Tag Archives | Genetics

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]

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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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Is Schizophrenia Caused By An ‘Insanity Virus’?

imagesIt’s a novel and chilling theory: we are all born with a brain-ravaging virus that invaded the human DNA millions of years ago. Our bodies work to contain it, but childhood infections such as the flu can allow HERV-W to become temporarily unleashed — the cause of schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. Discovery reports:

Schizophrenia has long been blamed on bad genes or even bad parents. Wrong, says a growing group of psychiatrists. The real culprit, they claim, is a virus that lives entwined in every person’s DNA.

Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25, but the person who becomes schizophrenic is sometimes recalled to have been different as a child or a toddler—more forgetful or shy or clumsy. Even more puzzling is the so-called birth-month effect: People born in winter or early spring are more likely than others to become schizophrenic later in life. It is a small increase, just 5 to 8 percent, but it is remarkably consistent, showing up in 250 studies.

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Connection Between Genetics and Alcohol Tolerance Found

While science still hasn’t decided whether or not alcoholism is genetic, they have found a gene that may answer why some people have a higher tolerance. From BBC News:

Experts say they have found a “tipsy” gene that explains why some people feel alcohol’s effects quicker than others.

The US researchers believe 10% to 20% of people have a version of the gene that may offer some protection against alcoholism.

That is because people who react strongly to alcohol are less likely to become addicted, studies show.

The University of North Carolina said the study aims to help fight addiction, not pave the way for a cheap night out.

Ultimately, people could be given CYP2E1-like drugs to make them more sensitive to alcohol – not to get them drunk more quickly, but to put them off drinking to inebriation, the Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research journal reported.

Continues at BBC News

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What If Homosexuality Becomes a Choice … For Parents?

Evidence that homosexuality is biological — and not a lifestyle choice like some on the religious Right believe — is building; gay men are more likely than straight men to have counterclockwise hair wholrs, have longer index than ring fingers, and be left handed or ambidextrous. David France wrote in a 2007 New York magazine article:

Hair

Because many of these newly identified “gay” traits and characteristics are known to be influenced in utero, researchers think they may be narrowing in on when gayness is set — and identifying its possible triggers. They believe that homosexuality may be the result of some interaction between a pregnant mother and her fetus. Several hypothetical mechanisms have been identified, most pointing to an alteration in the flow of male hormones in the formation of boys and female hormones in the gestation of girls. What causes this? Nobody has any direct evidence one way or another, but a list of suspects includes germs, genes, maternal stress, and even allergy — maybe the mother mounts some immunological response to the fetal hormones.

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Can PTSD Be Genetically Inherited?

Two related stories from Science Daily, the first from May of this year:
A study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health suggests that traumatic experiences "biologically embed" themselves in select genes, altering their functions and leading to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "Our findings suggest a new biological model of PTSD in which alteration of genes, induced by a traumatic event, changes a person's stress response and leads to the disorder," said Sandro Galea, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and principal investigator. "Identification of the biologic underpinnings of PTSD will be crucial for developing appropriate psychological and/or pharmacological interventions, particularly in the wake of an increasing number of military veterans returning home following recent wars worldwide." The findings are published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
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DNA Tests Show Hitler ‘Had Jewish and African Roots’

HitlerSaluteI have heard this before but looks like genetic testing is finally shedding some light on that idea. Heidi Blake writes on the Telegraph:

Saliva samples taken from 39 relatives of the Nazi leader show he may have had biological links to the “subhuman” races that he tried to exterminate during the Holocaust. Jean-Paul Mulders, a Belgian journalist, and Marc Vermeeren, a historian, tracked down the Fuhrer’s relatives, including an Austrian farmer who was his cousin, earlier this year.

A chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1 which showed up in their samples is rare in Western Europe and is most commonly found in the Berbers of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

“One can from this postulate that Hitler was related to people whom he despised,” Mr Mulders wrote in the Belgian magazine, Knack. Haplogroup E1b1b1, which accounts for approximately 18 to 20 per cent of Ashkenazi and 8.6 per cent to 30 per cent of Sephardic Y-chromosomes, appears to be one of the major founding lineages of the Jewish population.

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