President Obama is planning to back an exhaustive study of the human brain that could help researchers gain insight into everything from Alzheimer’s to mental illness to artificial intelligence, the New York Times reports:
When scientists sequenced the human genome a decade ago, it was somewhat like looking at a blueprint in a foreign language — everything was marked in its proper location, but no one could tell what it all meant. Only about 1 percent of our genome codes for proteins that actually do anything, so the rest of our DNA has been like biology’s dark matter, acting in mysterious ways. Now, after years of monumental effort, scientists think they have some answers.
In 2003, scientists with the Human Genome Project announced the completion of their 13-year effort to identify the three billion base pairs that form the chemical rungs in DNA’s signature twisted-ladder shape. This first attempt to create a comprehensive map of a human biological system was more than just a breakthrough for geneticists, though. It also marked the launch of a new era of “-omic”-based research, in which biologists began shifting their attention from the individual parts within a system to studying the system itself.
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.
The journal Nature today released a massive retrospective on the tenth anniversary of the Human Genome Project (officially celebrated June 26 of this year), which included two important pieces from genomics pioneers J. Craig Venter and Francis Collins. While retrospectives generally look backward, Venter and Collins are already looking to the next decade, one filled with free-flowing information, reams of phenotype data and multiple genomes per person.
As the cost of genome sequencing drops, questions about its role in society are becoming more pressing
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.24.2008 at 11:38 am 6 Comments
Just as CD players, personal computers, and HDTVs were prohibitively expensive when they were first released, so too was the cost of sequencing the entire genome of an individual. In 2003 that feat was accomplished for the staggering amount of $437,000,000 after 13 years of work. Today, CD players are ubiquitous and cheap; HDTVs are steadily entering the realm of affordability; and so, too, has the cost of sequencing a genome fallen precipitously. It will still set you back $1,000,000 and two months of time, but that is a tremendous savings over just five years ago.
Big ideas and lots of confidence, but no big announcements
By Seth FletcherPosted 09.27.2007 at 3:35 pm 2 Comments
MIT's Kresge Auditorium, site of the conference
No big announcements or publicity stunts at the first day of EmTech, which is what Technology Reviews Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT is now being called. Thats certainly not to say nothing happened.
A global hunt for genetic variations reveals secrets to disease and survival
By Gregory MonePosted 09.01.2005 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
The ability to spoon down ice cream or chug a milkshake might not seem like an evolutionary advantage in our weight-conscious society. But scientists say that 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, around the time dairy farming began in Northern Europe, natural selection encouraged the spread of a genetic mutation that enabled adults to digest the sugars in milk. Those with the new gene-lactase-had a nutritional advantage over those who lacked it, so they proliferated, along with the mutation.
By Rebecca SklootPosted 01.14.2003 at 6:29 pm 0 Comments
When I first learned about the structure of DNA in an undergraduate genetics class, my instructor-a British scientist and feminist-hammered one point into our heads: James Watson and Francis Crick did not discover the famous double helix alone. The x-ray photograph that led to their breakthrough came from the lab of a little known King's College scientist named Rosalind Franklin. No one gave her credit for her work, my instructor said, so Franklin died in scientific obscurity.