Genetics & Molecular Biology
In a complex system you never know what obscure change can modify things that wouldn't seem to be related. A new study shows that variation of the scavenger receptor class B type 1 gene (SCARB1)
involved in regulating cholesterol in the bloodstream also appears to affect progesterone production in women, making it a likely culprit in a substantial number of cases of their infertility.
The group has developed a simple blood test for this variation of the scavenger receptor class B type 1 gene (SCARB1) but emphasize there is no approved therapy yet to address the problem in infertile women.
In the 'we need to make sure all people can abdicate any responsibility for their actions' department, a new study makes obesity exculpatory by determining that a mother's nutrition during pregnancy influences the child's risk of obesity many years later.
Whew. And here you were worried too many pizzas would influence the risk of obesity.
The downside to epigenetics studies is that they run the risk of turning legitimate aspects of biology into the DNA equivalent of evolutionary psychology by making bizarre correlation-causation claims.
Mitochondria are better known as the power factories of the cell but in fact they are much more interesting than that. Contrary to the old image in textbooks of round static structures, mitochondria are now known to be incredibly dynamic, shape changing, fusing and dividing according to the multitude of functions they perform in the cell. And now, in a study to be published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, scientists in Italy and Portugal show that mitochondria can also be crucial for the survival of cells during stress.
People may object to my calling for Ph.D. programs in Theoretical Phys Ed and Quantum Paleontology, but humor is not far off the mark. Evolutionary psychology, for example, is practically self-ridiculing.
But I was somewhat intrigued by recent research I saw about stress being a genetic issue and the person behind it called it theoretical evolutionary biology. This concerns me on a few levels; first, evolutionary biology has detractors by a fringe religious minority obsessed with what Darwin did not know 150 years ago so slapping the word 'theoretical' in front of evolutionary biology will make people think 'made up', like people do about a lot of the more obscure physics ideas, which is more hypothetical than theoretical.
Bananas in their natural state have up to a hundred seeds but all commercial varieties that you see in stores are seedless. Making seedless varieties made bananas wildly popular, which was good for the people who grow them and good for the people who eat them. That is a science win.
Researchers have now discovered a way to make "the most delicious fruit known to man", as Mark Twain called it, more popular with the public also. The cherimoya, or custard apple, has lots of big, awkward seeds but a group of researchers studied the seedless variety of sugar apple, a relative of the cherimoya, and noted that the ovules, which would normally form seeds, lacked an outer coat.
Among environmental activists and their supporters, the use of genetic modification is a bad thing. Obviously, tomatoes would be the size of our thumbs if our ancestors did not genetically modify plants so research continues. A group of researchers has announced that plants have for the first time been cloned as seeds, a major step toward making hybrid crop plants that can retain favorable traits from generation to generation - something to which even the most anti-science people can object.
- the unsubstantiated belief that the cataloging of the genomic sequence
of an individual conveys useful understanding about their ancestry, current characteristics, and disease
risk with high degrees of accuracy and predictive power
The skeletal hormone osteocalcin also, boosts testosterone production to support the survival of the germ cells that go on to become mature sperm, say researchers writing in Cell.
Bone was once thought of as a "mere assembly of inert calcified tubes" but in the last ten years, scientists have gained a much more dynamic picture of bone as a bona fide endocrine organ with links to energy metabolism and reproduction.
The existence of functional, non-protein-coding DNA is all too frequently portrayed as a great surprise uncovered by genome sequencing projects, both in large media outlets and in scientific publications that should have better quality control in place.
Eric Lander, writing a Human Genome Project 10th anniversary retrospective
, explains the real surprise about non-coding DNA that was revealed by big omics projects.
The search for actively 'jumping' genes in humans has found new evidence that the genome contains numerous pesky mobile elements that may help to explain why people have such a variety of physical traits and disease risks.
Using bioinformatics, the study in Genome Research set out to compare the standard assembly of genetic elements as outlined in the reference human genome to raw whole-genome data from 310 individuals recently made available by the 1000 Genomes Project, the team found 1,016 new insertions of retrotransposon insertion polymorphisms (RIPs), expanding the catalog of insertions that are present in some individuals and absent in others.