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  • 1. GENETICS CAN HELP FIGURE DRUG DOSAGE from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Seattle scientists have discovered a genetic method for accurately determining the proper dosage of a common blood-thinning drug, warfarin, which often produces adverse side effects because of its highly variable activity in patients. Ethnic heritage, because of shared genetics, turns out to sometimes serve as a proxy for determining dose levels of warfarin. Asians tend to do better at lower doses while African Americans generally do better on higher-than-average levels of the drug. ROUND-THE-WORLD TRIP TO CATALOG GENES from San Francisco Chronicle Hamilton Island, Australia -- Barefoot, tan and relaxed, maverick scientist J. Craig Venter stood at the helm of his racing yacht turned research vessel. Sunlight reflected off the turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef as the Sorcerer II, midway through a circumnavigation of the world, sailed through the tropical Whitsunday Islands. Guitar riffs from Bob Marley's "Natural Mystic" drifted from the sailboat's speakers. After taking on -- and tying -- the U.S. government in a race to sequence the human genome, Venter is now on a mission to catalog all genes on planet Earth. Two years ago, testing a technique called environmental genome shotgun sequencing, Venter discovered 1,800 new species of microorganisms in the Sargasso Sea. Then the former California surfer and Vietnam War medic set sail on a 3- year scientific expedition. Plying the waters from Nova Scotia to Australia, Venter's group has already identified well over 5 million new genes. RESEARCHERS SAY INTELLIGENCE AND DISEASES MAY BE LINKED IN ASHKENAZIC GENES from The New York Times (Registration Required) A team of scientists at the University of Utah has proposed that the unusual pattern of genetic diseases seen among Jews of central or northern European origin, or Ashkenazim, is the result of natural selection for enhanced intellectual ability.
  • 2. The selective force was the restriction of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe to occupations that required more than usual mental agility, the researchers say in a paper that has been accepted by the Journal of Biosocial Science, published by Cambridge University Press in England. The hypothesis advanced by the Utah researchers has drawn a mixed reaction among scientists, some of whom dismissed it as extremely implausible, while others said they had made an interesting case, although one liable to raise many hackles. CAVE BEAR GENE MAP TAKING SHAPE AT LAB from San Francisco Chronicle The beginnings of a gene map for an extinct species -- a cave bear that stomped around Austria about 40,000 years ago -- was created earlier this year in a federally funded lab in Walnut Creek, scientists announced Thursday. The finding was published online in Sciencexpress by scientists at the Joint Genome Institute, a Walnut Creek lab jointly run by the U.S. Energy Department and the University of California. Sciencexpress is an online supplement to the journal Science. "No one has ever made a genomic library for an ancient organism at all. .. . That is the advance," the article's lead author, James P. Noonan, a geneticist and postdoctoral fellow at the genomics division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said in an interview. STUDY: GENES PLAY ROLE IN WOMEN'S ORGASMS from Associated Press LONDON, United Kingdom (AP) -- A woman's ability to have an orgasm is at least partly determined by her genes and can't be blamed entirely on cultural influences, new research suggests. Experts say that's likely to be interpreted as both good and bad news. "It'll be upsetting because some women will think, 'Oh my God, maybe I just can't.' On the other hand it takes away a kind of guilt or pressure," said Dr. Virginia Sadock, director of the human sexuality program at New York University Medical Center. Either way, specialists say the findings don't mean women who inherit an unfortunate gene package are doomed. They just mean that more work, or
  • 3. patience, is required. f=/n/a/2005/06/07/international/i160251D86.DTL&sn=008&sc=610 PAPERS FIND GENETIC LINK TO GROWTH OF TUMORS from The New York Times (Registration Required) A recently discovered genetic mechanism appears to play an important role in the development of cancer, scientists are reporting today, in findings that may eventually lead to new ways to diagnose and treat the disease. The discoveries "change the landscape in cancer genetics," Dr. Paul S. Meltzer of the National Human Genome Research Institute wrote in a commentary in the journal Nature, which is publishing three papers on the findings today. Other scientists cautioned that the new findings merely added detail to the already complex picture of how tumors arise and grow. A PRESCRIPTION JUST FOR YOU from Newsday ...Personalized medicine is the wave of the future, experts say. It is also referred to as pharmacogenomics or pharmacogenetics. "It's the way medicine is going," says Dr. Roy Herbst, chief of thoracic oncology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "If we're really going to be effective in cancer the way everyone wants, my feeling is the only way to do it is to use these targeted approaches." Increasingly, pharmaceutical houses are focusing on drugs tailored to work in smaller groups of patients rather than widely prescribed blockbusters. One-size-fits-all drugs may lose their lustre, especially for cancer patients with tumors that resist certain medications. And it is hoped new tests will help spare patients from drugs that may cause side effects while doing little to defeat their diseases.,0,4182617.story SEATTLE RESEARCHERS LINK 3 NEW GENES TO OBESITY from Seattle Times Seattle scientists have identified three new genes linked to obesity, using a novel research technique that could be widely applied to other genetic
