Genetics & Molecular Biology

Mickey Mouse
Dear Mickey - How is life? Life is tough, says my friend. Do you agree? I wanted to write to you for a number of reasons. Believe it or not, people still remember that you turned 80 last year: Happy Eighties to you, M-I-C-K-E-Y!
Abnormally high levels of P-cadherin – an adhesion molecule that enables cells to bind together – occur in about a third of all breast cancers and are associated with poor prognosis. Portuguese researchers , writing in the journal Oncogene1, found that the reason why these cancers are more aggressive is because excessive P-cadherin changes the cancer cells’ internal organization, making them mobile and invasive (invasiveness is the capacity to cross biological barriers such as membranes). Both these characteristics allow the formation of metastases - which is the spread of cancer cells from the original site of the tumour to other parts of the body - increasing the disease aggressiveness and explaining the poor prognoses associated with P-cadherin.
Men could soon have the same control over their fertility that women have had since the 1960s, according to a new paper published in the December 2009 issue of The FASEB Journal. The authors of the paper say they have found how and where androgenic hormones work in the testis to control normal sperm production and male fertility.

The discovery was the result of studies performed in two groups of mice. The first group of mice was normal, but the second was missing a gene from the peritubular myoid cells in the testis. This missing gene codes for the androgen hormone receptor, and when missing, sperm production was significantly decreased when compared to the normal group. The result was infertility.
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.