Tag Archive: DNA


Tuthankamen

According to a group of geneticists in Switzerland from iGENEA, the DNA genealogy center, as many as half of all European men and 70 percent of British men share the same DNA as the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, or King Tut.

For a film created for the Discovery Channel, scientists worked to reconstruct the DNA of the young male King, his father Akhenaten and his grandfather Amenhotep III. They discovered that King Tut had a  that belongs to a group called haplogroup R1b1a2. This group can be found in over 50 percent of European men and shows the researchers that there is a .

This  group is also found in 70 percent of Spanish males and 60 percent of French males however, it is only present in less than one percent of men in modern-day Egyptian men.

The R1b1a2 DNA haplogroup is believed to have originated in the region some 9500 years ago and spread to Europe with the spread of agriculture in 7000BC. Researchers are unsure as to how and when the group first came to Egypt. They believe the reasoning the R1b1a2 haplogroup is rarely found in modern-day Egypt is due partially to European immigration throughout the last 2000 years.

iGENEA plans to continue to search for more DNA lineage and are looking to discover King Tut’s closest living relatives. They announced this week that they are selling a DNA service for between 139 and 399 euros and they will test the DNA of those people who are interested in seeing how related to King Tut they may be. This offer, according to Roman Scholz who is the director of iGENEA, has already gained a lot of interest.

 

The FBI is investigating a “credible” lead in the “D.B. Cooper” skyjacking case in which a man hijacked a plane for $200,000 in ransom in 1971 and parachuted into the night with the bag full of cash, the Seattle Times reports.

One of the $20 bills that skyjacker D.B. Cooper had when he parachuted from a plane with his ransom in 1971.
By LM Otero, AP

Ayn Sadalo Dietrich, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Seattle office, cautions that the agency is not on the verge of a big break but is carrying out “due diligence” on new information, the paper says.

Dietrich was responding to a lengthy article on the case by the British newspaper The Telegraph.

She says the FBI, responding to a tip, is trying to extract a fingerprint from an item linked to a potential suspect and compare it with one taken from the Boeing 727 after the Thanksgiving Eve skyjacking.

READ:  The Telegraph’s article

Dietrich tells the newspaper that FBI agents have sent an item belonging to the potential suspect for testing at its forensics lab at Quantico, Va.

“We’re hoping there are fingerprints they can take off of it,” she says. “It would be a significant lead. And this is looking like our most promising one to date.”

Fox News reports that FBI is trying to match DNA sample from the person with a sample taken from Cooper’s tie, which he left behind on the plane.

In the hijacking, “Cooper” claimed to have a bomb and forced the plane to land, where he obtained parachutes and the ransom money. He bailed out somewhere northwest of Portland.

Some of the money was found by a child digging in a sandbar along the Columbia River in 1980, but the whereabouts of “Cooper” remains a mystery, assuming that he survived the jump from 10,000 feet.

Caltech researchers create the first artificial neural network out of DNA

Caltech researchers have invented a method for designing systems of DNA molecules whose interactions simulate the behavior of a simple mathematical model of artificial neural networks. Credit: Caltech/Lulu Qian

Artificial intelligence has been the inspiration for countless books and movies, as well as the aspiration of countless scientists and engineers. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have now taken a major step toward creating artificial intelligence — not in a robot or a silicon chip, but in a test tube. The researchers are the first to have made an artificial neural network out of DNA, creating a circuit of interacting molecules that can recall memories based on incomplete patterns, just as a brain can.

“The brain is incredible,” says Lulu Qian, a Caltech senior postdoctoral scholar in and lead author on the paper describing this work, published in the July 21 issue of the journal Nature. “It allows us to recognize patterns of events, form memories, make decisions, and take actions. So we asked, instead of having a physically connected network of , can a soup of interacting exhibit brainlike behavior?”

The answer, as the researchers show, is yes.

Consisting of four made from 112 distinct DNA strands, the researchers’ plays a mind-reading game in which it tries to identify a mystery scientist. The researchers “trained” the neural network to “know” four scientists, whose identities are each represented by a specific, unique set of answers to four yes-or-no questions, such as whether the scientist was British.

After thinking of a scientist, a human player provides an incomplete subset of answers that partially identifies the scientist. The player then conveys those clues to the network by dropping DNA strands that correspond to those answers into the . Communicating via fluorescent signals, the network then identifies which scientist the player has in mind. Or, the network can “say” that it has insufficient information to pick just one of the scientists in its memory or that the clues contradict what it has remembered. The researchers played this game with the network using 27 different ways of answering the questions (out of 81 total combinations), and it responded correctly each time.

This DNA-based neural network demonstrates the ability to take an incomplete pattern and figure out what it might represent—one of the brain’s unique features. “What we are good at is recognizing things,” says coauthor Jehoshua “Shuki” Bruck, the Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering. “We can recognize things based on looking only at a subset of features.” The DNA neural network does just that, albeit in a rudimentary way.