  • 4. analysis. Two of the genes, discovered in mice, someday could be targets for human obesity-prevention drugs, said Eric Schadt of Rosetta Inpharmatics, a Seattle biotechnology company where the research was centered. "It will stimulate a lot of activity in exploring the genes and how they work," said Schadt, senior scientific director for Rosetta, owned by Merck. PLAIN, SIMPLE, PRIMITIVE? NOT THE JELLYFISH from The New York Times (Registration Required) Jellyfish have traditionally been considered simple and primitive. When you gaze at one in an aquarium tank, it is not hard to see why. Like its relatives the sea anemone and coral, the jellyfish looks like a no- frills animal. It has no head, no back or front, no left or right sides, no legs or fins. It has no heart. Its gut is a blind pouch rather than a tube, so its mouth must serve as its anus. Instead of a brain, it has a diffuse net of nerves. But new research has made scientists realize that they have underestimated the jellyfish and its relatives - known collectively as cnidarians (pronounced nih-DEHR-ee-uns). Beneath their seemingly simple exterior lies a remarkably sophisticated collection of genes, including many that give rise to humans' complex anatomy. FLIPPING THE GENETIC SWITCH from The Boston Globe (Registration Required) When the human genome was sequenced two years ago, researchers held the blueprint of a human being in their hands -- a nonsensical string of 3 billion DNA letters. But the project's promise of curing disease and explaining the workings of the human body would depend in part on a curious phenomenon first observed in microscopic worms and in petunias -- cells' natural ability to "turn off" genes. Over the past few years, scientists have turned the once-puzzling research result into a powerful tool now poised to bridge the gap between the genome project and the medicine cabinet. The tool, called RNA interference, or RNAi, is ubiquitous in biology laboratories, and in the span of just a few years has leapt from the journal Science's list of top-10 basic science breakthroughs in 2002 and 2003
  • 5. literally into the eyes of its first patients. GENETIC PROFILE MAY HELP FERTILITY from Associated Press COPENHAGEN -- New research raises the possibility that a genetic test may be able to tell young women whether they can afford to delay motherhood while they get their careers on track. In a study presented Tuesday at a European fertility conference, scientists reported that some women who find it easy to conceive after age 45 have a special genetic profile. Scientists always suspected genes must help those rare women who defy the odds and get pregnant over and over again late in life, but this is the first time it has been proven, said Dr. Hans Evers, former chairman of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. TWIN DATA HIGHLIGHT GENETIC CHANGES from The Washington Post (Registration Required) A mysterious biological mechanism that subtly changes the way people's genes behave may account for many of the surprising differences between identical twins, researchers announced yesterday. Geneticists said the new work, by an international team of scientists who studied the DNA of more than 40 pairs of twins, strengthens the case that a fledgling research field called epigenetics holds the long-sought answer to one of biology's toughest questions: How do environmental influences, such as exposure to pollutants, consumption of certain foods or perhaps even powerful emotional experiences, produce lasting and potentially life- altering changes in a person's DNA? Beyond its potential importance for understanding differences in identical twins, epigenetics could explain many of the twists of fate that affect ordinary people -- why one person may be struck by cancer, for example, while another is spared, even though neither's DNA harbors a cancer-causing mutation. VENTER REVIVES SYNTHETIC BUG TALK from BBC News Online
  • 6. Craig Venter - one of the scientists behind the sequencing of the human genetic code - aims to construct a living organism from a kit of genes. It would be a biological milestone were he to succeed and would open a debate about the nature of "life". Dr Venter's company will work out the minimum number of genes a bacterium needs, synthesise the genetic material and then put it in an empty cell. TEST REVEALS GENDER EARLY IN PREGNANCY from The Boston Globe (Registration Required) First came the home pregnancy test. Now here comes the home gender test. A new blood test being marketed to American women offers them the chance to find out whether they are having a boy or a girl almost as soon as they realize they are pregnant, as early as five weeks along. Just two or three days after mailing the test overnight to a Lowell lab for processing, a pregnant woman can know what color to paint the nursery -- or even decide whether to get an abortion if she wants a child of the opposite sex, a prospect that worries ethicists. CATS' SWEET TOOTH LONG GONE from The Washington Post (Registration Required) Curiosity about the cat has finally paid off with a scientific explanation for felines' enigmatic indifference to sweets. Researchers, pet owners and cat chow manufacturers have long recognized that cats, in stark contrast to their canine counterparts, show no particular attraction to sugar. Having sampled two dishes of water, one spiked with sugar and the other not, a cat is as likely to lap from one as the other. But why? Until now, scientists have not known whether cats simply lack the lingual apparatus to detect sugar; or have functional sugar detectors on their tongues but faulty wiring from their taste buds to the brain; or -- as some might presume -- are simply too snooty to admit to such a common craving. Now researchers studying the DNA of house cats, tigers and cheetahs have settled the question: Cats both large and small harbor a genetic mutation
