Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hundreds of new genomes help fill the bird tree of life


On this planet, there are more than 10,000 bird species. Recently, scientists have gained a better understanding about these feathered animals and the evolution behind them. This new found knowledge came about when a international team of researchers released the genetic instruction books of 363 species of birds. Within this book was 267 genomes that were assembled for the first time ever. Scientists were then able to use this new data to figure out the varied traits of birds like adaptions for flight, etc. 

Researchers then took the DNA from bird tissue samples from 17 scientific collections that span across the world. This data was around 92 percent of all modern bird families including chickens and even a rare species like the Henderson crake. Ornithologist Michael Braun of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History stated Braun says that the "data can be used better understand everything from the parallel evolution of flightlessness in ratites like emus and kiwis to the evolution of vision and song learning in birds overall". Researchers have already found peculiarities in some of the genomes and don't plan to stop assembling and releasing genomes until ever species is included.

I think this is a great advancement dealing with the evolutionary history of birds. I hope that more genomes are discovered so that we can have a better understanding of the bird tree of life and all the different traits they have. I also would like to learn more about birds in general and all the different types there are.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Genetic risk factors for Alzheimer's also raise the risk of getting COVID-19

 In this article written by Tina Hesman Saey, it is explained how a genetic variant that raises a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's may also aid in being more susceptible to COVID-19. People with two copies of the APOE4 version of the APOE gene are 14 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's than people with two copies of APOE3 version. They are also more than twice as likely to test positive for coronavirus. Researchers calculated that 410 out of every 100,000 people with two copies of the APOE4 version of the gene would test positive for coronavirus. This is compared with 179 out of every 100,000 people with two copies of the APOE3 version testing positive. Researchers finding this connection between the variation of the gene and COVID-19 could help people know if they are at a higher risk for testing positive if they have two  copies of the APOE4 variant. 

This provides more information outlining the APOE gene as a whole and its relationship to Alzheimer's and other health conditions. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Penicillin allergies may be linked to one immune system gene



     Jeanne Erdmann writes in her article that people who have reported getting an allergic reaction to the drug Penicillin may have a vulnerability on the HLA-B gene. Penicillin is a antibiotic that is used against many different bacterial infections but 10 percent of people have reported to be allergic to it. Penicillin is not the only drug that makes the HLA-B gene to produce a bad reaction in the bodies of humans. Studies have shown an HLA-B variant to have adverse reactions to an HIV/AIDS medication called abacavir. 

    600,000 electronic health records from people who reported allergic reactions were used in the penicillin study. Researchers need this information so they could go through the DNA in search of genetic variations that cause the bad reactions. Fortunately they found it on chromosome 6 on a variant called HLA-B*55:01. Then they used a genetic-testing company called 23anMe to go through 1.12 million people who had a European ancestry in order to see if they could find the same link/variant which they did. They also did this with East Asian, Middle Eastern, and African ancestries and found nothing. Of course this is very new study and its seems to be a few holes that researchers need to fix. Nonetheless I think this is a very important because we can maybe find a way to make penicillin work for people who have minor allergies to the drug. Some alternatives don't work as well as Penicillin making it harder for the patient so if they could alter the drug so the patient won't have a reaction would have an impact on the healthcare world.     

    The image used was from this link.        

Dire Wolves are Distantly Related Dire Canines ?


    Most people know of the dire wolf, the megafauna canine that hunted bison, competed against saber tooth cats for resources and eventually dying out at the end of the last ice age. Others might know dire wolves as the symbol of the Stark Family from A Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones. Hulking massive wolves that could be warged to see from their eyes or attack others. Those interpretations of dire wolves are overhyping the dire wolf when in reality, it could have been a coyote on steroids. 

In a Science Magazine article, dire wolves are only now recently given their own genetic line in the canid family. Far away from the other branches such as foxes, jackals, wolves and coyotes. In fact the La Brea Tar Pits, the resting places of hundreds of dire wolves, mitochondrial DNA was taken and compared to several living canid species in the United States. The results were striking, as the grey wolf diverges from the dire wolf very early on in genetics.There was also no hybridization between grey wolves and dire wolves, meaning that their DNA was incompatible .Coyotes and grey wolves regularly hybridize, only adding to the suspicion that the dire wolf was another beast entirely, genetically speaking. However, the dire wolf DNA genome is incomplete, thus leaving room for genes that do tied them to the grey wolf. 

Since dire wolves were specialized in hunting megafauna, it is a widely believed theory that they died out when their prey also died out due to climate change and human competition.Their phenotype was also  .Unable to adapt, dire wolves became another extinct species, while smaller canids such as coyotes and grey wolves flourished.

