science
Rare Mutation Among Bajau People Lets Them Stay Underwater Longer

The Bajau people of Malaysia and the Philippines are renowned for their free-diving abilities, often working eight-hour shifts in search of fish and other sea critters. Underwater sessions can last upwards of two minutes, with accumulated daily totals of breath-holding often reaching five hours. New research suggests these impressive feats aren’t the result of training, but rather, an example of natural selection at work—which, in this case, has endowed Bajau individuals with abnormally large spleens. Read More >>

science
Researchers Trying to Map Every Cell in the Human Body Release First Data Set

Science textbooks will tell you that the human body has just a couple hundred types of cells. But efforts to catalogue all the cells in the human body suggest that number is a multiple many, many times larger. Read More >>

genetics
Genetics Research is Failing Most of The World’s Population

In the late 1990s, as Esteban Burchard was finishing up his medical training at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, newspaper headlines blared warnings about what appeared to be a growing asthma epidemic. Read More >>

science
Sweet Potato DNA Challenges Theory That Polynesians Beat Columbus to America

Christopher Columbus reached the New World in 1492, but some experts say Polynesian explorers beat him to it. There’s little evidence to support this fringe theory, but scientists have pointed to the presence of sweet potatoes, a plant thought to be native to the Americas, in the South Pacific as potential proof. A genetic analysis of the popular tuberous root and its relatives has now effectively quashed this hypothesis. Read More >>

science
23andMe CEO Compares DNA Tests to at-Home Pregnancy Tests, but It’s Not That Simple

In a provocative opinion published Monday in STAT, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki argues that home DNA test customers don’t need experts to help them interpret genetic health risk reports. Wojcicki compares her company’s health reports, which tell people whether they are at risk of developing certain diseases, to at-home pregnancy tests. Read More >>

dna testing
Woman Says Ancestry.com Test Revealed Her Parents’ Fertility Doctor Was Actually Her Father

It’s become a familiar story in the age of consumer DNA testing: a person spits into a test tube to learn more about their genetic heritage, and ends up finding out they have a parent or sibling they didn’t know existed. It can be hard to keep family secrets under wraps when all it takes to reveal them is about 100 quid and a mouthful of spit. Read More >>

genetics
Estonia Is Taking a Page from 23andMe to Offer DNA-Based Health Advice to Citizens

From its perch on the Baltic Sea, the tiny former Soviet nation of Estonia has become an unlikely leader in all things digital. Its government has already embraced blockchain, declared Internet access a basic human right, and embarked on a massive undertaking to become a “digital society” where everything from identity to voting is digitized and linked together across one massive platform. Given this, it’s no surprise that this nation would be quick to embrace another up-and-coming technology: DNA testing. Read More >>

science
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Just Gave the Green Light to CRISPR’d Food

For nearly two years now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been quietly giving the go-ahead to a handful of crops that have been genetically engineered using CRISPR. Editing the DNA of people and animals may be controversial, but when it comes to plants, the agency has taken the stance that as long as the gene-edited plants don’t include any foreign genetic material, CRISPR’d crops aren’t subject to special regulation. Read More >>

science
Science Journal Retracts Paper That Sparked CRISPR Panic

Last May, a journal published results suggesting that the revolutionary gene-editing technique CRISPR might actually be quite dangerous. The paper caused a bit of turmoil in the biotech world, which is looking to CRISPR as a major disease-fighting tool of the future. But it didn’t take long for the study to attract some serious scepticism. This week, the journal that published the paper, Nature Methods, finally retracted it. Read More >>

science
The Scientists Who Sparked CRISPR Panic Couldn’t Reproduce Their Study Results

Last summer, a study claiming that the gene-editing technique CRISPR might actually be dangerous whipped labs around the biotech world into a frenzy. Researchers found that when they used CRISPR to cure blindness by changing DNA in mice, it resulted in not just a few but more than a thousand unintended effects on other genes. That meant that unless CRISPR could be fixed to to be more precise, the ballyhooed technology might be more a laboratory nightmare than a revolutionary tool poised to rid the world of devastating disease. Read More >>

science
Another Reminder That Consumer DNA Tests Are Not 100 Per Cent Accurate

Not long ago, decrypting DNA was an expensive undertaking that could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Now, for £149 you can spit into a test tube and find out about your ancestry, your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and even how likely you are to smell asparagus in your wee. Read More >>

science
How Scientists Could Use DNA Sequencing to Identify Alien Life

Here’s a riddle: If an alien life form is, well, alien, how will we know what it is? DNA and RNA are the building blocks of life on Earth, but the molecules of life might differ substantially on another planet. So if scientists combing, say, the potentially habitable waters of Jupiter’s moon Europa were to stumble across a new life form, how could they know what they had discovered? Read More >>

genetics
‘Alien’ Mummy Found in Atacama Desert Is Actually a Tiny, Mutated Human

Back in 2003, a strange skeleton was discovered in a deserted Chilean town in the Atacama Desert. Featuring an elongated skull, sunken eye sockets, and an impossibly tiny body, some suggested it was of extraterrestrial origin. An updated genetic analysis confirms the skeleton as being human—but with an unprecedented variety of mutations. Read More >>

science
23andMe Data Reveals Genes Linked to Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Severe Morning Sickness

Pregnancy is hard on the body. But for women with two specific genes, it may be especially difficult. Read More >>

science
Newly Sequenced Cockroach Genome Explains Why They Are So Hard to Kill

Cockroaches have been one of humanity’s most unwanted, yet admirably persistent, roommates for thousands of years. But despite our reluctant intimacy, there’s still a lot we don’t understand about these insects. A new study, published today in Nature Communication, unpacks the genes that make roaches tick—and helps explain why they’re so damn hard to get rid of. Read More >>