Genomic data support early contact between Easter Island and Americas

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People may have been making their way from Easter Island to the Americas well before the Dutch commander Jakob Roggeveen arrived with his ships in 1722, according to new genomic evidence showing that the Rapanui people living on that most isolated of islands had significant contact with Native American populations hundreds of years earlier. The findings reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 23 lend the first genetic support for such an early trans-Pacific route between Polynesia and the Americas, an impressive trek of more than 4,000 kilometers (nearly 2,500 miles).

The findings are a reminder that “early human populations extensively explored the planet,” says Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas from the Natural History Museum of Denmark’s Centre for GeoGenetics. “Textbook versions of human colonization events—the peopling of the Americas, for example—need to be re-evaluated utilizing genomic data.” Read more.

Man’s Genome From 45,000 Years Ago Is Reconstructed

Scientists have reconstructed the genome of a man who lived 45,000 years ago, by far the oldest genetic record ever obtained from modern humans. The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, provided new clues to the expansion of modern humans from Africa about 60,000 years ago, when they moved into Europe and Asia.”

Find out more from nytimes.

Neanderthals and Humans First Mated 50,000 Years Ago, DNA From Siberian Bone Reveals

By analyzing the bone of a man who lived and died more than 40,000 years ago, scientists have determined a precise timetable for the start of human/neanderthal interspecies breeding.. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/1t6RIpO

Image: Svante Pääbo studies the bone belonging to the Ust’-Ishim man (Credit: Bence Viola, MPI EVA)

Parveln

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Absent is 4 the kids.

Det fanns en gång ett höghus
där varje kotte låg och slumra.
Mammor, Pappor och Slangare sov, 
även hemska Trålan blunda.
Och gatorna var mörka och tysta, 
det hördes varken siren eller tjut.
Förutom prasslet från en parvel 
som gjorde sig redo för att smyga ut.


För parveln hade svårt att sova, 
för hen var väldigt trasslig i knoppen.
Alla tankar som snurrade i huvudet
gjorde honom så ledsen inuti kroppen.
Så parveln knöt sina gympaskor
och smög ut på en kvällspromenad. 
Kanske ser hen något vackert
som kan göra honom glad. 


Och parveln gick med tunga steg, 
ja längre än hen någonsin gått.
Fast inget verkade hjälpa, 
sämre hade hen aldrig mått.
För vad hjälper en förortspromenad 
när arga tankar virvlar runt.
Om man inte har någon att krama 
när allt känns ensamt, mörkt och tungt.


Så parveln satte sig ner och grät
under himlen så svart och blå.
När hen plötsligt såg något mystiskt
genom tårarna i sin ögonvrå.
Bortom grenar, mossa, stenar och löv, 
gömd vid botten av ett berg.
Låg en vacker gammal ryggsäck, 
fylld till bredden med glimrande färg.

Sid 1-4 av 18. Titel: Parveln Text: Absent [E·S·B / TONY’S] Illustrationer: Hacke [HNR / DSF / PNG] Utgivningsdatum: 2016 -10 -10

För Fredrik.

the-virtuous-thief-of-enix said:

"Xigbar... if you keep that up, you're gonna fall off the bed..." The genome made his way over, as he was helping the other before he would end up falling off of his bed along with the blankets, "Are you alright?" He wanted to make sure, hoping his friend wasn't sick or having bad dreams, considering his tangled up state.

*Xigbar was woken up by the other basically pulling him back in his bed.* Hmm? Wha’? Yeah ‘m fine. Why?

Botocudos Chief Brasil

People may have been making their way from Easter Island to the Americas well before the Dutch commander Jakob Roggeveen arrived with his ships in 1722, according to new genomic evidence showing that the Rapanui people living on that most isolated of islands had significant contact with Native American populations hundreds of years earlier. The findings reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 23 lend the first genetic support for such an early trans-Pacific route between Polynesia and the Americas, an impressive trek of more than 4,000 kilometers (nearly 2,500 miles).

The findings are a reminder that “early human populations extensively explored the planet,” says Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas from the Natural History Museum of Denmark’s Centre for GeoGenetics. “Textbook versions of human colonization events—the peopling of the Americas, for example—need to be re-evaluated utilizing genomic data.”

On that note, a second article that will appear in the same issue of Current Biology by Malaspinas along with Eske Willerslev and their colleagues examined two human skulls representing the indigenous “Botocudos” of Brazil to find that their genomic ancestry is Polynesian, with no detectable Native American component at all.

Archaeological evidence had suggested that 30 to 100 Polynesian men, women, and children first landed on Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, around AD 1200, arriving in two or more double-hulled canoes. After settling on the isolated island, the Rapanui famously built giant stone platforms and over 900 statues, some weighing as much as 82 tons.

While it may have taken weeks for Polynesians to reach even the closest nearby islands, there are hints of contact with the larger world. For example, there is evidence for the presence of crops native to the Americas in Polynesia, including the Andean sweet potato, long before the first reported European contact.

