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Juvenile mice secrete a protective pheromone in their tears, blocking adult mating... Ferrero DM, Moeller LM, Osakada T, Horio N, Li Q, Roy DS, Cichy A, Spehr M, Touhara K, & Liberles SD. (2013) A juvenile mouse pheromone inhi...
Juvenile mice secrete a protective pheromone in their tears, blocking adult mating... Ferrero DM, Moeller LM, Osakada T, Horio N, Li Q, Roy DS, Cichy A, Spehr M, Touhara K, & Liberles SD. (2013) A juvenile mouse pheromone inhibits sexual behaviour through the vomeronasal system. Nature. PMID: 24089208 A juvenile mouse pheromone inhibits sexual behaviour through the vomeronasal system.
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about 7 hours ago
Consumer genetics giant 23andMe has been granted a US patent for a technique to predict a baby’s traits based on the DNA of its putative parents. The company’s Family Traits Inheritance Calculator has been available to custo...
Consumer genetics giant 23andMe has been granted a US patent for a technique to predict a baby’s traits based on the DNA of its putative parents. The company’s Family Traits Inheritance Calculator has been available to customers for some years already and is said to offer ‘an enga ...
about 9 hours ago
This honeybee swarm has precious little time to make a democratic decision as to where they will move to. A decision deadlock could have fatal consequences. Image by Nino Barbieri at Wikimedia Commons.In case you've been living in a cave...
This honeybee swarm has precious little time to make a democratic decision as to where they will move to. A decision deadlock could have fatal consequences. Image by Nino Barbieri at Wikimedia Commons.In case you've been living in a cave lately, the U.S. Government has been shut down since October 1st. Not because of a terrorist attack or a bank system meltdown or a natural disaster, but because Congress cannot agree on a spending bill to determine our government's funding plan for the next year. The government shutdown has its consequences (such as closed national parks, postponed federal research funding, the halting of the CDC's flu vaccine program, and unpaid federal employees), but these will seem like a slap on the wrist if Congress can't agree to raise the debt ceiling by October 17. If we are still in a government deadlock at that point, we will default on our national loans and suffer disastrous consequences (such as the devaluation of the dollar, social security payments not being made, spiking interest rates, and devaluation and forced selling off of bonds). Congress is up against a deadline to make a group decision, and the consequences of not making one in time are much higher than the consequences of making an inperfect one. It's hard to come to a consensus when so many individuals in the group have a strong opinion one way or another, but the fact of the matter is: honeybees can do it. So why can't we? This week at Accumulating Glitches I tell the story of how honeybees democratically decide on what new home to move to, all while avoiding a deadlock at indecision. Check it out here.And to learn more, check these out: Seeley, T.D., Visscher, P.K., Schlegel, T., Hogan, P.M., Franks, N.R., & Marshall, J.A.R. (2012). Stop signals provide cross inhibition in collective decision-making by honeybee swarms Science, 335, 108-111 DOI: 10.1126/science.1210361Seeley, T.D. Honeybee Democracy, Princeton University Press (2010). And learn more about group decision-making in animals at Can a Horde of Idiots Be a Genius? and Why This Horde of Idiots Is No Genius... Seeley, T.D., Visscher, P.K., Schlegel, T., Hogan, P.M., Franks, N.R., & Marshall, J.A.R. (2012) Stop signals provide cross inhibition in collective decision-making by honeybee swarms. Science, 108-111. DOI: 10.1126/science.1210361 Stop signals provide cross inhibition in collective decision-making by honeybee swarms
about 10 hours ago
For this week’s video tip of the week, we’ve got a real treat. This time it’s a whole tutorial. Freely available to everyone because it is sponsored by the Peccoud Lab team, you have access to the full introductory vide...
For this week’s video tip of the week, we’ve got a real treat. This time it’s a whole tutorial. Freely available to everyone because it is sponsored by the Peccoud Lab team, you have access to the full introductory video, the slides that you could use yourself in classrooms or workshops, and the handouts and […]... Lux Matthew W., Bramlett Brian W., Ball David A., & Peccoud Jean. (2012) Genetic design automation: engineering fantasy or scientific renewal?. Trends in Biotechnology, 30(2), 120-126. DOI: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2011.09.001 Genetic design automation: engineering fantasy or scientific renewal?
about 12 hours ago
Nucleotides are the building blocks of nucleic acids, but nature hates a unitasker. Nucleotides also serve many other purposes in the cell. New research is showing that bacteria use cyclic diGMP and cyclic diAMP as second messengers and ...
