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If you live in Pennsylvania, it's West Virginia. If you live in California, it's every 'red state' in the Union. No matter where you live, some nearby state is the butt of inbreeding jokes.

Well, those places you make fun of for having an evolutionary tree that's a straight line are also having the last laugh, it seems.

In a new paper, deCODE scientists establish 'a substantial and consistent positive correlation between the kinship of couples and the number of children and grandchildren they have.'

Counterintuitive? Sure, from an evolutionary perspective closely-related parents have a higher probability of having offspring homozygous for deleterious recessive mutations, but closer parental kinship can also decrease the likelihood of immunological incompatibility between mother and offspring, for example in rhesus factor blood type.

If you just got done reading our previous article, Digestive Reflex May Mean Artificial Sweeteners End Up Causing Weight Gain, it may seem confusing that we now have an article saying artificial sweeteners help with weight loss. Welcome to the world of neuroscience. We just report the data.

In this case, a recent review of scientific literature concluded that low-calorie (or no-calorie) sweeteners may be of help in resolving the obesity problem. Although they are not magic bullets, low-calorie sweeteners in beverages and foods can help people reduce their calorie (energy) intakes.

“Low-calorie sweeteners reduce the energy of most beverages to zero and lower the energy density of many foods,” said study co-author, Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Director, Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington. “Every dietary guideline these days tells us to bulk up, hydrate, and consume foods with fewer calories but more volume.”

If you want to lose weight, diet soft drinks are not the answer, according to findings in the February issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.

Psychologists at Purdue University’s Ingestive Behavior Research Center say the widespread use of no-calorie sweeteners may actually make it harder for people to control their intake and body weight.

The researchers reported that, relative to rats that ate yogurt sweetened with glucose (a simple sugar with 15 calories/teaspoon, the same as table sugar), rats given yogurt sweetened with zero-calorie saccharin later consumed more calories, gained more weight, put on more body fat, and didn’t make up for it by cutting back later, all at levels of statistical significance.

Unlike the rest of the cells in your body, your red blood cells lack nuclei. That quirk dates back to the time when mammals began to evolve. Other vertebrates such as fish, reptiles, and birds, have red cells that contain nuclei that are inactive. Losing the nucleus enables the red blood cell to contain more oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, thus enabling more oxygen to be transported in the blood and boosting our metabolism.

Scientists have struggled to understand the mechanism by which maturing red blood cells eject their nuclei. Now, researchers in the lab of Whitehead Member Harvey Lodish have modeled the complete process in vitro in mice, reporting their findings in Nature Cell Biology. The first mechanistic study of how a red blood cell loses its nucleus, the research sheds light on one of the most essential steps in mammalian evolution.

According to a study in Molecular Biology and Evolution, the Vikings never left Northwest England - up to 50 percent of the DNA they found in men had Scandinavian ancestry.

The 100 men in the study were primarily from the Wirral in Merseyside and West Lancashire and their surnames were in existence as far back as medieval times. Results revealed that 50 percent of their DNA have Norse origins.

A cellular protein that helps guide immune cells to the gut has been newly identified as a target of HIV when the virus begins its assault on the body's immune system, according to researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The identification of this new receptor opens up new avenues of investigation that may help further elucidate the complex mechanisms of the pathogenesis of HIV infection,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., chief of the Institute’s Laboratory of Immunoregulation (LIR) and senior author of the new study.