Scientists say they may have completed yet another piece of the puzzle that could lead to same-sex partners someday being able to bear genetic offspring.

However, it’s only been attempted in mice, and experts say there’s a long way to go before it could even be considered for humans.

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Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks’ story is only recently coming to public knowledge, which, given that her cells have benefited countless human lives and changed the course of modern medicine, is astounding. It is a wonder greater humanity did not know of her sooner, but her cellular capacities have been known within the scientific community for decades — and this is the major point of contention within her story.

The great-great-granddaughter of a slave, Lacks was born a person of little means. Her mother died when Lacks was a child, and her father abandoned her at her grandfather’s log cabin. She married a cousin with whom she grew up, and together they had five children, one of whom was developmentally impaired. She raised their first two children while her husband served the 1940s war effort as a Bethlehem steelworker; the other three followed upon his return after the war ended.

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Ben Potter/National Geographic

The ancient, fragile bones of a buried child were all it took to discover what scientists now believe to be America’s first known settlers.

In 2010, archaeologists who came across an infant girl’s body in an approximately 11,500-year-old Alaskan burial pit had no idea what they’d stumbled upon. In a subsequent study of the child’s genomic structure, published recently in Nature, a team of international scientists reveals that she is descended from a previously unknown population they believe would have been among the first to migrate to the Americas.

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Pixabay.

For perhaps the first time, patients suffering from Huntington’s disease have cause for hope. A recent trial conducted by researchers at University College London (UCL) indicates that an experimental drug may significantly suppress a mutated gene related to Huntington’s devastating degenerative effects.

It is estimated that about 30,000 people in the United States and 8,500 people in the UK currently suffer from Huntington's. The disease, which some patients describe as a mix of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS, is responsible for a dizzying array of symptoms. Patients first experience severe mood swings and depression, then face ever-worsening dementia and a gradual loss of motor control that ends in paralysis; the majority die about 10 to 20 years following its onset.

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New York City is famous for its food scene. The great restaurants. The cronut. Those huge slices of pizza. Well, it turns out when humans eat, mice eat. And this delicious but not-so-good-for-you diet is having profound effects on mice. According to a recent study, their diet may even be changing their genes.

The study, which was published last month in Molecular Ecology, involved 48 white-footed mice caught from three New York parks and three nearby rural areas. The mice are native to New York, so researchers Stephen Harris of the State University of New York and Jason Munshi-South of Fordham University wanted to see if the city mice had begun to evolve for city living.

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Humanity began with a common genetic ancestor about 200,000 years ago, then spread across the Earth. A combination of that migration and thousands of generations created diversity in our species. But some of that variation is also due to genetic mutation.

When we hear mutation, people think either of debilitating disorders or comic book superpowers. While superheroes aren’t yet a reality, some human mutations may be beneficial and others cause no serious detriment.

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Scientists discovered a strange and foreign protein, which they named HEMO, in the blood of pregnant women. What makes this protein unusual is that the mothers-to-be do not create this protein, which is different than other proteins found in a person’s bloodstream. Instead, only the fetus and the placenta, both in the womb, produce the HEMO protein. While investigating the reason for this, the scientists discovered a direct link between the protein and a human gene that originally was a virus that infected our mammalian ancestors more than 100 million years ago.

In fact, research has found that around 100,000 bits and pieces of alien, as in not-originally-human, viral DNA now makes up about eight percent of our DNA. That means that eight percent of the genetic material that determines who we are as biological human being descends not from our human ancestors, not directly at least, but instead from ancient viruses. In comparison, that is more inherited DNA than any of your great great grandparents provide, which is about 6.25 percent.  

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