Tag Archives | Genetics

Rare Mutation Leaves People Without Fingerprints

No PrintsThis would be a useful trait for the aspiring supervillian. Natalie Villacorta wrote recently in Science:

In 2007, a Swiss woman in her late 20s had an unusually hard time crossing the U.S. border. Customs agents could not confirm her identity. The woman’s passport picture matched her face just fine, but when the agents scanned her hands, they discovered something shocking: she had no fingerprints.

The woman, it turns out, had an extremely rare condition known as adermatoglyphia. Peter Itin, a dermatologist at the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, has dubbed it the “immigration delay disease” because sufferers have such a hard time entering foreign countries. In addition to smooth fingertips, they also produce less hand sweat than the average person. Yet scientists know very little about what causes the condition.

Since nine members of the woman’s extended family also lacked fingerprints, Itin and his colleagues, including Eli Sprecher, a dermatologist at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel, suspected that the cause might be genetic.

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All Non-African People Are Part Neanderthal

Neanderthal child

Reconstruction of a Neanderthal child.

Interesting article from Alasdair Wilkins on io9.com:

The evidence has been mounting for years that early humans and Neanderthals interbred, but now it’s pretty much a certainty. Part of the X chromosome found in people from outside Africa originally comes from our Neanderthal cousins.

It’s kind of amazing to think that, as recently as just a few years ago, the scientific consensus was that humans and Neanderthals were completely separate species and probably didn’t interbreed. Since then, a ton of new evidence has come to light to change that position, and now new research from Damian Labuda of the University of Montreal more or less completes this big reversal.

Neanderthals, one of the last extant hominid species other than our own, left Africa somewhere between 400,000 and 800,000 years ago and settled mostly in Europe until they went extinct 30,000 years ago. Early modern humans left Africa about 80,000 to 50,000 years ago, meaning they overlapped with Neanderthals in time and place for at least 20,000 years.

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Meet Kenny, An Inbred White Tiger (Photos)

KennyVia Prose Before Hos:

Kenny is a white tiger ‘selectively’ inbred while in captivity in the United States. As zoo’s and exotic pet stores have increased the demand for white tigers, breeders have attempted to recreate the ideal white tiger — large snout, blue eyes, white fur — through relying on a limited pool of captive white tigers.

The result? An astoundingly high rate of deformities and health issues. For example, Kenny is mentally retarded and has significant physical limitations.

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American Parents Submit Kids To DNA Testing

A Single Nucleotide Polymorphism is a change of a nucleotide at a single base-pair location on DNA. Author: David Hall (CC)

A Single Nucleotide Polymorphism is a change of a nucleotide at a single base-pair location on DNA. Author: David Hall (CC)

Call me old-fashioned, but voluntarily submitting your children’s DNA for inclusion in a database seems foolhardy to me. Just how secure is that database? Is Gattica really so far in the future once this becomes the norm? From BBC News:

Parents believe the benefits of testing their children for the genetic risk of some diseases outweigh the negative consequences, according to US scientists.

In the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, parents who were offered a genetic test supported their children also being tested.

The authors say doctors and politicians need to be more aware of the issue. Genewatch UK said children should never be tested for adult conditions.

Genetic testing used to be confined to specialist clinics, but direct-to-consumer testing is now possible. People send a sample to a company in the post and are told if they have any genes which carry an increased risk of illness.

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Twins Mystery In Brazilian Town Solved

15208360Cândido Godói, a Brazilian village with an extreme abundance of blonde twins, has long spawned conspiracy theories. Namely, that infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele (who visited repeatedly in the 1960s and treated locals) created an “Aryan twin town.” However, the New York Times reports that scientists have identified a “twins gene” possessed by residents (who are mostly of German descent and have a high rate of inbreeding), likely putting the matter to rest:

For years, so many twins have been born in the small southern Brazilian town of Cândido Godói that residents wonder whether something mysterious lurks in the water, or even if Josef Mengele, the Nazi physician known as the Angel of Death, conducted experiments on the women there.

But a group of scientists now says it can rule out such long-rumored possibilities. Ursula Matte, a geneticist in Porto Alegre, Brazil, said a series of DNA tests conducted on about 30 families since 2009 found that a specific gene in the population of Cândido Godói appears more frequently in mothers of twins than in those without.

