Genetics & Molecular Biology

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. 
 Mosses are tiny plants with a simple body plan - they have no roots, no flowers and do not produce seeds. It was reasonable to assume they were also simple organisms also at the genetic level.

Not so, a new study describes 32,275 protein-encoding genes from the moss Physcomitrella patens, about 10,000 genes more than the human genome contains. 

X chromosomes are special, even for genetic material. They differ in number between men and women and to achieve equality between sexes, one out of two X chromosomes in women is silenced.

In Drosophila, the opposite happens: in male flies, the only available X chromosome is highly activated, to compensate for the absence of the second X-chromosome.


Newly published research reveals that aberrant signaling by a protein called transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta - already known for its role in some connective tissue disorders) is also a potent player in many types of allergies. 

Scientists have long understood that allergies are the result of a complex interplay between environment and genes, but now, in what investigators call a scientific first, a single genetic pathway has been implicated in an array of allergic disorders. 


The genetic sequence of the X chromosome, the female counterpart to the male-associated Y chromosome, reveals that large portions of the X have evolved to play a specialized role in sperm production.


Neural tube defects affect more than 300,000 babies born around the world each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Neural tube defects, including anencephaly and spina bifida, are caused by the incomplete closure or development of the spine and skull. 

Using dogs as a model, researchers recently found that a gene related to neural tube defects in man's best friend may be an important risk factor for human neural tube defects. The cause of neural tube defects is poorly understood but has long been thought to be associated with genetic, nutritional and environmental factors. 


Gleaning from the natural process of X chromosome inactivation, scientists recently discovered a way to “turn off” the extra copy of chromosome 21 in Down syndrome, a strategy that might one day cure this disorder.

Scientists have revealed the genetic secrets of how a small bird, Parus humilis
 (ground tit) can survive in one of the most hostile environments on earth - the Tibetan plateau, the largest high-altitude land mass in the world.

The study found molecular signatures in the ground tit genome which reveal how it copes with the extreme living conditions of this habitat, said co-authors Professor David Lambert and Dr. Sankar Subramanian from Griffith University.