Tag Archives: genes

Is it an Alien or is it a Human?

For over two decades, there was an argument over a mummifed skeleton in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The question was: Is the skeleton from an alien or from a human?

The 15 centimeter skeleton that was found in the Atacama Desert in Chile; photo from cosmosmagazine.com
The 15 centimeter skeleton that was found in the Atacama Desert in Chile; photo from cosmosmagazine.com

Ata, the name of the skeleton, was in remarkably great shape for a… human. After many years of discussion, it was found that Ata has human DNA and that she belonged to the local population. Researchers also identified Ata’s DNA as a group of mutations of genes related to the development of the bones.

These mutations might be the reason for the skeleton’s unique appearance, a disorder that has never been seen in humans before.

The research into Ata began in 2012 with Dr. Garry P. Nolan from Stanford University. Nolen had heard about Ata from the production of the UFO movie “Sirius.”

Nolen and his team offered to look into the skeleton’s DNA. So the owner of the skeleton agreed to send X-ray images as well as bone marrow samples taken from the ribs and right humerus.

Once Dr. Nolan and his colleagues received the samples, they were able to retrieve fragments of DNA from bone marrow samples which was relatively easy. They then found their answer. “We could tell this was human right away,” said Atul Butte from the University of California, San Francisco, and one of the co-authors of the research.

Once the researchers were able to find out that Ata was a human, they dug deeper into the skeleton’s genome. They were able to determine that Ata was a female who had died less than 500 years ago. Even though it’s impossible to pinpoint a certain year, scientists were able to find out that she has European heritage from the 1500s.

There’s more research needed to be done on Ata to find out if she was stillborn or if she lived a short life, as her bones are similar to an eight-year old’s bone structure. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens.

Could pig organs save lives?

This month, scientists gathered at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington to talk about Crispr, a new method for editing genes.

In the 1990s, researchers explored the likelihood of using pig organs in humans, a technique known as xenotransplantation. Experts hoped that pig organs could be cleansed of viruses and other pathogens that might harm their human hosts. That research stalled in 1998, when Jay Fishman and his colleagues discovered a strange new danger.

Pig cells contain multiple copies of embedded viruses called porcine endogenous retroviruses, or PERVs. PERVs can produce full-blown viruses able to infect other pig cells. When researchers mixed pig and human cells, they found the pig viruses could also contaminate human cells; causing cancer or other diseases.

Recently developed methods for editing genes could make pig organs safe for human transplant.

Among the scientists describing the recent scientific advances was one of Crispr’s pioneers, George Church of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Church’s experiment had its origins in the shortage of available human organs for transplants. Thousands of people die each year waiting for hearts, lungs and livers.

“In the 1990s, researchers explored the likelihood of using pig organs in humans, a technique known as xenotransplantation.”

“It’s a cruel situation currently, that someone who needs a heart transplant has to pin their chance for a healthy life on the untimely death of another person,” said David A. Dunn, an expert on transplantation at the State University of New York at Oswego.

In a typical experiment, scientists used Crispr to alter a single gene. But in recent work with pig cells, Dr. Church and his colleagues used Crispr to simultaneously disable all 62 of the viruses. The team engineered a new set of genes that produced enzymes that hunted for PERVs and snipped out bits of the viral DNA.

After the experiment, the viruses in the pig genome showed little activity. And despite the drastic genomic surgery, the chromosomes showed no irregularities and the cells grew normally.

The researchers hope that this achievement may someday make it possible to use pig organs for transplantation into humans, which will reduce the amount of deaths per year of people waiting for available organs for transplant.

We should assume and expect scientists to promptly develop their gene editing skills in the years to come.

Scientists prove homosexuality is in DNA

According to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, studies have shown that “chemical modifications to DNA that change the activity of genes without changing the gene’ information differ between homosexual and heterosexual men.” This discovery was presented on October 8, 2015 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics.  The specific experiment including testing male twins in which one was heterosexual and the other was homosexual. The results revealed “patterns that distinguished one group from the other about 67 percent of the time.”

Tuck Ngun and Eric Vilain are the head geneticists who discovered the anomaly in the DNA of the twin boys. The research found has already provoked a controversy within the community. Some are questioning the reasoning behind the testing, saying that they will “misinterpreted [the research] as one step in an effort to “cure” homosexuality.” However, Ngun and Vilain respond by saying “it is the furthest from their intentions.” They are geneticists after all and they are interested in “what makes us tick.” Their research “isn’t about homosexuality. It’s about understanding sexual attraction, the biology of desire.”

boys hugging
“According to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, studies have shown that “chemical modifications to DNA that change the activity of genes without changing the gene’ information differ between homosexual and heterosexual men.””

Most arguments against homosexuality is that it’s a choice and of course many people who support gay rights argue back that it isn’t because of this reason and that reason. However, now we have actual evidence that it isn’t a choice. “The development of sexuality seems to have origins in early life, maybe even stemming from cues in the womb.” Some may argue that a youth still going through puberty can’t possibly know what their sexuality is but it turns out that it isn’t strictly about discovering one’s sexual preference but also include brain chemicals and DNA strains. It is said that “for each biological older brother a man has, his likelihood of being homosexual rises by 33 percent.” This statistic proves that many scientific factors come into play when a person is homosexual.

Being gay has now been proven that it isn’t a choice. Many scientific factors, genes, and DNA are the reason for a person being homosexual. All of you people who claim a person can choose to be heterosexual are wrong and homosexuals are, truly, born with it.

Monkeying around with Ebola

How likely are you to survive an Ebola infection? Not very likely, with mortality rates as high as 90 percent for certain strains of the virus.

There are no approved treatments or vaccines for the virus, but a new discovery allows scientists to predict whether a patient will react well to a vaccine currently in development. Continue reading Monkeying around with Ebola

Voting: Nature or nurture?

When it comes to where people acquire their political beliefs, political scientists have analyzed many possibilities that might factor in, such as household income, gender and church attendance. It has long been thought that a person’s political ideals are something that comes mostly from their parents, friends or other environmental factors. However, there have emerged an increasing number of studies that suggest genetics may have an underlying role in both voter turnout and the way people vote. Continue reading Voting: Nature or nurture?