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Anti-Obesity Drug?

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

Beautiful Earth

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The Illuminated Origin of Species

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Increasing resistance of pathogens to antibiotics is an important issue. The hunt for new antibiotics/antimicrobials is on. For example, the 10X’20 Initiative aims to develop 10 new antimicrobial drugs by 2020. But where will these new drugs come from?

The recent efforts in sequencing marsupial genomes might prove helpful. Since the young of marsupials and monotremes are relatively little developed at birth, and have to survive outside of the sterile environment of the uterus, their immune system has to be capable of dealing with potential pathogens in their environment.

This time of year, hurricanes take over the news coverage. Hurricane season is one of those annual events nobody really looks forward to. And yet, there they come, year after year. This has spurred some people to question whether or not hurricanes can potentially be controlled. Or at least influenced.

But first, how do hurricanes form? I’ll choose the lazy option here and quote the brief but elucidating explanation given by Ross N. Hoffman:

In 2008, a fossil tooth and finger bone were found in a cave in Siberia. After analysis it turned out to belong to a new species of human, now known as the Denisovans. In 2010, a draft of the Neanderthal genome was released, providing indications for potential interbreeding with our ancestors. In the same year, analysis of the Denisovan genome also revealed indications for potential interbreeding.

Now, a new study, published in Science, states that these interbreeding events could have boosted the human immune system.

How many organisms live on this little planet of ours? A pretty straight-forward question. The answer, however, is much more enigmatic. Estimates range from a careful 3 million to a huge 100 million. Now, a new approach, published in PLoS Biology, has yielded another estimate. The new method used resulted in an estimate of 8.7 million (± 1.3 million SE) eukaryotic species, of which 2.2 million (± 0.18 million SE) can be found in the oceans. As about 1.2 million species are catalogued, this would mean that roughly 86% of organisms on earth still await discovery, a number that rises to 91% in the oceans.

Where do these numbers come from?

Pseudomonas aeruginosa (see figure 1) is a human pathogen that colonizes the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract, where it can cause life-threatening infections in patients with a compromised immune system, such as cancer or cystic fibrosis patients. P. aeruginosa is resistant to many antibiotics. Current treatments comprise antibiotic chemotherapy and bacteriophage therapy. However, There are some setbacks to these therapies. The chemotherapy kills many kinds of bacteria, upsetting a healthy human microbiome, and the bacteriophage therapy relies on the use of a virus, which has a limited therapeutic potential as the host can develop specific antibodies against the virus.


A new study, published in Science, analyzed regulatory elements in the vertebrate genome and found three waves of evolutionary innovation in the evolution of vertebrates. Many important evolutionary changes have their roots in changes in regulatory elements, not necessarily in the occurrence of new protein-coding genes. So, it’s not the change in genes, but rather the change in gene regulation that spurred many events in vertebrate evolution.