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Archive for the ‘evolution’ category

Aug 3, 2021

How sex cells get the right genetic mix: An interdisciplinary approach solves a century-old puzzle

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, genetics, sex

A new discovery explains what determines the number and position of genetic exchanges that occur in sex cells, such as pollen and eggs in plants, or sperm and eggs in humans.

When are produced by a special cell division called meiosis, chromosomes exchange large segments of DNA. This ensures that each new cell has a unique genetic makeup and explains why, with the exception of identical twins, no two siblings are ever completely genetically alike. These exchanges of DNA, or crossovers, are essential for generating , the driving force for evolution, and their frequency and position along chromosomes are tightly controlled.

Co-first author of the study Dr. Chris Morgan explains the significance of this phenomenon: “Crossover positioning has important implications for evolution, fertility and selective breeding. By understanding the mechanisms that drive crossover positioning we are more likely to be able to uncover methods to modify crossover positioning to improve current plant and animal breeding technologies.”

Jul 27, 2021

Neanderthal-like ‘mini-brains’ created in lab with CRISPR

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, neuroscience

“It’s an extraordinary paper with some extraordinary claims,” says Gray Camp, a developmental biologist at the University of Basel in Switzerland, whose lab last year reported2 growing brain organoids that contained a gene common to Neanderthals and humans. The latest work takes the research further by looking at gene variants that humans lost in evolution. But Camp remains sceptical about the implications of the results, and says the work opens more questions that will require investigation.

Humans are more closely related to Neanderthals and Denisovans than to any living primate, and some 40% of the Neanderthal genome can still be found spread throughout living humans. But researchers have limited means to study these ancient species’ brains — soft tissue is not well preserved, and most studies rely on inspecting the size and shape of fossilized skulls. Knowing how the species’ genes differ from humans’ is important because it helps researchers to understand what makes humans unique — especially in our brains.

The researchers, led by Alysson Muotri, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, used the genome-editing technique CRISPR–Cas9 to introduce the Neanderthal and Denisovan form of a gene called NOVA1 into human pluripotent stem cells, which can develop into any cell type. They cultured these to form organoids, clumps of brain-like tissue, up to 5 millimetres across, alongside normal human brain organoids for comparison.

Jul 23, 2021

Vaccines Are Pushing Pathogens to Evolve

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, genetics

In March 2017, Read and his Penn State colleague David Kennedy published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B in which they outlined several strategies that vaccine developers could use to ensure that future vaccines don’t get punked by evolutionary forces. One overarching recommendation is that vaccines should induce immune responses against multiple targets. A number of successful, seemingly evolution-proof vaccines already work this way: After people get inoculated with a tetanus shot, for example, their blood contains 100 types of unique antibodies, all of which fight the bacteria in different ways. In such a situation, it becomes much harder for a pathogen to accumulate all the changes needed to survive. It also helps if vaccines target all the known subpopulations of a particular pathogen, not just the most common or dangerous ones. Richard Malley and other researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital are, for instance, trying to develop a universal pneumococcal vaccine that is not serotype-specific.

Vaccines should also bar pathogens from replicating and transmitting inside inoculated hosts. One of the reasons that vaccine resistance is less of a problem than antibiotic resistance, Read and Kennedy posit, is that antibiotics tend to be given after an infection has already taken hold — when the pathogen population inside the host is already large and genetically diverse and might include mutants that can resist the drug’s effects. Most vaccines, on the other hand, are administered before infection and limit replication, which minimizes evolutionary opportunities.

But the most crucial need right now is for vaccine scientists to recognize the relevance of evolutionary biology to their field. Last month, when more than 1000 vaccine scientists gathered in Washington, D.C., at the World Vaccine Congress, the issue of vaccine-induced evolution was not the focus of any scientific sessions. Part of the problem, Read says, is that researchers are afraid: They’re nervous to talk about and call attention to potential evolutionary effects because they fear that doing so might fuel more fear and distrust of vaccines by the public — even though the goal is, of course, to ensure long-term vaccine success. Still, he and Kennedy feel researchers are starting to recognize the need to include evolution in the conversation. “I think the scientific community is becoming increasingly aware that vaccine resistance is a real risk,” Kennedy said.

