genetics and genomics

My most recently completed project for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and one of my last projects!
An opening spread for a Living Bird article on avian genomics, and how studying avian genomes sometimes makes figuring out species relationships less clear, despite having more information! Can you name all the warblers depicted?


My dash is getting kinda eh, so I’m looking for new people to follow :)

Bonus points if you:
-post about biology
-are in high school
-post more guides than aesthetics
-like dogs

Reblog or like this to let me find you!
Ancient genomes heat up dog domestication debate
Results point to a single origin for modern canines and push back the timing by thousands of years.

Researchers chasing the origin of modern dogs find that canines were domesticated once, between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

The results, published on 18 July in Nature Communications1, push back against a controversial 2016 study2 that suggested dogs were domesticated twice. The latest analysis also add weight to previous research that moves the timing of domestication back as far as 40,000 years ago.  

Continue Reading.


So uh

Last night I 

Kind of got a little drunk

And made this


anonymous asked:

Do you think that some cabins have demigods with powers that fall in the range of their parent's, but is completely opposite the rest of their half-siblings? Say, an Apollo kid who makes people sicker or a an especially hyperactive Hypnos kid?

Yes! That’s something I fully support, because each reaction has an equal and opposite reaction, meaning for each possible power there is an opposite power, within reason. I think it depends on how the god manifested themselves upon meeting the mortal parent. The Twelve Olympians are gods/goddesses of multiple things, such as Hermes being the god of travelers and thieves. In a very simplified example, if you met Hermes at like a hostel vs if you met him on a heist of some sorts.

I think that in part explains the variance in powers, and how most children would have very similar powers, like a lot of Apollo kids are healers due to their parents meeting Apollo in a situation where he was a doctor or a healer of some sort.

However, that’s just a hypothesis. I’m sure there’s also a variance of randomness in there, because god’s don’t have DNA so there’s no hereditary traits. But, that brings up the question of how demigods get any traits from the parents like all Hermes kids having the same mischievous look annnnd now I’m getting off topic and geeking out over genetics.

But yeah, I totally support polar-opposite demigod powers.
In a first, scientists rid human embryos of a potentially fatal gene mutation by editing their DNA
A mutation implicated in a heritable heart condition has been corrected in human embryos using the CRISPR–Cas9 genome editing technique. Are designer babies next?
By Melissa Healy

Using a powerful gene-editing technique, scientists have rid human embryos of a mutation responsible for an inherited form of heart disease that’s often deadly to healthy young athletes and adults in their prime.

The experiment marks the first time that scientists have altered the human genome to erase a disease-causing mutation not only from the DNA of the primary subject but from the genes of his or her progeny as well.

Continue Reading.


CRISPR in a nutshell


Brit Garner, host of SciShow Psych, talks about the research she’s doing in conservation genetics/genomics!

Weird Elf & Dwarf Maunderings

I find genetics a fascinating real-world topic, but when it comes to Elves & Dwarves, I discover that I don’t want them to have real-world genetics. 

I want the genome of the Elves to be written in poetry, to be made of music, not nucleic acids.    I want the genome of the Dwarves to be hewn from the living rock, to be in some indefinable way, geological as well as biological. 

I want Elves to be able to sing themselves well when they are ill, I want discord to make them sick, and melody to nourish them.  I want Dior to be both Man and Elf, depending on what cradle-songs he heard.  I want Tuor to live on in Aman, despite his human form because the endless singing of the sea which knows no rules transforms him into something different and strange…

I want Dwarf bodies, once the spirit has departed to become one with the rock, or at least to form a sort of vein of crystal. 

Eternally frustrated that I don’t seem to be able to write elves as real and strange at the same time.  How does that work?

i should know better than to read the comments of a news article outlining the CMO’s annual report describing her wish to transform the NHS’s use of genetic and genomic medicine… far too many comments from joe bloggs round the corner crying out issues of eugenics and how ‘she doesn’t know what shes doing’… you know, its not like shes a highly qualified professor with an incredibly large team of other highly qualified academics who have collaborated on a 290+ page document or anything…
Gene-edited 'micropigs' to be sold as pets at Chinese institute
Cutting-edge gene-editing techniques have produced an unexpected byproduct — tiny pigs that a leading Chinese genomics institute will soon sell as pets. The pigs are endearing but scientists warn that they may be a distraction from more serious research.
Octopus genome holds clues to uncanny intelligence
DNA sequence expanded in areas otherwise reserved for vertebrates.

With its eight prehensile arms lined with suckers, camera-like eyes, elaborate repertoire of camouflage tricks and spooky intelligence, the octopus is like no other creature on Earth.

Added to those distinctions is an unusually large genome, described in Nature1 on 12 August, that helps to explain how a mere mollusc evolved into an otherworldly being.

“It’s the first sequenced genome from something like an alien,” jokes neurobiologist Clifton Ragsdale of the University of Chicago in Illinois, who co-led the genetic analysis of the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides).

The work was carried out by researchers from the University of Chicago, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Heidelberg in Germany and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. The scientists also investigated gene expression in twelve different types of octopus tissue.

