SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

248

Several studies in the new field of cognitive epidemiology have shown that higher intelligence predicts longer lifespan. This positive correlation might arise from socioeconomic status influencing both intelligence and health; intelligence leading to better health behaviours; and/or some shared genetic factors influencing both intelligence and health. Distinguishing among these hypotheses is crucial for medicine and public health, but can only be accomplished by studying a genetically informative sample.

240

Could some vaccines drive the evolution of more virulent pathogens? Conventional wisdom is that natural selection will remove highly lethal pathogens if host death greatly reduces transmission. Vaccines that keep hosts alive but still allow transmission could thus allow very virulent strains to circulate in a population. Here we show experimentally that immunization of chickens against Marek’s disease virus enhances the fitness of more virulent strains, making it possible for hyperpathogenic strains to transmit. Immunity elicited by direct vaccination or by maternal vaccination prolongs host survival but does not prevent infection, viral replication or transmission, thus extending the infectious periods of strains otherwise too lethal to persist. Our data show that anti-disease vaccines that do not prevent transmission can create conditions that promote the emergence of pathogen strains that cause more severe disease in unvaccinated hosts.

216

The synchronization of two pendulum clocks hanging from a wall was first observed by Huygens during the XVII century. This type of synchronization is observed in other areas, and is fundamentally different from the problem of two clocks hanging from a moveable base. We present a model explaining the phase opposition synchronization of two pendulum clocks in those conditions. The predicted behaviour is observed experimentally, validating the model.

89

Tooth morphology and development can provide valuable insights into the feeding behaviour and evolution of extinct organisms. The teeth of Theropoda, the only clade of predominantly predatory dinosaurs, are characterized by ziphodonty, the presence of serrations (denticles) on their cutting edges. Known today only in varanid lizards, ziphodonty is much more pervasive in the fossil record. Here we present the first model for the development of ziphodont teeth in theropods through histological, SEM, and SR-FTIR analyses, revealing that structures previously hypothesized to prevent tooth breakage instead first evolved to shape and maintain the characteristic denticles through the life of the tooth. We show that this novel complex of dental morphology and tissues characterizes Theropoda, with the exception of species with modified feeding behaviours, suggesting that these characters are important for facilitating the hypercarnivorous diet of most theropods. This adaptation may have played an important role in the initial radiation and subsequent success of theropods as terrestrial apex predators.

59

Kiwi, comprising five species from the genus Apteryx, are endangered, ground-dwelling bird species endemic to New Zealand. They are the smallest and only nocturnal representatives of the ratites. The timing of kiwi adaptation to a nocturnal niche and the genomic innovations, which shaped sensory systems and morphology to allow this adaptation, are not yet fully understood.

50

This paper looks into the socioeconomic determinants of risk of harmful alcohol drinking and of the transitions between risk categories over time among the population aged 50 or over in England.

44

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and its analogs act as appetite suppressants and have been proven to be clinically efficacious in reducing body weight in obese individuals. Central GLP-1 is expressed in a small population of brainstem cells located in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS), which project to a wide range of brain areas. However, it remains unclear how endogenous GLP-1 released in the brain contributes to appetite regulation. Using chemogenetic tools, we discovered that central GLP-1 acts on the midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA) and suppresses high-fat food intake. We used integrated pathway tracing and synaptic physiology to further demonstrate that activation of GLP-1 receptors specifically reduces the excitatory synaptic strength of dopamine (DA) neurons within the VTA that project to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) medial shell. These data suggest that GLP-1 released from NTS neurons can reduce highly palatable food intake by suppressing mesolimbic DA signaling.

42

The “cock-a-doodle-doo” crowing of roosters, which symbolizes the break of dawn in many cultures, is controlled by the circadian clock. When one rooster announces the break of dawn, others in the vicinity immediately follow. Chickens are highly social animals, and they develop a linear and fixed hierarchy in small groups. We found that when chickens were housed in small groups, the top-ranking rooster determined the timing of predawn crowing. Specifically, the top-ranking rooster always started to crow first, followed by its subordinates, in descending order of social rank. When the top-ranking rooster was physically removed from a group, the second-ranking rooster initiated crowing. The presence of a dominant rooster significantly reduced the number of predawn crows in subordinates. However, the number of crows induced by external stimuli was independent of social rank, confirming that subordinates have the ability to crow. Although the timing of subordinates' predawn crowing was strongly dependent on that of the top-ranking rooster, free-running periods of body temperature rhythms differed among individuals, and crowing rhythm did not entrain to a crowing sound stimulus. These results indicate that in a group situation, the top-ranking rooster has priority to announce the break of dawn, and that subordinate roosters are patient enough to wait for the top-ranking rooster’s first crow every morning and thus compromise their circadian clock for social reasons.

32

T-cell genome engineering holds great promise for cell-based therapies for cancer, HIV, primary immune deficiencies, and autoimmune diseases, but genetic manipulation of human T cells has been challenging. Improved tools are needed to efficiently “knock out” genes and “knock in” targeted genome modifications to modulate T-cell function and correct disease-associated mutations. CRISPR/Cas9 technology is facilitating genome engineering in many cell types, but in human T cells its efficiency has been limited and it has not yet proven useful for targeted nucleotide replacements. Here we report efficient genome engineering in human CD4(+) T cells using Cas9:single-guide RNA ribonucleoproteins (Cas9 RNPs). Cas9 RNPs allowed ablation of CXCR4, a coreceptor for HIV entry. Cas9 RNP electroporation caused up to ∼40% of cells to lose high-level cell-surface expression of CXCR4, and edited cells could be enriched by sorting based on low CXCR4 expression. Importantly, Cas9 RNPs paired with homology-directed repair template oligonucleotides generated a high frequency of targeted genome modifications in primary T cells. Targeted nucleotide replacement was achieved in CXCR4 and PD-1 (PDCD1), a regulator of T-cell exhaustion that is a validated target for tumor immunotherapy. Deep sequencing of a target site confirmed that Cas9 RNPs generated knock-in genome modifications with up to ∼20% efficiency, which accounted for up to approximately one-third of total editing events. These results establish Cas9 RNP technology for diverse experimental and therapeutic genome engineering applications in primary human T cells.

30

Research has shown that genes play an important role in educational achievement. A key question is the extent to which the same genes affect different academic subjects before and after controlling for general intelligence. The present study investigated genetic and environmental influences on, and links between, the various subjects of the age-16 UK-wide standardized GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) examination results for 12,632 twins. Using the twin method that compares identical and non-identical twins, we found that all GCSE subjects were substantially heritable, and that various academic subjects correlated substantially both phenotypically and genetically, even after controlling for intelligence. Further evidence for pleiotropy in academic achievement was found using a method based directly on DNA from unrelated individuals. We conclude that performance differences for all subjects are highly heritable at the end of compulsory education and that many of the same genes affect different subjects independent of intelligence.