Despite what was previously thought, the giraffe isn’t a singular type of animal. According to a new study by Alex Janke and colleagues, giraffes are actually made up of four species. To discover this, samples were taken from 190 different giraffes across Africa. When tested, they were "about as genetically diverse as a polar bear is from a black bear." The giraffes have been categorized into four new species: the southern, Masai, reticulated, and northern giraffes.
This may seem to be nothing more than an interesting addition to the wide world of science, but it has some unfortunate effects. As separate species, these giraffes cannot interbreed. This could cause harm to the giraffe population, putting them in danger of extinction. What we thought was once a large population of 80,000 is split four uneven ways. The northern and reticulated giraffe both have population numbers in the thousands. Hopefully, this discovery will renew conservation efforts and encourage the investigation of this vastly understudied animal, and all four species of giraffe will live to see another day.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/there-are-four-giraffe-species-not-just-one-180960411/#BvRigST2emhBCDHS.99
Author: Reau Autera
For the first time, University of Nebraska biologist Jay Storz and colleagues demonstrated how different species can take different paths to develop the same trait. To test this idea, Storz studied and compared high-altitude birds from the Andes to similar low land birds. The results were that the high-altitude birds had hemoglobin that had evolved to readily bind with oxygen to make flying at high altitudes. This one trait could’ve come about through a plethora of different mutations and adaptations. An explanation was that hemoglobin may have evolved separately amongst species, indicating that some traits evolve in in beneficial ways to some species that could be harmful in others. To test this, high-altitude hemoglobin proteins were reconstructed in ancient bird ancestors’ DNA and it was found that the results had differing on modern birds. In this way, the group proved that different species have the same traits but that these traits show up differently due to evolution.
For more information, read the full article on: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161020165128.htm
Author: Harsha Patil
The Criminal forensic Genetics Division at the NIPH does more than 8,000 DNA tests yearly, to rule out suspects in criminal cases. DNA testing is a procedure that is carefully handled, but even with a high level of caution there are weaknesses in the DNA testing system. DNA can be accidentally transferred, so the police can’t always know for sure whether the DNA collected was left from the crime scene. Also, DNA can be mishandled when proper procedures for handling evidence haven’t been followed. Timing is also an issue with the DNA testing. If the suspect and the victim were familiar with each other then the DNA could’ve been left there before the crime. While at one time police needed samples of DNA visible by the naked eye, now technology improved so much that tests can be done on material that is invisible to the naked eye. Overall we need to remember how DNA can help an investigation, but we also need to remember there is always other evidence that needs to be considered.
For the full article with more information go to: http://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2016/10/22/dna_evidence_is_far_from_foolproof_109788.html
Author: Sophia Kudratov
Recent studies have revealed that there are five key genes that have enabled dogs to develop such close social ties to humans. But surprisingly, researchers from Linköping University in Sweden also found four of the genes are related to social disorders, such as autism, in humans. One of them, named SEZ6L, has been linked to sociability and has been discovered in strands of DNA in beagles. The university conducted a test using beagles raised in a lab. All canines were given the unsolvable task of opening a tight lid containing a treat along with a female observing them. When the dogs got stumped with the puzzle, they would occasionally glance at the human for help.
The scientists used video recordings to test the willingness of the dogs to seek help from a person in the room when they discovered they couldn’t open it alone. According to Science News, an area on chromosome 26 may be associated with social interactions among humans. So far, the study has only been performed on beagles, but researchers hope to do further studies on other breeds.
The article, published by Science News, can be found here: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/gene-linked-autism-people-may-influence-dog-sociability?tgt=nr
Author: Merin George
In a test by a group of people at Princeton to find out what affects the dog's sociability, dogs raised in a lob were given 2 easy to open slides and one immovable one with a person that they had never seen before also in the room. After opening the two of the easy to open slides they then moved onto the final one and hey found out it was unable to be opened. They then starting interacting with the person in the room in many ways. After the tests they tried to find the chromosomes in which the dogs differed in for the sociability. The chromosome that came up most often was Chromosome 26. Chromosome 26 is also linked to many disorders in people also, including Autism. The researchers then concluded the gene linked to autism may in fact be connected in some way to how a dog is sociable.
The full article can be found here:
Author: Rohit Veerapaneni
A recent discovery has been made about a new planet that is just like Earth and could inhibit life. This planet has been given the name of Proxima Centauri, and for the orbit of this planet around its own star takes around 11.2 days! However, there are some things that make life uninhabitable for many species and that is the surface temperature of the planet is around 5,000 degrees Celsius. The planet hosts a variety of solar flares which also make life somewhat impossible. Although this planet also may have plants that photosynthesize, and if life has taken shelter underground they might be able to survive.
Crockett, Christopher. "Sun's Nearest Stellar Neighbor May Have Earth-like Planet." Science News for Students. Science News, 24 Aug. 2016. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.