  • 7. that renders the sugar detectors on their taste buds inoperative. GENE MAKES TIDY EARFUL from Newsday As you bite into sweet Long Island corn think about the Illinois farmer whose 1909 discovery of a bizarre stalk of corn helped geneticists unravel the beauty of the modern vegetable's tidy, straight rows. Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have just identified the gene responsible for the popular crop's shape by studying this mutant "monstrosity of a corn" found almost a hundred years ago. Scientists have known since the 1930s that a single gene mutation was responsible for the bushy stalk that grew without any straight rows of kernels. It was called ramosa-1, but there was no way to identify the actual gene. Until now. GIVING GENETIC DISEASE THE FINGER from WiredNews Scientists are closing in on techniques that could let them safely repair almost any defective gene in a patient, opening the door for the first time to treatments for a range of genetic disorders that are now considered incurable. The breakthrough, announced in the journal Nature in June, relies on so- called zinc fingers, named after wispy amino acid protuberances that emanate from a single zinc ion. When inserted into human cells, the fingers automatically bind to miscoded strands of DNA, spurring the body's innate repair mechanism to recode the problem area with the correct gene sequence. A method for fixing miscoded DNA by injecting foreign genes into cells won headlines three years ago when doctors in France and Britain announced a handful of successful cures related to X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency disease, or SCID, also known as "bubble boy" disease. But that method was ultimately proven unsafe.,1286,68019,00.html FLU MUTATES QUICKER THAN THOUGHT from BBC News Online Flu viruses can swap many genes rapidly to make new resistant strains, US
  • 8. researchers have found. Scientists previously believed that gene swapping progressed gradually from season to season. The National Institutes of Health team found instead, influenza A exchanged several genes at once, causing sudden and major changes to the virus. CANCER CELLS' NEED TO ROAM from Newsday Some cancers possess a potentially deadly wanderlust that causes them to spread from one organ to another, and now scientists in Manhattan have unmasked the genes that trigger breast cancers to invade the lungs, according to an analysis released today. The finding is considered a landmark because it is proof that a specific genetic signature exists for each type of cancer and the organ to which it spreads. Writing in today's issue of the journal Nature, scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center say their finding helps unlock the long-kept secrets of metastasis, the reason cancers become dangerous. DNA MACHINE MAY ADVANCE GENETIC SEQUENCING FOR PATIENTS from The New York Times (Registration Required) A new kind of machine for decoding DNA may help bring costs so low that it would be feasible to decode an individual's DNA for medical reasons. The machine, developed by 454 Life Sciences of Branford, Conn., was used to resequence the genome of a small bacterium in four hours, its scientists report in an article published online today by the journal Nature. In 1995, when the same bacterium was first sequenced, by Claire M. Fraser, it required 24,000 separate operations spread over four to six months, she said in an e-mail message. The machine uses the chemistry of fireflies to generate a flash of light each time a unit of DNA is correctly analyzed. The flashes from more than a million DNA-containing wells, arrayed on a credit-card-sized plate, are monitored by a light-detecting chip, of the kind used in telescopes to detect the faintest light from distant stars. Then, they are sent to a computer that reconstructs the sequence of the genome.
  • 9. FIRST CLONED DOG IS A ONE-IN-A-THOUSAND SUCCESS from The Los Angeles Times (Registration Required) Researchers in South Korea have produced the first cloned dog - a frisky Afghan hound puppy - in a scientifically daunting feat eagerly anticipated by scientists and pet owners alike. Snuppy - short for Seoul National University Puppy - was grown from an embryo containing DNA from the ear of a male hound selected for his gentle and docile nature, said Woo Suk Hwang, one of the lead researchers. The black, white and tan puppy, now 3 months old, was the sole survivor among more than 1,000 cloned embryos that were transferred into surrogate mothers. MANY DADS UNKNOWINGLY RAISING OTHERS' KIDS from HealthDay THURSDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDayNews) -- Calling it a Pandora's Box with broad health implications, British researchers say genetic testing is informing about 4 percent of fathers that a child they are raising is not their own. The implications are huge, the study authors noted, because such revelations often lead to divorce and increased mental health problems for both the man and woman involved, including the threat of violence by the man. In addition, children whose lives are changed by this genetic information can struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, and increased antisocial behavior, such as aggression. WHEW! YOUR DNA ISN'T YOUR DESTINY from Wired News The more we learn about the human genome, the less DNA looks like destiny. As scientists discover more about the "epigenome," a layer of biochemical reactions that turns genes on and off, they're finding that it plays a big part in health and heredity.
  • 10. By mapping the epigenome and linking it with genomic and health information, scientists believe they can develop better ways to predict, diagnose and treat disease. BUILDING A VIRTUAL MICROBE, GENE BY GENE BY GENE from The New York Times (Registration Required) Michael Ellison has a dream: to reconstruct a living thing inside a computer, down to every last molecule. It is, he said, "the ultimate goal in biology to be able to do this." It's a dream that Dr. Ellison, a biologist at the University of Alberta, shares with other scientists, who have imagined such an achievement for decades. Understanding how all of the parts of an organism work together would lift biology to a new level, they argue. Biologists would be able to understand life as deeply as engineers understand the bridges and airplanes that they build. SHAGGY-HAIRED MICE AID CELL-AGING RESEARCH from San Francisco Chronicle Stanford University biologists have created a strain of long-haired laboratory mice that suggest a surprising new role for an enzyme already linked to aging and cancer. Steven Artandi, a Stanford cancer biologist, graduate student Kavita Sarin and colleagues reported today that a key component of the enzyme, known as telomerase, can switch on stem cells resting in mouse hair follicles. The otherwise ordinary-looking mice promptly became as shaggy as '70s rock stars -- a wholly unexpected result that hints at new ways of understanding stem cell biology and age-related disorders. GENETIC MATERIAL MAY AID SARS TREATMENT from Associated Press WASHINGTON -- Small fragments of genetic material that can silence specific genes are showing promise in battling the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome.
