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  • News

    DNA confirms a weird Greenland whale was a narwhal-beluga hybrid

    Researchers have made a whale of a discovery — a hybrid of a beluga whale and a narwhal.

    DNA analysis of the whale’s skull confirmed it to be the male offspring of a narwhal mother and a beluga father, researchers report June 20 in Scientific Reports.

    The animal was one of three unusual whales caught during a subsistence hunt in 1986 or 1987 in western Greenland’s Disko Bay, and...

    06/20/2019 - 09:00 Genetics, Animals
  • News in Brief

    This body-on-a-chip mimics how organs and cancer cells react to drugs

    A new body-on-a-chip system could provide a more holistic view of drug effects than other devices of its kind.

    Unlike traditional organ-on-a-chip devices that simulate a single organ (SN: 3/17/18, p. 13), the new setup contains five chambers to house different types of cells, connected by channels that circulate a nutrient solution to mimic blood flow. This is the first organ-on-a-chip...

    06/19/2019 - 14:00 Biophysics, Technology, Cells
  • News

    Norovirus close-ups might help fight stomach flu

    Knowing your enemy is an important principle of competition, and scientists may just have become more familiar with one nasty stomach virus.

    Closeup looks at several strains of norovirus reveal that the vomit- and diarrhea-inducing virus can come in a variety of sizes, researchers report online June 10 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Knobs studding the virus’s...

    06/17/2019 - 10:00 Microbiology, Microbes, Health
  • Editor's Note

    Science hasn’t managed to span the diagnosis gap

    Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy had no problem finding out what ailed his patients. He simply waved a handheld scanner over them, and the tricorder spat out a diagnosis — even if the patient was a Romulan.

    Earthbound diagnostics haven’t yet measured up to the extragalactic version, alas. Go to the doctor, and it’s likely to take a variety of tests to come up with a diagnosis. And even then,...

    06/17/2019 - 07:00 Science & Society, Biomedicine, Immune Science
  • News

    Genealogy companies could struggle to keep clients’ data from police

    After police used DNA sleuthing techniques to arrest a teenage suspect in Utah accused of assault, a public genealogy website shut off most police access in May, following public outcry. That move by GEDMatch to protect the privacy of its users could backfire, some experts warn, creating more privacy issues, not fewer. 

    Forensic genetic genealogy — the use of genetic databases by police...

    06/10/2019 - 12:00 Genetics, Science & Society
  • News in Brief

    DNA reveals ancient Siberians who set the stage for the first Americans

    Northeastern Siberia hosted migrations of three consecutive ancient populations that created a genetic framework for Siberians and Native Americans today, scientists say.

    While each incoming population largely replaced people already living there, mating between newcomers and old-timers also occurred, conclude evolutionary geneticist Martin Sikora of the University of Copenhagen and...

    06/07/2019 - 12:00 Genetics, Human Evolution, Ancestry
  • News in Brief

    Almost all healthy people harbor patches of mutated cells

    Normal isn’t always normal. A new study finds that large groups of cells in healthy tissues carry mutations, including ones tied to cancer.

    About 95 percent of healthy people had patches of mutated cells in at least one of the 29 tissues examined, including kidney, muscle and liver, researchers report in the June 7 Science. Most of those mutations found in the 488 people in the study are...

    06/06/2019 - 14:00 Genetics, Cancer
  • News

    Gut bacteria may change the way many drugs work in the body

    Prescribing the best medication may require going with a patient’s gut — or at least, the bacteria that live there.

    Anecdotal reports have revealed that some gut-dwelling microbes chemically alter oral medications, affecting how well those drugs work (SN Online: 7/19/13). But the scope of this problem has remained unclear. Now, a sweeping survey of these interactions suggests that gut...

    06/03/2019 - 11:00 Microbiology, Biomedicine, Health
  • News in Brief

    Africa’s first herders spread pastoralism by mating with foragers

    Ancient sheep, goat and cattle herders made Africa their home by hooking up with the continent’s native hunter-gatherers, a study suggests.

    DNA analysis shows that African herders and foragers mated with each other in two phases, says a team led by archaeologist Mary Prendergast of Saint Louis University in Madrid. After entering northeastern Africa from the Middle East around 8,000...

    05/30/2019 - 14:00 Anthropology, Genetics, Human Evolution
  • News

    A fungus weaponized with a spider toxin can kill malaria mosquitoes

    A fungus engineered to produce a spider toxin could help take down insecticide-resistant mosquitoes that can spread malaria.

    In a netted, outdoor experiment in Burkina Faso, the genetically engineered fungus wiped out mosquito populations within two generations, researchers report in the May 31 Science. If the result holds up in a real-world situation, the modified fungus may one day...

    05/30/2019 - 14:00 Health, Fungi, Genetics