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Stress during pregnancy can be passed down through generations, rat study shows

Stress during pregnancy can be passed down through generations, rat study shows

To better understand problems during pregnancies today, we should look to the experiences of our ancestors, research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine suggests. Scientists investigating pregnancies in four generations of rats show that inherited epigenetic effects of stress could affect pregnancies for generations. Continue reading

Flores bones show features of Down syndrome, not a new ‘Hobbit’ human

Flores bones show features of Down syndrome, not a new ‘Hobbit’ human

In October 2004, excavation of fragmentary skeletal remains from the island of Flores in Indonesia yielded what was called “the most important find in human evolution for 100 years.” Its discoverers dubbed the find Homo floresiensis, a name suggesting a previously unknown species of human. Now detailed reanalysis by an international team of researchers including Robert B. Eckhardt, professor of developmental genetics and evolution at Penn State, Maciej Henneberg, professor of anatomy and pathology at the University of Adelaide, and Kenneth Hsü, a Chinese geologist and paleoclimatologist, suggests that the single specimen on which the new designation depends, known as LB1, does not represent a new species. Continue reading

Genetic risk for autism stems mostly from common genes

Genetic risk for autism stems mostly from common genes

Using new statistical tools, Carnegie Mellon University’s Kathryn Roeder has led an international team of researchers to discover that most of the genetic risk for autism comes from versions of genes that are common in the population rather than from rare variants or spontaneous glitches. Published in the July 20 issue of the journal Nature Genetics , the study found that about 52 percent of autism was traced to common genes and rarely inherited variations, with spontaneous mutations contributing a modest 2.6 percent of the total risk Continue reading

New technique maps life’s effects on our DNA: Powerful single-cell technique to study environmental effects on DNA

New technique maps life’s effects on our DNA: Powerful single-cell technique to study environmental effects on DNA

Researchers at the BBSRC-funded Babraham Institute, in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Single Cell Genomics Centre, have developed a powerful new single-cell technique to help investigate how the environment affects our development and the traits we inherit from our parents. Continue reading

Genetic cause of common breast tumors found

Genetic cause of common breast tumors found

A multi-disciplinary team of scientists from the National Cancer Centre Singapore, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, and Singapore General Hospital have made a major breakthrough in understanding the molecular basis of fibroadenoma, one of the most common breast tumors diagnosed in women. Continue reading

Genetic variations may modify cardiovascular benefit of aspirin

Genetic variations may modify cardiovascular benefit of aspirin

Aspirin is the gold standard for antiplatelet therapy and a daily low-dose aspirin is widely prescribed for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Now, a new study suggests that common genetic variation in the gene for catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) may modify the cardiovascular benefit of aspirin, and in some people, may confer slight harm Continue reading

Adolescent alcohol abuse disrupts transitions into early adulthood

Adolescent alcohol abuse disrupts transitions into early adulthood

Prior research has shown strong associations between adolescent alcohol abuse and adverse outcomes in early adulthood. A first-of-its-kind study of linkages between adolescent alcohol abuse and adverse adult outcomes has examined the influence of differences in familial background and shared genetics on this association; findings are consistent with a causal relationship between adolescent drinking and subsequent alcohol-related adult problems that cannot be fully explained by shared genetic and environmental liabilities. Results will be published in the August 2014 online-only issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View Continue reading

Gene that plays a surprising role in combating aging identified

Gene that plays a surprising role in combating aging identified

It is something of an eternal question: Can we slow or even reverse the aging process? Even though genetic manipulations can, in fact, alter some cellular dynamics, little is known about the mechanisms of the aging process in living organisms. Continue reading

Transplanting gene into injured hearts creates biological pacemakers

Transplanting gene into injured hearts creates biological pacemakers

Cardiologists at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute have developed a minimally invasive gene transplant procedure that changes unspecialized heart cells into “biological pacemaker” cells that keep the heart steadily beating. The laboratory animal research, published online and in today’s print edition of the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine , is the result of a dozen years of research with the goal of developing biological treatments for patients with heart rhythm disorders who currently are treated with surgically implanted pacemakers. Continue reading

Effects of starvation can be passed to future generations, through small RNAs apparently without DNA involvement

Effects of starvation can be passed to future generations, through small RNAs apparently without DNA involvement

Evidence from human famines and animal studies suggests that starvation can affect the health of descendants of famished individuals. But how such an acquired trait might be transmitted from one generation to the next has not been clear Continue reading