  • 11. SARS, first recognized in 2002, killed 774 people worldwide before it was brought under control by quarantine, isolating patients and restricting travel. Since then, researchers have struggled to find a treatment or vaccine before a new outbreak occurs. Researchers reported Sunday that snippets called interfering RNA can reduce an existing infection in monkeys and help protect them from new ones. ANCESTRY IN A DROP OF BLOOD from The Los Angeles Times (Registration Required) DNA is a technology that is roiling Indian tribes nationwide. From California to Connecticut, tribes and would-be members are grappling with the ramifications of a science that is able to demystify someone's genes for as little as a few hundred dollars. Modern genetic tests can detect traces of ancestors by looking for mutations that pass from generation to generation in specific racial groups. More than half a dozen companies have sprung up in the last five years. Many report their most eager customers are people seeking to prove Indian heritage. SCIENTISTS COMPLETE GENETIC MAP OF THE CHIMPANZEE from The Washington Post (Registration Required) Scientists said yesterday that they have determined the precise order of the 3 billion bits of genetic code that carry the instructions for making a chimpanzee, humankind's closest cousin. The fresh unraveling of chimpanzee DNA allows an unprecedented gene-to-gene comparison with the human genome, mapped in 2001, and makes plain the evolutionary processes through which chimps and humans arose from a common ancestor about 6 million years ago. By placing the two codes alongside each other, scientists identified all 40 million molecular changes that today separate the two species and pinpointed the mere 250,000 that seem most responsible for the difference between chimpness and humanness. GENE DIRECTS EATING HABITS
  • 12. from Newsday A single gene controls "Food Central" in the brain, directing the day-to-day activity of a necessary human pastime: Eating. Now, Yale scientists have proven that the gene, AgRP, makes a protein that feeds brain cells that give orders about when to eat and how much. AgRP had been identified in earlier research as part of the brain pathway involved in appetite, but a range of genetic studies emerged empty-handed when the gene was de-activated early in development. Contrary to what scientists thought would happen, test animals kept eating. But Tamas Horvath, chairman and associate professor at Yale School of Medicine, didn't give up on the gene. He designed a way to let the gene do its job and then wipe out the entire population of this kind of cell in one fell swoop in adulthood. Without the AgRP-producing brain cells, adult animals stopped eating. Completely. OHSU RESEARCHERS' DISCOVERY MAY HELP REMEDY A RARE DISEASE from The Oregonian Scientists studying the illness Fanconi anemia -- work closely tied to Oregon -- have new proof linking the rare disease to a DNA-repair system that probably helps most people stay healthy. The work brings doctors a step closer to understanding the normal role Fanconi anemia genes play in helping cells divide. That knowledge should improve the odds of finding a treatment for Fanconi anemia, which kills most patients by age 20. "The more you understand about how the molecular machine works, the better chance you have of designing a therapy," said Oregon Health & Science University researcher Maureen Hoatlin, who with OHSU's Stacie Stone helped find one of two new genes that can cause Fanconi anemia. Their work is published in September's issue of Nature Genetics. CHROMOSOME TRANSPLANT IN MICE COULD PROVIDE CLUE TO DOWN'S SYNDROME ILLNESSES from The Guardian (UK) Scientists have successfully transplanted human chromosomes into mice, a first that promises to transform medical research into the genetic causes of disease. The mice were genetically engineered to carry a copy of human chromosome 21, a string of about 250 genes. About one in a thousand people
  • 13. are born with an extra copy of the chromosome, a genetic hiccup that causes Down's syndrome. Genetic studies of the mice will help scientists to nail down which genes give rise to medical conditions which are prevalent among people with Down's syndrome, such as impaired brain development, heart defects, behavioural abnormalities, Alzheimer's disease and leukaemia. Medical researchers yesterday hailed the work as a "tour de force", but critics accused the team of pushing the boundaries of genetic manipulation too far and blurring the distinction of what was biologically human. TIME TO STOP TRASHING JUNK DNA from The Guardian (UK) The vast regions of our genetic code that seem to have no discernible function could be more important than previously thought. Scientists have found that this genetic material, nicknamed "junk" DNA, maintains the integrity of the more important, coding parts of our genome and is critical for evolutionary survival. Peter Andolfatto, a University of California San Diego biologist, studied the genes of fruit flies and found that the junk DNA was strongly affected by natural selection, which leads to the survival of organisms and genes best adapted to the environment. The sections of DNA which encode for proteins, known as genes, only account for a minority of its genetic material. In a fruit fly, 80% of the DNA seems to have no function; in humans that figure is closer to 95%. This section of DNA is used in creating genetic fingerprints, as random mutations do not cause problems which could predispose people to illness. SHORTCUT IN SEARCH FOR GENES from the Los Angeles Times (via The search for the causes of complex genetic diseases received a major boost today with the publication of the first map of human genetic variations, the subtle genetic changes that make each of us different from our neighbors. Humans worldwide share 99.9 percent of their genetic blueprint. It is that 0.1 percent difference, however, that makes each person unique, and that is the root of the genetic mischief that causes diseases like diabetes, asthma, hypertension, cancer and a host of others.
  • 14. In the past, researchers had to sift through the entire 3 billion individual chemical letters, called "nucleotides," that comprise the human blueprint in their search for disease-causing genes. But now it has become clear that each of those individual changes, called "single nucleotide polymorphisms" or SNPs, is linked to a large block of DNA, called a "haplotype," that is generally inherited intact. DNA VACCINES MAY OFFER DEFENSE AGAINST FLU PANDEMIC from Associated Press San Francisco (AP) -- The flu vaccine-making system that serves as the best available protection against a pandemic relies on millions of chicken eggs, takes nine months to produce each year's flu shots and has changed little since the 18th century. This creaky system poses a big problem if a new, deadly strain emerges once the annual and inflexible production process begins. Several biotechnology companies are at work on a new and quicker way of making a flu vaccine they hope can replace one that requires people to be inoculated with the entire influenza virus. Their technique: extract just a few genes from the virus and inject it into people. Researchers May Have Discovered Dyslexia Gene By Amanda Gardner HealthDay Reporter Fri Oct 28, 7:02 PM ET FRIDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified a variation in a gene that appears to account for about 17 percent of cases of the reading disability dyslexia. ADVERTISEMENT Experts hailed the finding as a potential milestone in the understanding of the widespread disorder. "This is highly significant," said Jeffrey W. Gilger, associate dean for discovery and faculty development at Purdue University. "It is the first really good study that combines molecular genetics with brain imaging research, as well as actually testing whether these genes they think they found are really active in the brain."
