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  • Science Stats

    A billion years of evolution doesn’t change some genes

    Humans and baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, last shared an ancestor 1 billion years ago. Despite the evolutionary gulf, human genes can substitute for nearly half — 47 percent — of the genes essential for yeast survival, researchers report in the May 22 Science.

    Aashiq Kachroo and colleagues at...

    05/22/2015 - 15:58 Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Mutations that drive cancer lurk in healthy skin

    By late middle age, about a quarter of skin cells carry cancer-driving mutations caused by exposure to sunlight — and it’s perfectly normal.

    Researchers had previously thought that the types of mutations that fuel tumor growth were rare and happened just before a cell becomes cancerous. But a study of the eyelids of four people who don’t have cancer reveals that such mutations “are...

    05/21/2015 - 14:11 Genetics, Cancer
  • News

    Ancient DNA pushes back timing of the origin of dogs

    Some friendships go way back. New genetic evidence suggests that the relationship between humans and dogs may have been forged as long as 40,000 years ago.

    DNA analysis of an ancient wolf calibrates the split between dogs and wolves to 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. Researchers had previously calculated that the divergence happened about 11,000 to 16,000 years ago....

    05/21/2015 - 12:03 Genetics, Animals
  • News

    Octopuses can ‘see’ with their skin

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    Octopus skin can detect light and respond to it — no eyes or brain required.

    Tests of fresh skin samples from California two-spot octopuses (Octopus bimaculoides) show this ability clearly for the first time in any cephalopod, says Todd Oakley of the University of California, Santa Barbara. White or blue light prompts the pale skin’s...

    05/20/2015 - 18:00 Animals, Physiology
  • It's Alive

    Vampire squid take mommy breaks

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    Vampire squid live slow. Even their gonads, it turns out, take vacations.

    Any information about their reproduction is prized, because no one has seen the deep-sea dwellers even swim close enough to each other to flirt. Studies of fished-up specimens offer clues. But they can’t solve puzzles such as how sperm gets into female storage pouches, one...

    05/19/2015 - 07:00 Animals, Physiology
  • Feature

    Typical American diet can damage immune system

    Blair River was described as “a big guy with a big heart.” The 575-pound former high school wrestler from Mesa, Ariz., became such a fixture at the Heart Attack Grill that he was recruited to be the restaurant’s official spokesperson. His satirical ads made him a minor celebrity in central Arizona.  He died in 2011 at age 29 — not because of his heart but from complications of influenza.

    05/18/2015 - 13:00 Microbiology, Nutrition
  • Feature

    How to rewire the eye

    A man who had been blind for 50 years allowed scientists to insert a tiny electrical probe into his eye.

    The man’s eyesight had been destroyed and the photoreceptors, or light-gathering cells, at the back of his eye no longer worked. Those cells, known as rods and cones, are the basis of human vision. Without them, the world becomes gray and formless, though not completely black. The...

    05/15/2015 - 14:10 Genetics, Technology, Health
  • News

    Deepwater dweller is first known warm-hearted fish

    A fish that looks like a giant cookie with skinny red fins comes the closest yet among fishes to the whole-body warm-bloodedness of birds and mammals.

    The opah (Lampris guttatus) has structures never before recognized in fish gills that may help conserve the warmth in blood, says Nick Wegner of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif. The unusual gills and...

    05/14/2015 - 14:04 Animals, Physiology
  • Science Ticker

    Quicker sepsis diagnosis may be a step closer

    Tracking the activity of 11 genes linked with sepsis may lead to a quicker diagnosis for the condition.

    Sepsis is a fast-acting, whole-body inflammatory response to infectious pathogens. It sickens more than 1 million people in the United States each year. But differentiating sepsis from noninfectious inflammation as a result of surgery or blunt force trauma is challenging. In a new...

    05/14/2015 - 06:00 Genetics, Health
  • News

    MicroRNAs track radiation doses

    Humans and other animals may make natural radiation detectors in their blood.  

    Some microRNAs, tiny pieces of genetic material that help regulate protein production, change levels in the blood of mice after exposure to radiation, researchers report in the May 13 Science Translational Medicine....

    05/13/2015 - 14:00 Genetics, Biomedicine