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NEWS
October 9, 2013 | By Mary MacVean
Scientists have discovered two gene mutations that they believe are associated with an increased risk of eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia often run in families, but these eating disorders are complex, and it has proved difficult  to identify the paths. But, using two families with very high incidences of eating disorders, scientists say they found rare mutations, one in each family, that were associated with the people who had the disorders. The study suggests that mutations that decrease the activity of a protein that turns on the expression of other genes - called a transcription factor - increase the risk.
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SCIENCE
April 10, 2014 | By Monte Morin, This post has been updated, as indicated below.
It's a flu virus so deadly that scientists once halted research on the disease because governments feared it might be used by terrorists to stage a biological attack. Yet despite the fact that the H5N1 avian influenza has killed 60% of the 650 humans known to be infected since it was identified in Hong Kong 17 years ago, the “bird flu” virus has yet to evolve a means of spreading easily among people. Now Dutch researchers have found that the virus needs only five favorable gene mutations to become transmissible through coughing or sneezing, like regular flu viruses.
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NEWS
October 12, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Having mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes lead to a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancers in women, but the mutations don't affect health outcomes in exactly the same way. A team led by researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston reported Tuesday that having a mutated BRCA2 gene was associated with improved survival and chemotherapy response among a group of women with ovarian cancer.   In fact, women with BRCA2 mutations had better survival after treatment than women without mutations on either gene, the group wrote in a study published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Assn.
SCIENCE
February 12, 2014 | By Karen Kaplan
Women considering a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer often face a difficult decision: whether to remove their healthy breast as well. A new study should make it easier for some of these women to make up their minds. It concludes that patients with a dangerous mutation in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene were able to cut their risk of dying from breast cancer nearly in half by opting to remove both breasts. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes contain instructions for producing tumor suppressor proteins, which repair damaged DNA and keep cells from turning cancerous.
NEWS
August 24, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times
A study this week reported that older men pass on more new mutations to their offspring than do younger men, a fact that could help explain higher rates of disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and others in kids born of older fathers. The same week, another article by the same group calculated that the mutation rate in fathers doubles between age 20 and age 58. Why fathers more than mothers? Because many of these mistakes happen as cells divide, and as we get older the rate of errors rises.
NEWS
March 3, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Two studies released Wednesday by the journal Nature show that work remains before so-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are ready for use in laboratory studies or clinical therapies. iPS cells are body cells that are programmed to unwind back into an embryonic state.  Like embryonic stem cells, they have potential to develop into any other type of cell in the body. But they don't reprogram perfectly, researchers are showing.  About a month ago, a team at the Salk Institute showed that iPS cells hold on to "memory" of their past identity.
NEWS
August 22, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times
Men who become fathers later in life pass on more brand-new genetic mutations to their offspring, a study has found - probably contributing to disorders such as autism and schizophrenia in the next generation. The finding, published online Wednesday in the journal Nature , buttresses earlier observations that rates of autism and some other disorders are more prevalent in children born of older fathers, sometimes by a factor of two or more, experts said. Though this has been observed for years from population studies, scientists had not known what lay behind it. The new research, made possible by recent advances in DNA-sequencing technology, also should help correct an overemphasis on the riskiness of women giving birth at older ages, some researchers said.
NEWS
June 8, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Autism spectrum disorders can be caused by as many as 300 or so rare genetic mutations, scientists reported Wednesday. The research strongly implicates genetics, including spontaneous gene mutations, in the development of the disorder. But why do four times as many males as females develop autism spectrum disorder? In one of the three papers published in the journal Neuron , researchers suggest that girls are more resistant to gene mutations than boys. Girls seem to require a higher number of gene mutations to become afflicted with autism spectrum disorder.
HEALTH
June 9, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
Autism is not caused by one or two gene defects but probably by hundreds of different mutations, many of which arise spontaneously, according to research that examined the genetic underpinnings of the disorder in more than 1,000 families. The findings, reported in three studies published Wednesday in the journal Neuron, cast autism disorders as genetically very complex, involving many potential changes in DNA that may produce, essentially, different forms of autism. The affected genes, however, appear to be part of a large network involved in controlling the development of synapses, the critical junctions between nerve cells that allow them to communicate, according to one of the three studies.
NEWS
November 19, 2010 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
Viruses possess an ability to mutate into strains that can render vaccines useless and become deadlier than their predecessor. But for a team of Texan scientists, this biological danger became a forensic asset that helped prosecutors convict two men accused of infecting close to a dozen women with HIV. In 2009, Philippe Padieu was sentenced in Texas to 45 years in prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon – the weapon, in this case,...
NEWS
October 9, 2013 | By Mary MacVean
Scientists have discovered two gene mutations that they believe are associated with an increased risk of eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia often run in families, but these eating disorders are complex, and it has proved difficult  to identify the paths. But, using two families with very high incidences of eating disorders, scientists say they found rare mutations, one in each family, that were associated with the people who had the disorders. The study suggests that mutations that decrease the activity of a protein that turns on the expression of other genes - called a transcription factor - increase the risk.
