The image shows the maternal (red) and paternal (blue) copies of a chromosome in three neurons. A gene on this chromosome differentially expresses it's two alleles in the depicted neurons due to epigenetic effects, further one allele is mutated (red) and one is healthy (blue). In the more dimly highlighted neuron, the gene is biallelic and expresses both the healthy and the mutated allele. Finally, in the dark neuron, only the mutated allele is expressed. (Image by Gregg Lab)

Brain cells get to choose which parents’ genes to use

Researchers have long thought that most human cells express genes from both parents’ chromosomes equally throughout life. But as it turns out, when it comes to neurons, things aren’t so simple. A new study shows that it’s not unusual for individual neurons to choose to activate genes from one parent or the other. In particular, […]

A small percentage of genes determine much of our height

How tall we are is largely determined by our genetic makeup, and much of that is inherited. But a recent study reveals that there are 80 genetic variants (alleles) that occur at lower frequency, but have a significant effect on the individual’s height – up to 2 centimetres of height per allele, which is ten […]

Ancient Greenlanders feasted on whales, caribou and walrus

New DNA analysis gives more insight into the menu of prehistoric Greenlanders as far back as 2000 BC. Researchers found that bowhead whales, caribou and walrus were essential to survival of early Greenlanders. There weren’t any whale bones found around the investigated sites, which suggests that people scavenged whale meat elsewhere. Previously, information about the […]

People with disease-causing mutations who remain mysteriously healthy

Researchers have identified 13 people who appear to be healthy, despite carrying genetic mutations associated with severe childhood disease. Researchers identified these individuals after performing genomic analysis on more than half a million people. The team believes their study provides a first step toward pinpointing genetic variants that may protect against childhood diseases currently thought to […]

This image shows a cell carrying an RNA-targeted Cas9 system. (Image credit: David Nelles of the University of California, San Diego)

Tracking RNA in real time

By modifying the CRISPR-Cas9 system, typically used for genetic editing, researchers are able to visually track the movement of RNA in living cells. The researchers believe this could be used to study disease-related RNA processes. Many diseases are related to errors in RNA and RNA transcription, such as different cancers and autism. In the future […]

A skeleton of an early Neandertal ancestor from Sima de los Huesos, a unique cave site in Northern Spain. (Image credit: Javier Trueba, MADRID SCIENTIFIC FILMS)

Filling in the family tree: The Sima de los Huesos hominins

Hominins found in the Sima de los Huesos (“pit of bones”) in northern Spain are more closely related to Denisovans than Neanderthals, according to genetic analysis. Until now it has been unclear how the 28 individuals were related to other hominins living during the Late Pleistocene. Analyzing the mitochondrial DNA lead the authors to conclude […]

Lab in a suitcase provides real-time monitoring of Ebola

Testing the DNA of the Ebola virus on-site in the field in less than a day is now possible thanks to a new system developed by researchers. Real-time genomic surveillance will provide information on the virus and its rate of evolution – as well as characterizing its response to treatments and vaccines. The kit weighs […]

If you’re a morning-person or night-owl the answer could lie in your genes

Being a morning-person or a night-owl may depend on your genes according to a study of nearly 90, 000 individuals. Participants were asked whether they preferred waking-up and going to bed early, or whether they preferred staying-up late and sleeping in. Their DNA was then analyzed. Researchers found specific genetic variations they think could be […]

Studying autism with genetically modified monkeys

Genetically modified monkeys showing autism-like behaviours could help the development of strategies to treat the symptoms of autism disorders, according to researchers. Currently one of the major challenges for researchers studying autism spectrum disorders is the lack of animals models that reproduce symptoms typically found in human patients. These monkeys, and their offspring, show behavioural […]

"The five features found most commonly in the human iris. " Fuchs’ crypts (a), wolfflin nodules (b), pigment spots (c), contraction furrows (d), and conjunctival melanosis (e). (Image credit: Edwards et al., The Royal Society Publishing)

Identifying features of the eye vary by population

Features on the surface of the iris vary widely between individuals of different ancestral groups, according to a new study. Researchers developed a computer program to help identify a variety of features on the iris of subjects with either East Asian, South Asian, or European ancestry. This program allows for a more qualitative assessment than […]

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