Chromosome 2: Two ChromosomesPossibly one of my favorite examples of why evolution is practically an unquestionable fact lies in a genetic novelty. As a large proportion of you will know, humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. What less of you will probably know is that chimpanzees, gorillas and other members of family Hominidae (to which we also belong) all have 24 pairs of chromosomes. So where did that extra chromosome go? The answer lies in a quick glance at chromosome 2 which is the second largest human chromosome, storing 8% of all our genes. Chromosome 2 has several odd features such as the existence of the remnants of a second centromere along with extra telomeres (the regions at the end of a chromosome). The sequence of base pairs on chromosome 2 also corresponds almost exactly with two other chromosomes found in other members of hominidae which is fairly strong evidence for the fusion of two chromosomes at some point in our past. Chromosome 2 has also been linked to increased intelligence along with also being the chromosome that carries the genes for autism, synesthesia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which is better known as the motor-neuron disease that Stephen Hawking has.

Chromosome 2: Two Chromosomes

Possibly one of my favorite examples of why evolution is practically an unquestionable fact lies in a genetic novelty. As a large proportion of you will know, humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. What less of you will probably know is that chimpanzees, gorillas and other members of family Hominidae (to which we also belong) all have 24 pairs of chromosomes. So where did that extra chromosome go? The answer lies in a quick glance at chromosome 2 which is the second largest human chromosome, storing 8% of all our genes. Chromosome 2 has several odd features such as the existence of the remnants of a second centromere along with extra telomeres (the regions at the end of a chromosome). The sequence of base pairs on chromosome 2 also corresponds almost exactly with two other chromosomes found in other members of hominidae which is fairly strong evidence for the fusion of two chromosomes at some point in our past. Chromosome 2 has also been linked to increased intelligence along with also being the chromosome that carries the genes for autism, synesthesia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which is better known as the motor-neuron disease that Stephen Hawking has.

Mammoths V2.0Finally! Okay so I’ve grown up hearing about the possibility of cloning mammoths so this is exciting news. Two teams in Japan and Russia have finally taken the plunge and decided to attempt to clone a mammoth using an elephant egg injected with mammoth DNA. One of the major problems with cloning mammoths is finding the DNA (that isn’t to say it is the only problem), but thankfully we may now have some from the thigh bone of a dead mammoth found in Siberia. The teams are projected to have a baby mammoth by 2017, the first in nearly 10,000 years. Still let’s not get our hopes up, it’s a long way yet and certainly a difficult challenge.

Mammoths V2.0

Finally! Okay so I’ve grown up hearing about the possibility of cloning mammoths so this is exciting news. Two teams in Japan and Russia have finally taken the plunge and decided to attempt to clone a mammoth using an elephant egg injected with mammoth DNA. One of the major problems with cloning mammoths is finding the DNA (that isn’t to say it is the only problem), but thankfully we may now have some from the thigh bone of a dead mammoth found in Siberia. The teams are projected to have a baby mammoth by 2017, the first in nearly 10,000 years. Still let’s not get our hopes up, it’s a long way yet and certainly a difficult challenge.

Stained EmbryosThis picture shows an array of cross sections of Drosophila melanogaster embryos that are about a millimeter in size. They’ve been stained using antibodies in order to show the various molecules which will eventually subdivide to form one of three different kinds of tissue: skin, muscle and cells of the nervous system.

Stained Embryos

This picture shows an array of cross sections of Drosophila melanogaster embryos that are about a millimeter in size. They’ve been stained using antibodies in order to show the various molecules which will eventually subdivide to form one of three different kinds of tissue: skin, muscle and cells of the nervous system.

This X-ray shows something quite remarkable: a 13,800 year old mammoth rib with a man made projectile embedded in it. This makes it the oldest piece of hunting equipment found in North America by 800 years. It’s likely that this piece of bone became embedded in the mammoth’s rib as the projectile or spear was thrust into the animal’s torso in the attempt of getting a vital organ. Anthropologists have been able to conclude it’s age of 13,800 years after 4 decades since it’s discovery thanks to radiocarbon dating. The man made status of the point came from CT scans which revealed the razor sharp, worked edges along with a DNA analysis that revealed the bone came from a separate mastodon.