Author: Rohit Veerapaneni
The hardest animal on earth is the tardigrades, which are also known as water bears or moss piglets. Tardigrades are small eight legged creatures that live in mosses that are in small bodies of water. These animals are known for their ability to live through extreme conditions, such as: 100 degrees Celsius, in space, being frozen for several years, etc… This creature can also withstand more radiation than most creatures on planet Earth. Water bears do this by forming an envelope of protein around their DNA called Damage suppressors or Dsup for short. The Dsup appears to work by physically cuddling up to DNA and cocooning it from harm, but without disrupting its normal functions. Human cells were genetically engineered to create Dsup and it protected the DNA as well. This is the first identification of a DNA-associating protein which gives DNA protection and improved tolerance to radioactivity in animal cells.
The full article can be found on new scientist, here: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106468-worlds-hardiest-animal-has-evolved-radiation-shield-for-its-dna/
Author: Sophia Kudratov
When people think of cookies most associate it with milk. The international group of scientists are proposing that soon people will be sipping milk from cockroaches. The milk produced from cockroaches are actually extremely nutritious. Scientists have even begun referring to many insects as mini-livestock!
But how did scientists find out about the milk in cockroaches? In 2004, Subramanian Ramaswamy started studying crystals found inside of the guts of cockroaches’ embryos. The crystals had come from the pacific beetle cockroach, the only cockroach species that gives birth to live young. The cockroach mothers feed the babies growing inside of them a milk-like substance. This milk contains the crystals made of protein. In order to view the placement of the atoms making up the crystals structure scientists go through X-ray diffraction. Through this scanning data it revealed the chemical recipe of the cockroach crystal. These crystals are packed of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Since our bodies cannot manufacture these essential nutrients we get them from the foods we eat, and so do baby cockroaches’. Barbra Stay, a biologist at the University of Iowa concluded that the roach milk is, “three times more nutritious than cow’s milk and four times more nutritious than buffalo’s milk. That would make it a very rich source of body-building ingredients.
Ramaswamy would like to see cockroach milk turned into a protein supplement to feed hungry people. But not everyone is confident it can be done. A possibility to make the milk would be to make this milk on a large scale in vats using yeast. Biotechnologists would use yeast to make a number of products, including medicines. They do this by adding new genes to yeast microbes. In this case, they would add the genes that the cockroach uses to make its milk protein.
To view this article: https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/got-milk-roach-milk-could-be-new-superfood
Author: Surina Narine
Scientists at the University of Tübingen have found an antibody capable of killing the most deadly strain of staph, right in your nose!
That's right, the tiny golden nuggets present in your nose have antibodies in them capable of decimating a deadly disease. Staph through the history has always been a very formidable disease, it has been found to fight with other strains of the Bacteria in order to gain resources. But when scientists swabbed patients noses they were dumbfounded to find a strain of deadly Staphylococcus was found in a human nose but no side effects were present. Scientists performed many tests and found that a different strain of staph (S. Lugdunensis) created an antibody capable of killing S. aureus. Scientists soon harnessed this antibody and named it lugdunin. Test trials for this new drug will occur later this month.
A. Zipperer et al. “Human commensals producing a novel antibiotic impair pathogen colonization.” Nature. Vol. 535, July 28, 2016, p. 511. doi: 10.1038/nature18634
Author: Jared Ryley
A Macrophage is a large cell found within the tissues of your body or roaming around within your white blood cells responsible for reactions to injuries or infections within your body. These macrophages have TLR's also called Toll-like receptors which are proteins. These TLR's are responsible for the Macrophages detection and response to an infection or tissue injury. This allows the macrophages to either promote inflammation of the body part or to allow the process of wound repairing to begin.
These macrophages are incredibly important to your body's immune and repair systems. In the study conducted by Dr. Piccinini, they investigated how the macrophages reacted to two substances. These 2 substances being LPS (bacterial product lipopolysaccharide) and an extracellular matrix component called tenascin-C.When these two substances were put together they would stimulate TLR4, which is a different type of Toll-like receptor, responsible for the activation of the innate immune system.After a gene analysis to see how the macrophages reacted to this stimulated TLR4, the scientists found out that both stimuli (LPS and tenascin-C) activated common signaling pathways. However LPS stimulated macrophages showed bias towards matrix destruction (inflammation) and tenascin-C stimulated macrophages were shown to prefer synthesized matrix components (tissue repair).
So why do we care? Well this study made the Science Magazine because it revealed and showcased how activating the cell receptors of macrophages with different stimuli, can either create an inflammatory response(destructive) or a tissue repair response (constructive response). This being an incredibly important part of your body's defense system.
Sources: http://stke.sciencemag.org/content/9/443/ra86.abstract Authors: Anna M. Piccinini*, Lorena Zuliani-Alvarez, Jenny M. P. Lim, and Kim S. Midwood
Author: Adrian Bozocea
This page is updated by Ms. Ereddia as well as her students. To submit a current event to the blog, instructions here, enter in the form below.