Genetics & Molecular Biology

A system of opposing genetic forces determines why mammals develop a single row of teeth, while sharks sport several, according to a study published today in the journal Science. When completely understood, the genetic program described in the study may help guide efforts to re-grow missing teeth and prevent cleft palate, one of the most common birth defects.
A major mystery about the origins of life may be resolved if a new hypothesis holds up, says  a study published in Nature.   Two Université de Montréal scientists have proposed a new idea for how a 'universal molecular machine', the ribosome, might have managed to self-assemble as a critical step in the genesis of all life on Earth.
Plants are obviously essential to our survival and that of most other animals on earth but it is easy to overlook how they have become discretely embedded into our everyday lives; plants provide us with food, medicines, and raw materials used by our industries.

Despite their importance, very few of us could name more than a tiny fraction of the plants that surround us and while most of us could easily between a buttercup and a dandelion (provided both are in flower), only a hand full of experts could identify all 1600 native plants in the UK - and nobody is able to name all of the 250,000 or so plant species recorded world-wide.
Research performed in the Center for Biomolecular Science&Engineering (CBSE) at the University of California, Santa Cruz, suggests that mobile repetitive elements--also known as transposons or "jumping genes"--do indeed affect the evolution of gene regulatory networks.
I am a firm believer in the possibility and promise of embryonic stem cells. In a politically, religiously and even scientifically charged climate, this is a risky thing to announce. But as a journalist, I must divorce myself from my own personal opinions and biases and present the facts.  That being said, it is still satisfying writing upon a topic that you believe in. This was the case when I wrote an article about Geron Pharmaceuticals recently launched human clinical trials using embryonic stem cell research to repair spinal cord damage.
Neandertals were the closest relatives of currently living humans. They lived in Europe and parts of Asia until they became extinct about 30,000 years ago. For more than a hundred years, paleontologists and anthropologists have been striving to uncover their evolutionary relationship to modern humans.
A common gene regulatory circuit controls the development of all dentitions, from the first teeth in the throats of jawless fishes that lived half a billion years ago to the incisors and molars of modern vertebrates (that includes you and me), say researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia. 
Emergence of black-colored wolves is the direct result of humans raising dogs as pets and beasts of burden, according to new research by a University of Calgary biologist in Science. The dark coloring may also aid the survival of the species as wolf habitat is affected by climate change in the future, the study suggests.
Steve over as Quintessence of Dust has prepared an excellent edition of Mendel's Garden. Read about how to know when you're being overcharged for personalized genetic testing, how to tell whether your child will have red hair, how two white parents can have a black child, and what makes a pink iguana, and much more.
An international team of researchers  has uncovered the first gene linked to the most common type of epilepsy, called Rolandic epilepsy. One out of every five children with epilepsy is diagnosed with this form, which is associated with seizures starting in one part of the brain.

The finding is the first step in unlocking the causes of common childhood epilepsies and developing more effective treatments. Children with Rolandic and other types of epilepsies are usually treated with drugs that prevent seizures by suppressing electrical activity in the entire brain.