Week in Review: May 6 – 10

Telomeres and disease; Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes may fight malaria; bat tongue mops nectar; newly sequenced genomes

By | May 10, 2013

Telomeres’ role in disease

WIKIPEDIA, NASASome genes near the ends of chromosomes are expressed more frequently as telomeres—bits of protective DNA—shrink with age, according to new research. Specifically, researchers found that a gene responsible for the genetic disease facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) begins to be expressed as telomeres shorten, which could explain why the disease tends to arise relatively late in childhood. The researchers also found that the expression of other genes—including one that sits 1,000 kilobases away from the chromosome’s end—may be altered as telomeres shrink.

“This was completely unexpected,” coauthor Guido Stadler at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas told The Scientist.

Bacteria-infected mosquitoes resist malaria

Anopheles stephensiWIKIMEDIA, RSABBATINIAfter decades of trying, researchers have succeeded in creating a stable, heritable infection of Wolbachia bacteria, known to protect their hosts from parasitic infection, in Anopheles stephensi, mosquitoes that transmit the human malaria-causing parasite. Such Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes suppressed the development of the malaria-causing sporozoite stage 3 to 4 fold—a level the authors suggest could translate to complete resistance in the field.

The tongue that mops

CALLY HARPERThe Glossophaga soricana bat, which feeds on rich nectar, boasts a tongue covered in hair-like filaments, known as papillae, that inflate to help get the most out of every flower. Within an eighth of second, the papillae flare out in all directions, a process driven by the tongue’s intricate vascular system.

“I don't believe anyone suspected that the brush-like papillae on the tips of these bat tongues were so organized, let alone dynamic and moveable,” Kurt Schwenk, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Connecticut who was not involved in the study, said in an email to The Scientist. “The use of pressurized blood to erect the papillae hydraulically is especially surprising.”

What’s in your genome?

Model of a coelacanth WIKIMEDIA, DADEROTIn recent months, researchers have sequenced the genomes of the African coelacanth, the Western painted turtle, ash fungus, the mountain pine beetle, and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Read about what the millions and billions of basepairs found in these organisms are teaching researchers about adaptation and survival.



More news in life science:



What Should Patients Be Told About Genetic Risk?

Experts disagree on how doctors should reveal incidental findings in patients’ DNA sequences.

Cranking Out New Models

Scientists make mice strains with multiple mutations in less than a month without using embryonic stem cells.

Dutch Researcher Retracts More Papers

Fifty-three studies authored by shamed Tilburg University social psychologist Diederik Stapel have now been pulled from the literature.

Discoverer of Lysosomes Dies

Christian de Duve chose to be euthanized at home in Belgium at age 95.

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