Nucleotides are the building blocks of nucleic acids, but nature hates a unitasker. Nucleotides also serve many other purposes in the cell. New research is showing that bacteria use cyclic diGMP and cyclic diAMP as second messengers and they also induce novel inflammatory pathways in mammalian cells. Other research is elucidating the role of CTP as a co-factor in enzyme reactions necessary for lipid biosynthesis in Plasmodium falciparum, and therefore may be a therapeutic target.... Abdul-Sater AA, Tattoli I, Jin L, Grajkowski A, Levi A, Koller BH, Allen IC, Beaucage SL, Fitzgerald KA, Ting JP, Cambier JC, Girardin SE, Schindler C. (2013) Cyclic-di-GMP and cyclic-di-AMP activate the NLRP3 inflammasome. EMBO Rep. info:/ Nagy GN, Marton L, Krámos B, Oláh J, Révész Á, Vékey K, Delsuc F, Hunyadi-Gulyás É, Medzihradszky KF, Lavigne M, Vial H, Cerdan R, Vértessy BG. (2013) Evolutionary and mechanistic insights into substrate and product accommodation of CTP:phosphocholine cytidylyltransferase from Plasmodium falciparum. FEBS J. DOI: 10.1111/febs.12282 Evolutionary and mechanistic insights into substrate and product accommodation of CTP:phosphocholine cytidylyltransferase from Plasmodium falciparum Rao YS, Chai XW, Wang ZF, Nie QH, Zhang XQ. (2013) Impact of GC content on gene expression pattern in chicken. Genet Sel Evol. . DOI: 10.1186/1297-9686-45-9 Impact of GC content on gene expression pattern in chicken
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about 13 hours ago
Barbara Prainsack is at the Department of Social Science, Health & Medicine at King’s College London. Her work focuses on the social, regulatory and ethical aspects of genetic science and medicine.More than seven years ago, my coll...
Barbara Prainsack is at the Department of Social Science, Health & Medicine at King’s College London. Her work focuses on the social, regulatory and ethical aspects of genetic science and medicine.More than seven years ago, my colleague Gil Siegal and I wrote a paper about pre-marital genetic compatibility testing in strictly orthodox Jewish communities. We argued that by not disclosing genetic results at the level of individuals but exclusively in terms of the genetic compatibility of the couple, this practice gave rise to a notion of “genetic couplehood”, conceptualizing genetic risk as a matter of genetic jointness. We also argued that this particular method of genetic testing worked well for strictly orthodox communities but that “genetic couplehood” was unlikely to go mainstream.Then, last month, a US patent awarded to 23andMe – which triggered heated debates in public and academic media (see here, here, here, here and here, for instance) – seemed to prove this wrong. The most controversially discussed part of the patent was a claim to a method for gamete donor selection that could enable clients of fertility clinics a say in what traits their future offspring was likely to have. The fact that these “traits” include genetic predispositions to diseases, but also to personality or physical and aesthetic characteristics, unleashed fears that a Gattaca-style eugenicist future is in the making. Critics have also suggested that the consideration of the moral content of the innovation could or should have stopped the US Patent and Trademark Office from awarding the patent. Read the rest of this entry | Read comments
1 day ago
Myriad Genetics is once again embroiled in litigation over its BRCA-related patents. But this time Myriad is the defendant. Counsyl, Inc., a San Francisco-based company that focuses on genetic carrier testing, sued Myriad in U.S. Distric...