  • 15. ne A Major Research Move from Newsday Walking, grabbing a pen, bending over to tie a shoe. For most people, these everyday functions seem so easy. But until now, scientists really couldn't explain how motor neurons are born to find their precise job in the body. There are 100 different types of motor neurons, each destined to hook up to a specific muscle in the body. Now, in a landmark finding that could have huge implications for a variety of diseases - from paralysis to Lou Gehrig's disease - scientists at Columbia University Medical Center have discovered a set of genes that assign a role to specific types of motor neurons. This was no small discovery: Just taking a step calls on 50 different muscle groups. So how does the human body generate such an extreme diversity of motor neurons, and how do they find the right home? Appetite-Suppressing Hormone Discovered from Associated Press WASHINGTON -- Scientists have discovered a biological brake for a hunger hormone: a competing hormone that seems to counter the urge to eat. The substance, named obestatin, has been tested just in laboratory rats so far. But if it pans out, the discovery of the dueling hormones could lead not only to a new appetite suppressant, but also help unravel the complex ways that the body regulates weight. It turns out that the same gene sparks production of the two opposing hormones, Stanford University researchers say in Friday's edition of the journal Science. Genetic Find Stirs Debate on Race-Based Medicine from the New York Times (Registration Required) In a finding that is likely to sharpen discussion about the merits of race-based medicine, an Icelandic company says it has detected a version of a gene that raises the risk of heart attack in African-Americans by more
  • 16. than 250 percent. The company, DeCode Genetics, first found the variant gene among Icelanders and then looked for it in three American populations, in Philadelphia, Cleveland and Atlanta. Among Americans of European ancestry, the variant is quite common, but it causes only a small increase in risk, about 16 percent. DNA SAMPLE HELPS TEEN FIND SPERM-DONOR FATHER from The Chicago Tribune (Registration Required) WASHINGTON -- Like many children whose mothers used an anonymous sperm donor, the 15-year-old boy longed for any shred of information about his biological father. But, uniquely, this resourceful teenager decided to try exploiting the latest in genetic technology and the sleuthing powers of the Internet in his quest. By submitting a DNA sample to a commercial genetic database service that helps people draw their family tree, the youth found a crucial clue that quickly enabled him to track down his long-sought parent. "I was stunned," said Wendy Kramer, whose online registry for children trying to find anonymous donors of sperm or egg helped lead the teenager to his father. "This had never been done before. No one knew you could get a DNA test and find your donor." Timid Mice Made Daring by Removing One Gene from the New York Times (Registration Required) Scientists working with mice have found that by removing a single gene they can turn normally cautious animals into daring ones, mice that are more willing to explore unknown territory and less intimidated by sights and sounds that they have learned can be dangerous. The surprising discovery, being reported today in the journal Cell, opens a new window on how fear works in the brain, experts said. Gene therapy to create daredevil warriors is likely to remain the province of screenwriters, but the new findings may help researchers design novel drugs to treat a wide array of conditions, from disabling anxiety in social settings to the sudden flights of poisoned memory that can persist in the wake of a disaster, an attack or the horror of combat.
  • 17. Americas Settled by Two Groups of Early Humans, Study Says from National Geographic News At least two distinct groups of early humans colonized the Americas, a new study says, reviving the debate about who the first Americans were and when they arrived. Anthropologists Walter Neves and Mark Hubbe studied 81 skulls of early humans from South America and found them to be different from both modern and ancient Native Americans. The 7,500- to 11,000-year-old remains suggest that the oldest settlers of the Americas came from different genetic stock than more recent Native Americans. New Genome Project to Focus on Genetic Links in Cancers from the New York Times (Registration Required) The government is beginning a project designed to unlock the genetic abnormalities that contribute to cancer, an effort that would exceed the Human Genome Project in complexity and could eventually lead to new diagnostic tests and treatments for the disease. Government officials said Tuesday that they would spend $100 million over three years on a pilot phase of the project, which will be called The Cancer Genome Atlas. "This is a revolutionary project," Anna D. Barker, deputy director of the National Cancer Institute, said at a news briefing in Washington. "It's going to empower all cancer researchers with an entire new set of data to work with." Scientists Find a DNA Change That Accounts for White Skin from the Washington Post (Registration Required) Scientists said yesterday that they have discovered a tiny genetic mutation that largely explains the first appearance of white skin in humans tens of thousands of years ago, a finding that helps solve one of biology's most enduring mysteries and illuminates one of humanity's greatest sources of strife. The work suggests that the skin-whitening mutation occurred by chance in a single individual after the first human exodus from Africa, when all people
  • 18. were brown-skinned. That person's offspring apparently thrived as humans moved northward into what is now Europe, helping to give rise to the lightest of the world's races. Leaders of the study, at Penn State University, warned against interpreting the finding as a discovery of "the race gene." Race is a vaguely defined biological, social and political concept, they noted, and skin color is only part of what race is -- and is not. When Humans and Chimps Split from LiveScience A new study of genes in humans and chimpanzees pins down with greater accuracy when the two species split from one. The evolutionary divergence occurred between 5 million and 7 million years ago, an estimate that improves on the previous range of 3 million to 13 million years in the past. Modern chimps are the closest animal relative to humans. Knowing when the two split has implication both for understanding how quickly evolution works and for imagining the likelihood of intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe, researchers said today. Siberian Woolly Mammoth Fuels Genome Debate from Reuters WASHINGTON - The remains of a 28,000-year-old woolly mammoth fueled debate over the 21st-century science of genomics on Monday, as two teams offered evidence about the big mammal‘s genetic makeup. Competing papers in the journals Science and Nature both focused on what is left of a woolly mammoth found in Siberia. This mammoth was a good candidate for genetic analysis because it had been preserved in the natural deep-freeze of permafrost soil, which meant less of it was decomposed or contaminated by bacteria and other organisms. DNA Offers New Insight Concerning Cat Evolution from the New York Times (Registration Required)
