By: Jenny Cade, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology ‘15 In a paper published in Nature Communications on April 15, researchers profiled the gut microbiota of a group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania known as the Hadza. They compared the results to those of people living in Italy, and found that the two groups have very different species composition. The Hadza don’t only have different kinds of gut microbes than Westerners, but a more diverse collection of microbes as well. The researchers say that this is most likely due to the dramatic difference between hunter-gatherer and Western diets.
By Marisa Sanchez, Molecular and Cellular Biology ‘15 The genomes of male and female mammals differ by one chromosome. The Y chromosome is only present in males, and is responsible for initiating the physiological and morphological differences between the sexes. This has not always been the case though; at one point, the X and Y were identical, and over time the Y chromosome began to differentiate from the X chromosome and shrink in size. The Y chromosome today only has 20 genes, whereas the X chromosome has over 1,000 genes.
By Daniel Friedman, Genetics ’14 For years, ecologists have modeled the biodiversity of natural forests as if they were oceanic islands, adrift in an unlivable sea of humanity. However, research published in April in Nature by C. Mendenhall et al. suggest that this is not the most accurate or predictive way to think about these pockets of nature. By comparing bat diversity on countrysides and oceanic islands, they find that fragmented land ecosystems behave markedly different than their oceanic counterparts. They find that forest “islands” maintain species at higher overall levels of biodiversity than ocean islands, and also gain/lose species in unique patterns. This has relevance to humanity’s actions to support biodiversity on land, and suggests the need for new models, […]
By Marisa Sanchez, Molecular and Cellular Biology ’15 Green tea has been said to have several health benefits including helping prevent certain types of cancer and inflammation. In a new study done by Dr. Beglinger and Dr. Borgwardt at the University of Basel in Switzerland, they have found that green tea extract enhances cognitive functions, particularly the working memory because green tea extract increases the brain’s effective connectivity, the causal influence that one part of the brain exerts on another part.
By Ashley Chang, Genetics ’15 Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland have successfully used lab-engineered cartilage for nose reconstruction. This study was conducted on five patients between ages 76 and 88 who had significant nasal damage after skin cancer surgery. One year after the replacement, all of them note significant improvement in the ability to breathe as well as cosmetic appeal, and no patients had significant side effects. This is a groundbreaking study as it opens of the possibility of engineered cartilage replacement in other areas, such as the knee, and of tissue-engineering as a whole.
By Jenny Cade, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology ’15 Eating grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken is the eco-friendly thing to do–right? Maybe not, according to a recent paper published in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Science. The study proposes that intensifying livestock production by transitioning from pure grazing to mixed systems–where animals are fed high-energy food like grains–could reduce livestock greenhouse gas emissions by 23% by 2030. Currently, livestock account for 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, so such a reduction would be significant. In contrast, a comment piece that appeared in Nature last month calls for increasing grazing to make livestock systems more sustainable. Of eight strategies that the authors outline to reduce the environmental and economic […]
By Isra Uz-Zaman, Genetics ’14 Cheating in sports in not a new phenomenon. In the modern era, numerous athletes participate in blood doping by injecting erythropoietin (EPO) into their blood to increase the amount of red blood cells and thus improve their athletic performance. EPO is a protein hormone produced by the kidney which stimulates the production of red blood cells when released into the bloodstream. Increased red blood production increases the amount of oxygen available in the body and boosts an athlete’s performance. Yannis Pitsiladis, a psychologist in Scotland, is at the forefront of developing anti-doping testing based on the genetic fingerprint left by drugs. Conventionally researches developed tests to find the drug, but Pitsiladis has taken another approach. […]
By: Varsha Prasad, Genetics ’15 A study to employ a new method of generating human embryonic stem cells without destroying any human embryos is currently being conducted by an international research team led by Karl Tryggvason, Professor Medical Chemistry at Karolinska Institutet and a Professor at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore. The researchers developed a method in which embryonic stem cells can be obtained from a single cell of an eight-cell embryo, which can then be refrozen and placed in the woman’s uterus. This prevents the need to destroy human embryos in the process. The idea is that the embryo can survive a single cell removal.
By David Ivanov, Biochemistry ’15 Oral vaccines are known to be a convenient and effective method for treatment or prevention of diseases caused by pathogenic microorganisms. The difficulty of developing such vaccines is due to the often inhospitable environment of the stomach and intestinal tract because of low pH, or acidity, as well as enzymes that can digest or destroy biological molecules. Using a virus-like particle to deliver the vaccine is an advantageous method for getting around these and other barriers in the host organism. A virus-like particle, or VLP, is a biological particle that resembles a virus, but contains no genetic information and thus cannot infect host cells. VLP’s can be formed by inserting and expressing just the genes […]
By Ashley Chang, Genetics ’15 Researchers at the GEOMAR Helmhotltz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel are studying the long-term effects of “climate engineering” methods that could help to preserve the climate and protect from rising temperatures. This winter every part of the world except the eastern United States reported record breaking high temperatures. Although political agreements have been made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the effects may be too slow as levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases continue to rise. This is especially important as populous countries, such as China and India, become increasingly industrialized and consequentially raise their greenhouse gas emissions.