Lots of people really want to go to Mars. Some of them want to live on that barren litter box forever, which sounds exciting, but would probably suck. The thing about a Martian colony is that people would have to be able to reproduce there in order to keep it going — and luckily for those hopeful pioneers, a team of Japanese scientists have achieved an important first step toward making their pipe dream a reality.
Tagged With genetics
A new document made public this week via Edward Snowden's leak of NSA documents reveals a fascinating aim of the Signals Intelligence program: The agency, it turns out, monitored international scientific developments in hopes of detecting "nefarious" genetic engineering projects more than a decade ago.
Embedded in our genetic code is all kinds of sensitive data that could be compromising in the wrong hands. Without genetic privacy protections, the information stored in our genes might be used to discriminate against us or send us targeted ads. For these reasons, some have said we should skip out on consumer DNA tests if we value our privacy. Last week, after the FDA gave DNA testing company 23andMe the greenlight to offer consumers disease risk assessments, there was a new wave of warnings.
For years, a debate has raged among scientists as to which ancient creature represents the first true animal, sponges or jellies. Using a new genetic technique, a collaborative team of researchers has concluded that ctenophores — also known as comb jellies — were the first animals to appear on Earth. It's an important step forward in this longstanding debate, but this issue is far from being resolved.
At times, DNA testing can feel more like horoscopes than science. In many cases, we just don't know enough about a gene to say what it means for our health. For this reason, the US Food and Drug Administration has sought to protect consumers by preventing DNA testing companies from telling them whether or not they're are at risk for a certain disease. Until now.
In a study that's bound to attract considerable controversy, a pair of researchers are claiming that between 60 and 66 per cent of all cancer-causing mutations are the result of random DNA copying errors, making them essentially unavoidable. The new research is offering important insights into how cancer emerges, and how it should be diagnosed and treated — but many questions remain.
In 2008, researchers built the first artificial genome, a wonder of synthetic biology in which scientists generated all 582,970 base pairs of the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium's genome entirely from scratch. It was an unparalleled scientific achievement, requiring scientists to carefully design 101 unique DNA fragments so that their codes would overlap and stick together, then bind those fragments piece by piece. It was also small potatoes, one of many steps along the way to eventually creating a synthetic eukaryotic organism.
Diagnosing disease often requires analysing and detecting single cells with lab tests that cost hundreds of dollars each. Hospitals in a poor country stricken with a disease epidemic like HIV or malaria simply might not have the funds to run all of those tests. Scientists are looking for a cheaper option.
If you wanted to, say, turn a red pepper yellow, you have a few options. You could directly tinker with with the plant's genetic code, tweaking the genes that control its colour. Or, perhaps, you could just mist the plant with a spray that changes its gene expression without altering its genetics.
Researchers have discovered that Atlantic killifish are now 8000 times more resilient to high levels of toxic waste than other fish, allowing them to survive extreme levels of pollution that would normally be deadly. It sounds like an evolutionary success story, but examples like this are exceptionally rare in the animal kingdom.