  • 19. Researchers have gained a major insight into the evolution of cats by showing how they migrated to new continents and developed new species as sea levels rose and fell. About nine million years ago - two million years after the cat family first appeared in Asia - these successful predators invaded North America by crossing the Beringian land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska, a team of geneticists writes in the journal Science today. Later, several American cat lineages returned to Asia. With each migration, evolutionary forces morphed the pantherlike patriarch of all cats into a rainbow of species, from ocelots and lynxes to leopards, lions and the lineage that led to the most successful cat of all, even though it has mostly forsaken its predatory heritage: the cat that has induced people to pay for its board and lodging in return for frugal displays of affection. Genetic Link to Parkinson's Is Discovered from The Washington Post (Registration Required) Researchers said yesterday that they have identified a single genetic mutation that accounts for more than 20 percent of all cases of Parkinson's disease in Arabs, North Africans and Jews, a big surprise for a major disease in which genetics was thought to play a relatively minor role. Although the mutation is rare in people with ethnic roots outside the Middle East, its discovery raises the prospect that undiscovered mutations may be major causes of Parkinson's in other groups. "Genetics are going to be a lot more important in Parkinson's than people have appreciated," said study leader Susan Bressman, a neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. Scientists Find Gene That Controls Type of Earwax in People from the New York Times (Registration Required) Earwax may not play a prominent part in human history but at least a small role for it has now been found by a team of Japanese researchers. Earwax comes in two types, wet and dry. The wet form predominates in Africa and Europe, where 97 percent or more of people have it, and the dry form among East Asians. The populations of South and Central Asia are roughly half and half. By comparing the DNA of Japanese with each type, the
  • 20. researchers were able to identify the gene that controls which type a person has, they report in today's issue of Nature Genetics. They then found that the switch of a single DNA unit in the gene determines whether a person has wet or dry earwax. The gene's role seems to be to export substances out of the cells that secrete earwax. The single DNA change deactivates the gene and, without its contribution, a person has dry earwax. Infertility Link in Iceman's DNA from BBC News Online Oetzi, the prehistoric man frozen in a glacier for 5,300 years, could have been infertile, a new study suggests. Genetic research, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, also confirms that his roots probably lie in Central Europe. Oetzi's body was found in the melting ice of the Schnalstal glacier in the Italian Alps in 1991. Gene May Trigger Rare Esophageal Disorder from Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) -- Genes prove it: A rare but devastating esophageal illness that's on the rise isn't hard-to-treat acid reflux as once suspected but a completely different disease - one linked to allergies. Known by the tongue-twisting name eosinophilic esophagitis, the worst cases of this mysterious disease can force children onto liquid diets and feeding tubes, and leave adults with an esophagus so narrowed that food gets trapped in it. With no proven treatments, doctors try creative experiments, including a new attempt to coat patients' inflamed throats with a paste made from a popular asthma medicine and the sugar substitute Splenda. Scientists Unlock Key Gene Mystery from the Chicago Tribune (Registration Required) Scientists have known for three decades that humans and chimpanzees share 99 percent of the same genes, but they have been at a loss to explain what causes the two to be so obviously different physically, behaviorally and
  • 21. mentally. Now a team of geneticists from Yale University and the University of Chicago have evidence indicating that humans experienced a high rate of mutations in key master genes that turn arrays of other genes on and off. In many cases the changes in these master or regulatory genes wound up endowing the other genes with new properties--something like a conductor making a four-piece band play like a symphony orchestra. This, they say, may be the process that permits rapid evolutionary changes in body structure and function. Genome's Knowledge Avalanche from BBC News Online Dr Francis Collins, the scientist leading the Human Genome Project, says he expects important new gene sequences governing aspects of personality, such as intelligence and behaviour, to be known very shortly. While the project to crack our DNA code has been targeted at understanding and eradicating disease, Dr Collins believes the project will provide significant insights into a broad range of heritable aspects. "We haven't discovered most of those yet, but frankly, we should be prepared for an avalanche of that kind of information coming in the next two or three years," he told the BBC World Service's The Interview programme. Silent Struggle: A New Theory of Pregnancy from the New York Times (Registration Required) Pregnancy can be the most wonderful experience life has to offer. But it can also be dangerous. Around the world, an estimated 529,000 women a year die during pregnancy or childbirth. Ten million suffer injuries, infection or disability. To David Haig, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, these grim statistics raise a profound puzzle about pregnancy. "Pregnancy is absolutely central to reproduction, and yet pregnancy doesn't seem to work very well," he said. "If you think about the heart or the kidney, they're wonderful bits of engineering that work day in and day out for years and years. But pregnancy is associated with all sorts of medical
