Brain buster

Researchers have identified a mutated gene that appears to be responsible for a large disparity between Neanderthal and human brains. Their paper, published in Science, explains how human brain cells can be ‘Neanderthal-ised’ with very small changes to their DNA. Led by Alysson R Muotri, the research team compared the human and Neanderthal genomes for differences that might … Continue reading Brain buster

Useless evolution

It’s easy to focus on the big picture when one thinks of evolution: how organisms adapt and change over the march of time makes for pretty compelling study. But smaller evolutionary mechanisms are easily missed when looking at such a grand scale. Not all evolutionary shifts are, as we imagine, a driving force for improvement. … Continue reading Useless evolution

Tasmanian devils may survive cancer threat

There’s more possible good news for Australia’s troubled Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) – and the implications may be even broader. Last month Cosmos reported that researchers had learned more about the evolutionary dynamics of the facial tumour that disfigures then kills many of the already endangered marsupials. Now, an international collaboration is suggesting the transmissible … Continue reading Tasmanian devils may survive cancer threat

Natural selection and the pressure to evolve

Some genes might not mind a bit of extra pressure when it comes to evolution. A Swiss team led by Andreas Wagner of the University of Zurich has demonstrated evolution of a yellow gene to green in Escherichia coli – a common bacteria that lives in the gut. Strong selective pressure caused the gene to … Continue reading Natural selection and the pressure to evolve

Wheat and barley are incredibly diverse

The grains we use for bread and beer have thousands of years of history. Now, researchers are one step closer to understanding their diversity. Two international teams have made a significant leap towards defining the mind-bogglingly complex core genes in all barley and wheat species – an effort that will greatly boost the ability to … Continue reading Wheat and barley are incredibly diverse

A great African gene migration

Exploring a huge number of genes has helped uncover migration of early humans and the evolution of disease-resistant genes in Africa. In a paper published in the journal Nature, researchers discovered three million new genetic variants across 50 ethnic groups, making this one of the widest data sets of sequenced genes in African populations to … Continue reading A great African gene migration

Can cat genes explain their nine lives?

Move over human genomic medicine – scientists are now getting closer to gene therapy for felines, thanks to an Abyssinian cat called Cinnamon. Her DNA sequence was used for the first-high quality version of the cat genome, described in the journal PLOS Genetics. Using it as a reference, researchers compared it to a database of … Continue reading Can cat genes explain their nine lives?

Mozzies thrive with a gene missing

This may seem hard to believe given their tenacity and constant presence, but mosquitoes lack a gene that is critical for survival in other insects. Entomologists from the University of Maryland, US, say it’s the one responsible for properly arranging an insect’s segmented body. In mozzies, a related gene has evolved to do the job. … Continue reading Mozzies thrive with a gene missing

There’s no single gene for left-handedness

By David Evans, University of Queensland, and Sarah Medland, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute   Most people consistently use the same hand to do tasks that require skill and control such as writing or threading a needle. We know genetics plays a big part in which hand a person prefers, but it has been difficult … Continue reading There’s no single gene for left-handedness

Inherited genetics may drive cancer’s spread

US researchers say they have shown for the first time that our genes can promote metastasis, the process by which cancers spread to different parts of the body. Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, they report that differences in a single gene, carried within a person’s genome from birth, can alter the progression of melanoma, … Continue reading Inherited genetics may drive cancer’s spread