This X-ray shows something quite remarkable: a 13,800 year old mammoth rib with a man made projectile embedded in it. This makes it the oldest piece of hunting equipment found in North America by 800 years. It’s likely that this piece of bone became embedded in the mammoth’s rib as the projectile or spear was thrust into the animal’s torso in the attempt of getting a vital organ. Anthropologists have been able to conclude it’s age of 13,800 years after 4 decades since it’s discovery thanks to radiocarbon dating. The man made status of the point came from CT scans which revealed the razor sharp, worked edges along with a DNA analysis that revealed the bone came from a separate mastodon.

Forget email; try E. coliScientists have recently genetically engineered 7 strains of E. coli to fluoresce 7 different colors (false coloured in the picture) under varying light conditions. What could be the purpose of this? Why a novel way of sending encrypted messages of course! By pairing the E. coli using you can make it so that certain combinations denote certain characters. These pairs can then be laid out on a plate or piece of paper in a certain order to express a message. This can then be sent through the post, received, grown in culture and translated. Somehow I don’t think it’ll catch on, but there is also the interesting possibility of genetically engineering them to self-destruct after reading.

Forget email; try E. coli

Scientists have recently genetically engineered 7 strains of E. coli to fluoresce 7 different colors (false coloured in the picture) under varying light conditions. What could be the purpose of this? Why a novel way of sending encrypted messages of course! By pairing the E. coli using you can make it so that certain combinations denote certain characters. These pairs can then be laid out on a plate or piece of paper in a certain order to express a message. This can then be sent through the post, received, grown in culture and translated.

Somehow I don’t think it’ll catch on, but there is also the interesting possibility of genetically engineering them to self-destruct after reading.

Glow-in-the-Dark Cats may help cure AIDS.Genetic engineering is one of those things that gets a bad rap despite being a rather natural occurrence in bacteria and even certain higher organisms. Also it gives us cats that glow in the dark, which is totally freaking awesome!The cat seen above wasn’t just created for shits and giggles though. There’s a more serious reason behind this fluorescent feline: battling AIDS. Currently there’s two AIDS pandemics in the world: the human one with the better PR team and the feline version. As such scientists have created Glow-in-the-Dark cats as a way of exploring the genetic system of cats in order to better understand how to combat the genetic aspect of the AIDS/HIV virus.In genetic modification of this type cat DNA is inserted with a set of two genes, one from rhesus monkey that conveys resilience to HIV and one from jellyfish that gives them the eerie glow. The idea behind this is that if the cat glows it’s also highly likely to have the viral resistance gene as well.

Glow-in-the-Dark Cats may help cure AIDS.

Genetic engineering is one of those things that gets a bad rap despite being a rather natural occurrence in bacteria and even certain higher organisms. Also it gives us cats that glow in the dark, which is totally freaking awesome!

The cat seen above wasn’t just created for shits and giggles though. There’s a more serious reason behind this fluorescent feline: battling AIDS. Currently there’s two AIDS pandemics in the world: the human one with the better PR team and the feline version. As such scientists have created Glow-in-the-Dark cats as a way of exploring the genetic system of cats in order to better understand how to combat the genetic aspect of the AIDS/HIV virus.

In genetic modification of this type cat DNA is inserted with a set of two genes, one from rhesus monkey that conveys resilience to HIV and one from jellyfish that gives them the eerie glow. The idea behind this is that if the cat glows it’s also highly likely to have the viral resistance gene as well.

It’s well know that genes can spread between different bacterium in the process known as horizontal gene transfer or bacterial conjugation. These genes can convey a variety of traits most notably resistance to antibiotics. In a way this is a form of fast forwarding evolution in a single species and now for one of the first times there is an example of gene transferral between two separate species of mammals. Of course not by horizontal gene transfer but by interbreeding. The European House mouse has a chunk of “stolen” DNA originally from the Algerian mouse and while this may not seem particularly stand out as interbreeding happens relatively often the fact is these two species of mice and more different from each other than humans are from chimps. The fact is that the mice with chunks of the poison resistant gene from Algerian mice are not hybrids of the two species but are still European House mice. It’s also worth taking into consideration that the poison that this gene conveys resistance to only came on the market 50 or so years ago.