Myriad Genetics is once again embroiled in litigation over its BRCA-related patents. But this time Myriad is the defendant. Counsyl, Inc., a San Francisco-based company that focuses on genetic carrier testing, sued Myriad in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on September 20, 2013. As we noted in an earlier post, Myriad — as a plaintiff — has recently sued two small companies, Ambry and Gene By Gene, that have entered the BRCA testing market in response to the Supreme Court decision invalidating Myriad’s gDNA patent. Myriad presumably filed those suits — against vulnerable defendants — to send a message that it would maintain its testing monopoly by enforcing patent claims that had survived the earlier litigation. But it took the risk that the defendants might succeed in invalidating those surviving claims. Now, with the Counsyl suit, the BRCA controversy has entered a new stage, with a prospective competitor launching a preemptive strike against Myriad and its patents. This is not the usual patent suit, where the plaintiff accuses the defendant of infringement and seeks damages. Here, Counsyl is asking the court for a declaratory judgment that (1) eight specified Myriad patents (each with many claims) are invalid and (2) even if they are valid, Counsyl isn’t infringing them. Declaratory judgments are a common tactic in intellectual property disputes. A company that thinks it’s about to be sued for infringement — a prospective defendant, in other words — jumps the gun and asks a court to rule in advance on the defenses it would raise if it were sued for an infringement. If Myriad sued Counsyl for infringement, Counsyl would defend by saying what almost every infringement defendant says: the plaintiff’s patents aren’t valid, but even if they are, we’re not doing anything that infringes them. By filing the declaratory judgment action, Counsyl gets to choose both the time and the court that will rule on these issues. Not surprisingly, it picked its home court. Otherwise, the case will play out exactly like an infringement suit. Because of something called the compulsory counterclaim rule, if Myriad thinks that Counsyl is currently infringing, it must assert its infringement claim as a counter-suit in this litigation. One special hurdle that Counsyl will have to get over is an arcane constitutional law doctrine called standing. The Constitution does not permit the federal courts to decide hypothetical questions. To be eligible for a declaratory judgment ruling in advance of any infringement litigation, Counsyl must show that there is — right now — an actual controversy between it and Myriad. Most declaratory judgment plaintiffs satisfy this requirement by showing things like cease and desist letters from the patent owner. But there appears to be no evidence that Myriad has yet threatened Counsyl. In fact, Counsyl has told the media that it is not currently offering BRCA testing. Given these facts, it is very likely that one of Myriad’s first moves will be to ask the court to dismiss the suit for lack of standing. Given all this, it is hard to figure out why Counsyl chose to file suit now. On the one hand, the filing allows Counsyl to determine the time and place of the litigation (now, and in San Francisco rather than later, and in Utah, Myriad’s clear preference). On the other, the compulsory counterclaim rule insures that Myriad will assert any infringement claims that it currently has. Counsyl must have decided that the benefits — especially avoiding Utah —outweighed the risks. That would make particular sense if Counsyl was persuaded that it is not doing anything right now that could give rise to an infringement claim. If the case proceeds beyond the standing question, then the validity of Myriad’s patents will once again be at issue. All eight patents that Counsyl is challenging are also the subject of infringement claims in Myriad’s Ambry and Gene By Gene suits (which have been consolidated for trial
1 day ago
What ocean mammal is a rare bird but not a lone wolf? Meet the false killer whale. You're not likely to ever spot one in the wild, but if you do, it won't be alone. These animals prefer to travel with a crowd—not just of their own specie...