“It’s important for us to know the genome, because it gives us insights into how the sophisticated cognitive skills of octopuses evolved,” says neurobiologist Benny Hochner at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, who has studied octopus neurophysiology for 20 years. Researchers want to understand how the cephalopods, a class of free-floating molluscs, produced a creature that is clever enough to navigate highly complex mazes and open jars filled with tasty crabs.

Continue Reading.

“I’m fascinated by the idea that genetics is digital. A gene is a long sequence of coded letters, like computer information. Modern biology is becoming very much a branch of information technology.”
 ― Richard Dawkins

‘Platinum’ genome takes on disease

Geneticists have a dirty little secret. More than a decade after the official completion of the Human Genome Project, and despite the publication of multiple updates, the sequence still has hundreds of gaps — many in regions linked to disease. Now, several research efforts are closing in on a truly complete human genome sequence, called the platinum genome.

“It’s like mapping Europe and somebody says, ‘Oh, there’s Norway. I really don’t want to have to do the fjords’,” says Ewan Birney, a computational biologist at the European Bioinformatics Institute near Cambridge, UK, who was involved in the Human Genome Project. “Now somebody’s in there and mapping the fjords.”

The efforts, which rely on the DNA from peculiar cellular growths, are uncovering DNA sequences not found in the official human genome sequence that have potential links to conditions such as autism and the neuro-degenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

In 2000, then US President Bill Clinton joined leading scientists to unveil a draft human genome. Three years later, the project was declared finished. But there were caveats: that human ‘reference’ genome was more than 99% complete, but researchers could not get to 100% because of method limitations.

Continue Reading.

Seeking SciNote, Biology: CRISPR


What do geneticists think will be possible when the the new gene-splicing CRISPR is fully operational on patients?


For those of us unfamiliar, CRISPR is a revolutionary new genetic splicing technology. Gene splicing refers to modifications to a gene transcript that can result in different proteins being made from a single gene. Interestingly, CRISPR’s inception began when dairy scientists discovered that bacteria used to create yogurt (by transforming lactose into lactic acid) had incorporated snippets of benign viruses into its genome. To their surprise, the incorporated DNA would create toxic agents to thwart infective viruses. In 2007, dairy scientists realized that they could effectively fortify bacteria by adding spacer DNA, which does not code for any protein sequence, from a virus. Then, five years later, as Time Magazine writer Alice Park skilfully describes, professors Jennifer Doudna and Emanuelle Charpentier noticed “up to 40% of bacteria developed a particular genetic pattern in their genomes. What they found were sequences of genes immediately followed by the same sequence in reverse, known as palindromic sequences. Further, bits of random DNA bases cropped up after each such pairing and right before the next one. After the dairy bacteria transcribed its spacer DNA and palindromic sequence into RNA, it self-spliced those segments into shorter fragments, with an enzyme called CAS9”. As you may be wondering, CRISPR stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”.

It is important for us to emphasize the versatility of this method. In the 2007 article, Doudna and Charpentier go into depth regarding the many benefits of the new genetic technology. These include the potential to “systematically analyze gene functions in mammalian cells, study genomic rearrangements and the progression of cancers or other diseases, and potentially correct genetic mutations responsible for inherited disorders”. As you might imagine, this opens up possibilities that were previously science fiction. Currently, painful blood transfusions are commonplace in the treatment of many diseases such as sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell affects red blood cells, which are made by stem cells in bone marrow. Soon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology synthetic biologist Feng Zhang envisions that this will soon no longer be necessary. She predicts that after doctors extract some of the marrow, scientists will splice out the defective fragment of DNA using CRISPR from the removed stem cells, then bathe the cells in a solution containing the non-sickle-cell sequence. As the DNA repairs itself naturally, it picks up the correct sequence and incorporates it into the stem cell genomes. After this one-time procedure, the stem cells would give rise to more red blood cells with the healthy gene. Eventually, the blood system would be repopulated with normal cells.

The treatment of HIV using CRISPR would be very similar. In this potential treatment, “patients would provide a sample of blood stem cells from their bone marrow, which would be treated with CRISPR to remove the CCR5 gene, and these cells would be transplanted back to the patient. Since the bone marrow stem cells populate the entire blood and immune system, the patient would eventually have blood cells that were protected, or “immunized,” against HIV”.

Despite this extraordinary potential, no biological technology comes without serious ethical concerns. As Jennifer Douda says herself, CRISPR “really requires us to careful thought to how we employ such a tool: What are we trying to do with it, what are the appropriate applications, how can we use it safely?”

Check out her book The Stem Cell Hope for learning about the future of stem cell technology.

Park, Alice. “A New Gene-Splicing Technique.” 100 New Scientific Discoveries: Fascinating, Unbelievable and Mind-expanding Stories. New York, NY: TIME, 2014. 92-95. Print.

Park, Alice. “It May Be Possible To Prevent HIV Even Without a Vaccine.” Time. Time, 6 Nov. 2014. Web.

Doudna, Jennifer A., and Charpentier, Emmanuelle (2014). The new frontier of genome engineering with CRISPR-Cas9. Science, 346(6213), 1258096–1258096. doi:10.1126/science.1258096

Answered by: Teodora S., Expert Leader and Expert John M.

Edited by: Carrie K.