Tag: Genetic

5 Cool Things DNA Testing Can Do

Genes are the foundation of our physiology. They contain the code that determines what we look like and how our bodies function.

Biologist James Watson and physicist Francis Crick realized our DNA molecules form a three-dimensional double helix in 1953. But DNA research dates back to the late 1860s, according to Nature Education.

Friedrich Miescher was the first to identify “nucleic acid” in our white blood cells; his 1869 finding was later named deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.




Others later defined the components that make up DNA molecules, identified RNA (ribonucleic acid, the other type of nucleic acid found in all cells along with DNA) and determined that although DNA differs in each species, it always maintains certain properties.

Those findings led to Watson and Crick’s conclusion, which paved the way for decades of DNA discoveries.

Today we use DNA tests to tell us about all kinds of things. Here are five cool things DNA testing can do:

Map your family tree

A DNA test could give you thousands of new relatives (although if they’re anything like ours, we’re not sure why you’d want them).

There are websites that offers to compare your DNA to those they already have on record in hopes of connecting you to unknown branches of your family tree.They can also tell you your genetic ethnicity.

Solve ancient mysteries

No one knew where Richard III, one of the most famous kings of England, was buried until his remains were discovered in a parking lot in Leicester.

The remains showed evidence of battle wounds and scoliosis, but scientists weren’t sure the skeleton was Richard III’s until DNA extracted from the bones was matched to Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of the king’s sister.

It wasn’t the first time ancient remains had been identified using DNA. If it’s stored in a cold, dry, dark place, DNA can last for thousands of years.

In 2009, a DNA analysis of some bone fragments showed two of Czar Nicholas II’s children were killed along with the rest of the family during the Russian Revolution, despite speculation they could have escaped.

Scientists have even extracted DNA from Neanderthals, who went extinct about 30,000 years ago, in hopes of gaining insight into the evolution of humans.

Distinguish your mutt

“Where does Buddy get his curly tail from? Why does he love digging holes in the backyard? Could I be doing more to make him happier and healthier? Your dog may not be able to tell you the answers — but his DNA can,” claims one dog DNA site.

You’ll probably never figure out why Buddy loves to eat your favorite Italian pumps but you can figure out where he comes from. The website will test your mutt’s DNA against that of more than 190 breeds to determine his genetic background.

“But why?” cat lovers may be asking. “When you understand your dog’s natural tendencies, you can tailor a training, exercise and nutrition program to his needs,” the site explains.

Predict the future

Using blood from the mother and saliva from the father, scientists can now determine whether a fetus has any chromosomal abnormalities that could cause a genetic disorder.

For example, DNA testing can reveal if an unborn baby will have trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.

Researchers are beginning to expand the field of prenatal genetic testing even further, using it to identify potential developmental delays and intellectual disabilities such as autism.

Genetic testing can also reveal risk factors you may have inherited from your parents, such as a high risk for breast or colon cancer.

While this genetic risk factor does not guarantee you will get the disease, it does increase your chances; knowing about the risk may help you take preventive steps.

Help you lose weight

A growing body of research suggests that our ability to lose weight — or gain 10 pounds by simply looking at a piece of chocolate — is shaped in large part by our genes.

Scientists have identified several gene variants that may predispose us, and our children, to obesity. Rodent studies have also shown that up to 80% of body fat is regulated by our genes, according to TIME.

That said, we wouldn’t search for a customized DNA Diet just yet. While there is a genetic component to obesity, our understanding of it is limited, says CNN diet and fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis.

Researchers are still trying to figure out how genetics, nutrition and exercise are related so we can help people lose weight and keep it off.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Blood Test Could Tell You What Time It Is In Your Body

Whether you’re an early bird, a night owl or a functions-best-at-midday kind of person very much has to do with slight variations in your body’s internal clock.

But if you’re unclear on what time it is inside your body, there might be a blood test one day that can tell you.

That could be important, because a “misalignment” between your body’s clock and the actual time can be harmful.

(An example of such a misalignment would be if the most accurate atomic clock says it’s 8 p.m., while the cells inside a person’s body said, no, it’s 6 p.m.)

The test could also help doctors deliver drug doses at precise times, the researchers said, though more research is needed before the test could be used clinically.

The new blood test, called TimeSignature, uses a machine-learning algorithm that’s trained to look for patterns of gene expression at different times of day.