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Brain Science: Filling The Hole Left By The Atrophy Of Theology And Philosophy

Vladimir Putin, seen in the company of the Composure Class.

Vladimir Putin, member of the Composure Class?

An essay written by David Brooks in the New Yorker earlier this year has become required reading among those he terms as the “Composure Class,” privileged members of an elite who “live in a society that prizes the development of career skills but is inarticulate when it comes to the things that matter most.” Fortunately, the new sciences of human nature can help these poor creatures make sense of their lives:

After the boom and bust, the mania and the meltdown, the Composure Class rose once again. Its members didn’t make their money through hedge-fund wizardry or by some big financial score. Theirs was a statelier ascent. They got good grades in school, established solid social connections, joined fine companies, medical practices, and law firms. Wealth settled down upon them gradually, like a gentle snow.

You can see a paragon of the Composure Class having an al-fresco lunch at some bistro in Aspen or Jackson Hole.

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One Out Of Ten People Weren’t Fathered By The Man They Believe Is Dad

DadThe following is the second chapter from my disinformation book, 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know: Volume 2, published in 2004. For more on me go to The Memory Hole or follow me @RussKick on Twitter.

Geneticists, disease researchers, and evolutionary psychologists have known it for a while, but the statistic hasn’t gotten much air outside of the ivory tower. Consistently, they find that one in ten of us wasn’t fathered by the man we think is our biological dad.

Naturally, adoptees and stepchildren realize their paternal situation. What we’re talking about here is people who have taken it as a given, for their entire lives, that dear old Dad is the one who contributed his sperm to the process. Even Dad himself may be under this impression. And Mom, knowing it’s not a sure thing, just keeps quiet.

Genetic testing companies report that almost one-third of the time, samples sent to them show that the man is not father to the child.… Read the rest

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Study Finds Possible Link Between Genes and Friendship

Could your genes help decide the friends you choose? BBC News reports:

Researchers in the United States say they have uncovered tentative evidence of a genetic component to friendship.

Using data from two independent studies, they found carriers of one gene associated with alcoholism tended to stick together.

However, people with another gene linked with metabolism and openness, stayed apart.

Details are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers looked at six genetic markers in two long-running US studies, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the Framingham Heart Study, which contain both genetic data and information on friends.

[Continues at BBC News]… Read the rest

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Descendants Of ‘Lost Legion’ Of Roman Soldiers Found In China

china_1769024cGreen- and blue-eyed villagers in a remote part of China may be the descendants of a fairy-tale-ish “lost legion” of ancient Roman soldiers, writes the Telegraph:

A local man, Cai Junnian, is nicknamed by his friends and relatives Cai Luoma, or Cai the Roman, and is one of many villagers convinced that he is descended from the lost legion.

Archeologists plan to conduct digs in the region, along the ancient Silk Route, to search for remains of forts or other structures built by the fabled army.

“We hope to prove the legend by digging and discovering more evidence of China’s early contacts with the Roman Empire,” Yuan Honggeng, the head of a newly-established Italian Studies Centre at Lanzhou University in Gansu province, told the China Daily newspaper.

The genetic tests have leant weight to the theory that Roman legionaries settled in the area in the first century BC after fleeing a disastrous battle.

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Scientists Create Mice From Two Genetic Fathers

Via The Wall Street Journal:

Scientists have created mice that are the genetic product of two fathers, the latest in a series of unusual experiments in mammalian reproduction.

Researchers at University of Texas MD. Anderson Cancer Center and elsewhere first engineered a female mouse whose eggs contained the DNA from a male. When the female was mated with another male, the offspring had genetic contributions entirely from two males. The study appears online in the peer-reviewed journal Biology of Reproduction.

While the achievement is technically intriguing, its practical benefits are far from clear. Any move to try the same experiment in people is certain to be more complicated and controversial.

The study describes the technique as “a new form of mammalian reproduction: that could potentially be used to improve livestock breeds or preserve endangered species. more provocatively, the authors argue that if certain technical hurdles can be overcome, “then some day two men could produce their own genetic sons and daughters.” But those technical hurdles are extremely high.

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