If that genome of the dire wolf is ever completed, It would change how the canines in the United States came to be. Also their recreation of their looks would also drastically change. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

New Mutations being created due to Coronavirus Variants

In an article from the New York Times, scientists writing a study have discovered that there are possibly new variants that are creating mutations that could possibly affect people more effectively and easily than the virus gene. The protein spikes latch onto human cells vigorously then moves on releasing their genes into the human body affecting close cells. The scientists involved in the research gathered positive coronavirus test results to try and factor out how the mutations are being created due to the variants. They also stated that the 677 mutations have altered the spike protein that is close to the spot where our proteins will nick the virus. 

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, who is a chief scientist at World Health Organization (WHO), recently talked about the new variant that is N501Y mutation. This mutation has the same effects as the coronavirus, in terms of how it is transferred from one person to the next. The N501Y mutation was found in the UK and South Africa, and researchers have found that it spreads more quickly and is more infectious.

From reading both articles and gaining a better understanding of the coronavirus and the new variants being created and causing these mutations, I think the same way it is recommended to slow the spread of the virus is the same way we should be treating these new mutations. As Dr. Swaminathan said, we have to keep following the same guidelines that have been set out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep these viruses at bay.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Some identical twins don’t have identical DNA


Identical twins are determined to be genetically the same and often only differ by 5.2 genetic changes. They come from a single fertilized egg and can also be referred to as monozygotic twins. Recently, a new finding suggests that identical twins may not be carbon copies after all. 

In Iceland, researchers conducted a study looking at the complete genetic makeup of 381 pairs of identical twins. Only 38 of those pairs were duplicates of each other and had the exact same genetic makeup. Most of the DNA pairs consisted of a couple differences that the researchers suspected arose either before one embryo split or very early in development. Shockingly of the 381 pairs, 39 of them had more then 100 changes between the twins. Ones theory that resulted from the study was that more uneven splits of the embryo can lead to a greater number of differences.

I was shocked to find out that identical twins may not be exact duplicates of each other. I was always taught that identical twins didn't have any differences when they are born. I hope more research is done regarding identical twins because I would love to learn more.


Saturday, February 13, 2021

When Evolution hands you Citrus


    No other fruits other than the apple has pervaded our taste buds so distinctly than citrus. Whether lemon, lime, grapefruit, mandarin, orange or many others, the tart yet sweet flavor has no comparison to any other food. In a 2018 BBC article, the origins of citrus have been traced back parts of Southeastern Asia. The specific regions named in a Nature Article correlate to modern day Yunan province of China, Assam province in India, in the shadow of the Himalayas and Myanmar. Then from there it had spread to the Australian continent, probably by oceanic currents. Some species of citrus drifted over to other islands, becoming genetically isolated from mainland citrus and growing into new species.

    From that point on crossbreeding or interbreeding, whether by accident or intentionally by humans, diversified the citrus profile. Adding flavors, new tolerances for differing climates, or even mixing up for a change. Citrus has com a long way for the monsoon sodden Southeast Asia to becoming a fixture in supermarkets and breakfasts. 

This would be intriging to see what the future for citrus would turn out. Would they remove that orange residual on fingers when peeling them. How about a sourer flavor that would rival artificial candies? The qualities goes on and on that could be changed for citrus. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Lizard-like tuatara carry two distinct mitochondrial genomes



In this Science News article it states that researchers have discovered two distinct mitochondrial genomes in the Tuatara, these extra set of genes may be the reason why the Tuatara are tolerant to the cold which is very unique for a reptile. In Tuatara scientist discovered evidence of two distinct copies of genetic instruction manual for making mitochondria in a vertebrate. Mitochondria is important for building the structures and to keep them going. Finding this discovery could not only help other reptiles but humans as well when deal with different kinds of diseases. In 2012 the Tuatara Genome Project was created to decode the Tuatara's genetic makeup which was led by Neil Gemmell. The team was provided a sample of the reptiles blood and what they found was that the Tuatara's genome is 50 percent larger than the human genome.

    Further investigation of decipher the DNA which they compared by chopping it into small pieces with the overall structure they found differences in the mitochondrial DNA which appeared to have striking differences in their gene sequences. This created many of the people working on the project to be stunned because usually mitochondrial DNA is inherited by the mother's egg resulting in a single copy of mitochondrial genome not two copies. They conclude that the genomes were different by 10.4 percent so when comparing it to humans and chimpanzee mitochondrial genomes differ 8.9 percent. 

    I think this discover is very important because if we could find the genetic basis of what causes them to have two distinct mitochondrial genomes we can help find treatments for human metabolic diseases. The picture use above is from Neil Gemmell own experiment article where you can also find a little bit more about the Tuatara.