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60 posts tagged DNA

Scientists hail synthetic chromosome advance
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Scientists have created the first synthetic chromosome for yeast in a landmark for biological engineering. Previously synthetic DNA has been designed and made for simpler organisms such as bacteria. As a form of life whose cells contain a nucleus, yeast is related to plants and animals and shares 2,000 genes with us. So the creation of the first of yeast’s 16 chromosomes has been hailed as “a massive deal” in the emerging science of synthetic biology. The genes in the original chromosome were replaced with synthetic versions and the finished manmade chromosome was then successfully integrated into a yeast cell. The new cell was then observed to reproduce, passing a key test of viability. Yeast is a favoured target for this research because of its well-established use in key industries such as brewing and baking and its potential for future industrial applications. One company in California has already used synthetic biology to create a strain of yeast that can produce artemisinin, an ingredient for an anti-malarial drug. The synthesis of chromosome III in yeast was undertaken by an international team and the findings are published in the journal Science (yeast chromosomes are normally designated by Roman numerals). (via BBC News - Scientists hail synthetic chromosome advance)

Eventually, the researchers think that they might approximate the image of a parent from the DNA of children or better visualize some of Homo sapiens’ ancestors by looking at DNA. On a more practical level, law enforcement groups might be able to create a “mug shot” from DNA to identify both victims and criminals.  -3D models connect DNA to facial features
Penn State, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania -> Original Study
-Using 3D models, researchers are closer to connecting genetics with facial features. Eventually, they hope the findings will lead to predicting facial features from DNA evidence.
“By jointly modeling sex, genomic ancestry, and genotype, the independent effects of particular alleles on facial features can be uncovered,” the researchers state in PLOS Genetics. They add “by simultaneously modeling facial shape variation as a function of sex and genomic ancestry along with genetic markers in craniofacial candidate genes, the effects of sex and ancestry can be removed from the model thereby providing the ability to extract the effects of individual genes.”
In essence, by including sex and racial admixture, researchers can learn about how certain genes and their variations influence the shape of the face and its features.
“We use DNA to match to an individual or identify an individual, but you can get so much more from DNA,” says Mark D. Shriver, professor of anthropology at Penn State. “Currently we can’t go from DNA to a face or from a face to DNA, but it should be possible.”
(via 3D models connect DNA to facial features | Futurity)

Eventually, the researchers think that they might approximate the image of a parent from the DNA of children or better visualize some of Homo sapiens’ ancestors by looking at DNA. On a more practical level, law enforcement groups might be able to create a “mug shot” from DNA to identify both victims and criminals.
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3D models connect DNA to facial features

Penn State, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania -> Original Study

-Using 3D models, researchers are closer to connecting genetics with facial features. Eventually, they hope the findings will lead to predicting facial features from DNA evidence.

“By jointly modeling sex, genomic ancestry, and genotype, the independent effects of particular alleles on facial features can be uncovered,” the researchers state in PLOS Genetics.
They add “by simultaneously modeling facial shape variation as a function of sex and genomic ancestry along with genetic markers in craniofacial candidate genes, the effects of sex and ancestry can be removed from the model thereby providing the ability to extract the effects of individual genes.”

In essence, by including sex and racial admixture, researchers can learn about how certain genes and their variations influence the shape of the face and its features.

“We use DNA to match to an individual or identify an individual, but you can get so much more from DNA,” says Mark D. Shriver, professor of anthropology at Penn State. “Currently we can’t go from DNA to a face or from a face to DNA, but it should be possible.”

(via 3D models connect DNA to facial features | Futurity)

Probably the best BBC Knowledge Explainer about DNA ..

BBC Knowledge and Learning is exploring a wide variety of topics from social history to science in a series of three-minute online Explainer documentaries, and commissioned Territory (territorystudio.com) to produce an animated film on the subject of DNA.

As Will Samuel, lead designer and animator on the project explains, the approach taken wasn’t just to look into a scientific future. “We needed to find a graphic style to communicate the beauty and intricacy of DNA. We wanted to create nostalgia; taking the audience back to the days of textbook diagrams and old science documentaries, such as Carl Sagan’s COSMOS and IBM’s POWER OF TEN (1977). Using the double helix circular theme as a core design we focused on form, movement and colour to create a consistent flow to the animation, drawing on references from nature, illustrating how DNA is the core to everything around us.”

Three minutes is a short time to explore a subject where most doctorates only scratch the surface, so writer Andrew S. Walsh teamed up with molecular biologist Dr Matthew Adams to distil the script down to the most fundamental elements required to understand not only DNA’s form and function but how our understanding of these discoveries has affected the wider world. While this length may feel restrictive, the team found that this limitation acted as a lens, focusing the piece on the essentials.