SCIENCE
August 2, 2013 | By Melissa Pandika
The most recent common ancestors of modern-day men and women - dubbed “Adam” and “Eve” -- lived during roughly the same time period, contrary to previous findings indicating that Eve was tens of thousands of years older, according to two studies published Thursday in the journal Science. The researchers sequenced DNA from two key sources -- the Y-chromosome, which is passed only from father to son; and mitochondria, which provides energy for cells and is transmitted only from a mother to her children.
SCIENCE
May 14, 2013 | By Anna Gorman
Late Monday night, friends and colleagues started sending me Angelina Jolie's op-ed about her decision to have a double mastectomy. Like Jolie, I have the mutation in my BRCA1 gene that pushed my lifetime risk of developing breast cancer to nearly 90%. (It also raised my risk of ovarian cancer above 50%.) Also like Jolie, I chose to get a double mastectomy to reduce my risk of breast cancer to less than 5%. In 2007, I wrote a first-person story in the Los Angeles Times about finding out I had this mutation and how I decided what to do about it. Jolie is an icon of beauty -- and her disclosure doesn't change that.
SCIENCE
May 14, 2013 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
By opting for surgery to remove her breasts while they were still healthy, Angelina Jolie joined a growing number of women who have used genetic testing to take control of their health. Here are answers to some common questions about how DNA influences breast cancer risk and what women can do about it. What genes are involved in breast cancer? The two primary ones are known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Hundreds of variants of these genes have been found that make a woman - or a man - more likely to develop breast cancer.
SCIENCE
February 14, 2013 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
About 30,000 years ago, a tiny mutation arose in a gene known as EDAR and began to spread rapidly in central China, eventually becoming common in the region. This week, scientists at Harvard University offered some explanations for why the EDAR mutation may have been so successful - by observing how it affects mice, animals long used in disease research but never before pressed into service for the study of human evolution. The small change, substituting one chemical letter of DNA for another, may have helped humans in Asia survive crippling heat and humidity by endowing them with extra sweat glands, the scientists reported Thursday in the journal Cell.
SCIENCE
January 23, 2013 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Bird flu researchers said Wednesday that they would end a self-imposed moratorium on controversial experiments to determine how the deadly H5N1 virus might mutate and gain the ability to spread easily among humans. In a statement published online by the journals Science and Nature, 40 scientists said they were poised to resume their investigations - but only in countries that have established clear rules for conducting the research safely. The U.S., which is the largest funder of influenza research, is not yet among those nations.
SCIENCE
April 10, 2014 | By Monte Morin, This post has been updated, as indicated below.
It's a flu virus so deadly that scientists once halted research on the disease because governments feared it might be used by terrorists to stage a biological attack. Yet despite the fact that the H5N1 avian influenza has killed 60% of the 650 humans known to be infected since it was identified in Hong Kong 17 years ago, the “bird flu” virus has yet to evolve a means of spreading easily among people. Now Dutch researchers have found that the virus needs only five favorable gene mutations to become transmissible through coughing or sneezing, like regular flu viruses.
SCIENCE
December 10, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times
Human DNA contains myriad individual differences that influence a host of traits, be they eye color or the ability to digest milk. Now a study shows that most of those tiny genetic variations are rare - and they arose in the very recent history of our species. Joshua Akey, a geneticist at the University of Washington in Seattle, led a consortium of scientists who examined the DNA of 4,298 European Americans and 2,217 African Americans. Limiting their analysis to the parts of the genome that contain instructions for making proteins, the study authors found more than 1 million sites where the building blocks of DNA - the nucleotides known by the letters A, C, G and T - varied in at least one of the subjects.
SCIENCE
December 10, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times
Human DNA contains myriad individual differences that influence a host of traits, be they eye color or the ability to digest milk. Now a study shows that most of those tiny genetic variations are rare - and they arose in the very recent history of our species. Joshua Akey, a geneticist at the University of Washington in Seattle, led a consortium of scientists who examined the DNA of 4,298 European Americans and 2,217 African Americans. Limiting their analysis to the parts of the genome that contain instructions for making proteins, the study authors found more than 1 million sites where the building blocks of DNA - the nucleotides known by the letters A, C, G and T - varied in at least one of the subjects.
SCIENCE
September 14, 2012 | By Jon Bardin, Los Angeles Times
People who carry the genetic mutation that causes Huntington's disease but are still in good health can learn things faster than people without the deadly mutation, according to a new study published this week in the journal Current Biology. The results underscore the complex relationship between neurological diseases like Huntington's and the larger chemistry of the brain. They also challenge the general view that people with neurodegenerative diseases follow a straight path to cognitive decline.
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