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  • News in Brief

    A protein in mosquito eggshells could be the insects’ Achilles’ heel

    Mosquito researchers may have hatched a new plan to control the bloodsuckers: Break their eggshells.

    A protein called eggshell organizing factor 1, or EOF1, is necessary for some mosquito species’ eggs and embryos to develop properly, a new study finds. Genetically disrupting production of that protein in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes caused about 60 percent of their normally dark eggshells...

    01/08/2019 - 14:00 Animals, Genetics, Development
  • News

    DNA tests of Lassa virus mid-outbreak helped Nigeria target its response

    When an outbreak of a viral hemorrhagic fever hit Nigeria in 2018, scientists were ready: They were already in the country testing new disease-tracking technology, and within weeks managed to steer health workers toward the most appropriate response.

    Lassa fever, which is transmitted from rodents to humans, pops up every year in West Africa. But 2018 was the worst season on record for...

    01/03/2019 - 14:09 Health, Genetics
  • News

    A new way to genetically tweak photosynthesis boosts plant growth

    A genetic hack to make photosynthesis more efficient could be a boon for agricultural production, at least for some plants.

    This feat of genetic engineering simplifies a complex, energy-expensive operation that many plants must perform during photosynthesis known as photorespiration. In field tests, genetically modifying tobacco in this way increased plant growth by over 40 percent. If...

    01/03/2019 - 14:00 Agriculture, Plants, Genetics
  • Year in Review

    News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm

    A Chinese scientist surprised the world in late November by claiming he had created the first gene-edited babies, who at the time of the announcement were a few weeks old. Scientists and ethicists quickly responded with outrage.

    In an interview with the Associated Press and in a video posted November 25, Jiankui He announced that twin girls with a gene altered to reduce the risk of...

    12/17/2018 - 08:34 Genetics, Science & Society
  • Year in Review

    Crime solvers embraced genetic genealogy

    Every week, Ellen Greytak checks DNA profiles in a genealogy database. She’s not searching for long-lost relatives. She’s out to find family members of unknown assailants in rape and murder cases.

    Greytak is director of bioinformatics at Parabon NanoLabs in Reston, Va. Since May, the company has used genetic genealogy, a forensic technique for tracking down suspects through their...

    12/17/2018 - 08:32 Genetics, Science & Society
  • Year in Review

    Humans wiped out mosquitoes (in one small lab test)

    For the first time, humans have built a set of pushy, destructive genes that infiltrated small populations of mosquitoes and drove them to extinction.

    But before dancing sleeveless in the streets, let’s be clear. This extermination occurred in a lab in mosquito populations with less of the crazy genetic diversity that an extinction scheme would face in the wild. The new gene drive,...

    12/17/2018 - 08:26 Animals, Genetics, Health
  • News

    Big data reveals hints of how, when and where mental disorders start

    Psychiatric disorders’ many complexities have stymied scientists looking for clear genetic culprits. But a new giant dataset holds clues to how, when and where these brain disorders begin.

    Called PsychENCODE, the project’s first large data release has revealed intricate insights into the behavior of genes and the stretches of genetic material between them in both healthy brains and those...

    12/13/2018 - 14:49 Neuroscience, Genetics
  • 50 years ago, armadillos hinted that DNA wasn’t destiny

    64 armadillos threaten a theory —

    Armadillos come in fours, quadruplet offspring from a single egg, and are endowed with identical genes. Yet, the quadruplets are often not identical, a fact that calls into question the assumption that genes encased in the nucleus of the cell are the sole determinants of heredity. — Science News, November 30, 1968

    Update

    What comes naturally to...

    12/13/2018 - 07:00 Animals, Genetics
  • News

    Hybrid rice engineered with CRISPR can clone its seeds

    After more than 20 years of theorizing about it, scientists have tweaked a hybrid variety of rice so that some of the plants produce cloned seeds. No plant sex necessary. The feat, described December 12 in Nature, is encouraging for efforts to feed an increasingly crowded world.

    Crossing two good varieties of grain can make one fabulous one, combining the best versions of genes to give...

    12/12/2018 - 15:52 Plants, Genetics, Sustainability
  • News

    A 5,000-year-old mass grave harbors the oldest plague bacteria ever found

    A long-dead Scandinavian woman has yielded bacterial DNA showing that she contracted the earliest known case of the plague in humans.

    DNA extracted from the woman’s teeth comes from a newly identified ancient strain of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague, the oldest ever found. The woman’s bones, which date from 5,040 to 4,867 years ago, were found nearly 20 years ago in a...

    12/06/2018 - 11:00 Genetics, Anthropology, Microbiology