Mapping Junk DNA Could Cure Disease

We Could Have Woolly Mammoths Soon

They became extinct thousands of years ago, but now scientists claim they are just two years away from bringing woolly mammoths back from the dead.

The shaggy beasts last wandered the tundra of Siberia before our human ancestors probably hunted them into extinction.

Now a project to bring back the mammoth said within two years the nearest possible thing to a mammoth could be created.

It would be a hybrid between an Asian elephant and a mammoth – perhaps you could call it a ‘mamephant’.

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They became extinct thousands of years ago, but now scientists claim they are just two years away from bringing woolly mammoths back from the dead. Pictured is a 39,000-year-old female woolly mammoth found frozen in Siberian ice in 2013

They became extinct thousands of years ago, but now scientists claim they are just two years away from bringing woolly mammoths back from the dead. Pictured is a 39,000-year-old female woolly mammoth found frozen in Siberian ice in 2013

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Cracking The Age Puzzle

Scientists have discovered a new protein that regulates cellular aging

Scientists have discovered a new protein that regulates cellular aging(Credit: AnatomyInsider/Depositphotos)

We’re all familiar with the inescapable effects that the march of time has on our bodies, but the processes that drive aging are still offering up surprises. Scientists have long known that DNA segments called telomeres play a crucial part in our aging process, but new research has discovered a protein that acts as a kind of cellular timekeeper, regulating the length of telomeres to maintain healthy cell division and prevent the development of cancer. read more

New Gene-Editing Tool

Chinese scientists have begun the first human trials using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool by treating patients...Chinese scientists have begun the first human trials using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool by treating patients with lung cancer(Credit: chepko/Depositphotos)

The powerful gene-editing CRISPR-Cas9 technique is a promising tool in the fight against conditions like retinal degradation, muscular dystrophy and HIV, but so far trials have been restricted to cultured cells and laboratory mice. read more

So the Native Americans aren’t Native?

Altai in southern Siberia sits right at the centre of Russia. But the tiny, mountainous republic has a claim to fame unknown until now – Native Americans can trace their origins to the remote region.

DNA research revealed that genetic markers linking people living in the Russian republic of Altai, southern Siberia, with indigenous populations in North America.

A study of the mutations indicated a lineage shift between 13,000 and 14,000 years ago – when people are thought to have walked across the ice from Russia to America

This roughly coincides with the period when humans from Siberia are thought to have crossed what is now the Bering strait and entered America.

“Altai is a key area because it’s a place where people have been coming and going for thousands and thousands of years”, said Dr Theodore Schurr, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Among the people who may have emerged from the Altai region are the predecessors of the first Native Americans.

Roughly 20-25,000 years ago, these prehistoric humans carried their Asian genetic lineages up into the far reaches of Siberia and eventually across the then-exposed Bering land mass into the Americas.

“Our goal in working in this area was to better define what those founding lineages or sister lineages are to Native American populations,” Schurr said.
The region lies at the intersection of what is now Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.

Dr Schurr’s team checked Altai DNA samples for markers in mitochondrial DNA which is always passed on by mothers, and Y chromosome DNA which sons inherit from their fathers.

Because of the large number of gene markers examined, the findings have a high degree of precision.

“At this level of resolution we can see the connections more clearly,” Schurr said.

Looking at the Y chromosome DNA, the researchers found a unique mutation shared by Native Americans and southern Altaians in the lineage known as Q.

Mitochondrial DNA is found in tiny rod-like ‘powerplants’ in cells that generate energy. Both kinds of DNA showed links between Altaians and Native Americans.

In the Y chromosome DNA, the researchers found a unique mutation shared by Native Americans and people from southern Altai.

The findings are published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Calculating how long the mutations they noted took to arise, Schurr’s team estimated that the southern Altaian lineage diverged genetically from the Native American lineage 13,000 to 14,000 years ago, a timing scenario that aligns with the idea of people moving into the Americas from Siberia between 15,000 and 20,000 years ago.

Though it’s possible, even likely, that more than one wave of people
crossed the land bridge, Schurr said that other researchers have not yet been able to identify another similar geographic focal point from which Native Americans can trace their heritage.

“It may change with more data from other groups, but, so far, even with intensive work in Mongolia, they’re not seeing the same things that we are”, he said.

In addition to elucidating the Asia-America connection, the study confirms that the modern cultural divide between southern and northern Altaians has ancient genetic roots

Attribution: Daily Mail

Live Long and Prosper, or at Least, Live Long

From the Jerusalem Post:

It may not be long before people will order a test to accurately predict how long they will live.

This could result from the discovery by a University of Glasgow team in Scotland showing that telomere length on the ends of DNA in their genes in early-life predicts lifespans.

A telomere, from the Greek words “end” and “part,” is a region of repetitive DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome and serves like a cap (aglet) on shoelaces that prevents unravelling. The telomeres protect the end of the chromosomes in the genes from breaking down or melding with chromosomes near them. Chromosome ends naturally become shorter due to cell division.

As cells divide, enzymes that duplicate DNA cannot continue this process all the way to the end of the chromosomes. If cells divided without telomeres, they would lose the ends of their chromosomes, and the vital data they contain.

While the telomeres are “chewed up” during cell division, they are rebuilt by an enzyme called telomerase reverse transcriptase. This process occurs in most plants, animals and humans, alike.

Prof. Pat Monaghan headed the Glasgow team that on Tuesday published their findings in the American Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers were the first to measure telomere length in the young and then repeatedly during the rest of their natural lives. They found telomere length in early-life is strongly predictive of the individual’s subsequent lifespan.

The researchers measured telomere lengths in small samples of blood cells taken at various ages in a group of zebra finches – small black-, white- , orange-, and gray-striped and -spotted birds – whose lifespan varied from just 210 days to almost nine years. The best predictor of longevity was the telomere length at just 25 days.

Researcher Dr. Britt Heidinger said “while there was a lot of variation among individuals in telomere length, those birds that lived longest had the longest telomeres at every measurement point.” It is known that the variation in telomere length is partly inherited, but also varies due to variation in environmental factors such as exposure to stress.

Prof. Karen B. Avraham – a leading member of the department of human molecula genetics and biochemistry at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine commented on the research.

“This discovery is a dramatic one, showing the strength of using model organisms to tell us about normal human health and disease. If a correlation between zebra finches and humans turns out to be relevant for telomere length and longevity, I predict it is a matter of time before we will all want to test the length of our telomeres,” she said. “The take-home message here should also be to reduce stress in our life from as early an age as possible – this may help us live longer.”

Monaghan also emphasized the importance of early-life conditions.

“Our study shows the great importance of processes [occurring] early in life. We now need to know more about how early life conditions can influence the pattern of telomere loss and the relative importance of inherited and environmental factors. This is the main focus of our current research,” she said.