This category contains 8 posts

The Science of ALS and the Irony of the Ice Bucket Challenge

With the ALS ice bucket challenge going viral, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been getting a lot of attention. But what exactly is ALS? It is essentially a poorly understood neurodegenerative disease that kills relatively quickly — with people usually dying within 3–5 years after onset of the first symptoms — and is responsible for … Continue reading »

Alzheimer’s Updates: Why It’s Important to Eat Healthy and Other Findings

In the past six months, several interesting and promising studies have been published on Alzheimer’s disease. They’ve ranged from how what we eat might affect our odds of developing it, to discovering the underlying mechanisms. Taken together, researchers are definitely making progress in developing treatments — and preventative measures — for Alzheimer’s. For those of … Continue reading »

Epigenetics Inherited from Mom and Dad

With Mother’s Day coming up, it can be fun to talk about some of our family’s genetic traits, like eye color, hair color, or having mid-digit hair (yup, that’s genetic too!). We all know that we get our genetics — the basic blueprints that make us who we are — from Mom and Dad, but … Continue reading »

Genome-Wide Effects of Down’s Syndrome

Normally, a person has 46 chromosomes total, or 23 pairs of chromosomes. If a person has three copies of one of the chromosomes (instead of two copies), it can lead to serious developmental complications. One possibility is trisomy 21, or three copies of chromosome 21, which causes Down’s syndrome. (Most trisomies are lethal during development, … Continue reading »

Building a Genome: The First Synthetic Yeast Chromosome

When you were a kid, did you ever dream up fantastical creatures, like cats with wings or super-intelligent dogs that could speak? While we’re nowhere near making such animals, we’re definitely becoming increasingly better at genetically modifying the organisms around us. One amazing recent breakthrough is the creation of a synthetic yeast chromosome. This is … Continue reading »

Blood Test for Alzheimer’s

Earlier this week, a paper was published showing how, for the first time, a blood test may be used to predict whether a person will develop Alzheimer’s in the near future. Specifically, the blood test was able to predict with accuracy greater than 90% whether a person (70-years-old or older) would develop amnesic mild cognitive … Continue reading »

Giant Viruses!

In the last year, multiple new “giant viruses” have been discovered that are challenging what it means to be a virus… and what it means to be alive. Giant viruses are so much bigger than other viruses that until the early 2000s some had been miscategorized as bacteria — the upper size limits that defined … Continue reading »

Tracking Human History through Our Genes

When a child is born, its DNA is a mixture of its parents. Those parents continue to have their DNA passed down in the generations that follow, although less and less is passed down each time. Scientists can used this pattern to figure out how two distantly related people might be related, and, interestingly, to … Continue reading »