As scientists decode more and more genomes, the tree of life gets pretty complicated. It makes tough work for geneticists or other researchers who want to understand which organisms share which genes -- there are just so many comparisons. So there's a growing need for a better, easily searchable bioinformatics database.
A Chinese computer scientist has a suggestion: mimic the way search engines index Chinese characters.
When the J. Craig Venter Institute announced last week that it had created the first "synthetic cell," whose genome had been synthesized artificially one base pair at a time, Venter himself mentioned that the genetic code had been tagged throughout with watermarks that identify it as man-made rather than natural code. Now we're hearing that those watermarks weren't arbitrary.
Think all of your genetic material came straight down to you from further up your family tree? A team of researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington doesn't think so. In a finding that shakes up the prevailing theory that mammals pass on genetic material vertically from parent to progeny, researchers have found hard evidence of horizontal DNA transfer -- swapping genetic material between non-mating species -- between some parasites and their vertebrate hosts.
A new generation of scientists hope to become genome hackers who redesign organisms to become living tools, capable of creating diesel fuel or producing anti-malarial drugs. That synthetic biology revolution has led to a can-do spirit of innovation that has fueled MIT's International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, known as iGEM for short. The New York Times has traced the route to iGEM by following a community-college team from the City College of San Francisco, as the group tries to build a bacteria-based battery powered entirely by the sun for iGEM. It's a great overview of one of the more exciting scientific fields today.
Scientists have sequenced the genome of an ancient human for the first time. An international team extracted DNA from 4,000-year-old hair found in Greenland's permafrost. They were able to sequence an impressive 79 percent of the genetic material and shared a thing or two about this ancient Homo sapiens in this week's issue of the journal Nature.
For years, scientists have attempted to construct new bacterial genomes from scratch, in the hope of genetically engineering a microbe that produces biofuels or drugs. Turns out, they've been doing it the hard way. A new study finds that editing existing genomes down to only the desired genes works far better than creating new genomes from the ground up.
A day of reckoning has come for destructive crop pests, in the form of vicious voodoo wasps that can convert hapless insects into zombies. Scientists have cracked the genome code for three species of the parasitic wasp, in hopes of deploying them against pests that destroy billions of tons of crops per year, The Independent reports.
With its annual output of over 330 million tons a year feeding animals, running cars, and decorating South Dakota tourist attractions, maize is clearly Americas most important crop. That's why the newly published complete corn genome could drastically change the food, automotive and plastic industries.
Like many other aspects of health care, the implementation of personal genetic medicine has run aground against the costs of producing an entire genome. Even now, a decade after the completion of the Human Genome Project, commercial whole genome sequencing can cost as much as $100,000. And at that price, the sequencing just isn't worth the benefits.
Geneticists announced last week in the journal Nature that they have sequenced the complete set of DNA for three people—a Nigerian man, a Chinese man, and a Caucasian woman with leukemia—bringing the total number of individual genomes sequenced and published to five. (The first two are those of the genetics pioneers J. Craig Venter and James Watson.)
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.