Genetics & Molecular Biology

A study of mutant fruit flies discovered that homosexual behavior in groups can be altered by their environment. Specifically, they have shown that the sexual preferences of male fruit flies with a mutant version of a gene can vary depending on whether the flies are reared in groups or alone.

The neurons that express the fruitless (fru) gene "basically govern the whole aspect of male sexual behavior," explains Tohoku University neurogenetics professor Daisuke Yamamoto. Normal male fruit flies tap the abdomen of a female to get a whiff of her sex pheromones before pursuing her to mate. In contrast, males with a mutant version of the fru gene show no interest in females; instead, they set off in vigorous pursuit of other males.
The most desirable cotton is distinguished by having extra-long staple fibers (Egyptian, Pima) and such cotton commands a price premium. But as the cotton moves around the world, and through the fabric value chain, there is the potential for it to be diluted with or fraudulently replaced with lower price, lower quality materials.

Hijacking a Conference's Credibility

Scientists have developed a new approach that could eventually be used to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy, using CRISPR/Cas9 to correct genetic mutations that cause the disease.

A genome-wide association study has identified genetic variants associated with being a morning person. The authors identified 15 locations in DNA (loci) associated with "morningness."

Fat is back, at least in some sense. It has just been replaced with polyunsaturated fats in the minds of nutritionists. 

Studies on low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets and the recently popular fad called the Mediterranean diet have shown similar results in weight loss but are mixed when it comes to cholesterol, mostly because nutritional epidemiology relies on people remembering what they ate. To try and augment those, studies are done with animals, and they can provide some guidance but are often misused (what food hasn't been found to be a carcinogen in rats by now?). Still, that is what we have and they can at least provide some guidance on what works best for improved health. Then studies can be done with people.

Consider the engineering marvel that is your foot. Be it hairy or homely, without its solid support you'd be hard-pressed to walk or jump normally.

Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama, have identified a change in gene expression between humans and primates that may have helped give us this edge when it comes to walking upright. And they did it by studying a tiny fish called the threespine stickleback that has evolved radically different skeletal structures to match environments around the world.

Researchers have taken what they hope will be the first step toward preventing and reversing age-related stem cell dysfunction and metabolic disease, including diabetes, which affects 12.2 million Americans age 60 and older, according to the National Council on Aging.

Euglena gracilis, the single cell algae which inhabits most garden ponds, has a whole host of new, unclassified genes which can make new forms of carbohydrates and natural products. Euglena creates many well-known, valuable natural products including vitamins, essential amino acids and a sugar polymer which may have anti-HIV effects. 

New analysis examines the possibility of using in vitro gametogenesis (IVG) for human reproduction. IVG derives gametes from induced pluripotent stem cells (capable of giving rise to several different cell types) or human embryonic stem cells.

It's not ready for human procreation but it's a good idea to start discussing the implications in case it ever is, according to a study in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences.