In December 2022, scientists detected remnants of DNA located in Greenland's Arctic region. A fascinating discovery made by scientists from Denmark of prehistoric DNA, believed to be in existence from around a million years ago, identifies organisms that once inhabited Greenland. According to Nature, the DNA is the oldest ever to be found and sequenced. From the sequencing of the DNA fragment, research entails that the DNA is linked to hundreds of different organisms. Among these organisms, plants and animals, noted to have migrated from Greenland, such as birch tree and horseshoe crabs were linked to the DNA found in Greenland’s icy climate. In addition, a new discovery of mastodons, a prehistoric mammal species, was also detected on the DNA fragment. Scientists entail the discovery's impact on paleontology and predict that this new DNA discovery could be a gateway to understanding life that existed millions of years ago.
Genetics news & views from students enrolled in BIOL 2110 at Stockton University.
Friday, December 9, 2022
Epigenetics in Identical Twins
A new study done by researches from the Washington State University have found that exercise can change genetic markers of the metabolic diseases, which affects any diseases or disorders that disrupts normal metabolism. Even though identical twins should both have the same genomes, as they grow older they can still develop different diseases. Epigenetics which is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your gene works is the one reason for this. When exercising, epigenetics affects a lot of different types of cells many whom are involved in metabolic diseases. The test undergone on about 70 pairs of identical twins who partake in this exercising experiment was given fitness trackers and had BMI taken. They found that the more active sibling based off of waist size and BMI had lower signs of metabolic disease.
Interesting how identical twins who have the same DNA can end up developing different diseases than their counterpart due to things such as environment. Another article talking about identical twins risk for different dieases can also help explain how this situtation can occur too. Such as genetic changes to one part of the body or function can cause an increased negative effect towards that part of the body/function.
Yaks That Adapt to Low Oxygen Environments
There has been recent insight into adaptations, genetically and cellularly, that allow yaks to survive in high altitude environments. It has been determined that this ability to live in these kinds of environments could be a result of endothelial lung cells specific to yaks. The endothelial lung cells are a single layer lined with blood vessels that regulates the exchanges between the bloodstream and surrounding tissues. High altitude regions in the Tibetan Plateau are inhabited by both domestic and wild yaks. They experience low oxygen concentrations. Humans and other non-native mammals would experience extreme heart and lung issues if exposed to such low oxygen conditions. This is not the case for the yaks who have adapted to these conditions over millions of years.
A group of scientists explored just how yaks are adapted to these kinds of environments by combining transcriptomic and genomic data to present an exclusive genome assembly for both domestic and wild yaks. Transcriptomic data involves characterizing all transcription activity (both coding and non-coding) or a select subset of RNA transcripts within the sample. This analysis allows for the identification of candidate genes and expressed markers of traits of interest associated. This also included a map of the different lung cell types present. 127 genes were identified to be expressed differently in yaks compared to European cattle and identified a subtype of endothelial cells only found in the lung tissue of yaks. This specific cell type was shown to express genes involved in high altitude adaptation. These findings on genetic adaptations of yaks and high-altitude environments can be useful for future studies on how other mammals respond to low oxygen environments.
Single Nucleotide Polymorphism analysis determines origin of domesticated cats
A recent study at University of Missouri-Columbia used genetic analysis to determine the origin of the first cats to be domesticated by humans. Genetic markers were assessed from nearly 200 cats from regions, varrying from the Fertile Frescent region to areas of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The results strongly support the theory that cats were originally domesticated exclusively from the Fertile Crescent region. The results of this study will be used for further genetic experiments in veterinary medicine, for research into treatments of genetic diseases.
I found it interesting to read how this could be used to benefit veterinary medicine. Leslie A. Lyons, who performed this study, referred to this as "building genetic tools" to improve medicine for cat health. That idea of genetic tools is intriguing, but also a little existentially scary. It is fascinating to speculate what this could be be used for. The article mentioned that they are working on developing treatments for polycystic kidney disease.
Scientists modify yeast cells and turn it into a cannabis tracker
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have modified a baker's yeast cell and replaced it with a sex drive that causes the cell to turn red when it detects cannabis. This modification can detect not only cannabis, but molecules with similar functions to cannabinoids. Humans use GCPRs (G-Protein Coupled Receptors in order to taste and smell. The researchers of this study used these same receptors in order to create the signal.
In a singe day of testing this receptor, researchers found four new substances that had not been discovered, but could potentially be used for anti inflammatory purposes or pain relief.
I am interested to see how this study develops, it seems like the sensor detects so many different substances that it might not be useful for testing for cannabinoids, but I think it could potentially help detect alternate uses in different substances.
Thursday, December 8, 2022
Smoking and Drinking Potentially Linked to Genetics
Nature. The researchers found more than 3,500 genetic variations that potentially affect smoking and drinking behaviors in a genome-wide association study. This study included almost 3.4 million people with African, American, East Asian, and European ancestry. Of the 3.4 million people, 21% had non-European ancestry.
The researchers identified 3,823 genetic variants that were associated with smoking or drinking behaviors in individuals. Of the more than 3,500 variants, thirty-nine were linked to the age at which individuals started smoking, 243 were linked to the number of cigarettes smoked per day, and 849 were linked to the number of alcoholic drinks consumed per week.
In my opinion, although these behaviors may be genetically linked, smoking and drinking are still environmentally influenced. The genetics part could be more so to do with how one reacts when they do smoke and drink. The genetic links could also affect how easily the risks of other health conditions arising from drinking and smoking, as smokers are more likely to develop heart disease, strokes, and lung cancer. Likewise, drinking can lead to the development of multiple chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and multiple mental health issues and memory problems.
Bones from a cave found in southern Siberia Russia, have led to the discovery of one of the oldest known Neanderthal family. Researchers have identified that this Neanderthals family consisted of a father, his teenage daughter, and others who were also closely related, presumably cousins. DNA extracted from the bones and teeth of the group/community has led to some suggestions on how theses ancient people formed groups. They were smaller in size and found that the females often migrated from their own group to follow their partner's. Since mitochondrial DNA is commonly inherited from the mother and showed greater distinction compared to the Y chromosome from the males, also helps conclude that the females migrated while the males stayed within their own group/community.
Link to articles ~
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Crohn's Disease Triggered by Bacteria Genetic Changes
In a different study, researchers were able to genetically engineer mice to prevent the expression of the AGR2 gene and discovered that they developed Crohn's-like inflammation. This caused them to link the inflammation in that study to adherent-invasive E. coli, or AIEC, which were found to be bacteria implicated in Crohn's disease. In this study, they were able to connect that changes in the AGR2 activity levels with increases in the bacteria group that AEIC belongs to. They ended up discovering that the inflammation that was kicked off by the interaction was linked to the production of IL-23, an immune signal that is an important driver of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colorectal cancer tumorigenesis and is also an important therapy target.
In my opinion, I find this research interesting in how this research could affect treatment and medication for this type of disease. If Crohn's disease is triggered by AEIC, I wonder if other digestive and bowel diseases could be caused by similar bacteria found in the digestive tract and if this research can be used to do similar experiments on other gut bacteria and digestive diseases.