Biochemical systems with —or at least some basic, decision-making capabilities—could have powerful applications in medicine, chemistry, and biological research, the researchers say. In the future, such systems could operate within cells, helping to answer fundamental biological questions or diagnose a disease. Biochemical processes that can intelligently respond to the presence of other molecules could allow engineers to produce increasingly complex chemicals or build new kinds of structures, molecule by molecule.

“Although brainlike behaviors within artificial biochemical systems have been hypothesized for decades,” Qian says, “they appeared to be very difficult to realize.”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico man was indicted after police said he was linked through DNA samples to semen-tainted yogurt samples handed out at a grocery store.

Anthony Garcia, 32, appeared in court Thursday after being indicted the day before on charges of adulterating food and making false statements to federal investigators.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales described the conduct alleged in the indictment as outrageous.

“No one should have to endure this type of experience simply because she or he accepts a food sample while shopping for groceries,” Gonzales said.

Garcia, in shackles, did not enter a plea to the two counts. His public defender, John Van Butcher, was not available for comment after business hours Thursday.

The judge ordered Garcia to remain in custody pending a detention hearing Friday.

Garcia is accused in the three-page indictment of handing out tainted yogurt samples at a Sunflower Market in Albuquerque in January.

Officers responded to the store after a woman called to report an employee had given her what she was told was a yogurt sample. The woman told police she believed it was actually a bodily fluid.

Gonzales said his office will vigorously pursue anyone who deliberately taints food for the purpose of harming innocent customers, for malicious pranks or for deviant sexual gratification.

FDA investigators interviewed Garcia in March. The indictment said he falsely claimed not to know that the spoon he handed the customer contained semen.

Police said they tested the yogurt and found semen then linked it to Garcia using DNA.

Garcia was arrested Wednesday by Albuquerque police and officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Chris Sherrell, Sunflower Farmers Markets president and chief executive, said in a statement the company “abhors the act that Garcia is alleged to have committed” and welcomed the federal indictment.

The company said it has cooperated fully with the FDA as well as state and local authorities since the incident was first reported in January. Garcia was fired by the company on Jan. 25.

Sunflower said it has no reason to believe the FDA or federal prosecutors intend to pursue any action against the company with regard to the yogurt incident. Spokesman Lew Phelps said the company “views this as a rogue employee who acted alone.”

In a large and comprehensive investigation into the underlying causes of sudden cardiac death (SCD) – a surreptitious killer of hundreds of thousands annually in the United States – researchers have discovered a variation in the genome’s DNA sequence that is linked to a significant increase in a person’s risk of SCD.

 

 

The new finding flags a DNA sequence called the BAZ2B locus, a region along the genome containing three genes previously unknown to play any role in cardiac biology, according to a report published online June 30 in . Understanding how genetic variation in this region plays a role in the risk of SCD could eventually help those at risk take steps to prevent it, the researchers say, although they emphasize that a great deal of follow-up work is required.

“Our analysis suggests that if you have one copy of this variant, your increased risk is double that of someone who doesn’t,” says Dan Arking, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an associate professor in the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “If you have two copies – having inherited one from each parent – you have almost a fourfold increased risk of SCD.”

Statistically significant though it is, this variant alone doesn’t give scientists the information they need to proceed with a clinically useful test or therapy, Arking says. Scientists first need to figure out which of the three genes in the region is the key player, and determine how that gene’s function is compromised – likely by using model organisms to investigate their heart-related biological activity.

To identify the variant, a consortium of researchers first combined five separate genome wide association studies to survey each of the 3 billion base pairs in the DNA sequences of 1,283 individuals of European ancestry who experienced SCD, and more than 20,000 individuals without SCD. They followed up suggestive findings in an additional 3,119 SCD cases and 11,146 non-SCD control subjects from 11 European ancestry studies to confirm that the BAZ2B locus is associated with SCD.

Collecting enough DNA samples to yield statistical power has been a challenge for investigators studying SCD, Arking says. One reason is that most individuals who experience it do not have clinical signs that would suggest that they are at high-risk for SCD. In addition, only about 10 percent of people survive their initial sudden death events. (Even if the heart stops beating, a person might be saved if the heart is shocked quickly enough back into normal rhythm. The episode is still considered a sudden death event, even if the person survives, because death would have occurred without intervention.)

“SCD is a distinct disorder that involves an electrical instability in the heart,” Arking says. “It’s what happens when a 40-year-old guy one minute is feeling great, working out on a treadmill, and the next minute, without warning, drops dead.”

Arking emphasized that based on their analyses, plenty of people are walking around with the BAZ2B variant who don’t experience sudden death. SCD is a complex disease, he says, meaning this newly identified risk factor is neither necessary nor sufficient as its cause. The variant is independent of other risk factors for , which include diabetes, heart attack, and a prolonged QT interval, a measure of electrical activity in the heart obtained from a standard electrocardiogram (ECG).

“While we’ve done a great job of treating coronary disease and reducing the risk of heart attacks, we’ve made very little progress in reducing the risk of sudden cardiac death,” Arking says. “The use of genetics to screen broadly is critical because we don’t have other measures that will do a good job of identifying people at risk.”

 

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