Genome-wide analysis of 27 native Rapanui now confirms significant contact between the island people and Native Americans sometime between approximately AD 1300 and AD 1500, 19 to 23 generations ago. The Rapanui population began mixing with Europeans only much later, in about 1850. The ancestry of the Rapanui today is ?76% Polynesian, 8% Native American, and 16% European.

The Rapanui are famous for building giant stone platforms and statues.

The new evidence about the Rapanui suggests one of two scenarios: either Native Americans sailed to Rapa Nui or Polynesians sailed to the Americas and back. The researchers say that it seems more likely that the Rapanui successfully made the trip back and forth, given simulations presented in previous studies showing that “all sailing voyages heading intentionally east from Rapa Nui would always reach the Americas, with a trip lasting from two weeks to approximately two months.” On the other hand, the trip from the Americas to Rapa Nui is much more challenging, which would have made it likely to fail or miss the island completely. From the Americas, Rapa Nui is indeed a small target, which might also explain why it took Europeans so long to find it.

The Rapanui are famous for building giant stone platforms and statues.

Method Allows Fast Analysis of Cancer Mutations

Sequencing the genomes of tumor cells has revealed thousands of genetic mutations linked with cancer. However, sifting through this deluge of information to figure out which of these mutations actually drive cancer growth has proven to be a tedious, time-consuming process.

MIT researchers have developed a new way to model the effects of these genetic mutations in mice. Their approach, based on the genome-editing technique known as CRISPR, is much faster than existing strategies, which require genetically engineering mice that carry the cancerous mutations.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/10/method-allows-fast-analysis-cancer-mutations

Finns inga ord över hur tacksam jag är att jag har honom. Min klippa genom en jävligt tuff storm som nu har lagt sig. Åhhhhh jag är så kär i honom. Helt galet.

Food for Thought

Is it weird that every time my biology or psychology professor brings up identical twins, I think of Tegan and Sara? Like last week in PSYC we learned that the IQ concordance between monozygotic twins is higher than that of dizygotic twins or of any other familial relationship. Today in BIOL, we learned that what sets identical twins apart is the environment in which they are raised, so it makes wonder about what environmental factors contributed to Tegan and Sara’s personality to be the way they are right now, or what cues led to their genomes to be moulded as they are now. Hell, my BIOL professor even talked about how twin telepathy is a phenomenon that can exist in certain twins (she has twin sisters and she says that they preform certain actions in the same manor and time, can sense when the other is upset/happy, and can “communicate” non-verbally with full understanding of the situation or subject in discussion) depending on the environment and how they’re raised. The most interesting thing that I learned was of the twin-twin transfusion syndrome (which can be both mild and severe), in which that blood from one twin is being transferred into the other twin in the womb, resulting in one of the babies being born anemic and small, and the other one being polycythemic (an increased number of red blood cells); Michael J. Fox’s twins were born with this syndrome.

Granted, Tegan and Sara both have different medical conditions (what with Tegan’s ptosis and Sara’s asthma) but it is just so fascinating to see the differences and similarities between both women. Like they are 100% identical copies of each other. They have the same DNA sequencing pattern, the same blood type, the same body size (with the absence of their facial structure), the same organs, the same (if not really similar) IQ, the same cellular structures, and the same sexual orientation. It’s so cool and makes me really want to have an identical twin. The biology and psychology behind twins (both identical or fraternal - which I learned there is a 1/285 chance of having identical twins and a 1/80 chance of having fraternal twins) is so freaking interesting you have no idea.

I know this may sound really creepy, but I’d be so down to do further research with twin studies. There’s so much we can learn about the presence of genes in regards to health, tastes, personality, disease, illness through twin studies. I mean, Biology is my least favourite science, but there is something about behavioural genetics that is so fucking cool. Granted, there are several criticisms regarding heritability and statistical accuracy in twin studies, I still think that so long as they are ethical and safe, they provide so much information in regards to environmental and genetic influences in regards to the individual in the sample. 

Schizophrenia not a single disease but multiple genetically distinct disorders

New research shows that schizophrenia isn’t a single disease but a group of eight genetically distinct disorders, each with its own set of symptoms. The finding could be a first step toward improved diagnosis and treatment for the debilitating psychiatric illness.

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The research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is reported online Sept. 15 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

About 80 percent of the risk for schizophrenia is known to be inherited, but scientists have struggled to identify specific genes for the condition. Now, in a novel approach analyzing genetic influences on more than 4,000 people with schizophrenia, the research team has identified distinct gene clusters that contribute to eight different classes of schizophrenia.

“Genes don’t operate by themselves,” said C. Robert Cloninger, MD, PhD, one of the study’s senior investigators. “They function in concert much like an orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.”

Cloninger, the Wallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry and Genetics, and his colleagues matched precise DNA variations in people with and without schizophrenia to symptoms in individual patients. In all, the researchers analyzed nearly 700,000 sites within the genome where a single unit of DNA is changed, often referred to as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). They looked at SNPs in 4,200 people with schizophrenia and 3,800 healthy controls, learning how individual genetic variations interacted with each other to produce the illness.

