Archives for the month of: January, 2013

It’s easy to see how genes can control simple behaviour, but can they really control something as complicated as mice digging sets of burrows to specific lengths and constructing escape routes – well, according to a new piece of research, four regions on the genome could do just that.

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A twin study in Québec has raised the question of genetics and bullying again, with results that seem to show that relationship problems, victimization and rejection have a genetic root – but in the victims, not the bullies.

Around 2% of the population has a genetic variant that means they don’t produce under-arm odour – and these people often have dry rather than sticky earwax. However, 78% of them still buy deodorant.

Lifelong bilingualism (fluency in two languages) keeps the brain working more efficiently into old age, and slows some of the cognitive effects of ageing – this supports the idea that keeping the brain active into old age could cut the risk of dementia.

Read the original paper in Journal of Neuroscience.

A study of faecal transplants had to be stopped early because it was so successful – it was three to four times more likely to cure the difficult to treat gut infection Clostridium difficile than the strong antibiotic vancomycin.

While they might sound gross, faecal transplants from healthy donors, administered via a tube up the nose,  are turning out to be very effective at halting these very nasty infections. An alternative could be a dose of synthetic poo.

Read the original paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, or an article in Nature.

People who have close relatives with epilepsy are much more likely to get migraines, and it seems like it’s all in their genes. Find out more…

Researchers at Harvard University have created 3-dimensional DNA building blocks that work like LEGO bricks, and have created over a hundred microscopic three-dimensional nanostructures, including honeycomb, letters and a tiny model of the space shuttle.

Some fish can climb waterfalls, and they seem to have evolved to use the same muscles as they use for eating. The Nopili rock-climbing goby can climb waterfalls as high as 100 metres, and it uses two suckers, one of which it also uses for feeding on algae.

Stool transplants (faecal microbiota transplantation) have cured the nasty gut infection Clostridium difficile with a 90% success rate but the thought of having someone else’s faeces may not be everyone’s cup of tea. A ‘synthetic poo’, known gloriously as RePOOPulate, could be safer, more stable and more adaptable.

Read the original paper in Microbiome if you’re not too grossed out…

A rare inherited disease, called trimethylaminuria, means that the sufferer’s body fluids and breath smell of fish. This is because they cannot break down trimethylamine, which is naturally found in food, and it build up in their bodies.

You can make a living out of the science of smells, but it does have its downsides…

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