Tag Archives | DNA

Does Moore’s Law Imply That Life On Earth Arrived From Elsewhere?

origin of lifeThe MIT Technology Review writes that earthly lifeforms appear to have 10 billion years’ worth of complexity, yet our planet is only 4.5 billion years old. So do our origins lie elsewhere?

As life has evolved, its complexity has increased exponentially, just like Moore’s law. Now geneticists have extrapolated this trend backwards and found that by this measure, life is older than the Earth itself.

Alexei Sharov at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore and Richard Gordon at the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida argue that it’s possible to measure the complexity of life and the rate at which it has increased from prokaryotes to eukaryotes to more complex creatures such as worms, fish and finally mammals. That produces a clear exponential increase identical to that behind Moore’s Law although in this case the doubling time is 376 million years rather than two years.

That raises an interesting question.

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Could An Extraterrestrial Message Be Encoded In Our DNA?

Could a message have been inserted into our genetics billions of years ago, as the most durable method of communicating with intelligent life eons later? Discovery News ponders:

Could our genes have an intelligently designed “manufacturer’s stamp” inside them, written eons ago elsewhere in our galaxy?

Vladimir I. shCherbak of al-Farabi Kazakh National University of Kazakhstan, and Maxim A. Makukov of the Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute, hypothesize that an intelligent signal embedded in our genetic code would what they call “biological SETI.”

In the journal Icarus, they assert: “Once fixed, the code might stay unchanged over cosmological timescales. Therefore it represents an exceptionally reliable storage for an intelligent signature.” To pass the designer label test, any patterns in the genetic code must be highly statistically significant and possess intelligent-like features that are inconsistent with any natural know process.

They go on to argue that their detailed analysis of the human genome displays a thorough precision-type orderliness in the mapping between DNA’s nucleotides and amino acids.

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Are Men Doomed To Go Extinct?

The Sydney Morning Herald on evolutionary scientists’ assertion that biological males as we know them are on the way out, due to the inherent flawed nature of the Y chromosome:

The poorly designed Y chromosome that makes men is degrading rapidly and will disappear, even if humans are still around.

Evolutionary geneticist Jenny Graves says that while the process is likely to happen within the next five million years, it could have begun in some isolated groups. Professor Groves, who first made the prediction some years ago, gave a public lecture on the subject for the Australian Academy of Science.

If humans don’t become extinct, new sex-determining genes and chromosomes will evolve, maybe leading to the evolution of new hominid species. “As long as something came along in its stead, we would not even suspect without checking the chromosomes,” she said on Tuesday. This had happened in the Japanese spiny rat, which had survived the loss of its Y.

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Can We Patent Life?

An interesting question posed by Michael Specter in The New Yorker‘s new Science & Tech section:

On April 12, 1955, Jonas Salk, who had recently invented the polio vaccine, appeared on the television news show “See It Now” to discuss its impact on American society. Before the vaccine became available, dread of polio was almost as widespread as the disease itself. Hundreds of thousands fell ill, most of them children, many of whom died or were permanently disabled.

The vaccine changed all that, and Edward R. Murrow, the show’s host, asked Salk what seemed to be a reasonable question about such a valuable commodity: “Who owns the patent on this vaccine?” Salk was taken aback. “Well, the people,” he said. “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

The very idea, to Salk, seemed absurd. But that was more than fifty years ago, before the race to mine the human genome turned into the biological Klondike rush of the twenty-first century.

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Artists Recreates Strangers’ Faces From Discarded DNA On NYC’s Streets

You’ve been leaving yourself everywhere. For her ongoing project Stranger Visions, Heather Dewey-Hagborg culls discarded DNA (in the form of cigarette butts, chewed gum, et cetera) from the New York sidewalk and then uses a 3D printer to create sculpture portraits based on the genetic information. A reminder that we may soon need to guard our DNA tightly?

Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material collected in public places. Working with the traces strangers unwittingly leave behind, Dewey-Hagborg calls attention to the impulse toward genetic determinism and the potential for a culture of genetic surveillance.