The Explainer series is designed to intrigue and inform, encouraging those who discover the documentaries to further explore through links to additional information found on the BBC website.
(by Territory)

Baffling 400,000-Year-Old Clue to Human Origins
Scientists have found the oldest DNA evidence yet of humans’ biological history. But instead of neatly clarifying human evolution, the finding is adding new mysteries. In a paper in the journal Nature, scientists reported Wednesday that they had retrieved ancient human DNA from a fossil dating back about 400,000 years, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years. The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But its DNA tells a very different story. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found. The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence surprised the scientists, who are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years. It is possible, for example, that there are many extinct human populations that scientists have yet to discover. They might have interbred, swapping DNA. Scientists hope that further studies of extremely ancient human DNA will clarify the mystery. “Right now, we’ve basically generated a big question mark,” said Matthias Meyer, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and a co-author of the new study. (via Baffling 400,000-Year-Old Clue to Human Origins - NYTimes.com)

Baffling 400,000-Year-Old Clue to Human Origins

Scientists have found the oldest DNA evidence yet of humans’ biological history. But instead of neatly clarifying human evolution, the finding is adding new mysteries. In a paper in the journal Nature, scientists reported Wednesday that they had retrieved ancient human DNA from a fossil dating back about 400,000 years, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years. The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But its DNA tells a very different story. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found. The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence surprised the scientists, who are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years. It is possible, for example, that there are many extinct human populations that scientists have yet to discover. They might have interbred, swapping DNA. Scientists hope that further studies of extremely ancient human DNA will clarify the mystery. “Right now, we’ve basically generated a big question mark,” said Matthias Meyer, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and a co-author of the new study. (via Baffling 400,000-Year-Old Clue to Human Origins - NYTimes.com)

Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors
 Memories may be passed down through generations in DNA in a process that may be the underlying cause of phobias 
Memories can be passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors, according to new research that may explain how phobias can develop. Scientists have long assumed that memories and learned experiences built up during a lifetime must be passed on by teaching later generations or through personal experience. However, new research has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA. Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, found that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences – in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom – to subsequent generations. The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias – it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors. (via Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors - Telegraph)

Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors

Memories may be passed down through generations in DNA in a process that may be the underlying cause of phobias

Memories can be passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors, according to new research that may explain how phobias can develop. Scientists have long assumed that memories and learned experiences built up during a lifetime must be passed on by teaching later generations or through personal experience. However, new research has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA. Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, found that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences – in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom – to subsequent generations. The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias – it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors. (via Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors - Telegraph)

Not only does DNA store information at a density per unit volume exceeding any other known medium, it can achieve one quarter of the maximum information density allowed by the laws of physics (set by the entropy of a black hole). It’s so dense that all the world’s digital data could be stored in a dot of DNA the weight of eight paper clips. This remarkable storage density is paired with an equally remarkable reading mechanism. A developing embryo must self-direct the rapid division, migration, and specialization of its constituent cells based on the information stored in DNA. Cells diverge from one another to grow in different ways, depending on their position in the embryo. This means that precise control of gene expression is necessary both in space and in time. Even minor errors could spell death or deformity for the organism.

Nature, the IT Wizard - Issue 7: Waste - Nautilus

Every organism is a brief upwelling of structure from chaos, a self-assembled wonder that must jealously defend its order until the day it dies. Sophisticated information processing is necessary to preserve and pass down the rules for maintaining this order, yet life is built out of the messiest materials: tumbling chemicals, soft cells, and tangled polymers. Shouldn’t, therefore, information in biological systems be handled messily, and wasted? In fact, many biological computations are so perfect that they bump up against the mathematical limits of efficiency; genius is our inheritance.

Nature, the IT Wizard - Issue 7: Waste - Nautilus
DNA hint of European origin for dogs
The results of a DNA study suggest that dogs were domesticated in Europe. No-one doubts that “man’s best friend” is an evolutionary off-shoot of the grey wolf, but scientists have long argued over the precise timing and location for their emergence. The new research, based on a genetic analysis of ancient and modern dog and wolf samples, points to a European origin at least 18,000 years ago. Olaf Thalmann and colleagues report the investigation in Science magazine. It adds a further layer of complexity to the story. (via BBC News - DNA hint of European origin for dogs)

DNA hint of European origin for dogs

The results of a DNA study suggest that dogs were domesticated in Europe. No-one doubts that “man’s best friend” is an evolutionary off-shoot of the grey wolf, but scientists have long argued over the precise timing and location for their emergence. The new research, based on a genetic analysis of ancient and modern dog and wolf samples, points to a European origin at least 18,000 years ago. Olaf Thalmann and colleagues report the investigation in Science magazine. It adds a further layer of complexity to the story. (via BBC News - DNA hint of European origin for dogs)