Genetics

Potato Vaccine for Hepatitis B: Syringes off the Menu?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 15, 2005   View Article

Scientists have shown that, for hepetitis B vaccine, genetically modified potatoes may be an alternative to the syringe and needle.

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes liver failure and liver cancer. Despite the availability of a safe, injectable vaccine, the virus currently infects an estimated 350 million people worldwide and kills about a million people every year.

Handheld Scanners to ID Species Instantly?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 26, 2005   View Article

Imagine a muggy summer night—steak sizzling on the barbeque, cold drink in hand, and hundreds of insects mobbing the porch light. Suddenly a mosquito dive-bombs your bare arm. You flatten it with a smack but not before it sucks a drop of your blood. Did you just contract the West Nile virus?

If Paul Hebert gets his way, in about ten years all you’ll need to do is feed a fragment of the flattened bug into your handheld scanner for analysis. Moments later, the little machine will identify the species with a photo and description, allowing you to determine if you are at risk.

Scientists Recreate Genome of Ancient Human Ancestor

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 25, 2005   View Article

Scientists have recreated part of the genetic code of an extinct, shrewlike creature that is thought to have been the most recent common ancestor of most placental mammals, including humans.

Placental mammals give birth to live young, and they descended from a common ancestor scientists simply call the “boreoeutherian ancestor.” The creature scurried about the woodlands of Asia more than 70 million years ago.

Does Extinction Loom for Australia’s Wild Dingoes?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: December 10, 2004   View Article

Wild populations of Australian dingoes may go extinct within 50 years unless steps are taken to prevent crossbreeding with domestic dogs, scientists and conservationists say.

Like North American gray wolves, dingoes maintain strong social structures. Genetic evidence suggests Australian dingoes descended from a small group of ancient dogs—perhaps a single pregnant female—brought to Australia from Indonesia about 5,000 years ago.

DNA Sheds Light on Irish Potato Famine

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 5, 2004   View Article

In the mid-19th century, a fungus-like disease that turned potatoes into black, inedible mush led to the fatal starvation of approximately a million people in Ireland. A team of DNA sleuths now believes they know the true identity of the killer disease.

The mystery began unraveling three years ago, when the researchers presented DNA evidence from samples of 150-year-old potato leaves. The scientists said the findings exonerated the previous prime suspect behind the Irish potato famine: a strain of the pathogen Phytophthora infestans known as the Ib haplotype. (The pathogen causes a plant disease known as late blight.)

New Coral Family Identified in Atlantic

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 25, 2004   View Article

Until now, all Atlantic coral families were believed to be close relatives to distinct coral families in the Pacific Ocean. But a new study for the first time identifies a family of corals found only in the Atlantic.

According to the study, at least one third of the corals that thrive in the Atlantic Ocean are free of any family ties to corals in the Pacific Ocean. The study could transform how the marine organisms are viewed, classified, and conserved.

New Whale Species Announced by Japanese Scientists

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 19, 2003   View Article

The number of rorqual whale species swimming in the world’s oceans has jumped to eight from six, according to new research by a team of Japanese scientists published in tomorrow’s issue of the science journal Nature. The research shows that rorquals commonly referred to as Bryde’s whales actually represent three distinct species.

Rorqual whales (Balaenoptera) do not have teeth. Instead they have baleen, a horny substance found in rows of plates along their upper jaws, and they are thus classified as baleen whales. They range from about 26 to 92 feet (8 to 28 meters) in length and weigh upwards of 220,000 pounds (100,000 kilograms).

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach