The discovery of DNA as a double helix is a hallowed story of scientific triumph—the work of four researchers merging together to solve one of science’s biggest mysteries, giving birth to what we know as the field of modern genetics. But decades later, we’re still learning that DNA is a more furiously complicated piece of biological machinery than we ever knew. Continue reading Scientists just discovered a strange new DNA shape lurking in human cells
For nearly two years now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been quietly giving the go-ahead to a handful of crops that have been genetically engineered using CRISPR. Editing the DNA of people and animals may be controversial, but when it comes to plants, the agency has taken the stance that as long as the gene-edited plants don’t include any foreign genetic material, CRISPR’d crops aren’t subject to special regulation. Continue reading The USDA Just Gave the Green Light to CRISPR’d Food
Here’s a riddle: If an alien life form is, well, alien, how will we know what it is? DNA and RNA are the building blocks of life on Earth, but the molecules of life might differ substantially on another planet. So if scientists combing, say, the potentially habitable waters of Jupiter’s moon Europa were to stumble across a new life form, how could they know what they had discovered? Continue reading How Scientists Could Use DNA Sequencing to Identify Alien Life
When Amanda Wanklin and Michael Biggs fell in love, they “didn’t give a toss” about the challenges they might face as a biracial couple, Amanda says. “What was more important was what we wanted together.”
DNA is the code of life, and so advances that allow us to edit that code have unlocked vast potential, from simply editing away the buggy code of disease, to engineering animals that don’t spread illness, to, maybe one day in a distant future, creating so-called designer babies. But editing another essential molecular component of our biology—RNA, the messenger used by cells to turns DNA instructions into proteins—also holds great promise. Continue reading How Editing RNA—Not DNA—Could Cure Disease in the Future
There may not be a single depression gene, but there’s no question that our genetic makeup is an important factor in whether or not we get depressed. And our sex, it turns out, can be a factor in how those genes are expressed. In men and women diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the same genes show the opposite changes. In other words, the molecular underpinnings of depression in men and women may be different. Continue reading The Genetics of Depression Are Different for Men and Women
In 1903, the remains of a 10,000-year-old man were discovered in the Cheddar Gorge of Somerset, England. Dubbed the “Cheddar Man,” it remains the oldest almost complete skeleton ever found in Britain. Over the years, research has shown that he stood around five-foot-five, he was well-fed and he likely died in his early 20s. Now, as Paul Rincon of the BBC reports, genome analysis has revealed that Cheddar Man had dark brown skin and blue eyes—a discovery that adds to a growing body of research indicating that the evolution of human skin color was far more complex than previously believed.