Genes from ‘fossil’ virus in human DNA found to be active

Genes from a virus that was stitched into the human genome thousands of years ago are active, producing proteins in the human brain and other tissues, new research suggests. The finding might help explain why people who inherit this “fossil virus” appear to have a higher risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.

Read more

Red Algae Thrive Despite Ancestor’s Massive Loss of Genes

You’d think that losing 25 percent of your genes would be a big problem for survival. But not for red algae, including the seaweed used to wrap sushi. An ancestor of red algae lost about a quarter of its genes roughly one billion years ago, but the algae still became dominant in near-shore coastal areas around the world, according to Rutgers University–New Brunswick Professor Debashish Bhattacharya, who co-authored a study in the journal Nature Communications.

Read more

UK Partners With Bourbon Industry Leaders to Map White Oak Genome

Bourbon isn’t bourbon without the mighty white oak. Distillers have been aging bourbon in oak barrels as far back as the Roman Empire. Oak barrels give bourbon its unique caramel, vanilla, nutty and toasted flavors. Kentucky distillers rely especially on the white oak. But what if disease hits the species? How would industry professionals protect it? The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is partnering with Maker’s Mark Distillery Inc. in Loretto, Kentucky, and Independent Stave Company to research the DNA of the white oak.

Read more

Unlocking the Biochemical Treasure Chest Within Microbes

An international team of scientists lead by the Joint Genome Institute has developed a genetic engineering tool that makes producing and analyzing microbial secondary metabolites – the basis for many important agricultural, industrial, and medical products – much easier than before, and could even lead to breakthroughs in biomanufacturing.

Read more