Most Risk for Autism Comes from Common Genetic Variation, Not Rare Genes

Most of the genetic risk for autism comes from versions of genes that are common in the population rather than from rare variants or spontaneous glitches, researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have found. Heritability also outweighed other risk factors in this largest study of its kind to date.

Genetic risk autism

Even Healthy People Carry Hundreds of Genetic Flaws

Nobody’s perfect, not even the healthiest among us. Scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Cardiff University have determined that, on average, a normal healthy person carries approximately 400 protein-damaging DNA mutations and two mutations directly linked with a high risk of disease. The research was published in the December 7th issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics [1].

Hundreds of DNA mutations

Pluripotent Stem Cells and the Nobel Prize for Medicine

nobel medal in medicineThe 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was announced earlier this week. The prize was awarded to two scientists for their work on reprogramming mature cells to become pluripotent.

The prize of 10-million-Swedish-krona (US$1.5-million) was divided, one half jointly to Sir John B. Gurdon, age 79, at the Gurdon Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom, and Shinya Yamanaka, age 50, at Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan and the Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco, California, USA, for the discovery that mature, specialized cells can be reprogrammed to become immature cells capable of developing into all tissues of the body.

Dark Matter DNA Active in Brain During Day-Night Cycle

Long stretches of DNA once considered inert “dark matter” of the genome — the over 98% of DNA that doesn’t code for proteins — appear to be uniquely active in a part of the brain known to control the body’s 24-hour cycle, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. The findings appear in the August 14th edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [1].

Dark Matter DNA

The Politics, Public Health and Environmental Concerns of Genetically Engineered Salmon

So-called “Frankenfood” — genetically-modified organisms meant for human consumption or use as animal feed — has been making headlines again. This time, the buzz is over the FDA’s recent completion of their evaluation of the first genetically-engineered (GE) salmon meant for human consumption, the AquAdvantage salmon. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget is now reviewing the evaluation, which puts the AquAdvantage salmon one critical step closer to finding its way into farms and onto plates. While the GE salmon would be the first genetically-modified animal approved for human consumption, it’s not the first genetically-modified organism (GMO) used for food; data from 2009 indicate that 93% of soy and cotton, and 86% of corn grown in the U.S. are GMO [1]. There are a number of other common GMO crops, and GMO rice will likely become available soon.

Alaskan King Salmon