My picks from ScienceDaily


Rethinking The Genetic Theory Of Inheritance: Heritability May Not Be Limited To DNA:

Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have detected evidence that DNA may not be the only carrier of heritable information; a secondary molecular mechanism called epigenetics may also account for some inherited traits and diseases. These findings challenge the fundamental principles of genetics and inheritance, and potentially provide a new insight into the primary causes of human diseases.

This wasn’t new 50 years ago…
Adaptation Plays Significant Role In Human Evolution:

For years researchers have puzzled over whether adaptation plays a major role in human evolution or whether most changes are due to neutral, random selection of genes and traits. Geneticists at Stanford now have laid this question to rest. Their results, scheduled to be published Jan. 16 online in Public Library of Science Genetics, show adaptation-the process by which organisms change to better fit their environment-is indeed a large part of human genomic evolution.

Related….
Declining Male Fertility Linked To Water Pollution:

New research strengthens the link between water pollution and rising male fertility problems. The study, by Brunel University, the Universities of Exeter and Reading and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, shows for the first time how a group of testosterone-blocking chemicals is finding its way into UK rivers, affecting wildlife and potentially humans.

Microbe Composition In Gut May Hold Key To One Cause Of Obesity:

Biodesign Institute in collaboration with colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, Arizona, and the University of Arizona, reveal a tantalizing link between differing microbial populations in the human gut and body weight among three distinct groups: normal weight individuals, those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, and patients suffering the condition of morbid obesity–a serious, often life-threatening condition associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and psychosocial disorders. Obesity affects around 4 million Americans and, each year, some 300,000 die from obesity-related illness.

Language Driven By Culture, Not Biology, Study Shows:

Language in humans has evolved culturally rather than genetically, according to a study by UCL (University College London) and US researchers. By modelling the ways in which genes for language might have evolved alongside language itself, the study showed that genetic adaptation to language would be highly unlikely, as cultural conventions change much more rapidly than genes. Thus, the biological machinery upon which human language is built appears to predate the emergence of language. According to a phenomenon known as the Baldwin effect, characteristics that are learned or developed over a lifespan may become gradually encoded in the genome over many generations, because organisms with a stronger predisposition to acquire a trait have a selective advantage. Over generations, the amount of environmental exposure required to develop the trait decreases, and eventually no environmental exposure may be needed – the trait is genetically encoded.

Is There A Relationship Between Sleep-wake Rhythm And Diabetes?:

An international research team with German participation including Helmholtz Zentrum München, among other institutions, has succeeded in identifying a new gene variant which is associated with elevated fasting glucose levels and a high risk for type 2 diabetes.

Science Learning At Museums, Zoos, Other Informal Settings:

Each year, tens of millions of Americans, young and old, choose to learn about science in informal ways — by visiting museums and aquariums, attending after-school programs, pursuing personal hobbies, and watching TV documentaries, for example. There is abundant evidence that these programs and settings, and even everyday experiences such as a walk in the park, contribute to people’s knowledge and interest in science, says a new report from the National Research Council.

Blood Pressure Varies By The Season:

A French study has found a strong correlation between blood pressure and outdoor temperature in a large sample of the elderly. As a result, the investigators advise that, during periods of extreme temperatures, careful monitoring of blood pressure and antihypertensive treatment “could contribute to reducing the consequences of blood pressure variations in the elderly”.

European Evolutionary Biologists Rally Behind Richard Dawkins’ Extended Phenotype:

Richard Dawkins’ Extended Phenotype (EP) concept is as relevant now as when it was first proposed 26 years ago and is not at odds with other evolutionary explanations. This was the conclusion of a recent workshop on the Extended Phenotype today, organized by the European Science Foundation (ESF).

I never understood why Europeans are so much more enthralled by simplistic gene’s-eye view of evolution than others, e.g., Americans…
Orphaned Elephants Forced To Forge New Bonds Decades After Ivory Ban:

An African elephant never forgets – especially when it comes to the loss of its kin, according to researchers at the University of Washington. Their findings, published online in the journal, Molecular Ecology, reveal that the negative effects of poaching persist for decades after the killing has ended.

Large DNA Stretches, Not Single Genes, Shut Off As Cells Mature:

Experiments at Johns Hopkins have found that the gradual maturing of embryonic cells into cells as varied as brain, liver and immune system cells is apparently due to the shut off of several genes at once rather than in individual smatterings as previous studies have implied.

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