#3 — The genetics of human skin colour

Using CRISPR tech, scientists uncovered more than 160 genes involved in melanin production that affects skin colour in humans.

#3 — The genetics of human skin colour
Human skin colour is governed by more than 150 genes, new research suggests.

In this issue, I have covered the latest genetics research on human skin colour, how NASA's rover has found evidence for seasons on Mars and India's experiments with forest regeneration among other stories. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Scientists used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to genetically engineer cells, removing over 20,000 genes from melanocytes to observe their impact on melanin production. By identifying genes influencing melanin production, a novel method involving in vitro cell cultures allowed the separation of melanin-affected cells for analysis. 169 genes with diverse functions were found to impact melanin production, including newly identified genes like KLF6 and COMMD3.

Read the full research paper on Science.

Does a mother's diet affect the child's metabolism?

Research uncovers that a specific sphingolipid provided from mothers to offspring in Caenorhabditis elegans triggers long-lasting changes in offspring metabolism, protecting them against neuronal damage. The study suggests that this intergenerational metabolic change is driven by a positive feedback loop involving sphingosine-1-phosphate, and it raises intriguing questions about how maternal provisioning of specific nutrients may be linked to offspring metabolism and potentially applied in therapeutic contexts. The implications of these findings for wider species, such as viviparous animals, remain a subject of interest for future investigations.

Read more on MedicalXpress and Nature Cell Biology (research paper).

Mars had seasons like Earth: NASA's Curiosity Rover

NASA's Curiosity rover has discovered evidence that Mars once experienced alternating wet and dry seasons, akin to Earth's climate. This suggests that the red planet may have had conditions conducive to supporting life. Despite its present arid desert surface, billions of years ago, Mars likely boasted rivers and vast lakes. The Curiosity rover, exploring the Gale crater since 2012, found salt deposits forming hexagonal patterns in dried mud, indicating cyclical climate changes. This discovery, combined with previous detections of organic compounds, supports the idea that Mars could have supported primitive life forms. The study offers valuable insights into the conditions that may have facilitated life's origin, using Mars' ancient terrain, which lacks the continuous reshuffling caused by tectonic plates found on Earth.

Read more on Nature.

India has been experimenting with different approaches to forest regeneration

Forest in India
A forest in the southern state of Karnataka, India. India has been experimenting with different forest regeneration approaches.

The concept of allowing forests to regenerate naturally is lauded as a strategy for reducing carbon in the atmosphere and enhancing biodiversity. However, global efforts to increase tree cover often lean towards planting fast-growing trees. Although this approach can yield rapid outcomes, it comes with its own set of issues, such as introducing invasive species and leading to land disputes. A historical perspective spanning more than two centuries of tree planting in India highlights the consequences of various restoration approaches, shedding light on their impact on local communities and ecosystems. As India embarks on ongoing forest restoration initiatives, pledging to restore millions of hectares by 2030, it's crucial to draw lessons from the past and prioritize a comprehensive approach that considers forest rights, biodiversity, livelihoods, and carbon storage.

Read more on The Conversation.

How you breathe affects memory and brain function!

New research shows that the way we breathe affects memory formation and brain function. Experiments with genetically modified mice revealed that irregular breathing patterns influenced memory recall, involving brain regions like the hippocampus and temporoparietal junction. This finding suggests that deliberate adjustments to breathing patterns could have therapeutic applications, especially for stress tolerance and treating conditions like depression and neuropsychiatric disorders. Further research in humans is needed to confirm these effects.

Read more on Science Alert and Nature Communications.

Image of the day: The Antarctic Strawberry Feather Star

The Antarctic Strawberry Feather Star or Promachocrinus fragarius. Image courtesy: E. A. Lazo-Wasem, taken from Business Insider.

Researchers exploring the waters near Antarctica have identified a novel species of sea creature resembling a strawberry. Named Promachocrinus fragarius, this Antarctic strawberry feather star stands out with its 20 arms, much more than the typical 10 arms seen in most feather stars. The discovery expands the Antarctic feather star group, now encompassing a total of eight species, including both those with 20 arms and those with 10 arms. This intriguing find was made by scientists from Australia and the US, shedding light on the fascinating biodiversity of the Southern Ocean.

Read more on Business Insider.

A repurposed antibiotic to combat STIs

The United States is introducing a new strategy to combat sexually transmitted infections (STIs) using a repurposed antibiotic called DoxyPEP. This preventative pill has shown promise in reducing the risk of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis when taken after condomless sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will publish guidelines this summer, focusing on at-risk groups, such as gay men and transgender women with prior infection history. While concerns about antibiotic resistance exist, early research suggests a potential reduction in infections, which could help preserve frontline treatments. This innovative approach provides an additional tool in the fight against STIs.

Read more on Science Alert and The New England Journal of Medicine.

China opens its Moon samples to world's scientists

China has allowed international scientists to propose research using lunar material collected by its Chang'e 5 moon mission. The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) announced this opportunity and set rules for cooperation in moon samples and scientific data. The Chang'e 5 mission brought back 3.81 pounds of lunar material, previously available to Chinese research institutions. Proposals can now be submitted to CNSA, and the next mission, Chang'e 6, aims to collect samples from the far side of the moon in 2024.

Read more on Space.com.

Thanks for reading. Your feedback is very valuable to me. If you have anything to say about the content that I write, please let me know.