In some patients with hallucinations or delusions, for example, the researchers matched distinct genetic features to patients’ symptoms, demonstrating that specific genetic variations interacted to create a 95 percent certainty of schizophrenia. In another group, they found that disorganized speech and behavior were specifically associated with a set of DNA variations that carried a 100 percent risk of schizophrenia.

“What we’ve done here, after a decade of frustration in the field of psychiatric genetics, is identify the way genes interact with each other, how the ‘orchestra’ is either harmonious and leads to health, or disorganized in ways that lead to distinct classes of schizophrenia,” Cloninger said. 

Although individual genes have only weak and inconsistent associations with schizophrenia, groups of interacting gene clusters create an extremely high and consistent risk of illness, on the order of 70 to 100 percent. That makes it almost impossible for people with those genetic variations to avoid the condition. In all, the researchers identified 42 clusters of genetic variations that dramatically increased the risk of schizophrenia.

“In the past, scientists had been looking for associations between individual genes and schizophrenia,” explained Dragan Svrakic, PhD, MD, a co-investigator and a professor of psychiatry at Washington University. “When one study would identify an association, no one else could replicate it. What was missing was the idea that these genes don’t act independently. They work in concert to disrupt the brain’s structure and function, and that results in the illness.”

Svrakic said it was only when the research team was able to organize the genetic variations and the patients’ symptoms into groups that they could see that particular clusters of DNA variations acted together to cause specific types of symptoms.

Then they divided patients according to the type and severity of their symptoms, such as different types of hallucinations or delusions, and other symptoms, such as lack of initiative, problems organizing thoughts or a lack of connection between emotions and thoughts. The results indicated that those symptom profiles describe eight qualitatively distinct disorders based on underlying genetic conditions.

The investigators also replicated their findings in two additional DNA databases of people with schizophrenia, an indicator that identifying the gene variations that are working together is a valid avenue to explore for improving diagnosis and treatment.

By identifying groups of genetic variations and matching them to symptoms in individual patients, it soon may be possible to target treatments to specific pathways that cause problems, according to co-investigator Igor Zwir, PhD, research associate in psychiatry at Washington University and associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Granada, Spain.

And Cloninger added it may be possible to use the same approach to better understand how genes work together to cause other common but complex disorders.

“People have been looking at genes to get a better handle on heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, and it’s been a real disappointment,” he said. “Most of the variability in the severity of disease has not been explained, but we were able to find that different sets of genetic variations were leading to distinct clinical syndromes. So I think this really could change the way people approach understanding the causes of complex diseases.”

A little-known fact: Invertebrates make up more than 70% of the approximately 1.9 million described species on earth!  

The Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance researchers are hoping to sequence the whole genomes of many of these weird and wonderful creatures. Read more in their Journal of Heredity article.

Image credit: Vallicula multiformis (platyctenid; Ctenophora), Pherecarida sp. (fireworm; Annelida), Epimeria robusta (amphipod; Crustacea), Phoronopsis californica (horseshoe worm; Phoronida), Flabellum sp. (solitary coral; Cnidaria), Millnesium sp. (water bear; Tardigrada), Glass sponge (Porifera), Collosondeis sp. (sea spider; Pycnogonida). Reproduced with permission from Greg Rouse.

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If you haven’t heard by now - their ‘Real Vegan Cheese’ Indiegogo campaign is nearly fully funded - a team of Biohackers from Oakland, CA are currently developing cruelty-free vegan cheese by studying animal genomes to source natural milk-protein genetic sequences, which are then optimized for yeast to produce a yeast milk protein, synthesize, then, once placed in yeast cells, real milk-protein is produced from the DNA “blueprint” procured by the team.

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Why do this? From the campaign site:

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Indiegogo || Facebook || Twitter || Wiki || YouTube || Website

Read the article over at Motherboard to learn more, because this is as cool as it sounds.

Support this!

DNA: Celebrate the unknowns | Philip Ball

On the 60th anniversary of the double helix, we should admit that we don’t fully understand how evolution works at the molecular level, suggests Philip Ball.

This week’s diamond jubilee of the discovery of DNA’s molecular structure rightly celebrates how Francis Crick, James Watson and their collaborators launched the ‘genomic age’ by revealing how hereditary information is encoded in the double helix. Yet the conventional narrative — in which their 1953 Nature paper led inexorably to the Human Genome Project and the dawn of personalized medicine — is as misleading as the popular narrative of gene function itself, in which the DNA sequence is translated into proteins and ultimately into an organism’s observable characteristics, or phenotype.

Sixty years on, the very definition of ‘gene’ is hotly debated. We do not know what most of our DNA does, nor how, or to what extent it governs traits. In other words, we do not fully understand how evolution works at the molecular level.

That sounds to me like an extraordinarily exciting state of affairs, comparable perhaps to the disruptive discovery in cosmology in 1998 that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating rather than decelerating, as astronomers had believed since the late 1920s. Yet, while specialists debate what the latest findings mean, the rhetoric of popular discussions of DNA, genomics and evolution remains largely unchanged, and the public continues to be fed assurances that DNA is as solipsistic a blueprint as ever.

[Read more]

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