What ocean mammal is a rare bird but not a lone wolf? Meet the false killer whale. You're not likely to ever spot one in the wild, but if you do, it won't be alone. These animals prefer to travel with a crowd—not just of their own species, but also including their closest companion, the bottlenose dolphin. False killer whales are so named because the look a little like killer whales, or orcas.* Yet unlike their showy namesake, false killer whales are rarely encountered by humans. In most places where we know they live, it's only because they've turned up stranded on the shores. We don't even know whether they migrate with the seasons. We do know that the whales are social, and that they sometimes pal around with other species. Jochen Zaeschmar, a master's student at Massey University in New Zealand, has been rescuing and studying false killer whales and other species since 2000. This summer he published a paper reporting that false killer whales sometimes partner with bottlenose dolphins to hunt. On two occasions, researchers had come across large groups of the whales and dolphins apparently working together to round up fish. They blew bursts of bubbles to herd their prey into one helpless crowd, then feasted. For Zaeschmar's latest study, he and other researchers gathered up records of false killer whale sightings along the northeast coast of New Zealand between 1995 and 2012. It was a total of just 47 encounters—on one whale-watch boat, false killer whale sightings happened on less than half of one percent of trips. The observations of whales and dolphins hunting together had been no (ahem) fluke. When false killer whales were seen, bottlenose dolphins were by their side "virtually all the time," Zaeschmar says—in 43 out of the 47 sightings. "Increasing the size of your group...increases the chances of finding food," Zaeschmar explains. The prey fish hunted by these mammals are plentiful, but spread out. Working together could help the hunters find their prey, he says, and "once they do find it there won't be any competition, because there is enough for everyone." It's also possible, Zaeschmar notes, that one species is just taking advantage of the other's superior hunting skill. The dolphins and whales seem to be working in a true partnership. But "it's difficult to really prove it." Either way, hunting was happening during less than half of the mixed-species encounters. Yet the animals—anywhere from dozens to hundreds of them at a time—behaved like a single group. There must be some other reason they seek each other's company. "Social factors might play a role," the authors write. Staying in large groups might also help the animals keep an eye out for their own predators, which include (real) killer whales. The researchers were able to identify some individual animals using distinctive marks and scars on their bodies, such as bites from cookie-cutter sharks (named for the shape of the bite they take out of their victims). Spotting certain animals over and over, the scientists could build a rough map of the animals' social structure. They found that "long-term associations exist between the two species," Zaeschmar says, "with some of the same dolphins observed together with the same whales [over] at least 5 years and 650 kilometers." "These associations appear to be stable," he says. The two species stick together, whether they're ruthlessly rounding up prey or surprising a boatful of very lucky humans. *Technically, both the false killer whale and the real killer whale are types of dolphins. But just because marine biologists like to make their lives difficult doesn't mean we have to, so I refer to the false killer whale here as a "whale." Images: (top) Mazdak Radjainia, (bottom) David Hall. JOCHEN R. ZAESCHMAR, INGRID N. VISSER, DAGMAR FERTL, SARAH L. DWYER, ANNA M. MEISSNER, JOANNE HALLIDAY, JO BERGHAN, DAVID DONNELLY, & KAREN A. STOCKIN (2013). Occurrence of false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) and the
1 day ago
This year’s Winter Conference on Animal Learning and Behavior (WCALB) will be on one of my oldest and most central research projects, the commonalities and differences between operant and classical conditioning. I picked this proje...
This year’s Winter Conference on Animal Learning and Behavior (WCALB) will be on one of my oldest and most central research projects, the commonalities and differences between operant and classical conditioning. I picked this project for my Diploma (Master’s) thesis […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... B. F. Skinner. (1935) Two Types of Conditioned Reflex and a Pseudo Type. The Journal of General Psychology, 12(1), 66-77. DOI: 10.1080/00221309.1935.9920088 Two Types of Conditioned Reflex and a Pseudo Type J. Konorski, & S. Miller. (1937) On Two Types of Conditioned Reflex. The Journal of General Psychology, 16(1), 264-272. DOI: 10.1080/00221309.1937.9917950 On Two Types of Conditioned Reflex B. F. Skinner. (1937) Two Types of Conditioned Reflex: A Reply to Konorski and Miller. The Journal of General Psychology, 16(1), 272-279. DOI: 10.1080/00221309.1937.9917951 Two Types of Conditioned Reflex: A Reply to Konorski and Miller J. Konorski, & S. Miller. (1937) Further Remarks on two Types of Conditioned Reflex. The Journal of General Psychology, 17(1), 405-407. DOI: 10.1080/00221309.1937.9918010 Further Remarks on two Types of Conditioned Reflex
1 day ago
A group of European politicians have signed a declaration against plans to permit mitochondrial replacement (MR), also known as three-person or three-parent IVF. ? The technique allows parents affected by mutations in their mitochondri...
A group of European politicians have signed a declaration against plans to permit mitochondrial replacement (MR), also known as three-person or three-parent IVF. ? The technique allows parents affected by mutations in their mitochondrial DNA have a genetic child without passing on the defects ...
2 days ago