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Supreme Court Considers Whether Government Has Right To Log DNA Samples Of Anyone Arrested

Does your arrest allow the government to access your genetic information? Conservatives, and the Obama administration, say yes. Via CNN:

The U.S. Supreme Court offered a surprising amount of concern about states laws allowing police to collect a DNA sample of anyone arrested — but not yet convicted — of serious crimes. A ruling will be issued within a few months, and could have wide-reaching implications in the rapidly evolving technology surrounding criminal procedure.

Privacy rights groups [say] the state’s “trust us” promise not to abuse the technology does not ease their concerns that someone’s biological makeup could soon be applied for a variety of non-criminal purposes.

“There is something inherently dangerous about DNA collection that is not the same as fingerprinting,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “How far do we let the state go each time it has some form of custody over you in schools, in workplaces, wherever else the state has control over your person?”

And civil liberties groups worry inadequate DNA testing by overwhelmed lab technicians can lead to errors, such as the one that sent Dwayne Jackson to prison for armed robbery.

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The Genetic Killer

Another proposed “solution” to the mass shootings in America is sure to upset many camps; privacy advocates, mental health care advocates, and even those calling for the heads of the murderers. Soon we will have the results of genetic analysis of Adam Lanza, which may be used by scientists to model genetic predispositions of violence, or by defense attorneys in their pleas. This controversial science is being criticized from all sides, condemned as “misguided and could lead to dangerous stigmatization.”

via Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks:

But the request to analyse the DNA of Lanza is just the latest in a long line of attempts to account for the behaviour of individual killers in terms of genetics.

Perhaps the first attempt was for a case that bears more than a surface resemblance to the Sandy Hook shooting. In 1998, a 15-year-old high school student called Kip Kinkel killed both of his parents before driving to school and shooting 24 students, one of whom died.

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First Therapy Approved That Corrects Errors In A Person’s Genetic Code

The day is approaching in which we will be GMOs. KurzweilAI recently reported:

European regulators have approved the first therapy in the western world that can correct errors in a person’s genetic code, according to Amsterdam-based uniQure.

Europe has approved Glybera for treatment of Lipoprotein Lipase Deficiency, a rare, inherited disease. Patients with LPLD are unable to metabolize the fat particles carried in their blood, which leads to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Glybera introduces a normal, healthy LPL gene into the body so that it can make functional LPL protein.

Glybera will be available in the second half of 2013, according Glybera will be available in the second half of 2013, according to uniQure, which is preparing to apply for regulatory approval in the U.S., Canada, and other markets.

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Double Helix DNA Cloud Appears Above Moscow

Strange formations arise in Russia. Who Forted? writes:

Watchful Moscow residents with their eyes to the sky were given an interesting view on Christmas Eve, as a huge “celestial spiral” closely resembling a strand of DNA appeared over the city.

One of the strangest cloud formations ever is detailed in a handful of images snapped around a 20 mile stretch of the city. As you can imagine, this has stirred up some interesting conversation as to what could be the cause of such an event. As of now, sky-savvy internet sleuths believe the strange clouds were caused by contrails, or thin artificial cloud formations caused by the water exhaust emitted from aircraft.

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Adam Lanza’s DNA To Be Studied In Search Of ‘Killer’ Genes

If certain mutations or abnormalities are blamed for Lanza’s actions, what will we do with other individuals who possess them? The Christian Post reports on a possible preview of witch hunting in the 21st century:

An “Adam Lanza DNA study” has been given the go ahead to see if there is anything inside his genetic makeup that could have given any indication of the horrific acts he was capable of ahead of time.  The study, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is expected to delve into Lanza’s DNA in the hope of finding any kind of genetic abnormalities or mutations in his DNA.

The study has been commissioned by Connecticut Medical Examiner, H. Wayne Carver, who has reached out to geneticists at the University of Connecticut to carry out the study. It is expected that the geneticists will analyze his entire genome in huge detail to try and find any mutations.

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