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It's been a while. And now I'm back only to say goodbye. Well, not really. It's just that I've...

Anti-Obesity Drug?

A new compound has been shown to reduce Body Mass Index (BMI) and abdominal circumference in obese...

Beautiful Earth

This video has become quite popular the last few days, so if you've already seen it, my apologies...

The Illuminated Origin of Species

Teacher turned artist Kelly Houle has set herself to the task of creating an illuminated version...

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Some genes appear to have an effect on lifespan. This shouldn’t be too surprising news. But now, a research team from Stanford has shown that there are epigenetic effects on longevity as well. Using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a beloved model organism in aging research, they have shown that some changes in chromatin states in a parental generation can affect the lifespan of their descendants.

Earlier this year, a DNA computer was reported that could calculate square roots. A little later, a neural network was constructed out of ‘the stuff of life’. These advances strongly hinted at the possibility of using biochemicals in order to do computational operations. Now, a new study, published in Nature Communications, presents another step towards this goal.

The genome of the medieval form of Yersinia pestis, the pathogen responsible for the Black Death in Europe between 1347 – 1351, has been reconstructed. A surprising finding is that the genes affecting its virulence apparently haven’t changed all that much between then and now.

A research team has used teeth gathered from a burial ground know to contain a lot of Black Death victims to reconstruct the genome of the medieval form of Y. pestis. After the genomic reconstruction, the researchers compared their ‘ancient pathogen’ to the extant forms of the bacterium (see figure 1). In their words:

Particulate organic carbon (or POC) is an important factor in the ocean’s carbon cycle. When these tiny particles hit the water, they sink and attract bacteria. These bacteria can feed on the particles, releasing carbon into shallow waters and the atmosphere.

A new study has found that bacteria communicate about whether or not to begin feeding on the particles through quorum sensing (QS), simply put, a process where bacteria release signaling molecules, which, in turn can influence the activity of other bacteria. Or, in the authors’ words:

Cooperation has been/still is a major factor in the success of the human species, and in many others as well. Altruism and fairness are thought to play an important role in the development of cooperation. But when in a human life do these traits develop? For quite some time, it was thought that they developed fairly late in ontogeny.

Lately, however, there has been some incipient research into the moral and prosocial behaviors of young children. A new study investigated the sense of fairness and tendency to be altruistic in 15-month-old infants.

A meta-analysis has provided support to the previously suggested idea that a certain gene's variation is linked to suicidal behavior. The gene in question is the one that codes for BDNF (or brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that performs the role of growth factor in nervous system development. After comparing 11 studies and adding data they had gathered themselves (resulting in a total of 3352 people, of whom 1202 had a history of suicidal behavior), the authors were able to confirm that people with the methionine (see figure 1) variation of the gene ran a higher risk of exhibiting suicidal behavior than those with the valine (see figure 1) variation.