The researchers recently filed a patent for the blood test and published the results of their study today (Sept. 10) in the journal PNAS.

The team examined 20,000 genes in the body and found that there were around 40 that showed robust gene signals connected to different times.

In other words, these 40 genes were more likely to turn on at certain times of day, based on a person’s internal clock.




For example, if a person’s body thinks it’s 6 a.m., it will express more of gene A than gene B; whereas if it thinks it is 8 a.m., perhaps it will express more of gene C and a little bit of genes A and B.

The TimeSignature test learns those patterns and can spit out an estimate of what time the body’s clock thinks it is.

The researchers tested the TimeSignature algorithm on genetic data from three separate studies that were focused on blood and also tried the test on blood samples from 11 patients.

They found that they could predict when the blood was drawn, typically within a range of 2 hours.

They also reported that once their test is trained on what levels of genes to expect, it can be universally applied to data from various patients.

n order for the test to be accurate, the patient would need to have at least two blood draws that are reasonably spaced apart in time, according to the study.

In contrast, previous tests that aimed to pinpoint the time of the internal clock required blood draws every hour over multiple hours, the researchers said.

Such a test might be able to help medical practitioners deliver drugs at times that are tailored for each individual patient.

So many drugs have optimal times for dosing,” study co-author Dr. Phyllis Zee, the chief of sleep medicine in neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine neurologist, said in a statement.

The best time for you to take the blood pressure drug or the chemotherapy or radiation may be different from somebody else.”

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Meet Cheddar Man: First Modern Britons Had Dark Skin And Blue Eyes

They call him Cheddar Man.

He lived more than 10,000 years ago, had brown hair, blue eyes and “dark to black” skin. To the surprise of many, he is believed to have been the first modern Briton.

A new project from London’s Natural History Museum and University College London has revealed groundbreaking DNA results that give a much clearer image of early British inhabitants.

Cheddar Man’s skeleton was discovered in 1903 in Gough’s Cave, located in Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, England. It is thought that the cool temperature in the cave helped to preserve the skeleton’s valuable DNA.

If the body was deposited in a good environment, where there was a cool and constant temperature, then the petrous bone is a good place to find useful ancient DNA,” said the Natural History Museum’s Selina Brace, who specializes in the study of ancient DNA.

Scientists obtained DNA from Cheddar Man by drilling a 2-millimeter hole in his skull and extracting bone powder.




Initially, it was assumed that the man, who died in his 20s, had pale skin, but new analysis and facial reconstruction have revealed quite the opposite.

It is now believed that Cheddar Man’s ancestors arrived in Britain via the Middle East after leaving Africa.

Cheddar Man is special because he represents the population occupying Europe at the time,” said Tom Booth, a bio-archaeologist at the museum.

They had dark skin, and most of them had pigmented eyes, either blue or green.” Data and software used in forensics gave Booth and the team a clearer understanding of Cheddar Man’s skin pigmentation and how dark it was.

The investigation into the skeletal remains revealed that Cheddar Man had “genetic markers of skin pigmentation usually associated with sub-Saharan Africa.”

The skull of Cheddar Man

Cheddar Man’s skeleton revealed damage to the front of the skull, which led us to believe he had a violent death. But when we looked again, it appeared likely that the damage occurred since being dug up,” Booth explained.

“It’s quite hard to figure out from the bones how he died, as most illnesses don’t leave a trace on human remains.”

Using 3-D printing, Adrie and Alfons Kennis were able to bring Cheddar Man to life. The model took several months to build and is described as “truly unique.”

Booth described their work as “amazing” and said the two brothers are skilled “wizards” who were able to bring years of hard work and research to life.

Experts say the ancestor was a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer who would have spent his days carving tools, fishing and hunting animals. Researchers say he was around 166 centimeters (5’4 inches) in height.

It is believed that Cheddar Man is related to 1 in 10 people living across the United Kingdom today.

It didn’t take long for Cheddar Man to trend worldwide on Twitter. Reactions to the extraordinary findings were mixed. Some praised the work of those involved with the reconstruction of Britain’s oldest skeleton.

Others focused on the racial tension in Britain and pointed out that perhaps not all Brits would be happy about their ties to the ancient human.

Cheddar Man’s complete skeleton has been lent to the museum and is currently on display.

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Pass it on: New Scientist