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Genetic Linkage

20 Gene Variants and Transgender Identity: What Does It Mean?

The week started strangely.

On Monday morning, the author of a new book on transgender identity emailed me, asking about my research (I don’t have any). She’d read my comments in The Daily Mail, about an abstract from a meeting, identifying gene variants associated with transgender identity in a handful of people. But the Daily Mail writer, with whom I hadn’t communicated, didn’t identify the researcher. So people thought it was me.

Soon, Google Alerts sent me the full version of the article in by Oliver Moody, and then I recalled having emailed with him. (This is the Times of London; the New York Times rejects anything I send.) Read More 
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Ground Control to Major Scott: The Genetics of NASA’s Twins Study:

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When the Today Show reported on March 15 that the DNA of Scott Kelly, who spent a year on the International Space Station while identical twin Mark stayed earthbound, had changed in space, you’d think he’d returned bearing the genome of a rutabaga compared to that of his boringly human terrestrial twin.

NASA’s several webpages of information on the Twins Study offered just one sentence about changed genes – and most of the rest, about gene expression, was widely misinterpreted in the media. Read More 
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The Biology Behind the Fertility Clinic Meltdown

A surprise thawing could damage the delicate spindle apparatus that separates chromosome sets as an egg is fertilized.
The spindle apparatus is among the most elegant structures in a cell, quickly self-assembling from microtubules and grabbing and aligning chromosomes so that equal sets separate into the two daughter cells that result from a division. But can spindles in cells held at the brink of division in the suspended animation of the deep freeze at a fertility clinic survive being ripped from their slumber off-protocol. That's what happened the weekend of March 4 at the Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco and University Hospitals Fertility Center in Cleveland.

It was a stunning coincidence impacting the eggs or embryos of 500 couples on the west coast and 700 using the Ohio clinic. Liquid nitrogen ran low in a cryogenic device in San Francisco, and temperature fluctuations reportedly plagued the Cleveland facility. Read More 
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Can Liquid Biopsies Compete with Scopes and Scans in Cancer Diagnosis?

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the perfect time to bring up the value of colonoscopies and mammograms. These procedures may seem old school for old folks, but they save lives – more directly than genetic testing. Scopes and scans saved mine and my husband’s  Read More 
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Good and Potentially Bad about FDA's Greenlighting of 23andMe Direct-to-Consumer BRCA Mutation Tests

News that consumers will soon be able to purchase a genetic test for three BRCA mutations may seem like déjà vu. That's because it is.

This is the second time that direct-to-consumer genetic-testing company 23andMe has offered screening for the mutations linked to breast cancer. The difference now from when it was yanked off the market in 2013? FDA approval.

That's huge. Read More 
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How the Vampire Bat Came to Feed on Blood, and What We Can Learn From Its Droppings

Why do the three species of vampire bats eat only blood, compared to the 1,240 other species that are perfectly happy to eat such things as figs, mangoes, dates, bananas, birds, fish, frogs, lizards, and even other bats? Many thrive on beetles, moths, and mosquitoes. A single brown bat zooming across a backyard on a summer’s eve can eat 500 mosquitoes in an hour.

Types of Vampire Bats

The three species of vampire bats descended with other bats from a shared ancestor some 26 million years ago. Four million years later – fast in evolutionary time – the three species had refined the ability to survive by drinking blood.

Vampire bats are so stealthy, and their cuts so tiny, that it isn’t uncommon for prey to sleep through the feeding. They live from southern Argentina to northern Mexico, but may venture near Texas and Florida as the climate changes. Fossils indicate they lived in the US 5000 to 30,000 years ago. Read More 
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