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  • Science Ticker

    Americans support genetically engineering animals for people’s health

    Scientists have the power to genetically engineer many types of animals. Most Americans think it’s OK to alter or insert genes in animals and insects — provided it’s done in the interest of human health, according to a poll released August 16 from the Pew Research Center. The findings are similar to those from an earlier Pew survey, which found that a majority of Americans are fine with...

    08/20/2018 - 15:00 Genetics, Science & Society
  • News

    A resurrected gene may protect elephants from cancer

    Elephants rarely succumb to cancer. That’s surprising given how large the animals grow and how long they can live, which should provide more opportunities for cells to morph into cancer cells. A newly described gene that was brought back from the dead may take part in protecting the animals from the disease.

    A deep dive into elephants’ evolutionary history revealed a defunct gene called...

    08/14/2018 - 14:23 Health, Genetics, Animals
  • News

    Tiny bits of RNA can trigger pain and itchiness

    Some snippets of RNA can be a real pain.

    A microRNA called miR-30c-5p contributes to nerve pain in rats and people, a new study finds. A different microRNA, miR-711, interacts with a well-known itch-inducing protein to cause itching, a second study concludes. Together, the research highlights the important role that the small pieces of genetic material can play in nerve cell function,...

    08/13/2018 - 14:06 Cells, Physiology, Neuroscience, Genetics
  • News

    The first gene-silencing drug wins FDA approval

    A Nobel Prize–winning discovery — that small double-stranded RNA molecules can silence genes by interrupting the translation of DNA’s instructions into proteins — is finally delivering on its medical promise.

    The first drug that takes advantage of this natural biological process, called RNA interference, was approved August 10 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It targets a rare...

    08/10/2018 - 15:52 Biomedicine, Clinical Trials, Health, Genetics
  • News

    A newly approved drug could be a boon for treating malaria

    The first new treatment in 60 years for a particularly stubborn kind of malaria is raising hopes that it might help eradicate the disease, even though the treatment can cause a dangerous side effect.

    Called tafenoquine, the drug targets the parasite that causes relapsing malaria. Plasmodium vivax infects an estimated 8.5 million people, mainly in Asia and Latin America. Each time...

    08/09/2018 - 10:00 Health, Microbes, Genetics
  • News

    Researchers say CRISPR edits to a human embryo worked. But critics still doubt it

    When researchers announced last year that they had edited human embryos to repair a damaged gene that can lead to heart failure, critics called the report into question.

    Now new evidence confirms that the gene editing was successful, reproductive and developmental biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov and colleagues report August 8 in Nature. “All of our conclusions were basically right,”...

    08/08/2018 - 14:45 Genetics, Science & Society
  • News

    The debate over people’s pathway into the Americas heats up

    Despite recently getting a cold shoulder from some researchers, a long-standing idea that North America’s first settlers entered the continent via an ice-free inland corridor boasts more scientific support than any other proposal, an international team says.

    New World colonizers from Asia may also have traveled by canoe down the Northwest Pacific Coast and perhaps much farther, as...

    08/08/2018 - 14:00 Archaeology, Anthropology, Genetics
  • News

    The first detailed map of red foxes’ DNA may reveal domestication secrets

    For nearly 60 years, scientists in Siberia have bred silver foxes in an attempt to replay how domestication occurred thousands of years ago. Now, in a first, researchers have compiled the genetic instruction book, or genome, of Vulpes vulpes, the red fox species that includes the silver-coated variant. This long-awaited study of the foxes’ DNA may reveal genetic changes that drove...

    08/06/2018 - 11:00 Genetics, Animals
  • News

    The ‘language gene’ didn’t give humans a big leg up in evolution

    Humans’ gift of gab probably wasn’t the evolutionary boon that scientists once thought.   

    There’s no evidence that FOXP2, sometimes called “the language gene,” gave humans such a big evolutionary advantage that it was quickly adopted across the species, what scientists call a selective sweep. That finding, reported online August 2 in Cell, follows years of debate about the role of FOXP2...

    08/03/2018 - 07:00 Genetics, Molecular Evolution, Ancestry
  • News in Brief

    Indonesia’s pygmies didn’t descend from hobbits, DNA analysis suggests

    Hobbits took a separate evolutionary path to becoming small than did short, modern-day humans living on the same Indonesian island, a new DNA analysis suggests.

    Rampasasa pygmies residing near a cave on Flores that previously yielded small-bodied hobbit fossils inherited DNA from Neandertals and Denisovans but not from any other now-extinct hominid, an international team of researchers...

    08/02/2018 - 14:00 Genetics, Anthropology