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  • News

    Genes could record forensic clues to time of death

    Dying, it turns out, is not like flipping a switch. Genes keep working for a while after a person dies, and scientists have used that activity in the lab to pinpoint time of death to within about nine minutes.

    During the first 24 hours after death, genetic changes kick in across various human tissues, creating patterns of activity that can be used to roughly predict when someone died,...

    02/13/2018 - 17:12 Epigenetics, Microbes, Science & Society
  • News

    A peek into polar bears’ lives reveals revved-up metabolisms

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    Female polar bears prowling springtime sea ice have extreme weight swings, some losing more than 10 percent of their body mass in just over a week. And the beginnings of bear video blogging help explain why.

    An ambitious study of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in Alaska has found that their overall metabolic rate is 1.6 times greater than thought, says wildlife...

    02/01/2018 - 15:24 Animals, Physiology, Climate
  • Science Visualized

    Here’s how cells rapidly stuff two meters of DNA into microscopic capsules

    Frequent fliers, take note. Scientists have figured out how cells quickly pack long chromosomes into compact, organized bundles — a key step before cells divide. The new finding unifies two competing ideas about the process: whether it involves winding chromosomes into a spiral staircase or into a set of loops. It turns out cells use two different ring-shaped proteins called condensins to do...

    01/29/2018 - 16:30 Cells, Genetics
  • News

    Scientists find 10 new defense systems used by bacteria

    Since long before it gained fame as a precise gene-editing tool, CRISPR has had another job defending bacteria against viral invaders. And it’s far from alone. Ten sets of bacterial genes have similar, newly discovered defense roles, researchers report online January 25 in Science.

    The discovery “probably more than doubles the number of immune systems known in bacteria,” says Joseph...

    01/25/2018 - 16:16 Genetics, Microbiology
  • News

    Baby macaques are the first primates to be cloned like Dolly the Sheep

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    Meet Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, the first primates cloned by reprogramming adult cells.

    Two decades after Dolly the Sheep was successfully cloned (SN: 3/1/97, p. 132), Chinese researchers have used the same technique — somatic cell nuclear transfer — to clone two healthy baby macaque monkeys. The results, reported January 24 in Cell, could lead to more efficient...

    01/24/2018 - 13:30 Genetics, Animals, Biomedicine
  • News

    New twist on a flu vaccine revs up the body’s army of virus killers

    Sometimes an old fight needs a new hero. With the United States in the midst of a tough flu season — and with evidence from Australia that the current flu shot is only 10 percent effective against the strains responsible for most illnesses — a different approach to flu vaccine development may do the trick.

    Vaccines traditionally protect against illness by stimulating antibodies to block...

    01/19/2018 - 15:42 Health, Immune Science
  • News

    Cilia in the brain may be busier than previously thought

    Nerve cells in the brain make elaborate connections and exchange lightning-quick messages that captivate scientists. But these cells also sport simpler, hairlike protrusions called cilia. Long overlooked, the little stubs may actually have big jobs in the brain.

    Researchers are turning up roles for nerve cell cilia in a variety of brain functions. In a region of the brain linked to...

    01/19/2018 - 13:16 Neuroscience, Genetics
  • News

    Light pollution can prolong the risk of sparrows passing along West Nile virus

    SAN FRANCISCO — Even moderate light pollution can roughly double the time a house sparrow remains a risk for passing along the worrisome West Nile virus.

    House sparrows, about as widespread across the United States as artificial lighting itself, make a useful test species for a first-of-its-kind study of how night illumination might contribute to disease spread, said Meredith Kernbach,...

    01/19/2018 - 09:00 Physiology, Animals, Conservation
  • News

    Hunter-gatherer lifestyle could help explain superior ability to ID smells

    Smell has a reputation as a second-rate human sense. But that assumption stinks once hunter-gatherers enter the picture.

    Semaq Beri hunter-gatherers, who live in tropical forests on the eastern side of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia, name various odors as easily as they name colors, say psycholinguist Asifa Majid and linguist Nicole Kruspe. Yet Semelai rice farmers, who live in...

    01/18/2018 - 12:00 Anthropology, Genetics
  • News

    Not all strep infections are alike and it may have nothing to do with you

    One person infected with strep bacteria might get a painful sore throat; another might face a life-threatening blood infection. Now, scientists are trying to pin down why.

    Variation between individuals’ immune systems may not be entirely to blame. Instead, extra genes picked up by some pathogens can cause different strains to have wildly different effects on the immune system, even in...

    01/11/2018 - 14:40 Health, Genetics, Immune Science