Jul 21, 2021

What is a super app, and why haven’t they gone global? | CNBC Explains

Posted by in category: evolution

The super app, synonymous with popular mobile apps like WeChat, Grab, GoTo and Paytm, has enjoyed noteworthy success in Asian countries, but is relatively absent in other markets. CNBC’s Nessa Anwar, joined by Arjun Kharpal, explains the strategies and evolution behind the world’s biggest super apps.

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Jul 19, 2021

Mysterious New ‘Borg’ DNA Seems to Assimilate Genes From Different Organisms

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution

Mysterious strands of DNA that seemingly assimilate genes from many different organisms in their surrounding environment have been discovered in a Californian backyard.

Scientists have named these elements “Borgs”, and their discovery could help us not just understand the evolution of microorganisms, but their interactions within their ecosystems, and their role in the broader environment.

According to geomicrobiologist Jill Banfield from the University of California, Berkeley, Borgs could make for a tremendously significant discovery.

Jul 16, 2021

Genes from tiny viruses can turn bacteria into superbugs

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, genetics

Viruses that infect bacteria may drive the evolution of drug-resistant superbugs by inserting their genes into the bacterial DNA, a new study suggests.

The bacteria-attacking viruses, called phages, act as parasites in that they depend on their hosts for survival. The viral parasites often kill off their microbial hosts after infiltrating their DNA, said senior study author Vaughn Cooper, director of the Center for Evolutionary Biology and Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. But sometimes, the phages slip into the bacterial genome and then lay low, making sneaky changes to the bacterium’s behavior, Cooper said.

Jul 16, 2021

Researchers Shocked to Discover Bacterial Parasites Behind Rise of “Superbugs”

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, genetics

For the first time ever, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine discovered that phages — tiny viruses that attack bacteria — are key to initiating rapid bacterial evolution leading to the emergence of treatment-resistant “superbugs.” The findings were published today in Science Advances.

The researchers showed that, contrary to a dominant theory in the field of evolutionary microbiology, the process of adaptation and diversification in bacterial colonies doesn’t start from a homogenous clonal population. They were shocked to discover that the cause of much of the early adaptation wasn’t random point mutations. Instead, they found that phages, which we normally think of as bacterial parasites, are what gave the winning strains the evolutionary advantage early on.

“Essentially, a parasite became a weapon,” said senior author Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Pitt. “Phages endowed the victors with the means of winning. What killed off more sensitive bugs gave the advantage to others.”

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Jul 14, 2021

Tachyonic inflation in loop quantum cosmology

Posted by in categories: cosmology, evolution, quantum physics

A tachyon field might be responsible for cosmological inflation at an early time and contribute to cosmological dark matter at a later time. We investigate tachyonic inflation by analyzing a tachyon field with different potentials in the framework of loop quantum cosmology. No matter which tachyon field energy dominates at the bounce, the evolution of the background can be divided into three phases: super-inflation, damping, and slow-roll inflation. The duration of each phase depends on the initial condition. During the slow-roll inflation, when the initial condition is $$V(T_\mathrm{B})/\rho _\mathrm{c}\ge 10^{-6}$$ V(TB)/ρc≥10–6, the number of e-folds is very high ($$N\gg 60$$ N≫60) for $$V\propto T^{-n}$$ V∝T-n with $$n=1$$ n=1 and 1 / 2. For an exponential potential, to get enough e-folds, $$V(T_\mathrm{B})/\rho _\mathrm{c}$$ V(TB)/ρc should be greater than $$7.802\times 10^{-4}$$7.

Jul 13, 2021

1 Billion Years of Tectonic Plate Movement in 40 Seconds

Posted by in category: evolution

This animated map shows the last billion years of Earth’s tectonic plate movement in just 40 seconds, showing how continents formed.

Jul 11, 2021

Researchers Discover Orbital Patterns of Trans-Neptunian Objects Vary Based on Their Color

Posted by in categories: chemistry, evolution, particle physics, space

Data collected can be used to provide new insights into the evolution of the Kuiper Belt, and the larger solar system.

Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), small objects that orbit the sun beyond Neptune, are fossils from the early days of the solar system which can tell us a lot about its formation and evolution.

A new study led by Mohamad Ali-Dib, a research scientist at the NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Astro, Particle, and Planetary Physics, reports the significant discovery that two groups of TNOs with different surface colors also have very different orbital patterns. This new information can be compared to models of the solar system to provide fresh insights into its early chemistry. Additionally, this discovery paves the way for further understanding of the formation of the Kuiper Belt itself, an area beyond Neptune comprised of icy objects, that is also the source of some comets.

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