at Christmas dinner this year, you may want to think twice; those extra helpings could be even worse for your waistline than previously thought.

 A new research report appearing online in The FASEB Journal suggests that a diet high in fat and sugar actually switches on genes that ultimately cause our bodies to store too much fat. This means these foods hit you with a double-whammy as the already difficult task of converting high-fat and high-sugar foods to energy is made even harder because these foods also turn our bodies into "supersized fat-storing" machines.
 An international team of researchers probing the nerve-insulating myelin sheath have uncovered how mutations affect the structure of myelin, a focal point of research in multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders.

The findings were central to the group's broader conclusion that a set of protein processes required in the early-stage conversion of glucose into fatty acids are critical to the proper formation and layering of myelin membrane. The researchers report their  in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Conventional types of genetic analysis may not be as accurate as believed, according to researchers writing in Trends in Genetics.

Their analysis of penguins that died 44,000 years ago in Antarctica have provided extraordinary frozen DNA samples that they say challenges the accuracy of traditional genetic aging measurements, and suggest those approaches have been routinely underestimating the age of many specimens by 200 to 600 percent.  So a biological specimen determined by traditional DNA testing to be 100,000 years old may actually be 200,000 to 600,000 years old.

They say their findings raise doubts about the accuracy of many evolutionary rates based on conventional types of genetic analysis.
How should we talk about biological networks or systems? Roger Brent and Jehoshua Bruck stated the problem like this:
Instead of using someone else's urine in random drug testing, perhaps criminals can step it up a notch on the scientific ladder and use someone else's genome.

Can your genes ever absolve you of responsibility for a particular act?

New Scientist features a story that asks that very question, regarding the case of a man whose sentence was reduced because he had "gene variants linked to aggression."
Scientists have successfully differentiated human embryonic stem cells (hESC) into major cell types of lung epithelial tissue, a technique which could provide an alternative to lung transplants for patients with lung injury due to chronic pulmonary disease and inherited genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
The development of molecular techniques for genetic analysis has led to a great augmentation in our knowledge of crop genetics and our understanding of the structure and behavior of various crop genomes. These molecular techniques, in particular the applications of molecular markers, have been used to scrutinize DNA sequence variation(s) in and among the crop species and create new sources of genetic variation by introducing new and favorable traits from landraces and related crop species.
Are accident rates higher for people with a particular gene variant?    Bad drivers may, in part,  have their genes to blame, suggests a new study by UC Irvine neuroscientists.

People with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it – and a follow-up test a few days later yielded similar results. About 30 percent of Americans have the variant.
Biofortified, a group blog by graduate students and professors on plant genetics and genetic engineering, is in the lead for a $1500 grant from Ahoka Changemakers. Apparently, the grant will be decided by the relatively worthless metric of internet popularity, which they have made very difficult with an awkward interface. I, however, highly recommend that you go vote for Biofortified (contains step by step voting instructions, which are needed) for three reasons: