Category Archives: genetics

A medical first: CRISPR gene-editing used to treat a genetic disorder—sickle cell anemia

This medical intervention, which may in the end prove unsuccessful, nevertheless represents a first, at least according to the NPR article below.  I’m not quite sure this is a first, though, so see the discussion below. But the “precedence” aspect isn’t that important. What’s important is that if this treatment works, it opens up a […]

Matt Meselson describes his most famous experiment (with Frank Stahl)

In 1958 Matt Meselson, whom I knew slightly at Harvard (he was a terrific guy), performed, along with Frank Stahl, an experiment that John Cairns called “the most beautiful experiment in biology”. What he and Stahl did (see description here) was to use density-labeled components of DNA to choose among which of the three methods […]

Human Phylogeography: The lessons learned, 1

by Greg Mayer UPDATE. A couple of readers have drawn attention to the website, gcbias, of Graham Coop, a population geneticist at UC Davis. He has excellent discussions, with nice graphics, of issues in genetic genealogy, including calculation of the number of “genetic units” in particular generations. As an example, 7 generations back you have […]

Scientists spot their first albino panda

I couldn’t resist adding this tweet, which just arrived from Matthew, to the morning’s selection. With its pink eyes, this panda looks like a true albino, and I hope it will be okay. (They have no predators as adults, so its conspicuous color isn’t a detriment, and all they have to do is find bamboo.) […]

Adam Rutherford calls the Jack the Ripper identification “a joke”

This morning I reported on a genetic analysis of the identity of Jack the Ripper, arrived at by analyzing DNA from sperm and bloodstains on a shawl found at one of the murder sites. I didn’t think much of the paper, but Adam Rutherford, a respected geneticist and author, thinks even less. In fact, he […]

Jack the Ripper identified?

UPDATE: Go here to see a post from later on this day, detailing Adam Rutherford’s objection to this paper, which he calls a “joke” because of the possibility of contamination, the lack of provenance of the shawl, the sloppy calculations, and the weak genetic evidence. _____________   The paper below is getting a lot of […]

The evolution of “irreducibly complex” antifreeze proteins in a polar fish (and a fish-slap at Behe)

A new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows how a functional protein (an antifreeze protein in the blood of an Arctic fish) can be assembled out of scraps of genome that have no function at all. Moreover, the protein doesn’t become functional—e.g., being secreted into the fish blood to keep it […]

Scientists scrutinize just two examples in Behe’s new book; find them deeply misleading

Here’s a post by biologists Nathan Lents and Arthur Hunt (Hunt’s name isn’t under the title), examining just two cases touted by Michael Behe as showing “de-evolution” in Behe’s new ID book Darwin Devolves: The New Science about DNA That Challenges Evolution. The cases involve the loss of fur pigment and changes in fat metabolism in polar bears, […]

At last: a fruit host of wild Drosophila melanogaster

We’ve probably learned more about genetics from the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster than from any other organism, and now we’re using the species to learn about development and gene expression.  I used the species, and several of its relatives in its 9-species subgroup, to study speciation, for the generation time is short (about 12 days at […]

What were the first animals?

by Matthew Cobb I’ve just finished making a BBC World Service radio programme about the first animals. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can listen to it (it’s only 28 minutes long!) – you just have to register with the BBC (free, rapid and cost- and spam-free). Click on the pic to go to the BBC […]