Science the top 1 word of 2013 according to Merriam-Webster dictionaries.
While Oxford Dictionaries have chosen selfie as the word of the year, the Merriam-Webster dictionaries used quite different criteria to establish their 2013 word top and the winner is science. Why so many of us were interested in science during the past year has been a matter of intense discussion in the past couple of days. But one of the major distinguishing traits of science is that it is future-focused above all; so should we have even higher expectations for 2014?
Synthetic DNA fossils have been created but what can we expect from this new tool?
Protocols are for researchers what cookbooks are for Chefs: for some, scratchy notes; for others, the Bible. Just like a Chef who expects to end up with a great desert when following his favorite Creme Brulee recipe, scientists perform protocols with particular aims in mind. Except for… – what can a protocol for making synthetic DNA fossils be used for?
No more lying about your age: your DNA chemistry will let the world know exactly how old your cells are.
One scientist has put together an enormous amount of available bioinformatic information to conclude that the modifications of methylation in each cell’s DNA, which are part of the epigenetics of the cell, can be used as predictors of age.
Steve Horvath, from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has published a paper in the open access journal Genome Biology with a new approach to the information already published by different laboratories in the past years. Importantly, he collected and analyzed large databases of DNA sequences, that were independently compiled in the past, but that could all be compared because they were obtained using the same DNA sequencing technology. The author acknowledges the “ generosity of hundreds of researchers” that provided the “unprecedented collection of DNA methylation data” in publicly available databases.
The silk road to epigenetics: the driving forces behind silkworm domestication
Silkworms are under the spotlight after the publication of a study where epigenetic modifications are compared between wild and domesticated varieties. This work unravels the mechanisms that led to the domestication of silkworms and the improvements in silk production about 5000 years ago in China.
The domesticated silkworm, Bombyx mori, was the focus of the study by Xiang and colleagues, published online on the 23rd of September 2013 in the journal BMC Genomics. Photo: Wikipedia
The domesticated silkworm has been artificially selected to produce more and better silk, the luxurious product that is so valued worldwide. It has been estimated that silk production has increased up to tenfold with sericulture (the breeding of silkworms for the harvesting of silk, also known as silk farming). For example, the domesticated variety shows nowadays a series of human-preferred traits such as faster growth, bigger cocoons and increased resistance to disease than the wild variety. Silk production is of great economical importance, especially in rural areas of the main producing countries, China and India, and research in these animals is expected to lead to an important increase in revenues. In addition, these are good model organisms for studies in invertebrates, as they easy to breed and have fast growth. Now, a team comprising scientists from various Institutes in China has asked the question: which are the main differences found in domesticated silkworms, apart from genetic divergences, that contribute to their particular characteristics?
With a little help from my friends – Scientists tool up via Facebook
Do you want to read an article from a journal that you don’t subscribe? Your University’s library does not give you institutional access to the journals you need?
It seems that you need a little help from your friends… at facebook! There is a well-kept gem of social networking that you will find worth discovering: a facebook group that can send you the papers you have asked for, right to your email, in as little as a few minutes!
There are so many journals out there and most papers do not come in the now fashionable open-access format. So, scientists have to be lucky to work in a University or Institute that subscribes a wide variety of journals and makes those available to their employees. Otherwise, you may be left with the abstracts only, and we all know how abstracts can be VERY different from the actual content of a paper.
Also, you want to see the figures and decide about the results yourself, as well as check the methods section to maybe use some of the techniques in your future work. If you can’t access the full version of that paper you really need, don’t feel desperate because there is a very simple way to get the article delivered to your email in minutes or hours. It’s not illegal, don’t worry, it’s based on sharing resources with your friends, which, I believe we all agree, it’s how science should work. The Facebook group is called “Bájame este paper por fa !!” (yes, in Spanish/Castilian, which means something like “download this paper for me plea”) and although it is a closed group, you will have no difficulty in joining once you ask for permission. Being part of the group means that you can start asking for – and getting – papers.
Nature Magazine has again provided us with plenty of food for thought.
One particular article from the admirable list of advanced online publications caught my attention not only because of the groundbreaking research, but because it reminded me that the way to applicable technology starts with basic research. This time, the focus is on optogenetics, which combines techniques as diverse as genetic manipulation and the use of light.
More than genetic engineering, what optogenetics does is to control live organisms in real time make with the use of light-sensitive proteins. This is science fiction happening now.
Check here the original article at Nature’s site. And to better understand optogenetics, read our colleagues’ post at the Brain Bank, one of our favorites at ScienceBlogs.com
It is a truth not difficult to prove that science is an important part of our lives. We don’t have to look too far to detect its clear influence. But how much do we care about it?
We are surrounded by science and its products in our houses, working places and even when we go on holidays. It is part of the simplest things we do everyday, from ourpersonal hygiene to the food we eat. Without science, our routines would be unrecognizable. So we must be dedicating a good share of our attention to science. Are we?