DNA clues to why woolly mammoth died out - BBC News. Image copyright SPL.
Ginkgo 'living fossil' genome decoded. Image copyright Thinkstock The Ginkgo tree has had its genetic code laid bare by researchers.
The tree is famed for being a “living fossil” - a term used to describe those organisms that have experienced very little change over millions of years. In the case of the Ginkgo, there are specimens preserved in the rock record from 270 million years ago, in the Permian Period. Genetic breakthrough: Crops use more sunlight to grow. Scientists have improved "the most important biological process on the planet" - photosynthesis.
The breakthrough, published in the journal Science, used genetic modification to increase the amount of sunlight energy crop plants can channel into food production. That increased yield in an experimental crop by 15%. Researchers say this is a critical step towards increasing crop production to feed a growing global population. CO2 levels mark 'new era' in the world's changing climate. Image copyright NASA.
First drug to reverse Huntington’s disease begins human trials. "It is very exciting to have the possibility of a treatment that could alter the course of this devastating disease," said clinical study principal investigator Dr Blair Leavitt, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
"Right now we only have treatments that work on the symptoms of the disease. " Huntington’s is caused by a mutated HTT gene, and everyone who inherits the genetic defect will eventually develop the disease. Researchers have been trying to develop a drug which acts like a dimmer switch, turning the gene down so that it can no longer produce the devastating protein which causes brain damage. Scientists 'find cancer's Achilles heel' Image copyright SPL Scientists believe they have discovered a way to "steer" the immune system to kill cancers.
Researchers at University College, London have developed a way of finding unique markings within a tumour - its "Achilles heel" - allowing the body to target the disease. But the personalised method, reported in Science journal, would be expensive and has not yet been tried in patients. Experts said the idea made sense but could be more complicated in reality. However, the researchers, whose work was funded by Cancer Research UK, believe their discovery could form the backbone of new treatments and hope to test it in patients within two years. Study shows Zika 'might cause' Guillain-Barré syndrome. Your beard could help develop new antibiotics. Microbiologist Adam Roberts went digging through men’s beards in search of poop.
Instead, he found a tantalizing suggestion of a breakthrough in the global fight against drug-resistant infections. Which, for a researcher working fervently to help avert the antibiotic apocalypse that the World Health Organization, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Roberts himself believe may be looming, is not a bad trade off. The research began, as very few good things do, with a fake viral story from the Internet. If you have a beard or you’re currently kissing someone with a beard, or you simply have an affinity for gross stories about personal hygiene, you may remember the period in the spring when a slew of articles were published with headlines like, “Some beards contain more poo than a toilet shocking study reveals.” Harry How / GETTY / Getty Images"There is no plans or anything for it," Graham DeLaet said of his beard.
Library and Archives Canada, Public Domain. Bed-bug DNA scanned for vulnerabilities. Image copyright Louis Sorkin Scientists have sequenced the entire genome of the bed bug to help work out how to eliminate the pest, which has been developing resistance to existing insecticide sprays.
The findings, in Nature Communications, show how the parasite has adapted to survive by making detoxifying enzymes that destroy pesticides. And it has grown thicker skin, which helps guard against chemical attack. Scientists get 'gene editing' go-ahead. Image copyright SPL UK scientists have been given the go-ahead by the fertility regulator to genetically modify human embryos.
The promise of gene editing. Sharmila Nikapota, the mother of a child with a rare genetic disorder, has high hopes for gene editing.
"For us this technology holds the unimaginable dream of a cure," she says. Her 13-year-old daughter Sohana has spent her entire life covered in painful blisters, the result of a condition called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa. It is caused by two faulty collagen VII genes, which means her body does not produce the protein that helps anchor the skin in place. Safer way to do gene editing. Image copyright SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Scientists say they have fine tuned a gene editing method to make it safer and more accurate - vital if it is to be used in humans to cure inherited diseases or inborn errors. The advance, outlined in Science Magazine, comes as world leaders in the field gather to debate the ethics of altering human DNA using the method, known as Crispr-Cas9. Gene editing holds medical promise. But changing a person's DNA also has potential risks and ethical quandaries. The first International Summit on Human Gene Editing will debate how far the science should progress.