It’s well know that genes can spread between different bacterium in the process known as horizontal gene transfer or bacterial conjugation. These genes can convey a variety of traits most notably resistance to antibiotics. In a way this is a form of fast forwarding evolution in a single species and now for one of the first times there is an example of gene transferral between two separate species of mammals. Of course not by horizontal gene transfer but by interbreeding. The European House mouse has a chunk of “stolen” DNA originally from the Algerian mouse and while this may not seem particularly stand out as interbreeding happens relatively often the fact is these two species of mice and more different from each other than humans are from chimps. The fact is that the mice with chunks of the poison resistant gene from Algerian mice are not hybrids of the two species but are still European House mice. It’s also worth taking into consideration that the poison that this gene conveys resistance to only came on the market 50 or so years ago.

The idea of your DNA.

While the exact sequence of your DNA is entirely specific to you (probably), I’ve always thought that’s it strange that we consider it ours. You should hopefully know that you inherit half of your genetic material from your mother and half from your father, therefore your DNA is really just a mix of the DNA of someone else. In turn their DNA is half and half from their parents (interestingly enough however your DNA is not necessarily a quarter of your grandparent’s DNA, it could in fact be that you are genetically the child of say your grandfather and your mother, it’s unlikely though). So can we really say that we own our DNA? The way I see it is really just that we belong to our genetics rather than the reverse.

Here’s an x-ray of a hand. It took a lot of my fellow students awhile to notice what was wrong with it, and they all want to be medical doctors…Funnily enough this is a mutation in the gene that controls the suppression of fingers rather than the growing of them. Also here’s a fancy word for you guys: polydactyl which means to have multiple fingers or toes. It’s also quite common in cats.

Here’s an x-ray of a hand. It took a lot of my fellow students awhile to notice what was wrong with it, and they all want to be medical doctors…

Funnily enough this is a mutation in the gene that controls the suppression of fingers rather than the growing of them. Also here’s a fancy word for you guys: polydactyl which means to have multiple fingers or toes. It’s also quite common in cats.

Aside from that being a supah cooyoote sparrow up there. I have some actual sciencey knowledge to pass on that I thought was cool. Female birds who whilst ovulating are exposed to predators seem to pass on a remarkable trait to their offspring. The offspring of these birds start off smaller, however what happens is that their wings grow both faster and longer than that of birds whose mothers were predator free. Other studies have also shown that young birds are ushered out of the nest faster than those of birds in predator free conditions presumably to stop them from being sitting ducks.

Aside from that being a supah cooyoote sparrow up there. I have some actual sciencey knowledge to pass on that I thought was cool. Female birds who whilst ovulating are exposed to predators seem to pass on a remarkable trait to their offspring. The offspring of these birds start off smaller, however what happens is that their wings grow both faster and longer than that of birds whose mothers were predator free. Other studies have also shown that young birds are ushered out of the nest faster than those of birds in predator free conditions presumably to stop them from being sitting ducks.

There’s probably been a post on this before, probably hundreds of times, but I just feel like posting. Obviously what we have here are some cells. These cells however are special… these cells came from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. Specifically they were taken in 1951 and are cervical cancer cells. But the really interesting thing is that these cells is that they’re known as an immortal cell line. This means they can be grown over and over again in laboratory conditions without aging as it is (For those in the know this is due to telomerase adding base pairs to the telomeres in chromosomes as the shortening to telomeres seems linked to aging). The other fascinating thing about HeLa cells is that they have a total of 82 chromosomes as genes transferred from HPV into these cells. HeLa cells were also used to test the polio vaccine and have had huge implications in the rest of scientific and medical professions for research into cancer, AIDS, aging, basically everything.

There’s probably been a post on this before, probably hundreds of times, but I just feel like posting. Obviously what we have here are some cells. These cells however are special… these cells came from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. Specifically they were taken in 1951 and are cervical cancer cells. But the really interesting thing is that these cells is that they’re known as an immortal cell line. This means they can be grown over and over again in laboratory conditions without aging as it is (For those in the know this is due to telomerase adding base pairs to the telomeres in chromosomes as the shortening to telomeres seems linked to aging). The other fascinating thing about HeLa cells is that they have a total of 82 chromosomes as genes transferred from HPV into these cells. HeLa cells were also used to test the polio vaccine and have had huge implications in the rest of scientific and medical professions for research into cancer, AIDS, aging, basically everything.