  • 22. problems. What's the difference?" Asthma and Eczema Linked to Mutant Gene from the Guardian (UK) Scientists are a step closer to understanding the causes of eczema and asthma after discovering a genetic mutation in the skin of people who have the conditions. Scottish researchers have found that around two-thirds of eczema cases and a quarter of asthma cases involve mutations to a gene that helps form the skin's outer protective layer. "[This] allows us for the first time to understand what goes wrong in the skin of these patients and paves the way for the development of new treatments," said Irwin McLean at the University of Dundee, who led the study. The group's research has brought hopes of cures for both conditions closer. Genetic Variation is Linked to Anger from the Boston Globe (Registration Required) NEW YORK -- Scientists say they have discovered a biological reason why some people are more likely than others to develop violent impulses. Researchers found that people born with a variation of a gene had smaller brain regions that manage fear and anger. This suggested that they had less ability to control the feelings, scientists said yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The finding is part of research on the genetics of behavior. The study helps to clarify how a biological predisposition may make some people, especially males, more likely to commit acts of impulsive violence, researchers said. Transplant Drug May Treat Deadly Kidney Disease from the Los Angeles Times (Registration Required) An anti-rejection drug widely used in organ transplants could provide the first useful treatment for polycystic kidney disease, a deadly disorder caused by a single defective gene. Studies in mice show that the drug, rapamycin, can reverse the normally unstoppable growth of kidneys associated with the disease. Studies of a
  • 23. small number of humans suggest that it could work in them as well, the team reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Because the drug is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration and known to be safe, clinical trials in patients with the disease could begin rapidly, said professor Thomas Weimbs of UC Santa Barbara, who led the study. Researchers Aim to Make Disease-Resistant Cattle from Associated Press COLLEGE STATION - Researchers from Texas A&M University are working to develop illness-repellent sheep, a step that could lead to the engineering of cattle resistant to mad cow disease. The veterinarians are focusing on turning off the genes that allow illnesses to manifest themselves in animals. Such technology could lead to higher quality fiber, meat and milk products, A&M veterinarians Mark Westhusin and Charles Long wrote in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Tackle Your Cholesterol Early from Nature News Think you're too young to worry about cholesterol? Think again. Many people could drastically reduce their future risk of heart disease by lowering their cholesterol levels from as early as their 20s. That's the bottom line of a study showing that people born with low cholesterol are protected from heart problems. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), a molecule that transports cholesterol in the blood, are strongly associated with heart disease. Doctors already know that reducing LDL with exercise or drugs can reduce a person's risk of heart attack. But it has been harder to find out whether heart health could be improved further by lowering LDL from a young age. Helen Hobbs at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and her colleagues saw an opportunity to find out. Last year, they discovered that a fraction of the population are genetically programmed to have low LDL levels, because they carry particular versions of a gene called PCSK9 that help the liver to eliminate LDL cholesterol.
  • 24. Mice Offer Insight Into New Pain Drugs from the Associated Press ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis researchers studying mice said they have found key factors in the body that could lead to making better pain-reducing drugs. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, led by associate professor Dr. Robert Gereau, studied mice that were missing a specific potassium gene that regulates pain messages sent from the spinal cord to the brain. The research advances a previous Harvard University study and will be published Thursday in the journal Neuron. Seeking Ancestry in DNA Ties Uncovered by Tests from the New York Times (Registration Required) Genetic tests, once obscure tools for scientists, have begun to influence everyday lives in many ways. The tests are reshaping people's sense of themselves -- where they came from, why they behave as they do, what disease might be coming their way. It may be only natural then that ethnic ancestry tests, one of the first commercial products to emerge from the genetic revolution, are spurring a thorough exploration of the question, What is in it for me? Many scientists criticize the ethnic ancestry tests as promising more than they can deliver. The legacy of an ancestor several generations back may be too diluted to show up. And the tests have a margin of error, so results showing a small amount of ancestry from one continent may not actually mean someone has any. New Schizophrenia Clue from Newsday For the first time, scientists have confirmed in human brains what they had already suspected: A large gene that regulates many brain functions is abnormal in people with schizophrenia. The finding, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides clues to how the gene, neuregulin-1, might disrupt
  • 25. brain development and function and put people at risk for all sorts of thinking problems. "This is a very interesting study," said Dr. Gerald Fischbach, dean of the faculty of medicine at Columbia University, who added that this finding may one day lead to new ways to treat schizophrenia. Fischbach and his colleagues identified the gene in the early 1990s, and they suspected it had something to do with the nervous system. It's only been in the past three years that a team of scientists in Iceland, at deCode Genetics, has linked the gene to schizophrenia. Since then, more than a half dozen laboratories have confirmed the link. Chronic Fatigue's Genetic Component from the Washington Post An intense battery of medical and psychological tests of people with chronic fatigue syndrome has strengthened the idea that the mysterious ailment is actually a collection of five or more conditions with varying genetic and environmental causes, scientists reported yesterday. But though the syndrome comes in many flavors, these experts said, the new work also points to an important common feature: The brains and immune systems of affected people do not respond normally to physical and psychological stresses. The researchers predicted that continued clarification of the precise genes and hormones involved will lead to better diagnostic tests and therapies for the ailment, which may affect close to 1 million Americans. dyn/content/article/2006/04/20/AR2006042001869.html Gene Behind Rare Bone Disorder Is Found from the Los Angeles Times (Registration Required) Researchers have discovered the gene that causes one of the rarest congenital disorders, a disease called FOP that turns muscle and tendons into bone, forming a second skeleton that eventually renders the patient immobile, like a statue. Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, or FOP, strikes about one in 2 million people - so rarely that most physicians misdiagnose the disorder, often prescribing treatments that worsen the condition. About 600 patients are known. The majority of patients become bedridden by their 30s. There is no
