Researchers Identify Genomic Variant Associated with Sun Sensitivity, Brown Hair, Blue Eyes and Freckles

Researchers have identified a genomic variant strongly associated with sensitivity to the sun, brown hair, blue eyes — and freckles. In the study of Icelanders the researchers uncovered an intricate pathway involving the interspersed DNA sequence, or non-coding region, of a gene that is among a few dozen that are associated with human pigmentation traits. The study by an international team including researchers from the National Institutes of Health was reported in the journal Cell [1].

Brown hair blue eyes freckles

Study Suggests Sleep Detoxes the Brain

A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.

Dye flow through the brain of a sleeping mouse

Changing the Level of One Gene Increases Mouse Lifespan 20 Percent

By lowering the expression of a single gene, researchers at the National Institutes of Health have extended the average lifespan of a group of mice by about 20 percent — the equivalent of raising the average human lifespan by 16 years, from 79 to 95. This study appears in the August 29th edition of Cell Reports [1].


Flu During Pregnancy May Increase Child’s Risk for Bipolar Disorder

Pregnant mothers’ exposure to the flu was associated with a nearly fourfold increased risk that their child would develop bipolar disorder in adulthood, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The findings add to mounting evidence of possible shared underlying causes and illness processes with schizophrenia, which some studies have also linked to prenatal exposure to influenza.

Pregnant with the flu

Targeted Brain Stimulation a Promising Treatment for Addiction

Could drug addiction treatment of the future be as simple as an on/off switch in the brain? A study in rats has found that stimulating a key part of the brain reduces compulsive cocaine-seeking and suggests the possibility of changing addictive behavior generally [1]. The study, published in the journal Nature, was conducted by scientists at the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the University of California, San Francisco.

Brain stimulation