Pancreatic cancer treatment 'breakthrough' - Ulster University. Image copyright Ulster University A new treatment for pancreatic cancer could significantly increase survival rates, Ulster University has claimed. It said the treatment could lead to a five-fold reduction in tumour size. It involves injecting tumours with oxygen micro bubbles that are coated with a drug which is then activated by ultrasound.
Oestrogen exposure can crash fish populations. Oestrogen, at levels common in municipal wastewater, can cause fish populations to crash. The hormone feminises the male fish, which renders them infertile. In many countries, oestrogen is present in wastewater due to the widespread use of contraceptive pills. It has previously been shown in the laboratory that both natural and synthetic forms of the hormone can cause feminisation, but the impact of continuous, low-level exposure of oestrogen on wild fish populations had not been fully explored. Now Karen Kidd, an ecotoxicologist at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, Canada, and colleagues tested the effects of synthetic oestrogen on the wild fathead minnow population in a 34-hectare experimental lake in Ontario.
Kidd’s team first surveyed minnow populations for two years. Advertisement Within a year, male minnows showed delayed sperm development, smaller testes, and production of egg proteins. Self-sacrificing immune cells spew out DNA nets to trap invaders. As well as carrying genetic instructions, it turns out DNA makes a handy weapon too. As a last-ditch defence against invading microbes, immune cells spew out sticky nets of their DNA. “DNA is so physically packed that when you uncoil it you get a huge net,” says Donald Sheppard of McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
“It’s like one of those cans of exploding snakes, only a thousand times more dramatic.” Normally, immune cells called neutrophils kill microbes by gobbling them up or releasing toxic chemicals. But when all else fails, they disgorge complex nets of their DNA, studded with antimicrobial compounds. The nets can span small blood vessels, ensnaring and killing bacteria.
Four views: How can we save the rhino from poachers? Rhinos are in trouble. The ancient Sumatran rhino has been declared extinct in Malaysia, following the fate of black rhinos in West Africa in 2011. Central Africa's northern white rhino has been reduced to four animals, and conservationists say the more plentiful southern white rhinos are under unprecedented attack from poachers eager to sell the horns to Asian and Arab buyers. How can we save the rhino? Four experts discuss the problem with the BBC World Service Inquiry programme. Danene van der Westhuyzen: Licence hunters to kill ageing rhinos Danene van der Westhuyzen is one of only a few qualified female professional hunters in Namibia, and the first female dangerous game professional hunter ever to qualify in Namibia. Snow leopards face 'new climate change threat' Red meat cancer risk to be revealed by WHO.
Image copyright Thinkstock Processed meats - such as bacon, sausages and ham - do cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Explaining Elephants’ Cancer Resistance. Heart disease gene 'found in women' - oestrogen transcriptional factor. Image copyright SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Scientists have identified a gene that puts women at higher risk of heart disease, an early study suggests. The work showed that women who had a particular version of the BCAR1 gene were more likely than other women to have heart attacks and strokes. In contrast, men who had the gene were not at increased risk. Team wants to sell lab grown meat in five years. Immune clue to preventing schizophrenia. Young blood to be used in ultimate rejuvenation trial. First drug 'slows decline' in progressive MS - BBC News. Image copyright SPL.
Chemistry Nobel: Lindahl, Modrich and Sancar win for DNA repair. Image copyright Thinkstock. EFSA report considers risks of eating insects - BBC News. Image copyright Science Photo Library The European Food Safety Authority has published its initial risk assessment of using insects as a source of protein for human consumption and animal feed. It concluded that risks to human and animal health depended on how the insects were reared and processed. The UN suggests that "edible insects" could provide a sustainable source of nutrition for a growing population. Fast-tracked skin cancer drug pembrolizumab gets approval - BBC News. Image copyright DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY A new drug for advanced skin cancer should be made available on the NHS in England, experts recommend.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says pembrolizumab is cost-effective to use in patients who have already tried and not benefited from another drug called ipilimumab. The Ebola story. Leafcutter ants and their antibiotics. Rare 'healthy' smokers lungs explained - BBC News. Study supports cancer link with height - BBC News. Seaweed-coated cells save boy. 'Good bacteria' key to stopping asthma - BBC News. Can eating a curry help beat dementia? NOT drinking water. Stem cell trial aims to cure blindness - BBC News.