  • 26. treatment - removing the excess bone only makes it grow back faster. Studies Find Elusive Key to Cell Fate in Embryo from the New York Times (Registration Required) For three billion years, life on earth consisted of single-celled organisms like bacteria or algae. Only 600 million years ago did evolution hit on a system for making multicellular organisms like animals and plants. The key to the system is to give the cells that make up an organism a variety of different identities so that they can perform many different roles. So even though all the cells carry the same genome, each type of cell must be granted access to only a few of the genes in the genome, with all the others permanently denied to it. Genome Technology Heads to the Table from Associated Press AMES, Iowa -- Max Rothschild has been trying to "build" a better pig for almost 30 years, since he took a job cleaning up after the hogs at his alma mater, the University of California, Davis. He's now a renowned swine scientist who has traded the dirty pigpens of his undergraduate days for a glistening Iowa State University laboratory dedicated to producing tastier chops, safer pork and healthier pigs. Rothschild is part of a national collaboration that earlier this year received a $10 million federal grant to map pig genes. Researchers from the University of Illinois-led project promise it will help take the guesswork out of breeding. Near Match of DNA Could Lead Police to More Suspects from the Boston Globe (Registration Required) Boston researchers said yesterday that police could identify many more rapists, murderers and other criminals by expanding the use of DNA databases to find close relatives of suspects whose DNA is recovered from a crime scene. Today, law enforcement laboratories take crime scene DNA and compare it with large libraries of DNA obtained from convicts, looking for a perfect match. If there is only a near match, the researchers suggest, that person is likely to be a sibling, parent, or child of the suspect, providing
  • 27. detectives with a lead. The technique has been used in a handful of cases, in which identifying a relative was the crucial break that allowed detectives to focus their investigation on a particular suspect and solve the crime. The new research, published in today's issue of the journal Science, concludes that familial searching could be a broadly effective tool for law enforcement. One computer simulation shows it would increase the number of times DNA would point to a suspect by 40 percent. d_police_to_more_suspects/ or Humans, Chimps May Have Bred After Split from the Boston Globe (Registration Required) Boston scientists released a provocative report yesterday that challenges the timeline of human evolution and suggests that human ancestors bred with chimpanzee ancestors long after they had initially separated into two species. The researchers, working at the Cambridge-based Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, used a wealth of newly available genetic data to estimate the time when the first human ancestors split from the chimpanzees. The team arrived at an answer that is at least 1 million years later than paleontologists had believed, based on fossils of early, humanlike creatures. The lead scientist said that this jarring conflict with the fossil record, combined with a number of other strange genetic patterns the team uncovered, led him to a startling explanation: that human ancestors evolved apart from the chimpanzees for hundreds of thousands of years, and then started breeding with them again before a final break. ed_after_split/ or New Antibiotic Aimed at Resistant Genes from Associated Press NEW YORK -- Scientists have found a chemical that might one day prove critical in the ongoing fight against germs that have developed resistance to existing antibiotics. The compound, discovered by researchers from the pharmaceutical firm Merck &
  • 28. Co., could herald the first major new class of antibiotics in decades. It has already proven effective in curing mice infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That doesn't mean it will work in people, but outside experts are impressed with the results, which are reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature.,0,4915612.story or Mice Deaths Are Setback in Gene Test from the New York Times (Registration Required) A large number of mice died unexpectedly in a test of a new technique for inactivating genes that has been widely proclaimed a breakthrough, scientists are reporting today. The finding could give rise to new caution about the technique, called RNA interference, which is already widely used in laboratory experiments and is starting to be tested in people as a means of treating diseases by silencing the genes that cause them. But Dr. Mark A. Kay and colleagues at the Stanford University School of Medicine report today in the journal Nature that the technique, also called RNAi for short, caused liver poisoning and death in mice. Spotty Mice Flout Genetics Laws from BBC News Scientists say they have demonstrated that animals can defy the laws of genetic inheritance. Researchers found that mice can pass on traits to their offspring even if the gene behind those traits is absent. The scientists suggest RNA, a chemical cousin of DNA, passes on the characteristic - in this experiment, a spotty tail - to later generations.
  • 29. Genghis Khan Tied to Professor by DNA from the Miami Herald (via MIAMI - A British research firm recently combed 25,000 DNA samples searching for a modern descendant of Genghis Khan from outside the Mongolian warlord's ancient empire. They found the first one: a University of Miami accounting professor with a receding hairline. Tom Robinson, a 48-year-old Palmetto Bay, Fla., resident, has taken the odd news with amiable modesty. In some quarters, he's being treated like the guy who walks into a store and finds out he's the millionth customer. The Mongolian ambassador to the United States plans to invite him as an honored guest to his Washington embassy. or Research Finds Sperm Quality Drops, Genetic Problems Rise as Men Age from the San Francisco Chronicle With a lineup of Bay Area men at their disposal, Lawrence Livermore scientists have deflated yet another cherished male fantasy -- that sperm quality resists the ravages of age. In fact, the genetic quality of sperm deteriorates as time goes by. The Livermore analysis of sperm samples from men ages 22-80 found a gradual but steady increase in the percentage of genetic mutations over time, raising the risk of infertility and of fathering children with genetic abnormalities.