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  • Feature

    Year in review: ‘Three-parent baby’ technique raises hope and concern

    A “three-parent baby” was born in April, the world’s first reported birth from a controversial technique designed to prevent mitochondrial diseases from passing from mother to child.

    “As far as we can tell, the baby is normal and free of disease,” says Andrew R. La Barbera, chief scientific officer of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. “This demonstrates that, in point of...

    12/14/2016 - 07:39 Genetics, Science & Society, Biomedicine
  • Feature

    Year in review: How humans populated the globe

    No paper or digital trails document ancient humans’ journey out of Africa to points around the globe. Fortunately, those intrepid travelers left a DNA trail. Genetic studies released in 2016 put a new molecular spin on humans’ long-ago migrations. These investigations also underscore the long trek ahead for scientists trying to reconstruct Stone Age road trips.

    “I’m beginning to suspect...

    12/14/2016 - 07:37 Genetics, Archaeology
  • Feature

    Year in review: ‘Minimal genome’ makes its debut

    One of biology’s biggest achievements of 2016 was intentionally as small as possible: building a bacterium with only 473 genes. That pint-size genetic blueprint, the smallest for any known free-living cell, is a milestone in a decades-long effort to create an organism containing just the bare essentials necessary to exist and reproduce. Such “minimal genome” cells might eventually serve as...

    12/14/2016 - 07:36 Microbiology, Genetics, Cells
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers contemplate corals and more

    Corals in crisis

    Algae that provide nutrients to corals turn toxic and lead the corals to “bleach” and sometimes die when ocean temperatures spike. Researchers are seeding damaged reefs with baby corals and breeding heat-tolerant corals to help these imperiled marine animals, Amy McDermott reported in “Rebuilding reefs” (SN: 10/29/16, p. 18).

    Ronald Swager wondered if researchers could...

    12/14/2016 - 06:00 Oceans, Genetics, Archaeology
  • News in Brief

    Having an extra chromosome has a surprising effect on cancer

    SAN FRANCISCO — Having an extra chromosome may suppress cancer, as long as things don’t get stressful, a new study suggests. The finding may help scientists unravel a paradox: Cells with extra chromosomes grow slower than cells with the usual two copies of each chromosome, but cancer cells, which grow quickly, often have additional chromosomes. Researchers have thought that perhaps extra...

    12/07/2016 - 16:31 Cells, Cancer, Genetics
  • News

    Tweaking how plants manage a crisis boosts photosynthesis

    Enhancing just three genes helps plants harvest more light, raising new hopes for developing crops that can keep up with food demands from a crowded planet.

    Genetically engineered tobacco plants, chosen to test the concept, managed the unusual feat of growing 14 to 20 percent more mass — meaning more crop yield — than untweaked plants, says Krishna Niyogi of the University of California...

    11/17/2016 - 14:45 Plants, Agriculture, Genetics
  • Science Ticker

    Chinese patient is first to be treated with CRISPR-edited cells

    Chinese scientists have injected a person with CRISPR/Cas9-edited cells, marking the first time cells altered with the technique have been used in humans. Researchers used the powerful gene editor to alter immune cells to fight lung cancer, Nature reports November 15.

    Immune cells called CAR-T cells have already been engineered using other gene-editing technologies. A baby’s leukemia was...

    11/16/2016 - 07:00 Clinical Trials, Cancer, Genetics
  • News

    Cancer mutation patterns differ in smokers, nonsmokers

    DNA in cancerous tissues of tobacco smokers shows mutation patterns that differ from those in cancerous tissues of nonsmokers, a new analysis finds. The new study, in the Nov. 4 Science, reveals how smoking contributes to different cancers, enhancing several kinds of DNA damage.

    “We are doing a sort of molecular archaeology,” says cancer geneticist Ludmil Alexandrov of Los Alamos...

    11/03/2016 - 14:06 Genetics, Cells, Health, Cancer
  • News

    Gene gives mice and chipmunks their pinstripes

    Chipmunks and other rodents’ light stripes are painted with a recycled brush, a new study suggests.

    A protein previously known to guide facial development was repurposed at least twice during evolution to create light-colored stripes on rodents, researchers report November 2 in Nature. The protein, called ALX3, could be an important regulator of stripes in other mammals, including cats...

    11/02/2016 - 14:00 Genetics, Molecular Evolution, Animals
  • Science Ticker

    Protective genetic variant may offer a path to future autoimmune therapies

    Tweaking activity of one protein may help protect against 10 autoimmune diseases, a new study suggests. The protein, tyrosine kinase 2 or TYK2, helps regulate how strongly the immune system responds to threats.

    Using genetic data from more than 36,000 people with a variety of autoimmune diseases, researchers found that one genetic variant in the TYK2 gene protects against a wide range of...

    11/02/2016 - 14:00 Genetics, Immune Science, Biomedicine